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Anna Khait: “I Would Do Survivor Again in a Heartbeat”
Despite getting getting a few scars and missing out on untold hours of sleep, poker pro Anna Khait says she’d welcome a trip back to the island on CBS' Survivor.
“I absolutely would consider going back,” she said. “In a heartbeat. I love Survivor.”
“The only thing different that I would change is that I would wear pants this time. I would wear long pants because I still have mosquito bites everywhere that are never going to go away.”
Khait was considered one of the stronger contestants on Survivor: Kaôh Rōng until she had the misfortune of getting split from her alliance by an ill-timed merge and was voted out early.
It was the equivalent of getting a bad beat in a poker tournament. Even host Jeff Probst has since said that Khait might make a great "Second Chance" nominee.
The New Yorker says her career as a poker pro had a huge influence in how she approached the reality show.
“I think being a poker player was a huge advantage,” she said. “There were situations where I knew people were lying to me.
"Body language is primarily what made me fall in love with poker in the first place. Just the psychology of it and obviously the strategy too.”
Hiding Poker Pro Status Pays Off
Khait made the decision to hide her career as a poker pro on the show. It paid off as she was put on the Beauty tribe and mostly flew under-the-radar.
“I think it was a huge advantage,” she said. “No one had any idea. I didn’t want to tell anyone I played a strategy game. I didn’t want anyone to know I was thinking on different levels.”
Khait did end up telling one person on the show about her profession, however, but it didn’t make it into the broadcast.
“I really didn’t think I was going to tell anyone,” she said. “Julia [Sokolowski] and I were really close though and she told me she was only 18. I was the only one that knew that.”
“It took me five days in the game to be like, “OK, I gotta tell you something too. It actually made us really, really close. We knew we could trust each other.”
No Sleep Till Tribal
Kait maintains that one of the hardest parts of the experience was simply not being able to get enough sleep.
“I didn’t expect sleeping would be so difficult out there,” she said. “I knew that I wasn’t going to eat a lot and that I wouldn’t sleep much but I didn’t expect it to be so hard. The mosquitoes out there were no joke.”
“Everyone was sleeping and snoring, and I was itching myself to death, just praying to fall asleep. The serenity of every morning was the best thing to wake up to though.”
The Survivor experience went on significantly longer for Khait than most contestants on the show.
Since Survivor: Worlds Apart and Survivor: Cambodia shot back-to-back, Khait’s season of Survivor was actually filmed two years ago but didn’t start airing until this February.
It was harder keeping all that under wraps.
“I’m really happy it’s over, to be honest with you,” she said. “I love Survivor. I’m a huge Survivor fan but it took me two years of my life.
“I wasn’t really playing poker. I didn’t play poker when it was on TV. It was just a little too stressful at the time because I knew what was going to happen on the show. I’m happy and relieved that it’s over so I can get back to my real life and poker.”
Bringing Survivor Outlook to Poker
The Survivor experience has benefited all aspects of her life, however, including poker.
“I think it’s helped me in general in life,” she said. “I was pretty sure I was tough but I really saw that I was tough mentally out there.
"I’m just not nervous about basic things anymore. I used to be really stressed out and nervous and on edge.
"Insecure in certain situations. I feel like it’s made me a lot tougher and mentally stronger.
“It also re-affirmed that my reads on people are good. Just stick with it and go with your instinct. My instinct was dead-on every time. It was pretty cool.”
It seems to be paying off at the World Series of Poker. At the time this interview was conducted Khait was one of the bigger stacks in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event. First place is $8,000,000.
Interestingly there's another former Survivor in the 2016 Main Event as Garrett Adelstein, who starred (briefly) in Survivor: Cagayan, is also playing today and is sitting on a stack of about 175k.
Follow Khait and Adelstein's progress right here in our On Demand live coverage right now!