Vanessa Rousso is an American poker pro, television personality, and DJ/music producer. In addition to her extensive education, Rousso has enjoyed many sponsorship deals, appeared on numerous television shows, has advocated for changes in gambling laws, and is a top-ten female poker player.
Early life and education
The 35-year-old poker pro hails from White Plains, New York. She holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and France from when her parents moved their family to Paris when she was three. At the age of ten, Rousso moved back to New York. When her parents divorced, her mother relocated them to Wellington, Florida, to be near Rousso’s maternal grandparents. The eldest of three girls, Rousso’s high school years were spent on the swimming, debate, and lacrosse teams while also playing basketball and softball.
Always a smart cookie, Vanessa Rousso began reading and talking at a young age and, unsurprisingly, was the valedictorian of her high school class and member of the National Honor and French Honor Societies. An overachiever, Rousso also founded her school’s environmental club, played violin, and volunteered with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).
College and law school
At Duke University, Rousso studied game theory and was on the Dean’s list. Her proficiency at chess and the Rubik’s cube led her to poker where she enjoyed the psychology behind the game more so than the static objectivity of other games. She graduated after 2 ½ years with a degree in economics and a minor in political science—the shortest time to graduate in the history of Duke University.
In 2004, Rousso attended the University of Miami School of Law where she served on the editorial board of the school’s Law Review and was in the top five percent of her class. Rousso began to play poker seriously during summer breaks, and she ended up dropping out for a while. She did return in 2017 and graduated the following year magna cum laude.
Vanessa Rousso breaking records
Rousso’s poker career began at sit’n’go tournaments until she amassed a $1,500 entry fee into an Atlantic City tournament. She parlayed this investment into $17,500. Rousso then entered the WPT event at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and, well, the rest is history.
Her first professional win occurred in June 2005 at a No-Limit Hold’Em (NLHE) Summer Series tournament. Then, at the 2005 WSOP, she placed 45th out of 601 in the $1,000 Ladies NLHE event that was ultimately won by Jennifer Tilly.
The following February, Rousso placed 5th in the WSOP $1,500 NLHE event at Harrah’s in Atlantic City wherein she became the youngest female player at the time to reach a WSOP circuit final table. She was 23 years, 7 days old.
By September, 2006, Vanessa Rousso was climbing the top earners’ list and was dividing her time between law school and poker tournaments. During that year she managed several major tournament money finishes. Then, on 13 September, Rousso won the 4th Borgata Open $5,000 NLHE event along with nearly $286,000. She also finished in the money at three WSOP events that year.
Rousso placed 2nd at the 2007 World Championship of Online Poker, winning more than $700,000—her single largest live cash.
In 2008, Rousso enjoyed three more WSOP money finishes including an impressive 625th place in the Main Event, winning $21,230.
During 2009, Rousso was active in WPT events and had four WSOP money finishes. She also was runner up to Huck Seed in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Rousso impressively beat the likes of Daniel Negreanu (check it out), Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Bertrand Grospellier during the tournament. Also in 2009, Rousso founded her own South Florida poker instructional camp—called the Big Slick Boot Camp—that was based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, combining the art of war with the art of poker.
At the 2010 WSOP, Rousso finished in the money twice and earned a 3rd place finish at the WPT $10,000 Five Diamond World Poker Classic.
Rousso also cashed in the 2011 WSOP Main Event, placing 511th and taking home nearly $24,000. Here’s a great call by Rousso that, unfortunately, ended badly.
In sum, Rousso has an impressive 17 money finishes in the World Series of Poker, two WPT final tables and eight money finishes, and one money finish in the European Poker Tour (EPT).
Oh yeah, let’s not forget that Vanessa Rousso was able to shut the oftentimes annoying Tony G. up. Take a look at this, perhaps one of her most impressive accomplishments.
Away from the table
In addition to her many poker achievements, Vanessa Rousso is quite busy away from the table.
From 2005 until 2015, Rousso served on team PokerStars under her screen name Lady Maverick. In 2009, while in Nassau, Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament, she participated in a Sports Illustrated photo shoot for the magazine’s 2009 swimsuit edition but appeared in an ad instead of the actual publication. Of the experience, she said it was a great opportunity for both poker and herself.
She was also a GoDaddy.com spokesperson from 2009 to 2013. GoDaddy was a sponsor of the 2009 National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Rousso replaced former GoDaddy Girl Amanda Beard.
Rousso appeared on the 17th season of Big Brother (2015) where she finished in third place. Her performance is widely regarded as the best by a female competitor as she won numerous Head of Households (HOH) and veto comps. She also controlled virtually every HOH nomination. Because of her impressive success, fans believed the show was actually rigged.
In October, 2007, Rousso—as part of the Poker Players Alliance—flew to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to influence Congress to overturn the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). She continued her pro-poker advocacy in 2009 with efforts to change Florida’s gambling laws
Rousso was married to the late Chad Brown whom she met at a 2006 WPT event. The couple were married for three years and were the first married pair to be featured on the same major online poker team.
Rousso recently became engaged to her long-term girlfriend Melissa Ouellet. The pair created a DJ/music production company called N1TEL1TE. In February, 2017, the couple released their first song, entitled Kiss Face.
In 2010, both Bleacher Report and Maxim ranked Vanessa Rousso as one of the sexiest poker players in the world.
She has also written articles on game theory for American Poker Player and taught poker to Forbes’ 100 most powerful women. Here’s an interesting video where she describes the applicablity of game theory to poker.
It is clear to see that Vanessa Rousso is much more than just a pretty face. This incredibly intelligent, highly educated, socially aware poker pro is, truly, a Jill of all Trades. She will, undoubtedly, continue her successful ways both on and off the felt.
Until next time.
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Natalie Faulk is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer and blogger and the author of several books. She is an avid low-stakes (for now) poker player and huge Vegas Golden Knights fan.