Vanessa Selbst, a skilled and reputed poker professional, recently discussed the challenges and rewards of being a female poker professional. The poker industry is still very much a male dominated career environment; however, the last few years have seen an added number of women enter the poker field as professional players and strong online poker experts.

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Many of the female poker players face a lot of challenges in the online poker industry and one of which is the lack of women poker player mentors. Some of the great poker professionals that are also women are Vanessa Selbst, Annie Duke, Kathy Reibert and Annette Obrestad.

One of the most interesting choices for mentors occurred when Jesse Sylvia, a strong poker professional in his own right picked poker pro Vanessa Selbst for his mentor. Jesse Sylvia took in as much as $5.295 million in prize money alone when he came in at second place in the previous year’s World Series of Poker main event. Selbst has been chosen to be Jesse Sylvia’s coach and poker mentor.

Selbst has a strong playing style and uses a boom and bust poker style where she plays aggressively in a similar style to Michael Mizrachi, a winner of three WSOP bracelets. “You pretty much never see [Mizrachi’s] name near the bottom of the chip counts. If he is still in the tournament, he’s the chip leader,” said Selbst.

Selbst also had something to say about her role and impact “I think being a woman in the spotlight who is succeeding at what she does is great, but personally it’s more important that I’m a gay woman in the spotlight—particularly a woman who is non-gender-conforming.”

Selbst also expressed concern for the current situation of online poker in the US and hopes that this will set women poker players backward.  “A lot of women feel that it’s still an intimidating and unfriendly environment at the [live] poker table, and I can’t say that I don’t agree in a lot of circumstances,” she said.

Shawnee Barton, a poker player and writer, recounted an encounter that illustrates Selbst’ concern at the poker table stating, “I was playing Pot Limit Omaha at a Southern California casino, and a male player at the table sneezed grossness all over me. When he didn’t apologize I said, “You realize that sprayed all over me, right?” He sneered back, “That’s what she said.” After that, I did my best to empty his pockets. By the end of the night, he left exasperated, saying, “I quit. I can’t beat this game—no, I just can’t beat her.”

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