For the third year in a row, Vanessa Selbst is combining her passion for both poker and legal advocacy by hosting her ‘Justice is Blinds’ charity event. Selbst sat down with CardsChat to talk about the tournament, which will take place at 7 pm ET on September 26, as well as her controversial play on that brutal elimination hand from the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Helping Hands for Underdogs
The charity event, which costs $1,500 to enter (or $2,000 if you want VIP access), benefits the Urban Justice Center, a non-profit that provides legal services to the Big Apple’s most socioeconomically challenged populations. For the second year in a row, the festivities will take place at the Capitale’s dramatic 124-year old Beaux Arts building down on Manhattan’s Bowery, and once again, it’s expected to draw a boatload of celebrities and poker pros.
“Erik Seidel is going to come,” Vanessa Selbst told us. “Andy Frankenberger, Jonathan Little, Stephen Chidwick, and Tim Urban as well. Urban is not a poker player, but he has his famous ‘Wait But Why’ blog. I’m sure there will be some other pros and celebs as well.”
It’s that mix that’s helped make ‘Justice is Blinds’ one of poker’s premier charity events, but for Selbst, holding it on her home turf was of paramount importance.
“For me being from New York, it was important to support a New York charity,” she said. “I thought about making it in LA or Vegas to get more celebrities and poker pros out, but it was just important to have it [here]. There’s actually a great community of poker players [in the city] who don’t get to play very often because poker isn’t legal here, but charity poker is. There are a lot of people who come out just for charity events. Tapping into that was very useful.”
The location, participants, and, of course, the cause, have proven to be a great recipe for raising money. In its first year, “Justice is Blinds” raised more than $150,000, and they managed to top that last year.
“I went with the idea of making it a really fun time that people wanted to come back to,” Selbst explained.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from people who say it’s their favorite event of the year, and I think that’s the thing, it’s just really fun. We have such a great venue, which helps foster the environment.
“Last year, we thought we’d have 10-20 people hang around for the last two tables around 1:30 or midnight, but we had over 100 people in that room. No one wants to leave. It’s so cool, just so much fun.”
Prizes of the Caribbean
The winner of the “Justice is Blinds” charity event will once again walk away with a package to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA).
“It’s the PCA package, the same prize we’ve given the past two years,” said Selbst. “But it’s gone up to a $15,000 package now that the PCA went up to a $10K buy-in again. It’s entry into the PCA, the same thing you’d win if you won a satellite on PokerStars with the travel and hotel package.”
Other prizes include dinner for 8-10 guests by award-winning chef Shirley Cheng, four tickets and sideline passes to a New York Jets game, a round at New Jersey’s Baltusrol Golf Club, a bottle of 1998 Chateau Haut-Brion (bottles of the chichi wine retail in the $500 range), and a PokerStars-branded chip set.
In regards to PokerStars’ recent decision to revert back to the PCA brand while upping the buy-in, we decided to ask the Team PokerStars Pro how she felt about it.
“It’s such a good move,” Selbst opined. “I think everybody, universally, understood it was a pretty bad move to make it a $5K from a $10K just because it’s an expensive place to be.
” … I think a lot of people were less enthusiastic when it was a $5K, but now … it becomes a ‘must visit.’ … When it goes back to $10K, it’s going to be a must play stop on the tour.”
Busting the Main with Pocket Rockets
Selbst’s summer bustout hand in the 2017 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event proved to be a water cooler discussion for many a poker player in the days that followed, but Selbst stands by her moves.
“I have regrets for a lot of hands, but this is definitely not one of them,” she told CardsChat. “Some people were questioning my line. I took the line I did because I beat a ton of hands, and I got the feeling she had a really strong hand the way she bet on the turn. I was right, she had a really strong hand [laughs].”
In the hand, which took place in Level 1 (75/150), Vanessa Selbst raised to 400 with the A♠A♦ and Gaelle Baumann called from the button holding the 7♦7♥. Noah Schwartz came along from the big blind with the J♣8♥ and three players saw a flop of A♣7♣5♣.
Schwartz checked, Selbst continued for 700, and Baumann called. Schwartz got out of the way and the 7♠ hit the turn. Selbst checked with aces full and Baumann bet 1,700 with quad sevens. Selbst woke up with a check-raise to 5,800 and Baumann just called to see the 4♦ river. Selbst bet 16,200 into the pot of 14,275 and Baumann moved all in for 36,500. Selbst seemed to know something didn’t add up, but called off nonetheless.
“There were so many hands to get value from,” Vanessa Selbst said of her large river bet. “Unfortunately, it put me in a tough situation on the river because I was getting 3.3-1. There were two hands that I could feasibly see: ace-seven suited and pocket sevens. There was one combination of each.
“The thing is she does call with ace-seven suited preflop a lot, and she does shove the river with it a lot. Plus, she seemed really strong. I got this sick feeling that she wasn’t really thinking, but was kind of just waiting the right amount of time before shoving.”
Selbst continued: “At the same time, all of that stuff, maybe if I was getting 2-1 I could lay it down, but 3.3-1 is like an insane price. I only have to be good 22 percent of the time. I think given that price, it’s sort of an impossible fold without some sick, solid read, which I didn’t have.
“People say if you bet the river less, isn’t that a better option? I think that’s really a results-oriented way to think about it. If I’m only getting shoved on by ace-seven suited and sevens, I think I get called really wide.
“I have a crazy image, people love to call me. I expect to get called on that river a lot, so I want to max value when I get called.
“I’m not worried about being shoved on … I’m really happy with the line that I took, I’m happy with my bet sizing, and I’m happy with the decision at the end. It’s just an unfortunate situation. There’s always next year, and I’ll have to do better, right?”
What’s Next for Selbst?
Before the ‘Justice is Blinds’ charity tournament, Selbst will join Nick Binger on September 16-17 to team a LearnWPT tournament strategy workshop at Atlantic City’s Borgata. After that, she’s not really sure what’s in store for her, poker-wise.
“I’ll play it by ear and see how things shake out,” she said. “I’m busy with some other projects, so I might stick locally a little bit. I just came from Barcelona, so I might just stick to the East Coast tournaments for a few months.”