Almada earns loyalty and respect in poker world

August 26, 2013  

On Sept. 5, south Mississippi’s only World Series of Poker Circuit event hits the IP Biloxi. This 11-day extravaganza is a great bargain for amateurs or circuit grinders. Of all circuit stops, this one pulls the most manageable fields in terms of size. This is a great place to snap off points for the championship race or to snag a piece of jewelry.

The Mississippi tournaments are unlike other tours. The players and staff interact like old friends, and in some cases, even family. One of our more prolific “poker family” members is staff dealer coordinator Armando Almada from Las Vegas. If you’ve played a tournament at the Beau Rivage or Gold Strike, you’ve seen Armando. Not only is he a fixture in the tournament room, he’s responsible for keeping everything successfully moving. I had a chance to catch up with him at this year’s World Poker Open.

Almada has been working in the industry for more than 30 years, and still loves it. He went from playing to working in the field; getting his start as a dealer. His job with the MGM tour is to hand out all dealer assignments, train and fine-tune dealer skill and make sure the right dealers end up at the right games.
“Sometimes I have new dealers who cannot deal all the games,” he said. “So I work with other staff members to teach them what they need to know.”

This is pretty unusual in an industry where most tournaments prefer to hire dealers with years of experience. Almada almost always takes one or two “break-ins” or new dealers, with minimal experience, and helps train them. It’s why so many of his staff members are so loyal. He taught his wife, Jenilyn, how to deal. She’s from the Philippines and had no knowledge of poker. She’s now a regular at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas and the Mississippi tournament circuit.

“I love watching her smile while she works,” he said. “She really enjoys being a dealer. Having come from another country, it was difficult for her to learn, but she’s really good at it now.”

He added, “The players in Mississippi are so nice; it’s the hospitality that keeps me coming back,” though he loves working with Beau Rivage poker room manager Johnny Grooms and tournament director Eric Comer. He said long hours can be exhausting sometimes, but he still has a “few years left in him.”

In his off time he enjoys playing pool, watching sports and playing a bit of five-card lowball or stud.

His service as dealer coordinator is always available, but working for the players and crews in Mississippi is his first priority. We’re lucky to have him.

— Email Jennifer Gay at jennifergay80@hotmail.com.

World Poker Open, Gold Strike, Tunica, Miss.

Event 1 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 1,173 • Pool: $341,923
William Fitzgerald, $53,932
Event 2 • $340 O/8
Entries: 94 • Pool: $27,354
Kyle Hamlin, $9,847
Event 3 • $230 Ladies
Entries: 71 • Pool: $13,774
Shari Elks, $4,959
Event 4 • $125 Rebuy
Entries: 267 • Pool: $46,580
John Therrell, $13,970
Event 5 • $230 O/8
Entries: 90 • Pool: $17,460
Doug Young, $6,286
Event 6 • $230 Seniors
Entries: 250 • Pool: $48,500
Ken “Bad Hat” Piel, $14,550
Event 7 • $230 Stud/8
Entries: 52 • Pool: $10,088
Caroline Lundstrom, $3,634
Event 8 • $230 NLHE
Entries: 290 • Pool: $56,260
Ron Bowers, $16,877
Event 9 • $400 6-Max
Entries: 81 • Pool: $23,425
Vik Smith, $7,496
Event 10 • $230 PLO/8
Entries: 62 • Pool: $12,028
David Whitis, $4,331
Event 11 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 111 • Pool: $32,301
Jason Hancock, $11,629
$2,600 Main Event
Entries: 153 • Pool: $371,025
Jeremy Gaubert, $122,438
Event 13 • $125 NLHE
Entries: 84 • Pool: $8,148
Trevor Argue, $2,933