MIT Poker Course

{ Figaro the Fish glances over at Leroy the Lion’s iPhone. }

[FF] “I didn’t know you were playing online poker again”, Figaro commented.

[LL] “Huh? What makes you say that?” Leroy wondered.

[FF] “You’re looking at multi-table tournament advice right now, aren’t you?”

[LL] “Well, for starters, MTTs aren’t just online. This tournament we’re about to play in is an MTT, even if nobody here calls it that.”

[FF] “True enough.”

[LL] “But that doesn’t actually say M-tee-T on the screen, it’s M-eye-T.”

[FF] “As in the university down the road from Harvard?”

[LL] “Yes, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

[FF] “Your older son is thinking about going there?”

[LL] “No…, well not yet anyway. I’m looking at a poker course that’s been taught there during IAP since 2012.”

[FF] “So MIT has an iPhone app where you can buy courses from them?”

[LL] “No, IAP doesn’t mean In-App Purchases here; it stands for Independent Activities Period, a four-week mini-term at the start of each calendar year where MIT students take very short courses. This one is called How to Win at Texas Hold’em Poker.”1

[FF] “Ah. It’s a course you can take online?”

[LL] “Not exactly. But videos and slides from last year’s course are available. The first couple lectures are for beginners. But there’s some good stuff starting with the third one, Basic Strategy. I’d also recommend lectures 4 (Pre-flop Analysis), 5 (Tournaments), and 8 (Decision Making).”

[FF] “Sounds like a good way to spend some quality screen time over the holidays!”

[LL] “You can even watch the YouTube playlist of the course on your new Apple TV. Sure beats watching your umpteenth bowl game…”


  1. Kevin Desmond taught MIT 15.S50 last year with guest lecturers like Bill Chen and Matt Hawrilenko. Wei “Will” Ma, a poker pro who won the 2007 Grand Prix De Paris Championship Event for over half a million dollars, will teach next month’s course with help from Paul F. Mende, who was formerly the head of the MMT (Money Management and Trading) group at Cambridge Technology Partners and an analyst at MDT Advisers. The course was Ma’s brainchild.

Poker Themed Holiday Gifts

[JJ] “Rod, I need your help!” implored Joey the Juvenile.

[RR] “How may I be of service?” Roderick the Rock responded.

[JJ] “Well, as usual, I put off buying Christmas gifts too long, and I have no idea what to get my Dad.”

[RR] “Ah, you’ve come to the right person. Benny’s almost a regular here, so anything poker related should make him happy.”

{Roderick types away on his iPhone.}

Card Protectors

[RR] “Okay, how about a card protector? Your Dad doesn’t use one, but he probably should after almost getting his cards accidentally mucked during last month’s tournament:

[JJ] “Not bad, but I think of a card protector as a very personal choice. He might use it because I gave it to him, but he should probably pick out his own.”

Poker Art

[RR] “Okay, how about something for your house?

[JJ] “Those would both be great except that we don’t have a man cave.”

Poker Office Toys

[RR] “Or his office?

[JJ] “Those would probably be better as Secret Santa gifts, I think.”

Plastic Playing Cards

[RR] “Okay then, how about something practical like playing cards:

Poker Chips

or poker chips:

[JJ] “Those would be great if we ever hosted a poker game, but we haven’t done that yet. Maybe in the future.”

Poker Books

[RR] Well, since you can browse his poker library, you can get him any good poker book that he doesn’t already own:

[JJ] “That’s perfect. I’ll find a book that I’d want to borrow, so it could even be a gift that pays for itself. Thanks, Rod!”

Related Links:

  • How to Gift an iPhone App. Of course, we think THETA Poker Pro would make an ideal, if terribly cheap, gift. As a universal purchase, the app will run on every Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch the person owns (tvOS 9.0 or iOS 5.1.1 or higher only).

Poker Word Search

[LL] “I figured out the first word ladder; wasn’t too hard”, Leroy the Lion claimed.


[RR] “Good. You can also use BOLD, BOLL, and BALL or MOLD, MOLL, and MALL. Depending on what dictionary you use, you can even do one better with COLD and COLL, an obscure word meaning embrace.

What about the other two?” Roderick the Rock inquired.

[LL] “Just too long. I didn’t even know what direction I was heading halfway through.”

[RR] “Oh well. Here’s one answer for each:”




Or using uncommon words:




The final puzzle was a word search. But unlike most of these types of puzzles, this one had no word list, just the instructions, ‘Find as many poker words as you can in this grid of letters in ten minutes.’

