Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Surprise! Selbst Strong

Been thinking about Vanessa Selbst and her big win over the weekend in Event No. 2, the $25,000 Mixed-Max No-Limit Hold’em event that kicked off this year’s World Series of Poker (pic via PokerNews).

I’ve written here many times about Selbst whom I happened to get to see win her first bracelet back in 2008 during my first summer helping cover the Series for PokerNews. That was one of the first tournaments I can remember having covered from beginning to end in which a single player seemed legitimately to have “dominated” the event pretty much from start to finish.

She’d taken the lead midway through Day 1 of the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event, kept it all of the way to the final table, then fairly ran over her opponents there, too, before running into a kind of unique situation heads-up in which Jamie Pickering began repeatedly raising the pot without looking at his cards. He actually managed to grab the lead briefly, I recall, but Selbst handled the situation and was able to prevail. (Read more about that wild finish here.)

I did not watch Selbst win her bracelet in 2012 in the 10-game event, but like the rest of us have followed her progress over the years as she became the highest-earning female tournament player in the world while now challenging for the top ranking in the Global Poker Index, too, where she is now second behind Ole Schemion.

It’s interesting how each year the WSOP tends to confirm our understanding that being skilled at tournament poker often translates into positive outcomes, with the successes of those we’ve seen win before being instinctively regarded as support for the skill argument.

That said, it’s also interesting how we tend to be surprised when we see, say, Selbst negotiate her way through yet another big field (or a small but tough one in the $25K Mixed-Max) to triumph once more. I mean perhaps only a little surprised, because we do, after all, expect good players to succeed. But surprised nonetheless whenever one of the repeat winners repeats and wins again.

That small little pleasure of amazement, though, is a big part of what makes following these events fun.

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