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playing poker and teaching science: January 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. In the past I have tried to give back a little by volunteering at a children's home in Belmopan, Belize, Central America. I also love Frosted Flakes. I have taken a year sabbatical from my teaching position in order to sail the Caribbean. Does that sound crazy to you?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mid-Indiana Wrestling Conference Champions! Posted by Hello

Mid Indiana Conference champs!

My wrestling team won our conference Saturday and my son placed second.

Building the bankroll

I’ve seen the statistics before and I just reread an article by ESPN’s Jay Lovinger about poker players who turn a profit, and he states that the “research” shows that fewer than 15% of American poker players make money. Granted the research has to be a little tainted given the fact that when dealing with American poker players, the bulk are involved in an illegal activity, but that is a number to start with.

*I’m guessing when I say “the bulk” because there is a lot of legal poker playing going on, but all the on line players are technically criminals. Right?

After rereading his article I’m thinking, “Okay, am I part of the 15 percent or part of the 85 percent?”

Wow…..85% is a lot! Even if you’re not a numbers person you know that 85 percent is a huge amount and that 15% is a tiny amount. So it’s time to evaluate and be brutally honest. Am I making money at this hobby, or losing money?

The count is in and last year I made approximately $500 profit playing poker. I’ve tried my best to account for all the home tourneys, brick & mortar play here in Indiana, and my trip to Vegas in addition to live play online. I think I have been brutally honest and even very conservative when recalling exactly how much I made at some home games.

I keep fairly close tabs on my online play and so I know that on the whole I have cashed out more money from my four accounts than I have put into them. The only one that carries a total deficit is PartyPoker, but the money I’ve cashed out from UltimateBet more than make up for that.

So I’ve very confident that I am in the 15 percent. Cool.

So I felt pretty good last night playing two tables at a time. This is a true brain exercise. For almost two hours I played a table of Omaha 8 on PokerStars while simultaneously playing a game of Crazy Pineapple (high only) on UltimateBet.

I had the seeding meeting for our wrestling sectional at 7 o’clock so I only had time to play from 4 to 6 after school.

Two different games, one with a hi/lo and one without really keeps you on your toes! In my PokerStars account, I am ONLY playing O8b to see what happens with my bankroll and whether or not I can climb limits, but I play a variety of games on other sites. But when playing these two different games, I played very ABC, great starting hands only.

The results were pretty good: up 8 big bets in O8b and up a whooping 14 big bets in CP!

Apparently solid play pays off…..go figure :-)

Crazy Pineapple never ceases to amaze me. The big bet was only $.50 and I took down a $10 pot!!!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Battling back and a live tourney.

I took the free $50 that Party Poker gave me and effectively squandered it away playing WAY too loose in a higher level Omaha 8 than I usually play. It was a case of catching a few great hands and then thinking that the poker gods were smiling favorably on me and would allow me to double up in just one night.

I now return to the mindset that math is the poetry of poker and as such will be the factor on which I rely in the future.

So with that in mind I took my $7 to a $5 sit-and-go (yes, I was down $43 at that point) and played my A game to finish second to climb up to $16. Then I took my fishing pole and my entire $16 “bankroll,” if you can call $16 a bankroll, to the $25 NLHE 6-max table and patiently waited for the fish to swim by.

I tried to pick a table where the play was fairly conservative and where nobody had a huge amount of money so I could win it back a little at a time without risking my whole stack, and that worked pretty well until a super aggressive player (SAP) at down with only $12 one place to my left. He chipped me down a little before calling my all-in while I was holding AA. The only problem was that HE had AA also. Rats!

It all paid off however when I was at about 18$ and limped in behind him with J10o. The flop brought 69Q and I called a $1 bet with the open-ended straight draw. The turn was a king and I called another $1 bet. Then the river was an ace, without a flush draw on the board. SAP bet $2 into me and I slowly raised another $7 thinking he might fold to an all-in. Sap went into the tank and thought it over. I usually don’t do this, and I honestly don’t know if it helped, but I typed “fold” into the chat. He called and I won a nice little pot.

