Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The week that was....

Poker is funny game. One day, you're on top of the world. The next day your scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

This is what I felt like last week.

Had a late-night session at the Aliante Casino $1-$2 game and ran so bad and disgusting it was beyond words. I lost two buy ins basically on two hands SET OVER SET both times!!! If you've played enough poker you know the worst feeling in the world is being on the negative end of a set of set. I don't think I played either hand wrong, it's just so disgusting that it happened to me twice in one night and for my entire stack twice!! Oh well..

The next day I decided to play $4-$8 Limit at Orleans

I got a great set of cards!! AA, KK, QQ JJ, 10'S!! One a few occasions I got them two of three times, but after 2 hrs, I lost my entire buy in of $140!! Of all those premium hands I think I only won 2 of them!! And to put salt in the wound..I had this old fart, slow roll me for a big pot, which really pissed me off. I had it out with this guy! I was very angry, almost to the point where I wanted to fight, but what would that solve? All I know is the Orleans crew is a group of the most misarable people I've ever been around. It reminded me of my trip to The Bicycle Club in Los Angeles a few years ago, where almost every hand, people were yelling at each other, the dealers, the floors, the chip runners, the porters, anyone who would go in their way. I really don't like playing at the Orleans, but the games especially the limit games are extremely juicy, so I tolerate, but that day, I couldn't get anything going with none of my hands holding up...Again..oh well...

The day after that, I decided to play the Binions 2PM Deepstack, and despite being card dead, I managed to make a mid-cash. I played extremely well throughout the tournament, making minimal mistakes (Although I made a horrible all-in call with J8 suited). One of the highlights of the day was meeting Rob of  He has one of the most entertaining poker blogs in the blog-sphere, feel free to read it, you'll definitely enjoy it.

Now it's time to brag...Probably the best hand I played in a long time. It also cemented the fact that despite my bad run of poker lately, I still believe I'm a good poker player:

Forgot what the blinds were, but player opened limp from middle position out of a 40kish stack and it's folded to me in the BB and I tap the table holding 10-4 offsuit. I have around 74K...The flop comes 5 5 4 with two hearts...With one player who just limps, I wanted to see where I was so I lead for 2K...He calls. The assigned him a range of small pairs and suited connectors...The Turn is a Q diamonds...I didn't think this card fit my opponents range, so I decided to bet again..this time 5K...He calls again...At this point, I eliminate pairs from his range and sqaurely on a draw heart flush or straight draw...The River is a A of hearts, completing the flush..I check...My opponent quickly shoots out 12K. This was a little bit over a pot-sized bet....I thought about a flush, but I just didn't believe my opponent would continue with a flush draw especially with the paired board. From the hands I've seen him played, he seemed like a solid player who wouldn't chase too much, but then again...what possible holdings could I possibly beat...7 6 was the only hand I could beat giving the betting action. I really didn't believe he had an ace cause he just didn't make sense that he's calling the entire was with an Ace in his hand unless he had some hand like A2 and got lucky, but then again it was possible to have that hand....I decided 7-6 was his holding..I took a deep breath, cutout 12K from my stack and relunctly shoved it towards the pot.

"Nice Call" he said, as he turns over 7 6!! My 4 wins a pretty good-sized pot.

After the tournament, My confidence in my poker ability was sky-high...sometimes I can't let the awful results of my cash games affect my thinking on a poker level.  I know I'm a good player...just got to continue chugging along and believe in myself...yeah, from time to time, you'll have doubts but if you believe in your ability the results will come.

This Friday, I'll be playing the first event of the BINIONS CLASSIC...the $110 Employee Event, I'm looking to play well and run well...wish me luck!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Want opinions on a slew of poker hands I played the past two weeks. I'm always seeking advice to improve my game:


