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playing poker and teaching science

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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The measure of a man


 
The Kalalau Trail on the island of Kauai is listed in the top ten most dangerous hikes in the United States. This information in retrospect should be something one finds out more than one day before one begins such a hike. Hey, I was a little behind in my research. Sorry!

Wrestlers have a saying: "Water is for the weak." I came to find out however that water is also for the severely dehydrated and failing to keep adequately hydrated during the most grueling physical activity I have ever attempted leads to excruciating leg cramps, dizziness, and near total exhaustion.

But I digress...

When you strike out on the Kalalau trail you lose cell coverage in the parking lot of the trail head and immediately begin to climb. Kalalau hosts12 miles of exhausting trails that feature multiple treks from sea level to above 800 feet in very short periods of horizontal distance. The result being that all of your thigh muscles are engaged for extraordinary periods of time, to the point in fact that they begin to quiver with each and every step.

Then you reach Crawler's Ridge.

Crawlers Ridge is the part of the trail that turns some people back. It's a mile of VERY steep downhill. The path is volcanic and might as well be made of small ball bearings because you literally slide with every step. Also, the gail force winds pound you every step of the way. The trail is less than a foot wide in places with nothing to stop your fall from a misstep except the rocks 600 feet below.

Good times.


When every step brings pain, some people just sit down and quit. On Kalalau however there is no quitting. You HAVE to go on. Quitting just simply not an option. With each step I swallowed the pain and told myself there was no other alternative. I had to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We made it to the trail end beach and waterfall and set up camp, fighting cramping quads all the time. One day of rest later we were back on the trail, lesson learned. Even proper hydration however cannot stop the constant stress on your thigh muscles. The last two miles again were fraught with pain and exhausted, quivering muscles.

An experience like this really can't be properly conveyed with words. It becomes a true measure of how tough you are and how much pain you can endure. I know I was literally pushed PASSED my physical limits and still kept moving.

A challenge like Kalalau gives you insight into your true metal...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

I'm just not a nice guy.

"I guess I'm just a nice guy I guess because I'm going to call."

That's a direct quote from the player on my right at Friday night poker sponsored by the American Legion. I've written about this game previously here and here. His opponent called two small bets and then led out when the FOURTH diamond hit the board. He called with his two pair which were NOT the top two incidently. He went on to say that he knew he was beat but that he called anyway.

Later he bet out on the river on a board that contained two tens and little else and was upset that his 10 6 full house did not get paid off. When ask why he would play 10 6 as first to act he said it was only for $2.

This is the same guy who was critisizing his opponent's play and giving advice on the best way to play hand after hand. He was predicatble at best, a calling station at worst, and obviously a losing player and yet he gave advice non-stop.

When he ask me directly, I agreed with him every step of the way. We never want the poor players to improve, right?

The player to my left was an older lady. I re-raised to $25 with KK and she called. I bet $50 into a flop of J, 3, 6 rainbow and she called. The board paired 6 and i pushed all-in for another $95 and actually told her that she should fold if she didn't pair the 6. She called with a straight draw and missed one of her 8 outs.

She went on to talk about how she was pot committed and that she'll call down any two cards and that's why she was hard to play against. I actually told her I would have called there as well but I'm was laughing to myself. I found her very predictable and again, a losing player.

Maybe I'm just not a very nice guy. I don't want to give ONE DIME when I know I'm beat and I don't throw money away chasing a pipe dream draw.

I'll let the losing players be nice!

Monday, April 14, 2014

It was one of those days... (a trip report)

A life lesson fron the movie The Hangover: "You never walk away from the table when you're on a heater." 

As poker players, we've all said it at one time or another, "It was one of those days."

How was it said though? Is it said with enthusiasm and excitement or is it said softly while shaking your head side to side? In my case the sentence was followed by an exclaimation point rather than three dots.

Lesson learned. I stayed at the table and played my heater, and that's exactly what it was, a HEATER. It was a 24 hour period playing poker unlike any other I have experienced. In that time frame I chopped top three, then top two in consecutive tournaments, and then won a little more than $1000 at the cash table.

To me, poker is all about numbers and patterns. There are the ever present numbers; the math of the game. And then there are the patterns of the other players. When do they bet? When do they fold? When do they bluff? CAN they be bluffed? All the things that happen at the table fall into a pattern for me. Conversly, I try to NOT let myself fall into those predictable patterns, but at the same time try to make it seem as if I AM playing those same patterns.

