Vanessa Selbst Quitting Poker, Cites Shift in Game Play Among Reasons for Retirement

January 2nd, 2018 by Jon Sofen

In a shocking move to start the new year, Vanessa Selbst announced that she is retiring from poker. The all-time winningest female tournament player said she has parted ways with PokerStars, the online poker site she’s promoted for years, and outlined her reasons for leaving the game she loved.

Vanessa Selbst poker retirement

Vanessa Selbst is calling it quits as a PokerStars pro, leaving many fans and players sad to see her go. (Image: World Poker Tour)

In a Dec. 31 post on her “Tournamentality” Facebook page (her first since 2016), Selbst made her official announcement and shared more than 20 photos of her having fun at different poker events around the world over the past decade.

The three-time WSOP bracelet winner has always been something of a love-hate player, along with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, and Daniel Negreanu. Either you love her aggressive style of play and outspoken nature. Or, if you’re like James Woods, you’re probably glad to see her go.

Why She’s Leaving

Selbst’s passion for the game apparently has deteriorated in recent years. Although she’s remained an ambassador for PokerStars since Black Friday in 2011, she admitted in her Facebook post that poker is now more difficult for amateurs.

“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,” she wrote.

The game of poker has changed over the past few years, especially Texas hold’em, switching more to a mathematical game than instinct-based game, particularly online.

With fewer donkeys at the table these days, even all-time greats such as Daniel Negreanu and Erik Seidel have acknowledged the younger pros of today are better than when they dominated the game. More information on how to play is available to recreational and inexperienced players than during the poker boom era, which has led to tougher competition, even in low-stakes games.

On Facebook, Selbst said her decision to retire from poker was based on “a number of factors, big and small, that contributed to a general feeling I’ve had for a while that it was the right time.”

Selbst was one of several pros who since Black Friday has been unable to play online in the United States. And while traveling the world to play live tournaments may have been enjoyable for a while, her interests have changed, she said.

“That was really fun for a period of time in my life,” Selbst wrote, “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.”

New Directions, Hedging Bets

Selbst, 33, said the next phase of her professional career will come working at a hedge fund, helping with trading research and strategy.

She didn’t go into detail about her new role or employer, but said she’s been working there for about four months. Selbst said she’s following in her mother’s footsteps (her mom was an options trader and recreational poker player) and finds her new position challenging.

Selbst also acknowledged that she’s not quitting poker completely, even though she is ending her career as a pro. She said she will continue to occasionally play, possibly adding to her more than $11 million in lifetime tournament winnings.

Selbst has long promoted PokerStars as an ambassador and once grinded the online games. But, since Black Friday, it’s been more difficult for American players to find a good game online, especially those committed to PokerStars, which currently only offers US play in New Jersey.

That state is coming off a banner 2017, but little thanks to poker, really.

New Jersey’s internet casino operators generated more than $20 million each month from March to November, with December’s figures yet to be released, by far the most profitable period since the state legalized online gambling in 2013.

But only a small portion of that revenue was generated from poker. November was the third straight month New Jersey’s online poker sites raked in less than $2 million ($1.8 million, to be exact), and the second-worst performing month since 2015. And, remember, this is the highest-earning state in the US for online poker.

Online poker isn’t dead in the US, but it’s changing. And Vanessa Selbst’s departure as a fixture on the poker scene could be indicative of others shedding a vested interest in the game.

21 Responses to “Vanessa Selbst Quitting Poker, Cites Shift in Game Play Among Reasons for Retirement”

  1. Infinity Objective says:

    “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,” she wrote.

    This a very telling quote and it mirrors how I, a nobody in poker feels. Additionally, from my perspective I think there is some rigging to the online poker “random’ software that ultimately benefits the house. Ultimately I think playing higher stake tourns online less frequently as practice to their counterparts in live action is the way to go. in the meantime whether rigged or not their are software poker designers and owners who have inside information and have access to the tables where as they should recuse themselves publicly. What do we really know about a deck of modern day playing cars – a lot, the software, not so much.

    Too bad online is fun and convenient, and one could play multiple games simultaneously. I’m playing in recent weeks my best online poker and I feel a great discomfort that these companies and software designers could easily quash if they were transparent.

  2. Roger1960 says:

    It has to be hard promoting a site that she herself can’t even use to play. I am just starting back to playing this past year. Poker Stars was my favorite site for playing. I have not seen more talented players since coming back myself.
    I still see plenty of players having no clue on how to play their hands, except for going all in. They don’t have fundamentals down at all, having no respect for position or pot odds etc… With all of the free info available, when I first started I bought more than a handful of books, joined poker forum sites. Not only there on the sites to play their free tourneys, but there to reap in the available knowledge.

  3. effece says:

    Vanesa’s retirement is, undoubtedly indicative of the commercial change that Pokerstars took, since it was acquired by the Amaya group. the site that started for the love of poker, only became the largest casino in the world. Clear demonstration is the “NEW”: poker up. the decision of the greatest player is according to her feeling for poker, away from the feeling of swindling new players.

    • darthdimsky says:

      Perhaps, but it can also be argued that she’s firmly focused on settling down, raising a family and moving away from the regular grind. Her focus to retire from the game entirely (live poker too) doesn’t appear to be influenced by the shift in focus by the Stars group altogether. She could’ve for instance attached herself to party, which is really player centric

  4. shanest says:

    She is certainly a polarizing character in the poker world. I didn’t like her table presence at times (berating amateurs and criticizing plays) but she was a character in the game. She also had some memorable blow ups. Who can forget the J7 on the big game into the AA.
    I wonder will this be a similar retirement to Fedor Holz. It is a hard game to give up 😉

    • korneel says:

      I totally forgot about her whining when other people made ‘mistakes’ in her eyes.

