Vanessa Selbst is no stranger to the winner's circle. The decorated pro has become one of the most dominant figures in all of poker, but even she would probably admit that her latest trip to a trophy presentation came in improbable fashion. By defeating Jason Mo in a seesaw heads-up duel to win her third World Series of Poker gold bracelet in Event #2 ($25,000 Mixed-Max No-Limit Hold'em) - along with $871,148 in prize money - Selbst showed why professional poker is a game defined by perseverance in the face of pressure.
Short Stack Ninja: Although Selbst is undoubtedly accustomed to wielding a big stack during her countless deep runs throughout the years, two incredible comebacks on her way to victory proved that she knows how to play from behind as well. Entering her semifinal heads-up match against Al Decarolis with just 525,000 chips to the amateur businessman's 3,435,000, Selbst found herself at nearly a seven-to-one disadvantage. Selbst wasted no time in getting herself off of the mat though, doubling through Decarolis on the very first hand of the contest. After dispatching Decarolis 123 hands later, Selbst again found herself riding a severe short stack during her finals match against Mo, falling all the way to 1,680,000 while her nemesis held 8,140,000 for a five-to-one advantage heading into a scheduled break. After using her time away from the table to gather herself and study live stream footage of Mo's play, Selbst proceeded to storm all the way back from the brink to earn the victory.
Bad Blood: Selbst and Mo are no strangers on the felt, after the pair played at the same table during the 2012 WSOP Ladies event. Yes, you read that correctly. The Ladies event. A few comments exchanged between the two during the day made waves, but it was a tweet issued by Mo just yesterday that may have served as his "Lance Stephenson" moment - poking the bear before getting mauled by a monster:
Mo's derisive comment came after Selbst dispatched his friend Ryan Fee in 7th place by catching a card on the flop to crack big slick. And just like Lance and the Indiana Pacers after LeBron did his thing on Friday night, Mo might think twice before mouthing off to a champion again any time soon.
The Ten Milly Milestone: With her third cash of more than $600,000 in the last five months, Selbst joined one of the most exclusive clubs in all of poker, as she has now amassed more than $10 million in lifetime earnings. With a total of $10,548,896 to her credit before her 30th birthday, Selbst now sits in 21st place on the all-time money list, and she is now one of just 25 players in history to record more than $10 million in lifetime earnings. And when WSOP Main Event champions like Jamie Gold and Pius Heinz - members of the club based solely on their massive one-off scores - are removed from contention, Selbst's accomplishment becomes even more impressive.
Twenty Five Dime Terror: With yet another huge haul in an event boasting a $25,000 buy-in, Selbst has staked her claim as a big buy-in specialist of sorts. She placed 3rd in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure NLHE High Roller event in January, adding $607,580 to her coffers, and in the 2013 edition of the same event she took the whole thing down for a $1,424,420 score. With a 4th place finish at the EPT Grand Final Monte Carlo NLHE High Roller sandwiched in between - good for another $380,656 in winnings - Selbst has clearly found a comfort zone in the game's elite events.
The Baja Men Bracelet: After jokingly inquiring earlier in the day as to the chances of bringing her beloved dogs to join her boisterous rail, Selbst actually showed up to the Mothership with the toy pooches in tow. And with the dogs let out, Selbst soon showed her own bite was much more fearsome than any barking on social media.
Tran Train Rolling: Selbst wasn't the only member of the $10 million earnings club to reach the semifinals, as JC Tran also reached the final four. Just a day after giving PokerNews readers a quick primer on the strategy implications of Mixed-Max poker, Tran proceeded to put his money where his mouth is, rolling to a 4th place finish for a $290,622 payday.
Amateur Hour: Another semifinalist was Al Decarolis, and while Selbst and Tran have earned more than $21 million between them, the amateur restaurant owner entered the Mixed-Max event with zero recorded cashes to his credit. A friend of Doyle Brunson's, Decarolis now has a $290,622 bankroll to brag about. Here's hoping he doesn't try to take a shot at his pal Texas Dolly in those infamous high-stakes sessions over in Bobby's Room.
Mixed-Maxing It Up: This tournament's unique Mixed-Max format - in which players begin at nine-handed tables on Day 1, before playing six-handed, four-handed, and heads-up on subsequent days - is now in its fourth year on the WSOP schedule. And with the poker world's attention fixed squarely on the Mixed-Max stage here today, the event is likely to become a mainstay for years to come.