Tuesday, August 27, 2013

....And Now a Public Service Announcement from The Poker Dealer Association of The World.....

...Okay so The Poker Dealers Association of the World doesn't exist (But what a grand ideal, huh), but today, I wanted to give all poker plays some advice centered around this:

Remember this commercial:

"Image is everything" - Andre Agassi

In every poker book I've read says your image at the poker table is very important -- you have to be aware of it at all times. Poker is a lot tougher now than it was a few years ago during the "poker boom" when every Dick and Jane watched Rounders or Chris Moneymaker glorify poker as the easiest outlet to make lots of the money. If you're a good player, your edge is very slight. If there is a way to gain an edge even the slightest can get you the extra chips you need to beat your poker game.

REMEMBER THIS: Local grinders are always look for the sucker (the mark) at the table. Why not take advantage of this by playing up to that image?

Today, I'm going to give my advice from the view of a poker dealer of ways you can get an edge simply by tweaking your image to suit your opponents, and I call it, "Being the Tourist". I know a lot of local grinders, local wannabe pros, local recreational player say, they like to play on the Las Vegas Strip, to take advantage  the "Sucker tourists". Although I believe there is merit to the argument, as someone who wants to take advantage of their thinking, there are ways to exploit this.

There are FIVE things I see most common is "tourists play/mannerisms/actions that a poker player can use to take advantage of that headphone/iPod/iPad/backpacktoting/backwardhatwearing/hoodiewearing/
critiqueeveryhand guy/gal. It all centers around building an image at the poker table:


These guys, usually a young hotshot, stride into the poker room, and ask, "Can I play the All in game?" They usually buy in for the minimum, and are constant bluffers, not because it's the right play, but it's to impress their smokeshow girlfriend. They always wear large obnoxious sunglasses, and usuall wearing something from Ambercrombie & Fitch. They're loud, crude, and overbearing. Watch out though when they become suddenly quiet during the hand because they always have a monster.


First, you need to get a hot girlfriend,  If you you're ugly, you may have to scrap this technique.  But if you want to give this a shot, you can rent a smokeshow at any bar in Vegas and for a nominal (well, maybe not so nominal), they can act as your girlfriend. Then you have to be loud and obnoxious when you have a hand, and be quite when your bluffing.


Most first-time players seemed to always stack their chips in increments of $25.  To the local grinder, they're used to see "regular" players stack their chips in 20 chips increments forming geometric shapes usually squares or triangles. SO when they do see "Joe Schmo" from middle of nowhere Nebraska stacking they're chips in increments of $25, they seemed to go after them, going out of their way to play pots with them.


A while back, I dealt to this guy who obviously was playing live poker for the first time, and although I thought he wasn't doing it on purpose, what he was doing was brilliant. He would always say how much he wanted to bet, then he would count out his chips, stating ever denominations as he placed each chip individually, it would go like this, "I bet $50." He'd grab his chips, then count each one, "There's 5, 10, 20, 30...is that right? No? there's 35, 45, 50..am I right now?" And for some reason, this obvious wannabe pro would call him or raise him and usually lose the pot.


Another mannerism reserved for those who've never played live poker. It's usually frown upon by the casino. AS a dealer, I tell these first-time players, that they can bend the cards, and after a while they figure it out. When they're first starting out, you see them life the cards to their face, as if they're playing in their college hot game.


I think this is a technique you have to use at a table full of aggressive players who see players who lift their cards to their face as a mark they can prey on. Unfortunately, this technique doesn't last very long as the poker dealer will always tell them they have to keep the cards on the table. Use this during the first few orbits when starting a session, and hopefully you'll catch a hand and stack an unsuspecting grinder thinking you don't have a clue of what you're doing.


At the apex of the "poker boom" I saw these kinds of apparel in every WalMart, Ross, Target, Sears, AND JC Pennys I've been in. To me, there were the corniest things I ever seen. Whenever I see someone walk into the poker room wearing one of these shirts, I always laugh....it just looks so ridiculous. I remember years back, I was playing at Red Rock, and I saw a poker dealer I used to work with wearing one these shirts. He was kind of a dork anyways, but I literally laughed outloud when I saw it.


