A former Tucsonan is among the latest group of castaways seeking to outwit, outplay and outlast each other on the newest season of “Survivor.”
Garrett Adelstein, 27, a professional poker player who lives in California, is one of 18 contestants who range from a beauty queen to a former NBA player on “Survivor: Cagayan,” which kicks off Wednesday on CBS.
A twist on this year’s television show, filmed in a Philippines province, has contestants grouped into different tribes based on certain qualities: brains, brawn and beauty.
Adelstein, who was valedictorian at Mountain View High School on the northwest side in 2004 and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona in 2008 where he double-majored in entrepreneurship and marketing, was assigned to the brains tribe.
He’s been playing poker since high school when he’d play the game for “very small amounts of money” with friends. When he turned 18 he began playing online, and later started doing work for a poker training website. The last few years he’s focused on live cash games.
Adelstein says poker is “absolutely made for him,” pairing his love of logic and strategy games with his competitive nature.
In a video online assessing the new crop of contestants, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst expressed an admiration for Adelstein’s abilities, but had little confidence he’d be the last person standing.
“Man, I love Garrett, ’cause Garrett is probably the brightest guy out here, big-time poker player, he’s clearly the most physically fit,” Probst said. “And yet his chances of winning are not that great. He doesn’t see that people see through the bravado, and it’s not that people don’t appreciate how hard he works in life, it’s that it’s gonna come across as disingenuous.”
In the show, contestants must survive in a remote location and provide their own shelter, food and water. Throughout the series contestants compete in various challenges to earn rewards or immunity from being voted off the show.
Adelstein, who had watched only a few episodes of the long-running reality show before being cast, was recruited for the show after being spotted at a bar in January 2013.
Though the show taped during the summer and has finished filming, Adelstein could not reveal any information about the outcome.
In the six months between the final casting and the start of the show’s taping, Adelstein said he devoted about 2,000 hours to prepping for the show, which included adding yoga and swimming to his workout routine, watching every episode from past seasons and reading anything he could get his hands on about the show.
“I think ‘Survivor’ is just so fascinating and it’s just this amazing social experiment and I was always so interested to see how people would respond in the face of extreme adversity that I just loved it,” Adelstein said in a phone interview from his home in Santa Monica.