It was touch and go at several points in the tournament, but Vanessa Selbst simply would not be denied the title in the $25,000 Mixed Max Event at the 2014 World Series of Poker. Selbst overcame massive chip deficits in both her semifinal and finals matches in the Mixed Max format to secure her third career WSOP bracelet and $871,148, pushing her career earnings to over $10 million in the process.
Selbst defeated Jason Mo heads-up in the finals Friday afternoon, in a match that lasted just over three hours start to finish. After starting the finals at a 3-to-2 chip disadvantage Selbst brought it close in early action, only for Mo to go on a big run and put Selbst on the brink at the 50 hand mark. After they took the first and only break of the final, Selbst returned with a vengeance and earned a crucial double-up after limping the button and then calling off her stack with J T.
“We were 15 big blinds deep, and I feel like jack-ten suited is a really nice hand to see a flop with number one,” said Selbst of her limp, “And if I jam he’s only calling with better. I had already limped once, and I think he expected me to be limping pretty wide. So limp-calling it [off], obviously I took my time to think about it, but I really thought it would induce a lot of low suited hands like the one he had to shove.”
“Even if I don’t have the best hand, if he has ace-seven offsuit, I have plenty of equity,” continued Selbst. “I was playing unconventionally the whole time, I was really trying to throw him out of his comfort zone – he’s a very good heads-up player, and I just wanted to make moves that he wouldn’t expect.”
While he’s undeniably talented and accomplished as a high stakes heads-up No Limit Hold’em player, Mo has a history of speaking his mind. There were a couple of occasions over the course of this tournament when he took to Twitter to talk smack in Selbst’s direction.
“He’s a little bit notorious for running his mouth, and he also played the Ladies’ Event two years ago,” said Selbst. “He’s just done some things that make him a little bit dislikeable. I would be lying if I said it didn’t make the victory a little bit sweeter.”
With this win, Selbst joins Barbara Enright with the most bracelets ever by a woman – and she’s the first to win three open events. Beyond that, though, Selbst has joined an exclusive group of players with three WSOP bracelets and the air becomes even more rarefied the higher she goes – and there’s little indication that she’ll be slowing down any time soon.
Semifinals – Al Decarolis (3,435,000) vs. Vanessa Selbst (525,000)
After trading paint throughout Day 3 of this tournament during four-handed play, it seemed all too appropriate that Al Decarolis would face off with Selbst in one of the heads-up matches. Selbst faced a deficit of almost 7-to-1, but cut it in half on the very first hand in a limped pot. Decarolis checked a K 6 5 flop, Selbst bet 40,000 and Decarolis called, bringing the Q on the turn and a check from both players. The river was the 3, Decarolis put Selbst all in and she called with Q 2, besting Decarolis’ T 5.
There wouldn’t be another all in and call for two and a half hours, when their match finally came to an end. They traded small pots of varying size for more than 120 hands, and while Selbst continued to hit new milestones – first 1.3 million, then 1.5 million and even 1.8 million – she couldn’t quite pull ahead of Decarolis until they neared the end. Selbst finally took the lead after they crossed the 100 hand mark, only for Decarolis to grab it back as the blinds reached dizzying heights.
On hand 124, Decarolis opened for a raise to 250,000 and Selbst called to see a 9 7 4 flop. Selbst checked, Decarolis bet 275,000 and Selbst unleashed a check-raise that put Decarolis all in for about 900,000. Decarolis elected to call with A K and Selbst was ahead with 9 8, needing to dodge the turn and river to lock up her spot in the finals. The J left Decarolis with six outs going into the river, and the 5 officially brought the match to its end.
This was Decarolis’ first recorded tournament cash, and while he made a strong run at a spot in the finals a $290,622 payday is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Semifinals – JC Tran (3,350,000) vs. Jason Mo (2,510,000)
The match between Mo and JC Tran was a decidedly shorter affair than the marathon Selbst and Decarolis played. Mo fell to a 2-to-1 deficit in the first 20 hands of his match against Tran, but things changed quickly and dramatically when Mo turned up the heat. After taking down a small pot, Mo raised to 90,000 on the button, Tran called and the flop was A 6 5. Both players checked and the turn was the J. Mo bet 110,000, Tran called and the river was the 6. Tran bet 190,000, Mo called and his A 3 bested Tran’s J Q, giving him two pots in a row.
