Just two months after becoming a VIP member at ClubWPT.com (WPT’s VIP subscription-based membership website*), 45-year-old amateur poker player Artie Rodriguez was winging his way to Jacksonville to play in a major live poker tournament with a prizepool of more than $1.2 million. At the WPT Jacksonville event, Artie would go on to outlast 387 other poker players to reach the final table and eventually finish in fifth place, earning an impressive $55,077 for his efforts.
With some time to reflect on his experience, we recently fired over some questions for Artie to get his thoughts on how he played, how he enjoyed the WPT experience and what he plans to do with his winnings. Here’s what he had to say:
WPT Blog: How would you sum up your experience at WPT JAX in one word?
Artie Rodriguez: Incredible
WPTB: Okay, how about in as many words as you’d like?
AR: WPT Jacksonville was an amazing experience. I got to play with the best and, in the end, I proved to myself that I could play at that level.
WPTB: Do you have a favorite moment from the tournament?
AR: Well there are many moments that are my favorite. But, if I had to choose just one, it was the end of day 3 and I was one of the last players at the table, trying to qualify for “the final table.” Just the excitement and disbelief that I made it to the final day. What a moment.
WPTB: How about a favorite moment away from the tables?
AR: Meeting the WPT Team, including Vince, Tony and all of you that made me feel like a part of the WPT Family. All the support in between the cards was awesome. You guys are the best!
WPTB: Did you get a chance to interact with many poker pros or other personalities you’ve seen on the WPT TV show?
AR: On Day 1, John Dolan almost knocked me out of the tournament after he flopped top two pair on me, but I was able to survive. Day 2, I sat down with Dwyte Pilgrim – one of my favorite WPT Champs. After a few hands and some encouraging words from him, I felt like, “Wow – I can play with these guys!” Over the next two days, Dwyte was always supportive, even as we tried knocking each other out of the tournamant. He told me to “play my game,” trust my instincts and take advantage of this opportunity. It made me feel like my poker play was validated. Dwyte Pilgrim is a WPT champ and all-around cool cat!
WPTB: When did you first think, “I just may make the final table of a WPT event”?
AR: I was the short stack with 30 players left and I knew I still had a chance. It didn’t look especially good, but I was determined to make it. Then when we got down to 27, then 18, then I’m following every hand and thinking I can get there. When we got to 10-handed play I felt it was my destiny to make it.
WPTB: How would you sum up the style of play that got you to the final table?
AR: Super tight/aggressive.
WPTB: Any regrets in how you played in general or in any particular hands?
AR: Yes, the final table. I started thinking of everything around me, not of nerves, but thinking too much and not playing my game. I think after playing some of my best poker to get there, my game dropped off when I got to the final table.
WPTB: Take us back to when you won your seat on ClubWPT.com. Were you excited just to be able to play in a live WPT tournament or were you already eyeing that final table?
AR: It would be both. Of course I was excited to be playing there, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “I might get a couple of breaks and well – Why not me?!” Was I excited? Of course, I had the date circled on my calendar for nearly a month. Yeah, I was excited.
WPTB: What advice do you have for other ClubWPT members who would love to have the experience you had at WPT?
AR: I would say that you have to believe you can do it. You have to play it like you are in a live tournament and there is no margin for error.
WPTB: Finally, we have to ask of course, what plans do you have for the $55,000 you won?
AR: The money is gonna be a big help. I’ll take care of some bills, and I’ll be able to help a few people too. In general, Christmas is going to be very jolly this year!!
Check out this video of WPT Live Updates reporter Jess Wellman chatting with Artie back on Day 1B of the event.
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