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 asked...lol!! 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 Cardplayer.com) and smile. I owe it all to our little conversation in that smoky bingo hall at the Silver Nugget....

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