Mo would rattle off two more pots in a row to close the gap, and after giving up a small one to Tran the most pivotal hand of the match came together on Hand 28. Mo raised to 110,000, Tran three-bet to 275,000, Mo four-bet all in and Tran called, setting up a race for most of the chips in play between Mo’s A K and Tran’s T T. The K J 5 flop put Mo firmly ahead, and the 6 turn and 5 river were not either of the two outs Tran required, leaving him with just over three big blinds.
Tran doubled up on the next hand by making a club flush on the river with Q 3 to beat Mo’s J J, but there was still a long way to go for a comeback. He got it in good on the next hand with A J against Mo’s A T, but a T 8 5 flop put Tran in serious jeopardy. The 9 and 7 gave Tran a runner-runner straight, though, and suddenly Tran had a glimmer of hope for a comeback.
Mo took down the next three hands with all ins, but his fourth shove with J T got called by Tran and his A Q. The J 3 2 flop gave Mo a pair and the lead, and neither the 7 nor the 2 could save Tran’s tournament life. Mo advanced to the finals after just 34 hands of heads-up play and waited to find out his finals opponent for some time, knowing he’d hold a fairly significant lead going into that match. Tran settled for a third place tie and another impressive run in his first Vegas bracelet event since his appearance at the 2013 WSOP Main Event final table.
Finals – Jason Mo (5,860,000) vs. Vanessa Selbst (3,960,000)
The heads-up finale of the biggest Mixed Max Event started fairly slowly, with each player taking their fair share of pots. Selbst made her first serious run at the lead on Hand 24 with a well-timed river bluff – albeit one where she had the best hand. Mo raised to 140,000 with J 8, Selbst three-bet with J 9 and Mo called, bringing an A Q 6 flop. They both checked, the turn was the 7 and they both checked again. The river was the T, Selbst checked a third time and Mo bet 425,000, only for Selbst to spring the check-raise as Mo quickly let it go.
Things quickly took a turn for the worse for Selbst, as Mo took down the biggest pot of the match to that point to instantly take a 3-to-1 lead. Selbst raised to 225,000 with J 6 and Mo called with Q 2, flopping absolute gin as the T 7 6 board gave him a flush. They both checked and the turn was the 4, with Mo putting out a bet of 325,000. Selbst raised to 840,000 and Mo shipped it in, prompting a snap-fold from Selbst – who was left with 22 big blinds.
Mo extended his lead to 5.5-to-1 going into the break, but a few minutes of watching the livestream – which included the hand where Mo flopped a flush – gave Selbst the confidence to claw her way back. After taking down a couple of small pots, Selbst limped the button with J T and Mo shoved all in with 6 3. After thinking it over for a minute Selbst called it off, only for the J T 8 flop to bring a serious sweat. Selbst dodge the turn and river, and she was suddenly sitting right back where she started their heads-up match.
The final turned for good on Hand 63 of the match. Selbst opened for just over a minraise with Q Q and Mo three-bet to 750,000, which Selbst called. The flop was J T 5, Mo checked, Selbst bet 580,000 and Mo called. The fireworks were truly ignited on the turn as the case Q fell, though both players would check to the 2 river. Mo bet 1,315,000 and Selbst called, taking the lead for the first time all day and putting herself on the brink of victory.
Mo wouldn’t go quietly, though. He open shoved for just over 13 big blinds with 5 T, outflopping Selbst’s K 8 on a 5 4 3 J J board to double back to 4.2 million. After getting chipped back down to 2.5 million, Mo open-shoved again with 9 7, and Selbst called with K J. The A T 2 flop didn’t give Mo any help, and the A turn left just six outs going into the river. The J sealed Selbst’s victory, giving her the first open bracelet of the 2014 WSOP.
$25,000 Mixed Max No Limit Hold’em – Final Four Payouts
- Vanessa Selbst – $871,148
- Jason Mo – $538,308
- Al Decarolis – $290,622
- JC Tran – $290,622
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