Again, it's about looking like a mark for a the local grinder/wannabe pros who want to take advantage of the "tourists" It also helps to get a shirt that fits snug on your body. For some reason, slightly overweight people who wear this type of shirt just look like suckers.


Utah, Idaho, Vermont, Wyoming, and South Dakota are just some of the states you can use. When you think of where the best poker players come from your rarely hear the state of Kentucky as a breeding ground. The grinder will think, "This sucker is from South Carolina, probably his/her first time in Las Vegas, they never get to gamble..I'm going to take every penny." and they'll do everything in their power to snag every chip from you..


Easily, as soon as you tell them you're from North Dakota, tell them this is your first time in Las Vegas and I only played in home games.You instantly have a bullseye stamped on your face, but you'll know better.

BONUS: ALWAYS SAY YOU'VE ONLY PLAYED IN "HOME GAME" For some reason, the words "HOME GAME" seems to be a beacon for the sharks to come after you. They think that just because you only play in home game, you have no clue what you're doing. Vegas is the big leagues, these wanna be pros are thinking, they don't  have a shot against me.

I'm not saying this is full-proof and you'll wins piles of money using some or all of these techniques, but if you use them at the right moments against the right type of opponents, you can get a slight edge on your opponents.

.....and so ends the Public Service Announcements from The Poker Dealers Association of The World!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Poker is my passion
My family is my passion
Life is my passion.
And many moons ago, writing used to be my passion.

Let me take you on a journey to how I wanted to be the next Stephen King....

When I was a teenager, I read every Stephen King book I could get my hands on. There a used book store down the street from my house where I would scoop up all the Stephen King books for a $1 or $2 (Cant remember the exact amount), and sit in my room and read every book. I also took a drama class for two years, not sure why I did it, I just thought acting was fun and wanted to see if I could do it (Needlessly to say, I wasn't any good). I learned a lot about the power of acting from one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Paul Hampton, who doesn't realize how much he impacted my life back then. I combined these two elements, reading fiction, and acting fiction, to become a creator of fiction. 

It started with a purchase of a notebook and a pencil. The first story I wrote was a horror story about a guy who was killed and somehow he came back alive to avenge his death...it was corny, stupid, but at the time I thought I was brilliant. Then I wrote another story: This is one was a about 10-year-old girl who escapes from her mother's abusive boyfriend. The title was "Within her". I remember the main character's name was Bernie, short for Bernadette. I used that name because I heard the name Bernadette on TV, and wondered if anyone used Bernie for short. "Within Her" was 30 pages long, I think to this day, it was the best thing I ever wrote. I thought my characterization of this 10 year girl was pretty damn good for guy who started writing short stories.

After those two stories, I wanted to do more, but I wanted to become a better, more sophisticated writer. So I went to the mall and entered a WaldenBookstore, gazed through the porporri of writing books and two books caught my eye:

For the next two days, I think I read each book cover to cover twice! I was mesmerized by the information, and wanted so badly so incorporated some of these brilliant teaching. I wrote several more short stories, and with each passing one, I was gaining confidence, feeling I could do this.  Then one day, I thought, I'm going to write a novel...

I was in college at the time when I started writing this novel, I wanted to write something a dramatic piece telling the stories of two friends, who drifted apart, had a secret that only they knew. One friend fell on hard times, the other was on the verge of becoming something great. Their worlds would collide bonded by a secret that could ruin the very fabric of one of their lives. The working title, "Back to Basics". So I bought some spiral notepads and spend every free second writing this novel. One friend, Claudia, was in a abusive relationship and a job going no where. The other was Lori, who moved up the political ladder in Columbus, Georgia and was on the verge of running for mayor. The first 6 chapters I alternated from Claudia's and Lori's story until they're lives intertwine in a story of love, blackmail, and deception. I remember all the writing techniques of the books I read especially from the "Characters make your story". I remember one piece of advice, "In order to make your story believable, you have to make your characters believable." I stuck to that moniker with every world forming from my pencil. I was so in-tuned with this story that I would sit in my room all day not realizing when day turned to night and night turned to day. The novel was coming together perfectly, and I was so proud of what I was producing 

