University of Miami School of Law student Vanessa Rousso is known as the ''Lady Maverick of Poker.''
With an undergraduate degree in economics from Duke University, Rousso plans to practice securities litigation after law school. However, the practice of law may have to wait a few years while the young poker champ pursues still more titles and lucrative prizes.
"I will likely defer the practice of law for a few years while I pursue the business opportunities that have been made available to me as a result of my success in poker," Rousso said.
While her counterparts routinely pursue internships prior to law school graduation in order to gain practical legal experience, Rousso spends summers traveling the country to compete in professional poker tournaments.
"I have been offered internships with some very prestigious law firms that I have repeatedly turned down to play the World Series of Poker, which takes place each summer," Rousso said.
In fact, one of her enduring law school memories is of a day in April 2006 when she finished a law school exam, rushed to the airport, arrived within seconds of missing her flight, and flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete in the World Poker Tour world championships. Rousso not only aced that law school exam, but she also finished seventh in the world championships.
Rousso is one of the top 10 female poker players of all time at just 24 years old.
The recipient of a full-tuition scholarship, Rousso is a dean's-list student, was a semi-finalist in a moot court competition, and has participated in the Miami Law Women Student Organization, in the University of Miami Law Review, and on Miami Law's moot court board. She began studying law because of the challenge of appealing to an audience through public speaking while pursuing logical and creative solutions.
"I enjoy tackling the art of adversarial persuasion," Rousso said. "I found success in these arenas early on as a debate champion in high school and, later, as a mock trial lawyer at Duke."
Having graduated with honors from Duke in two and a half years, Rousso earned a bachelor's degree with a major in economics and a minor in political science. While she was at Duke, her studies in economics focused heavily on game theory, to which she attributes much of her poker-playing success. Rousso earned more than $680,000 in 2006 on the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour circuits. She is one of the top 10 female poker players of all time.
In April of 2006, Rousso placed seventh in a field of more than 600 of the world's top professionals at the World Poker Tour Championship event. She has won four World Series of Poker events, including an eighth-place finish in this year's $5,000 event. Most recently, she finished in first place at the World Poker Tour Borgata Open, winning almost $300,000. What she enjoys about poker, Rousso said, is that it is an ever-elusive target.
What do you do for fun?
Read, watch movies, work out, skydive, fine dining, play games of all sorts.
What CD is in your CD player right now?
What is the last magazine you read?
What is your favorite TV show?
American Idol. (It is addictive; you have to admit it!)
"There is always another variation to learn, another group of people to challenge, and most importantly, the competition is always learning, changing, and evolving," she said.
Rousso's other hobbies and interests include playing backgammon, skydiving, working out, and film. She has volunteered with MADD, Toys and Tales, Walk for the Cure, the Palm Beach Youth Court, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Center for Race Relations at Duke. She is also an instructor for the World Poker Tour Boot Camp.
The only serious poker player in her family, Rousso will also be the only lawyer.
"Ultimately, I will always be both a lawyer and a player regardless of the activity that I pursue as my primary profession," she said.