Robert Varkonyi
by Greg Cavouras  

Robert Varkonyi shocked the Poker world when he won the main event of the World Series of Poker in 2002. Quiet and unassuming, Varkonyi was an unknown in a very tough field, but in the end he came through to outlast 630 other players, and claim his $2 Million.


Robert Varkonyi was born in New York in 1961. 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 excelled in school, and eventually went to MIT. He would graduate from the renowned school with two degrees- computer science, and management. MIT would also be where young Robert was introduced to the game of Poker, as he partook in social games with classmates for penny stakes. Varkonyi began his career on Wall Street, where he was a systems developer for investment firms. He would spend 15 years working in this industry.


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 Varkonyi, 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. On top of the $2 million, Varkonyi 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.


Since that historic win, Varkonyi has been relatively quiet on the Poker scene; he has been enjoying himself, traveling and spending time with his wife Olga. A successful businessman and World Champion Poker player, Robert Varkonyi is inspiration to recreational players everywhere.

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