Tuesday morning I landed in Las Vegas and knowing I couldn't check into my room until later that day, had the taxi drop me at The Orleans to play a little Omaha 8/b, one of my favorite games. I splashed around in a game I don't get to play very often, probably played too many pots because of my desire to play, and left down a few red chips.

I checked into my room at the Luxor, a place I have never stayed before, and went downstairs and immediately got a seat. Then the cards started to hit me in the face!

It began benighly. I was dealtt pocket kings and made the standard raise to $11 and got two callers. The flop was unconnected small cards so I bet the pot and got one caller. Another small card I bet, was raised, reraised thinking I'd been cold decked, and doubled through QQ. Ouch for him. Yay for me. Two other times I had QQ over JJ and 10 10 over 99 and all were winners

You know how you're scared of the guy that's on a roll? For once I was the guy people were scared of! When I raised and missed the flop they all folded to my continuation bets. When I raised with my semi-bluffs, they all folded. I was the table captain with the big hands I hit and the way I controlled the betting.

It was one of those days!

Sidebar: I really enjoyed the Luxor poker room. They had some fun promotions in the morning where they gave a raffle ticket with every pot won and drew a number for $100 every hour (yes, I won one), and also hade out $100-$500 for quads and better hands. (I never got quads!)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spring Break anyone?

Another spring break and another trip or two. I'm flying solo this year so I thought I'd try out a new spot, the Hotel Cozumel and Resort. Trip Advisor gives it good rating but I'll will wait and see. There's sand, ocean, and sun. That'll do!

I had the trip booked and then I found out I had US Air points that were about to expire, so I used them for a flight to Las Vegas. Three days of playing poker sounds like a good way to spend the SECOND week of spring break this year! As a bonus, my brother will be joining me.




Monday, February 03, 2014

Hello 10 8


I was out with friends last Friday and didn’t think I’d play at the American Legion, but decided to stop in at about 10 for an hour or so of play. Most players seem to buy one bag of $50 in chips but I generally buy in for $100. This night I just bought the one bag because I was just going to splash a few pots and then head home.

I sat down in the three seat right behind the button and look down at 10 8 off-suit and toss in two white chips when it looks like this is a limping table. A suited 10 and 8 is one of my favorite hands to play but I only called here because of all the limpers. Then the big bling tosses in $4 more to sweeten the pot. Several callers later I’m priced in.

No big deal. I’m just here for a beer and a little poker fun.

The flop is 10 8 3 rainbow. The big blind bets $9 and gets two callers ahead of me. I then raise to $31, about three-quarters of the pot, and almost my entire stack! I get one caller. The turn is a deuce and I toss in my last chips thinking maybe I’ll go home early and get called by 10 3 suited.

Yes. He called a raise with 10 3.

I played exactly one hand and my $50 buy in is already up to $133. HELLO!

I played for another hour and left up $173, bringing the American Legion total for the year at just under $500.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Playing poorly

I knew it while it was happening but didn't really know what to do about it. Is it sometimes okay to just check, call all the way down?

Here's the situation: I had only been at my seat in the local American Legion game for half an orbit when I was dealt 85 offsuit in the small blind and limped into an unraised pot along with no less than seven other callers. The flop was 875. Turn 10. River King. Long story short, I check-call the entire way and take down a $100+ pot when the missed flush draw on the river put out a bluff that was too small to push the high pair and my two pair off the hand.

I wasn't proud of the way I played the hand, but with the texture of the board I was facing getting stacked on the first hand I played...

I felt like a fish but won the hand and the double up gave me chips to push people around as the night progressed.

Side bar: The game at the American Legion is a hoot! There is an eclectic mix of old timers with young bucks. There are two young players who sit wearing mirrored sunglasses behind the their $50 buy-in waiting for the WPT babes to pick them out to interview. The middle aged guys who are the WORST poker players ever discussing the merrits of calling a big raise with 72o, every time. Hysterical people watching!

I did have a moral delimma when I stacked a young kid (not a veteran) in a wheelchair. In my defense, he was betting into my nut flush and it was a very expensive wheelchair.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Very Josie has a favor to ask:

Here's a chance to do some good:

Very Josie has a favor to ask of you - Go read about it here: http://veryjosie.blogspot.com/2014/01/ahem-its-very-josie.html

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Things to remember 2013

My annual post about my top things to remember for 2013 (in no particular order):

1. Conducting my own son's wedding (Ok. That IS number one!)
2. NCAA Wrestling national in Des Moines
3. The Aventura Spa Palace in Cancun (great spa!)
4. Spring break in Jamaica (Lydsay was a great guide)
5. Camping with my nephew
6. Another volunteer trip to The King's Home in Belize
7. Three days on a sailboat in Key West
8. Two weeks in Italy (Venice, Florence, The Banfi vineyard, Rome, and Sorrento)
9. A December trip to New Orleans
10. The end of one chapter and the beginning of another
11. Another winning year at the poker table.

