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Best of Vin Narayanan
UNCASVILLE, Connecticut -- In the home state of the undefeated and virtually unchallenged University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team, it's only fitting that a woman is dominating the PokerStars.net North American Poker Tour Mohegan Sun Main Event. Part-time poker pro and full-time Yale law student Vanessa Selbst dominated Day 4 play on Saturday.
Selbst was the runaway chip leader for most of Saturday, until strip club owner Mike Beasley rode a late rush pass Selbst. Beasley, who owns his club in Florida, will enter Sunday's final table with 4.985 million in chips. Selbst has 4.545 million. The chip stacks of the remaining six players range from 1.125 million to 2.95 million.
"I feel really good about my game," Selbst said after reaching the final table. "I haven't played much poker lately because of law school, but I feel like every live tournament I've been playing (recently) I've been crushing. I just feel like I keep on picking up more and more stuff and transitioning from an online player. Now I can call myself a live tourney donk."
Selbst also told Casino City that being in law school has helped her poker game.
"It makes it a lot more fun. I come up here and I'm having fun," Selbst said. "There's no pressure. I'm not like 80K in the hole for the year. I'm only putting 30K into tournaments for the year. If I lose 30K it's not a big deal. There's not that pressure going on and it's fun again. And I think that having poker be fun makes you really play your top (game). When you're only playing like 14, 15, 20 days a year, it's a lot easier to play your 'A' game that many days than playing it 200, 250 days."
Selbst's big moment Saturday came when Alan Sternberg pushed all-in pre-flop for 1.6 million. Selbst made the big call and turned over A-5. Sternberg showed 5S-6S and Selbst had him dominated. Selbst's hand held up, and she remained the player to beat until the end of the day.
Selbst's big call immediately became the talk of the tournament. When she wandered over to another table to watch Cliff "Johnny Bax" Josephy survive an all-in encounter, Scott Seiver told her there was "nothing crazy going on over here like ace-five versus 5-6 -- just your standard aces vs. queens."
"We don't play your crazy street poker here," Seiver added with a laugh. "We play real poker."
Josephy teased Selbst about the big call to when he sat down next to her with nine players remaining.
"I can't call that big bet with ace-five like you," Josephy said with a smile. "I'm going to have to rely on my post-flop play."
Josephy also reached the final table, which has eight players. But after losing a big pot early in the day, he had to travel a tough road to get there.
"I hate it," said Josephy when asked by Casino City about having to grind it out. "I don't get to play my poker."
"You have to stay disciplined (when you're short)," Josephy added. "I kept getting 7-4 and 8-3 and you can't play those. I re-raised twice -- once with a big hand and once with aces.
"But I like where I am now," said Josephy, who now has 1.94 million. "I can play some poker."
A little luck doesn't hurt either. Josephy ended up chopping two pots when he was all-in, including one where he had to river a straight.
Josephy wasn't the only player who traveled a rough path to the final table.
Seiver, who began the day with 2.24 million, rode a chip rollercoaster that finished with him in the final table as the short stack with 1.125 million. Seiver, who is the most talkative player remaining, said it's tough controlling your emotions through wild swings.
"Anyone who says it's easy to control your emotions is lying," Seiver said. "I think I'm one of the good ones at controlling them, and it's draining.
"When things are going good, you think everything is going to go your way," Seiver added. "And when things are running bad, you think you're going to keep losing chips.
"But tomorrow is a new day to start thinking things will go well," Seiver said. "And that's the approach I'll take."
New England picked up its second representative at the final table when Maine native Derek Raymond survived nine-handed play with 1.545 million.
"I just felt comfortable playing so close to home," Raymond said. "I had plenty of support from friends and family."
Michael Woods (2.95 million), Jonathan Aguiar (1.535 million) and Alistar Melville (2.94 million) form the rest of the final table. Vanessa Rousso finished in 10th place and won $47,000.
Final-table action begins Sunday at noon. The winner of the $5,000 Main Event will take home $750,000.