'Big Brother 17': Professional Poker Player Talks Crying, Deals and Intimidation

'Big Brother 17' Finale 2 H 2015

"I was never going to be America's favorite. I'm not funny. I'm not entertaining. I'm a strategist; that's not really fun to watch," Vanessa Rousso told The Hollywood Reporter moments after this season's Big Brother finale. The professional poker player and Las Vegas resident cried her way through the season, liked to spit the word "deal" and, many argue, used intimidation along the way. Here, Rousso talks to THR moments after Steve made the biggest move of the summer, leaving the gambler with no extra money in her pocket. 

What do you think you like more: saying the word "deal" or crying? 

It's a really close toss-up because I don't know if you got the memo, but I'm a human being, ... with flaws, and hormones, once a month especially (laughs). Let me tell you, all those cryings, I bet you could time them and they are 28 days apart. Literally as a female, although I do well in male-dominated games, I still am female and I get emotional. Sometimes it's those two or three days a month where anything will make you cry. As far as the deal-making thing, my strategy going in was I had the following toolbox, and my tools were essentially anything that comes out of my mouth, the ability to make deals; my assets were my integrity or, in other words, the willingness of people to accept the deal I offered them. I stand by saying the word "deal" a lot because pretty much that means I was playing the game a lot. 

You obviously cried a lot this summer. What prevented you from crying after Steve evicted you?

Oh, right. The crying wasn't actually for myself. That's the thing people don't get. I'm not this, "Let's cry for a pity party for Vanessa" person. Most of the times I cried were because I felt bad for other people. It was things I saw that made me sad, like someone being excluded or a showmance being split up. I'm someone who cries in movies. For something like my own fate in the game, is that going to make me cry? No. I've played poker professionally for almost a decade. During that time I've developed some pretty thick skin and tolerance for having things not go my way.

The Big Brother greats like Dan, Derrick, and Dr. Will owned their game in the diary room, where they told fans what they were doing. Why didn't you own your game throughout the season?

Try to be me in the male-dominated poker world at 23 years old. Whatever cockiness I had, if I didn't want to be the biggest bitch on the table, it was beat out of me. I learned very quickly how to survive in the poker world meant being humble. It taught me to be a better person. I do not need other people's approval to feel good about the decisions I'm making. If I felt like I needed someone's approval, I would have explained things, but at the end of the day sometimes that comes out cocky. I don't think I ran the entire game. I think I played f—ing hard. 

You're wearing that green beanie. Last year's winner, Derrick, wore a beanie all summer long. Were you paying homage to him?

Oh no. I was freezing! Check it out — see my arm has no body hair. I get so cold, and I was literally freezing most of the time in that house. 

Fans have perceived the way you talked to people, especially Steve, as using intimidation as strategy. How do you respond to that?

I'm open-minded to hear their perspective on that. I certainly wasn't trying to intimidate him. I acknowledge my imperfections. I gave this game everything I have and more. I've never played anything so hard for so long in my life. I'm sure I made a bunch of mistakes and did some wrong things, but I can't wait to learn more about myself. I will say I never intended to intimidate Steve; I have a great deal of respect for him and adore him on a human level. 

Was your vote for Liz to win a bitter vote against Steve?

No, absolutely not. I judged them on different scales. Steve came into the game with a certain set of information and skills that Liz did not come into the game with. Based on my expectations for Steve's performance, he fell short. Based on my expectations for Liz's performance, she exceeded my expectations. I think Liz is very underrated. She's very strategic and would often floor me. Unbelievably underrated. She and her sister were the two people I played the purest loyalty game with. 

Why don't you think you won "America's Favorite Houseguest"?

I was never going to be America's favorite. I'm not funny. I'm not entertaining. I'm a strategist; that's not really fun to watch. I never expected to win it. I'm very aware of what my assets are and what they're not. I'll tell you, James is freaking hysterical, I would have voted for him too. 

Did you ever think Vanessa would win "America's Favorite"? Did you vote for James? What do you think about Steve cutting Vanessa and making one of the biggest moves in the show's history? Are you going to become a professional poker player and apply to be on next season of Big Brother? Chat about it in the comments section below!