I think I played this horribly wrong. This was a early Wednesday morning game, so it was 5-handed with two extremely aggressive European players with a lot of chips. Euro dude straddles...Open limp from the weak button, I'm on the Big Blind with KK and $175 behind. The trend for the Aggressive Euro guy was to raise his straddle if the table showed any type of weakness. My plan show weakness by just calling the straddle and hoping the Euro would continue his trend of raising, where I can play a big pot with him. Only drawback was he would have position on me the entire hand. So I completed the straddle, and on cue, the Aggro Euro raises to $16..button limper calls...I thought about re-raising at this point, but with only 3 players in, I figured I could be deceptive with my KK, and hopefully undervalue my hand. Also, I've been playing fairly tight up to this point, so if I re-raised, I would define my hand and probably wouldn't get the action I wanted. The flop comes K62 rainbow. I thought about leading, but with this dry board, I felt the Aggro Euro would bet his entire range, then depending on what the button does, I would find the best course of action. I checked the flop, Aggro Euro bets $25, Button folds. I decided to just call because, as I said, the guy is probably betting his entire range, and with this dry board, if I raised, he's probably probably not calling with anything but AK or a set...The one aspect about this Aggro Euro is he many be aggressive, but he wasn't stupid, he knew when to shut down when the action got heavy and he didn't have the goods. So I called the $25, Turn is a Ace.. I check again. Aggro Euro fires $30 to the pot....I decide a raise was in order. I raise $50 more to $80 total, Aggro Euro folds rather quickly. After analyzing the hand, I think the more optimal play was to call the $30, then lead the river for about $75-$80...The board was so dry, My Set of Kings was probably way ahead of the Aggro Euro's range, so maybe I could have let the river peeled off and maybe he'd make two pair..something to pay me off. So maybe I didn't get maximum value for my hand...

HAND #2 -- MIRAGE ($1-$2)

On contrast, I think I played this hand really well. This was a typical Mirage $1-$2...mix of solid and loose weekend players during Kentucky Derby weekend. Started with $225..Five limpers to me in the small blind, I complete with 10 2 spades...Big Blind check, and we take the flop 7 handed...Flop comes Q J 9 with Two spades...With 7 players in the pot, and playing out of position the entire hand, I took a passive approach...If I bet here and get raised, I may be forced to play for my entire stack. With a straight and flush draw, this could be the optimal play, but I only have a 10 High flush draw, I could be facing an Ace or King-high flush draw. I wanted to see how the action developed before I made my decision to play forward with this hand. I check..BB bets $20...called by one other player, I decided to call again.....Another factor is both players have me covered .. BB had $340 and the caller had over $400 in front....Turn is 4 spades, completing my flush. Again, I take the passive approach, Since it was a limp pot, bigger flushes could have been out I check...BB bets $40...Limper calls again...I call....River is a 10 diamonds..I check again...BB Bets $50....Limper folds. The BB has now bet on 3 streets, and was representing strength, but I had gone this far and since I was drawing to the flush I had to call the river bet and hope I didn't run into a bigger flush....I called, BB turns over K7 off suit for a meaningless straight. I rake the pot after showing my 10-high flush. Yeah, I probably played the hand too cautiously, but I just felt not committing too much of my stack with an inferior flush. I think I would have to fold my draw if I bet the flop and get raised.

HAND #3 -- HARRAHS ($1-$2)

This is a simple one...This game was fairly tight, usually is someone raised and got a caller, a continuation bet on the flop would do the trick, hands rarely went to the river. I was able to build my stack playing positional poker. Checked to me, I always bet and won 90% of my hands uncontested. Anyway, folded to the a straight-forward Asian Local who raises to $10 from a $240 stack. I call from the button with 99...BB calls. We take the flop 3-handed... Flop comes 3 8 2 Rainbow....BB check..Asian Local bets $40...I insta-fold, BB Folds as well. The Asian Local proudly shows KK.  The key to this hand what was the reason to play 99 and fold when the flop comes with a a bunch of small cards. I played this hand for one reason -- TO GET THE ASIAN LOCAL'S ENTIRE STACK!! I immediately put him on a big pair, cause this guy played a bland "ABC" type poker. I seen him limp with AK or AQ suited, so I knew his raising range was very tight...JJ and above! I felt if I flop a set against this range, he would overplay his hand and give me his entire stack. I guarantee you if the flop came 9 -3 -2...He could have given me all his chips with his pocket Kings. Another reason I folded was he made a slightly over bet the pot on the flop...If I called his bet and another plank fell on the turn, I may be facing a bigger bet on the turn, then I wouldn't know what to do...probably fold...Why waste $40, if you're not sure where you are?? Tight Locals always overbet their over pairs because they're always afraid of getting outdrawn. Against these type of players if you flop two pair or better against their over pair, they usually will shove the rest of their chips in the middle. They're an excellent source for a timely double up!!

