Robert Varkonyi – 2002 WSOP Main Event Champion

Robert was born in 1961 in New York. Both of his parents are Hungarian immigrants who fled their homeland in 1956 after a communist regime was instilled. After a daring escape, they met in New York and wed. Robert graduated from MIT with one degree in computer science and another in management. He spent 15 years on Wall Street developing systems for trading sales and money management before turning to poker.

In the mid 90’s, Robert began his regular visits to Las Vegas. As his interest in Poker grew, he became more and more successful, and after a few years he had become a winning Poker player.

Finally in 2000, Varkonyi decided to take a step back from his career; after 15 years of hard work and careful savings, he decided it was the right time to focus on other interests. He began to play more frequently, and began entering Satellite tournaments. In 2001, he entered the $3000 No Limit Hold’em event. He enjoyed the game, but didn’t fare too well. Luckily for Robert, he didn’t give up after this first experience, and came back to play in the main event in 2002. When he did return in 2002, Varkonyi showed the Poker world what he was all about, by winning the main event and becoming the World Champion.

Robert also won the satisfaction of forcing Phil Hellmuth to shave his head. After being knocked out by Varkonyi, Hellmuth on one of his characteristic complaining spiels, said that if “Robert Varkonyi wins the World Series, I’ll shave my head!” Sure enough, Varkonyi went on to win the event. Ironically, the same hand Robert knocked Hellmuth out with would be the hand that he won the event with- the almighty Queen-Ten.

Robert’s wife Olga made a nice showing at the 2005 WSOP main event, finishing in the money at 238th.

In his own words:

“I was totally focused, played nearly perfect poker, and caught a few lucky breaks. I played very gutsy and with no fear. But today it’s different; when I won it we were only 631 entrants. Now you need even more luck and also more endurance.”