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Poker News | The View from the Box

The View from the Box – How Karate Don got his Name

The View from the Box
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The views expressed here are from an ex-poker dealer that could step back into the box at any point in time — or not! Sometimes funny, sometimes cold and cutting, sometimes just tossing out a little bit of wisdom I learned about myself while pitching tickets and playing poker for over 30 years, this is an ongoing walk-through of what it's like to sit in the poker dealer's chair – the box.

There’s no time like the present to continue on with the Karate Don tale of how he acquired that particular name. So let’s just do it – read the other tales to catch up: The View from the Box – A little run on Karate Don; The View from the Box – Karate Don Disguised as a Player.

April 2nd, 2007: Damn I wish I was still drinking. I do miss that gallon or so of wine I used to guzzle during a week. So…without the vino, a bit of a recap of the week.

My first game on Thursday night was $5-10NLH. I announced, "Time please," and started with the 10s. Yes, I am a routine oriented lunatic, always do the same thing, the same way when I'm dealing and it keeps me out of trouble. I put the 10s' $10 chip in the rack and took out $10 blue, started giving change (time is $6 each half hour) until I ran out of blue and went back to the rack again for change. Somewhere in the middle of my taking time, the 5s said that it was absolutely shameful that a dealer would go in to the rack three times for change when collecting time.

WTF? Now I'm being critiqued on how I take time? Of course I was lippy. I replied, "I try to structure my life the way players think I should but I haven't managed it yet."

He went on to tell me that I should take $20 in blue out of the rack to begin with and give back change.

I replied, "Thank you. I will work on that for next time."

I really won't. It's much easier for me to start with one side of the table and go in order with each player - that way I don't try to collect from the same player twice, I don't make a mistake in the rack or in a player's change, and it just works.

There was a $10 chip out for the $5 blind, a $10 chip out for the big blind, and two $10 chips out for a live straddle. As I cut the deck, I looked at the player with the button and asked, "Your button, right?"

The 5s came to my rescue again, informing me that there was a $5 blind out, a $10 blind out, a $20 straddle, and we were playing $5-10NLH.

I almost laughed when I said, "If you keep interrupting me, I may never get this hand dealt."

As strange things happen, the 5s went bust on the first hand I dealt. Heads-up with the 6s, they played a big pot and the 5s made a big bet, putting himself all-in. The 6s showed A-A and the 5s picked up and walked. The 6s said, "That didn't take long, only one hand."

Another player asked, "What was that all about?" referring to the lecture I got from the 5s.

I replied, "He was chastising me for the way I took time."

Another one said, "Yeah, but why?"

They all seemed to feel that the 5s was way out of line. So did I but we left it there and the game went on.

One hand in this game was particularly bizarre, as poker goes, it was towards the top of the bizarre list. The 1s is the only player I knew in this game. He's a youngster that plays a lot and quite solid. The game had some gamble going on it and a few straddles were being put on the blinds. Honestly I do not know if this particular hand was straddled or not, but the bet was raised to $160 by the 1s. There were several players to that point but it ended up being the 1 and 10s on the flop.

The flop was 4-4-9. There was action but I can't remember what/how much here either. I know there was a bet/call or check/bet/call on every street. The turn brought a 3, the river brought a 3. I do remember the river bet though. The 10s bet $600. The 1s went into the tank. We waited. Somewhere along about a minute and a half to two minutes later, the 1s said, "I need time to think."

The 10s said something, the 1s asked what he said, and by now I was leaning back in my chair so they could have some eye contact with each other. The 10s replied, "We'll give you time to think."

Another bit of time went by and the 1s counted out six $100 bills, thinking…thinking…thinking, and finally said that he felt he should throw his hand away but…he called the bet.

The 10s threw his hand face up on the table, A-3 of diamonds.

I read his hand, "Treys full of fours."

The 1s showed K-K and threw his hand away. The 1s didn't steam but he wasn't too happy and who could blame him?

The 10s was stacking and talking. He told the 8s that he thought he was bluffing and was ready to throw his hand away if he got called, but he learned long ago to always turn his hand up on the table and that's why he turned it up. He didn't know he'd made a full house. OUCH!


My first game on Tuesday night was $5-10NLH. As I prepared to deal the first hand, a player sat down in the 2s - he brought chips with him and was one out of the blind. I asked if he was from a must move game (you can let the blind go by and come in for free behind the button or be dealt in for free immediately if from a must move). His reply went close to this, "The only way you can get into this game is to come from another game. I came from one over there," as he pointed at the table next to us. He didn't sound like he liked anything at that moment, especially me.

I said, "A yes or no would work. I just came on shift and I have no idea what other games are running in the room."

He put his hand up to cover the right side of his face (mainly his ear) and turned away from me. We were done talking.

The 1s started laughing and said, "No tip for you, Linda."

I replied, "Well it's not a first but honestly I have no idea what's going on in the room."

