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playing poker and teaching science: March 2005

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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Movin’ on up

I have come to the stark realization that I am not poor.

I have four brothers and sisters, my father worked in a factory and was also a full-time minister, and my mother was an aid in a nursing home. We ate potato soup because we didn’t have a lot of money. I liked it and thought we ate it because it was good!

My brother insists we were white trash, but we always had clean clothes and food on the table and only occasionally had a vehicle up on blocks in the back yard. The jury is still out.

My older brother dropped out of high school to join the army, but I decided to go to college, mainly because my buddies were going and I had no idea what else I should do. I paid for 99.9 percent of my college education myself and along the way worked in Yellowstone National Park and then sat out a year while working in an oil well drilling tool shop in Wyoming.

I graduated, went to grad school, worked at the Better Business Bureau as director of membership development, and then went back to school to become a teacher. Along the way I paid off all my debt and currently have none, with the exception of my house. I own my Jeep and my motorcycle and I have thousands set aside for my son’s education.

If I ever was white trash, I’m not any longer.

What does this have to do with poker?

It is directly related in that I’ve found that I can play pretty well. I know I’m not a world-class player, but I have sat at NLHE tables with a $200 buy in, limit tables up to $5/$10, and several live tournaments and walked away a winner. No, not every time, but with enough consistently to know it’s not a fluke. I know when to bet for value, when to bluff at a ragged flop, and when to get out of a losing hand.

I play well with real money, but only when the money is enough that I consider it to be real money.

I’ve nickeled and dimed my way to well over $200 on UltimateBet, playing solid cards and throwing away the losing hand, but at the lower limits, less than 50 cents, I chase bad draws and try to get lucky.

I have too much money to play at these low limits.

When I’ve experimentally moved up to blinds that are above $1 online, I make money. So it’s time to move up. I have the money, I know I can win, and the higher limits bring out my best game. And with the impending trip to Las Vegas, I need to practice my best game.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.

Just too funny

Seeing as how most poker blog readers know Felicia and her recent diagnosis, this may be redundant, but just in case you stumble across this blog and want a link to what may be the funniest parody EVER that has received the blessing of the parodee (my spell check says that's not a word but I'm going with it anyway), check this link:


http://www.billrini.com/archives/2005/03/play_poker_like_1.html

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A maniac to my right

Tuesday is poker night and I had the unique opportunity to sit down next to a true maniac. He was raising and re-raising the first two hands I observed before the big blind hit me so I got a chance to size him up a little before being dealt in.

We were sitting six handed in a limit game so I think his strategy was to raise people off pots when ever possible. He won a lot of small pots without ever showing his hand, but lost and mucked to queen high at least two times that I observed.

He was sitting on my immediate right so I decided to bide my time and play back at him with premium hands. The strategy paid off, and so did he.

He paid off my AA, KK, AK, and 67s. Okay, 67s isn’t a premium hand, but there were five limpers when I caught them in the small blind and the maniac raised on the button. I flopped a four-flush, and then complete my flush on the turn and probably would have made more off of him if the board hadn’t paired aces.

The only hand where he may have been ahead of me was when an ace fell on the turn as an overcard to my KK, but the river gave me an ace-high straight, with no flush or pair on the board. The maniac CAPPED the raises on the river while I was holding the stone-cold nuts.

Thank you sir. May I have another?

I’m sure if I had played longer he would have laid a bad beat or two on me, but the poker gods decided to pay back my cold run of cards from the previous week with at least 13 big bets off of one maniac.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Birthday boy

No, not me.

The only fruit of my loins, my son TJ, is 18 years old today. I've never once felt old on my own birthday, but having a son old enough to get drafted, vote, and buy porn is making me feel my age.

He likes to play poker but currently has a "D" in math. I don't think he'll go pro.

:-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fold, fold, fold

What do you do when the card go cold? It sounds like a bad country/western song.

Last night I played in my regular Tuesday night home game, which consists of a NLHE tourney and then $3/ $6, limit Hold Em. I played what I am sure was a solid game staying ahead of the average chip stack for the first four levels, and then started to get blinded down a little as the cards cooled off when I received KQ suited one off the button.

The blinds were at 600/1200 and I raised to 2000 and was called only by the big blind. The flop was K75 (two hearts) and since this was about the best flop I could hope for, moved all-in with my last 3500, getting called by the flush draw, A3. The turn was a harmless 3, the river was not a heart so I felt great doubling up…except it was another 3.

Runner, runner 3?

