Sunday, May 27, 2018

Poker Night 538: Holiday Road

Some casinos have big special poker tournaments around national holidays. But the poker rooms in our new area do not. It was Sunday night business as usual, when we visited Jack Casino for the first time in several weeks. Memorial Day is an off day for us, so we were prepared to go all night....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 8-8

The room is full of poker players, but most of them are in cash games. We're at a full tournament table of nine, and early efforts have not gone well. We start this hand with about 12,750 chips, from a starting 15,000. But we'll gladly give a mid-range pocket pair a try. No one raises, and about five players are in.

ON THE FLOP: K-9-2

Not looking promising for us, with two higher cards showing. A man across the table bets 500. It's enough to chase off other people, but strikes us as a "position bet" to steal a pot. We dare to call, and now are heads-up.

ON THE TURN: 7

Well, 8's do beat 7's. But what are we really up against? We check. Our opponent checks, too.

ON THE RIVER: 9

This pairs the board, and gives us two pair. Suddenly we think it's time to turn the test in the opposite direction, so we bet 500. The other player calls.

"Nines and eights," we say as we show. Lo and behold, that's good enough! Our opponent folds without showing his cards. Our best guess is that he had something like A-Q, and the higher cards missed.

We won a few more modest pots in the first two-hour period of the turbo tourney. Our high was 19,200, and 18,200 remained at the first break. Then rising blinds forced some bold decisions. We went all-in four times without getting a caller, making nice gains in the process without showing our cards.

The four-table tourney went to two in a hurry, and quick dropouts put us at the final table of nine with 21,800. But that was on the low end of the list - and while we held on for a while, eventually we went all-in with 3-5 after seeing a flop of 2-4-9. Our straight draw missed twice. So a man with a mega-stack took out a woman who also had 3-5, as well as us.

Final result: a tie for eighth place, out of 36 players. The Sunday afternoon tournament at Jack had 91 entries - so many that the final table was still going when our tournament began. The top four there earned more than $1,000. Our contest only paid the top six, and we missed the money.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Do you have an extension cord for that?" the final table dealer joked when he noticed our card protector. We brought an electrical adapter, which people use to plug three-pronged devices into two-pronged wall outlets.

"I brought this to remind me," we explained to everyone, "that I receive power through the Holy Spirit of God."

A few people laughed at our words. We hope it was simply because it was a clever explanation. If you scoff at the idea of a Holy Spirit, the joke someday may be on you - as it was on scoffers long ago:

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine." - Acts 2:13-14


Both groups in this chapter had witnessed an amazing sight - the Holy Spirit filling Jesus's followers and guiding them in speaking other languages (verse 4). The apostle Peter explained what they saw:

These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.... I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below...." - Acts 2:15-19


It was a moment for joy, but not necessarily scoffing laughter. That's because Peter had a serious offer to make....

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.... Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. - Acts 2:21, 38


Some believers say they "speak in tongues" today, because they're filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way. They need to be sure others can understand what they say (verses 6, 11). But Peter's main point was that people should call on God, seeking forgiveness with a repentant heart. Then they can be forgiven. People around you might not forgive you, but God can - and that's a wonderful blessing to have.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 196 final tables in 538 games (36.4%) - 40 cashes. The final table count in our new area now is four out of five!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An Apology from "Jesus"

The online poker crackdown happened seven years ago. An explanation about it from a poker legend took less than 45 seconds - and may raise more questions than it answers.

Chris "Jesus" Ferguson posted a very short video this week about the "Black Friday" federal intervention. Ferguson reportedly was Chairman of the Board of Full Tilt Poker when it happened. He may have paid millions to the government to settle a civil case while repaying people with frozen bankrolls.

The transcript of Ferguson's video, posted by CardPlayer.com, includes this:

I deeply regret not being able to prevent Black Friday from happening. After Black Friday, I worked relentlessly to ensure that all players got paid back. And, I sincerely apologize that it took as long as it did.


