Born on October 7, 1961 in New York, Robert Varkonyi first started playing poker as an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After his graduation in 1983, he was an investment banker in Brooklyn, New York for a number of years before beginning to play tournament poker.
Varkonyi became an instant celebrity and professional poker player when he surprised everyone with his win at the 2002 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event, taking home the US$2 million prize. Because Varkonyi was a relative newcomer and considered ‘dead money’ at the time, commentator and fellow poker player Phil Hellmuth agreed to have his hair shaved off for charity if Varkonyi won the event. In the final hand, Varkonyi’s Q♦ 10♠ defeated Julian Gardner’s J♣ 8♣ on a board of Q♣ 4♣ 4♠ 10♦ 10♣, resulting in Varkonyi’s full house defeating Gardner’s flush, and Hellmuth delivering on his promise.
In the 2003 WSOP, Varkonyi’s chance of a repeat championship was dashed when his K♥ K♦ met Scotty Nguyen’s A♦ A♠.
Since his 2002 WSOP win, Varkonyi has become a columnist for Card Player Magazine, an industry publication and web portal specialising in poker media, poker strategy and poker tournament coverage.
Varkonyi currently resides in Great Neck, New York with his wife Olga, who also plays poker, and two daughters. He named his first daughter Victoria after his WSOP win. Olga made an appearance at the 2005 World Series of Poker main event, finishing in the money in 238th place.
Varkonyi also cashed in the WSOP main event in 2007, finishing in 177th place in a field of over six thousand players, winning US$51,398.
Varkonyi’s lifetime live tournament winnings exceed $2,100,000. His two cashes at the WSOP total $2,051,398.