Vanessa Selbst's outstanding winnings speak for themselves: having won an impressive three WSOP bracelets--all of them in open-field tournaments, not just women-only events--and having been to a stunning five Main Event final tables, Selbst has won a staggering $11.8 million in live poker play. And that's before you count her online winnings as a sponsored player for PokerStars Pro.
Selbst is famous for her all-or-nothing bluffs: she busted from her first Main Event final table by pushing with 5-2 against pocket Aces. But that's all part of Selbst's persona as a bombastic aggressor who is willing to put it all on the line at a moment's notice, and unpredictable play, while risky, can be high-reward, especially in no-limit games where Selbst excels. Selbst cultivated a personality of brazen derringdo to set herself apart from the pack, marking her as the only female player to exceed $10 million in winnings--as well as the only openly gay person to do so.
Why then did Selbst retire from poker in 2017? Well, like so many young people in their 30's, Selbst was going corporate: she joined the hedge fund Bridgewater to become a manager there, putting to work the Yale law degree she earned while playing poker to start gambling on the markets instead.
Kathy Liebert is very similar to Vanessa Selbst in that she sees a way of transferring skills between the world of poker and the world of investing. But unlike Slebst, Liebert did things in the opposite order: instead of starting as a successful player and parlaying that success into becoming an investor, Liebert turned to poker as her second career after her life as a Wall Street business analyst gave her all the knowledge she needed to start winning at the card table. Given this background in the buttoned-up circumstances of white-collar finance, it makes sense that Liebert is known as a consummate professional at the card table, where she commands calm and calculating play to win, netting over $6 million in winnings, the second most of any woman of all time.
Furthermore, Liebert is something of a trailblazer, having become the first player ever to win a poker tournament with a prize of $1 million in 2002. But Liebert, like so many women players, is not simply making money in women-only tournaments: her WSOP bracelet was won at an open event in 2004, a $1,500 shoot-out event. She was one of only three women to take home a bracelet in an open-field event that year.
Liebert continues to break records, including playing at the longest ever WPT final table in 2009 (she came in third). And because she continues to play professionally, she has nowhere to go but up as one of the most influential women to play the game.
Annie Duke is one of the most known female poker players, having come up in the professional circuit during the poker boom of the mid-2000's. During this time she was one of the only very well known female players, but her renown was not just tokenism: Duke won the 2004 Tournament of Champions, securing a WSOP bracelet and cementing herself as one of the best players in the game, female or otherwise.
Before poker, Duke studied psychology, and she--as well as her brother, fellow professional poker player Howard Lederer--turned to the card table to put that psychological prowess to work. Duke's professional career was a resounding success, including developing a TV persona that was covered extensively on various TV platforms during a time when hole card cams were reinventing the game for mass audiences.
Duke continued to use poker as a bridge to success, with mixed results: her 2009 stint on Celebrity Apprentice pitted her against Joan Rivers, who took the final crown and left Duke in second; and Duke's association with several failed poker ventures left a bad taste in many people's mouths, including fellow pro Daniel Negreanu.
Now, Duke uses the breadth of her experience in professional settings: public speaking. She acts as a consultant and storyteller for corporate events where she is able to use poker as a way of teaching oher important lessons.
The professional poker world is full of woud-be-wunderkinds: gaggles of very young players going out into the world and trying to make their mark own mark on the scene at a very early age. Sure, many fresh young players will try, but Annie Obrestad is one of the few who succeeded, and succeed she did: in 2007, she won a WSOPE Main Event bracelet at just 18, the youngest player ever to do so.
Amazingly, by 19, Obrestad was already an old hat at poker: she began playing online at age 15. She began by winning freeroll tournaments that offered cash prizes, which Obrestad gradually turned into hundreds of thousands of dollars before she ever set foot at a live poker game. Obrestad was a tough online player, including one notable game where she claimed to have won without looking at her cards (minus one peek when put all in). That aggressive play by such a young player proved daunting, and her inaugural win at the 2007 WSOPE Main Event in London was an incredible debut (note that this means that not only is Obrestad the youngest player ever to win a bracelet--she is also the only woman to win a Main Event).
Now, Obrestad is still a pro, but that doesn't mean she's resisting the other hallmarks of being a young player: she is--of course!--a YouTuber, producing make-up tutorials online.
A lot of reality stars start out as everyday people who do everything they can to turn their temporary fame into long-term celebrity success. But when Liv Boeree was selected for a reality television show about poker, she was introduced to more than just celebrity: she was introduced into a professional poker lifestyle that she has since turned into nearly $4 million worth of winnings. Meanwhile, she's built on her previous success as a scientist, combining her two passions and becoming a successful science communicator who extols the values of reasoning and logic as ways of making rational decisions in our day-to-day lives.
Boeree was just 20 when she was selected for a 2005 British reality show that taught people to become poker pros. On the show, she received coaching from none other than Annie Duke, as well as Phil Hellmuth and others. But while many reality stars burn out after the cameras stop rolling, Boeree kept her poker career going: by 2010, she had won the largest ever European Poker Tour event, taking home over a million pounds and setting her career into high gear. By 2016, she was three-peating EPT's Female Player of the Year, and in 2017, she teamed up with her boyfriend--fellow pro Igor Kurgnagov--to win the WSOP Tag Team Event; this make Boeree the only female player ever to win a WSOP bracelet and EPT event.
These days, Boeree still hits the card room strong--but she also hits conferences, corporate events, and TED talks, all in the name of promoting scientific thinking as more than just experiments and encyclopedia: it's a way of life that--in Boeree's case, and perhaps in her audiences' as well--can be transformative and maybe even lucrative.
While Live Boeree turned reality TV success into a poker career, Vanessa Rousso took the reverse tactic: after a decade of semi-professional and professional play, Rousso went on to a third-place finish on the 2015 season of Big Brother--and she credits poker with teaching her how to navigate that competitive space.
Rousso got her start by playing online poker while attending law school, and when she started to become successful (turning freeroll sit-n-go tourneys into the $1,500 buy-in she turned into $17,500 at a live tourney in Atlantic City) she eventually dropped out to go pro. Her rise to the top came through that online circuit, including a huge $700k payout in the 2007 World Championship of Online Poker--at the time, the largest online tournament ever held. At this point, there was no denying Rousso's skill, and she continued to play for Team PokerStars for years after. She set some records along the way, including setting a record for youngest player ever to reach a WSOP final table when she was just 23 years old.
Rousso did go back and finish up that law degree, and continues to push for gambling legalization in addition to her professional poker play.