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playing poker and teaching science: It’s all about perspective.
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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?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It’s all about perspective.

“ I have the nuts.”

It’s a simple statement, but as I’m leaving for Belize in Central America on Monday for a month of volunteer work, and the pot I was raking in represented more than two months’ salary for the country’s average working man or woman, it takes on a new meaning for me.

Let me repeat that: It takes more than two friggin’ MONTHS to make as much as I was raking in from one pot. As I run the numbers, it actually takes 77 ½ days for the average person in Belize to make as much as was in that one single pot…

The trip:

As planned I traveled to Sin City to be a part of the largest collection of donkeys on the face of the planet, the World Series of Poker. But as often happens, plans change. The truth of the matter is that I was having so much fun playing in the cash games that I never entered the event I have planned to enter for months.

Having fun is what it’s all about, right?

My wife gets a little miffed that I don’t get “jumping up and down” excited about vacations or new experiences. I know they’re coming. I look forward to them. I know I’ll have fun.

I simply live in the moment and she’s starting to understand that that is just who I am.

But I digress.

I touched down at about eight in the morning and had checked my bags and was playing in a $35 buy-in NLHE tournament at the Excalibur by nine.

It’s good to hit the ground running :-)

As with most cheap tourneys, it was an all-to-fast structure. I got deep into it, but didn’t cash. There was a bad beat, but who wants to listen to that story. Am I right??

I quickly hopped into a cab because I had really come to play Omaha 8. It’s my favorite game, the Orleans spreads a Monday $80 buy-in tournament, and I was sitting ready to take it down by noon.

The cards didn’t cooperate however and I busted out by three.

Oh for two.

Ready for that bad beat story yet?

I went back to the Excalibur, checked in, had a little dinner, and played some $1/$2 no limit hold em. I had a few beers, lost a few pots, (another couple bad beat stories… any takers??) and then turned in after a long day.

I’m an early riser and Las Vegas is three hours behind Indiana, so I was on the Omaha 8 list at the Orleans by eight the next morning, planning to cash out by noon, play in an Omaha satellite at the Rio, and enter the $1500 buy-in Omaha 8 WSOP tournament.

That didn’t happen.

As I racked my none-too-modest winnings I realized that I had been sitting in the same chair, playing the same game, for nearly 20 hours.

I went home at about four (praise be that McDonalds is open at the Excalibur until the wee hours!!!) and was back IN THE SAME SEAT by nine the next morning. How sick and twisted is that? I love Omaha 8 though and there are precious few games in Indiana.

Side note about the Orleans: The Omaha 8 game is filled with locals, most of them of retirement age. I was still there after they came and went a few times however and they warmed up to me. I had great conversation with a man named Allen who used to own a huge towing and auto repair service and a woman who was serving as a chip runner at the WSOP. Nice people for the most part. The game is $4/$8 with a half kill where the winner of any $60+ pot posts $6. It’s like a winner’s tax! In the evening in particular there were people BEGGING to give their money away.

I obliged them.

After seven hours the second day I cashed out having more than doubled my buy-in and headed to the Rio to check out the tournament I skipped.

Done with live games for the day, I drank a beer or two, chatted with the ever-personable Pauly from Tao of Poker (http://taopoker.blogspot.com/), and enjoyed the action at the WSOP. I was able to watch the yummy Clonie Gowen rake in a pot and then saw Daniel Negreanu sit down at her same table. It was all very entertaining.

Yes, the cell phone pictures are crappy, but they’re all I have to offer.

Afterwards I stopped in the Wynn for a few minutes and then jumped on The Deuce to head over to the Hooters Hotel for some wings and scenery. I was supposed to meet my sister and her family for a late drink. Her flight was delayed and so I sat, once again, at the $1/$2 NLHE table at the Excalibur.

Keep that in mind. I was only sitting in a cash game because my sister’s flight was delayed.

Hand history:

I bought in for $160 and was sitting in the five seat playing a conservative game because I was just biding my time until my sister arrived.

In the cutoff, I had chipped up to about $240 when I was dealt A4 of diamonds. There were four limpers ahead of me so I limped as well. Both blinds called so we had seven to the flop, which was AK8 with one diamond. Everyone checks to me so I bet the pot, $15. I have the best hand, right? A pair of aces. Yes, a weak kicker but everyone checked the flop. Everyone folds except the three seat who flat calls.

Really? Flat call? I put him on a draw or maybe he also limped in with a weak ace. One way or the other I’m not risking my stack because I’m just waiting for my sister’s plane to land.

The turn is the three of diamonds. The three seat checks and I bet about half the pot with my weak pair of aces and now the nut flush draw. He calls.

I’m a little confused about what he’s holding now and have no idea why he calls unless he’s slow playing a set. I’m not throwing any more money at him if the river is a blank.

The river is a lovely nine of diamonds. I have the nuts, an ace high flush. The three seat bets $60 into me.

Really? How very nice :-)

I put on my frowny face and look from him to the board. I look at his stack and then at my stack, which is slightly larger than his. After a sufficiently adequate pause, I point at his stack and say, “I’ll put you all in.” He IMMEDIATELY calls with his KING high flush.

That’s NOT a bad beat for him by the way. I was ahead the entire way.

I raked in the pot and I know I’ll think about that moment many times in the next month. It’s a humbling experience to actually live in a country where abject poverty is rampant and going without is the norm rather than the exception.

Being bet into when you have the best possible hand is an exciting moment. On the outside you’re endeavoring to remain calm and collected and trying to show a little confusion about how you let this pot get away, while inside you’re running the numbers in an attempt to figure out how many more chips you can extract from the poor slob betting into the nuts.

Pulling in a monster pot is a trip highlight for anyone and it’ll certainly be one for me. But it’s important to maintain one’s perspective. I had a fantastic time in Las Vegas and Monday I’ll begin a month caring for orphaned and abandoned children in a beautiful country where it takes the average person 77 ½ days to make what I pulled in in that one single pot. In Las Vegas affluence, glitz, and materials goods surround you. In the Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio there is more money on the table at any one time than the majority of people in THIS country will see in an entire year.

It’s more money than most people in third-world countries will see in a lifetime.

I’m a lucky guy. I have a job I enjoy, great health, a wonderful wife, two fantastic children, and the ability to travel in the summer to play cards and to do some volunteer work, helping those less fortunate than I.

Win or lose at the poker table, I have the nuts.


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