That's not enough for some poker players, including Daniel Negreanu who mockingly called it "so heartfelt." Others are left wondering why Ferguson brought out the apology now - whether it has anything to do with the renewed hopes for state-run poker websites.

We're not going to judge Ferguson's motives. Instead, we're thinking about the real Jesus - the One who was sinless, and never had to apologize to anyone for anything....

So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. - Luke 17:3
There are three parts to Jesus's instruction in this verse. We need to watch ourselves and our conduct, especially as events move toward Jesus's return:

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. - Luke 21:36
Second: rebuke a "brother" who sins. We were challenged by a preacher last weekend to dare to say the word "sin" again, as many think it's improper now. But we should start with close friends (in church or outside) who may be wandering from a godly way:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. - Galatians 6:1

Third: forgive the brother who repents - even if you have to do it over and over:

If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, "I repent," forgive him. - Luke 17:4

We'd note Ferguson did not use the word "repent" - a word that implies admitting doing something wrong, and turning in the opposite direction from it. Time will tell if he actually does that; he'd probably have to return to poker site management to have that opportunity.

Follow the poker "Jesus," and you may run into some regrets. Follow the Jesus of the Bible, and you never will.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Flops of All Sorts?

Could big-money flops in online poker increase, because of people gambling on basketball players taking flops on the court?

Some people are seeing a potential connection, in the wake of last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on sports betting. The court essentially called gambling on sports a state-by-state matter, with Congress barred from passing laws limiting it to Nevada.

The reasoning for the connection is understandable: sports betting in casinos will bleed into sports betting online, and that will encourage the development of other kinds of online betting. But are some people forgetting a major lesson of "Black Friday" years ago - that online gambling sites can shut down without notice, leaving the financial accounts of players in limbo?

We tend to be on the side of caution at poker tables, and we'd advise the same approach here....

...For you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. - Ecclesiastes 11:6


Yet our NIV Study Bible has this comment on verse 1: "Be adventurous, like this who accept the risks and reap the benefits of seaborne trade. Do not always play it safe...."

So how can this be - an "adventurous" approach, yet with caution? We think it means not going overboard when you take chances, if you can help it. That's true during a poker tournament, as well as with investing in a poker website. Put another way....

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. - Proverbs 14:15


We suspect several new online gambling sites (poker and otherwise) are on the way because of the court's ruling. But we're reminded of what Jesus Christ told His disciples about launching out on their own:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. - Matthew 10:16


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Poker Night 537: Triple-A Benefits?

Three final tables in three tournaments - quite a start to poker in our new home area! But could we make it four-for-four? We drove to Hollywood Casino Indiana Wednesday night to find out....

BLINDS: 300/600

IN THE POCKET: A-9

Things were more challenging right off the bat, compared with last week. Enough players showed up for two tables, and they disrupted our plans often. For instance, slow-played pocket Kings ran into an Ace on the flop. We were ready to accept an early exit - but then came a surprise straight and triple-7's. We ended Hour 1 where we started, at 12,000 chips.

Now in Hour 2, a couple more pots have pushed us to a high of 17,000. We can get in for the minimum with these cards, but a woman raises to 1,600. We decide to take her on; about four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: Ad-3h-Ah

Marvelous! Three Aces, and we're already laying low. We check, and the woman down the table makes a continuation bet of 1,600. We smooth-call, as they say on TV; a third player calls as well.

ON THE TURN: 7c

This card seems meaningless. We check to the raiser again, hoping for more gains - but this time she checks.

ON THE RIVER: Qh

The third player in the hand is actually first to act - and now he offers 2,100. Uh-oh. With three hearts showing, did he make something big? Or does he have the missing Ace, and has been thinking what we're thinking? We have to call to find out. So we do - and the woman who fueled the fire folds.

The man turns over.... 8-3 of hearts! Indeed, he made a flush on the river. Our effort to drain the aggressive woman allowed a relatively passive man to come from behind and win a big pot. That'll teach us to bet early with draws showing, to ensure some gains - although, of course, that man may have kept calling, anyway.

