Meet the Cinderella Story of NBC’s Heads Up Poker Championship
Though times have been tough for Blandino Gines, its unlikely anyone will see him without a smile this weekend. The 52 year old immigrant from the Phiippines has been unemployed for four years and has had to accept being a stay at home Dad in a home he shares with his sister’s family while his wife works until 2 am at a nearby auto plant. No one would consider his life easy but this weekend he gets to live out one of his dreams.
Beginning today, Gines will be competing in NBC’s National Heads Up Poker Championship as one of the six qualifiers among the elite 64 player field. Almost all of the biggest names in poker as well as some of the top tournament players from around the world are in attendance for the annual event in which the eventual winner will take home $500,000. Some of the most notable players include Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, John Pham, David Pham and Bertrand Grospellier.
“I’m excited and very, very happy,” said Gines. “This is unbelievable.” What makes the whole story just that much more unbelievable is that Gines has never played poker in a casino before and has only played for paltry stakes with friends and family. Now, thanks to an incredible run on Poker Stars where he managed to beat out almost 600,000 players in three rounds, he gets to play for free in a tournament where all the pros are putting up their own $20,000 in order to compete. When Gines won the freeroll, he had no idea what he had actually earned.
“I thought I had won $1,000, that’s it,” said Gines, speaking of the $1,000 in spending money PokerStars awarded its qualifiers. Of course, when Gines says, “that’s it,” he just meant that he had no idea what was actually in store for him. The $1,000 was a notable asset to his family, and they celebrated his win with a barbecue. If Gines can beat just two more of his opponents, he’ll be in the money and earn at least $25,000. If he does the seemingly impossible and beats six of his opponents, he’ll make a half million dollars. “I hope I play well,” said Gines, who believes in himself despite the long odds. “Why can’t I win? Why not me?”
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