My free $50 is now back up to $31.

Saturday my wrestling team won our conference tourney and my son finished second. Neither was supposed to happen so those were fantastic results.

Saturday evening I played at a $50 home tourney with 17 players and bubbled out in 5th place. Once the blinds got to $300/$600 I called the all-in of a short stack with A9d and felt pretty good when he turned over A4 unsuited and the flop gave me two pair. The turn and river both brought a 4 and his full house hit my stack pretty hard. I stole a few blinds playing a little more aggressively, but bubbled out when I only had two times the big blind and my A9 did not improve against AQ.

Over all however I think I played very well and took a lot of money off a young, aggressive college student when I got a great read on him that he would raise a low card flop with over cards. I took money from him four times by re-raising with what I am sure were inferior cards and one other time by check-raising my QQ.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tilt....more than just a new TV show

What is it about free money that makes me think I can play poor poker and get lucky? That’s exactly what I did with the free $50 that Party Poker gave me. Playing Omaha 8 ($1/$2) I made loose calls, chased flushes without a low, and lows without a high and then hit two big suck outs to take my free $50 down to $20.

The sad fact is that I was up about 5 big bets and playing solid poker, but I think I played too long and then tilted a little after my flush draw lost to a four outer on the river not once, but twice.

So I dropped down a level and continued to play poorly so I quit for the evening.

I took $5 of the money I had left to a one table SNG and tried to build the stack back up. On PP you only start with 800 in chips but the play isn’t the best so I slowly built my stack up to about $1350 before I was crippled by a poor call when a calling station raised when the board paired fours on the river. I called with top pair top kicker (queens), only to find that he had been calling half-pot bets with bottom pair.

I was able to limp back to the top four and went all-in under the gun to steal the blinds with 99 (with the blinds at $100/$200). I wasn’t happy when the big blind called because he had me covered my 150 chips and thought it was all over when he turned up 23s to go out on the bubble.


Needless to say hell hadn’t frozen over so he was out.

Whenever I make the top three I hate to be the first one out, so I played my best and made it heads up at only a 3 to 2 chip deficit. The blinds were climbing fast however and I became the chip leader before falling a few chip behind until the last hand where I called with A10 because I knew he was going all-in with any two face cards. I was right and he turned up JQ, which looked great for me when I flopped two pair, but the turn brought a king and I was out in second.

I did boost the sagging free money account however so I’ll tighten up and see if I can get it all back.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 17, 2005

In the bonus round

Sometimes things just go your way. After a long Saturday of wrestling where my team and my son both went 4-1, I was able to sit down for a little poker Sunday morning. I signed up for a $5, three-table MTT on Empire. While I was waiting for the tables to fill I jumped into a $.50/$1 Omaha 8 game and was up nine big bets in the 15 minutes it took to get the game started so I was playing the tourney as a freeroll of sorts. When the NLHE game began I played tight for the first few levels and then caught an inside straight in the big blind to make it to the final table with an average stack of chips. During that time all my big hands held up and I had the best of it any time I was all-in.

Side note: I still hate JJ, even though they held up all three times I received them. Also, there are a lot of players who don’t consider the fact that the players in the blinds could have ANY two random cards in an unraised pot and that top pair top kicker may not be the best hand when the big blind comes back over the top. Beware the blinds!

At the final table the shortest stack went out on the very first hand so we were down to nine with the top five making the money. The chip leader was two places to my left putting him in the big blind every time I was on the button so I made sure I had a monster if I was considering going all-in.

I became the chip leader for a while when my QQ held up against 99 and that helped propel me to the top five. The blinds were getting really huge at that point so I knew I would have to push a little to have a chance at winning because the chip leader, still two places to my left, had a monster stack. Therefore, I went all-in with KQ suited on the button with only one limper, and got called down by the chip leader holding KK. Naturally I didn’t catch running queens or my suits and went out in fifth, making $10 for my time.

