Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Big 2-9 and reflections on my first year teaching

I'm getting old... tomorrow is my 29th birthday.

No, not really. I am a very young 29 in many regards, in fact, I've been finding it difficult to figure out how my life now is different than it was ten years ago. Let me count the ways my life today is similar to my life in June of 2001.

1) I'm not working.

Now: first summer break as a teacher!
Then: first summer break from college!

2) I'm single.

Now: just cut off a relationship that was going well, but something didn't seem right.
Then: still hadn't had my first girlfriend!

3) Majority of free time is spent playing video games or sports.

Now: World of Warcraft sucking up my time, I don't really want to be playing it, but I can't find anything more fun and relaxing to do. Playing in an ultimate frisbee league, going to a few tournaments this summer, and regularly biking and going to the gym when I'm bored of WoW.

Then: Played lots of Everquest in 2001, also played a lot of pickup ultimate frisbee.


I'm unbelievably happy with my decision to spend half of my summer taking a class at UW for new teachers, which starts Tuesday. I'm not sure what I would do with myself for two months if I had no structure. It seems silly--I'm bitching about having too much free time. Having free time is one of the reasons I broke things off with my girlfriend, and now I've got more free time than I can shake a stick at.

Seriously though, too much free time can be a curse. When you wake up day after day and lie in bed with absolutely no reason to get out of bed--it can be very depressing. I can only fool myself for so long with going to the gym or making fake money in WoW. Again--very glad to be occupied with a class for the next month.


My first year teaching was an overwhelming success. What is "success" in this case? Simply put, success to me as a first year teacher is surviving and wanting to continue teaching in the future. My overwhelming success is being offered a teaching contract for next year at the same school and also improving my students' math test scores better than the national average (some 4x the national average!) as a first year teacher.

I started the year as a substitute for three days, and then I was offered a long-term sub position in the same role, and later I applied for the full time position and landed it. I taught just under 180 days this year (I had three sick days and a few professional development days). I began with no lesson plans and very little idea of what to teach. After the first three days of meet and greet, the principal pointed me towards the stacks of math books from the old math teacher who left three days before the school year started. I picked the books from the beginning of the cabinet for each class and got started at the beginning of each book. Two weeks later I found out about the district-wide curriculum and was introduced to the website showing which books to use, so I had to swap out books and start over.

This year was tough because I worked so hard all year long and much of that stress was due to such a rocky beginning. Those first few weeks I need to be setting the tone for the year in terms of organization and behavior--and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. The first semester passed by in the blink of an eye, and I used winter break to center myself and come up with a much better way to facilitate learning in my classroom. During the second semester, kids in my class had a much more enjoyable time (more hands on activities, a better climate in the classroom for learning).

I learned zillions of things this year in relation to teaching, and the two I would like to share are very positive.

1) Kids want to learn.

I really did not think about this much. I guess I thought middle school kids just want to have fun and only learn because they have to. The first semester I had more students complain about being bored and not having work to do than I had students complaining about too much work. I took this to heart and eventually instituted a challenge question in addition to the homework assignment which earned a few of my classes ice cream parties at the end of the year. I was skeptical that students would even try a challenge problem (additional work) if they wouldn't get any individual credit for it, but around half of my students did.

2) I love teaching.

I was pretty sure about this going into the beginning of the year as a substitute, but getting a classroom of my own and really experiencing a full year as a teacher (even without the beginning of the year organization in place!) makes me appreciate teachers so much more, and be just as proud to be a teacher. I literally felt excited every day to wake up in the morning and go teach. I told numerous people that out of the entire school year, maybe just one or two days felt like work.

Teaching is always unfinished, which can be depressing and soul-crushing, but I think poker has given me a good understanding that all I can do is make good decisions and the results will follow. I felt like I could have worked 24/7 this year teaching with all the work to be done, but most days I arrived 30 minutes before school and left 2-3 hours after school. Most days I left school not because my work was finished for the next day, but because I was completely drained and my mind was mush and I wasn't getting anything positive done at school. The next morning I would race to make sure everything was in place for the school day (thank god for a first period prep), and then I would catch up on grading homework and quizzes on the weekends.