We never recovered from that big loss. Minutes later, we went all-in with K-Q of diamonds after a an across the table pushed. We thought he had less. In fact, he had A-Q. An Ace on the river meant the end of the night for us: no final table, and 17th place out of 21 contestants.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We won back some of our $70 entry fee at a blackjack table - and heard an unusual statement from the dealer when he lost a hand: "Just doing the Lord's work, buddy."

Well, what do you know! We're trying to do the same thing, and told the dealer so. Except, "The Lord's work is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation for all, through Jesus Christ!"
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." - John 6:29


A woman at the far end of the table looked at us with what seemed to be a large amount of skepticism. She didn't comment, but clearly she wasn't expecting this when she sat down to play cards. Yet we pray that we did accomplish God's work in that moment....

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10


The "good works" prepared by God can take many forms. Within His church, they can be works of loving service. As Jesus put it....
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.... Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. - Matthew 25:35-36, 40
Doing it for a Christian brother is as good as doing it for Jesus Himself! Then when it comes to going outside the church....
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. - Acts 1:8
Jesus calls on His followers to "witness" for Him. We wait for the right moment to do that in poker rooms, and sometimes at other parts of casinos. But the Lord noted we need the Holy Spirit's help to do that properly.

Some church groups will celebrate the Holy Spirit's coming this weekend, with special services to mark the festival of Pentecost (called the "Feast of Weeks" in the Old Testament). This video explains the event, as well as what the Holy Spirit can do in your life. Will you allow God to do His work in you, through His Spirit?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 195 final tables in 537 games (36.3%) - 40 cashes.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

More Than a Dog

They're famous, funny and arguably tacky works of art - paintings showing dogs around a table, playing poker.

You may have laughed at them. Some people have spent serious money to purchase originals of them. But did you ever stop to think seriously about them? In other words, why don't dogs play poker? Why is it that only humans do?

We heard a speaker today remind us that there's one main difference between humans and dogs - and it's not how dogs use their "hands" as front feet. The difference is in their brains. Or, better put, what has been added to them....

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?.... - I Corinthians 2:11


Some kind of "spirit" in human beings allows us to think, in ways dogs and other animals cannot. For instance, it allows you to figure out whether or not to play two poker cards. And God wants you to use that spirit in other ways....

The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being. - Proverbs 20:27


Believe it or not, God is probing your mind. He wants to know if you're thinking on His wavelength, or some other one....

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. - Ephesians 2:1-2


We think that other "ruler" is Satan, or the devil. We all need to tune that ruler out, and stay close to God. Perhaps this blog can help you with that - so you act more like God than a dog, when you're at a poker table.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Poker Night 536: The Grand Opening

If you show up late for an event, you might miss something big. In sports, that could mean a first-inning first-pitch home run or a kickoff returned for a touchdown. In poker.... well, check what happened Wednesday night at Hollywood Casino Indiana:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Ace of clubs-King of spades

Talk about a slow night for poker. Only three people have shown up for the tournament! The single cash game table seems to have open seats as well. But we were on time, and received good cards for the first hand of the night.

We limp in with them as first to act. A man across the table raises to 425. Then a visitor from central Ohio re-raises to 950! This seems promising, so we simply tag along by calling. So does the other man.

ON THE FLOP: Kc-Qc-10c

Big cards. Good cards! We have top pair, top kicker and a flush draw. The Small Blind checks. The Big Blind offers 500. Slow and steady still could win our race, so we call again. As we recall it, the Small Blind folds. But what does the visitor have? Hopefully not two pair....

ON THE TURN: 6s

Nope, not what we wanted. The Big Blind bets 500 again. Now we're more concerned about a possible two pair - but we suddenly realize something. The Jack of clubs would give us a royal flush! We'll call 500, hoping for the best.

ON THE RIVER: Jc

The dream card comes true! But what we can do with it? The Big Blind checks, giving us an open floor. We ponder for a moment, then decide to test our betting opponent by tossing out 1,000. He says no, and folds.

