Vanessa Selbst Wins for Charity4 years ago
Poker players are nothing if not generous (with chips and money changing hands at a ridiculous rate at my level anyway!) But when it comes to real generosity, some of the pros put their time (and time = money in the poker scene) where their mouths are. In which case, Vanessa Selbst must be close to topping this list with her recent charitable work within poker.
The 31-year old may have won over $11.6million in her poker career – making her the highest-earning female poker player of all time – but she is also a law graduate, with many ‘social justice’ charity campaigns close to her heart.
The Brooklyn-native graduated from Yale Law School in 2012, during a break from her live poker career which began in earnest in 2010 when she hopped onto the tournament circuit after a few years of successful online play.
Her recent charity event 'Blinds & Justice' which benefits the work of the Urban Justice Center, raised $160,000 for the New York-based organisation which aims to ‘serve NYC’s most vulnerable residents through direct legal service, systemic advocacy, community education, and political organizing.’
Selbst was joined at the ‘Current’ - in New York’s Chelsea district, overlooking the Hudson River - by a host of well-known poker stars, including Daniel Negreanu and Erik Seidel. Also there to support the cause which is “dear to her heart” were celebrities including Hank Azaria and Norman Lear, but as Selbst explained later,
“The MVCs were Dulé Hill and Jazmyn Simon, who stuck it out to the bitter end at 1:15 a.m.!”
— Vanessa Selbst (@VanessaSelbst) September 30, 2015
Speaking after the event – a 135-runner event won by Ingrid Weber – Selbst spoke of her fellow Team PokerStars Pro, Negreanu, stating,
"Just as always he provided such amazing energy and made the night so much fun,” but admitted,"I was a bit nervous because this was the first charity event I had ever organized and I had no idea what to expect”.
Currently on the board of the NY Urban Justice Center, and advocating for more organisations which fight for civil rights in the US, Selbst “did everything from visiting random poker games in New York City, to doing interviews in magazines, to going in person at bars on Wall Street during happy hour”, to ensure the event was a success.
“It was actually a pretty fun challenge because it was so new. In the end, everything went really smoothly and I couldn't have been more thrilled with how it turned out,” she added speaking to PokerNews. “I owe that to a lot of people who helped in making the event a success, and probably a bunch of run-good as well.”
Social Justice of all kinds is Selbst’s main focus away from the tables, at which she has won 3 WSOP bracelets and is generally regarded as one of the best players regardless of gender, and in 2010 she set-up her own charitable foundation, ‘Venture Justice’, which ‘funds projects that fight for racial justice and economic equality, and against police misconduct and government abuse of authority’.
However, this admirable focus, she says, won’t see her leaving the tables any time soon.
“For me, poker is never something I’m going to do 100 percent of the time, but I’m definitely going to be a pro player for a long time in the future.”
The ‘lesbian part of her life’ has played a major role in socially aware person she is nowadays, not least of which as she explains,
“It also caused me to take all of these classes about race, gender, class, etc., which just made me so much more of an empathetic person generally," a natural progression leading her to the current social, political and charitable stances she takes.
Having married her long-time partner Miranda Foster back in 2013, there was a sweet ‘re-union’ of sorts at her inaugural charity event last month.
The winner, Ingrid Weber, took away the top prize of an all-expenses paid trip to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure – the very same ‘adventure’ which in 2013 had seen Selbst and Foster announce their engagement, followed only days later by Selbst taking down the $25k High-Roller event for $1,424,420.
Of her recent charity involvement Selbst said
"Now, it's back to the poker world for me, but I'm already counting down the days until next year's event!"
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