This last semester I had homework club on Mondays after school, I coached ultimate frisbee practice after school Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I had staff meeting on Wednesdays. I honestly can't see myself getting away from those after-school obligations anytime in the near future, so the best way to survive next year is to cut down on the planning and in-class work by using what I learned from this year. The more time I spend this summer organizing and even just thinking about organizing my classroom for next year, the more time and energy I will save during the year. It is near impossible for a procrastinator like me to get started thinking about classroom management for next year, but I realize early September is going to get here a lot sooner than I might think.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Live Poker #2: The Fish Gets Hooked


Been a while since I've written twice in a month, and I see a trend of more writing if this poker itch continues, so I may as well start linking again. Before I even link my own last post, I have to thank Dr. Pauly for blogging the 2011 WSOP. I appreciate the level of writing and the candidness of his writing more than any poker information he funnels to us, and I think Pauly inspires me not only to play the fun and challenging game of poker, but also to write--something I have a very hard time getting inspired to do.

Here's a link to my last post, and the first live poker recap I've had in quite a while. In short, it details my guppy-like play at $1/$3 NL, but getting lucky and getting to cash out at least a portion of what I put down to play with.

Tonight I followed the same routine of two weeks ago with a Friday evening motorcycle trek the 30 or so miles up to the casino. I enjoyed the ride, albeit an hour later than two weeks ago, and about 10 degrees cooler. This time I parked right out front in the valet parking, which is free and open to any motorcycles. I decided to play $4/$8 limit tonight instead of $1/$3 NL, but I did put my name on both lists and would have played NL if that table opened first. Luckily (?) for me, the $4/$8 spot opened first and I spent the next three hours on my only $100 buy-in.

Because I bled off all of my chips from the moment I sat down two weeks ago, I sat down tonight determined to plug the leak and play tight, solid poker. I did not put a single extra chip into the pot in the first four orbits. A little over the top on the tightness, one might say, but really I had shit. I didn't see a pair, two face cards, suited connectors, one-gappers, not even two-gappers! I folded K-8o on the button, but I thought about pulling the trigger.

The fact that none of my hands would have won anything made me feel alright about all the folding. I fall for loosening up when all of my crappy cards would be winning me mountains of blue chips if I would have played them... and then I start playing crappy cards and lose my lunch money.

I'll preface the first hand I was involved in with the fact that it is probably the single best live hand of poker I've ever played in my entire life. A footnote is that I've probably played less than 100 hours of live poker (but hey hey! I hit a royal flush once!).

First hand that I volunteered any of my precious chips... you might think a pair? A big pair? Nope. 6-4 of spades, and I limped in UTG. I think my decision to limp in a bad position was partly not having a single "playable" hand all session, and also the table seemed to be pretty easy in terms of players getting to see cheap flops. Of course the first time I limp I get a re-raiser in late position. A few people had limped in behind me before the raise, and I think 5 of us saw the flop:

Flop: Jc 7s 3h ($38 in pot)

I'm a little hazy on the specifics, but I think the SB folded preflop, which put me second to act behind the BB. Let's say for math's sake five of us saw the flop, this puts 5*$8 plus the SB's $2 in the pot, so $42 minus the rake which is $2 or $3. I think I'll just assume $4 in rake for the pot because it gets pretty big. So let's say we're at $38.

We check it around to the Smoking Hot Asian (SHA) original raiser in late position. She bets $4, I think the button and the BB call, as do I and one person folds. I've got a pretty loose draw here, but I figure $4 into a $54 pot doesn't make my call too terrible (still not great, but I'm a fish!).

Turn: 2s

Board: Jc 7s 3h 2s ($54)

I've got 64ss, so now I'm pretty committed to any bets with my flush and inside straight draw. BB checks to me and I check without thinking too much into betting because I'm honestly not very sure how I would play a re-raise. I'd have to call, but I'm not sure I'd like my position. Original raiser bets and gets the button to fold, but the BB and I call.

