5 Billionth Hand Freeroll Takes a Seat
by Craig Cunningham
Arnold "jwblack100" Blenner was playing one day on PokerStars.net, engrossed in one of his favorites pursuits: Pot-Limit Holdem. He'd built his 1,000 in play money up to 700,000 virtual chips over the span of several months, and he enjoyed the challenges of pot-limit as a way to wind down from a long day as a utility worker in Queens, NY. As he was playing, his table was notified that they had been selected as part of PokerStars' 5 Billionth Hand freeroll tournament. "I thought there would be thousands of people in the tournament, but I say that there were only 238 players with three seats to the Main Event," said Arnold. "When the fourth player was eliminated on the bubble and everyone was congratulating each other, I didn't think it was real. When I got a check for $1,000 from PokerStars for travel expenses, that's when I believed."
Arnold and his wife JoAnne, an Executive Assistant at a top Wall Street firm, live with their daughter Stephanie (15) and son Michael (11). "JoAnne isn't too big a fan of poker, but she's been very supportive and all for me doing it. I don't think they have very high expectations, but my son Michael, he really believes. He's already planning for the Lamborghini that he wants if I win the World Series." When Arnold was his son's age, he went to Shea Stadium to see his Mets with another friend who was 13 years old. "We would take a bus then walk to the stadium, stay all day, wait for autographs after the game. You couldn't do that today, of course, but we just lived at the ballpark then."
"This is something I've dreamed about, but I would have never done it on my own. If the people at PokerStars have enough confidence in me for me to be here, then I'll give it my best shot," said Arnold. He said that he'd been interested in poker since Robert Varkyoni from Brooklyn won the Main Event in 2002. "I can identify with him, and it showed me anything is possible." Arnold's plan: get chips early, don't get caught in hands with players who have him covered. Be aggressive, but not stupid. "I can go all-in vs. players who paid alot to be here. That's a big advantage for me." A tremendous adventure starts today for Arnold Blenner, compliments of PokerStars.