When I reached Chapter 7, I stopped writing the story. I was at a crossroads in my life, I dropped out of college to join the Air Force. I remember tucking everything in a box and took it to my first duty station in Charleston, South Carolina. As soon as I was settled, I began writing again, but instead of writing everything in longhand, I bought myself one of these:

Not quite this model, but you get the idea...lol

When I bought a typewriter, I become immersed with this story. I would come home during my lunch hour, and write. After work, I'd work all night till way pass midnight. ON weekends, I would type and type and type. Piles and piles of paper with my words were scattered all over my room, I had a box full of used typewrite ribbon which I bought up from a local office story. All those sweat from days of writing this story took a lot from but alas...

5 year later, I completed my first novel, and settled on a title, "Claudia" She was the true focal point of this story so I thought it would be appropriate to name the novel. The day I wrote the last word was one of the proudest moments my life at the time. I was 22 years old, and I just wrote a 200 page novel. 

When I completed the novel, I didn't know what to do next. I never let anyone read it, because I just didn't think my friends would understand. Most of friends knew I was a writer, but they didn't seemed into it, so I never forced them to read any of my stuff so I put the "Claudia" in a box and never let anyone read it. Regrettably, it's the only novel I ever wrote. Sure I tried to write other novels, but nothing seemed as good or as satisfying as that first one. It got to the point where I was frustrated and gave it up all together. The next three years I was station at Charleston, that "Claudia" novel stayed in a box in my closet, along with those two books I purchased from Waldenbooks never moving from its spot. 

After that I went on with my life, doing to the Air Force thing for the next few years gained other interest, working 40 hours a week, becoming the best airman I could be, and I never wrote another thing since then.  When I got orders to move from Charleston to Albuquerque, I somehow lost that box on the move. I'm not sure how I lost it. I think I accidently threw it away. I was devastated when I lost that novel. Words can't describe how terrible I felt when the realization that "Claudia" was gone. In Albuquerque,  I tried to recreate the novel, but I couldn't do it. I felt wasn't doing to the original justice so I scrapped it all together and moved on with my life....

17 years later, I was blogging about my wife's surgery and the thought of that "Claudia" novel popped into my head. The motivation started creeping in that I want to recreate that novel I wrote many moons ago. But as I reached my 40's my memory was fading as to how I good I was writing that novel. I didn't set out to write "Claudia" because I wanted to be the next best selling author, I did it because I developed a passion for something I enjoyed doing. It gave me a sense of fulfillment, a sense of completion, a sense of pride that I wish I could get back. 

"Claudia" was definitely my first love, and most importantly, it was my first passion.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Had another laugh out moment at work. I dealing next to an older gentlemen who had to be in his eighties, and he was having a friendly conversation with a woman sitting next to him. This older gentlemen was proud to show off his girlfriend who was the backdrop to his phone. I didn't quite catch some of the conversation, but the subject of libido came up, and he said something to the effect of it doesn't matter how old I am, I can still work it. That got the table laughing including myself. The woman sitting next to him said, "Damn, I need a sugar daddy like you, will you be my sugar daddy?

Across the table, another lady, who was cracking jokes throughout probably oblivious to the conversation going on between them, said, "I love Sugar Daddy..I ate my fair share when I was a kid" Her friend sitting a few seats down, apparently didn't hear the conversation chimes in, "Someone has Sugar Daddies. I want one." Contributing to the fact was these two ladies were finishing off a nice, cold, ice, fruity spirit from her Fat Tuesday souvenir cup....

I laughed out loud....Sometimes, being a poker dealer is the greatest job ever....lol

Monday, August 12, 2013

What?? No More Main Street Station Seafood Buffet? (PART II)

The end game to all this is my wife and I will never be able to eat at the Main Street Station Seafood Buffet, one of the best value buffets in Las Vegas. It doesn't hurt it's also one of the best: RAW OYSTERS, HUGE SHRIMPS, AND OF COURSE, THE BEST CRAB LEGS IN THE CITY! Damn, it's gonna suck, but I may just go there by myself..

