Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Student Becomes the Master

Here is a strange revelation – I've never considered myself a good teacher. That may sound odd coming from someone who has been teaching physicians for the last 3 years. Hell, I'm an Assistant Professor of Radiology – surely I have some teaching skills, right? Well, when I think about good teachers I've had in the past, I don't see how I can compare. My style is so very different. I'm too confrontational. I give too much information and not enough explanation. My first evaluation from my students basically said I was an abysmal failure as a teacher. Granted, my last evaluation was glowing, but I think they were just sucking up.

A few years ago, I tried to teach The Wife to play golf. It almost ended our marriage. I had all these good ideas about how I played the game. Like most golfers, I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about the swing. That doesn't qualify me as a teacher, though. I guess that's why guys like Ledbetter and Pelz get those crazy sums of money.

When I got to Iraq, I quickly found poker night. There were only about 2 other decent players. Since we didn't play for money, it was only about the points. I leaped out to such a commanding lead that everyone knew they were just playing for second place. It amazed me how often my success was attributed to luck, but anyone who has had success in poker knows this story. Week after week I just padded my lead.

Jess, our intrepid psychiatrist, asked me to give her some pointers. I was happy to oblige. She started with a basic understanding of the game, but that's about it. Watching her play in the beginning, it was obvious she was a Calling Station. If this was a money game, I'd have gotten rich off her. That's one of the first things I worked to correct. "Every time you put money in the pot, it should have a purpose," I said. That didn't quite work, so I pared it down to, "Stop calling the Turn, dammit! Raise or fold, but stop calling!" We talked about the importance of position, and I explained the Golden Rule of poker – he (or in this case, she) who folds crappy hands pre-flop wins.

There were many times she would ask me about the play of a certain hand. My responses were fairly typical.

Don't try to bluff the Chaplain or SuckOut Chris – they never fold.
You should have never been in that hand in the first place.
Raise or Fold there. If you thought you were beat, why did you put more money in the pot?If you knew you were ahead, why didn't you lead out?
Aggression, Aggression, Aggression!

There were several times she told me I was full of shit. Most times she would take the information and just nod. Suddenly she started winning. Not just once or twice, but consistently. She out aggressed me, if you can believe that! Still, there was no way she could close an 18 point deficit with three nights of poker left, right?

Last night was the final evening of poker in Iraq. The hands were played and the scores were tallied.

Dr. Chako gets the silver. I never felt so good coming in second place.

Congratulations, Jess!


The Bracelet said...

And the most important thing of all?

You linked yourself.

Well played, sir. Well played.

BamBam said...


I get up off the floor now, just to say,

Be safe !