      She could indeed be very unlikeable, but she was good in the game 🙂

  5. AizenFalck says:

    Well it is a shame to lose such a good female player. The few times I saw her game really enjoy them, she is a person with a great personality playing poker, I remember once I saw her bluffing without blinking, I really laugh seen her with such a credible face, only a few pros are capable of doing a move like that. About her decision of retiring, I feel like she is doing the right thing, she feels it is the moment, well I hope she enjoys the rest of her life apart from pokerstars, and maybe some day she will decide to return to the tables, why not? I personally thinks she is right about how hard is for some amateurs (like me) to try to find a place at the poker world right now because of the very big competition online and on live events, and YES, definetely some poker amateurs act like they have a calculator inside their chest instead of a heart, but well, thats the new kind of players so be it, maybe some day with a lot of luck and practice I will defeat each one of them with good instincts and a lot of practice and luck 🙂

  6. Shawn says:

    Poker is done. I used to play every day. I recently went down to 2 days a week and it won’t be long until I stop altogether. I’m getting into crypto and trading. I’ll play the major events at Pokerstars from now on and that’s all.

    The writing has been on the wall for over a year that poker is dying. Bots, collusion, training sites, etc. all have made the game unbeatable for anyone entering the ecosystem now.

    RIP poker.

  7. miric007 says:

    End of a big career !!!! My respect, that is a big decision I admire and support. I want you a lot of luck in a new business.

  8. paulsmall007 says:

    well when you have won bracelets and millions what else if your goal, thats pretty much any amatuers goals. it is gambling and the odds are against you in the long run. there is very few long term winning players. house will eventually claim those wins back

  9. tagece says:

    Being a professional poker player it’s a really hard work. Stressful, tiring, lonely, competitive, and often frustrating. And the game is really changing with the huge number of new players on online games. New strategies, new approaches, new tactics. If the pro wants to remain profitable, he needs to stay current all the time.
    If one lose the pleasure playing the game, maybe it’s better quit.

  10. cristhiansantillan says:

    She is probably the best player that i don´t like to watch. She definately is good but the way she talks to anyone else on the table, i don´t know i just can stand her. Now in the interview she is saying some things that actually i think they are true. Like how the game has changed specially online. And i still feel like online softwares are not quite 100% trustable. Retired and has made a few bucks, 11 million in lifetime tournament winnings. nice career

  11. darthdimsky says:

    I’m no fan for hers but there’s no denying what she did for poker (especially for women in poker). Her retirement is really a bad blow for the poker world.

  12. okeedokalee says:

    “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,” she wrote.

    At last someone willing to be honest.A breath of fresh air.

    I’ve always respected Vanessa’s aggressive play, she will be missed.

    have a happy rest of life Vanessa.

  13. king11682 says:

    She is an admirable woman in a world where men predominate as is the world of poker and get to be in the first places in world tournaments, it is already a feat.
    She announced her retirement even though she acknowledged that she will not abandon poker altogether, even though she is finishing her career as a professional.
    He retires with more than $ 11 million in winnings from live poker tournaments. And he was a member of Team PokerStars Pro.

    My congratulations and respect.

  14. moots says:

    PokerStars has beens dropping a lot of their pros for the last 2 years. I wonder if they decided not to renew Vanessa’s contract.

    She went to law school, so she still has another backup job 🙂

    But I’m glad she isn’t quitting poker completely, she has always been entertaining to watch.

  15. AgentXtreme says:

    I read her tweets and facebook publications and that feeling was really really sad she shared pictures from her debuts and her succes moments , I wasn’t a big fan of her but her retirement making me so sad , she’s a strong woman , made her own way on the poker field and she did great , she doesn’t have a direct reason for the retirement , but she just got this feeling .

  16. Hondo says:

    While the repotrer tells us Selbst is “all-time winningest female tournament player” he fails to mention she is 41st world wide in total earning or that she’s held the #1 ranking in the Global Poker Index. Vannesa Selbst is a poker player who just happen to be woman. She is not ‘quiting poker’ but rather ” officially parting ways with PokerStars” as she wrote on the open letter on Facebook. I make the assumption that this was probably a mutual decision. she is also the founder of “Blinds for Justice” an annual charity poker event which benefits the Urban Justice Ceter in NYC. I wish her well.

  17. chicopaw says:

    She definitly dominated for women in poker. her decision to retire is among others that have left by the way sites are moving to casino relted games trying to capture everyones dollars rather then striving to make online poker thatall want to play and enjoy.Poker online has changed for the worst

  18. Anthony Bruno says:

    I wonder if what we “see” on televised poker doesn’t tell the entirety
    within the poker community. Surely the majority of players lose, even
    many of the best. And, worse are the story of young players whose
    lives have been destroyed, yet unreported.

    Maybe Vanessa’s venture will investigate and evaluate the ‘industry’
    with an unvarnished appraisal, rather than one presented in the
    ‘infomercials’ get couple games with ADs.

  19. No1eJoker says:

    Obviously brilliant and talented woman ,definitely he bit short time at the poker table. I did not watching much her play but I will most chiefly remember when she had AA v 77 in the main event last year and lost 🙁 ! And Gaelle Baumann hit the quad 7

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