The big blind had me more than covered so going after the flush draw was completely appropriate, but to lose to two threes was a brutal way to end.

But that’s the way the evening went for me. It wasn’t a pleasant night of cards. I rarely have a losing limit session but last night was probably the worst run of cards I’ve ever had in a live game. Once last year on line, I received 116 hands in a row without playing one hand. Last night I folded every hand, except my big blind, for an hour and twenty minutes!

I did not have suited connectors, two face cards, a pocket pair, suited ace, or anything else I could even talk myself into thinking it might turn into something on the flop. Even if I had played every hand I was dealt, regardless of how sad a starting hand it was, not one single hand would have won. Not one. When I folded K5 and two 5’s came on the flop, the winner turned up a suited A5. All losers.

To make it worse, the player to my immediate right was playing any suited cards, any king, and any ace. Top pair, top kicker would have paid to the river, but I only was involved in two hands with him the entire night. He was begging to give his money away and I couldn’t get a dime.

I was down about $70, almost all blind money, before I started to win a hand here and there. Then my pocket 7’s flopped a set, but lost to a pair of 8’s that chased into a straight on the river, and then my pocket 6’s flopped an open ended straight, filled up on the turn, and lost to a full house when the board paired on the river.

I ended the evening down $98, but didn’t feel bad at all about the way I played. Others have lost a lot more in a lot less time and if I only consider the lost week as one big game, I’m still in the black.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When a hand comes together.

Overcards.

When the flop hits and misses you completely but you have overcards to the board, how do you play it? I think it depends a lot on the read you have on other players and the manner in which the hand has progressed and a recent live hand I experienced makes for a good example to analyze.

I was playing $2-$6 spread Hold Em at the President Casino in St. Louis and on the button when dealt a suited AQ. There are two limpers ahead of me and I raise to $6 and lose everyone except the big blind and the player to my right. My read on him at this point was that he had been playing fairly good hands, but could have any two suited cards.

The flop falls J 10 7 rainbow. The big blind checks and the player ahead of me bets the minimum, $2.

What to do? From the way he has been playing I think the flop hit him in some way, but if it was top pair I think he would have bet the maximum. My read was that he hit the bottom pair and wanted to know where he was but didn’t actually bet enough to find out. I had two overcards against a random hand to my left and I may be behind in the hand, but have 10 cards left that will improve my hand.

I raise to $6. Not the maximum raise because I still don’t know about the BB behind me, but I find out quickly when he folds. I get called by the bettor, which I expected no matter what he held.

The next card is a blank and it is checked to me. I now have the option of betting my overcards. Why bet? I know that this player rarely folds when he has a piece of the flop and any 7, 10, or Jack beats me and I just got a free card. Check.

The river is a King. Broadway. It’s again checked to me and I bet, he calls, I win.

His response, “You rivered me,” and shows 67 suited.

Did I river him? Technically, yes, but he played a marginal hand given the fact that there wasn’t enough money in the pot to call my raise after all but the BB folded. He then called another raise with bottom pair. I think he was asking for trouble by overplaying bottom pair.

My raise gave me a lot of chances to win the hand. I could have drawn an overcard, forced a fold, or bought a free card. So I had many ways to make more than 3 to 1 on my money and a third of the available cards left that would improve my hand.

I don’t think that betting or raising with overcards is always the best option, but a good read on opponents makes them a lot easier to play. They are also easier to play in limit Hold Em as opposed to No Limit because you are not going to go broke in one hand.

Finally, according to my spellcheck, “overcard” is not a word. But then neither is spellcheck.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Losing my 7-card stud virginity

Trip report – St. Louis riverboat (part deux)

Heeding the advice of the great and powerful Felicia that Stud can be a +EV game if played well, I’ve been playing some 5 and 7-card Stud on line at fairly low limits. So when I walked into the President Casino and found a waiting list 23 people long for Hold Em, while there were only three people waiting to play 7-card Stud, I added my name to both lists.

As expected, my name was called less than 25 minutes later for 8 handed 7-card Stud. The game had an interesting structure. There was no anti and the bring-in bet was a mere $2, but $2-$6 could be bet at any time so there were often a lot of limpers. In the game were 3 elderly rocks, a tight playing young guy who knew the game and how to make money, and three players who were chasing anything marginal to the river.

My favorite player however was Bring-In Guy. It seemed like he was the bring-in bet every other hand and if he was the bring-in, he was staying in. I bet a pair of queens (one up and one in the hole) on the flop, the turn, and the river with him showing a small pair and no over cards to my queen and he checked and called and said, “I have to see the queens.”