Opinions anyone?? Do I play bad?? Do I play good? Do I run good??

Monday, May 7, 2012


One of the most underrated movies is a movie called "Bucket List" It's a story of two terminal guys played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who escape from a cancer ward on a road trip to complete their "to do" list before they die.

As a man in his late 30's, I have my own bucket list...3 things I would like to do before I die....So here they are in no particular order:


My last two years of high school I was absolutely enamored and addicted to the sport of tennis. This was back in the golden age of American Tennis in the late 80's, early 90's. Names like Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, and of course the great Pete Sampras dominated the tennis scene. I even knew lesser known Americans who had success like MaliVai Washington and Todd Martin. Whenever tennis came on, I would stop whatever I was doing and sit in front of the TV and absored every point, every serve, every dramatic moment a tennis match brought. I played tennis for my high school for two years, and although I never achieved much success...I really enjoyed playing the sport. The two marquee events for tennis were the Wimbledon and the US OPEN! Back in the day, Wimbledon was on HBO and the US Open was on the USA network. Every year, i would plan my days around these events so I would miss a single match.  I would tape every match and watch it over and over. I told myself someday I would attend these prestigious tennis tournaments one day. It's been 20 years, and I still have been to either. I think I'm more likely to attend US Open over the Wimbledon, but damn it would make my life if I were to attend either or both of these tennis tournaments!! 


As a kid growing up, I WAS AN ABSOLUTE MARK FOR PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING and particularly the World Wrestling Federations (Entertainment, now) - WWE! I thought it was the greatest thing ever invented. I grew up in the Hulkamania era. I loved them all from Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, Randy "Macho Man" Savage", Ultimate Warrior, "Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase, The Rock, "Stone Cold " Steve Auston, The Undertaker, and every wrestler till about 2007 when I stop watching it..Yup, I watched wrestling religiously until I was 35! The WWE's signature event was Wrestlemania, the "SuperBowl" of all of professional wrestling. When all the stars came out and shined for one night, when all the wrestlers gave their best effort in putting on the greatest show on the earth. I've watch EVERY Wrestlemania and relished every wrestlemania moment. My favorite moment wasn't even a match, it was Wrestlemania 7, I remember every detail up to this day. It was the retirement match between Ultimate Warrior and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Savage lost and had to retire, but not before he was reunited by his true love, Miss Elizabeth, check out this clip:

IT was an emotionally charged moment which defined what professional wrestling is all about!! I LOVED IT!!! I've heard the buzz at being at a live Wrestlemania is an incredible adrenaline rush, and I would like to experience it one day! Attending a Wrestlemnia live would be the ultimate gift for this guy who loved professional wrestling from time he was a young kid.

There you have it, the 3 events I want to attend before I die. I'm 38 now, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to do any of these things, but it keeps me a sense of hope that if I keep trying, one day I'll be a one, two or all these events. 

Bucket list..additional events may occur :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TRY POKER, BABE!!! YOU'LL LIKE IT!! -- My Wife Journey from Bingo To Poker!

So I'm standing outside of the "Ivey Room" at the Aria Hotel Casino, arms crossed, fidgeting my thumbs, and feeling a sense of excited anxiety as I rail my wife, Tonya Baltazar at the final table of the 1PM Aria No Limit Tournament. With 6 players left, my wife initiates talks of a chop with the monster chip leader...He's a young buck, who listens intently to my wife proposals. He seems receptive towards it. Then all of a sudden, the other players nod their heads, congratulate each other, and shake hands...Chip Leader takes $3,500, everyone else splits the rest of the prize money evenly to the tune of $1,300! Every one's happy for a good days work...As the floor person initiates the paperwork, I started to reminisce about how my wife, Tonya Baltazar got to this point in her poker career. I remember when the mania for poker began...innocently enough, it while we were playing bingo.....

