By Sean Chaffin
The $10,000 L.A. Poker Classic is right around the corner and the prestigious event is one of the biggest events in poker. When the action gets underway March 2-6 at Commerce Casino, players will be looking to not only add their names to a long list of well-known winners who have taken home the championship.
That list includes names like Gus Hansen, Antonio Esfandiari, Michael Mizrachi, Phil Ivey, Chris Moorman, and Anthony Zinno. Last season, Dennis Blieden added his name to that list when he topped a field of 493 entries to take home the $1 million top prize – his first-ever WPT cash.
The defending champion came from relative obscurity to win the event, with only two previous major tournament scores. Both of those came at the World Series of Poker in 2016 and 2017 for about $22,000. Blieden is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but now works as a vice president of finance for a digital media company in Hollywood, California.
After his big win, Blieden has played a bit more on the tournament scene but doesn’t enter too many events because of his job.
“As for poker, I tested the waters some more in the Super High Roller Bowl Bowl in May and the WSOP in June, and was definitely humbled a bit,” he says. “Since then, I have instead been buying pieces of some of the game’s best, and that has ended up being much more profitable than playing myself.”
Adding his name among some of the game’s elite among the Champions Cup, however, was something that brings him a lot of pride.
“It was a surreal experience,” he says. “I recognize I will most likely never be able to replicate my performance last March, but at the end of the day I am a World Poker Tour champ and there is no taking that away.”
When the championship event cranks up again in Los Angeles, Blieden will be hoping to defend his title – this time on a freeroll. Last year, Commerce added names of all its series event winners to a complete March Madness bracket. Each winner had a chance to advance through the tournament.
The winner was determined by spinning a wheel for each matchup and the last player standing won a free buy-in to the year’s WPT championship. Blieden’s good fortune continued as he took home the tournament ticket. When not playing poker or working, numbers still occupy a large amount of his time. He has a passion for finance and an interest in solving complexities.
“I’m a total financial modeling nerd, and when outside of the office I find myself modeling just about everything to try to solve for just about any variables,” he says. “My girlfriend and I just got a puppy as well, so puppy training classes and middle of the night wake-ups are taking up a lot of my free time at the moment.”
That $1 million in winnings was nice and certainly made life more comfortable. He’s used it to increase his poker bankroll and for making some investments.
Beyond winning the tournament, one highlight stands out for Blieden. Many may remember him mixing it up a bit last year at the table with Phil Hellmuth. He was able to ruffle Hellmuth’s feathers a bit and that is certainly an experience he treasures.
“I can honestly say this was my favorite part of the entire tournament,” he says. “It was even better watching him commentate when the final table aired on TV a few months ago.”
For more on the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, click here. For the championship event structure sheet, click here, and for a complete schedule of events, click here.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.
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