I was happy to show them to him.

Incidentally, the spread was $2-$6 and I could bet anywhere in that range, but I only bet less than the maximum one time. If they were going to pay me off, I wanted the full amount. The only time I bet less was when I had pocket 10’s with three overcards showing on the board. I raised to $5 to narrow the field and everyone folded so I only won the bring-in and one limper. I’m still not sure if I played that right, but I won $4.

There were three memorable hands. I played A4-5 suited, paired my five and then made a straight with two callers who both thought they hand me dominated with a higher set or higher two pair. The comment, “Wow, I didn’t see that,” earned me a great table image and later allowed me to get everyone to fold betting a pair of seven’s with four diamonds showing.

Again, just like in Hold Em two days prior, I had rolled up ducks and a third showing when I paired my 5’s for a full house that beat out a straight and a flush for a very nice pot.

I also developed a good read on most of the players and when I bet a pair of aces and an older gentleman raised with a pair of 10’s showing on forth street, I laid my aces down face up. He showed a hidden pair of queens and the young, solid player next to me went on and on about what a great lay down it was. I thought it was pretty easy.

The only bad call I think I made came after I checked my pair of queens and a new player, a woman with no pair showing bet into me. She had three hearts showing and I knew she had the flush, but I paid her off. I don’t think a lot of women bluff for $6. Bad call.

I avoided any bad beats and made a total of $105 for a little over two hours of play, which comes out to about 9 big bets per hour. When my name came up for Hold Em, I passed.

I should probably send Felicia ten percent, but I don’t have a mailing address so maybe I’ll just buy her the drink of her choice in Las Vegas if her health allows her to attend the blogger’s tournament.

An interesting side note: Felicia told me her mother started this poker room.

Thanks for reading.

Trip report – St. Louis riverboat

I spent three days in St. Louis for the NCAA Division I wrestling nationals and the President Casino, a riverboat, was only a 15 minute walk from my hotel. I played in this room one time last year and remembered it as being a little worn looking, but fairly well managed. This year was about the same with the exception of the fact that the poker room is now non-smoking and they have free food and soft drinks for the poker players.

They have a $4/$8 hold em game with $1 and $2 blinds, but the betting is a spread limit and you cam bet up to $4 on the flop and up to $8 on the turn and river. Personally I like this structure because it gives you more to look for in the way of betting patterns. For example, one older Asian player would always bet top pair, small kicker large, but bet a monster smaller to keep more people in. This was great information to have.

I was seated almost immediately at the feeder table, played two hands and then offered to move when the room manager ask for someone to move. I won a few small pots playing solid poker and outkicking top pair twice when I was dealt two ducks in the hole. I limped in for $2 and the player to my left raised to $6, as he had done several times. He did this a lot with any suited cards and this turned out to be the same play.

The flop brought another deuce for trip ducks, but it also brought two spades. This isn’t a great flop because at this table, anyone with two spades or the ace will be chasing to the river. I played it aggressively though and bet the maximum getting two callers. The turn paired the board 5 giving me a full house. I again bet the maximum and get one caller, the original raiser (O.R.) on my left. The board is now a raggedy Q255 (two spades) and I can’t imagine what he raised and called with, except AQ.

The river is a blank and O.R. BETS THE MAXIMUM into me. With this board there is nothing a good player would have raised with except AQ and with me betting he should have been suspicious of something. There should not be a raising hand that could beat me, so I raised. He called and showed a third 5 and I raked in a pot of almost $80, 10 big bets.

He had raised with J5 suited.

This is the danger of playing suited cards when you are not drawing to the nuts. Jack 5 suited should never have played outside of the big blind, but by playing (and raising) and then calling with middle pair he got locked into a hand he should have never played and it cost him $34 in one hand that he was behind in the entire way.

I do appreciate him betting into my full house however. Along with trip 9’s being called to the river and some patience in the slow periods, I ended up $102 after two hours of play.

The next day I learned the value of moving from the feeder table while losing $45. I will always move to a stable table from now on.

The next post will be about playing 7-card stud.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Drinking beer and telling lies

There is no better way to end a sports season than to travel to the playoffs, right? That’s what I am doing for the next four days. I’m off at the end of school today, 3 o’clock for all you working stiffs who don’t punch out until five or six, and heading for St. Louis for a front row seat as the tourney begins.

Basketball? That’s that other sport going on during wrestling season. I’m talking about the NCAA Division I wrestling nationals. DI wrestlers are some of the hardest working, best conditioned athletes in the world and they will be going head to head for three action packed days. The finals will air on ESPN at 5 o’clock Saturday.