Now on to PART II

My iPAD became my best friend as I watched the clock crawl at a snail's pace, I was watching a WWE DVD, not sure what it was, but I remember staring at it, listening to it, but not knowing what the hell I was watching. All I remember is the nervous energy consuming my body. I kept thinking, "Let this be over already. Let my wife be okay!"

As the surgery entered the 2nd hour, I starting pacing around the waiting area like a caged tiger. According to the pre-op discussions we had with the doctors, the procedure was supposed to take an hour, but here I am, full of bottled up energy, staring at the clock entered the 2nd hour. Finally, I sat down and felt nervous, but not the excited nervous I had, but a depressing nervousness. As I continued to watch doctor after doctor come out of the operating area, I thought, What if something had gone wrong?

Finally, Tonya's doctor came out and explained to me everything went well, and I would be able to see her in an hour. I felt a rush of relief sprout from my body, and sat back down, taking a deep breaths as I did, I felt like a balloon being squeezed slowly, but it was such a great feeling knowing my wife made it through the operation.

I entered her room an hour later, and I saw a nurse working on her, She was slightly awake...I kissed her on her cheek and asked her how she felt, "Sore" she whispered. I asked her how the operation went but she was going in and out of consciousness, so I didn't push it..I was just so happy she was alive and other than looking like she got hit my freight truck, she looked healthy. Of course, the weight loss surgery didn't do anything immediately, I knew this was the beginning of the journey of the new Tonya Baltazar.

There was a moment, when I was sitting next to her as she slept, that I stared out her hospital room and saw the moon shining brightly on the hot Vegas Night and the starts glisenting through the midnight blue sky, that I had a vision. A year from now, she would lose the 100LBs like she read on those gastric sleeve forums, she would feel healthy like she read on those gastric sleeve forums, she would be happy like she read on those gastric sleeve forums. I remember thinking, I can't wait to see what my beautiful wife would be like a year from then. I remember thinking, she was beautiful on the inside, but a year from then she'd be even more beautiful then she was now. I remember thinking, I can't wait for those 365 days to pass and I would see how my wife would look like...and I smiled.

Next Friday, will be the one-year anniversary of that surgery and did everything I thought come true. You damn sure it did:

The happiness she has now isindescribable. She tells her friends, family, and or course her husband that this is the best decision she's ever made in her life. Every time,  she comes home, she always has a story of how someone says how great she looks especially those who hadn't seen her in a while. The glow in her face, the beam of her smile, the look of pure joy written all over her makes me, as her biggest supporter, the happiest, jubilent, and most importantly, the luckiest man in this world.

Goddamn.....I'm so lucky!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What?? No More Main Street Station Buffet?? (PART I)

There's a very important anniversary coming up for someone very special in my life. As many of you know, my wife Tonya Baltazar means a hellava lot to me. I don't know where my life would be without her, so if I could help her in any way possible I would.

I've been with my wife for a total of 11 years, and for most of the time, she's been, shall we say, a more than average size woman. I didn't care how she looked, what's most important is I loved her no matter what she looked like. But I could tell the extra weight was carrying a heavy burden on her daily life. Physically, she had a hard time moving and it took her a long time to get around places. She fatigued quickly if she had to do anything physical for a long periods of time.

For a period of 3 or 4 years, she tried everything to lose her weight: She tried everything from exercising to crash diets to fad diets, but nothing seemed to work. Then one day, I was at work chatting with my co-workers when the topic of weight loss came up. I knew someone who had lap band surgery, so I decided to talk to my wife about it...

Needlessly to say, the thought weight loss surgery peeked her interest, so for the next few weeks, she did all times of research on Lap Band Surgery. For those who don't know, Lap Bank weight loss surgery is basically a device on the top of the stomach to slow the consumption of food. It's an effective surgery but it becomes a pain in the ass because you had to adjust it from time to time. Then one night my wife said she saw something on the internet, "What about this gastric sleeve weight loss surgery?"

