Vanessa Rousso is one slick instructor

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By Christopher Cosenza

Remember that high school teacher who threw pop quizzes at you every now and again? You always learned the most from that teacher because you didn’t want to get caught off-guard and look foolish. Well, picture that, only more fun and potentially much more lucrative than junior-year biology.

Vanessa Rousso’s Big Slick Boot Camp, which had toured Florida cardrooms this year, made its way to Daytona Beach Kennel Club on Nov. 10 as part of the International Tournament series. And right off the bat the 40-plus “campers” in attendance knew they were going to have to stay on their toes. Rousso, who once taught for Princeton Review on how to take the SAT and the law-school SAT, utilized the tournament clocks in the sectioned-off area in the rear of the poker room to simulate a real tourney, and she made sure everyone knew it.

“We’re going to have the clocks running all day and I might ask you at any point what the blinds are or how many people are left in this tournament,” she told the crowd, and then playfully remarked they better not look at the clock when she asks. The point of the exercise was to make the players know at all times their situation, regardless of the other things going on around them.

“People are people,” the 26-year-old poker pro from Hobe Sound said. “I know you can’t force people to listen to everything you’re saying. So I try to be goofy and have fun with it, like talking about publicly flogging them if they don’t get (what she’s teaching). … I find that for the most part most people are paying attention to most things that I’m saying. No one’s going to hear everything I’m saying. It’s impossible. I talk too damn fast. (laughs) But if they’re getting the gist of most things then I’m happy.”

Rousso opened up the floor for questions before the camp started so she could dedicate the entire six hours to her course, dubbed Intro to Game Theory: The Art of Poker. Since she spent countless hours formulating her theories and had to boil them down for this abbreviated version of her full two-day boot camp, she wanted to make sure everyone would have the chance to grasp her teachings in the allotted time. Most professional poker camps have multiple instructors to alleviate the pressure of having to fill the entire seminar alone. Isn’t it daunting to be the only teacher?

“It’s two things at once,” she said. “On the one hand it’s hard on my voice. … But it’s really cool because I feel like I have so much information to give. I never even feel like I have enough time. So, it’s like I feel like I could keep going forever with these people. As long as the day isn’t longer than six hours it’s doable.”

When you learn about Rousso, who was the Ante Up cover story in April 2009, and you learn she finished her degree in Game Theory at Duke in 2.5 years, you wonder if her camp might be over your head. But that’s not the case. She’s very engaging when she teaches, and very hands-on. She won’t move on to another subject until she knows everyone in the room comprehends what she’s conveying.

“I’ve been teaching a long time,” she said, “and you learn it takes people repetition, repetition, repetition (to grasp new concepts). It’s just a fact.”

Some of the topics covered included Data Collection, Pot Odds, Implied Odds, Preflop Play, Postflop Play, River Strategies, Bluffs, Key Stats, Calculating “M” and the “WE CAT PIMP” test. What’s that? You’ll have to take her course to find out, and you can if you’re in Biloxi, Miss. on Jan. 22 at the Beau Rivage. And when you go, you’ll also learn what PB RIMS are, and no, it’s not actually peanut butter rims.

“It seems like so much, but this isn’t even skimming the surface,” said Rousso, who taught the camp with a bad back (likely pulled from a round of golf she said). “I could literally teach for a month straight, I’m not kidding. … These are just the building blocks of my basic strategy.”

And the campers, who paid the $399 tuition, seemed to enjoy themselves, and the buffet afterward.

“I thought it was just awesome, very informative,” Don Osterholm of Port Orange said. “The importance of the math, pot odds and learning the M. That was awesome.”

For more information visit www.bigslickbootcamp.com.