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playing poker and teaching science: March 2009

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?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Two less cards

The hotel I stayed in for the NCAA DI wrestling nationals last weekend in St. Louis was only a few blocks from the Lumiere Casino so, being an early riser, I was at the table at eight in the morning two days in a row.

The table was made up of the same six locals both days, none were stellar poker players, and the first day I made $50 in 90 minutes without showing down a single hand. I played 67s for a small raise, got three callers, bet the flop of A74 (with two spades), and everyone folded. That was the story. When I bet or raised, everyone got out. I SO wanted to stay and play, but I was there to watch wrestling and that's what I did.

The next day I won exactly $100 in the same 90 minutes, but caught the nuts in two hands and showed them both down. The locals were pleasant and seemed to have some respect for someone playing solid poker. It may have helped that my nut flush hand stung another early morning tourist more than a local player.

After Friday night’s wrestling session we all had a few beers at Hooters (kudos to a lovely wait staff!) and then trekked to the casino, witnessing a four-car pileup on the way. There I was introduced to three-card poker.


A coaching buddy loves the game and I watched him play for a while before a seat opened up. What the hell, right? Gambling with my $150 poker winnings seemed like a good idea so I bought in for $50.

Four hands later it was gone.


Then I hit my rush: pair, pair, straight, and then three lovely queens that paid out 30 to one. Suddenly I’m up $175 and out of the game before you could say, “Know when to hold em.”

Researching the game later I found that if you play premium hands, queen seven or better, The House only enjoys a 3% edge.

Maybe I’ve been playing with too many cards!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


During my 18 years as a professional educator, I’ve been the fortunate recipient of several letters that begin with the single word phrase “Congratulations!” As one of the few journalism/geology gentlemen on the planet, I read voraciously and as such, often stumble across opportunities in the sciences. All that is required at that point is writing to apply.

Writing: One of my fortes!

I again found on the receiving end of a congratulatory letter yesterday, this time from Honeywell. I have received a grant to attend the 2009 Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy located in Huntsville, Alabama this summer.

I’m going to space camp!

For a week this summer I will be participating in some of the same training as our astronauts with other teachers from across the United States. There will apparently also be 19 other countries represented in my training class.

I wonder if I get my own jumpsuit…

Season Wrap Up

The wrestling season has come to a close and the team finished strong in the county tournament:

5 champions
3 second place
4 third
3 fifth
3 sixth

18 out of 20 wrestlers placing in the top 6 in a strong 10-team tourney where there is only one school smaller than ours.

It was a nice way to end the season.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wrestling Success

My team was quite productive yesterday at the Western Boone 8-team tournament:

Seven Champions
Eight second place
One wrestler taking home the "outstanding wrestler" trophey

A total of 34 wrestlers placing in the top 6.

There's only one week left in the season.

Go Huskies!

On Line Strategy

Chapter One: German Dial-Up Guy

As an avid reader and poker player interested in NOT donking off all his on line bank roll, if I come across an article about strategy, I read it, digest it, and experiment to see how it melds with the poker knowledge I’ve acquired to date.

One area I have seen go uncovered is the best strategy against players in underdeveloped parts of the world playing on line with questionable internet connections.

The United States is a wonderful place: a fact, which is woefully under appreciated by the masses who have never ventured beyond its borders. I can accurately state that the kids I have in class have NO IDEA what it’s like to be somewhere that has, no electricity, no air conditioning, a questionable water supply, and (gasp!) no television.

Having volunteered for several years each summer in Belize and ventured off the beaten path throughout Central America, Mexico, China, and Japan, I feel like I have a pretty good idea on how people live throughout the world. Life in the countries I’ve visited, with the exception of Japan, is so far below the standards we have set for ourselves in the United States that it’s beyond the grasp of the average American to conceptualize.

If an American citizen had to walk to the corner of his neighborhood to pump the water he needed for the day, there would be outrage. Yet, there are still many parts of the world where that is a part of daily life.

As civilization encroaches on parts of the third world, the popularity of poker in those countries will likely follow. Let’s face it; it’s a fun game! Even if you only get four channels on your television, there will eventually be a poker tournament televised and the winner will rake in a large multiple of the average person’s yearly income.

Hell, I’ve won more in one pot than a great deal of people in the world make in a year.

The poker boom will continue to ripple across the globe like the waves from an overweight America kid cannon-balling into a neighborhood pool. As that happens, you’ll find the situation I was in today: Playing against the guy with a dubious internet connection.

I’ve been building my bankroll by gathering $26 tokens and turning them into $75 tokens, which in turn can be played for cash, and lately I’ve been sitting in the Full Tilt, 4-player, heads up, No Limit Hold Em games.

I buy in for $6, and play two heads-up games. The winner takes all, which in this case is a $26 token. With a 60+% success rate this month, my stack of tokens has shown a pleasing increase.

Twice lately I’ve found myself in a situation where my opponent, one from Hungary and the latest from Germany, has had a severe problem staying connected. In both cases, I never had the feeling that I was playing against a nit, donkey, or fish. Both players played a solid game and made impressive moves, only to get disconnected for the next five or six hands.

I’ve adopted a very conservative approach in these games that has worked to my advantage. Playing tight, solid, ABC poker while waiting for Bad Connection Guy to get low stacked and panicky and push his stack all-in with less than optimal holdings takes advantage of his situation. This fact is even more evident as the blinds increase. When he disconnects and is forced to fold a few blinds in a row without playing, his stack shrinks very quickly.

It’s a strategy that I’m still working to develop well and that still needs some refinement, but it’s a wonderful exercise in patience. Waiting for my opponent to make a mistake while optimizing the “raise and rake” opportunities when he disconnects has so far been quite profitable.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

It's good to be the king

It's been a busy couple of months. Wrestling season is in full swing and my team is enjoying a huge amount of success with a 16-1 dual meet record. The hard work continued to pay results Saturday as the team wrestled it's way to a New Castle Duals Championship.