Poker and the CBS television series Survivor were both obsessions for Anna Khait. So, when Khait became a contestant on Survivor Cambodia, she was in her element as a fierce competitor. Then she got booted off the island mid-season and her life crashed and burned.
Khait has always been drawn to games of strategy. Before she competed on Survivor Season 32: Kaoh Rong, she was a professional poker player.
"I loved Survivor and poker because they're very similar. They're both very similar to life. There are different situations you have to adjust to. There's reading people, analyzing situations. Survivor and poker really became my two obsessions, my two idols," she said.
The daughter of a Jewish father and Russian mother, Khait attended church growing up but says religion got in the way of a real relationship with God.
"There were these rules. There were all these things you have to do. I didn't like it. I felt very constricted. I really pushed away from God," she told CBN. "I really thought God isn't real and that actually led me to the belief that there is no God."
Then her parents divorced. It was around that time that Khait began to define herself as an atheist.
"I definitely felt abandoned. I felt rejected," she said. "Even though my father was a good dad—in the sense that he didn't leave my life forever. I still spent every weekend with him. There was a lot of pain there. A lot of pain. I was looking for satisfaction in a man. I was looking for love and I was never fulfilled."
As a teenager, she fell in love with the game of poker.
"Someone had a game and they asked me to sit down and play," Khait recalled. "When I like something, I go all in. I get really passionate and really driven. It's a strategy game. There is more to poker than meets the eye. I thought it was super fascinating. It kind of became an addiction."
After graduating high school, she went on to earn a degree in biology. Instead of attending medical school, she moved in with her boyfriend, a pro poker player who helped hone her skills in the game.
"We would play all day. We would go to dinner, come home, play nightly tournaments," Khait said. "Relatively speaking...was I super, super successful? No, I didn't play the major big tournaments. I sustained myself. Some tournaments sometimes I'd win $10,000 a day and sometimes $3,000, $4,000 and I had fun doing it."
Inside, Khait wasn't as happy as she seemed. "My life was spontaneous, but it wasn't fruitful. I was so broken inside."
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