"I don't think I've ever had this before," we then say....

"Royal flush," the Small Blind guesses. He's correct, and we prove it. The Big Blind never shows his cards.

"I only wish more people had been here to see it!" we admit. (Not to mention giving us more chips.) We advance from a starting 12,000 chips to nearly 15,000.

The tournament attendance eventually grew to eight total players. But our chip stack went down, more than up - as several quality cards missed flops, and we missed draws. We won a couple of pots, but dropped to 6,450 at the first break.

We certainly didn't want to be the first player out after opening with a royal flush, so we tightened up from there. A timely pair of pocket Aces allowed us to triple from 3,300 to 9,900. Then other players pushed without success. We were still in the running at the second break, even with a short stack of 12,900.

Four players remained at that point, and it was a winner-take-all contest for money. But as the third hour started, our visitor went all-in. We had A-8, dared to call.... and ran into K-K. A third King on the flop did us in. A memorable night ended with us in fourth place - a result that sounds good, as long as people don't bring up phrases like "small group."

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that gold bouillon?" the man from central Ohio asked when he saw our card protector. We let him look closely as we revealed what it really depicts - an artist's depiction of the "Lord's Supper."

"He's on your side," the man said.

"I hope He is," we replied. God indeed has come to the aid of His people many times through history....

If the Lord had not been on our side - let Israel say - if the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive.... the raging waters would have swept us away. - Psalm 124:1-3, 5


The Biblical King David wrote these words from personal experience. He spent a long time on the run, as King Saul tried to kill him so someone else would be heir to Israel's throne (I Samuel 18-31). David praised and thanked God for personal protection.

But to be truthful, life ultimately is not about whether God is on our side. The question is whether you are on His side - and there's a big difference.
...Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." - John 18:37
Why listen to Jesus Christ? Because He is the truth (John 14:6) - and He pointed interested people to the Scriptures, as God's "word is truth" (17:17). The Lord added:
He who is not with me is against me.... Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." - Luke 11:23, 28
To borrow a Christian cliché, obeying the Bible will help "get you on God's good side." We think that's far better than the alternative. What do you think?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 195 final tables in 536 games (36.4%) - 40 cashes. Since we have no control over who shows up (or doesn't) for a tournament, a one-table night still counts as a final table to us.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Avoiding Pride Parkway

Come to think of it, maybe there was  a Ministry Moment from our first poker tournament in Indiana. It came when we mentioned we were heading to a final table, without winning a single hand.

"That's something to be proud about," a dealer told us twice.

We really didn't think so, and quietly said so. But many players might have made it a "pride point." In fact, our new home is not far from "Pride Parkway" - a section of Kentucky State Highway 16 that leads to a Pride Park. We're not sure how those places received their names. But they're places we'd rather avoid - at least spiritually. Why?

When pride comes, then comes disgrace.... - Proverbs 11:2



Pride only breeds quarrels.... - Proverbs 13:10



A man's pride brings him low.... - Proverbs 29:23


When the Bible talks about pride, it's usually not a good thing. We heard a Christian radio preacher note the other night that Luke 14 is a chapter completely about the perils of pride. We'll let you read it, and see if you can find the reasons why he said that.

Back at the poker room, we added a few words for the dealer about the alternative to pride. The Bible speaks of that, too:

...But with humility comes wisdom. - Proverbs 11:2b



...But a man of lowly spirit gains honor. - Proverbs 29:23b


We've written here before that poker is a game that keeps you humble - or, at least, it should. How many players have bet the farm on pocket Aces, only to see an opponent with pocket 4's or worse crack them with three of a kind?

One of Jesus's apostles put it this way....

...All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. - I Peter 5:5-6


We think that means you shouldn't sit down in a poker room with a head bigger than the table. Or to put it another way, don't get stuck in Pride Park!

If we're blessed by God to have any tournament success at all, we give the praise to Him - maybe not always at the table, but certainly here.