Marco Soto had dreams of striking it big when he packed up his Toyota and made a 2,000-mile drive from Tampa, Florida to Los Angeles to play in the currently underway World Poker Tour (WPT) $5,250 buy-in Gardens Poker Championship.
A longtime ClubWPT user who plays under the username “Trippz305,” Soto ran pure in a qualifying event and was hoping to to bring some of that online run-good to the live felt at The Gardens Casino.
“In some tournaments, you can’t lose. Three-seven, nine-four, I was winning with any two cards,” Soto said about his ClubWPT victory. “If that happens in something like this (the WPT Gardens Poker Championship), you can win big money.”
Unfortunately for the 46-year-old qualifier, this wasn’t one of those tournaments. A few hours after arriving for Day 1b and getting a warm introduction from Gardens Casino Tournament Manager Cavin Quintanilla, and getting to pose with the WPT Championship Belt, Soto was eliminated in the final hand before the first break of the day.
Meet Marco Soto, the ultimate @WPT fan and long-time Diamond member of @ClubWPT! # With over 4 years of dedication… https://t.co/gFQEf4ZFKj
“Three times I had pocket jacks,” Soto told PokerNews about the big pots that didn’t go his way.
As WPT ambassador Brad Owen (who was in the Day 1b field with Soto) would say, there’s no right way to play jiggities. The notoriously tricky Hold’em hand couldn’t do anything for Soto and he lost all three times he had them, twice against pocket queens and again against Big Slick, as documented in WPT live updates.
Though he wasn’t able to make a deep run in the Gardens Poker Championship, the trip out west has been well worth it for the Floridian. From a 36-hour drive across the southwest with his wife, Millicent, to visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the first time, Soto made plenty of memories off the felt.
Satellite Into the WPT World Championship on ClubWPT
Battling With the Pros
While he will occasionally play $2/$5 cash games in his hometown Tampa, Soto in primarily a ClubWPT grinder.
“I pretty much prefer sitting at home and playing on ClubWPT,” said Soto, a Diamond-status member who has used the app for four years.
The competition in the Gardens Poker Championship was undoubtedly tougher than what Soto has faced on the social poker site. Those in the Day 1b field with Soto included two-time WPT champions Alex Foxen and Art Papazyan, as well as other crushers like Dan Colpoys, Michael Wang and Francis Anderson.
The field also included Southern California businessman Bill Klein, who Soto saw walking in and recognized “just by watching him on TV.”
“You can tell he’d be a great person to know,” Soto remarked.
The Road to California
When they first got into town, Marco and Millicent, who have been married for 26 years, had the chance to visit Hollywood and see the historic Walk of Fame and experience California’s “bipolar” weather.
“I didn’t bring enough jackets,” Millicent commented.
There was also the long drive into town, which saw the couple stopping in Louisiana, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and New Mexico as they made their way to The Golden State. Millicent slept most of the ride and awoke only when her husband would purposely veer off the road to wake his “passenger princess.”
During dinner at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que with a few WPT team members on May 22, the two also got plenty of food recommendations for the drive back home as they learned about Alabama White Sauce.
“We’ve got to drive through Alabama!” said Soto, who was wearing his newly acquired ClubWPT cap and hoodie. “We actually do have to drive through there to get home.”
Before the drive to Tampa, Marco and Millicent plan to enjoy a few more days relaxing and exploring in Southern California. As for poker, “Trippz305,” said he doesn’t plan on playing any of the famous LA cash games while he’s here.
“He says that now,” laughed Millicent.
*Images courtesy of WPT.
Florida’s Marco Soto Gets ClubWPT Qualifier Experience in California