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Two-Time Borgata Champion Is A Class Act

Two-Time Borgata Champion Is A Class Act 0001

"I may learn slow, but I learn good." According to Bill Blanda, this is old Texas saying is an appropriate description of his ascendance into poker history. Blanda has made a name for himself in the game through his back-to-back Borgata Poker Open first-place finishes, becoming the first player in Borgata history to win two of the gold and diamond encrusted bracelets that only event champions receive. Blanda won the $2,000 limit event last year, and came out on top in the $1,000 No Limit Hold Em event this year, pocketing $114,390 for his troubles.

History has a funny way of repeating itself for this Galveston, TX. native. A pool-playing prodigy by age twelve, Blanda found himself in surroundings filled with gambling, so it was only natural that he picked up the game. "I was always around gambling. I always found myself in that environment. If we weren't playing pool, we were playing cards. I've always liked the game."

Despite coming from a poker background, it wasn't until several years ago that the now two-time Borgata Poker Open really began to consider playing professionally. "My wife still reminds me of this. It was about two years ago. I was watching the World Poker tour on the Travel Channel, and I said to my wife, 'You see that? Within a year, I'm going to be doing that. I'm going to apply some time, study it, and within a year, I'm going to be making money like that.' And within a year, I started having some success."

Fortunately for Blanda, his successful work in sales gave him the freedom to pursue this dream, but victories didn't come easy when he began to take the game seriously. "Like anybody, when I first went out there I got my head beat in. You have to pay your dues like everyone else. But I improved. The old Texas phrase about the southern intelligence, 'I may learn slow, but I learn good.' Like the saying goes, what I did learn, I learned well and it stayed with me," he said.

When asked what players have influenced his game, he cited WPT champion Gus Hansen and the legendary Doyle Brunson. "I knew I could do what Gus Hansen does. I mean, you just have to be crazy and stick with it. He's really a lot of fun to watch. But Doyle Brunson is a real thinking man of the game. Even when you watch him on TV, he's always thinking things through. Always thinking. If I could pick a combination of players that I would want to be, it would be Gus {Hansen} and Doyle {Brunson}. I'd be a player who knows everything about the game, but is still crazy."

According to Blanda, the favorite aspect of the game is the psychological warfare that takes place at the table. "I'm a student of human beings. In my profession of sales, I study people. I like observing them and seeing what makes them tick. Learning their mannerisms, getting inside of people. When I sit at a table, I feel I have an advantage there. I talk a lot at the table and what they don't realize is when I'm talking to them, they are feeding me information all the time. I just try to suck as much information out of them as I can."

Although Blanda has had a love affair with poker for over 20 years, he realizes that it is important for a player to stay grounded in reality. Blanda, who has two sons and a loving wife, believes that it is important to balance poker and family.

"Family comes first. Poker is second. It's kind of tough, because I've worked hard in my life. I came from a moderate family and I worked hard to get where I am. But now my boys see me making money and it's tough for me. It's kind of like 'Do as I say, not as I do.' I don't want them out there hustling pool or playing cards.

If they enjoy it as a hobby, they should go ahead and play. I really want to keep them grounded, but it's tough with the money. It opens up everybody's eyes and there is just so much money in poker right now."

Blanda truly represents a champion, both at home and on the tables. He is a consummate professional and is a great ambassador for the sport. For Blanda, the responsibility that comes with being successful in the game is paramount and that winning players need to represent the game in a positive light.

"It's like anyone who achieves celebrity status. They have an incredible responsibility when it happens. There are young people that are going to want to emulate them. So I would believe that players should watch how they act in public. Watch the things they say and the things they do. Especially pay attention to how they present themselves, so that they are good representatives of the game. That will continue to attract high-quality people to the game."

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