My run playing Crazy Pineapple and CP8 took a minor setback when I chased a few too many draws while playing tired and sleepy, but I’m back in the black ever since that time. Again, the poor play in this game is amazing. But then, I was Mr. Poor play for a few hands so the pot will stay mute in regards to the kettle's play :-)

Also, I opened up my PartyPoker account that has carried only a one dollar balance for a very long time and found they gave me a $50 bonus! I’ve had that $50 at the $1/$2 Omaha 8 table for the last hour and am down $3 because I chased a hand out of the small blind that was so poor that I can’t bring myself to repeat it here.

I wasn't going to jump up a level in O8b until I made a little money at the lower levels, but when you can take a shot for free, why not?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Knowledge is good

I’m a high school wrestling coach and we are in our busiest time of the season for the next three weeks so the poker playing will be sporadic at best. However, it’s one of those things I get paid to do that I would happily do for free, in addition to the fact that my son is a junior on the varsity squad and it’s another two hours each day we get to spend together, so you will hear no complaints.

Even without time at the tables however I feel it’s important to continue to expand my knowledge base, so I’m reading TJ Cloutier’s book about Omaha and Omaha 8, both limit and pot limit.

Omaha 8 is one of my favorite games and pot limit seems to be a game that offers a solid player a lot of post-flop action and is a variation I’d like to work into as the year progresses.

I’ll post anything interesting from my reading.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

It's just CRAZY!!!

I may never play Hold Em again. No, I haven’t suffered a long sting of bad beats. No, my bankroll isn’t drained. No, the internet gambling police haven’t raided my home. The simple reason is that I’ve discovered Crazy Pineapple 8/b!

This game is just too much fun! Fun in a sad way sometimes though. Did you see the movie Bad Santa? I remember watching that movie and coming out of the theatre with my side aching from the laughter, but not feeling very good about laughing because it was such dark humor. Crazy Pineapple is like that.

Short explanation for those who haven’t played CP. It’s just like Hold Em except you get three cards and then discard one after the flop. The hi/lo option is played with aces low so the best low hand is ace-5.

Now, imagine this scenario: You are holding AK2 with the AK suited. (In my limited experience, this is a pretty good starting hand. Big Slick suited for the high and the nut low if three more low cards fall without counterfeiting the ace or deuce.) There are 8 out of 10 players in the pot preflop, which is very common. The flop comes AAA. You are now holding four aces, the Mortal Nuts. Do you slow play? NO! Because if any two cards come up eight or less you may have to split the pot with anyone who chased with two low cards.

So you bet out and watch everyone fold, right? No again! This is CRAZY PINEAPPLE! You get four, count ‘em four, callers! Three all the way to the river as you bet! The low doesn’t materialize and you scoop the entire pot. This is not an isolated incident. I saw multiple callers with quad aces, then later with quad 10’s. Four flushes and four card straights also received multiple callers.

I went back through the hand histories several times because I could not imagine what these people were calling with. I found that they were calling with hands that should have been folded pre-flop. It was truly amazing.

I don’t know how many times I said out loud to my computer, “This is crazy.” I’m guessing that my personal response is where the game got its name. I don’t know how many fish I saw swim up with a small buy-in, lose it all, and swim away while I continued to play a tight game, accepted a few suckouts, and made more than five big bets per hour for three hours of play.

Okay, you caught me. I will play Hold Em. I took my winning from CP 8/b and etered a one table SNG because I was playing for “free” and finished second. A pretty fun evening :-)

Thanks for reading.

Ten things to remember from 2004:

1. My first ever trip to Las Vegas.
2. Having two ex wives is twice as bad as having one ex wife.
3. My son deciding to drop a weight class in wrestling.
4. Always hire movers.
5. A hot tub is a wonderful investment.
6. I can make money playing poker when I play well.
7. I can lose money playing poker when I play poorly.
8. Volunteer work is rewarding in many different ways.
9. Thirty days in China.
10. Women are ALL crazy :-)

Thanks for reading.

