In late September, philanthropist and professional poker player Vanessa Selbst hosted the second annual Justice Is Blinds event with fellow poker pro Daniel Negreanu.
Selbst, who was born in Brooklyn in 1984, has won over $11 million in live poker tournaments since 2007, is the highest earning female poker player of all time and is the only woman to ever claim the number one spot on the Global Poker Index. To this day, she is the only woman to have ever won three bracelets at an open World Series of Poker event and is often featured on online poker sites as an inspiring, courageous and daring woman.
Besides her love for poker though, Selbst also has a passion for philanthropy, which is how she got involved with Justice Is Blinds.
The charity poker tournament, which took place on Tuesday 27th September at Capitale, aims to benefit the Urban Justice Centre (UJC) which has provided vulnerable individuals with legal services for over thirty years. Last year, more than 200 people, 135 of whom got involved in the poker tournament, attended the event, raising upwards of $150,000.
This year, on top of the $500 entrance fee, attendees were asked to donate $1,000 to enter the poker game, where the top prize was a Caribbean Adventure worth $11,000. Eight box seats for a Madison Square Garden basketball game, a game of golf at Baltusrol and a bottle of 1998 Chateau Haut-Brion were just some of the other prizes up for grabs.
When asked why she was so passionate about UJC, Selbst told Cardschat: “The Urban Justice Center is one of the best legal services organizations in the world, composed of world-class attorneys who do the work that isn’t necessarily glamorous or widely supported, but is necessary in the fight for a just and equal society. I am inspired by the work that everyone at the UJC does.”
Whilst Vanessa Selbst is already on the board for UJC, there are plenty of other charities that she supports listed on her personal website, most of which deal with social justice:
Flex Your Rights (Flex): Established in 2002, Flex is an educational non-profit that aims to improve literacy in the USA by developing and distributing know-your-rights media.
The Innocence Project: A well-known litigation and public policy organisation that works to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals through DNA testing.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Also known as the USA’s national protestor of liberty, daily courts and communities, ACLU work to preserve every American’s rights and freedoms. They are also dedicated to broaden the rights given to people of colour, women, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender individuals, prisoners and the disabled.
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN): As the leading national education organisation devoted to ensuring school safety, GLSEN aims to create a world in which we are respectful and accepting of everyone.
The Southern Centre for Human Rights: An organisation that provides legal representation to prisoners facing the death penalty, battles human rights violations in prisons and aims to reform the justice system in southern states.
Make the Road New York: Aiming to promote economic justice, equity and opportunity to all New Yorkers, this organisation hosts youth and adult education as well as legal services.
Equal Justice Initiative: A private non-profit organisation that gives destitute prisoners, who have been denied a fair trial, legal representation.
Selbst has also established her own foundation named Venture Justice, where she funds a variety of projects that support racial justice and economic equality as well as missions against police misconduct and abuse of authority perpetrated by the government.
Clearly, Vanessa Selbst is an inspirational, generous and fascinating woman, having devoted so much of her time to supporting social justice in the USA. We’re excited to see where her philanthropic spirit takes her next!