Vanessa Rousso grinds at Beau Rivage

Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso recently made the final table of the Southern Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi. Since she's getting off to a sweet start in 2009, we asked Rousso to give us a few of her thoughts on her finish. Here's what she had to say.

by Vanessa Rousso

Wow, what a grind! My road to the final table in last week's World Poker Tour Beau Rivage event, was anything but typical for me. I'm used to making final tables as one the the big stacks--if not THE big stack--at the table. However, this time around, things were not destined to be so.

I came into Day 2 with slightly above average in chips, but obstacle after obstacle throughout Day 2 prevented my chip stack from sustaining any sort of significant growth. It seemed like every time I managed to build a big stack, it was just a matter of hands before a cold deck or bad beat cut one leg out from under me and put me back into the precarious position of a short stack.

Nonetheless, I remained optimistic throughout Day 2, knowing that I was one of the favorites in this relatively weak field and that patience should pay off eventually. Despite having aces cracked twice all in pre-flop against short stacks (as more than a 4:1 favorite each time), and twice running queens into aces, I somehow managed to survive the day (and enter the money) with about 130,000 in chips. At that point, this was roughly one third the average chip stack in play among the 27 remaining players who were to return to play Day 3.

Although I was among the bottom few remaining players in chip count, I woke up on Day 3 with a renewed sense of optimism and purpose. As I ate breakfast that morning, I was overcome with a feeling that today was going to be a good day--and indeed it was. I never managed to build even an average chip stack, yet I held on with all my might as the players around me were eliminated one by one.

I was extremely patient and I put a lot of thought into all of my decisions. This resulted in the fact that every time all my chips went into the middle, I was at least a 3:1 favorite--and luckily I managed to avoid a bad beat when it meant my tournament life. I built a very tight and solid image throughout the day, which meant that often I could steal the blinds and antes before the flop with just a minimum raise. This became very important towards sustaining my stack over the course of the day as I never really managed to go on any sort of a hot streak. Instead, I relied upon periodic min-raises to take down hands before the flop in order to buoy my ever-declining chip stack.

Finally, the tournament director, Johnny Grooms, came over the loudspeaker to announce that we were now down to just one single table of 10. I was elated! Johnny has directed quite a few final tables that I have found myself at over the years, and he was present a year ago when I took 12th in this very same event. But it always seems that every time Johnny is there I somehow manage to slip through the cracks and fall short of a final TV-table (top six) opportunity. So, I was not surprised when he came up to me during one of the breaks and said "Alright Vanessa, make the TV table this time. Focus on top 6."

So you can imagine my disappointment when I was eliminated on the TV table bubble in 7th place. It came down to a classic coin-flip situation. I pushed all in with AK over a mid-position raise by the big stack at the table who called my all in with pocket 10's. A 10 on
the flop meant trips for him and I was unable to produce the miracle that I would need to win the hand. So, I was awarded 7th place which meant a payday of over $79,000. Even more important than the money, I took several important lessons about surviving to the final table as a short stack with me when I left Mississippi. I learned the extent to which patience can pay and the importance of making big lay-downs along the way. Ultimately, even though I fell short of the final TV table, I am excited about what I believe to be a the start to a very successful year at the tables.

Now, I'm on my way to Russia for the launch of the Russian Poker Tour in St. Petersburg where I hope to make another final table. Wish me luck!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news