Why his name rings a bell
The 40-year-old from Brooklyn won the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas last Friday, taking home the $2 million first prize.
Why you care
Varkonyi pulled off what every penny ante player dreams of. A self-described "unemployed amateur poker player" who had dropped $30,000 in various tournaments since 1995, Varkonyi became the ultimate Vegas survivor, outwitting, outplaying and outlasting 631 others (including such notables as Johnny Chan), the largest field in World Series history. On the final card of the Texas no-limit hold 'em event, Varkonyi's opponent, Julian Gardner of Manchester, England, drew a flush. Varkonyi pulled a full house (10s over queens) to win. The prize is more than each of the winners of the Masters, Wimbledon and the Kentucky Derby receives.
As a computer sciences undergrad at MIT, he honed his card skills playing against fellow students. In May, Varkonyi (who's married to Olga, 27, a Russian interpreter) won a satellite tournament and qualified for the World Series for the first time.
"I finally earned my Ph.D. in poker. The only way to learn is to get experience, as with anything in life."