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playing poker and teaching science: December 2004

playing poker and teaching science

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Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a middle school science teacher, wrestling coach, poker player, scuba diver, aikido black belt, amateur writer, and student of life. I also try to give back a little by volunteering for a month or so each summer at a children's home in Belmopan, Belize, Central America.

Friday, December 24, 2004

My first Royal Flush!

I had to post this hand history:

Pre-flop: tep calls. DocRage74 folds. seans66 folds. mrreed raises to $.50. jamboo87 folds. andey calls. gguido folds. TripleJack folds. jspur folds. Bad Religion folds. tep calls. Flop (board: Td 6c Kh): tep checks. mrreed bets $.50. andey folds. tep calls. Turn (board: Td 6c Kh Kd): tep checks. mrreed bets $.50. tep calls. River (board: Td 6c Kh Kd Jd): tep checks. mrreed bets $3.85. tep calls. Showdown: mrreed shows Ad Qd. mrreed has Ad Qd Td Kd Jd: straight flush, ace high. tep mucks cards. (tep has Jc Qs.) Hand #1612760-22226 Summary: $.55 is raked from a pot of $11.55.

mrreed wins $11 with straight flush, ace high.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The long sweet break.

The two best things about being a teacher, other than working with kids and molding young minds, (yada, yada, yada) is June and July :-) The third best thing is Christmas break. Two solid weeks without having to go to work is so very sweet. Yes, I have wrestling practice, but I do that for fun and it’s not really like work.

So I’m playing a little poker with moderate results. I have placed in the last three SNG’s in a row but had a very unremarkable Omaha 8/b tournament finishing in the top half but not receiving very many premium hands to play. As a matter of fact, I didn’t win one hand for the first 45 minutes.

I am currently running an experiment however where I play O8/b and a SNG at the same time. So far, every time I’ve done it I’ve either made money in the SNG, or in the O8/b game, but not both. It’s great exercise for the mind at any rate.

Thanks for reading and have a Merry Christmas!

SNG success

I’ve had a nice little run in SNG’s lately placing in four in a row and just finishing second place in the latest, but I don’t know if it’s stellar play on my part or just poor play by my opponents.

For example: I am the chip leader having doubled up catching a 10 to make a set and cracking pocket aces, so I limp in from the small blind with a J3 suited. The flop brings J54, two clubs. I bet the jack high and get two callers. Now I’m thinking I’m out kicked but I continue to bet out when a 5 pairs the board hoping the TWO callers will fold. But they both call again. A deuce comes on the river and I think I have to be beat when BOTH players call me again.

But I win with JJ55 and the board 4.

What were they calling with??? I can understand calling with the club draw, but at best you are ace high (or a pair of 4’s?) and have called three bets by the chip leader.

Go figure. It’s lousy play, but that puts money in my pocket.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Varsity Squad

Okay blog fans, writing is obviously something that all bloggers have in common. I like to write and have even published a thing or two. The following is an article I wrote that I never submitted for publication that gives a little insight into what it's like to be your son's coach. Enjoy:

The Varsity Squad
My son is on the varsity wrestling squad.

There's no announcer urging the crowd to get ready to rumble, no loud music preceding his arrival, and no bright, explosive fireworks as he walks to the wrestling mat. There's just a slightly built, high school freshman stepping into a large circle all by himself to square off against juniors and seniors who have competed with the best wrestlers in the country.
All I can do is watch. Watch and learn.

Wrestling is an unusual sport. The first competitive sport ever conducted was undoubtedly a footrace, one man proving his physical superiority by outrunning another. The second competition likely came when the loser of the race tackled the winner to prove that running was not the best way to settle the issue.

The sport of wrestling has not changed much throughout the centuries. It was one of the original Olympic sports and today remains a contest of two individuals, once just men but now women as well, squaring off to see which one can pin the other to the ground.

When you step onto a wrestling mat, you step onto it alone. You have no teammates on which to rely, no partner to cover for you, and no coach to decide which technique will work best. You are alone. When you win, your hand is raised in victory and the applause and cheers are just for you. When you lose you walk off the mat with nobody to share the loss with but yourself.

The fact that it is an individual competition is enough to deter most athletes from attempting the sport. There are standard lines of denial that blame tight, spandex uniforms, weight control, or all-day tournaments as reasons not to compete, but the underlying knowledge of a solitary competition in which one person proves physical dominance over another is simply too psychologically daunting for the average teenager. In a day of Prozac and group hugs, a sport which leaves an athlete as the lone loser is much too oppressive for the average teenager's overburdened self-esteem.

My son now stands shoulder to shoulder to weigh in with wresters who are physically more mature than his young years and obviously stronger than he.

Few athletes will experience a pre-competition ritual similar to the wrestling weigh-in. Competitors disrobe and fall in line wearing only a single piece of snug undergarment, an article of clothing which may be discarded if its miniscule mass places the wrestler in jeopardy of being overweight. An official checks fingernail length and scans the wrestler's body as he performs a slow pirouette looking for contagious skin conditions like ringworm and other fungal infections. The wrestler then steps on a state-certified scale to determine his actual weight. If at that time he is a mere one tenth of a pound over the weight class limit, he becomes a spectator for the day restricted to sitting on the bench under the coach's glare as his team forfeits the vacant weight class.

