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RI Poker Star's TV Debut This Weekend, in Running for Player of the Year

Anthony Zinno's $825,000 win in September finally hits the airwaves. The Cranston native has had quite a year playing poker professionally.

Anthony Zinno is in the running for Player of the Year in the World Poker Tour. (Photo courtesy: Anthony Zinno)
Anthony Zinno is in the running for Player of the Year in the World Poker Tour. (Photo courtesy: Anthony Zinno)
For the last year, Anthony Zinno has been living out of hotels, playing poker, accruing points, putting in the hours to hopefully be Player of the Year.

It's all leading up to the big showdown at the end of April when he and the rest of the elite players in the World Poker Tour face off to see who comes out on top.

It's been quite a ride for Zinno, a Cranston native, Cranston High School West grad and fan of Twin Oaks and walking around Garden City Center when he's hanging out back home. He took home $825,000 after beating Vanessa Selbst at the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open in September.

That brought his career poker winnings to $1.3 million — a feat he never imagined when he started dabbling in poker by playing with pretend chips on the Internet back in 2004.

Zinno, 32, said by about 2007, he started playing professionally. It was the same year he finished law school, and after he passed the bar exam "to make sure I had it under my belt," he started playing more seriously. By 2010, he was "putting in heavy volume and swinging for the fences."

In a telephone interview from a hotel room in Los Angeles, Zinno said he and his family are excited for the big event in April, but this weekend, he's just as excited for his friends and family to finally get to see his September win on TV.

"It's my first time being in the spotlight and my family is excited," Zinno said, noting his family has supported his decision to play poker for a living.

"They get that there's math and psychology involved," he said. "And I know a lot of people in Cranston and anywhere in Rhode Island will be interested and excited to watch it on TV and cheer from the home court, so to speak."

The program airs on Fox Sports Net on Sunday, March 2 starting at 8 p.m.

Here's the catch: Cox and Verizon customers don't get Fox Sports Net in New England. That means if you want to watch Zinno "hit a grand slam" you have to head out to a bar or restaurant that has Direct TV if you're not a Direct TV customer.

Cox and Verizon customers can still catch the action on Monday, when it will air on Fox Sports 2 on Monday night on March 3 at 10 p.m.

"It's a shame — I wish they had Fox Sports Net on Cox and Verizon, but there are a lot of places that have DirectTV so if you want to watch it on Sunday, you should head out to Smokey Bones Tavern or some place like that," Zinno said.

So be sure to check your local listings, Zinno said.

The national airing of the September event is broken up into three segments, each one-hour long. Episode 1 will be this Sunday and episodes 2 and 3 will air on consecutive weekends through March 16. 

"It's exciting to watch all the action," he said. "There's a lot of money at stake."

And he looks forward to seeing how the producers whittled down five 12-hour days of poker playing into three exciting hours of primetime TV.

After taking home the big $825,000 prize, Zinno said he sank most of it into investments. For a guy who has made himself a millionaire playing poker, he insists that he's not a gambler.

"I invested the bulk of the money in the stock market. I basically walked into TD Ameritrade and gave them a big check," he said. 

His rule of thumb:

"Always play with money you can afford to lose, because if you're playing with money you know you need, you're never going to play your best game," he said. 

Poker is a beautifully designed game of skill, he said, and he isn't the kind of person who enjoys going to a casino to play against the house. You're bound to lose since they've engineered the odds against you.

"You can never conquer that, there's no way around it," Zinno said. 

What he likes about the game is the competition, the chit-chat during the game, the social element. It's an arena, a gentlemen's game where winners and losers shake hands at the end of what can be a bruising battle.

That means he won't be playing poker professionally forever. Someday, he said, he'll start his own business or find a way to take advantage of his law degree. 

He looks forward to it. Though he's had a blast this year (and winning all that money doesn't hurt), it has taken him away from home. He looks forward to spending more time with his family and friends.

But until then, his eyes remain on the prize.

"Right now the goal is chasing the Player of the Year award," he said. "That would be awesome."

It would bring potential sponsorships, his face on the cover of magazines, more notoriety. 

"Its tough, it's lots of competition, and after all this, I know I'll always play poker," he said. "I love the game. It's mentally stimulating."

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