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playing poker and teaching science: February 2006

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, February 23, 2006

Congratulations!

Dear Mr. Reed,
Congratulations! It gives me great pleasure to inform you that your proposal was selected from more than 900 proposals for funding under the Eli Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program. Your award is $8000. The enclosed press release includes the names of other award recipients and descriptions of their projects.

I rarely check my mail. Junk mail, flyers, credit card applications, coupons, and assorted other asinine articles of uninteresting reading material comprise the bulk of all mail. I have only one bill that gets mailed to me rather than received electronically. My friends and family email me. I generally glance at what’s been delivered and them jam it back into the box. The box hanging on the side of my house fills to overflowing and then I dump it en mass into a big drawer in my kitchen and go through it all about once every other month.

Mail is stooooooopid.

Yesterday evening however when I went out to walk my dog I took a look in the box and saw an envelope from The Lilly Endowment, a division of the enormous drug company Eli Lilly. I had applied for a grant but the release date for names wasn’t until March so why would I get something now?

It must be a rejection letter.

But wait…… why would a rejection be in a large envelope?

It looks like my son and I will be flying to Hawaii this summer to fly over a volcano, bicycle down from a peak, and (if available) do a “hot lava” dive where the lava comes through the earth’s crust under the ocean!

You have to love a letter that starts with the word “congratulations.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sitting no limit

I can grind out a tidy sum playing low limit Hold Em, Omaha 8/b, Stud, and Stud 8/b. I have won money over time playing sit-and-goes of the same games. To make GOOD money however, I know I have to play more no limit Hold Em. That’s where the fish are schooling because that’s what’s on television and if the fish knowledge base is televised poker, let the games begin!
I’ve played no limit in Las Vegas on about 5 occasions and I hope to play more this summer. Therefore I’ve decided to sit down at the no limit tables from time to time and try to hone my game and played for about 90 minutes last night with fair results, ending up about half my buy-in.

I did what you’re supposed to do, waiting for the blinds to come around, watching the action and was dealt A5 in the big blind and was able to limp along to the river after a 442 flop before I lost a few dollars to a donkey playing 24o when my ace hit on the river. It was money well spent however because this guy was going to give away most of his buy-in during the next hour.
Richard “Quiet Lion” Brodie’s blog lists what he calls the only information you really need to play internet Hold Em:

*Play good starting hands in position
*Bet your hand
*Never bluff

I had decided to play according to these suggestions and not make too many “plays,” but there was one I couldn’t resist. I limped in with 79s in an unraised pot in late position and saw a flop of 682 with two clubs, not my suit. I make a small bet, which was raised. I call with my open ended straight. The next card is the ace of clubs and after a small hesitation, my opponent checks.

What does he have? He had been playing solid poker, so I’m thinking he had two overcards. A good player wouldn’t raise with the second or third nut flush would he? I think the ace AND the three-flush scared him and so I made a half-pot bet, the type that looks like I WANT to be called.

He folded and I pat myself on the back.

Then the inevitable suck-out occurred. I limp with Q7s on the big blind and flop the second nut flush with AJ4, all diamonds. I got cute and checked and everyone folded to a bet from a middle position player. I’m not worried, he paired his ace and I’m going to make a few dollars. The flop is a blank and I bet out and get called. The river is another jack. I bet and get raised a small amount and I make the crying call because I’m not good enough to lay it down even though I know I’m beat with a full house.

What I have to ask myself is this: If she had pushed all-in, would I have called. I don’t think I would have so her small bet was a good one for value. Lesson learned.

I received AA twice during my 90 minutes of play and tried to play them differently. I know that you shouldn’t have to do that on line because not everyone is paying attention, but being able to shift gears and mix up your play is a necessary skill for live play so that’s what I’m training for.

The first AA I made a four times the big blind raise and got two callers. A harmless flop of 3,6,9 came with no suits so I checked and was bet into. I raised and was re-raised which put this short-stack player all-in. It was an easy call and I took down a nice pot. Looking at the hand history I saw he had QQ. Ouch.

The second AA I made a big raise after three limpers to 12 times the big blind thinking I would steal the blinds a limping money because I was due to have aces cracked and STILL got two callers. An ace came on the flop and it checked around. A second club fell on the turn and not wanting to get sucked out on I made a pot-sized bet and everyone folded. Woo hoo! Aces hold up again!

My 2x KK held up once and I got out cheap when I folded to the eventual AQ winner when AQQ flopped and someone bet and got called ahead of me so I’m feeling good.

The best hand of the night was an innocent J9s. I flopped the nuts when QT8 fell with two diamonds (not my suit). I make a half-pot bet and get two callers. The turn is a K. Would someone have called my bet with AJ? Maybe, but I don’t think so, so when it’s checked to me I make another half-pot bet. The first caller folded and number two went “into the tank.”

Poker terms are cool.

After a while he folded and I took down a nice pot. He said he had a flush draw with a jack so about 9 outs to win and a few less to tie. I tried to push out the draw and he was kind enough to lay it down. He was getting about three to one on the call and so had about the right odds, but he passed. Whew!

I got my one suck out when I flopped a set of 8’s and the turn gave my caller a straight that he was kind enough to slow play so I could catch the case 8 to make quads while he was betting into me.

Gotta love four of a kind!

Overall it was a good session despite the one suckout which, if I had avoided the call, would have left me with a nicer profit. The question remains: How do you lay down a monster when you know you got outdrawn on the river?? You tell me…

Friday, February 17, 2006

Finally…..some poker content!