Weigh-in time is when wrestlers begin to size up their competition and my son stands under the gaze of the other team, smaller and less muscular than his opponent. I watched as the young man in his weight class nudged his teammate, nodded his head in my son’s direction, and mouthed the word "fish," the lowest classification that can be placed on a competitor. Wrestling a fish means that its an easy day, no competition, no threat, and nobody else having a hand raised in victory while you walk from the mat listening to the silence from your teammates and fans.

I wanted to tell that young man that my son is not a fish and that he has worked hard for weeks, attending optional morning workouts and lifting weights at home. There are no upperclassmen on the team to compete with in his weight class, but he has worked harder than the other freshman and finally earned his spot alongside the other 13 varsity team members.
He won the varsity position by winning a wrestle-off.

The wrestle-off is the ultimate test to determine who makes the starting squad. Two teammates face each other on the wrestling mat with the winner becoming the varsity wrestler and the loser relegated to the ranks of junior varsity. There are no coaches evaluating statistics, technique, or times as there are in other sports, just two young men and an official.

My son won his wrestle-off against another freshman who he couldn't beat last season, or even at the beginning of this season. But he continued to work. He wrestled, ran, and lifted weights more than any other freshman on the team, with the only reward being the ability to walk onto the mat with someone older and stronger. He won the chance to wrestle matches that would almost certainly result in defeat. He could have remained on the junior varsity squad and won matches against wrestlers his same age, but he would rather lose matches on the varsity than win on the second string team.

He's not a fish. But he sure looks like one to his opponent.

When the time came for him to wrestle his first varsity match he walked tentatively onto the mat. He told me that his goal was to not get pinned. Getting pinned will cost the team six points, whereas a loss by decision only three. He wants his older teammates to know that he is doing the best job he possibly can and not getting pinned may be the best he can do.

His opponent ran to the center of the mat, confident, with a small smile on his face, and the official signaled the beginning of the match. My son was quickly taken down and dominated during the first two of three, two-minute periods and ended after four minutes trailing by five points. The opposing wrestler still looked confident, but at least he was no longer smiling.
The last period began and I watched as the older, stronger competitor reached for my son's head to set up his next technique. Then the unthinkable happened. My son quickly moved his hips in and pulled the boy across his back, tossing him to the mat and held him there as he struggled. Time seemed to stand still as I waited for the hold to break and the stronger, more physically dominate wrestler to regain control of the match.

But that didn't happen.

The official slapped the mat, signaling that the match was over, a pin had been achieved, and my son was the winner. The official held his hand high as the crowd cheered and he ran off the mat to congratulations and back slaps from his teammates. My son hugged me and I told him what a great job he had done and that I was proud of him, not for winning, but for working as hard as he possibly could..

My son also won his next match before the reality of what it means to be a freshmen wrestling on the varsity squad set in and he began to absorb the aches and pains of competing beyond his capabilities. His desire to be on the varsity squad never wavered however and he worked even harder in the following weeks as he prepared for competition. I encouraged him in every way that I could, but I didn't pressure him to train. As a former wrestler, I’ve learned that wrestling is something he has to want for himself and that it's too hard to try to force him to do.

During the next few weeks he won a few more matches and accepted a couple of forfeits to finish the season with an unglamorous record of six wins against ten losses.

Now we're in the off-season. My son proudly wears his varsity letter jacket and continues to train as he prepares for next year.

My son is on the varsity squad and that's where he intends to stay.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Sit-N-Go save

If you play a lot of poker, you will often get one of those hands that you overplayed ever so slightly that turns into a win and a pivotal hand for the game or tournament and I had one of those last night during a 6-handed, one table sit-n-go. I limped into an unraised pot on the button with KQ. The flop came Q92 with all diamonds and the small blind bet out so I put him on a Queen with a small kicker or maybe a high diamond so I bet all-in to push him off the pot and he called. I like Ultimate Bet because when players are all in against one another the cards are turned up, but his cards showed the 63 of diamonds so he had a made flush and I was out of the tourney. Or was I? I proceeded to catch runner-runner deuces for QQ222 and sent him packing. Oops.

I went on to win the S-N-G.

Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.

I also saw some good play and good luck from the third place finisher. He was down to only FIVE chips early on and came back to be the chip leader for a while before going broke.

Limping in, going broke, under the gun……don’t you love poker terminology?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Parallel thinking

My new love is Omaha 8/b. Yes, I have a girlfriend but if you want to find something that gives so much and asks so little, play O8b. I only played for 15 minutes last night and finished ahead 12 big bets simply due to poor play on my opponents’ parts. Since I didn’t go back and look at the hand histories I don’t know what they were holding, but I honestly can’t imagine why three, count ‘em three, callers stayed in on a hand where I have the nut low, a completed straight with no draw to a flush on the board, and then continue to RAISE when I fill my boat!

