WSOP Main Event: Five Billion Hand Freeroller Arnold Blenner Riding High

by Craig Cunningham

Arnold "jwblack100" Blenner started his day in the PokerStars suite, casually eating breakfast from the hot spread provided for PokerStars qualifiers. The story of how he got to the Main Event is incredible, and what he's done once he sat down has been truly amazing. Arnold built 1,000 play money chips into 700,000 virtual chips, enough to play his beloved Pot Limit Holdem at any play money table on PokerStars.net. A table he was playing on was selected for a 5 Billionth Hand freeroll, and he finished in the top three to win his seat at the Main Event. Read more of his story leading up to his first hand on Sunday.

By 1:00AM, Arnold had become Arnie. He sacrificed his twenty minute break after Level 4 to relax and talk about the day. He had cause to feel fairly comfortable, with his $80k stack of yellow, pink, and black chips. "It's been great, just great to play today," said Arnie. "I was pretty overwhelmed walking in and seeing people like Raymer and Daniel Negreanu. Once we started playing, I realized these were all regular guys like me."


Arnold Blenner, PokerStars Five Billionth Hand Freeroll Winner


New Yorkers are known for their fast chatter honed after generations of living in the rat race of city life. Arnie's accent is unmistakable, but his tone and manner is one that pulls you closer to him. He's not a guy who will talk your ear off; his is a conversation that is effortless, approachable, and above all humble. "I'm just plodding along. With my chip stack, everything I do at the table is magnified. I'm trying not to get too crazy, where every hand starts looking good. I'm not pushing that much, and when I do make a play, I get alot of respect. I'm taking a little bit here and there and not putting a lot in. A lot of folding."

Arnie talked about two key hands that were important for his stack as well as his knowledge. In the first hand, he held A-Jo and his opponent had pocket kings. He caught his straight vs. a set of kings, but he bet small to try and elicit an all-in move by his opponent. Arnie was just called. "I thought he had aces and would lay it down. If I'd known he had kings, I would have moved all-in." Later, he played Ah-2h on a board of 4h-5h-5-3. This time, Arnie put the player all-in and was called by 8-8. An 8 fell on the river, giving life to his opponent with his full house. "If I'd moved in on the first hand, the second hand wouldn't have happened. He's not here anymore, so that's fine now."

The day hasn't been without difficulties, but they've been more away from the table than at it. Arnie is diabetic and has to monitor his blood sugar as well as regularly inject himself with insulin. "I couldn't find a place to take my meds, but I felt that my blood sugar was up," explained Arnie. "I can't do it in the bathroom, so I had to search around until I found a place near the PokerStars suite. We play a home game, five or six guys and the game is limit, but low limit. I tend to stay sharp mentally while I may get tired physically, but I tend to scoop everything at the end of the night. The guys say, 'Look out, Arnie's had his insulin!'"

There are two stacks now at Table 52 that are significant to Arnie. Jon Greene from Wisconsin has been in the 6s the whole day, and his stack has grown to $50k. Johan Wemmenhag from Sweden hads $62k, and has shown signs of aggression. "I read a book on tells before I came along with Super System, but my game is still a work in progress. One problem is I've always played limit live, and always for small stakes." When you walk by Arnie, his face never changes, always serious and focused. In the recesses of his mind lies his dream: to get deep at the Main Event. With his back immediately to railbirds, he can't see what is becoming apparent: more and more railbirds are looking over his shoulder and sharing his dream. That legion will grow here as well as on PokerStars as he continues through the tournament.

UPDATE: At 3:40AM, the room was empty with all of the dealers stuffing sealed bags of chips into a larger bag for each table. The dealer at the table reported him at $38,300 after searching for his chip bag. Arnie's dream enters Phase II as he's made it to the second day of the Main Event.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker