American poker players and competitive reality TV show contestants are truly kindred spirits.
They’re gamers. They’re gamblers. They are semi-famous on the internet.
From Jean-Robert Bellande to ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano and Tyson Apostol, Trishelle Cannatella, Garrett Adelstein and Anna Khait. The list of poker players who have appeared on reality TV’s Survivor is a large one. It also includes contestants who have transitioned to poker, and it seems to grow with every season.
Poker’s biggest star Daniel Negreanu has been very public about his desire to compete on the show. Arguably the game’s second biggest ambassador, Jason Somerville, is also a dedicated fan.
Most players like to think their poker skills will translate very well to the world of competitive reality TV. Like retired professional athletes, former reality TV contestants flock to poker looking to find a taste of the competition they left behind.
It wasn’t Survivor, but former poker pro, Vanessa Rousso did appear in a season of the show Big Brother. And of course, there is World Series of Poker Main Event last women standing Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle, who appeared in the 15th season of the Emmy Award-winning reality show The Amazing Race in 2009.
Ho and Michelle raced around the globe together before finally finishing in sixth place. Known as the Poker Girls, they were the season’s only all-female team and finished just three episodes shy of the finish line finale, which ironically was held without the pair in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ever since, members of the poker community have been speculating as to which pair of players could match, or even better, the Poker Girls deep run.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, US Poker will now reveal the top three poker teams we’d like to see compete on The Amazing Race.
Anna Khait and Cate Hall
Survivor fans will remember Khait from the 13 days she lasted as a contestant on Survivor: Kaôh Rōng. Although she kept it quiet on the show, she would later admit to being a pro poker player. However, with just a little over $12,000 in career tournament earnings, Khait better hope she’s a lot more successful playing cash games if she wants to keep calling herself a poker professional.
Perhaps she doesn’t. Khait did take a turn as a Conservative podcast host in 2017 and is now claiming she’s in talks with a network to host her own talk show. She’s even made suggestions she might one day run for political office.
All signs point to Cate Hall being Khait’s polar opposite. However, opposites don’t only attract, they can bring the kind of yin and yang skill sets required to find success on a show like The Amazing Race.
Khait is a Conservative with a capital C. Hall, an outspoken social justice warrior who leans all the way left. She’s also found a lot more success on the felt than Khait can claim. In fact, Hall has collected more than $1 million in career tournament earnings after making three World Poker Tour final tables over the past couple of years.
Things get ugly on Twitter
The two got in a rather ugly Twitter spat this week after Hall criticized Khait’s political aspirations. But it was easy enough to see that if these two opposite sides of the same coin could find a way to put their differences aside, they would make a real tough team of Amazing Racers.
Half the entertainment value of the Amazing Race is seeing even the most cohesive teams fall apart and play the blame game when things get rough. So at the very least, it would be great to see a new Poker Girls team go at one another on camera.
Hall’s had a little trouble showing the same brave and boisterous personality she often displays on social media when the lights go on and the cameras start rolling. However, the potential for real fireworks between these two still exists, particularly if keyboard warrior Hall can find a way to bring it on the other side of the monitor.
Jason Koon and Alex Foxen
Let’s face it, poker isn’t really a sport. Success certainly requires endurance and discipline, but athletic ability has never helped anyone win a poker tournament. When it comes to The Amazing Race, however, it certainly can’t hurt.
That’s why we’re picking a pair of poker’s best athletes as the next team we’d like to see compete together on The Amazing Race.
While he was picking up a BS in finance with a minor in online poker and an MBA at Wesleyan College in West Virginia, Koon also ran track.
An injury put an end to his time as a competitive athlete. However, Koon has maintained the physique of a top student-athlete through diet and exercise. Even as he’s made the transition to professional high-stakes poker. And what a transition it has been.
Great athletes, great poker players
Koon has earned more than $10 million in tournaments throughout his career. Plus, he has been seen playing in some of the world’s biggest cash games.
Foxen was honing his skills playing online poker even while playing tight end for the Boston College Eagles football team from 2009 to 2012. He graduated with a finance degree from BC.
Three years later, Foxen won a PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker title. At the time, he told the PokerStars Blog the pressure of the final table was a lot less imposing than running out onto the fields of Division 1 rivals like Clemson or Florida State with 90,000 people in the stands all rooting against you.
Foxen posted a breakout year playing live poker in 2017, collecting $1,715,480 in tournament earnings. He made second at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. Plus, he won a Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open prelim.
Koon happened to be at that final table in South Florida. It marked one of the first times he’s ever failed to represent the most intimidating physical figure on the felt. Foxen’s 6’4″ football player frame took that title as well.
Both are great athletes. Both are great poker players. Together, they’d certainly make a pair of Amazing Racers worth tuning in for.
Jason Mercier and Natasha Mercier
Couples have had great success on The Amazing Race. But there is no couple more successful in poker than Jason Mercier and Natasha Mercier.
He’s got an amazing $18,559,070 in career tournament earnings. Plus, he’s widely considered one the best tournament players on the planet. She’s got an impressive $1,176,415 in career tournament earnings. This includes the $348,374 she picked up finishing third in the 2016 WSOP $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event.
Poker fans may remember the Mercier’s got engaged on the live stream right after she was knocked out. They married in November 2016 and the couple’s first son was born in October last year.
Mr. Mercier started 2018 making the decision to drop his longtime PokerStars sponsorship, travel less, and focus on family first. However, the extended time off will likely have this competitive couple champing at the bit. And what better way to get back to competition than doing it together in The Amazing Race.