Famed Survivor winner “Boston Rob” Mariano is once again trying to outwit, outplay and outlast his opponents.
The only difference is this time he’s doing it on the poker table at the 2012 World Series of Poker.
The reality TV star played in the opening $1,500 event and was sweating poker pro Josh Arieh’s deep run in the $3,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha on Wednesday.
Mariano is not exactly a new face in the poker world and has been playing for over seven years now and briefly starred on a poker reality show with poker pro Daniel Negreanu.
“I play recreationally but I take it pretty seriously,” he said. “I’m competitive, you know. I love coming to the WSOP every year.”
Like many poker players, Mariano became interested in the game after seeing amateur Chris Moneymaker win the Main Event in 2003.
You Can't Play Pick-Up with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz
Mariano met poker pro Josh Arieh at a charity event in the mid-2000s and the pair formed a close bond.
“We hit it off and became friends,” explained Mariano. “We’ve been friends for almost 10 years now. I’m also close with Daniel Negreanu and David Williams."
After filming the reality show with Negreanu, Mariano said he stayed in touch with all his poker friends and they helped him improve his game.
Mariano has competed on CBS' Survivor four times, finally winning Survivor: Redemption Island for $1 million last year. It appears poker is another way for the Boston native to test himself.
Last year Mariano was unable to compete in the WSOP because he was travelling and out of country for the entire duration of the series.
“What’s really cool about poker is that if you buy in you can basically play in the big leagues,” he said. “It’s different than baseball where I could never play at that level. You can’t go play pick up with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
You Try to Make Your Best Move, But Luck You Can't Ultimately Control
Several poker players, including Daniel Negreanu and Survivor: China contestant Jean-Robert Bellande have compared poker to Survivor. Mariano agrees the two have some similarities.
“Yeah for sure,” he said. “In addition to poker being a mental game there’s definitely a social element to it that’s like Survivor. In Survivor you have to size up your competition right away, which is like poker.
“You try to make your best move knowing that no matter how good you do there’s also going to be an element of luck that you can’t ultimately control. It’s hard and that’s why I like both games.”
Mariano prefers No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha when he’s playing poker but he’s also picked up a slightly more obscure variant by living in Florida.
“It’s funny, the guys at home play Pot-Limit Omaha 8-or-better, which is pretty much unheard of in most places, but I’m in Florida and everyone there is like 100 years old and that’s what they like to play. I’ve started to like it.”
Six Tourneys Planned Including Main Event
Mariano is not all talk when it comes to poker, either, as he has over $50,000 in live tournament earnings including a $6,548 cash at the 2007 WSOP.
Now a father of three daughters, Mariano has to carefully plan his trips to the WSOP. He’s planning on playing around six tournaments this year, including the Main Event.
Outside of poker, Mariano started his own production company within the last year and is optimistic about the future of the start up.
“I’m kind of transitioning from the on-camera contestant to behind the scenes and trying to create my own projects,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of great producers over the years and I’ve learned some of the tricks of the trade.”
The company has already produced a pilot for a new show that will involve competition and Mariano will soon find out if it gets picked up by a TV network.