It has often been said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” In the case of Marco Traniello, that’s a huge understatement. From an obscure little town in central Italy, this 30-something immigrant has been living the adventures of a true-life Walter Mitty, from ship’s captain to world-renowned hair dresser to successful professional poker player. What’s more, a chance encounter in a Las Vegas parking lot proved to be his greatest stroke of good fortune of all.
Life before Jen
In 1973, Traniello was born in Gaeta, Italy, a seaside city-commune roughly midway between Rome and Naples. With a population of just over 21,000, Gaeta’s primary industry is tourism, attracting sun worshippers with its warm, rain-free summers and numerous beaches. It is also a bustling port, and young Traniello learned the ways of the sea well enough in its harbor to eventually become the captain of an oil ship.
But there was something else that interested Traniello much more than transporting crude over the waters of the Mediterranean. He loved styling women’s hair. So while still in his early twenties, he sunk everything he had into opening up a shop in Gaeta and it quickly became one of the most popular hair dressing salons not only in the town, but also in the entire country. Dignitaries and celebrities would make the journey to Traniello’s shop simply to have their hair done by the maestro himself.
By 1999, the former skipper had definitely found his niche, known for his tonsorial skills all over Italy and beyond. In Traniello decided to take a vacation and pay his first visit “Fabulous Las Vegas.” A friend took him driving to see the Strip and, as fate would have it, they parked the friend’s car at the Bellagio right next to the Porsche owned by female poker phenomenon Jennifer Harman.
Serendipity wrote the script of how the two drivers just happened to meet as they were leaving the hotel-casino at the same time. It took Traniello no more than five minutes to convince Harman to go dancing with him later that evening. That led to a whirlwind of dates and within a few weeks the couple decided to get married at the famed Little White Chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Happily Ever After?
In the course of getting to know each other, Traniello discovered Harman was a big name in professional poker, a game he knew almost nothing about. Although Traniello opened a successful branch of his salon in Las Vegas, he watched in awe as he saw his wife win more in one day than he could make in two years of styling hair. Intrigued, he began learning how to play the game at Harman’s informal “home games,” which included such luminaries as Daniel Negreanu and friends like Todd Brunson.
Harman proved to be an exceptional teacher as well as a top-notch player. By 2005, Traniello was ready to debut his acquired card skills at the tables of the World Series of Poker. Not only did he finish in the money, he cashed seven times and made the final table of the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event. By 2012, his total tournament winnings would top $700,000.
Traniello and Harman had twin sons in early 2007. They now have a home in Reno, Nevada and travel to Europe for poker tournaments, where the hair dresser is gaining a reputation of his own for card playing skill. He scored a sponsorship from Full Tilt Poker and currently ranks 23rd on the list of Italy’s all-time money winners—all of which leads one to wonder: Can his and hers gold bracelets be far behind?