Not only did Vanessa Rousso make the finals of the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Championship, but she did so by facing the toughest competition that any finalist has ever encountered. Despite over $2 million in lifetime tournament winnings, Rousso is sometimes overlooked and noted more for her good looks than for her poker prowess. Yet, it is impossible to ignore what she accomplished over three days at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, taking down Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, former heads-up champion Paul Wasicka, Daniel Negreanu, and the seemingly always on fire Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier before losing to the greatest player in the tournament's history, Huck Seed.
Rousso was tight-lipped about giving away any strategy or plans for future opponents as the tournament progressed, but she had no problem sitting down with Card Player to discuss two crucial hands that she played against Negreanu in the Elite Eight portion of the bracket.
|Event - Blinds
||NBC Heads-Up Championship
The Hand – Rousso Gets Maximum Value With Her Boat
On a board reading J J 44, Vanessa Rousso open-shoves the turn for 60,000 all in. Daniel Negreanu goes into the tank before asking, “Why, oh why, would you do that?”
Negreanu makes the call, showing A-5 for just ace high. Rousso showed J 7 for a full house and doubled up to take a slight lead in the match.
Julio Rodriguez: You decided to unconventionally fast-play your big hands. Explain this approach.
Vanessa Rousso: I thought to myself, what would get me to call in this spot? I decided to make an unusual play that I didn’t think anyone would make with a boat. So, knowing that he would find it strange, I decided to just straight shove the turn. I knew if anyone would make this call, it would be Daniel, and that it was my best chance to get some more chips from him, especially if he had a weak hand, like ace high.
The other problem I had was that I only had 60,000 left on the turn. So if I check to him and he bets something like 25,000 and then I move in, it’s pretty obvious that I have a hand and he’ll fold. By open-shoving the turn, it looks like I might be trying to get him off a chop with ace high or maybe even something weaker. Luckily, I went with it, my read was right, and he made the call.
|Event - Blinds
||NBC Heads-Up Championship
The Hand – Rousso Makes the Same Play to Get a Hero Call
Daniel Negreanu raised on the button to 12,000, and Vanessa Rousso made the call.
The flop came 6 3 2, and Rousso checked. Negreanu bet 12,000, and Rousso check-raised to 25,000. Negreanu made the call, and the turn was the 3.
Rousso decided to check and then quickly moved all in after Negreanu bet 28,000. Negreanu tanked for about four minutes, carefully considering all of his options before calling off his last 80,000 or so.
Rousso showed 2 2 for another full house and Negreanu turned over Q 6 for top pair. He needed a 6 or a 3 on the river to stay alive, but the 10 eliminated him from the tournament. Rousso moved on to the Final Four, where she beat Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.
JR: Incredibly, just a short while after your double up, you found yourself in a similar situation with a slight chip lead.
VR: There were two things going on in that hand. One, he was talking a bit, and I realized through the conversation that he did have a piece of the flop, even though he was trying to make it look like he didn’t. So, when the turn paired the board with a three, I’m hoping he either has trips or top pair with a six in his hand. So, I decided to check on the turn and let him believe that I checked-raised the flop just to see where I was in the hand. I planned on moving in after he bet, and did so very quickly.
Here’s where the second thing comes in. I knew that he would think I couldn’t be making the same play I did earlier twice in a row with a big hand. I felt that he thought I would change it up a bit and would call me with any sort of hand. I also thought he was leaning toward a call because he was frustrated with himself for making the call with ace high earlier. For example, if he had folded when I had the jack, I might not have made the same play, since he would be more likely to make another laydown and go the conservative route.
JR: Do you think Daniel’s affinity for making great reads hurt him in your match?
VR: Daniel definitely prides himself on being able to make great reads, folding big hands and calling with weaker hands when he feels the situation is right. I just put myself in his shoes and made the play that I felt would work against his natural instincts.
I knew going into the match that in order to win against Daniel I would have to get hit in the head with the deck, which certainly wasn’t happening. I didn’t have a pair before the deuces, so that plan quickly went out the window. The second plan was to outplay him post-flop. Essentially, I had to trap him with a big hand, but not in the usual way. I had to trap him by making plays that would disguise the strength of my hand and still get maximum value for those few times I did actually make a big hand.