River: 6c

Board: Jc 7s 3h 2s 6c ($78)

I see the 6c on the river and I'm a bit dejected, but then I notice the BB wakes up and bets out at the pot. This surprised me but I didn't let it show. In the time I spent folding the first four orbits I had picked up a few tells on the older greasy Italian gentleman to my right, and he had the typical strong is weak / weak is strong attitude. His wife twenty years his younger was draped over his right shoulder, on the opposite side of him from me, and I was about 95% sure he was bluffing at the pot to try and impress her.

Now the gears start turning in my head. The 6c on the river is not the card I was looking for, but I think I might just have the Italian guy beat. I'm pretty sure the SHA across from us has both of us beat, so I decide to RAISE!!! I make it $16 and she thinks about it for a second, smiles and lays her hand down. The guy to my right insta-calls and tables... ATo. Upon the insta-call I resigned to losing the hand, but showing my sneaky play. I saw the ATo and pumped my fist while being pushed the $110 pot.

This hand was the confidence booster I needed after getting reamed two weeks ago. Even if I had lost it, I think I would have been pretty happy with my play, at least my raise on the river. Rethinking this hand now, I see plenty of holes in my play that opened much wider later in the session (gushing out all my chips), but I also think the river play is something that 'rounders' make routinely, and I count as the best play of my life (and I'm telling the truth). I'm looking forward to incorporating plays like this one more in the future. Pretty much just having a read, sticking with it and having the balls to pull the trigger--something Jordan has been preaching for the last six years or so.

A few orbits after my marvelous play *pats self on back again*, I look down at two red aces in the BB. Old guy with a Yuma, Arizona trucker hat in early position raises it up. One caller behind, and then a late position 3-better. I four bet and hope it doesn't completely give away my aces. Four of us see the flop.

Flop: 3c 8s 8d (~$62 with rake out)

I bet, everyone calls.

Turn: 5h

Board: 3c 8s 8d 5h ($78)

I bet, Yuma guy is the only caller.

River: Kh

Board: 3c 8s 8d 5h Kh ($94)

I am deathly afraid of the King on the river, and as the card is being flipped I say to myself "No King, No Queen!!!" I rationalize that there's an equally likely chance of him having Kings, Queens or Jacks--so I bet out the river... and get raised. I begrudgingly call, knowing I'm beat but not good enough to fold in that huge of a pot. I anticipate kings, but he flips over quad 8s and rakes the $124 pot. Ouch! Beat from the flop on.

The greasy Italian guy to my right congratulates the old guy and is still needling me from betting my pair of river sixes against him. "You should stick to your pair of sixes, those aces aren't better than your pair of sixes, ha ha!" This would have caused a witty reply from me a few years ago, "Now the old guy has got your chips" or perhaps a "go fuck yourself!" Here's another thing I've learned from my time spent reading Jordan's blog: don't tip the glass. I knew I could clean out the greasy guy to my right if I let him continue to play his macho game, so I just waited out his rant--and it felt great knowing this. Unfortunately, someone else took his money before I could.

I make one more good play against the old guy from Yuma later in the session, but my play opens up and I blow my last $60 in chips chasing draws much like my play from two weeks previous. One thing I really want to correct is that when I got down to $40 I just looked for a spot to get all my money in, which is pretty much just pissing away that $40. Next time I vow to just get up and cash out my few remaining chips. The least I can do is put it into a fireworks fund for the 4th of July and blow off money in a more loud and destructive way.

It felt great to make a good play and get rewarded with a positive (albeit very short-term) result, but the fact that I left losing all the money I put on the table, and the suspicion that "the best play of my life" is a move most poker players use fifteen times a night... I can't help but rub the inside of my cheek, checking for a barb.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Live Poker Post

Blogging is about #20 on my priority list right now, which is unfortunate because I like to look back at my archives from time to time, and I see plenty of month gaps where I have one or maybe not even any posts. I can deduce that those were busy times, but it is hard to remember exactly what I was doing five+ years ago. I started blogging back in 2003, and somewhere or another I have a nice archive, but anyways...

