Vanessa Rousso on having more fun in 2012

Thumbnail image for PS Women logo.jpgAlthough Vanessa Rousso eliminated me from the PokerStars Women Live event at the PCA with a pair of jacks against my queen-ten of spades, my most vivid memory is the social, even raucous atmosphere she inspired at our table. Upon discovering that fellow Team PokerStars Pro Ana Marquez adored Eminem, Vanessa spent several orbits intermittently rapping.

When I interviewed Vanessa, I found out that her fun-loving spirit at that event was not only her personality, but also a plan. Her motto for 2012 is "work hard, play hard" and she doesn't just mean poker. Vanessa talked to PokerStars Women about her main event bust-out hand, doing her twenties backwards, and the Louboutins she wore to the high roller.

PokerStars Women: You're about to play in the high roller right? You've done really well in those.
Vanessa Rousso: Yeah, I'm five for eight final-tabling them.

PSW: Do you think there's a reason you've excelled in those small elite field events?
VR: I think it's because I can see the finish line so I don't lose my mental endurance and I don't get in my own way. In events that last five to six days, there's just too much opportunity for Vanessa to mess Vanessa up. I definitely have ADD. Sometimes I play a hand straight up cause I can't take sitting there anymore, which can be trouble. Also, the buy-ins are higher so there's more at stake, more to lose, more to win. That ups my incentive to play better.

A lot of players in these high buy-in fields try to get into pissing matches with each other. I have very little ego when it comes to needing to outplay other players. A lot of that comes with being a woman in a male-dominated sport. I had to check my ego at the door when I decided to turn pro at 23. If I were going to have ego, I'd be a depressed individual. I just sit there and let everyone get into pissing matches and pick up the extra chips they spew in the process.

PSW: Of course people recognize you, so what do you recommend for women who aren't famous and are likely to be underestimated?
VR: First thing is to swallow your pride. You need to learn to derive your security internally rather than externally. You need to know based on internal factors, hey I've put in the hours, I've done what it takes to become a strong player, I have the results that I consider respectable and the people in my inner circle have good things to say about me. The rest of the people are going to have their comments, their underestimations, their stereotypical projections and you just got to think of that as "yumyum." It's equity for you, it's an opportunity for you to take advantage of the misconceptions people have of you.


PSW: Yeah, I find that's one of the reasons studying helps because not only do you learn things, but you're also more confident. You won the Ladies Event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure a couple years ago, tell us about your approach to women's events.
VR: I think in general I don't do too well in Ladies Events--that one was sort of a fluke.

PSW: Why do you say that?
VR: In smaller buy-in events I often get experimental with strategy and it usually doesn't work out. Ladies events are a different field make-up than the tourneys I'm used to playing in. Maybe the optimal strategy that I've derived that's allowed me to be successful doesn't necessarily apply to women's events. I did win this event two years ago, so I came up with the right formula then, but your opponents are always evolving.

PSW: PokerStars Women Live events are interesting because there are a lot of really good players in them, for instance pros who are playing in the Main and then get knocked out. It's not like the World Series of Poker Ladies Event....
VR: Yeah, it's not super-super soft.

PSW: Yes, I was trying to say that in a convoluted way. What do you think of the women on Team PokerStars Pro?
VR: Liv is one of my really good friends. We went skiing together in Whistler and that was awesome. The more I get to know her, I'm like, "She's so awesome." It's sort of like meeting someone that is so much like you and you never knew there were other women like you, sort of tomboyish and...

(Liv Boeree walks by on her way to the tournament room.)

VR: "Oh, my gosh. I'm singing your praises right now. I'm like, that chick rocks."

Liv Boeree- "Awww, good luck (in the high-roller)."

VR: "You too (to Liv)." So yeah Liv is awesome. Vanessa Selbst, that chick is brilliant. She and I are always neck and neck for earnings. She keeps me on my toes. Having the name Vanessa is always great for friendly competition--like who's the better Vanessa?

PSW: I saw on Twitter that you busted from the Main Event in an unlucky way. Tell me about it.
VR: OK, it was the 100/200 25 ante level. I had just had aces cracked so I was short with 12,800 in the big blind. Under the gun, Cliff Josephy (Johnny Bax online) raises to 700.

PSW: To 700?
VR: Yes, in the last level his raise was 550 and now he upped it because of the ante. It's fine...then this young kid 3-bets to 2000, it folds to me in the big blind and I go all in for 12,000. Johnny Bax folds and the other guy snap calls with Ace-ten. In that spot, he is doing so bad against my range of hands, it's unbelievable. I had queens. It's all right, I couldn't be happier with the call. I'll take the 72/28. Didn't work out, but it's alright.

PSW: What else are you planning?
VR: For 2012, I made a New Year's resolution to play at least as hard as I work. No longer just work hard. That was Vanessa's typical M.O. It's work hard, play hard now. I really need to have more fun. I missed out on a lot of the things that people did in their twenties, or early twenties at least. I'm doing it a little backwards. But maybe that's why I'm Lady Maverick. I do things my own way. I'm planning a big year of fun. I plan to go to Carnival in Brazil, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and I'm going to try to hit Oktoberfest in Germany.

PSW: What about Burning Man? Always wanted to do that one.
VR: Should I? What's that?

PSW: The all week festival with experimental art and music in the Nevada desert in August. Everyone I know who's gone says it's a life-altering experience.
VR: Oh really, maybe I'll do that too then!

PSW: So tell me about the Louboutins you're wearing.
VR: My new assistant lent them to me.

PSW: Those are your assistant's shoes? Wow, is that how she got the job?
VR: No, I'm just always telling her to wear my stuff and she says "no," so I'm like "Ok, I'll borrow your Louboutins if you don't worry about borrowing my stuff too." I'm just the type of person who likes to share.


Read Vanessa's full bio and learn more about her and other Team PokerStars pros at PokerStars Women. You can also keep up with her on Twitter and her web pages and

Jennifer Shahade
@PokerStars in PS Women