“Boston Rob” Mariano gives as much poker as ever (photo credit: Hayley Hochstetler).
Poker is a game enjoyed by millions of people around the world. In this series, we have introduced players who play poker for their profession, who have made a fortune doing so and become sports legends.
However, the global nature of poker attracts people from all walks of life. One player who has come a long way in two decades of national television success is Robert Mariano, better known as ‘Boston Rob’.
In 2004, after appearing on Survivor for the first time, Mariano met his wife and then-girlfriend Amber on the show. They were invited to Hawaii to participate in a charity game to raise money for the U.S. military. Mariano would leave the island with a new and lifelong passion for poker that has been with him ever since.
From Penny Games to the main event
“Once better than your opponent, it’s a lot more fun!”
Rob Mariano played poker for pennies long before he did it for thousands of dollars. The first time he learned the game, he was on his grandfather’s knee. It immediately hooked him to the notion of gambling and this quickly led him to understand the need for improvement.
“I’ve always liked action,” Mariano says. “From throwing quarters in the school yard to playing tennis, I broke up a hundred times as a child. The first hand that hooked me [on poker] it was a five-card game that my grandfather taught me to play. I realized that the same people always win and have an advantage. When you’re better than your opponent, it’s a lot more fun! “
At the age of two, Mariano achieved fame on the eighth series of the hit television show, Survivor. For the uninitiated, the show focuses on contestants stranded on a remote island. Mariano reached the final challenge, where he lost to Amber, whom he proposed just before the decisive vote. She said yes, of course, and since then the couple has become television legends thanks to the fame they gained during the show and subsequent screen appearances together.
A year after the meeting, the couple got engaged and received what turned out to be a major phone call.
“Online poker was all the rage in the United States, and like many people, I watched Chris Moneymaker win the main event of the World Series of Poker. Since then, we’ve become friends as an ironic side effect of being on TV, but what a great guy. Paradise Poker contacted Amber to see if she wanted to play poker and sponsor one of the events. “
Amber did not play the game, but both Mariano and Amber’s father were fans, and Amber taught the game to her future son-in-law. Both were taken to Las Vegas and participated in the main event of the 2004 WSOP, the last to be held on the Strip until next summer.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing!” laughs Mariano. “I was sitting there with Sammy Farha, Marcel Luske and all these legends at my table. I made two pairs, ass in front, and they overtook me, the other guy had a set. My first presentation was at the bigger stage “.
Mariano may not have made any money, but the seed had been sown. Shortly afterwards, the game was about to hit him hard.
Rob Mariano cut his teeth playing poker for the first time at the WSOP main event (photo credit: Hayley Hochstetler).
Bring the party to Hawaii
“I loved companionship, strategy and psychology … and gambling.”
After his main event efforts, Mariano was on the radar of online poker sites as they appeared everywhere. One such venue, Bodog, invited both Rob and Amber to Hawaii and to an exclusive charity event.
“They had comics, Colin Farrell, Wanda Sykes and Cheryl Hines,” Mariano says. “Josh Arieh was there too. He had just finished third in the WSOP main event and David Williams was also there after finishing second.”
Mariano’s meeting with Arieh in particular ignited a fire that still burns to this day. After watching a concert with Snoop Dogg, the party went into the evening and the cards came out.
“We played $ 50 Sit N Dog from night until early in the morning,” Mariano says. “Playing all night until the sun came out, I loved camaraderie, strategy and psychology … and gambling. That’s when I became fascinated with the game.”
It was a historic moment for Mariano, who realized at that moment that the game he had always been looking for was in front of him. He appealed to his nature as a competitive person who danced between adventurous situations like the light of the fires lit during those nights in Hawaii.
“The original intention of going to Hawaii was to raise money for the concert. Poker was an advantage above all else, but I feel like poker has accepted me and accepted me into the community for what I want; Competitive but also recreational. I love to play, but in the end, this is my passion, not my life’s work. “
The competitive advantage of a new father
“I love being in a situation where I don’t know what will happen; a lot of opportunities have come out of it. “
Mariano freely admits that he is not a good loser. He was born not only to win, but to pursue victory, to adapt, to improve, to reach the top, and to be “relentless” in his quest for the summit. If he had to play poker, though, he would have to fit in to become a father.