My wife didn't play poker the first two years of our relationship. All she knew was I loved playing poker and did really well at it, but Tonya was scared to give it a shot. Whenever I told her about a big win I got from an online tournament, or a winning session playing cash game, I got the same blank stare as if I was talking Russian. I kept encouraging her to give poker a chance, I would even give her money to play with. One night, we were playing Bingo at a small casino called Silver Nugget. Tonya and her grandmother used to play bingo at the Silver Nugget, so we played there occasionally. During one of our visits, I again brought up giving poker a try. Tonya was scared...sitting at a poker table with 9 strangers who're trying to take your money was an intimidating prospect for a woman who's only claim to gambling was hanging around old women dobbing numbers in a smoky bingo hall. Finally, Tonya relented, and agreed to play poker. The following night, I went over the etiquette of playing poker in a casino as well as simple strategies to follow. Basically, it was if your hand didn't have two pictures or wasn't a pair, don't play.

I started Tonya at the lowest game possible..the 3-6 limit game at the Mirage. After a short wait, she got her seat, bought in for 60 bucks, and was already involved with the first hand...He called a bet, and you can see her hands shaking. I thought we were in a the middle of an earthquake as nervous and shaky as Tonya was. After 15 minutes, Tonya turned to me and said, "I'm so nervous!!" I assured her that she was doing great. Tonya played for 45 minutes, lost 15 bucks, and cashed out. I asked how she felt. She said it was an awesome feeling.

In the following months, I give more poker tips and we got an played more....The nervousness and anxiety subsided the more she played. Soon, the shaking was gone, the nervousness was gone, and anxiety was gone. It was all about playing poker

Fast forward to the 2005 Orleans Open.......

I suggested she try a poker tournament. There was a LADIES ONLY Limit Event for $125 buy in. I had been playing so many satellites and won about $1,500 worth of lamers and vouchers, and I told her I'd buy her into the event with one of my vouchers. 

"Don't worry, " I assured, "It's pretty much a free tournament. Just go in there and play...have fun and you never know."

Hesitantly, my wife agreed. Before the tournament, I gave some tournament advice, she listened intently, nodded when she understood, asked questions when she didn't understand. With the knowledge I gave her she sat down in the ladies event, and went to battle. She started off slow, but pretty soon, she got into a groove, and began to win pots and pots and pots and more pots. I don't think she understood how she was winning these hands, but she had no problem stacking the chips the dealer were shoving her way...

Then before we knew it, my wife, Tonya Baltazar was at the FINAL TABLE of the Ladies Limit Event for the 2005 Orleans Open!!! INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Weeding through a tough field of 161 players, there she sat. There was a break before the final table, Tonya ran up to me and gave me a huge hug, grinning ear to ear, "I Can't believe I made it this far! I was proud of her, I felt like a teacher whose pupil did something spectacular! It was a moment I'll never forget. 

At the final table, she played her hardest and when got 6 handed, the ladies began talking deal. My wife had no clue what there were talking about. What's a chop..she!! Two of ladies talking about prize distribution according to chip stacks. Again, my wife had no clue of what they were talking about. I had to explain it to her, and whenever a proposal was brought up, Tonya looked at me for advice. Unfortunately, one of the ladies, didn't want to chop, so they played on. Eventually, two more players got knocked including the lady who didn't want to chop. At Four players left, the ladies talked deal again and eventually agreed on a 4 way split...My wife's cut....$6,200!!!! AMAZING!!! 

I'm not sure how we celebrated, I think we had a late night dinner and talked about the amazing run she had in this tournament. From that point on, Tonya Baltazar, my bingo-playing wife, was officially hooked on poker......and I created a monster....a POKER MONSTER!!!! 

From that poker tournament in 2005 to the present, my wife's world was turned upside down because of the game of poker. She's meant all sorts of people from all over the world because of poker. She plays in all the LADIES EVENTS, became friends with prominent poker pros Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher, and has so many friends in the poker world (Women and men alike) Yup, I made the suggestion for her to play poker, but she took it to another level. Now, I believe she's one of the best poker players out there..She's a threat to win any poker tournament she enters (Not just the ladies, ANY POKER TOURNAMENT!!!) 

Tonya gets her $1,300 from the Aria Cashier and has a short conversation with one of the players she played with it in that 1PM Aria No Limit tournament! It's amazing how far my wife as come as a poker player and is a FAR BETTER player now than she was 7 years ago....As we walk out of the Aria Casino, and think of her poker accomplishments (over $10,000 in winnings, according to and smile. I owe it all to our little conversation in that smoky bingo hall at the Silver Nugget....