That’s all Jared Bleznick wanted to talk about with PokerGO host Jeff Platt after bringing it in for a hug to celebrate his victory in the US Poker Open (USPO) Event #8: $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha.
This was Bleznick’s second event of the USPO. He appeared previously in the week at the $10,000 8-Game Mix. The win was his second in a major series at PokerGO Studio, where he won the $10,000 8-Game Mix at the 2019 Poker Masters.
“All of this, it just doesn’t do anything for me,” Bleznick said, as a bewildered Platt looked on with every reason to question why someone would be so unmoved by winning $189,000. “Sports cards. That’s my life. Poker was something that I loved growing up in my twenties. Sports cards. It’s just the greatest business in the world. I’ve played enough poker in my life.”
Platt tried to push back, pressing for some sliver of excitement about winning the tournament, but Bleznick was undeterred. “I’ve played four events of these total. I’ve won two of them. It just really doesn’t do much for me. It just doesn’t. I love the format. I love Mori and Paul. But sports cards, it’s a great business. I’m going to play here and there, but I’d rather be opening cards.”
He may be burned out on playing poker, but Bleznick was eager to talk about the sports card business with PokerNews earlier in the week during a break in the 8-Game Mix event at the USPO.
“In poker, the one thing I hate is that you might play in a game with 10 people, you’ll have six losers and four winners. In sports cards, you and I can both win,” said Bleznick, who has much more enthusiasm for a business that doesn’t rely on someone losing. “So many people have been able to make money in this market, and that’s what is so special about it. We can do a deal right there where I can win and you can win. If I lose money on a deal, I’m ok because that means the market is strong and I will do well on other things too. There can be five people that have owned the same card and they can all have made money on that card.”
Not the standard @PokerGO post-game interview. Thanks to Maxx Coleman (@mc4chess) & one Jared Bleznick (… https://t.co/awsvLFrTaX
Owning a Sport Cards Store
Bleznick is a major card collector and part-owner of Legacy Sports Cards in Las Vegas, a shop he purchased in 2019 with fellow pro poker player Tom Marchese.
“At the time when we purchased it, it was probably about 50 percent something fun for us to do and have. The other 50 percent was about trying to make some money out of this. We didn’t have big expectations at first. We didn’t expect the industry to do what it has done. We got very fortunate and I think we are amazing partners. We’re very different people with good skill sets that cater to both of us.”
Bleznick has good reason to be optimistic about the future of sports cards. The hobby has exploded in the last year, building on the momentum from nostalgic sports fans during the COVID-19 shutdown and sending prices sky-high.
“During COVID people had more time on their hands to discover sports cards. It brings back a lot of memories of our childhood. And there is a lot of mainstream attention, so people realize that there are other valuable assets out there that you can buy and make money off of. A lot of people have done very well with it.”
The Breaking Business
In addition to the Las Vegas card shop, Bleznick also owns Blez Sports, an online business that specializes in “box-breaking,” a popular way to buy and collect cards on a live stream.
“Blez Sports is an online business that we created about five years ago,” Bleznick said, referring to his brothers Chad and Scott. “We were some of the first to innovate and change the industry. We created certain concepts and were among the first to do many different things within breaking. It’s really exciting stuff. The breaks, as a collector, I love.”
Box-breaking is a card collecting tradition that has been around in some form since the mid-2000s, but it gained considerable popularity with the growth of live streaming. The concept is simple: viewers will buy “slots” from a host who is opening a fresh new box of sports cards and tune in to see what they’ve won. Your slot gives you the right to claim cards from a certain team, depending on the host’s format. After the slots have been filled, the host will open each pack while chatting with the viewers and sharing the bounty. Rare autographs and chase cards can turn a viewer’s relatively small investment into a huge score, sometimes well into the thousands.
Bleznick thinks it’s a great way for collectors to mitigate the rising costs of the hobby.
“The reality is that the price of a box of cards today is so expensive, but you can pay a small fraction of that to get what you want to get and not get all the fluff that you don’t really need.”
Viewers have flocked to the concept and Blez Sports is among the most popular box-breaking companies online, driving business with exciting streams and unique personalities. “I love breaking myself. I go on there and do a lot of the breaks. I have a passion for it. I was always meant to be on a live stream. I’m passionate about the business and about offering a product that I truly love. That’s hard for people to say. To turn a hobby into a business is something I love.”
What Does the Future Hold?
In terms of the health and future of the sports card business, Bleznick’s lifetime of experience keeps him focused on what he can control.
“I don’t know where it’s going. I’m in the same boat as everyone else. I can’t predict the future at this point but cards aren’t going anywhere. We are in the beginning stages of everything opening back up, so there has been a dip in a lot of markets, not just sports cards.”
Entertainment dollars are starting to spread around as the world emerges from COVID-19, but Bleznick is confident that the card collecting business will remain strong well into the future.
“I believe that we go through phases and cycles. The things you might enjoy as a kid you want to revisit as an adult. People want something that is the hot thing and they don’t want it when no one is talking about it, and that’s how it goes. Sports cards have been around since the 1800s but they’re not going anywhere. They may slow down a little but there’s still a very large market. As long as people have athletes they like, they’re still going to buy cards.”
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*Images courtesy of PokerGO.