By Sean Chaffin
Like many poker fans, 57-year-old Rodney Wright grew up in a family of card players. As a child, he watched his parents play poker with friends and went to many of their home games. Later, Wright experienced his own formative years at the tables. At age 21, he began jumping in bigger cash games and progressing in skills.
“I thought then that the person with the most money on the table could play the best poker, which I learned quickly wasn’t so,” he says.
As a longtime recreational poker player and fan, taking a seat in front of the World Poker Tour cameras may not have ever seemed possible. However, his decades of poker skills produced big results recently at ClubWPT. He topped a field of 500 players on Dec. 27 to become the latest final table qualifier in the site’s $200,000 ClubWPT TV Challenge.
The win already guarantees him $10,000 and a $3,000 travel package to play live in the HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor Las Vegas. He’ll join four other players with the winner earning $50,000 live in front of the tour’s TV cameras with the episode airing on FOX Sports regional networks. Everything just seemed to go his way and made for a nice way to enter 2021.
“A big win comes together when you play good cards, you get good cards, and you get lucky,” Wright says. “One of the biggest moments was when there was a big pot at stake. I bluffed the pot with a pot-sized raise and won. That move tripled my chip stack and was a key turning point in the game.”
The tournament was a surreal experience and Wright distinctly remembers telling his son that he was guaranteed to win $500. That progressed upward to a $2,500 guarantee when he was heads-up. He then topped that by taking the first-place prize.
“When I did win first place, we all couldn’t really grasp the magnitude of what just took place, and that I was going to go to Vegas to play for $50,000,” he says. “We all just marveled at that for quite a while.”
Click here to watch Wright’s interview with Matt Savage
Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Wright worked as a scallop fisherman for 15 years north of the border. He then went online to meet the catch of his life, and he and his wife were married in 1998. The Wrights live in Connecticut and have five children and five grandchildren in the U.S. and Canada.
After working in manufacturing for much of his life, Wright semi-retired in 2019 and began working in retail. In addition to poker, he enjoys fishing, gardening, and spending time outdoors. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to some of the tournament-style home games he regularly played in with friends.
Since then, playing more on ClubWPT became more of a focus. Wright’s been playing on ClubWPT since 2009 and became a Diamond member last year.
“I really enjoy the benefits of the Diamond Club,” he says of the WPT’s subscription poker site. “I like that I can sit at home and play cards. It’s convenient and comfortable. Also, over time, it has gotten more lucrative: bigger prizes and better players and competition.”
With $10,000 already in his pocket with his recent win, Wright plans to put some cash aside for some travel. He also looks forward to using some winnings to play bigger tournaments. While he’s been playing poker much of his life, playing in front of television cameras with others watching his play presents a completely new experience.
“It’s going to be exciting, but I would expect it will be a little stressful as well,” he says. “Being center stage with lights and cameras on me will be something I’ll have to deal with. It’ll be different, knowing that everyone watching will be able to see my cards and my plays will be analyzed by the commentators. It would be wrong for any player in so big a tournament with such high stakes to not prepare for it.”
Win or lose, Wright is simply happy to have the opportunity.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this event,” he says. “I want to thank WPT for putting this experience together for their members – it will definitely be an experience of a lifetime.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.