"Boston" Rob Mariano is no stranger to success. At just 37 years old, the four-time "Survivor" contestant has established himself as a media personality, a fierce competitor, and a cunning game strategist through his appearances on numerous reality competitions. While he's been an avid poker player and fan for many years, he hasn't matched his success at the poker tables, that is, until he final tabled he IP Biloxi Circuit Main Event earlier this week.Mariano first burst into the public eye in 2002 when he landed a spot among the cast of Survivor: Marquesas, the fourth season of the hit CBS reality competition. Despite being eliminated before making the jury phase of the game, Mariano's charismatic attitude and unique approach to the social strategy landed him a spot on Survivor: All Stars four seasons later. Although he rose to a position of dominance in the game, Mariano finished runner-up to the million-dollar prize. He ultimately earned an even greater gift than the money, however, as he met his future wife Amber Mariano (Brkich) during the run of the show.As the years progressed, Mariano played the game two more times during both Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (2010) and Survivor: Redemption Island (2011), the latter of which saw him finally seize victory and a check for $1 million. Over the course of his career, Mariano has also made two appearances on the Amazing Race, had a reality special based around his wedding, and starred in Rob and Amber: Against the Odds, a show which focused around Mariano's attempt to become a professional poker player with tutelage from five-time WSOP bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu. The training with Negreanu seems to have paid off, as Mariano notched a third place finish in Biloxi for a career-high $47,805. Mariano held his own at the table, even holding the chip lead for much of the later stages of final table play. Eventual winner Martin Zentner complimented Mariano's game, saying, "he shocked me how good he was."Prior to the final table, Mariano spoke with WSOP.com about his feat. Considered to be one of the best strategists ever to play Survivor, he made sure to note similarities in strategy between the reality competition and the game of poker."I'm someone that has to drive the bus when I'm on the island," said Mariano. "I don't like to ride. That way if I go out it's on my terms. With poker, you walk a fine line between being aggressive and being conservative. I try to set small goals for myself throughout the course of the tournament. Today I wanted to make the first break, and then make dinner, and so on."Survivor, a game that requires the careful set up and execution of plans to essentially cut the throats of those around you, puts one in the mindset of long-term planning and scheming. While carrying out these sorts of procedures is a strong suit for Mariano, it does not directly apply to the game of poker. "With Survivor, you have to think longer term," Mariano explained. "In poker,I try to just focus on the table that I'm at at that time and not worry about everything else going on in the whole tournament because really you can only control so much.""It's really hard to win a poker tournament," Mariano continued. "You can do everything right and still not win. At the same time, sometimes you make mistakes but you're rewarded. It's a lot like Survivor in that you try to do things right all of the time but sometimes luck will close the door."While this success down South may prompt Mariano to play a little more often, don't expect to see him grinding the Circuit full time any time soon, as his number one priority remains his ever-expanding family."This year was the first year I didn't go to the World Series [of Poker] Main Event," Mariano said. "I just had a lot going on. We had a new baby this year. We have three babies (Isabetta Rose - Born May 2012, Carina Rose - Born December 2010, and Lucia Rose - Born May 2009) now, so it's been pretty busy, but I've been playing locally in Pensacola [Mariano's hometown]."While Mariano has a deep passion for poker and it appeals to his competitive nature, he's found that cash games fit better into his schedule and family life than longer tournaments. "I've always played poker and I love it. It's just that tournaments kind of involve a bigger commitment and it's tougher for me now with kids. I can go play a cash game for five or six hours, have a good time, and be done with it, but a tournament that takes two or three days requires sacrifice on the part of my wife and everybody else."Before leaving the tournament area to get a good night's rest for the final table, Mariano wanted to send some love to those in the poker world who he has befriended and have helped him to mold his game into what it is today.
"[I want to] give a shout out to my buddies in poker. My buddy Josh Arieh, Daniel Negreanu, and David Williams. [Negreanu] is such a great guy. He really is. Josh has helped me a lot and has been a friend of mine for almost ten years now."
Now Mariano can boast to his friends that he, like the rest of them, also has a Circuit Main Event final table on his results page. He may not have survived to win the ring, but it is still an impressive feat nonetheless.