I’ll also be playing a little poker. My plans to build my bankroll prior to the blogger’s tournament in Las Vegas have been sidetracked the last two weeks with the addition of a new love interest in my life. Without going into too much in the way of personal information, let’s just say she as cute as a bug’s ear and leave it at that. = )

The hotel we’ll be staying at is just a short walk to the riverboat on the St. Louis side of the great Mississippi River. As I recall from last year’s trip, it’s small, cramped, and filled with people who look like they just cashed their welfare check. I’m hoping to get back some of my tax dollars in their dingy little poker room.

Report to follow.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

When I HAVE to win

I would like to increase my bankroll by $400 or more before June in order to pay for my Vegas trip. What game should I play if I absolutely HAVE to win money? I’ve been pondering this question.

On advice from Felicia, I’ve been dabbling in 5-card stud with my Royal Vegas free money. There is definitely money to be made here, but the games are often short handed so after I anti away for a while waiting for a starting pair or AK, the pots I win are not very large so the +EV is slow developing.

I’ve been reading T.J. Cloutier’s book on Omaha and Omaha hi/lo and decided to take a stab at the $.20/$.40 pot limit Omaha 8 game on Royal Vegas. Again, I’m playing with found money so what have I got to lose?

Don’t answer that.

At first glace you’d think that a game with blinds under 50 cents would be a very low limit game, but when I sat down the average pot was more than $15, pretty high considering the fact that $40 was the most you could bring to the table.

I decided to play very conservatively, but we all know how long that lasts, right? I always like to start with a plan but poker is a game that is constantly changing WHILE the game is going on. Plans are good, but they have to be flexible in order to adapt to changing players and situations or else you can end up tight/passive and become an ATM for the other players a the table.

I’m on the button with AJª25. Not a bad starting hand IF I am able to limp in. I am three to a wheel for the low and have a nut flush draw but the 5 worries me because if my low gets counterfeited, I’m not looking at the nut low any longer. There is no raising, so I limp in for $.40 and five players see a flop of K104 (rainbow) which gets checked around. The turn is a queen, giving me Broadway, the nut straight with no low possible but there are now four clubs on board.

I was going to play conservatively, but when the big blind bets $1 and two others call, I am facing a decision. If I just call here I am giving everyone with two clubs a chance to draw for free. Is all about making decisions. So I decide, “Bet the pot.”
T.J. says to make the drawers pay for those draws. Therefore, I raise to a little over $6 and everyone drops out except for one caller. River, 8§. Crap. There is a possible flush on board. The caller checks and I am faced with another decision. I can check or bet. If I make any bet and he check-raises, I am pretty sure I am beat. If I bet and he can’t beat me, he’ll fold anyway. He is unlikely to call any bet if that last card missed him so he was either calling with a flush draw, with which he can now beat me, or two pair and I hold the winning hand.

Check.

I win a $16 pot with an ace high straight. I assume he was either holding two pair or he is a complete fish. Either way I won.

I’m going to keep playing pot limit and see how it goes. After all, what do I have to lose?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Never trust a woman in a cowboy hat

When it rains it pours. I’ve been looking for a regular home game for months and when I was about to give up, suddenly there are three within 15 minutes drive of my house.

I played in my first re-buy tournament Saturday evening. The structure was pretty good starting with 6500 in tournament chips and blinds at 100/200, increasing every 20 minutes with rebuys for the first hour only and an add-on at the end of the first hour when the rebuys ended.

I think I played a good game but I also know that three plays kept me from finishing in the money (top three) and bubbling out in fourth place.

There were actually maybe just two bad plays. You can be the judge of that.

Bad play number one: In the second level there have already been a couple of all-ins, and I want to make sure the table knows I am not afraid of pushing, so I go all-in with 10 10 one off the button after one limper and the big blind calls with AA…..rebuy!

I was able to double up when I got called down by AK to my AA shortly after so with the add-on I was in good shape after the rebuy period ended.

One good play I had added to my chip count when I limped on the button with QJ with one player limping ahead of me. The flop gave me two pair, which I checked. The big blind checked and the limper pushed all in sensing weakness. I called and doubled up when his nut flush draw didn’t hit.

Bad play number two: I went card dead for a while when we were down to five players, and then two other players got very short stacked. I was dealt Q9 of diamonds one off the button and folded hoping to get into the money. I should have pushed a little harder.

