The 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event is in full swing and we've decided to follow Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso as she competes on Day 1d of the Main Event. Rousso, a French-American duel citizen born in New York, became interested in game theory while studying at Duke University.
Her first big live tournament cash came in April 2006 when she took seventh in the World Poker Tour $25,000 No-Limit Championship for $263,625. Only a few months later, she won the WPT Borgata Open $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em for $285,450. She has continued to dominate the live tournament circuit, finishing second in the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship for $250,000, third in the 2010 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $358,964, and fifth in the 2011 European Poker Tour Madrid High Roller event for $148,423. Her lifetime live tournament winnings exceed $3 million.
We're bringing you an inside look at her day and show you what it's like to compete in the world's biggest live poker tournament.
11:28 a.m. PDT: We just met up with Vanessa outside the Pavilion room where there was a crowd of people surrounding her. She was happy to sign autographs and take photographs with all of her fans. She introduced us to her biggest fans, two little girls who have come to see her for the past four WSOPs. It takes us a good 15 minutes to walk the 300 feet to the Pavilion room where she will begin her day one of the Main Event because of the high volume of fans who want autographs, pictures, and to wish her good luck in the tournament.
11:51 a.m. PDT: Before Vanessa took her seat at her table we were able to catch up a little bit to see what she does before coming to the Rio. Getting ready for any big tournament, she tries to follow the same routine every single time so that nothing unexpected happens. This is so she can get into the right frame of mind and get into her zone. The first thing she did was wake up and eat breakfast, which consisted of making her own fresh, fruit juice from a juicer, scrambled eggs, and a whole-wheat bagel. Since it is tough to eat healthy during a tournament, Vanessa tries to pack as many vitamins into her first meal of the day to keep her energy up and avoid the ups and downs. She then played with her one-year-old lab, Maverick. Her dad swung by to pick up Maverick to take her to the dog park and also picked up her 13-year-old brother who is visiting from Miami. Her dad and brother are going to go boxing while Vanessa plays today, so all of her people are taken care of while she is gone. The final important step to getting ready is assembling her wardrobe, which consists of picking out a Bustout hoodie and a trucker hat. Before she heads out the door to jump in her Jeep and go to the Rio, she kisses her husband Chad and is on her way.
12:59 p.m. PDT: Due to the rules at the Rio, we are not able to talk to Vanessa much during play. We were able to talk to her about her strategy for play. Her plan for the Main Event begins with trying to spend the first couple of hours getting to know her table, getting to know the players at her table, and formulating her plan for the rest of day. She discussed how many people who play no-limit hold'em tournaments sometimes make the mistake of coming in and thinking they should approach every tournament the same. She says that this is not a good strategy and that what you need to do is formulate a specific plan for your table depending on the styles of the players and the chip stacks that the different players end up with after the first couple of hours. We will be watching out for hands involving Vanessa during the first levels of play and then catch up with her durning the break to see how she thinks the tournament is going.
1:25 p.m. PDT: For those who already follow Vanessa on twitter, you may know that she has not been feeling that well the past few days. Her sore throat is doing a lot better today, but she is still not at 100 percent. She said that the funny thing is, she played once when she was not feeling 100 percent health wise and played great because she stayed out of trouble. The reason she was under the weather is because she has been pushing it hard the last few days. She is involved with a charity, Rally to End Cancer, and had two charity events, a press conference, and a cocktail hour to promote the event. She also taught a boot camp at the Aria that was a Main Event prep camp. On top of all of that, she also was a DJ before play on Day 1b. All of these things combined meant she got very little sleep, so yesterday, she used the day to catch up on sleep and get relaxed for play today.
2:43 p.m. PDT: We just caught up with Vanessa during the first break of the day. She is immediately approached by other players as soon as she gets up from the table to discuss hands and how to play them. She is sitting with 40,000 from a starting stack of 30,000. At one point, she was up to 42,000 but she is happy with her play and her stack right now. She tries to build her stack proportionate to the average chip stack, which right now is around 31,000- 32,000. She has increased her stack about 33 percent and is just cruising. She has not played any big hands, mostly medium-sized pots to chip up. Her table is representative of the field. She has some amateurs, some pros, some aggressive, loose players, some online-based players, and some tight players. She says it is a nice healthy mix of players for her table. For the past two levels, she has been listening to Swedish Mafia and one of her new favorite songs, Avicii - Penguin and just continues to focus on play.
4:08 p.m. PDT: We have been watching Vanessa for the last few levels of play and action has been rather slow. She has been involved in some small-to-medium pots, but the board never runs out to the river or the hand does not go to showdown. In one hand, we saw a player in middle position raise to 475 preflop. Two other players called and then Vanessa reraised to 2,300 from the small blind. The player in the big blind awkwardly calls after thinking the raise is 1,300 and the other three players folded. The flop came out and Vanessa led out with 2,500. Her opponent quickly folded and she took down the pot. We will be catching up with her shortly during the second break of the day.
5:13 p.m. PDT: We are on the second break of the day and have time to catch up with Vanessa and discuss what has been going on at the table. We talk about the hand mentioned above. The player who raised to 475 was a new person at the table. Vanessa three bet and the big blind awkwardly threw in 1,300 not knowing it was 2,300 to make the call. She was able to get a good read from him since he made this mistake. She feels pretty confident that if the player knew it was 2,300 he wouldn't have called. It is possible for him to have pocket fives or pocket threes there but she doesn't put him on pocket queens. He could also have where he would call 1,000 more but not 2,000 more.
