Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Selbst in the Lead

My first experience watching Vanessa Selbst play in person was at the 2008 World Series of Poker when I happened to help report on her bracelet win in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event. It remains a memorable tournament for me, punctuated by a crazy finale that saw her heads-up opponent, Jamie Pickering, raising pot blind hand after hand in an effort to gamble his way to victory.

That actually marked Selbst’s fourth WSOP final table in three years, and she’d go on to add a semifinal (or third-place) finish in that year’s $10,000 World Championship Heads-Up No-Limit tournament. In other words, out of seven WSOP cashes she’d had up to that point, five of them were eighth-place finishes or higher.

As Shawnee Barton wrote about late last week in her terrific (and timely) article about Selbst for The Atlantic, Selbst usually employs a “relentlessly attacking, boom-and-bust style” that finds her often either accumulating chips early then making a deep run or falling shy of the cash altogether. Barton evokes Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi as a suitable comparison.

Such was the case in that PLO tourney back in 2008 where Selbst essentially led wire-to-wire. The first long day saw the field shrink from 759 all of the way down to 46, with posts about “Selbst Soaring” already starting to appear by late afternoon. I remember her having the chip lead for certain with about 100 left, maintaining it overnight and throughout Day 2. In fact she’d start the final table with more than 1 million chips while the nearest challenger (Pickering) had but 329,000. She’d then lead for most of the final table, too, before ultimately winning.

Since then Selbst has enjoyed numerous other victories and final-table finishes, among them a $1.8 million-plus score at the 2010 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event, back-to-back Main Event victories at NAPT Mohegan Sun in 2010 and 2011, and a second WSOP bracelet last summer in the $2,500 10-game event.

And yesterday Selbst added another huge line to her poker resume by winning the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25K High Roller event (photo above courtesy Neil Stoddart/PokerStars). Thanks to a larger than expected field plus numerous re-entries, the prize pool ballooned up close to $5 million in that one, thereby meaning Selbst’s victory earned her an eye-popping $1,424,420 first prize.

Selbst outlasted a final table that included Micah Raskin (who also final tabled the Sands Bethlehem last month), Tobias Reinkemeier, Bryn Kenney, Shaun Deeb, online star Ole “wizowizo” Schemion, Mike “SirWatts” Watson, and finally the Russian Vladimir Troyanovskiy who also final tabled the PCA $100K Super High Roller last week where he finished seventh.

Now Selbst’s career earnings have inched over the $7 million mark, more than $6 million of which has been won since the start of 2010. A quick scan of the top earners over the same period shows only a handful of players earning more than that, and most of those finished first or second in either the WSOP Main Event, the “Big One for One Drop,” or that $2 million HKD High Roller event in Macau last August.

Excluding those guys, it looks like only Erik Seidel ($7,338,543), Michael Mizrachi ($7,130,635), and Phil Hellmuth ($6,508,181) have earned more than Selbst in tourney winnings since 2010 (unless I’ve missed someone), and of course Hellmuth got a big boost by earning more than $2.6 million for taking fourth in the “One Drop.” Meanwhile, on the overall “All-Time Money List,” Selbst is now listed in 40th place, just ahead of Scott Seiver who jumped up when he won the $100K Super High Roller at the PCA last week.

And of course, as many have been reporting, with her finish yesterday Selbst catapults past Kathy Liebert and into the top spot on Hendon Mob’s “Women’s All-Time Money List.”

I was saying yesterday how I was finding it hard to get too excited over Viktor Blom’s big online swings, but such is not the case here. While bigger payouts and more high-roller events have obviously skewed these all-time lists considerably, Selbst becoming the all-time leader in tourney winnings among female players nonetheless seems like a moment worth noting.

Liebert first grabbed the lead in that race way back in 2002, lost it to Annie Duke in 2004 after Duke won $2 million in that invite-only, single-table Tournament of Champions freeroll, then reclaimed the lead in early 2006 and had held it for nearly seven years before Selbst pushed in front. (Chart via Hendon Mob.)

Selbst now has a big lead in that race, more than $1 million ahead of Liebert (2nd, $5,855,655), with Duke (3rd, $4,270,549), Annette Obrestad ($3,780,520), and Vanessa Rousso (5th, $3,471,293) following.

In other words -- just like happened in that 2008 WSOP event -- now that she’s pushed into the lead on that list, chances are good Selbst will be remaining in front for a good while.

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Blogger Zooks64 said...

This brings back such fond memories! I was riding the rail there with you when Vanessa won that PLO event in 2008!

What good times those were for poker.

1/15/2013 2:23 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Zooks! Yes, I remember. What a scene that was, eh?

1/15/2013 6:25 PM  
Blogger Zooks64 said...

Yeah that was craziness for sure.

Clearly they were gamboling it up but you know that Vanessa wanted it so much more than Jamie did. She was playing for the credibility and he's was playing for the notoriety.

Good time!

1/15/2013 7:17 PM  

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