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playing poker and teaching science: September 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.

Friday, September 30, 2005

As the cold north winds begin to blow...

Painful truth update:

2005 on line totals:
April 30, -- $179
May 30, -- $375
June 30 -- $610
July 30 -- $1197
August 30 -- $1227
September -- $1337

Variance has had a big impact on the monthly bottom line. I deposited (actually redeposited) $400 on Party Poker and received a $100 bonus, but other than that weekend I haven't had a lot of time to play recently.

I've taught myself to NOT play when pressed for time. More than once I tried to squeeze in 45 of play because that was all the time I had. Opening up two tables and waiting for the blind to come around, something I ALWAYS do now, left me with a sense of ungency to play. That sense of urgency made me more likely to limp in out of position with a hand that plays well from late position only.

Bad poker player! Negative EV!

My statistics haven't changed much, but if there are ups and downs of $200 or more, and then the month ends during a down time, the bottom line takes a hit. The trend is still upward though and I haven't posted a losing month since I started keeping bankroll records.

One other thing is a certainty and that’s the fact that in looking over all my past deposit records, I have actually cashed out WAY more than I have deposited into online poker sites. I could lose every dime I have online tomorrow and still be in the black playing a game I enjoy.

That’s very cool.

The goal now is to just keep plugging away at the $2/$4, two-table grind until next summer when, baring anything unforseen, I'll move up to the $3/$6 games. They seem to play almost the same as the $2/$4 at Party and so the variance will be proportunately larger but the larger bankroll will make them a little easier to take mentally.

Monday, September 26, 2005

How you know your girlfriend doesn’t trust you…

The new girlfriend has shown an interest in poker (yes, I know, we’ll see how long THAT lasts) so I agree to play a few hands and show her the ropes.

She pulls out some plastic “poker” chips, which are absolutely impossible to riffle by the way, and I shuffle up and deal.

Using the classic No Fold Em Hold Em gambit, she successfully cuts my stack of white, blue, and a color-which-can-only-be-described as red chips nearly in half despite nearly flawless play on my part.

I bet when I had the best of it. She called me down and sucked me out on the river time and time again. I slowed my betting with my Broadway straight when she called a big bet on the flop and a third spade fell on the turn. A fourth came on the river and her 92 offsuit, where the deuce was a spade, took the pot. Her "pair" of nines lost to me aces, but the board of A678, along with her kicker 5 gave her a straight.

She “felt” it, apparently, over and over.

Then it happened. I see a flop of Q75 while holding 97 suited. Small bet called. The turn is another 7, I bet, she calls. The turn is a small blank so I bet a moderate amount to take the pot with my set of sevens. She raises and flashes her cards, 74.

“Wait,” I tell her. “I have the option of calling or raising here.”

“I raise all-in.”

“But you saw my cards,” She said in her ever-so-cute Bulgarian accent, which sounds A LOT like Teddy KGB.

“That’s right. I saw your cards. So that means by pushing all-in that I must be able to beat the hand you’re holding.”

“You are bluffing. I call.”

I take the pot with a bigger kicker.

I don’t think she trusts me…..

Monday, September 19, 2005

Congratulations, $10 has been added to your account….

That’s a pretty cool email to receive! I haven’t played at Empire for a while so they gave me $10 for free to entice me back. Here’s my chance to play tight with free money and turn it into a tidy profit, right?

I don’t believe in online conspiracy, I don’t believe in online conspiracy, I don’t I don’t I don’t I don’t believe in online conspiracy!

But if there is one trying to get a hold of my money, I avoided it.

The plan was to take the $10 to the Omaha 8b table, play only A2, A3 hands and slowly build a profit. I played 35 hands and was blinded down without winning/splitting, or even quartering one single hand. There was never a possible low withy every A2 hand and every A3 hand found either an ace or a three on the flop.

To top it off, people started leaving the table until it was heads up. At Empire Poker the minimum buy-in is $5 on their lowest tables. I had $4.50. If I left the table I was on I wouldn’t be able to join another table, which in retrospect would have been a real time saver!

The next hand dealt I pushed bets all the way to the river with absolutely no hand whatsoever, at which time my opponent folded and I scampered from the table with $6.50. Sorry dude.

What now?

The buy-in is $5 + $1 for one table tournaments, so I went to the O8b tables and sat down to double up.

Suck out, suck out, mistake slow playing flopped nut flush, suck out…..

Down to 50 cents. Bye Empire.

Stop teasing me like that!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The introspective poker player

Spending time thinking about poker may be as important as the experience gained from actually playing. That’s what this blog is for. I play some poker. I think about my play. I write about my play.

Then I kick myself for the mistakes I make over and over again.