5:39 p.m. PDT: Vanessa and I talk about another had she played in the previous two levels. The hand went down when Vanessa raised to 500 from middle position and the player in the small blind reraised to 1,900. The player in the big blind flat-called and Vanessa called. The flop ran out . The player in the small blind bet 3,800. The player in the big blind folded and Vanessa raised to 8,800. Her opponent made the call. The hit on the turn and Vanessa's opponent checked. Vanessa bet 10,000 and her opponent folded. Vanessa tells us she had pocket tens in this hand. She raised preflop and the small blind — a French player who has been playing very well — three-bet her from the small blind. She has not been playing particuarly loose, so she says for him to three-bet her out of position she puts him on a real hand, like or maybe a suited . He could also have a pair of eights or better. When the player in the big blind flat-called she puts him on a strong hand too. At that point she is thinking the big blind could have pocket jacks, nines, eights, , or . She explains that when the player in the big blind calls that she could have the best hand but just calls. She doesn't want to put herself in a position where she would be committing herself to a large coinflip or put herself in a position wher she would have to fold if an opponent moved all in. When the flop runs out, Vanessa hits her set. She raises here because she is leery of top set and all the draws out there. She is willing to get it all in on the flop, but her opponent just calls. When a blank comes on the turn she bets and her opponent immediately folds. She put him on there.
6:45 p.m. PDT: Vanessa’s strategy for the first day of play is to remember that this is a marathon tournament. She lost early on with . A player in middle position limped in and Vanessa made it 600. Her opponent called and the flop ran out . Vanessa and the other player checked the flop and the fell on the turn. Her opponent bet 1,100 and she made the call. The hit on the river and her opponent bet 2,200. Vanessa made the call to see her opponent had made a flush with . Vanessa said she checked on the flop because she wanted to induce a bluff because her hand is very strong. After the turn she had the nut flush redraw plus top pair and top kicker so she made the call. She said to make the call on the river was easy to make because it was so small but annoying to lose in that spot. She says a lot of players there will lose and get frustrated there but that is just when she takes a deep breath and focuses on the tournament. She explains these kind of hands are exactly why you build up your stack so you can withstand these little beats.
7:29 p.m. PDT: We are on dinner break and are going to grab a quick bite to eat. In about 30 minutes at 8:00 p.m. we will be streaming a live Twitcam where you can join in and ask questions. Join the conversation here.
8:25 p.m. PDT: Check out the Twitcam video we just did live from the Pavilion room from the Rio on Day 1d of the WSOP Main Event!
8:33 p.m. PDT: During our Twitcam we talked about some of the things that Vanessa does off the felt. Currently she is involved in a charity, Rally to End Cancer, which helps raise funds for cancer research. You can learn more about Rally to End Caner, and the event this November by clicking here. Vanessa also talked about her upcoming Big Slick Bootcamp that takes place in Tunica, MS next month. You can learn more about the bootcamps and register by clicking here.
9:48 p.m. PDT: We are in the fourth level of play with one more level to go for the day. We just caught a hand that Vanessa played. She limped in the under the gun +1 position. The player on the button and the player in the small blind called. The player in the big blind checked. The flop ran out and all the players checked. The turn brought the and the player in the small blind checked. The player in the big blind bet 800 and Vanessa raised to 1,600. Action folded back around to the player in the big blind and he made the call. The hit on the river and both players checked. Vanessa turned over and her opponent turned over . Vanessa sits with over 55,000 in chips.
10:59 p.m. PDT: We grabbed another hand that Vanessa played right before play stopped for break. Vanessa raised to 825 pre flop and the player in the big blind called, and a player in early position who had limped in made the call. The flop ran out . The player in the big blind led out with 2,500 and both Vanessa and the other player called. The hit on the turn and all players checked. The river brought the and the player in the big blind checked. The player in early position bet 5,600 and Vanessa called. The player in the big blind called. The player in early position turned over to take down the pot. We talked to Vanessa about this hand and the level during the break. She sits with around 41,000 and said it was a pretty rough level. She always had the second best it seems. In the hand above she had and was thinking she was good because it was against two very loose players. She was actually in third because the player in the big blind folded but said he had a with kicker problems. She said the level was weird because the pots are getting forced to be inflated because people at her table are betting so big. This is causing there to be a lot of swings and unfortunately Vanessa has lost about four pots in a row for about an average of 5,000 each. She went from 57,000 down to 41,000. Her timing has been off but she said that is the thing with poker tournaments. She is just going to chill and wait for players to make mistakes as they are getting tired in the last level of play. She plans to stay in mental control and not tilt and play to not beat herself.
11:49 p.m. PDT: We were able to talk to Vanessa for a little bit about how she got into poker. She grew up in a family that played a lot of games so at an early age she was involved in playing card games. She didn’t get into poker seriously until she was at law school in Miami and started playing with some of her classmates. The first time she played she lost and that motivated her to study the game. She went out and bought books and started to learn the game. Pretty soon she was playing well and winning. She was able to sell action in $100 increments to her classmates at Miami to buy into the WPT $25,000 No-Limit Championship in April 2006 where she took 7th place for $263,625. After that she just continued to tear through the live tournament scene. She signed with PokerStars and started playing poker professionally. We have just under an hour left in play here on Day 1d.
1:02 a.m. PDT: Play has just finished here on Day 1d and Vanessa was involved in a pretty big pot on the last hand of the night. She was in the big blind with with five other players in the pot. She called the 1,400 raise and the flop came . Action checked around to the button who made it 4,000 to go. The player in the small blind folded and Vanessa raised to 8,600. Action folded all the way around back to the button and he made the call. The turn brought the and both players checked. The hit on the river and Vanessa made it 20,000. After tanking for a while her opponent folded saying he had a ten. Vanessa showed the pocket sevens to take down the pot and end the day with 65,375. She is very happy with her play and to end the day with chips. We wish her the best of luck when she returns Tuesday at noon for Day 2!