What will 2014 have in store? I already have trips booked to Cozumel and Vegas because I get TWO weeks spring break now :-)

Monday, December 02, 2013

Why would you do that? Why would you do that?

I enjoyed another winning session at the local American Legion Friday evening with a fun hand that had the entire table laughing and sent one player into a downward tilting spiral. I had lost 1/3 of my buy-in when my two pair was out flopped by the nut straight so I was sitting on about $68 when this hand occurred:

I called a $10 raise on the button with 7c9c and saw a flop of Ad8c6c with four other callers. Soon-to-be-tilted guy bets $10 and gets two callers. I have a flush and straight draw but am also happy to take down the $80 pot right there. I carefully count out my chips, put my final $13 on my cards because I had forgotten my card protector, and announced a raise to $47, a little over half the pot.

Honestly, I was raising that amount simply because it was a little over half the pot. That fact was lost on the one player left. He fixated on me holding $13 back and couldn't let it go.

He'd placed himself in a poor position by raising with a weak ace. Any solid player would fold here because I must have a better hand, right? Unless he reads me as a complete bluff, he's a dog to win the hand... But he couldn't let it go.

"Why would you do that?"

"Why would you keep $13 dollars behind? Why not push all-in? Aren't you afraid of the flush?"

Then he flashed the ace of clubs, which told me he DID NOT have two flush cards. The ace high flush calls right away. So he has ace-no-kicker and that makes me the favorite, even though he's currently ahead.

"I read a book that said this is the correct play," I told him. Now the entire table is laughing and talking about the hand and what he should do. In a casino this would be frowned on, by this is a group of guys largely just out for a good time.

That pushed his button and he called. The next card completed my flush, I pushed, he called saying "now I have to see" and I raked in a nice pot.

Showing the flush sent him over the edge. He didn't even notice that I had a straight draw as well. He went on to tilt off two more buy-ins, and every time someone made a big bet they would leave a few chips behind and bring it to the attention of the entire table.

It made for a great time, as well as profitable!

-t

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

All grown up

Good thing she's pretty...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Predictable Poker


I started to write, “They weren’t very good poker players,” but I realized that statement would not have been necessarily accurate. The players at my table knew the etiquette of poker, knew the standard plays people make, knew how to bluff, and were for the most part playing solid holdings. I decided that they weren’t poor players; what they WERE was predictable.

For only the third time I found myself with no specific plans on a Friday night, so I went down to the local American Legion post that I mentioned here. There were two tables already going and a third opened shortly and I took the three seat with four others.

The session began oddly. I was the small blind and it folded around. I asked the big blind if he wanted to chop and he said he couldn’t. He was young and I assumed him to just be an aggressive player who would be raising a lot. What I found was that he was predictable. I lost $50 in the hand because I called with 9 10 and flopped a ten on a board that didn’t improve. I called down his KK and found that he never chopped if he had AA, KK, or AK. In retrospect, I could have gotten away from the hand, but the information he gave me ended up being worth more than the $50 I lost.

The table was so predictable that when it folded to me with a flush possibility on the board, I knew I could look down, put out a half-pot bet, and everyone would fold and joke that they knew what was going on. I smiled and said “you got me,” and raked in three pots I otherwise had no chance of winning.

Another predictable play I quickly found was that four players were playing any suited king or queen. Therefore, I called two bets to hit my nut flush and took a queen high flush player’s entire stack. I also won several hands with a better kicker.

Then the calling station sat down to my immediate right. He went through three bags of $50 chips calling when he was beat. I knew that I could safely bet into him even though I was out of position and he would predictably call off his chips.

One nice piece of karma manifest itself when Mr. I Only Chop With Poor Holdings called $2 under the gun with KQo allowing me to limp in for $1 in the small blind with Q5s. The flop brought two queens. I bet and he called. The turn was a lovely 5 giving me a full house. I checked, he pushed all-in and lost his stack. I lost $50 to him and he lost $100+ to me.

I ALWAYS chop. You can chop or not chop. I don’t care. However, if you mix it up based on your holdings you are PREDICTABLE!

Interestingly, several players got into the discussion of chopping later and three other players said they did the same thing, chop with poor holding and not chop with good holdings. Thank you for the information!