I just read Iggy’s last under-uber post and he says that his family has found his blog and that may be cause to stop writing. Hell will freeze over and all Guinness will cease to flow before the Igmeister stops writing, but that brought to mind the fact that my new girlfriend, hereafter referred to as “My Little Bulgarian Beauty” (hi cutie!), now reads my humble blog and a comment from someone blissfully ignorant of the intricacies of this game called poker can sometimes give one pause.

Following a second losing day in a row after posting nine consecutive winning sessions, I told her about playing poorly and MLBB said, “Why do you make the mistakes you just wrote about not making?”

Uh….I dunno….because I’m stupid?

Out of the mouth of Bulgarians…..

It gives one cause for introspection so I am posting the top 11 on-line poker mistakes I’ve made in the past and reflecting on each as I give myself a grade (the teacher in me) from A to F.

First the top 11 mistakes:

1. Playing too many hands.
2. Calling raises on the turn.
3. Miscalculating odds with two cards to come.
4. Drawing to outs that won’t help.
5. Playing limits above bankroll.
6. Not paying attention.
7. Bluffing too much.
8. Playing short handed.
9. Trying to get back to even.
10. Always betting the river.
11. Not betting the river in order to check raise.

Then the grade:


1. Playing too many hands. B+ when playing well/D+ when having problems with mistake #9.
I’ve squashed this for the most part but still occasionally play J10 from an early position even though I know it is –EV.
2. Calling raises on the turn. B+
When I’m in the “I don’t need to win very many hands” mind set, I do well at folding here.
3. Miscalculating odds with two cards to come. B+
The only time I have a problem with this is when I have the nut flush draw. I rarely can get away from that, but since I am playing mostly limit, the odds aren’t too hard to calculate.
4. Drawing to outs that won’t help. A-
I only do this occasionally from the blinds.
5. Playing limits above bankroll. A+
Not a problem. I currently have more than 200 big bets in my bankroll for the top limit I play.
6. Not paying attention. C+
This is probably my second biggest problem. I look at email, read the news, fold laundry and sometimes this causes a totally unacceptable mistake. I actually folded a straight flush when a forth spade fell on the river and I only held the seven. It didn’t dawn on me until I was in the act of clicking that the river 5 was joining the 4,6,8. Yes, there was someone holding the ace AND a total fish staying in the hand with two pair.
7. Bluffing too much. B+
I rarely bluff, but if I am at a severely tight table I will keep firing bets with middle or bottom pair from the blind.
8. Playing short handed. A
If the table gets short handed I usually leave.
9. Trying to get back to even. D
I’ve found myself chasing Even from time to time, especially when I am on a run of winning days and am sitting on a small loser with my time limit drawing to a close, but much worse, when I have had some big hands beaten and try to “get lucky.”
10. Always betting the river. A
If I raised and bet my aces or TPTK the whole way and have been called, I will check the river and save a bet to the player who got lucky and caught two pair of a set and slow played it the entire way. This is a noticeable improvement and has saved me innumerable bets.
11. Not betting the river in order to check raise. A
If I have it I bet. The fish will call.

If these grades are accurate I’m carrying a B average right now. Not bad, but if I’m going to make serious money at some point and play consistently in a $5/$10 or $10/$20 game, I need to move into the A/A- range.

Where are some areas in which I could dramatically improve? I believe paying better attention and not trying to get back to even are the two most important areas. I’ve found that while I tend to win more than twice as many sessions as I lose, my losing days tend to be on the average, higher than my winning days. I have found myself time and time again playing inferior hands out of position when I am losing or after having had a big hand beaten. This is a HUGE leak!

I think one of my problem is that I’m a little bored just playing to make money so I’ve cashed out all of my profit since April, approximately $1000, and will use the remaining $150 on line at Party Poker and hit the $25 and $50 no limit tables for a while. I’ll be able to have some fun and not risk my bankroll.

Let the games begin!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Am I a lucky poker player?

Would you rather be lucky or good? Here are my thoughts on luck:

Every time I sit down at a poker table I run into players who think that poker is all luck and that you don’t know which cards are good until the flop falls. There are a lot of them. They play any two cards from any position. They are the players who crack your aces with J4 offsuit because they stayed in a raised pot when a four hit on the flop.

This is an exact quote I heard from the player to my right at a St. Louis casino, “Why are you raising? You don’t know what cards are going to flop.”

They are the players who hit a run where they double their buy-in in four or five hands, only to slowly bleed away all their profits and then, eventually, their buy-in before they get up and leave grumbling about bad beats.

They are also the players who bring luck to the table.

Luck doesn’t come from catching good cards. That will happen. The laws of probability dictate that everyone will eventually receive the same two starting cards and that, over time, if every player stays in every hand until the river that every player will win one tenth of the hands in a 10-player game. Just like when flipping a coin, eventually you will have the exact same number of heads as tails.