On being a writer...

I would love to be a professional writer. I know how to write and how to find a market for my writing, but I think the discipline it takes to find ideas and markets for those ideas along with the actual writing would take a lot of the fun out of it.

But I still write. Obviously, right? I mean you are reading something I’ve written right now, but I’m talking about finding an idea, submitting it for publication, getting the idea approved, writing an article, and then actually having it published.

So if someone actually likes something I’ve written and publishes it, that’s fun for me. If they happen to pay me for it, even more fun. I had fun yesterday when I opened my mail and pulled out a check for an article I wrote for a small publication in the Pacific Northwest called “Bear Deluxe.” It was a nerdy science article about a substance called methane hydrate and I won’t bore you with a reprint, but I had fun writing it.

If you happen across this magazine, I’d appreciate it if you sent me a copy because I’d like to actually see the article in print.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Trying a new game.

Poker bloggers all know the ever entertaining Felicia Dyer. She's a poker professional who pulls no punches in her blog. She tells it like she sees it and you can take it or leave it. I enjoy reading her posts and respect her opinion on most matters.

She mentioned a game I had never played before called Pineapple and Pineapple hi/lo split and I gave each a try over the weekend. The hi/lo split is like any common split game with the low below eight and the lowest possible hand being a wheel (A-5). Other than the hi/lo option, which may or may not be played, the game is just like Texas Hold Em with the noted exception that you are dealt THREE down cards befoe the flop. Then, if you elect to stay and play the hand, you must discard one card AFTER the flop. As in HE you can play one card from your hand, two cards, or simply play the board.

It makes for some interesting play. In the high game you may be dealt AK8, flop an ace and discard the eight, only to have an eight come up on the turn! It makes you pull your hair out, but in reality the discarded eight was the right card to get rid of mathmatically.

Felicia's advice was to play tight and watch the fish pay you off and that that is exactly what happened. In four total hours of play in Pineapple (hi only) I am ahead approximately six big bets per hour and four BB per hour in Pineapple hi/lo.

I'd like to be a competent all-around poker player so I am anxious to play in a variety of games, but I also want to make money. In the case of Pineapple it seems like the math challenged poker players are at yet another disadvantage.

If you like Hold Em, give Pineapple a try. It was very entertaining. I will offer two caveats: 1. It is often confusing in the hi/lo game whether you should look for the high or the low. Felicia suggests looking for the high and that's how I was playing unless I had a premium low hand like A23, and 2. It is VERY easy to see possibilities in almost EVERY hand you are dealt so look for premium HE hands with another good connector card which could leave options for straights and flushes.

**The tournament I was supposed to play in this past weekend was postponed.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 07, 2005

SNG fun

I had a unique experience playing a one-table sit-and-go (SNG) on UltimateBet last night, made even more fun by the fact that I was the eventual winner. I like the play on UB and have used it a lot when I feel like playing but not like risking any real money. They have a $1 + $.10 SNG that I play for fun but none were available last night so I sat at $5 table.

The play at UB has been very solid lately and this table was no exception as there were still EIGHT players sitting when the blind reached 100/200! Eight! Not like at Party/Empire where you might be heads up with the blinds still at 15/30! So needless to say it quickly turned into an all-in fest.

I was sitting on the second highest pile of chips and so my strategy was to wait out some of the smaller stacks so I folded my way to the top five fairly quickly as three players went all-in three hands in a row with the best hand, not theirs, winning each time.

Once we hit five players, all with fairly even stacks, the fireworks began!

Two hands in a row I took a beating with good hands. Ace/jack and then ace/queen both lost to small pairs to cripple me down to a short stack only slightly larger than the blind. Under the gun plus one I am dealt snowmen (88) [love the poker lingo] and push all-in. I get two callers. Gulp. I’m out. But no! An eight come on the flop with an ace and I triple up as ace/king puts ace/queen out of the contest. Down to four.