Maybe that’s why it’s called “Party Poker” because it’s always a party to the good players. Note: I actually play on Empire most of the time as mr_reed, feel free to look me up.

The reason I believe there are so many poor O8b players is that everyone is stuck in a Hold Em mindset. With O8/b you have to think in two directions at once seeking BOTH the high and the low and only OCCASIONALLY venture off looking for one or the other. Hold Em players see Big Slick (AK) and immediately get into a hand when in fact these two card alone are not great cards in O8b. A big hand in O8b is AA23 double suited, but any hand that has a solid high possibility AND a good low possibility is the hand to play.

The pitfall Hold Em players get into is that they think that since you have twice as many cards you should be playing twice as many hands. In fact, you may actually play fewer hands.

That’s where your parallel thinking comes into play. You must think in terms of high and low constantly and remember you don’t have to play a lot of hands because when you scoop a pot, it’s usually a pretty nice amount of money.

I have a $25 in my PokerStars account (mrreed) and I’m going to only play Omaha 8/b on that site and see how the account grows, or doesn’t, over the next few months and see if I can move up a few levels according to the following schedule:

Level $in up @ back down @
.25/.5 $25 $75 $50
.5/$1 $75 $175 $100
$1/$2 $175 $375 $200
$2/$4 $375 $775 $450

To be honest, O8b is a little boring sometimes and so I periodically play two tables at a time, but as far as a money making venture, it seems to be a solid income producer at the low levels and I’m interested to see how that translates into the higher levels.

PokerStars: December 16, 2004 -- $25

Reed Em!

PS: I think I figured out how to post pictures. I'm the one on the left on my brand new 2005 Honda Shadow! My brother is on the right.


ready to ride Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Swoop and scoop!

Last night was an up and down night. First I played some low limit hold em and ended up about 8 big bets in an hour or so of solid play and then switched to no limit and got sucked out on premiun hands time and time again, finally losing almost all my buy-in when a rivered flush squashed my king high straight. Varience: it's the price of playing.

Then I switched to my most consistant money making game, Omaha 8/b just before turning in for the night. My VERY FIRST HAND was AA23 with one nut flush draw. I raised the BB and the betting was re-raised twice before the flop. The flob brought 4K5, two diamonds, capped betting, the turn bring an 8 and the betting is capped again putting one player all-in. The river was another 5, but no more diamonds. I bet, get raised and call thinking I'm going to quarter the low when the flush draw folds. The caller has KK44, the all-in player has quad 5's but neither has a low! So the all-in guy gets a portion of the hi, I get the rest AND the low!

It wasn't a total scoop, but it shows the importance of having enough chips at the table. The quad guy missed about six big bets by being underfunded when he hit his hand. Play and learn.

I won a couple more lows in the next few minutes and cashed out up about 14 big bets. Too bad I'm not playing 20-40! Winning $560 in 15 minutes would be great fun. = )

Monday, December 13, 2004

The more things change...

It's been a while since I wrote so it's time to get back to cyberwork.

I'm not satisfied with my poker playing. I know there are a TON of players out there who just sit and play and rely on their individual play and experience to make them better poker players. I tend to think there is more than just playing that makes one better. Playing, sure, but reading, and watching others play as well. Talking about playing also would be good, but it would be hard to met with a group and not have a game break out!

So my research continues as I continue to play.

In the mean time, my Omaha 8/b play experiment continues to keep me in the black. I play O8/b very conservatively at low levels and then when I make a little money, enter a SNG and play hold em and try to roll it into some bigger money. I play a fairly tight hold em game most of the time so by the time the blinds get over 100 TC I am often short stacked and either limp into the money or bubble out attempting to double up.

So I've been experimenting with more aggressive play in the third and forth level to try to get higher in the money. The results have been "inconclusive" at best. In the last six games, I have won two and finished out of the money the other four, leaving me at a break even point.

I'm sure there is a startegy that combines the two approaches that I have yet to find. Maybe some more research is in order.

One fun hand I'll relate is the following: I am dealth 46o in the small blind and limp in to a flop of 235 rainbow. I check the nut straight and call a small bet. The turn is a blank and I bet out small and get one caller. The river brings an ace, I make a small bet and get raised big. I'm thinking, "BINGO, one of those ace chasers is about to get burned." I double his bet. He re-raises me! I go all in loving every second of it. He calls and turns over 46. We laugh about how we were each so proud of ourselves for trapping the other guy and chop the pot.

Sometimes trapping can be a bad thing and I'm glad I was on the winning end of it last night when I received Q8 in the BB and checked to a flop of 886. It was checked around with two other players. The turn was a blank and I checked again and called a small bet. Down to two players when the river brings a Q to fill my boat. I make a moderate bet and get raised by a player slow playing his Ace 8 and take down a nice sized pot. He was mad that I got lucky, but it was one of those hands neither of us could have gotten away from anyway.

I am going to try some Omaha hi over break and see where that leads. I would like to be able to play a number of games well eventually.