Tobias Dantzig, the author of the book Number: The Language of Science, stated that mathematics is the supreme judge and that from its decisions there is no appeal. That’s the fact. You can’t mess with math. What is is regardless of what the definition of what is is. No matter how many times you add two and two you will always get four. Period.

Luck doesn’t come from the cards; luck comes from the players. You are lucky to be holding the nuts when you have a player betting into you. You are lucky to bet your AK and to be called down by a player with AQ, or even luckier K6. I say even luckier because AQ will always call down AK in a limit game. Luckier because the player who calls you down with second pair/no kicker will eventually give you even more money and you’re lucky to be sitting at his table.

At the poker table we create our own luck, or we may give it to someone else. Are you the one receiving the luck or the one giving it away?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Getting the bonus

I redeposited $400 into my Party Poker account last Tuesday to get the 25% bonus they were offering. I had another $100 I could have put in, but I didn't know how much time I would have and I needed to play 700 raked hands in seven days. One way or another that was going to be near seven hours of play.

I made it in six.

I started with two tables of $2/$4 hold em, just like I always play but added a $25 max. pot limit table where the blinds were only $.10/$.25. I only took $7 to that table and expected to fold almost everything just to get raked hands knowing that even if I played NO hands at all, 100 hands would only cost me $3.50.

In the first hour I was up almost $100 at the $2/$4 tables (set of aces over a set of jacks, ouch) but the raked hands were not coming very fast because the limit for being raked is higher ($20 I think). The PL table however was raking ALMOST EVERY HAND because it rakes 5% starting at one dollar and I was also up about $30. I was lucky enough to be called all-in when I flopped the nut flush on one hand and then drew the nut flush on the turn and was raised all-in again on the very next hand!

After about 150 raked hands I decided to play three pot limit tables for the balance of the time. I didn't make much more money but I cleared the bonus, going up $237 in six hours. Almost $40 per hour. Not a bad part-time job.

The pot limit tables were a lot more fun to play, but the swings were bigger. I only bought in with $7 and had to rebuy more than once because I started playing more speculative hands which would hit, only to be beaten by a better speculative hand. Lesson learned? Probably not!

This reinforces my theory that I can make good money playing one or two-hour sessions, but I'd go broke fast playing for a living.

Thanks for reading.

Trump cards

I love holding the nuts. How often do you get to sit down at a table and hold the nuts on your very first hand you play? I had this rare opportunity last Friday evening at the Trump casino in East Chicago.

First things first: If you are going to the Trump Casino, heading north on 912 and getting off on exit 6, just like the signs say…. TURN RIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EXIT!!!!! Yes, the road turns to the left and that looks like the way to go, but you’ll find that if you simply turn to the right you won’t find yourself asking for directions from a middle eastern gentleman standing behind bulletproof glass. That’s all I’ll say about that.

After only five minutes of wait time, I sat down at a full $3/$6 HE (with a full kill) game in a nice, smoke-free room that was very busy with an evening tournament. I was two off the button. I thought the night might be a long one because I didn’t play either of my blinds due to mediocre hands and raised kill pots, and I would have won BOTH hands. But still I knew I was making the correct play folding J6 and 97.

I’m down only $4 on the button when I am dealt both black queens. Two little ladies, the Hilton sisters, stare back at me, but with six players in the pot, raising them didn’t seem prudent. THEN THE FLOP COMES: QQ9!!!!!

The first hand I play and I’m sitting on quads! I check to the young Asian guy on my left, he check, dirty-guy-just-off-work bets and everyone folds to me. Naturally I flat call and we keep the YAG for one more bet.

The turn is a blank and DGJOW is already fingering his short stack of chips. He was all-in but won the kill pot the hand before and he was looking hungry for another score. Poor dumb bastard. Check. YAG checked again and was already about to toss his cards so I went ahead and check-raised now because I knew I was only going to get two more bets out of DGJOW. I didn’t get two. I got three. He actually raised me for the last of his chips when I bet out on the river.

Is it rude to say “call” without bothering to actually put out chips?

He was a good loser and told me “Good hand,” as he got up to leave. I strikes me that he was a day worker that took the cash to the casino to play poker every night. He should get better if he’s going to play K9 and raise on the river after being check raised.

I’ll be back at Trump on my birthday, October 13th.

On a side note: I played a couple of hands with Felicia on the O8b micro-limit tables at Ultimate Bet. She was doing at one table having doubled her (second) buy-in, but left the table I was at because it was too tight. It loosened up immediately because my $2 buy-in was more than $9 ten minutes later.

Gotta love the low limit fish.

Thanks for reading.