Wrestling season is over and it is with mixed emotions I let it go and return to the poker tables on a more regular basis. I’m sad to see it go because it was my son’s last, but so happy that it ended as well as it did for him. It’s also my last season as a high school wrestling coach. Next season I’m stepping down to let some younger teachers move up to the high school. As a wrestling addict I could never get out completely however so I’ll be taking over as head coach at the middle school where I teach 8th grade science.

Should be fun!

Back to the tables!

Taking inventory of my on-line accounts I found that I made a little money during wrestling season while I explored the low-limit games. I’ve always wanted to be proficient at ALL poker games so I’ve been playing some 7-card stud and 7-card stud 8b and Omaha 8b. These games have a little less variance and so it seemed a good idea to explore them while I wasn’t able to put a ton of time into the tables.

When I had 45 minutes or so to play and didn’t want to risk much money, I would open up a low limit sit-and-go on UltimateBet while simultaneously playing stud 8b. I’d play only good low hands and quite when I made my S-N-G buy-in, so I was usually freerolling the S-N-G.
Between the low limit S-N-G’s and the split pot games, I chipped up $50 or so over the last couple of months without ever playing above the low ($.25-$.50 blind) limits. Some of the profit came from the UB bonus money I’m still working off two or three cents at a time.

The profit graph is still inching upwards, and that’s an important piece of data.

Jumping back into the fray, I played two $5 Omaha 8b S-N-G’s last night, starting the second when I reached the third level on the first. I thought it would be a very bleak start when I was in level four and had yet to win a single pot. Not scooped, not split….. I’m talking NO part of a pot. Zero. I wasn’t dealt A2 or A3 one single time.

Level five, six people left, the next hand will have me all-in and the blind is coming so I raise under the gun with A4xx and everyone folds. Cool. I made it through the blinds. Next hand I have A2xx and raise out of the big blind, get one caller and everyone folds to the continuation bet when two small cards fall and I have a few chips to work with and more importantly, this table is getting bubble scared. Also cool.

If I’m in a pot now I’m raising and I pick up the blinds twice and then catch a monster flop to scoop two players out and I’m in the money with chips to spare.

Meanwhile, on the second table I chase a little too far two hands in a row before I tighten up and play smart before I enter with A254 and flop 554. I jam all the way and a king and queen come on the turn and river. I get raised when the king hits and I think I got out drawn by KK, but the donkey has 44 and I scoop a monster pot to get back into the game.

On both tables the last three players know that you can push the high hand a little more short handed and I lose with KKxx to AAxx and am short stacked on table two.

Play went A LOT faster on table two than table one and so while I’m in the top three and the blinds are huge on table one, I’m in the top three with lower blinds on table two, but with three players left the play is fast and furious which makes me evaluate the board as quickly as possible. Good practice.

I end up winning the crapshoot and finishing first on table one and placing second on table two. Not bad for the first real day back.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Semi-State Surprise!


Just when I thought all the wrestling posts were done, the most amazing thing happened. My son suffered a subluxation of his shoulder in practice Thursday, where the shoulder popped out and back into the socket. As of Friday evening we didn’t even think he would wrestle in the regional tournament because of the pain and lack of mobility and strength.

Saturday morning he woke up and said he was going to wrestle, so we kept it iced until it was time for his match and then put a brace on it. He knew he had a tough match because he had lost to his first opponent 2-1 earlier in the year. He came out on fire, controlled the whole match and won 7-2.

Only the top three places advance to the semi-state in Indiana (which again has only one class for wrestling) and the next kid he had to wrestle was one of the best in the state. There was little hope of beating him, especially with an injured shoulder. As his father and coach, I made the call: We would injury default the next match rather than risk further damage to his shoulder and try to take third place, advance to the semi-state, and give his shoulder a week to heal.

So he defaulted the next match and went down into the third and fourth place bracket to face an inner-city wrestler who had, earlier in the day, defeated the wrestler TJ lost to in the sectional finals the week before.

TJ wrestled his heart out and when he entered the third period ahead 5-2, he didn’t let down. He wrestled the rest of the match like be was behind on points, scored another takedown and went on to win 7-3.

My son fought through his injury to qualify for semi-state. I couldn’t be prouder of him, not because he won, but because of the effort he put forth all day.What a great way to finish his senior year!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sectional Champions!

It’s been a great run and the season ended last Saturday in exciting fashion. We went into the wrestling sectionals with little hope of winning because we lost our 130 pounder (a number two seed) when he got suspended from school for fighting some hayseed with nothing to lose and nothing better to do than to try to start something with people who do. He made a freshman mistake instead of walking away. Live and learn.

With two top teams in the 11-team sectional, losing a wrestler who is expected to place in the top two is a huge blow and put us at an enormous disadvantage.

*I should interject that Indiana has only one class for wrestling and so we have schools three times as large as ours in the sectional.

All the pressure was off. We had no chance at winning and so we hoped to finish second or third. Then everything changed. A number one seed from Anderson Highland dislocated his elbow in practice and was out of the tournament. That put us back in the running.

We never looked back. Our team wrestled as well as they have all season and ALL 14 of our wrestlers finished in the top six, including the replacement at 130 pounds. To top it off, my son came in to the tournament as a number four seed and finished as the runner-up, losing only 3-2 in the finals.

We finished the season with a 33-2 dual-meet record and as winners at the Peru Invitational, The Western Super Six, The Holiday Tourney, The Tri High Superduals, the Mid-Indiana Conference, and now the Sectionals, qualifying 10 wrestlers who advance to the individual regional tournament.

Good job Huskies!