I also learned what the pro player (Johnny Moss?) meant when he said the only thing better than winning a hand at poker was losing a hand. The ups and downs in this game were very exciting and win or lose I had received at least $5 worth of entertainment. When I mentioned that at the table there were a couple of sad sack responses. Doesn’t anyone have fun any more?

Four handed play is a great place to be if you know what you are doing in a SNG and have been observing the players. Everyone wants to make the money and nobody wants to be on the bubble, so I always push all-in when I have an ace are able to cover any callers I might get. They will fold anything that is not a premium hand and I steal a lot of blinds. If I have a medium/high chip stack with four players to go, I almost always make the top two (with the stupid play exception noted below!).

This tactic worked time and time again, but the leading chip stack began to get passed back and forth as the blinds went to 300/600 and the all-in with the LOSING hand before the flop won five times (count ‘em, five times!) In a row!

Finally, QQ held up against ace/10 and we were down to three. I raised the blinds with KJ and hit a jack on the turn to put out 10 10 to make it heads up. By now the blinds were 400/800 so it was a crap shoot when I flopped two pair to my opponent’s pair of queens to win the game.

Poker is so much fun.

I am entered in a 30 player, $30 NLHE tournament at a house in Indianapolis Sunday morning. I’ll post my results.

Thanks for reading.

**Stupid play note** I was down to the final four players in a SNG when I was dealt pocket queens. The small stack went all in front of me, naturally I called, then the second largest stack went all-in behind me. Did I fold? NO! I called! Why? I don’t know! Just call me bubble boy. Live and learn.***

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Ten Commandments of Online Poker

I recently found these ten commandments on a poker site.

(1) A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, A-K, A-Q suited only!!! Believe me, you will still get sufficient action. If not, change tables.
(2) Thou shall not bluff.
(3) Do not slowplay!
(4) After the flop, do not play without top pair (or better), a flush draw, or a straight draw to the nuts.
(5) Getting raised on the turn/river demonstrates a huge hand. Folding is often correct.
(6) Just because you raised before the flop doesn't mean you need to continue to raise after it.
(7) Do not check-raise for effect. No one gives the check-raise the respect it deserves.
(8) Do not call with just overcards.
(9) Consider playing two games at once. Say you want to play $20-40 limit. Two $10-20 games are easier to beat, and that also helps with the variance.
(10) Always take advantage of the bonuses.


Riding on the Omaha (8/B) railroad

I’m continuing my Omaha 8/b play and had a very nice session last night playing for about three hours and finishing up a whopping 10.6 big bets per hour of play. I was playing on Empire Poker and Pokerstars, one table each, at the same time and I had a larger return per hour on Empire.

The play on Empire is almost silly at times. At one point I flopped a ten-high straight flush and got called down all the way by two people chasing a low that never came. Then, two hands later, I am dealt 88xx in the big blind and get to play for free and decide to stay in when an 8 comes on the flop. I call one bet and then get the case 8 (I love poker terminology) on the turn and check raise with THREE callers and bet out on the river to take down a monster pot.

There are multiple schools of thought on O8b, but I usually bet out the nut hand. On Empire (Party Poker) you will always get multiple callers hoping to catch the second best low, and on Pokerstars, they may all just fold. Pokerstars is a lot tighter play.

Two things I have learned in the past week that should help my online play:

In Omaha 8/b, if a caller bets out on the river, he probably caught some miracle card that he was chasing or he’s a moron that doesn’t understand quarter pots. Tread lightly.
Don’t try to bluff in the $25 NL hold em games. There are too many calling stations. Just play it cool and reel in the fish. I pushed all in with JJ and got called for $17 by K10 unsuited, but lost too much trying to bluff a calling station that stayed in with pocket 10’s with three overcards on the board.

Thanks for reading.