Sunday, August 19, 2012


On July 1, 388 Ladies competed in the 2012 LADIES LIPS CHAMPIONSHIP! After nearly 24 straight hours of play, Tonya Baltazar (My wife) went got through a tough final table including professional poker player, Karina Jett, and got heads up with Tamara Cruz of Arizona...After tough heads up battle, Tonya came up short to finish in 2nd place...I took some time to interview my wife about battling through a VERY tough field:

Q: What was your initial strategy going into this tournament??
My strategy in an all women poker tournament is very different than when I play an open event with men.  I find women are harder to bluff.  I always maximize the value of my good hands and flops that I hit because women will tend to call you down if they hit any part of the board.    

Q: Was there a hand or hands you played that indicated that you were in for a long run??

I just moved to a table and I had about 35,000 chips, I just played the blinds and then on the button I had J 10os everyone folded to me so I made a standard 3 times raise, the lady in the SB reraises me but only doubles my initial raise so I call.  The flop was  A K Q, I flopped the nut straight, lady in SB bets out so I go ALL-IN and she instant calls me and she turns over pocket 5’s and I double up.  I’m not even done stacking my chips and a lady UTG raises, everyone folds to me and I look down at  pocket Aces so I announce ALL-IN and she instantly calls me with pocket Queens and I double up again.  A few hands later, I get A J hearts and this lady raised and I call, and I think the BB called too, the flop is K 10 Q, BB checks the initial raises makes a continuation bet and I announce ALL-IN BB folds and she instant calls and she has K 10 for two pair and I take her out.  I went from 35,000  chips to over 200,000 at that one table.  

Q: You had a mountain of chips with two tables left, but lost a big pot to eventual winner, Tamara Cruz, how did you overcome when you got to the final table:

Well I am a Short Stack Ninja Specialist, I know how to play a short stack well. 

Q: Talk about your double up against Karina Jett early at the final table.

Well I have played with Karina before and have taken a WSOP boot camp that she taught with Annie Duke, so I know her style of play and what her hand ranges would be.  She was one of the chip leaders going into the final table , but she did double me up twice, which was nice. 

Q: I know there were issues with the tournament playing out the tournament in one day, I heard not just yourself but other players had an issue with it, please explain your stand on this issue?

 Yes, it was complete craziness, they changed a lot of things this year with the Lips Championship than the years before.  It was the Golden Nugget’s decision to make it a 1 day event this year even though in the past years it was a 2 day event, and this year was the biggest turnout that Lips had a record of 388 women.  It definitely should have been a 2 day event. 

Q: Fatigue played a major part in not just you but your opponent, how did you maintain your compusure in the end?

I drank a lot of starbucks coffee! 

Q: Finishing 2nd is a great accomplishment, can you put into perspective how important this tournament was for you??

First of all, I have played the Lips Championship for the last straight 5 years and was always close to the money or bubble girl, so to actually get this far and finish 2nd was just one of the greatest accomplishments that I had in poker besides my two cashes in the World Series of Poker in 2010 and 2011.  

Q: How was your support able to get through this tough tournaments such as your friends and family??

I truly have the most amazing husband who not only taught me this great game, but always supports me and encourages me to be a better player, he is my ROCK!  I also have the most amazing friends that I have met because of poker, who will be long life friends, and who are always my cheerleaders not only in poker, but in life!  Poker is just not a game to play for money, but it’s a great way to bond and have fun with the people you love.   I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful husband, kids and friends who support my passion for poker

Q: What poker goals do you have left to accomplish??
My next goal is to play in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker and to make it the final table, but if I cash in the Main Event, I will be just as happy…I will be working on that goal this coming year in my 10K league. 

Thank you for the interview.....

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I glance at my watch and see it's 6:15 AM....I then look at my stack. I'm still surviving but my stack is dwidling...Frustration starts to set in....I sit on the end of my seat, wondering when my big pot will come...

"Patience"....that's what all the books say, but are the books running as badly as me...probably not...

Around me, the tables at Planet Hollywood are breaking. The room is down to two games, many of the monster stacks are leaving the room, most satisfied with their profit...The only ones left are the people who are stuck, losing such as myself..Most are tossing in their chips trying to hit that miracle card to get them unstuck. I, on the other hand, have kept my's "one long session" I've heard many poker players have said...don't think of the short term...think long term.

I start to feel anxious....I take a sip of my water and see a raise in my front of me...I look down and see Pocket Queens...The raise was $12...I decide to reraise to $30....Everyone folds to a pleasant looking Asian gentleman who calls...we take the flop heads up...

Before the dealer, the Asian guy and I share an awkward if we've battled in hands before although this was the first hand (that I recall) that we were involved in...Two titans in card sword fight, pecking at each other, until we get the knockout shot. The dealer puts out the flop, his thumb slowly seperating the three cards until it's lined up ever so neatly on the middle of the felt...

I read the board....J 10 4 rainbow...I gaze at the board as if I'm taking a quiz, surgically piecing the puzzle of this flop..Did it hit my opponent....What range is he calling my re-raise? Does his range fit this board.

The pleasant Asian gentleman gently taps his index finger on the felt....I quickly cut out 10 $5 chips and fire them into pot. Suddenly, the pleasant Asian gentleman roars, "ALL IN"!! The quick change in personally startles me a bit. We exchange another awkward glance...dammit, this is fine mess I gotten myself into.

