Vanessa Selbst Using Poker Profits to Aid Nonprofits

3 min read

Vanessa Selbst: just the name alone has been known to make lesser poker players tremble in terror. But one category that delights in Selbst’s name are certain nonprofits, who the top poker pro is now taking on as a personal mission with the goal of helping humanity.

Vanessa Selbst Blind Justice charity
Vanessa Selbst is but one of several high-ranking poker players who are putting their bankrolls towards nonprofits to help the world. (Image:

Unlike many poker players who take millions of dollars in earnings and hoard it as bankroll, Selbst has always been a little more socially conscious with her money. In a recent interview, she outlined her latest nonprofit “investments.”

Charity over Poker

Talking to, the high stakes pro explained how she’s now become something of a venture capitalist with her poker winnings. However, instead of putting her money into the latest tech company, she’s investing her bankroll in nonprofit start-ups.

Wanting to engage her philanthropic side and use her winnings for something other than self-indulgence, Selbst began investing in a variety of nonprofit organizations.

Since then she has focused much of her efforts on the Urban Justice Center in New York, a company that provides legal services to minority groups and the less well-heeled.

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I was excited by the idea of using my money to help activists realize a grand vision for change, while simultaneously getting to work with the founders on their projects in the beginning stages,” said Selbst.

Charity through Poker

On September 29, Selbst will host a special charity tournament in New York alongside PokerStars to help raise more funds for the Urban Justice Center.

Taking place at Current at Chelsea Piers in lower Manhattan, the Blinds and Justice event will bring together some of the biggest names in the poker world, including fellow pro Daniel Negreanu, for an evening designed to generate cash and awareness for those in marginalized communities needing legal assistance.

Poker Pros and Their Giving Ways

Vanessa Selbst might be the latest poker pro to sacrifice a portion of her bankroll in the name of good causes, but she certainly isn’t the only generous player in the game. Over the last few years, a number of successful players have dedicated their time and pledged money to charitable organizations.

One of the most notable donors in the game is Jennifer Harman. After taking a year away from the poker table following her second kidney transplant, Harman decided to give something back by setting up a nonprofit organization called Creating Organ Donation Awareness (CODA).

Through this charity Harman has worked to raise awareness of organ donation and the issues surrounding those on waiting lists. On top of this, she’s also an advocate for the protection of animals and helps to organize an annual charity poker tournament on behalf of the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), for which she has raised over a million dollars in the past decade.

Barry Greenstein has been famously referred to as the Robin Hood of Poker. Similarly, Phil Hellmuth has used his media profile to organize countless charity poker events and raise money for organizations such as the Heroes Project, the New York Children’s Hospital, and Guy Laliberte’s ONE DROP Foundation.

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