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PokerStars Winner Gets Seat on NBC's Heads-up Poker Championship

Friday, February 27, 2009

SAN JOSE, California -- Blandino Gines' first job in the United States was picking grapes in the vineyards of Modesto, California; thirty-four years later, he will play poker on national television
  for a chance at $500,000 thanks to Gines, a 52-year-old welder from San Jose, California, won a free satellite on PokerStars for a chance to compete head-to-head with the world's top celebrities, athletes and poker pros at the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship in Las Vegas from March 6-8. The championship will be televised nationally on NBC and CNBC.

"I didn't think it was real when they first called me," Gines said. "I thought I just won $1,000. I didn't know that they were going to send me to Vegas to play in NBC Heads-Up. This is unbelievable. I am still in shock."

In 1975, Gines emigrated from The Phillipines when his father petitioned for him to come to the U.S. For three years, the 19-year-old Gines made a living picking grapes in the vineyards of Modesto and Stockton, CA. He then moved to Alaska where got a job canning salmon with Trident Seafood Corp. After 11 years in Alaska, Gines taught himself how to weld, and took a fabrication job at Trident's factory in Seattle, WA.

The current economic downturn forced Trident to make cutbacks and Gines was let go from the company. For the past three months, Gines has lived in his sister's apartment with his wife and 7-year-old daughter. To earn extra money he works part-time on construction jobs with his brother-in-law and plays poker on PokerStars.

"PokerStars builds champions and make dreams come true," said 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event champion and Team PokerStars Pro Greg Raymer. "PokerStars offers the most tournaments and unique promotions out of any poker site in the world. I wish Gines the best of luck and hope to see him in the finals."

In early February, Gines entered PokerStars' National Heads-Up Poker Championship promotion and survived 590,000 players through three rounds to win his seat. Gines first started playing poker two and a half years ago after watching poker on TV. He immediately created an account on PokerStars, and has been playing online ever since., the world's largest online poker site, will cover Gines' $20,000 entry fee into the tournament along with four nights of hotel accommodations in Las Vegas and $1,000 cash for travel and expenses.

"I can't believe I might have the chance to play against Daniel Negreanu and Greg Raymer. I am going to start practicing on PokerStars right away. I'm very excited and so grateful to PokerStars for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

In the past, the tournament was primarily reserved for world-class players and celebrities, on an invitation-only basis. This is the second time in the history of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship that an online qualifier from a poker site was allowed entry to compete for a share of $1.5 million on TV's highest-rated poker broadcast.

Last February, PokerStars qualifier Alisha Kunze won a chance to compete in the event for free. The 23-year-old from Indiana played a solid game and held her own against the pro players. Kunze eventually busted out when her pocket Kings ran into pocket Aces.

The event is bracketed much like the college basketball championship: play head-to-head, win and move on to the next bracket. The "national champion" takes home $500,000.

For more information about PokerStars free satellites, visit

Plaza Roble Corporate Center
San Juan
Costa Rica is a fun, safe place to play poker with people from around the world for real or play money. The site offer the most popular poker games such as Texas Hold'em, Omaha and Stud. Real money limits range from $0.01/0.02 to $100/$200. PokerStars is an official member of the World Poker Tour, and the title sponsor of the European Poker Tour (EPT) and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. In the fall, PokerStars hosts the world's largest online tournament, the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP).
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