Everyone is looking for a fresh start when it comes to a New Year. For some, it is dropping a bad habit, such as smoking or cutting down on eating to drop some weight. For others, it is doing something different within the career they are pursuing or, in some cases, a change to a career course. On this New Year’s Eve, we can jot longtime Team PokerStars Pro and top flight poker professional Vanessa Selbst in the latter category.
In a lengthy announcement on her Facebook page, Selbst let her followers know that she was “moving on from my career as a professional poker player.” While admitting that poker has “given me so much over the last 12 years…It has been intellectually challenging, exhilarating, fun, and extremely rewarding,” she also admits that there are several reasons that she’s leaving. To that, Selbst states that it is “a number of factors, big and small,” that have brought her to this decision.
“The most obvious reason is that Black Friday has meant that, in order to do this job professionally, you either had to move out of the country or travel 90% of the time,” Selbst explained. “That was really fun for a period of time in my life, but as my late 20s turned into my early 30s and my priorities changed toward building a stable home and community and starting a family, the constant travel is no longer tenable.”
“Secondly, I don’t feel good about promoting poker as an ambassador anymore (I can’t tell amateurs they should come play online and it’s beatable for them when I don’t feel like it’s true),” Selbst wrote. “Lastly, whether because poker got more competitive or because we got older (or likely some combination of the two), poker recently turned into a real job…I had never treated the game that way–I always kept a very light poker schedule–I showed up and played for fun and did other projects back home as my “real work.” The shift in the nature of poker and what it requires put me at a crossroads and asked the question of me whether I would rather change my relationship to the game or move on.”
While Selbst may be giving up the rigors of the tournament poker grind, it isn’t like she’ll be stepping off and teaching law somewhere (Selbst does have a legal degree). “My next career I’m giving a shot is at a hedge fund,” Selbst declares. “I’m doing trading research and strategy. I’ve actually already been there for almost four months now, and the environment feels a lot like poker did back in the day – a bunch of nerdy kids collaborating to try to beat our opponents at a game…It’s exhausting, exciting and completely humbling every single day.”
Selbst is quick to remind folks that her “retirement” doesn’t mean she’ll never step to the felt again. “Whatever happens with my next career, I know that I’ll never truly stop playing poker (just ask Fedor Holz what happens when you retire)!” Selbst concludes. “Seriously though, I will always love the game and the people in it and I’m so thankful for everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve experienced. So with that, so long, and thanks for all the fish!”
Selbst retires as one of the greatest female players ever to grace the green baize. Beginning in 2006 when she finished in seventh place in a $2000 No Limit Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker, Selbst cashed in 84 tournaments around the world. The highlights of those endeavors was winning a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2008 in a $1500 Pot Limit Omaha tournament, a major title on the now-defunct Partouche Poker Tour for a $1.8 million score and a $750,000 championship victory on the now-defunct North American Poker Tour at Mohegan Sun. Her most recent cash was in the Ladies’ Championship at the 2017 WSOP, which brought her career earnings to $11,851,384. That amount is first among female professionals and ranks her 41st in the all-time tournament earnings regardless of gender.
It is always disappointing to see someone who is quite talented walk away from the game, but one of the charms of poker is you can come back at any point in time. Here’s wishing Selbst the best of luck in the difficult hedge fund management world and that we see here “moonlighting” as a poker player soon!