Vanessa Rousso is known to poker fans as a top professional player who has been consistently successful in both live and online events.
This summer, she’s being prominently featured to a television audience that doesn’t know what a 3-bet is as a contestant on the CBS reality TV series Big Brother.
Big Brother, currently in its 17th season, is a show in which participants are sequestered in a house with no access to the outside world, electronic devices, or even books. Each week various competitions take place for players to earn certain in-game powers to give them an edge on the other houseguests.
Over the course of 100 days, guests are slowly voted off and ultimately the winner earns $500,000.
With the season about halfway over, Vanessa has been at the center of a large amount of the gameplay. She’s been engineering situations to benefit herself, and in some cases perhaps being a bit too controlling and attracting attention from the other houseguests.
Not a fan favorite
Despite Rousso playing a great game in some ways, she isn’t exactly winning over many Big Brother fans.
A cursory look at the chat rooms that take place on CBS.com suggests she’s the most polarizing player by far: she’s won the favor of a minority of viewers who value manipulative gameplay while alienating the vast majority who root for houseguests who are more straightforward and honest.
Most poker playing fans are probably enjoying her strategies – they seem more likely to realize that Big Brother is inherently a game of deceit. The goal should be playing to win, and often that means telling lies, breaking agreements, and manipulating the actions of others. After all, it isn’t real life.
The game is far more compelling from a game theory perspective than I think most serious game players would expect from a reality television show, and Vanessa has thus far been effective at using her abilities as a theorist to benefit herself.
Thursday night (August 6) will play a huge factor for Vanessa’s game moving forwards.
Heading into the episode, there are 12 remaining houseguests. One of her allies will be eliminated, and ten players will have the opportunity to compete for Head of Household – the most powerful position in the game.
By my estimation, five of those ten players winning would be fantastic for Vanessa, three would be negative, and two are somewhat neutral.
If one of those positive outcomes happens, viewers can expect Vanessa to be at the center of attention for the next several episodes, and she’ll be one step closer to her first six-figure score in a game that isn’t poker.