Vanessa Selbst Interview at EPT 9 London 2013
Vanessa talks about getting into Poker, her Civil Rights work and Poker Strategy with Rob “Hippy” King from FlopTurnRiver.com.
Tags: EPT 9 London, Vanessa Selbst
Added by: Hippy80
Poker Room: PokerStars
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Rob King: Hi and welcome back to Poker Stars EPT. We’re here with Vanessa Selbst. Hi Vanessa, how are you today?
Vanessa: I’m great. How are you?
Rob King: I’m not bad, thank you for asking. I just wanted to say congratulations on your recent engagement.
Vanessa: Thank you.
Rob King: Quite big news through out the poker world. How are you feeling about such large attention on your own personal life?
Vanessa: Um, I don’t know it feels kind of weird I guess. You know, it’s funny because I did the proposal down at PCA and it was like before PCA started. There was no players down there and I wasn’t playing any poker and I didn’t really realize what effect that would have in terms of having it be so public. But you know, it’s cool. Everyone’s been super enthusiastic about it, which is like a really good feeling.
Rob King: Obviously it did help you somehow good. I mean you did win the.
Rob King: Whole [bowler 00:00:54].
Vanessa: Well that was the only reason I did it obviously was to get some run good. So yeah it worked out pretty well. It was a good move.
Rob King: Poker is quite an unusual career. I mean, you started off poker when you were doing a math degree, is that correct?
Vanessa: Uh, I was doing Undergrad.
Rob King: Undergrad?
Rob King: So I take it poker wasn’t a high school career option. How did you get into the game?
Vanessa: Yeah so I just like was playing a home game in college and just like found people that were super interested in poker and just kind of learned about online poker forums. And just started discussing strategy with everybody and found out about online poker and started playing on Poker Stars, other sites you know just playing as much as I could. Soaking up as much information as I could. I was also taking frequent trips to Foxwoods instead of going to class. You know I just kind of found and just fell in love with the game and just never stopped since then basically.
Rob King: You actually went back to college to do a law degree. I know you took some time off for that but how did that work for you? It seems like two high stressful things going at the same time.
Vanessa: Yeah well I quit pretty much cold turkey when I want back to law school for the first two years. I barely played any poker at all other than the occasional tournament during the World Series or during a school break so you know it wasn’t like I was doing the two concurrently until the final year. Which was not ideal, but you know you just make it work. Honestly it’s two huge passions of mine and I don’t think that I would be happy if I were lacking in either one so it’s just kind of when you want to do something you just get it done. Um, obviously there’s sacrifices that I made. I wasn’t able to play all the tournaments that I wanted, I wasn’t able to go to every class but you know, you just make it work.
Rob King: You call it two passions of yours. I read about you wanted to work in Civil Rights. Is there anything particular in Civil Rights that you feel is important. [inaudible 00:02:57] Supreme courts vote, is that something that you’d be interested in yourself or is it more generally that you’re looking at?
Vanessa: Yeah I mean I think it’s just so hard when I get asked this question, pin point issue because there’s just so many things it’s like that are difficult right now. I had been working on sort of like racial justice and then when ever you bring up racial justice I think about economic inequality and then whenever I think about economic inequality I’m thinking about corruption. And I’m thinking about corruption in politics and I’m thinking about money and politics and it’s just sort of a frustrating time right now it’s like well how do you solve this before you solve this, this and this other thing. It’s hard to stop it from feeling futile at times but you kind of just I think the answer is if everybody did something to make a difference, I think hopefully it would turn around. Or maybe it’d just be a full scale revolution which might be necessary so I’m kind of support that too.
Rob King: So would you get involved in US politics or would you stay purely on the legal side?
Vanessa: The political system as it currently exists I don’t think that I would be involved in it. But, I don’t know if it would be legal or just other kinds of activism or whatever it is. Just doing something, I’m not really sure.
Rob King: Coming back to poker, since we are a poker website. You and Liv have had this comment about not being a man at poker table when you get asked the same questions about being a woman playing poker.
Rob King: How did that come around? Was it such that you guys had been away from the table.
Vanessa: What comment is this?
Rob King: Liv on APC live mentioned a couple of months ago about, “I’ve never been a man at a poker table so I don’t know the difference.”
Rob King: And she accredited that to you.
Vanessa: Oh. [laughs]
Rob King: Was it something you guys have come up with before?
Vanessa: No, I don’t think so. It’s funny that Live said that. It’s cool. No it’s just funny because these questions about, what’s it like to be a woman and you’re just like, “what’s it like to not be?” It doesn’t make any sense. There’s just so many questions around gender in poker that are kind of weird and it’s all just human experience. Like, what’s it like being, the only thing I know what it’s like being is Vanessa Selbst to you know, former law school lesbian poker player, Brooklyn bred, Jew. Whatever. You know, whatever these parts of my identity are, that’s the only experience I have as a poker player.
