Vanessa Selbst Parts Ways With PokerStars, Retires From Poker

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Vanessa Selbst shocked the poker world New Year's Eve day by announcing her decision to retire from the game that she loves.

Arguably the best female player of our time made the decision via Twitter.

Selbst ranks 25th on the All-Time Money List of all players, male and female.  Her total live winnings amount to $11,851,384.

The 33-year-old openly gay player also has three World Series of Poker bracelets and 20 money finishes.

Selbst was born in Brooklyn, New York into a Jewish family. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a year before transferring to Yale University.

Selbst' full message was posted on her Facebook page (see below).

I’m writing to say that I’m officially parting ways with PokerStars and moving on from my career as a professional poker player. Poker has given me so much over the last 12 years. It has been intellectually challenging, exhilarating, fun, and extremely rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might never have experienced, and forge friendships with people from all over the world. Speaking of those people, those whom I’ve met through the poker world (players and industry people alike) are some of the most dynamic, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and all around passionate people that I know.

Many people will ask why I’m leaving – there’s no one specific reason, but just 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. The most obvious reason is that Black Friday has meant that in order to do this job professionally, you either had to move out of the country or travel 90% of the time. That was really fun for a period of time in my life, 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. Secondly, I don’t feel good about promoting poker as an ambassador anymore (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). Lastly, whether because poker got more competitive or because we got older (or likely some combination of the two), poker recently turned into a real job, requiring hard work and discipline to succeed. I had never treated the game that way–I always kept a very light poker schedule–I showed up and played for fun and did other projects back home as my “real work.” The shift in the nature of poker and what it requires put me at a crossroads and asked the question of me whether I would rather change my relationship to the game or move on. To me, the opportunity to work hard and learn something totally new and get to keep poker in my arsenal of fun go-to hobbies feels like the right approach.

My next career I’m giving a shot is at a hedge fund. I’m doing trading research and strategy. I’ve actually already been there for almost four months now, and the environment feels a lot like poker did back in the day – a bunch of nerdy kids collaborating to try to beat our opponents at a game. It’s also really freaking difficult… there’s so much to learn and figure out in a world that’s completely new to me and every day I think I’m getting the hang of it, the next day I fail at the next challenge. It’s exhausting, exciting, and completely humbling every single day. Plus, I’m following in my mother’s footsteps (she was an options trader turned lawyer and recreational poker player), which would have upset the hell out of me ten years ago, but makes me really happy now.

I don’t know if the hedge fund thing will work out. For the year before I started my current job, I was working part time at a police misconduct plaintiffs’ law firm, and I started out liking it but in the end it didn’t really suit me (no pun intended). It’s pretty difficult to find the next thing when your first career was so much damned fun! Anyway, whatever happens with my next career, I know that I’ll never truly stop playing poker (just ask Fedor Holz what happens when you retire)! Seriously though, I will always love the game and the people in it and I’m so thankful for everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve experienced. So with that, so long, and thanks for all the fish!

- Ace King,


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