My wife explained the surgery to me where they about 25 perfect of the stomach. She found a web site with other's who had the gastric sleeve surgery and 100 perfect had high praise and high recommendations for it. The next couple of months, my wife because a disciple to this web site, reading all the stories of how much weight all these people had lost and the positive impact it had on their lives.

With each stories she read, with each smile she saw, with each happier person she soaked, the more she want to do the gastric surgery. There was one hiccup to this weight loss surgery, it was irreversible. If she decided to go with it, she never go back. I asked her if this what she really wanted. Admittedly, she nodded, "I want to see my kids grow up. I want to be there when each get married. I want to be a grandmother. I want to be there for everything is my kid's life" With that, I was convinced at her determination and as her husband and her biggest supporter I was going to help her get this surgery to make her dream of losing weight a reality.

After three months, and lots of paperwork, the time had finally arrived, Aug 16, 2012. The night before as we were packing her day bag, you can tell she was a extremely nervous. This was life-altering , major surgery and with any surgery there was an element of risk.  Around 8PM, the night before the surgery (I remember this night like it was yesterday) she called her three kids into our room, and with tears flowing she spoke from the heart, "In case something happens to me tomorrow, I just wanted to say that mommy is proud of each of you. I love all of you." She gave each of her kids a big hug and kiss...I had tears in my eyes too cause the thought of losing her would break my heart.

The next day, we arrived at the hospital early in the morning and after all the preliminaries, she was laying in the hospital bed. A blur of nurses, doctors, and orderlies prepared her surgery. I don't think she or I remember half of the things they were saying to us. All that mattered was my wife was going into major surgery, and I was thinking about all the great and beautiful times we had as a couple. My wife was getting nervous as the moment of truth arrived. I did my best to reassure her that everything would go smoothly, but even I was nervous.

That 30 minutes before the surgery seemed like the longest 30 minutes of my life. A million thoughts raced through my head. Will this surgery work? What if something goes wrong? What if doesn't work?? Finally two orderlies walked in and prepared to wheel her to the operation room. I gave my wife a big kiss and we hugged for a minute but it felt like an eternity, united in our love for each other no matter what happens for the next two hours. I shed a tear and said, "I love you with all my heart" then watched as they wheeled her further away from me. Her bed shrinking with ever feet away, until she disappeared around the corner leaving me with a hallway full of bustling nurses, patients, and doctors walking back and forth through the hallway. I stood there for a moment, frozen in time, said a prayer to myself, then walked into the waiting room...This was going to be the longest 2 hours of my life.....

PART II SOON: The Aftermath..."What?? No more Main Street Station Seafood Buffett??"

Monday, August 5, 2013


One of my favorite short stories was an obscure Stephen King short story I read when I was a teenager, called "My Pretty Pony". I believe it was part of his collection called "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" It's a story about a dying grandfather who gives a watch to his grandson, and explain the concept of time. According to it's wikipedia page, "My Pretty Pony" was actually a flashback scene of working Stephen King novel that was scrapped; it was to be published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym.

In my opinion, TIME is the most important commodity we have because it's the element in our lives that we can never get back. When we're young, time seems to run at a snail's pace: we want to grow up fast...lazy summer days sitting on a beach..that fun summer job life guarding checking out the cuties from the opposite sex.

Before you know it, you're an adult, then you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of your life, and forget to have the fun you had when you were a carefree child. You make excuses for not pausing to smell the roses (as they say) to savior the good moments of your life. Time starts to accelerate and passes you by without even noticing it. Before you know it seconds becomes minutes, and minutes becomes hours, hours becomes days, days become weeks, weeks become years, and years become decades. 

Chunks of time melts away, and sometimes you have regret: things you wish you've done before you got older. Things you should have said. Little things add up before one day, you're sitting in a rocking chair when your hair becomes grey, and with the wind bellowing through your face, you remember all the good memories of your life. 

Time is merciless...it doesn't wait for you. You can sit around the play the "What if" games, but as you're wondering about that...those seconds are ticking away....tick tock tick tock...

So do I have a moral to this....of course...take advantage of every second you're in this earth, and make it the best time of your life. 