“Survivor aired on television in 2004 and we got married in 2005,” says Mariano. “We had four kids in five years. At first, it was crazy, but it’s great and they’re so close … and dad’s girls!”
The Marians were clearly made for each other and celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary last month, but in their day, after catching the poker bug, Boston Rob went mostly to the internet.
“I played poker very seriously when my kids were very young,” he says. “I started playing cash games and grinding, playing local circuits from Biloxi to Jacksonville [as well as] the World Series ”.
One of the most important features of Mariano is his ability to adapt to any situation. He passes on this lesson to his own children, four girls whom he now worships between the ages of eight and 12.
“It’s not about how many times they touch you, it’s about how you get up. Even if you do not get the desired result, you are learning what not to do again. I love being in a situation where I don’t know what will happen; many opportunities have come up. A person who lives his whole life on a train goes from A to B. I prefer to go to the roller coaster, but we get to the same place. My wife hooks me up when I’m too far away and I also think I’m having a bit of an adventure. “
Rob and Amber Mariano grew up on television while building a life together (photo credit: Hayley Hochstetler).
Mariano’s poker career has gone hand in hand with his six record appearances in Survivor and his presence on other shows such as The Amazing Race, which he entered with his wife. His passion for poker has kept many gaps in his results just because of the birth of children or his participation in television programs. He is a big fan of tours like the Run Good series.
“I was a good friend of Tana Karn, who runs Runs Good events, a super cool guy and what a group of people. I feel like this is where I fit in best. I want to play five or six different competitive events a year. I love the [WSOP] Main event. “
Mariano’s experience with Survivor has put him in a great place for the game of poker, with many skills being transferred from the island to the felt.
“I’ve played more Survivor than anyone on the planet, playing six times in 20 years. In that time, the game of Survivor has evolved and changed. At first, your ability to do well in the challenges, how you provided the camp, and whether you were a good teammate mattered a lot. Now the game is more social than anything else; your ability to perceive how others perceive you is paramount. “
Mariano can’t wait for the next live poker game these days, and after the pandemic, he is thrilled by an “explosion” of live poker that equates to the poker boom that followed Moneymaker’s legendary 2003 hit.
“The game has been growing again since the early 2000s,” he says. “There’s a sense of family not only among the people of Run Good, but also among the community at large. Everyone will be back at 9-5 Monday morning, but for a weekend, they’ll do whatever it is and that’s my people “.
“You can’t play too fast too soon, or they’ll mark you and leave you out.”
Poker has changed and Mariano has been a part of the game for long enough to understand that his ability to adapt and compete has been used in various senses.
“You had a good hand, then it didn’t become what you have but what they have, then it turned into a little ball and then it became an all-in festival!” laughs Mariano. “It has changed a lot and you can see how much it has changed at different levels. There are similarities between poker and Survivor. You can’t play too fast too soon, or they’ll mark you and leave you out. At the same time, you can do everything right and still not win because you are unlucky. “
According to the former Survivor winner, you need to be able to fade variance, stay focused and not let it affect your mental well-being in both games and it is this changing dynamic that loves Mariano.
“It’s constantly changing and it’s very difficult, that’s what intrigues me. I want to sit down and have a social experience with other people at the table; that’s what I like about poker. Let’s go back to that and get away from sweatshirts and sunglasses “.
Mariano has signed up to host PokerGO home matches and admits that the PokerGO Tour draw is “huge”. It will join some live events, but don’t expect it to dry out your nosebleeds.
“I won’t play super high rollers, but I hope I can bring another audience to the game. I couldn’t sit down and play a $ 250,000 tournament, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it. But if we grow the game the way they do the smaller tours will flourish again – when everyone sees poker like me, it’s fun for a lot of people!
Mariano may be a name known to many for his work on television, but his background before Survivor catapulted him to fame was as a construction worker and stonemason. He stays humble to his roots and with a lot of friends in poker, he is an asset to the game that is only now starting to play poker.
Survivor’s motto is “Generate, overcome, endure.” ‘Boston Rob’ Mariano has shown that he has been able to adapt with style and style to the games that were presented to him in his life. Boston Rob’s future in poker looks set to pose even more exciting challenges for his many fans.