Robert Varkonyi: Maxin' and Relaxin'

Robert Varkonyi
Varkonyi relaxes after being eliminated from the Caribbean Poker Classic

Robert Varkonyi, the 2002 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, hasn't had much in the way of big finishes since the $2 million win that made him an instant poker superstar. Nowadays it's not just poker that Varkonyi is focusing on though. With a new 6-month-old child and much of his time taken up consulting, Varkonyi has achieved a perfect balance between his time on and off the felt.

Unfortunately Robert was knocked out of this event just before we sat down to do this interview. He got all-in holding top pair with an inside straight flush draw but was up against an opponent who flopped the nut straight. Needless to say, his hand was unable to improve. Despite this unlucky turn of events, Varkonyi was gracious enough to have a little chat.

This is an amazing location for an event; tell me how your trip's going so far.

It's been a beautiful trip. It's an ideal place to play poker and have fun in the sun. I really enjoyed the Hold'em Blackjack tournament yesterday. I enjoyed this tournament, and I'm having a lot of fun with my family. It's a great place to come.

Robert Varkonyi

That was a tough hand that you got knocked out with. Does knowing that you'll get to spend a bit more time with your family here soften the blow at all?

(Laughs.) It might help a bit later, when I'm playing with my daughter.

You mentioned the Hold'em Blackjack event that happened yesterday; let's talk a bit about the game itself.

Hold'em Blackjack's a nice game, it's far superior to any other multi-player blackjack game out there. I think it's much more interesting and much more enjoyable. It's an interesting combination of blackjack and poker.

What are its strengths as a game?

Robert Varkonyi

The betting and bluffing are very interesting. It has some interesting twists. Yesterday I was all-in, and I thought I was about to be knocked out, and I picked up a seven-card Charlie and knocked out a guy with 21 and a guy with 20 and tripled-up. That was really exciting, it was really good timing.

Do you think Hold'em Blackjack has a chance of becoming more popular in the future?

It has a lot of potential. It's hard to say this early but it definitely has potential.

Robert Varkonyi and John Juanda

We've seen you at quite a few events recently; tell us what you've been up to on the felt as well as away from it.

Well, we had another baby six months ago. I've been really busy with my family and work. I've been doing a lot of consulting while playing poker. I won some money at the Commerce last week while I was doing some consulting in Los Angeles. I've been very busy this year.

What are you passionate about right now? What's the most important part of your life?

The kids, our new baby, they take up a lot of energy, and I'm just trying to mix real work and poker. I'm really trying to balance my family with my work and my poker.

I know your wife Olga is a player as well. How does she feel about the balance of family and work and poker?

The Happy Couple

You can ask her that. (Laughs.) This is her first time playing in about eight months, so she's very pleased to be here. She stopped playing a few months before giving birth and she's been very busy. She's been running out and nursing on breaks; she's very happy. She encourages me to play as much poker as possible, so I'm really lucky to have a wife that loves poker as much, if not more, than me.

Great, thanks a lot and all the best to you and your family.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Although this event didn't pan out for Varkonyi, his wife Olga is still in it and going strong. It's great to hear that he has so many things happening in his life in addition to poker. With both husband and wife playing as much as they do, it won't be long before we see the name Varkonyi at a final table again.

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