E  E  R  H  T  B  E  D  M  A  N  I  A  C  U  C  Y  Z  R  P  O  H  C  S

B  N  S  U  I  T  N  H  B  V  D  R  A  O  B  H  V  P  I  P  E  B  N  S

J  V  S  P  A  F  R  H  S  J  W  A  L  K  U  E  P  O  A  I  C  U  O  E

K  F  E  L  F  F  U  H  S  U  F  F  O  T  U  C  D  L  P  H  N  Y  T  V

Q  C  O  Z  K  T  R  W  S  P  L  H  G  I  H  K  Y  F  R  C  A  I  T  E

G  S  U  C  T  I  G  H  T  A  B  F  E  V  I  F  L  A  E  R  L  N  U  N

I  U  A  L  V  N  E  M  W  I  C  T  R  A  E  H  I  S  V  A  A  H  B  K

E  T  T  E  I  Z  Q  W  J  N  D  G  N  P  V  N  H  V  O  I  B  T  U  T

S  Q  R  S  E  M  N  O  I  T  I  S  O  P  B  A  Y  F  E  S  O  O  L  D

U  C  U  E  H  N  I  O  K  D  P  T  E  O  R  G  S  R  R  E  Z  I  R  P

O  P  U  I  R  O  W  T  L  A  Y  C  W  K  M  A  J  B  E  J  T  K  S  B

H  Q  T  U  T  T  T  E  D  P  U  E  M  N  E  E  U  Q  L  O  E  C  E  E

S  P  T  E  D  Y  A  E  J  E  M  L  K  N  B  B  L  B  O  K  V  A  K  T

L  R  S  S  L  K  C  P  D  T  S  I  W  N  B  L  U  I  O  E  I  J  A  E

I  U  P  P  O  L  S  R  B  H  S  O  L  L  O  S  U  E  C  R  T  I  R  I

X  N  L  I  F  Y  E  L  O  L  D  W  E  R  T  D  D  F  C  E  C  H  O  G

P  N  A  R  P  K  E  V  O  W  J  B  E  G  S  A  R  L  F  K  A  E  W  H

R  E  S  T  O  C  E  W  O  W  O  E  F  E  F  T  W  H  E  E  L  Y  J  T

E  R  H  P  A  I  P  H  L  R  R  K  R  L  S  T  R  A  I  G  H  T  B  C

B  L  I  N  D  L  S  X  P  F  O  O  I  A  O  M  T  A  E  S  Y  B  I  I

U  O  M  N  A  B  A  N  K  R  O  L  L  C  I  A  Q  G  D  M  O  N  E  Y

Y  N  U  Y  E  I  O  K  N  A  L  B  L  L  K  L  T  Q  M  D  A  N  T  E

R  I  N  G  A  T  E  Y  Y  E  R  T  A  B  L  E  S  B  T  I  L  P  S  D

P  A  S  S  I  V  E  N  U  T  K  N  A  V  E  H  R  H  E  R  O  E  E  C

And this scoring chart:

  • 30 words or fewer: Donkey
  • 31 to 55 words: Regular
  • 56 to 80 words: Shark
  • 81+ words: Pro”

{Complete list of words can be found in this footnote4.}


  1. Twa is Scottish for two.
  2. Awa is Scottish for away.
  3. Mairs is Scottish for more. Just a coincidence that all three of these obscure words are Scottish!
  4. The 122 poker words that were intentionally hidden in the grid were: ace active ante balance bankroll beat bet blank blind bluff board boat bubble burn bust button buyin call cash check chip chop club cooler cutoff deuce donkey draw edge eight equity fade five flip float flop flush fold four freeroll gutshot hand heart hero high hijack hole house isolate jack jam joker kicker king knave lead leak limit limp loose luck maniac money muck nine nit nut open overpair paint pair passive poker position post pot prize probe quad queen rag rail rainbow raise rake read rebuy ring river runner seat set seven shark shove showdown shuffle slowplay slowroll spade splash split squeeze stack steal straddle straight suit table tell ten three tight tilt trey trips turn two value walk weak wheel.

Poker Word Ladders

[LL] “So there was actually a wait for the dentist at midnight?” Leroy the Lion wondered.

[RR] “Yep, poor guy’s tilted opponent got so mad that he flung a poker chip right at his face and knocked out part of his tooth.”

[LL] “A chip from a chip?”

[RR] “Better than a chip from a chair, I suppose.”

[LL] “This took me longer than I’ll admit, but I think this is the answer to the crossword puzzle:”


[RR] “Correct! The next section had these three poker word ladders:

  1. FOLD -> CALL (4 steps)
  2. TWO -> ACE (9 steps)
  3. PAIRS -> QUADS (11 steps)

Change exactly one letter on each rung to get from the first word to the second.”

[LL] “Oh, I know how these work. It was one of the puzzle types in the Page-A-Day Bananagrams calendar I got for Christmas a few years ago. What dictionary were they using?”

[RR] “I don’t know, but you only need to use common words, so it doesn’t matter.”1

{Answers next week…}


  1. Shorter answers are possible for #2 and #3 if you break out your Scrabble-Fu.