Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inspirational Story

The Borgata poker experience is one that makes players feel relaxed and comfortable.

The staff accommodates players with special needs, and last week was a perfect example when Ralph Marino (Waretown, NJ) needed an extra seat for his "arms and legs."

Kalyanov & Marino

Marino is a quadriplegic who's been playing poker for three years and says he's, "getting addicted to Texas hold'em."

Because he has no movement in his arms or legs, Marino gets an assist at the table from Artem Kalyanov, who does all the things Marino can't.

Kalyanov shows Marino the cards, puts up his blinds and antes and rakes in the pots. All the decisions are up to Marino as there's still only one player per hand.

"He makes me feel normal," says Marino, who played in the Event 16 Deep Stack at the Borgata Winter Open (BWO). Kalayanov also helps with daily routines like dressing, eating and driving.

Marino was an aspiring baseball catcher who was paralyzed in a home plate collision at age 19. With his dreams of playing Major League Baseball dashed, Marino, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, changed his plans.

Marino has always wanted to help people and realized his life could be worse (a close friend died of cancer), so he got a degree in Social Work from Rampo State College. That led to a 26-year career at North Bergen High School in North Jersey where he also coached baseball and basketball.

Marino, 55 and retired, is now a motivational speaker who tells a story of hope and inspiration. His motto: "Tough times don't last, tough people do."

As for poker, Marino's still learning the game, "when I'm playing poker I feel very competitive and I try to concentrate to the best of my abilities. Unfortunately, I tend to socialize and talk too much for tournament play."

Marino busted during Level 5 of the Deep Stack and looks forward to returning to Borgata to play more tournaments and says he's, "trying to become more competitive and patient."

In the meantime, Marino will continue giving speechs and preaching that "mind and heart, plus taking action will put you "Above the Rim." That, the name of his speaking program where more information is available at

Marino Likes Catching Cards