Sitting in seat 1, I leaned forward to get a look at my opponent, who's seating in seat 10....he is stoic...Sitting still as a statue. I try to get some information from him....I point to the Jack and 10 sitting motionless on the table, asking him, "Did you flop this or that" Of course I'm thinking did he flop a set of 10's or Jacks. I look at his two cards sitting in front of him and wonder if he had a pair matching any of these cards on the board.

But I have an over pair....After what seemed like an eternity, I turn over my pocket Queens for the entire table to see, but I wanted only one person to see...the pleasant Asian gentleman, wanting to get a read of what kind of hand he's holding. Unfortunately, the pleasant Asian gentleman gave me no indication of what he's holding. I could feel the saliva forming like a powerful wave zooming from the Pacific Ocean....the hammer was coming down and I have nothing to stop...Finally I flick my Pocket Queens into the muck, The pleasant Asian Gentleman slowly slips his hand to the dealer and collects the pot..

At this point, I admit defeat...I quickly grab the remaining chips and cash out....As step onto the Las Vegas Strip, I let the warm Vegas air collapsed on my face...I shake my head and walk back to my car....

Dammit, that wasn't very fun. But always....there is another day...I will live to fight another day....


Monday, August 13, 2012


The stream of guys and gals exiting the HEART bar is as steady as the unplayable cards I'm getting at this table. I wipe the small strand of sweat from my brow as I toss another unplayable hand into the much -- J2 offsuit...

My composition of my table is a typical variety of player you typically see in a wee-hours game on the Las Vegas Strip...Mix of drunk tourists willing to spew their money and sharks who are more than happy to take their money, but on his night...the drunk tourists are winning...

I witness a monster pot in which the drunk tourist bets every street and the "so-called" professional agonizing over every can see the excruciating drama on his face as he faces one big bet after's like watching a prized fight between two evenly matched fighters...who's gonna blink first?? At the end of the hand...the so-called professional calls down a 100 dollar bet on the river....The drunk tourist shakes his head, takes a gulp of his 4th or 5th shot of Jager...and says beats this...Ace High....The professional looks suprisingly at the board, peeks at his cards, then at the board again...he begins to shake his head in disbelief, and tosses them into the muck, "Nice hand" the crackling voice utters...The entire tables rambles about the hand they saw...What is going on?

Five minutes later, the drunk tourist, at the urging of his impatient friends who's been waving two empty chip racks in his face for the better part of an hour, finally gets him to rack his nearly $1,300!! Good night everyone, the drunk tourist says as he stumbles to the cashier to reap the fruits of his "well done" poker player leaving the rest of us to wonder...I can't believe we didn't get any of that..

Despite that, the game moves on. Like a gripping novel we are willing to put down, the dealers deals the next hand...It's raised once again, this time by the same professional who dropped about 500 dollars to the now-departed drunken tourist....I peek at the cards ready to conceive it'll be another junk hand I can give back the dealer...I peek at one card...King of Clubs...I slowly peek at the another card and see two adjacent lines and I separate the cards the two adjacent lines form the letter "K"...Oh's another King..King of Spades...I have pocket Kings... 

I peek over at my's $12....My opponent just rebought for another $300...looking at my stack I see I have two stacks of hundred...I decided I'm gonna trap my opponent and let him give me his money..Yeah..that's it...I'll do my Mike McDermontt impersonation when he flopped a straight and got Teddy KGB to give him all his chips...I gather $12 from my stack and with a twitch of my wrist, I happily toss $12 in the game...The image of doubling up danced in my head, ready to rake in a monster pot...It's coming...its coming...everyone at the Planet and see....

The other players at the table quickly muck their hands in a synchronized hand at a time..They become the audience of what's about the happened...The triumph victory of Pocket Kings vs. a tilting professional....

Before the dealer, puts out a flop, he makes a comment about two hookers standing at the blackjack table across the poker room, "What an ass on her"...The dealer, an older gentleman, who seems to preoccupied with the "Ladies of the Night" than putting out the flop..."C"mon Dealer, " I think to myself, "My audience is waiting, put that flop out, so they can see me work these Pocket Kings like a maestro!"

Flop comes J 8 2...rainbow....The tilting professional fires $12. The chips flies through the air like a cannon. I quickly gaze at my stack and pull out 12 bucks to equal his bet...I call...My audience needs to see me milk this guy for every penny I can. I gaze at my opponent, a rye grin creeps across my face, "I got him!! I got him" I whisper in head...

The dealer peels the turn card, but not before making another comment about the hookers near the blackjack tables, "How much do you think she's worth" he says as he puts out a 3 of diamonds...

The tilting professional $30...I instantly call his bet...My plan was to look like I was weak, but at the same time, making him feel he's ahead...The Maestro of the Hold em at audience sits in silence watching our every move...The dealer puts out a Jack....The tilting professional bets out $50!

For the first time in the hand, a twinge of doubt creep in my head...what if I was behind the entire time. I could a feel a bead of cold sweat falling down my forehead...I decided to be cautious and just call... The tilting professional turns over pocket 8's for a flopped set!!!

Dammit, as I tap the felt and watching a pool of beautiful red chips get shipping away from me and onto the stack of the tilting professional's stack!!

Oh well, I thought...but my audience doesn't respond. They go back to their routing: Shuffling their chips, checking their phones, just another hand in the long session of poker....

Coming soon....Part 3!!!