Sunday, July 21, 2013

Those that can do, those that can't...


The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.
-Mark Van Doren

As you may have guessed from the last few oddball posts, I'm putting together some poker lessons. Actually, a lot of lessons. Think soup-to-nuts, starting with the basic fundamentals at Level-1 "what are my cards?" poker, and then continuing on up through the levels into advanced "I know that he knows that I know he..." play.

No, I'm not going to actually post the lessons here; those will end up on another dedicated website (eventually, that is) that I've been slowing working on for the past year or so. I'm going to continue my usual ranting and raving about various poker-related things herein this blog, and talk strategy and such, but I'm also going to (hopefully) regularly post some thoughts about a particular lesson I'm developing. Said another way, I'm going to treat this Poker Bug blog in part as a school sounding board. I'll throw some poker spaghetti against the blog, see what sticks, and then use that to keep the lessons moving forward offline. My eventual goal is to build a place where beginners can come and get a solid grounding in the fundamentals of poker and gambling. By the time they're finished, they should at least understand how to think about not only specific poker hands and how how to make well-reasoned decisions, but also understand gambling on a bigger picture basis. Poker is fundamentally a gambling game, and while it looks quite different than horse racing, sports betting, stock trading, and business decisions, it's based on the same underlying principles of things like expectation and decision theory.

In case you're wondering if this is a flash in the pan, I've actually been working at this idea for about two years now, and I have something like 40K words ginned up in a master lesson plan document I've created. I also have a domain registered for the website, and continue to make steady, if a bit uneven, forward progress on the site. Unfortunately, I'm a wordy bug, so this 40K worth of words I've written only covers the most basic of poker stuff. I'm expecting a couple hundred thousand words by the time I'm finished, plus lots of graphics, some videos, and maybe even a podcast or two. We'll see as I continue throwing noodles against the stucco.

So why am I doing this? Well, the truth is that I enjoy writing and creating; I'm a big believer that the key to happiness in life for most people means that they have something they want to get up in the morning and work on. Build a back patio, learn violin, write a novel, whatever. For me, this reason-for-rising means planning and building stuff (and by building I mean both things like my work construction stuff, my hobby/fascination with high performance vehicles, planning house renovation stuff, etc., as well as things like writing books.) I also enjoy teaching. A lot.In fact, I'm one of those sick individuals that actually enjoy explaining poker to someone as much as I do actually playing the game. Seriously. Seeing a light bulb of discovery going off over a student's head can be like a drug; you want to do it again almost immediately. Yeah, I must have been dropped on my head as a small child sometime in my past...

Regardless, I believe that I understand fairly deeply what gambling and poker are all about, more so than a lot of poker players, in fact, and I love talking/explaining/discussing this to/with other people. Oh, and I'm a long-term winning cash game player. This latter fact is due in no small part to learning the game the long and hard way. My first coach was a brilliant player and a very good teacher in his own way, but he was also highly disorganized and prone to incredible tangents of fancy. Yes, I learned a lot from him, but I had to do almost all of the heavy lifting on my own along the way, including just plain learning where to go to find basic information. Said coach was also a limit poker specialist, and that game is basically dead nowadays; no-limit may look like limit poker, but it's a completely different animal. Lastly, I'm a math guy at heart, and this coach was decidedly non-mathematical in his approach to the game... anyway, all of these were the types of things/areas that were really frustrating to me as a beginner when I was first starting out. I really needed structure and logical progression, and I got neither.

And lest you think it was just my first coach that didn't measure up, it's not:. I've had a number of other short-term coaches along the way for specific things I wanted to improve upon, but each of these left me wanting, too. Same with the various training sites I've joined along the way. And don't get me started on the organized chaos that forums like 2+2 have devolved into. I dare you to to learn beginning poker from one of those sites. I'd literally wager a paycheck it can't be done by your average bear. Or even by your above average poker/picnic-loving bear for that matter. There's probably a thousand useless and/or misleading and/or plain wrong posts on those forums for every single useful post you might find. Good luck separating that wheat out.

Which brings me to the hubris of this particular Bug post: I think I can do a better job. Yes, there I said it. I think I can take a bright, interested student who has played hold'em a few times, and turn them into a winning player. Have I figured out how precisely to do this? No, not fully, but I've got a basic framework developed. And ultimately that's why I'm mentioning this whole fandango herein today: think of this post as fair warning that some spaghetti is gonna be tossed hither and yon. Stop reading now if this doesn't interest you, or put your bib on. Poker lessons are a'comin'.

--Caution: Non-Poker Stuff Below--

Jetting off again this morning for another week in so-called paradise. Ha. When friends and family say they are envious of all my trips to Hawaii and Europe (funny, they never seem to be envious of my trips to places like Rockford, Illinois... but I digress), I bite my tongue. Business travel is not fun, and it's about as far removed from vacation excursions as you can imagine. Take a typical trip for me to Hawaii, for instance. Travel from where I live takes two flights outbound, and three back, which, counting layovers, traveling to/from the airport, etc.,  totals around 12 hours door to door each way (and I'm ignoring flight delays, missed flights, etc. in this calculus). When I land in "paradise," I take a shuttle to the rental car agency, then drive immediately up the mountain for a week of work. I can see the ocean miles away, but I'm there to solve construction and engineering problems, not swim and surf with the tourists. I work at altitude for a week, sleep like crap due to jet lag, eat unhealthy meals, don't exercise, work 12-14 hour days in a stressful construction setting, then drive down, return the car, and take another 12 hour journey home. The same type of thing goes for a Europe trip, only the transit time then is closer to 24 hours door-to-door, and I get to not sleep, eat poorly, and be stressed out in another language. Quack, quack, quack. I've been doing this lifestyle for most of my ~25+ year career, so it's just part of the game. But when a friend continually bemoans the fact that I *get* to travel to exotic locales, I frequently think to myself, "okay, wise guy, here's my ticket and itinerary. Good luck. Oh, and no quacking, please." But I don't. Other than the travel part, I have a pretty good job that keeps me on my toes and engaged. It also pays reasonably well, and I feel like I'm building something that can/will be for the betterment of mankind. I used to build military hardware whose sole purpose was to kill other people. My current job is a little more fulfilling in that regard. Oh, and I get to travel to paradise on a frequent basis. Quack!


All-in for now...
-Bug

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