Some mild Sklansky-bashing

Wednesday, December 10th, 2003, 3:10 pm

Many of Sklansky and Malmuth’s texts are given Torah-like respect for the knowledge they impart. I’m in no position to criticize their reasoning, being a poker beginner unlikely to graduate to true sharkdom, but I do have a bone to pick with Mr. Sklansky, and I will pick it here.

In his outstanding book “The Biggest Game in Town” poet and poker player A. Alvarez interviewed Sklansky, who said that he had studied mathematics at Penn. I’m paraphrasing (or, more likely, misquoting), but Sklansky said something like, “That’s the University of Pennsylvania, not Penn State. Penn is an Ivy League school”.

I graduated from Penn State, and I can’t take such a slur sititng down. Penn may be in the sainted and hallowed Ivy League, but big freakin’ deal. I’ve met Harvard and Yalie types who didn’t impress me much with their intellect, and, besides, Penn State has an outstanding academic reputation. I can’t speak to its mathematics department, but I came out of Happy Valley knowing my cosigns and standard deviations. And I was an English major.

I don’t say Penn isn’t an outstanding school–I have a friend who went there and he’s ridiculously intelligent–but don’t hold PSU up as some lesser example of higher learning. And besides, Sklansky didn’t graduate from Penn. I’d rather be a member of the Nittany Lion pride than a Quaker Faker.

I’ve read (well, skimmed) several of Sklansky’s books that I got from the library, and they seemed to be chock-full of good advice. Advice I lack the understanding and experience to put fully to use. I’ll return to them once I learn what the hell I’m doing out there.

Though maybe I am learning–I made about $30 yesterday when I was out sick with the flu. Most of it late last night, after the Celebrity Poker show–more about that later (and earlier). I tried to play a little $5 no-limit sit-n-go, but I couldn’t get logged on to a table. As soon as one came open I double-clicked and waited for the table to pop up, but before I could get there every seat was taken. Most of the time the first hand was already underway. Now, I don’t have the fastest connection, but it got ridiculous. I asked the floorperson thru IM if I was doing anything wrong, and was told to just click as fast as I could and grab any seat. Not the best answer. I sent an email to PartyPoker asking why they didn’t have 5 times as many tournaments running, since demand was obviously through the roof. They need an MBA on their staff to understand stuff like that. Like, oh, me?

So instead of little no-limit I went back to the $.50-1 table to try my luck. And I found myself a table full of slow-swimming fish. I can’t say I just got lucky, because I didn’t hit a run of hot cards. I actually folded like my first 15 hands, it got to the point that I decided to go to bed after I saw my first flop. I’m actually proud of myself when I fold in the blind, especially the small blind. “Another quarter in the bank” I chirp when I decide to muck my 8-3 offsuit instead of taking a flutter on the flop.

Then I got a hand, A-9 of hearts, and two valentines came on the flop. I bet along with three other souls, and another heart came on the river. I didn’t raise and everyone came along, and even when I raised after a rag came on the river I had two callers. A very healthy pot.

I’m starting to learn that the game I’m playing now is the true “No Fold’em-Hold’em” Lee Jones wrote about in Low-Limit Poker. You aren’t going to bluff many folks out with a late, aggressive play. You’d better have a hand, and you’re gonna take some folks along for the ride. I had A-7 in the big blind and the flop came 7-7-8. I had two callers, and the turn came a 10. A straight was possible but would require an unwieldy hand. The same two callers came along and a stinking J fell on the river. If either of these guys had a 9 I was sunk. I checked, the second guy bet, the third guy folded, and I called. The second guy had…K-8, giving him eights and sevens. Whew.

The big hand I won came just before I called it a night. I had A-K of spades and before the betting even got to me I had a raise and re-raise to deal with. Giddy-up, I said, and raised it again. The betting ended up capped with four of us along for the ride.

The flop comes A-6-8, the 6 and 8 both spades. So I have top pair, king kicker, and one spade from the nut flush. The betting ends up capped again. I’m thinking, “What the hell do these folks have?” and find that I don’t much care about the answer. Even if there are trips out there, I have two shots at the flush.

Which I hit on the turn, a lovely black deuce. This slows things down a bit, one guy folds and no one re-raises me. I’m licking my chops, and knowing this pot is mine so long as the board doesn’t pair, and when it doesn’t I decide that a check-raise would be a bad play because these guys might be content to call it a hand. Bless their hearts, they both call my bet, and though I didn’t see the one guy’s cards, the other had A-6 unsuited. With that he capped the betting preflop. Ouch.

So I’ve been playing PartyPoker for 3 days and I’ve doubled my money. Sweet. Now is not the time to get greedy, or pat myself on the back. Having a nice run, just have to keep it up.

I’ll be posting more later, have a few other things on my mind, but for now it’s back to work. Maybe I should turn pro…

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