By David Stratton | In less than two years since turning pro, Vanessa Rousso has earned a spot as one of the top women poker players in the world.
Barely 25 years old, Rousso recently took home $120,000 after winning her first NBC "Poker After Dark" title. It wasnt an easy task, as she knocked out four seasoned players (Gus Hansen, Erica Schoenberg, Beth Shak and Clonie Gowen).
The payoffs elevated her lifetime poker earnings to more than $1.6 million.
"Taking home my first "Poker After Dark" title is a great feeling," Rousso said. "It builds needed momentum heading into the World Series of Poker. Hopefully, I can use this win and my strong play at PokerStars European Poker Tour events as a launch pad to take home my first gold bracelet this summer."
In the "Poker After Dark" tourney, Rousso busted Hansen when she caught him making a "move" (aka a bluff) after he survived consecutive all-ins. She then ousted Schoenberg with A-Q to her K-8. Shak then made a move with pocket 8s but ran into Roussos pocket queens. Then, holding a 4-1 chip lead, she began heads-up play with Gowen, who had been the chip leader for most of the week. It took Rousso only a few hands to dispatch Gowen when she rivered two pair versus Gowens busted straight draw.
"Poker After Dark is where the top pros come to play," Rousso said. "I was honored to play with Gus and the top female pros at the table. I felt confident with my play and remained focused and tuned into my instincts throughout the match."
Since going pro in 2006, Rousso has amassed a credible portfolio. She won a WPT event at Borgata in 2006 and took second in the PokerStars World Cup of Online Poker last year. She also finished seventh at the 2006 World Poker Tour championship event, and took eighth in the 2006 World Series of Poker $5,000, No Limit Holdem Shorthanded event.
This week Rousso is competing in Europes biggest poker event, the PokerStars European Poker Tour Grand Final, which takes place in Monte Carlo. Then she heads down to Rio de Janeiro for the first PokerStars Latin American Poker Tour.
A native of New York, Rousso now lives in Miami though she has a condo in Las Vegas. After graduating high school in Florida, she headed off to Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she graduated in only 2½ years.
At 20, Rousso moved back to Miami to enter law school. It wasnt long before she caught the poker bug and began playing online and at Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Soon, she began traveling to tournaments in New Orleans and Atlantic City, and the rest as they say is history.