Bad play number three: After doubling up with KJs I had some breathing room and immediately was dealt KQs in the big blind. I pushed all-in in after a standard raise from the lady in the cowboy hat who had a massive chip lead and was raising almost every pot. She called with A6 suited and completed the nut flush on the turn, so IGHN.

This was a bad play because I could have just called her raise and laid down after not hitting anything and still had chips to work with. I thought if I pushed here however I would have a chance of winning.

The worst play of the night however was not mine. I more than doubled up with KJs when the chip leader bet at a flop of rags and the other caller folded. She turned over K9 and didn’t improve. The person who folded would have caught a four on the river and knocked me out if she had just checked it down.

We got into a huge discussion about the dry side bluff. People couldn’t understand me saying she had made a mistake even though it would have led to my demise.

Good play is good play no matter how it affects me.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I folded a straight flush.

I’m playing $1/$2 limit hold em and am dealt 74c in the big blind. Five limpers are in so I see the flop for free. The flop is K35 all clubs. I flop a flush and bet out and get two callers. The turn is another club so I bet, get called, and raised. Damn it. One of them has the queen or ace or any card bigger than a 7 and my little flush is beat. As I am clicking the fold button it registers, that’s the six of clubs.

I have a straight flush.

Click.

Fold.

Shit.

Only on line.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Quite a run!

I just finished a little over an hour of play on UltimateBet at the 6-max. $1/$2 limit hold em tables. Wow...what a run! Up 20+ big bets! I played top hands, caught a few good cards, and ended up at a table of fish who would bet into me, and then raise, when I was holding the nuts.

I've already booked my flight and hotel for the bloggers tournament in Las Vegas in June and my goal is to increase my on line play and the levels at which I play in order to make the entire trip a freeroll and I won almost exactly 10 percent of the money I need this evening.

It makes me wish I was a marine so I could yell BOO YAA!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Forming a plan

The home game I started playing in on Tuesday evenings is taking a little thought to determine the best plan of attack for the tourney part of it. We start with about 12000 in TC and blinds at 100/200, increasing every 10 minutes. The structure is VERY fast for my taste and the entire thing was over in less than an hour.

While playing last night I thought I was playing a fairly solid game, but I think in retrospect that I need to ONLY play group I cards in the first two levels and push very hard with those. I had to lay down AQs and 99 and AJs when the flop brought either overcards or missed me entirely and I was facing a bet or raise in front of me.

After a couple beats I was down to just a few chips and pushed in about ¾ of my chips (basically saying I’m all-in no matter what) when it was folded to me on the button with Q9s and was called by the small blind. I went all-in when the flop came 9 high and was called with A10 and he caught a 10 on the turn so IGHN.

I know I can beat this game and finish in the money, but I need to catch at least two good hands when the third level hits.

Again we followed the tourney with $3/$6 limit hold em. I got into a little bit of a hole early on losing with AQ to A10 and small pocket pairs that didn’t improve, but I fought the urge to play more hands and even though I was down almost $50 at one point, ended the evening up $10 exactly.

Time and time again I saw the importance of playing good cards. I folded 62 in the small blind, even though it was only another $2 to call. The flop fell 62x and I had two pair and would have been locked into the hand until the end where I would have lost to a higher two pair.

Jack/Jack, my most hated hand, was about breakeven for me last night. I limped in and then folded to a KQx board and then raised and bet to a 1010x board and took down a small pot. I don’t think there is a way to win anything substantial with JJ unless you catch a set on the flop and suck out on AK, AQ, or a smaller set..

The advantage of playing with the same guys two weeks in a row is that I’ve developed a table image that carries over from week to week. They see me as a fairly tight player who will bet when he has the top hand and rarely slow plays and I’ve been able to use this to my advantage when heads up or one of three in a pot when I bet into a flop that brings rags while holding ace high or catching the bottom of the flop.

I encourage this image by showing top hands as winners early on to steal a few pots as the evening progresses. Some people never show their hands but I show selectively now and then if it will do one of two things:

1. Help my table image, or
2. Shows the chip leader of a tournament that I wasn’t bluffing into his big stack.

I think both of these cases work to my advantage to win pots later in the game. Thoughts?

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The blogger's tournament

Well, I did it. Before I could talk myself out of it I made a reservation for a trip to Las Vegas June 3-7 just to play in the blogger's tournament and to see some top players in action. I've been reading these blogs for a long time and I'd love to meet some of the faces behind the words.

Oh....and play a little poker.

Wish me good cards (and a little luck)!

Information on this tournament can be found at:

http://www.upforanything.net/poker/archives/000968.html