It was a good night and I turned my $100 buy-in to $400+ without being too creative and never being all-in. It was a learning session however and the main thing I took away from it was the value of mixing up my play and making sure I don’t play predictably.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What a trip!

Two weeks in Italy. The pictures speak for themselves!








Monday, September 16, 2013

New Ride

 
Finally found the one :-)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sitting with soldiers

I’ve seen the sign for months: “Friday Hold ‘em. 7-12. Open to the public.” It’s on the marquee outside a local American Legion post that I have actually been inside a time or two for unrelated reasons. However, as Indiana is a state that as a whole believes poker played with cards is of the devil unless you’re on a moving body of water or recently excavated retention pond, it didn’t seem legal so I’d never checked it out.

What do I know? They even had a county sheriff ensuring security.
It’s an interesting set up with amateur dealers who are Legion members working for tips. I only had experience with one dealer as I stayed at the same table from 7 until nearly midnight, but he did a fine job with few noticeable glitches. The only game was $1/$2 Texas Hold Em and the buy-in was in plastic bags in $50 increments. You could buy up to four bags for $60 each, although you saved $10 if you did the maximum buy in. There was no rake and four full tables were going most of the night.
As it was my first time playing, I bought two bags full, $100 to start.
It was a fairly uneventful game. I played tight most of the time but did manage a couple well-timed bluffs to take down medium sized pots. A big score came when I caught a set of 8s against KK. KK raised to $10 and got four callers. On the button, I checked the flop and KK bet $40 and I check-raised to $85 and as planned got out the drawing hands. He re-raised all-in and did not improve and I’m sitting with more than $250 in chips an hour into the game.
The players ran the gambit from pretty good to I-will-play-every-hand. I saw at least four players come in, lose a bag or two, and leave. Thank you for playing.  I watched the frustration of the man to my right as he bet his two pair on the flop, the turn, AND the river only to be raised because his opponent had hit his inside straight. The villan paid almost $80 trying to hit a four outer. All in all, it was a good players dream.
Fifteen minutes before midnight the game was getting shorthanded and there were two very aggressive gamblers at the table so I opted out after being bet off a hand because I didn’t want to lose too much of my winnings back to what may or may not have been a bluff. I think knowing when to get out is something I’ve really improved at and so I got while the getting was good.
I will however be back. It was a well-run game in a smoke free room and the players for the most part were a lot of fun to talk to.
Oooooo-Ahhhhhh!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

What a summer!

School is back in session and is seems the summer blew by. I determined that between trips and shuttling people around, I was at the airport 13 times this summer. That has to be a new record. Only four of those airport visits were for my own traveling however and one of those was business, flying to Dallas to do a couple days of physics workshops for teachers.

The other three were all fun! First to Jamaica to stay at a new (to us) all-inclusive resort. I found a very colorful driver in Lindsay McFarland who shuttled us on a tour around the island and then to the Cool Blue Hole, that turned out to be the highlight of the week. We bypassed the Dunn's River Urine Falls trip on Lindsay's suggestion and climbed the uncrowded cascades of the CBH instead. We jumped off cliffs, swung on ropes, and swam under a waterfall and then climbed up a cave and out THROUGH the waterfall itself. Quite a treat!

Next was a mission trip back to Belize to work at The King's Children's Home again. I took my girlfriend's daughter along and she did an amazing job helping with the children and around the home. One day we made 400 tortillas and then 150 blueberry muffins another day. It was just inconceivable that the children had not tasted blueberry muffins so they were a must make. We ended the trip with a water taxi trip to the uber-quiet fishing village of Caye Caulker and spent the night in a little cabin right on the water.

The final trip of the summer was a long weekend in Key West. I took the kids there years ago and always since had wanted to go back as an all-adult trip. Key West did not disappoint. To spice things up, we slept on a 44-foot sailboat and spent the middle 24 hours of the three-day trip sailing at sea. Another great adventure in the books.

Now back to school on a "modified calendar" that allows for a two-week break in October and plans are already set for that time off. We will be landing in Venice, Italy on my birthday for a few days before heading to Florence and Rome and then ending up with four days along the Amalfi Coast. I think we'll be able to take a pizza cooking class in Sorento. Another adventure!

I didn't play much poker, but sometimes fun gets in the way of fun :-)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A trip within a trip


When is a trip report not a trip report? Maybe when poker wasn’t the reason for the trip but you end up with a good poker story anyway.

The purpose of the trip was to attend my son’s wedding, and by attend I mean I was officiating the service as a newly ordained member of the Universal Life Church. I wrote the service myself and I can say without a doubt, I nailed it.