Whenever I think of the concept of time, and it's importance, I always go back to that obscure Stephen King story.....

Saturday, August 3, 2013



'Want to start by saying, everyone who plays poker no matter how good you think you are, or how bad you think you are, are bound to have a meltdown at some point. The key is minimizing those meltdowns. Alas, they do come when you least expect it. At times, you don't realize it's happening until you're shipping your entire stack to your opponent. 

This my poker friends, is the balt999 meltdown of Jul 2013:

LOCATION: PLANET HOLLYWOOD CASINO, LAS VEGAS, NV: 12:50AM (give or take a few minutes)

HERO: Poker dealer/poker player/occasional bingo player/occasional sports bettor/all-around good dad/winner of a Putt-Putt golf tournament when I was 6 years old

VILIAN: Aggressive Asian dude with a Golden St Warrior T-Shirt. Never said a word the entire time I sat until he muttered those deadly words to me (more on that later). Probably a good dude, just not when we're playing pots together.

SET UP: I'm sitting in Seat 7, Villain in seat 9. Been playing for about 3 hrs when the meltdown occurred. I have 225 in front of me...He's sitting with 200. I intended it to be my final orbit, and as you will see...it was. Villain had a habit of raising his button every time action was too him especially if there were multiple limpers in front of him...Only time he didn't raise he's button is if there was a raise in front.

HERO MISTAKE #1: Two limpers in front of me, and I'm dealt the lovely AQ off suit, and limp behind. I should have raised. AQ is not a hand I want to play with multiple players. Should have tried to reduce the field

HERO MISTAKE #2: I was tired and looking for an excuse to leave the game, but my stubbornness prevailed

HERO MISTAKE #3: Villain raised to $15 folded around to me...I nonchalantly toss in three red chips to complete the call. The play was to either raise or fold...learning towards raise. Because he was raising every button, his preflop raising standards was very wide...I could have made it $35-$45, and maybe take down the pot there or depending on his course of action, I could narrow his range and play accordingly. Although I would have been out of position the entire time.

HERO MISTAKE #4: Flop comes out KQ4...I checked, Villain Bet $25..I call...I think leading out is the play here. A probing bet of $15 probably would have giving me the information I needed. Cause he's folding a ton of hands in his range here...If he calls, I would definitely check the turn (Unless I hit a Q or A), and reevaluate according to his action. A raise, and I'm folding 50% of the time cause I don't want to play a big pot out of position.

HERO MISTAKE #5: Forgetting my #1 cash game rule: Never play a big pot unless I have the nuts or close to the nuts

HERO MISTAKE #6: The turn brings an 8...At this point the mistakes are compounding quickly and larger like a goddamn snowball as big as one of those wrecking balls. I check again. Villain bets $50. At this point, my feeble mind should have set off signals that this guy has the big hand to be betting this much....I peek behind his arms and see he has around $90 left...Another clue...HE WAS POT COMMITTED!!!!!!! If raised all-in, he would have been forced to call. And Of Course, I cant beat anything at his point...I guess a feeble QJ maybe but I seriously think he's not playing QJ Postflop that way.....Then it happens.....
Triumphantly, I announced "ALL IN" as if I'm some great player with the "Greatest Read in the History of Poker". The Villain instant calls...
"Do you have King" I gulped.
Villain nods,"Yeah" as he turns over KJ
River bricked out and I'm shipping nearly my entire stack two my left, leaving the remanence of my epic meltdown: $22.

I get felted a few hands later. I nearly reached into my pocket for another buy in but decide it was better to lick my wounds and not try to chase my losses.

EPILOGUE: As I'm driving home, I got over that AQ hand in my head, and list all the things that went wrong. As you can see..A LOT!!!!!! Despite this legendary meltdown, it by no means shook my confidence as a poker player. I had one really terrible session where I didn't lose because of a bad beat, set over set, or a horrendous river suck out...I lost because I played one hand terribly and in no limit that cost me dearly. Truthfully, this probably won't be the first or the last meltdown I'll have as I prod through the life as a poker player, but learning from it is the key.

And When I do, I'll have more of these......

Rather than one of these.....

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