The first half of this episode is far superior to the 2nd half. There is real tension and a military type feel to the orders that kirk barks out and the radio chatter. His chat with Bones, making his debut, is also good. It feels real, as if these two have a respect and history for each other.
The 2nd half is quite tedious, with the tractor beam plot not really matching the build up earlier in the episode. The unintentionally funny moment for me was when we finally see Balok and he's this creepy wee kid who wandered off Gentle Ben. And Kirk suggests to Bailey, the crew man who cracked under the pressure of mind games, that he stay and get to know this species! Aye right, why don't you stay with this weirdo and i'll be back on the Enterprise, chasing skirt and starting fights.
Kirks poker game tactics are quite watchable but the tension goes on for too long and the pay off with freaky kid is no good. Disappointing.