Live poker!!!

The poker bug bit me last week, what with the WSOP starting up and Pauly bringing us all the dirt, it just feels right to play some poker. The combination of an upper respiratory cold and horribad traffic to the south led me to skip out on my ultimate frisbee game Friday night and motorcycle north to Tulailip Casino.

I had jitters motorcycling north on I-5, some jitters due to not riding the motorcycle much over the last six months, and other jitters from not playing live poker since visiting the new Snoqualmie Casino with Dr. Chako a year or two ago. I got my ass handed to me that trip at $4/8 limit. That whooping, combined with a desire to play no limit, had me make up my mind that no limit holdem would be the game tonight. No matter that I had only played no limit live once before, and have a terrible loss rate at no limit online ring games.

I put my name down for the $1/$3 NL list and a spot opened up about 10 minutes later. I got to catch some of the Mariners game against Tampa Bay, which Justin Vargas ended up pitching a 4-hit shutout (M's are only a few games back, who would have thunk it?). I had more jitters as I sat down with $100 at a table where the buyin ranged from $50-200. I think sitting down with less than the max is pretty fishy, but having 33.3 big blinds seemed enough for me to get some poker playing in (not just shoving), and I felt more comfortable with $100 on the table than $200. I know I could lose that $100 on the first hand, and I planned to play for a few hours, so I told myself to play tight and the most I can lose is $4 an orbit (weeeeak).

On the first hand, I folded K8 of spades preflop, which would have won me a $300+ pot with multiple people betting and raising (two pair and a set, when my K8 of spades would have turned the nut flush). I loosened way up, although I knew the preflop fold wasn't terrible.

I was thoroughly outplayed all night long, and I played the role of fish to perfection. I rarely raised, and I chased a lot of draws. Some hit, which drew big sighs of dissatisfaction from the sharks at the table. One guy lost a few hands on the river to me, but he abused my blinds like no tomorrow, so he got back whatever he lost to me and some on top.

I lost my first buy-in re-raising the shark to my left who UTG raised to $11, as he had done a few times previous. I pushed with about $45 left, and he hesitated and called with AJo, he had about $500 behind. I had Q5o and he turned a J, which had me reload for another $100. The push with Q5o didn't do much to sway the group from thinking I was a fish (and I'm not arguing otherwise!).

Like I mentioned earlier, I had a few nice rivers. The nicest river came when I was down to my last $25 into my first (and only) rebuy. I had a weird hand like 97s, but saw a free flop in the Big Blind. I call a small flop bet with some two-card straight possibilities and a backdoor flush (see what I mean about chasing??). Turn brings one of the straight cards, giving me an OESD, but no more flush possibility. One dude bets out $20, other dude calls, and I have ~$30 so I push and they both call. My OESD ends up hitting and I take down the pot to jump back up to ~$125.

A few hands later I see T5dd on the button and call the Cut-off's (Hijack? one to my right) min-raise to $6. A blind and an early limper call as well. Flop brings me a flushdraw and pairs my T, and I call a $10 or $15 flop bet from the CO. Turn misses and I call another $15. River pairs my 5 for two-pair and I call a $25 bet from the CO. He shows AA and I rake a pretty substantial pot. Not sure why I didn't raise the river, but that's just me playing fishy.

It was odd to be fully aware of how fishy I was playing, but not changing anything about my play. I know when I lost my first buy-in I had a crazy image (pushing with Q5o, chasing all my draws, and also folding a lot to aggression when my draws didn't come in), and told myself to stop calling and start raising when I wanted to play, but I just kept calling and folding. I was extremely lucky to cash out with $152 of my $200, given my shitty play. Also, the $5 chicken alfredo needed more chicken.

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