Pro Poker Player Profiles - Robert Varkonyi
Saturday, January 16, 2021
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Robert Varkonyi Fast Facts

Birthplace: New York
Birth date: Oct. 7, 1961
Education: Electrical Engineer and Computer Science, MIT, 1983; Sloan School of Management, MIT, 1983.
WSOP Bracelets: 1
WPT Titles: 0
Poker Room Affiliations: InterPoker.com


The 2002 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Robert Varkonyi is perhaps as well known for shaving Phil Hellmuth's head following his win as he is for claiming the title. Varkonyi named his first daughter Victoria in honor of his win. His wife Olga has also had success in the Main Event, finishing 238th in 2005.

Full Bio:

Every tournament poker player has wanted to run from the table at some point, but they usually want to do so after busting out of a tournament. Robert Varkonyi recently had to get up and run just to be able to keep playing.

Varkonyi won InterPoker's Extreme Poker Challenge on the frozen Baltic Sea off the coast of Finland in late March. The 2002 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion took to running around the table just to stay warm.

"Whoever came up with (the idea) had a sick mind," Varkonyi says. "The deal was that if you lost your chips you could rebuy some chips by taking your jacket off and playing in a T-shirt. Well three hands in I lost my chips."

Varkonyi, who has an endorsement deal with the online poker room, eventually came back to win, beating Finland's own Juha Helppi, who "hosted" the tournament after winning the first Extreme Poker event at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.

"I stayed warm by running around a lot," Varkonyi says. "I was just jogging around the table, running circles around my opponents, literally. It was fun; I kept quite warm. It's probably the best exercise I've had all year."

Varkonyi is no stranger to tournament poker. He started going to the WSOP in 1995 to play in satellites. He started to come back from his trips in the black in the third year, and in 2002, one of his friends convinced him to play in a single table satellite to the Main Event, reasoning that he'd spend almost as much money playing in super satellites anyway.

He went on to win the satellite and claim the top prize in the Main Event, beating Julian Gardner when his pocket Q-T turned into a full house.

"That week was really a remarkable week," Varkonyi says. "My wife just had her Green Card interview, we won the bid on our dream house, my wife was two months pregnant, and I was about to go back to work after two years on sabbatical. Needless to say, I called up the job and told them it wasn't a good time for me to start."

Varkonyi's wife Olga has turned into an accomplished player herself, placing 238th in the 2005 WSOP Main Event to earn $28,375. Olga learned how to play poker just a few weeks before her husband claimed the game's most prestigious title in 2002. She can now be seen playing in the same tournaments as her husband, though the couple insists they are not rivals.

"We've never really played against each other," Varkonyi says. "She seems to usually outlast me though."

Varkonyi, however, won't have to worry about outlasting his wife in the Extreme Poker championship event, unless she qualifies online. InterPoker plans on repeating the underwater event in November as a culmination of the year's Extreme Poker series.

Winners from previous Extreme Poker tournaments will gain automatic entry, with several online qualifiers also earning a spot in the "Deep Water Series of Poker" (DWSOP) event. Varkonyi missed the first underwater tournament because he had sinus problems, but plans on being ready for the battle at the bottom of the sea this fall.

"You've got to get lucky in these, they're pretty fast tournaments," Varkonyi says. "I guess I'll play like a shark. How else can you play in an underwater tournament?"

Texas 7s with Mexican Sweat

Robert Varkonyi started playing poker in college, joining his friends for dealer call games that involved split pots and multiple wild cards. One of the games the group often played was Texas 7s with Mexican Sweat. Instructions on how to play are listed below:

  1. After everyone antes, deal seven cards down to each player. No one can look at their cards.
  2. The player to the left of the dealer flips over one card, then there is a betting round.
  3. The next player to the left flips over cards until their hand beats the first player's hand. Once this occurs, the player stops flipping cards and there is another round of betting.
  4. This pattern continues until each player has either revealed all their cards or if all players fold to one bettor.
  5. If a player reveals a 7, that player can declare it a wild card by matching the amount in the pot.
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