- Birthdate: 7th October 1961
- Birthplace: New York
- Residence: Great Neck, New York
- WSOP Bracelets: 1
- Biggest Win: £2,000,000
- Total Winnings: $2,293,232
Robert Varkonyi’s parents met in New York having both escaped their Hungarian homeland in 1956 when the Communist regime took over. Robert was born in America five years later and went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was here that he first learned how to play poker, though it was nothing more than a hobby, and he graduated with two degrees, one in computer science and the other in management.
He worked on Wall Street as an investment banker for fifteen years before deciding to take a sabbatical in 2000. He played in a few satellite tournaments but failed to make an impact until buying his way into the 2002 WSOP main event. Varkonyi remembers it as a remarkable week as his pregnant wife was interviewed for a Green Card, they had just bought a house and he had been supposed to go back to work though he put that on hold.
Day three of the WSOP saw him knock out Phil Hellmuth who, feeling piqued, said that he would shave his head if Varkonyi won the tournament. After the tournament Hellmuth kept his word and Robert was able to try his hand at hairdressing. Describing his win, Varkonyi gave a fair assessment of his triumph saying, ‘I was totally focused and caught a few lucky breaks’. He named his first daughter, Victoria, after his victory.
Since 2002, Varkonyi has remained heavily involved in poker but hasn’t really become a regular on the tournament circuit. He still appears occasionally and in 2010 he got first out of 568 in No Limit Hold’em Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza III in Las Vegas, he walked away with just over $62K. He writes columns for Card Player magazine and has made a poker training video called ‘Wise Guys on Texas Hold’em’ with some of the cast of the Sopranos.
However, his attempts to create a new casino game ‘Hawaii Hi/Lo’ met with little interest. He fared better training his wife at Texas Hold’em and she outlasted him, finishing in the money, in the 2005 WSOP main event. Being involved with InterPoker.com, he took part in their Extreme Poker Challenge tournament in 2008. It took place on the frozen Baltic Sea off the Finnish coast and he literally lost his shirt as part of a re-buy. He spent the rest of the tournament running around the table just to keep warm!
In the 161st hand of the 2002 World Series of Poker main event and with a chip lead of almost five to one, Robert Varkonyi sat opposite Julian Gardener in heads-up play. Starting the final table in fourth and seventh respectively, they had both calmly and without histrionics, seen off the rest of the field. Neither man was wearing a baseball cap, logo-emblazoned shirt or dark glasses and both looked studious and focused.
Pre-flop, Varkonyi raised to $50,000 with a Q♦ 10♠ and Gardener appearing to be considering a raise, finally called, holding a J♣ 8♣. The flop was a 4♣ 5♠ Q♣. With a wave of his hand, Gardener went all in and after pondering and checking his cards once more, Varkonyi called him. Standing with hands on hips, Varkonyi watched as a 10♦ was placed on the turn but even with two pairs the hand was not yet won as a club would give Gardener a flush draw.
The river card of 10♣ gave Gardener his flush but Varkonyi had won with a full house. The victor raised his hands and gave a thumbs-up to the audience, a grin spreading across his face, before falling into the arms of his wife, Olga.
Last updated July 2013