When the cast of Big Brother 17 was announced, readers of Vanessa Rousso’s cast biography might have guessed she wasn’t in the game for the money. CBS listed her as a poker player with lifetime winnings of $4.5 million over ten years as a pro.
But that figure is misleading, as Rousso’s last six-figure payout was in 2011. The Hendon Mob, which tracks professional poker standings, states that she came in second during a tournament in London in October, 2011, and earned a $222,413 prize. Since then, her poker winnings have been significantly less, despite placing high in the rankings. In April, 2015, she won a South African tournament but earned only $13,299, according to Hendon Mob.
In the past few years, poker might not have been Rousso’s main focus. This is consistent with what Rousso told CBS’ Jeff Schroeder in her pre-season interview about devoting more of her attention to her DJ work. Rousso told Poker News in June, 2013, that she had DJ gigs and mentioned a “business opportunity” in Montreal, in addition to time spent at the tables.
Rousso has won a six-figure payout eight times in the past 10 years, according to Hendon Mob. But Rousso, like many poker players, may have been backed by individuals or organizations that funded her entry into tournaments in exchange for a cut of the winnings. Although there is no public evidence that Rousso personally has been backed in this way, Poker News called this process of “staking” extremely common in professional poker.
Earlier this year, Rousso parted ways with her long-time sponsor, PokerStars, on whose roster she’d played since 2006. Part-Time Poker called Rousso one of the “oldest members” of Team PokerStars when reporting on the news in February.
Rousso grew up around games. In a March, 2010, profile in Woman Poker Player magazine, Rousso said her father was a chess grandmaster who would play with her. She started playing poker at age 5. Rousso’s father, Marc Armand Rousso, was founder of failed internet search company Accoona, as the New York Times reported back in 2007. Marc Rousso was also mentioned in a 2013 New Yorker profile on professional backgammon players.
On Big Brother 17, Vanessa Rousso has closely aligned herself with Austin Matelson and identical twins Liz Nolan and Julia Nolan. As Big Brother Network reported, on Thursday evening, Rousso floated the idea of cutting a deal with the twins that would somehow make the road to the end a bit easier. It is against Big Brother rules for contestants to agree to split winnings.
As Big Brother Network described the conversation, Rousso suggested the difference in earnings was small, $25,000 for each of the twins — assuming they would split earnings — and perhaps she and Austin could cut a deal to make it up. It is unclear whether Rousso was serious about the conversation or merely floating the idea.
Big Brother 17 airs Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays on CBS.