How is teaching prep school like sitting at the poker table?

So I teach Spanish at a boarding school in upstate New York. None of the students have any idea that they have a card shark for a teacher. The only adult on campus who knows anything about my exploits after class is the IT guy, who had to provide me with a special IP address so my computer could run Party Poker behind the school’s firewall.

Something very important when playing poker is table selection. Find the right mix of players and you will earn the maximum on your hands. Sit down with the wrong mix of players for a given session, and you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Well, I happen to teach three sections of third year Spanish. Between yesterday and today, I taught the same lesson to all three sections. I used the same lesson plan and the same materials to accomplish this. And I experienced three completely disparate results. The first class flipped out and claimed that the material was much too difficult, that they had no idea what was going on, and basically shut down for the whole forty-five minute “session.” Flash three hours into the future, and I’m back in front of highschoolers teaching the same thing (which is really quite daunting after it flops the first time). This group grabs the bit in their teeth and runs away with the topic, taking it in directions I hadn’t expected and giving *me* new insights I hadn’t had before. (These brief and amazing moments are what get me through classes like the first one.) The third class’ response was somewhere between these two.

Sometimes when I’m reflecting on my poker game, I wonder the following: “If I’d had these same cards, but I changed “X” about my table, how would that have impacted my outcome for the night?” The seat where the biggest fish was sitting. The seat where the best player was sitting. My own mood. The amount of chat going on. You know, anything. This is very similar to what happens in my classes. If “Hunter” (prep school, remember?) is absent on a given day, the whole chemistry of the class changes. If I just found out my boyfriend got sucked out on with KK against David Williams in the Bahamas, that affects the notes I put on the board (my example sentences might become more violent). Maybe it’s just me being my insane self, but I can carry on these chains of causes and effects for hours.

I also sometimes wonder: “If [insert more experienced poker player’s name here] had held these cards in this game, what would his/her result have been?” This type of thinking usually happens right after I bust out of a tourney. Would that person have been more aggressive? Chosen better spots to push back? What would they have noticed about the other players that I didn’t? And on and on and on.

This is why I wish someone more experienced than me would watch my play and critique it. We have the luxury of critiquing the pros thanks the televised poker, but no one is televising my 10+1 sng. If only. (Wow, you’d need a team of marketing genius-types to sell the commercial spots for that.) But then, that too would be a factor affecting the game, someone sweating my hands all night. And around and around we go.

I think I’m having all these thoughts because I feel I’ve reached one of those plateaus in my playing. You know the ones — in between those moments when you sit up and realize, “hey, I’m better than I was last month/year/night!” I need to read something new, or do some genius-type analysis of my Poker Tracker data, or something. I’m eagerly awaiting Dan Harrington’s new tourney book, even though I know it’s too advanced for me and doesn’t relate to most of the poker I play. Anybody have any suggested reading? I’ve worn out the bindings of Lee Jones’ book and SSHE by Sklansky (although I’m going to give the “protecting your hand” section another close read in a few weeks).

Okay, time to prep for class. T minus two months, one week, and five days until my first poker cruise…

2 replies on “How is teaching prep school like sitting at the poker table?”

Did you read the Sklansky tourney book? If not, you should. I don’t know if it all translates to the one-tables, but it will help you with the multis.

Oh, and I have the “What would a top player have done with my hand?” thought all the time.

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