The 1s replied that no one did. I dealt.

The 2s wasn't a card thrower and never made any comments to anyone. He won one pot and didn't tip me but I didn't expect one - I never do. So when I am tipped, I am thankful that a person thinks of me. Towards the end of my down, the 2s won a pot and threw me a buck. I thanked him. He was leaving the game at the same time I got pushed and I found a rack and brought it back to him. He thanked me. Hopefully our exchange left him in a good frame of mind.

He didn't do anything wrong or out of line. it was just his tone when I asked him if he'd come from a must move game and the elaborate, unnecessary explanation that struck a chord somewhere in me. There is no answer to this type of thing, it's human interaction and perception, or lack of, that puts us where we are.


The games in the room are insane. We've had a $25-50NLH - with a must move at times - and sometimes $100-200NLH running and the mass amounts of chips flying across the table are unreal.

We had a half PLO and half NLH game running several nights in a row. The first night that I dealt this game, it was one of the smoothest, fun to deal, lucrative for the dealer games that I've dealt in a long time. I didn't know any of them. They put chips in the pot, it was $25-50 Blind in the Omaha and $50-100 Blind in Hold’em. They were so polite and no one acted out of turn or said anything out of line to anyone.

There's one guy that must be in from CA, (just from the conversation), that has more gamble in one hair on his head than I do in my entire body. He can't utter a sentence without swearing five or six times in it, as a matter of fact, the swearing constitutes his sentences. He's been playing the high NLH games and I can't help but laugh when I'm dealing to him. I suppose I'm a bit twisted but it's fun to deal to someone that just comes to jam it up and is intent on GAMBOOOL, even high card/low card for $5,000. And another guy from Texas, replete with the cowboy hat and all, I get a huge kick out of him.

And one of the $25-50 games I jumped in to deal, Joe Bartholdi was in the 1s (we have good history) and as I started to slide my chair in, I noticed a $100 bill on the floor by my feet. I picked it up and laid it in front of Joe with, "I don't know if this is yours or not…"

He pushed his chair back and leaned down to pick up three more at his feet. Brandon was in the 4s (they are buds), he grabbed the four bills and said, "Two for you," pushing them to me, "and two for you." pushing them to Joe.

Why, I don't know, we were laughing over it and I replied that I couldn't do that. They belonged to Joe anyway. They fell off a few more times during that down before he finally locked them down.


I got this email from a co-worker that was at the Mirage with me before we came to Bellagio.

**Begin email**

Hi Linda:

After two weeks off, I'm catching up on my web browsing.

I caught your blog on Karate Don and the origin of his name. I know how he got it; and rest assured, you'll love it.

Sometime around the 1996 (Atlanta) Olympic games, Don would come into the Mirage wearing one of those ultra-fancy stitched leather jackets--the kind where leather pieces are stitched together to form a mosaic message or logo. Well, this particular, over-the-top clothing showpiece featured logos depicting the U.S. Olympic Karate team and its participation in the games. Loud, colorful, and of questionable fashion taste describes both the coat and the wearer. For months on end, if you saw Don, you saw the jacket.

Our rotation brings me to the game. So sits Don, proudly holding court in the $20-$40 stud game. Don being Don. And of course, other players are questioning him about the coat. During the conversation, Don regales them with stories of his involvement with the team and his standing in Los Angeles as one of the pre-eminent karate instructors in the United States.

That is, until the guy sitting in the middle of the table calls. It seems that Don is running his "bluff" against the wrong guy. The man in the 4s IS the coach of the U.S. Olympic Karate team!

The guy calls Don out for the braggart that he is. As, I recall, Don quickly found a reason to walk. During his absence the coach proceeds to tell the whole table that everything that Don had to say was grade A bullshit. That in fact, he was the coach and had never even heard of this guy. And most importantly of all, no self-respecting athlete would be caught dead wearing that piece-of-shit jacket.

The guy could have been lying, but I doubt it.

As luck would have it, I was on break out of that table and couldn't wait to get back to the phone desk to share the story. The name stuck.

Things are looking up in Flatbush.


**end email


Justin - you left me a comment. I'm at work usually by 6:30 to 6:45 p.m. Now that I'm 'back in the box,' I should be there until 3:00 a.m., Monday thru Friday. We start our tournament at the end of this week and will have some satellites, etc., in Fontana Lounge so look around. If you ask at the 'page' desk for me, they will know where I am. Hope to meet you.


Project City Center update coming.

I am soliciting dealers to join me in this great adventure of writing a history of poker from the dealer’s side of the table. A brief sketch of the details are listed in Table Tango, (my blog) in this post, if you would like to find out more information. I would love to share comments from readers but at this time there is no convenient system installed at PokerWorks to handle this. Send me an email – info(at) — if you want to be one of the contributors to this section, and in the meantime, I’ll work at finding a way to enable a comment section.

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