I think everybody is coming from a different place and you know you can imagine that these things probably influence how you are you as a poker player as well as how you are as a person.
Rob King: You actually are considered by quite a lot of us in poker to be the cutting edge with your videos and your coaching work.
Vanessa: Thank you.
Rob King: We all look up to you and how you do it. I’d be quite interested to see, where do you see poker in the next five years? More on the technical side, do you see the aggression getting more and more powerful.
Vanessa: I think it goes in waves honestly. It’s funny because I used to be sort of the most aggressive player and now I go on EPT and it’s like I flat pre flop. And all these people are like oh my god call! What is that? They’re like three betting, four betting, five betting but like hands that I think should be flatted. So it’s like I’m more passive pre flop than a lot people and kind of will flip and go around. I think it just goes in waves. There’s a certain point where you can’t actually get any more aggressive. You only have forty big buttons to work with when you’re in a tournament. You know, nine bidding can’t be a trend. So at some point I think it just turns around and it flips on it’s head. Obviously you adjust to your dynamics in poker and so if you’re at a really aggressive table and everybody is being too aggressive at a certain point you probably see there’s probably a space to move into by being very passive or by being very tight. That is really profitable until once again everybody turns really tight and then becoming really aggressive is profitable.
So it’s just about adjusting to your competition and I think that it goes in waves and I think what tends to happens is that people that are at the forefront, the best players in the game are constantly ahead and constantly adjusting. So it’s not that maybe one person is the most aggressive, I think I was one of the most aggressive players in the period and time in poker in which is was the most profitable to be the most aggressive. That doesn’t mean that right now or a year or two from now I will be the most aggressive player still. I think it’s just a matter of adjusting.
Rob King: How do you look at your strategy? Do you work on your own or do you work with other people?
Vanessa: You know, I talk to other players about hands. I have a few players that I really respect that I talk to them about theory on a regular basis. I also do a lot of thinking away from the table. I don’t know, I’m just very ethereal. I just always have been from being in academia and everything. So when I’m taking time off from poker I’ll still have an epiphany about some way to balance my strategy better or some way to exploit some other thing better or whatever. So, I do a lot of thinking on my own but I’m also talking to friends a lot too.
Rob King: How would you consider the best way for someone wanting to take that next step from the lower levels to playing at a higher level of poker?
Vanessa: You know, I think this is the issue. It’s just a different generation right now and I don’t know whether it’s a question of un-learning stuff that’s learned or just really making a focus on learning theory. But there are so many players that play now, mid-stakes players online and they didn’t learn by thinking about the game and figuring it out. They learning by watching videos and repeating and repeating and when I was learning poker there were no videos. You learned because you had strategy discussions, you played tons of hands. You figured out what worked, you were creative. God knows I’ve been too creative in my career and so the problem I think is that so many players just learn what the right play is but they don’t know why. So when it comes time to adjust they’re not able to and so it’s really just a question of thinking about the why every single time. Why am I making this play? I mean it’s as simple as an opening raise size to a check raise on the river.
Whatever it is, it’s a question of constantly asking yourself, why did I make that play? And not just revisiting plays when they didn’t’ work but maybe what could’ve worked better. It’s asking that question as well. So many players look at their bust and go, “okay I’m lucky I got fifth place in this tournament at the final table. I re-jammed 22 bigs with ace/queen and got called by ace/jack and lost.” And it’s like okay but what about that pot that you played and got three bet and you four bet and you didn’t jam even though it was correct too? And then you lost eight big blinds. Whatever it is, it’s like constantly thinking about every single decision. What could you do to put yourself in a better situation? What control do you have over your kind of poker fate.
Rob King: We do think you are cutting edge, the white purse leader anyway.
Vanessa: Thank you.
Rob King: Thank you for that. I think that’s going to bring a lot of lower level players and give them some new ideas. A lot of people do learn by rope and hopefully this will help bring people to.
Rob King: Be more analytical about that part.
Vanessa: Yeah. Hopefully not. [laughs]
Rob King: Yeah well I have to say that.
Rob King: You played at EPT, how did that end up for you?
Vanessa: I’m about average chips. Which someone told me was good but I don’t think so. I actually had a really good day until the last level I just kind of bluffed it off as usual and so I’m just down to about average but that’s fine.
Rob King: Were there any particular spots that you regret?
Vanessa: I don’t regret it, I made the correct bluff from a game theory perspective. But as I put the chips in, knew it was never going to work, it was like they’re never going to me so why would they believe me. It’s like I always make the bluff that I think is correct. In a high roller I think my bluff would’ve worked every time. But, so it goes.
Rob King: Well, thank you very much for your time and I hope you run well in tomorrow’s day two.
Vanessa: Thank you very much.
Rob King: Thank you.