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Good start to 2013, but more to come

I'm not generally one for sentimentality, but I can't help but be reflective at the start of a new year. January 1 sort of compels you to think back on the last year of your life--the things you accomplished or didn't accomplish--and think about how you might do things differently for the upcoming year. I have to say, 2012 was phenomenal.

This is the first year of my recent poker career that poker and law school weren't competing for my time and attention. In January 2012, I took my last finals, closed up my twenty-pound textbooks, and crossed my fingers that my diploma would come in the mail. Then I threw myself whole-heartedly into poker. Feeling like parts of my game had deteriorated and never one to be content with mediocrity, I channeled my energy into thinking analytically about my game, plugging my leaks, and playing creatively. How could I take my game to the next level?

NEIL2569_PCA2013_Vanessa_Selbst_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Winning something huge couldn't hurt, but more on that in a minute



I exchanged intense law school study for intense poker study. I played wherever and whenever I could. I froze in Deauville in February, flew over the snow-capped Swiss Alps in March, wandered the streets of Berlin in April, and soaked up the sunshine in Monte Carlo in May. I played EPTs, WPTs, LAPC, Bay 101, and Premiere League. Comfortable enough with my NLHE and PLO games, I set my sights on mixed games. I read books, played on Pokerstars, watched videos, and picked brains. The payoff was tremendous.

My World Series was incredible. Going into the World Series, there's always a sense of optimism and excitement about bracelet chasing that can quickly get squashed by daily bust outs and long hours. This year was different for me, though. I won my second bracelet and made several deep runs. I came really close in the first event I played, ending up 4th, so it was disappointing to get so close right off the bat and not get there. That deep run set the tone for the rest of my series, and it made me push myself harder. I was relentless in my pursuit of a bracelet, which would eventually come in Event 52--a $2500 mixed game tournament. I capped off my Series with my deepest run ever in the Main Event, making it to Day 6 and taking 73rd.

2012 was a whirlwind year for me, and so it was hard to believe that 2013 could be any better, especially when it would start with another trip to PCA. Historically, PCA has not gone very well for me. Although I always have a ton of fun with friends, PCA and poker do not agree with me. It might be that the waterslides especially agree with me, because I often find myself busting out of tourneys within the first few hours and then spending the rest of the day drinking piña coladas by the pool next to some Manta Rays and tipping my friends' tubes over in the lazy river.

I'm happy to report that 2013 seems to have broken my PCA curse. I played a lot of poker and went on very few waterslides as a consequence. In one week, I got engaged, made it deep in the Super High Roller (although eventually busted out on a huge bluff), won the High Roller, and rose to the top of the Women's All Time Money List. I have spent the last few months really thinking about my game and fine-tuning spots that I believe I had played sub-optimally over the last year. The hard work paid off - I played some of my best and most focused poker this trip. Although I returned home in my same pasty shade of winter white, feeling "in the zone" this early in the year feels amazing.

But I'm not done.

If there's anything that 2012 taught me, it's that I must continually look at poker as a learning process. There is always more to learn, more to do, and more to accomplish. I'm ready to accept that challenge. Bring it on, 2013, I'm ready for you.

Vanessa Selbst is a member of Team PokerStars Pro


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