Vanessa Rousso is celebrating her birthday today in Deauville and (whisper it) she has now hit the big three-o. Yesterday she went on a shopping spree around the boutiques of this wonderful little town, and today she is trying to play into the money in this poker tournament in an attempt to pay for it all.
Even before she pulled off an enormous bluff beneath the EPT Live cameras on Day 1A, Rousso had been hogging a lot of the media attention here. Although most people consider Rousso to be an American, she is actually a dual French-American national (her father is French) and grew up in Paris, where she lived until she was nine.
It is why she now plays for Team PokerStars France, and why she is especially comfortable in this retreat favoured by holidaying Parisians.
“As I child, I came to Deauville,” Rousso said. “And also Nice too, and Monaco, where I won the biggest tournament of my career. It’s very nostalgic for me to come to France, and talking to people gives me a great opportunity for me to practice my French, which is rusty now, and to experience the culture and the food.”
After her virtuoso display on Day 1A, Rousso got to practice some of her linguistic skills when she was approached by one of her table-mates during the bagging process.
Rousso said: “The nice older French guy–his name is Guy–came up to me and told me in French: ‘Vous etes une artiste’, which means ‘You’re an artist’. I thanked him and he said, ‘No, really, I’ve never seen anything like it, especially from a woman.'”
Rousso was touched, even though the compliment took her back to a familiar subject. “I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a girl,” Rousso said. “People expect me to play less aggressively than I do, but I have a variety of gears, as do a lot of seasoned professionals. I have been playing for seven years now so I have a lot of gears in that toolbox. When the opportunity arises to use the looser gears, I certainly do. Generally people are a little surprised.”
Rousso herself admits to making snap judgments about her table-mates that may or may not be right. But she is also a deep thinker about the game and studies her opponents closely, even before she joins a table.
When PokerStars Blog talked to Casey Kastle yesterday, he recalled a time playing against Rousso many years ago at the Bellagio, before she was a well-known player. Kastle said he was startled to see how she had profiled all of her opponents, having apparently read up about them online.
“She had done all this research,” Kastle said, explaining that Rousso immediately referred to him as ‘Mr No Smoking Man’, referencing Kastle’s oft-repeated (and now successful) campaign to have cigarette smoking removed from card rooms. “I wrote to PokerStars and I said, ‘This girl has got a lot of talent and she’s got personality. You’d be stupid not to sponsor her.”
Rousso is, of course, now a sponsored pro, but she still remains on a learning curve. She confesses still to analysing her own game closely in a bid to improve, running through hands again and again to establish what she might have done differently.
“You never play perfectly,” she said. “Well, I rarely play perfectly. I am just honest with myself when I make mistakes and am like, OK, well I won’t make that mistake again. I did a lot of thinking last night about some of the moves I made (on Day 1A). And every time I play, I learn something.”
Rousso is now deep in the Day 2 field, sitting with something like an average stack of about 90,000. Her table features Andriy Lyubovetskiy, from Ukraine, who has more than 200,000 as well as Remi Castaignon, from France, who has about 140,000. Other than that, it’s mostly short stacks, including that of Tobias Matuschek, from Germany, with whom Rousso is deep in conversation.
There’s not a lot of information available about any of those, but if there is, Rousso will find it. Meanwhile it’ll just be down to them to figure out Rousso–or, rather, critique her. She is, after all, une artiste.