As it’s my son of 26 years and the most important thing in my life, I was able to add a personal touch that can’t be reached by the average officiate. But I digress; that’s not a poker story. If the blog was called “Teaching Science and Officiating Marriages,” it would go on…

After the rehearsal dinner I walked into the poker room at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City Indiana with about ninety minutes to play before I needed to attend to other duties. We were staying in the attached hotel at the Blue Chip and I’d grabbed a few hundreds from my poker stash, but didn’t really think I’d have time to play.

I bought in for a stack of red and a stack of white; only $120 because I was going to play tight and just relax and have a little fun, maybe even win a few dollars.

Starting chips: $120

Then things got interesting. After fifteen minutes I had a sense at how poorly the players were playing. Seats one and two were taken by muscle-bound construction types who had come together. They had unlit cigars in their mouths and they had come to gamble. They played almost every hand. If the pot was raised, they were in. Seat three was that nondescript middle aged guy that knew the rules but wasn’t going to mix things up too much. Seat four was the loser; a calling station who was bleeding chips at an astronomical rate. My brother, an average poker player but good gambler, had joined me and was in seat five. I was in seat seven bracketed by the local rocks, seat nine was a good, young player and seat ten was the mirror image of seat three, easy to forget. He would have made a good assassin.

I won exactly three hands in the hour I played before I cashed out.

Hand number one: I joined a pot with AQ, pushed all but the rock to my right off the hand when the fourth club hit after a queen high flop. I checked the river and took down a nice pot with my queens. The rock was chasing a straight and correctly read that I didn’t have the flush. It was a nice read, but he definitely didn’t have pot odds to chase.

Chips: $195

Hand number two: The next hand I look down at AK under the gun and toss out two white chips just to call. I was playing tight, right? Oops…. I had been holding red chips and had just raised the pot to $10. Nobody believed me and suddenly we have five to the flop! The flop was A84 with two clubs. I said again I was sorry and bet half the pot, $25. Seat two calls. The turn was a second 8. I check and Cigar Man #2 bets $40.

I already have $35 in the pot. I was going to play tight but now I might be playing for most of my stack. He either had an 8 or an ace. If he had an 8 I was drawing dead...

I thought for a bit and then decided it didn’t matter how I WAS going to play, I was in a hand and had to play it like any hand I play. If he got lucky he got lucky but I should be ahead here. I call.

The river is a blank and I check to him. I’m relieved to hear him say, “I hope you’re not showboating ace king,” as he turns over ace queen. Sorry…

Chips: $305

Hand number three: I’m having a good night. I’m almost out of time to play and I’m up almost $200. Not a bad evening.

“All-in in the dark.”

“I call in the dark.”

WTF???

Seat four is down to his last $27 and has pushed in before the cards are dealt. Cigar Man #1 calls dark. The cards come out and I look down to see two sweet aces.

It folds to me and I think “I’m having a good night. I’m almost out of time to play and I’m up almost $200. Not a bad evening.” I’ll just pick up the dead money and go home a winner. Even If I lose to Mr. All-in In The Dark, I’ll still win a couple bucks, so I push all-in.

Cigar Man #1 calls!

I flip over my aces, the cards come out, he mucks.

Chips: $598

Not a bad “trip.”

Monday, May 06, 2013

A new member of the family

Barklie was the best dog ever. We were actually on our way to the Humane Society to look at puppies and stopped briefly at Petsmart to check out the puppy stuff, only to find Animal Control set up there with a little black fluff ball who had been abandoned along side the road.

We never made it to the Humane Society. We'd found our new puppy and the chow mix was a part of the family for the next 14 years.

Barklie passed about two years ago and it finally seemed like the right time to add another member to the family.

Juneau is our new Siberian husky. I wanted to name her Togo, after the hero husky who delivered diptheria medicine to the children of Nome, Alaska in 1925, but didn't want to tell the story every time someone ask her name.

It's only been two days but I think she's a keeper :-)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Time for another trip, mon...

The best time to plan a trip is while you're relaxing on vacation, right? That's the way it seems to work lately. The whole crew is packing up in June and heading for the tropical island of Jamaica. Riu Montego Bay here we come!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I love spring break in Mexico!

It just doesn't get any better than a week at an all-inclusive resort with fantastic weather every day. Viva la Mexico!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Taking a trip...

 
I love to travel. I've been to China, Japan, throughout Central America, but never to Europe. It looks like that is going to happen however. I now have a first-class ticket to Italy and will be landing in Venice on my birthday in October!