Sunday, December 21, 2014

Poker Day 437: Bounty Picker-Uppers

The "freeroll period" at local poker rooms seems to have passed.  It cost the managers too much money.  Instead, we're now in a  "bounty period" on Sunday afternoons at Arrowhead Poker.  The tournament has a bounty section attached: $25 chair rental + $25 bounty chip + $10 extras = $60 entry fee.  But if you eliminate a player, his/her bounty chip is worth $25 at the end of the day.

Our game today didn't offer any moments to take players out.  But we won a few nice pots, and hoped to win one more here....

BLINDS: 5,000/10,000


It's a two-table tournament, and seven players remain at ours.  We start the hand with 35,000, but we're in the Big Blind.  So we're substantially committed, and see no reason to hold back when our turn comes.

"All in, 35,000" we say - putting the white bounty chip in, along with everything else.

Only two others were interested in this hand.  One man folds.  The other, a manager at another card room, thinks it over out loud.

"I'm probably going to chip you up," he says -- but he goes ahead and calls.

"Al-Qaeda," we say as we show.  He shows a meager 4-5 of hearts.  This looks very promising.

ON THE FLOP: 5-8-Q (8 is a heart)

Wow - we both pair the board.  But our Queen leads.


Uh-oh - now this is potential trouble.  He has four hearts, for a flush draw -- in fact a straight flush draw, and a straight flush was hit at this table only a couple of hands before.  By our count, he has 13 outs.


....and he hits the more unlikely one!  Two pair stun him, and leave us shaking both our head and his hand.  We leave the contest in 13th place, and he gets our $25 bounty chip.

MINISTRY MOMENT: There was no "Christmas music" playing in the poker room; they call up classic hits from the late 20th century during the afternoon games.  One of them was George Harrison's My Sweet Lord.

"That's a curious song," we said to several people (none of whom responded).  "Jesus is my Lord - but he turns it into a song about something else."

We've mentioned this song here before.  Have you noticed the last part of the song refers to "hare krishna" - as in Hinduism?  Harrison apparently wanted to cut through religious divisions.  But there's a problem with that:
...Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.... Salvation is found in no one else, for there s no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. - Acts 4:10, 12
The Bible never mentions Buddha once.  It mentions Jesus often -- and it dares to say Jesus is the only name by which you can receive salvation.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.... - I Timothy 2:5
Perhaps it's little wonder that some people call Bible-believing Christians intolerant.  It's because the God who inspired the Bible demands a choice: accept Jesus as your Savior or else.  What choice will you make?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 155 final tables in 37 games (35.5%) - 25 cashes.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All the Wrong Reasons

One reason why some people condemn poker is because other people do strange things when they play.  In fact, they sometimes do illegal and disgusting things.

One case currently in a British court is a sad example of this. A couple is accused of persuading schoolchildren to play "strip poker" after getting them drunk.  The charges grow worse from there.

We've never played strip poker, and don't really want to do it. (That's OK - you don't need to e-mail us the rules.) It takes a good card game and turns it into a perversion.  So we can understand why there's a law in Britain against enticing children to play it.  And an old "law book" tells us....
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious.... for adulterers and perverts.... - I Timothy 1:9-10
The accused couple is innocent until proven guilty in court.  But it's easy to point fingers at them for what they might have done -- until we stop and think a second.  Who has not broken the law at some point?  Especially the holy law of God?

....For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23

The author of I Timothy realized that in his own life:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. - I Timothy 1:15
So is Paul the author a lost cause?  Not at all.  Jesus staged a dramatic intervention in his life (Acts 9), and Paul became a preacher and teacher of the ways of God.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. - I Timothy 1:16
Do you feel like the worst sinner ever -- perhaps of something you've done at a poker night?  Jesus helped Paul, and He can help you.  Turn to God, begin walking in law-abiding ways based on what His "law book" (the Bible) shows you, and amazing things can happen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Wild Life

So what has Martin Jacobson done since winning the World Series of Poker Main Event?  What - you don't know?  To be honest, we're not sure, either.

But another "poker pro" has made a lot of headlines - for the wrong reasons.  Dan Bilzerian was arrested this past week on charges of having materials to make a bomb.  That follows a case where he reportedly threw a naked actress into a swimming pool.

We don't follow the social media of poker players very much, but a news article on Bilzerian's arrest said this:

Bilzerian's popular Instagram account is consistently filled with photos of a playboy lifestyle: private jets, scantily clad women, piles of cash, guns, and Bilzerian shooting those guns in the desert.

And oh yes -- he does movie roles, too.

He sounds like every poker player stereotype come to life.  Yet check his poker record, and Bilzerian shows only one time when he placed in the money at a World Series of Poker event.

We don't know if Bilzerian is guilty of the bomb-making charge or not. But we think he's guilty of one thing -- a lifestyle that emphasizes material possessions.  And yes, we think that's something worth the title "guilty."
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. - Ecclesiastes 1:2 (KJV)

This "Preacher" was King Solomon of Israel.  He had more possessions and money than even modern-day millionaires (see I Kings 10 for a partial list).  Yet at the end of his life, he realized how vain it all was.
I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner.... - Ecclesiastes 5:13

Solomon admits being able to enjoy wealth and possessions is a "gift of God" (verse 19).  But how many people realize that, and give God thanks for it?  Even Solomon eventually caved in to sinful actions (I Kings 11).  That's why he concluded:
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. - Ecclesiastes 12:13
 May we all learn to do that "whole duty" better.  Better to fear God than be a playboy fearing arrest by the long arm of the law.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Czech or Bet

It's one of the classic poker questions. Is it a game of skill? Or simple luck? Or a combination of both?

This question has gone to courts of law more often than you might think. The latest ruling comes from a court in the Czech Republic. It ruled even poker tournaments (as opposed to cash games) are gambling, so organizers have to obtain state licenses:

The court argued that chance was a crucial factor in poker, making it gambling rather than a game.

We really can't deny that point -- and we don't think most experienced poker players would, either.  When tournaments get late, blinds are high and players are scarce, the cards you're dealt matter a lot.

But we'd add life is full of chances and big decisions. The biggest risk you'll ever make does not involve the choice of a spouse, or even whether to go all-in with pocket Kings.  It's this....
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out -- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. - John 5:28-29

Jesus is talking about an upcoming time of judgment. How will He determine good from evil?  He answered that....
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me will not be condemned.... the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. -- John 5:24-25

You can "hear" the words the Jesus said, by studying the Bible - especially the first four books of the New Testament, including John. Then believe them by putting them into practice.

We believe Jesus advised doing good things, not bad things. We have an article which attempts to sort them out. Which bet in life will you make?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Push Or Be Pushed?

Some poker players can come across as bullies.  They'll raise early.  They'll bet often.  They'll try to force opponents into tough decisions which test their backbones.  When you come across that sort of player, how should you respond?

We found an article from California on one of the 2013 World Series of Poker tournaments.  Chad Holloway responded to an all-in bet by calling, scored a big win and went on to capture a bracelet.

Holloway offers this noteworthy advice:

Amateur poker players have a tendency to put opponents on stronger hands than they actually have, but it's important not to be a pushover.... don't back down in the face of adversity.

Start talking about the things of God at a poker table, and other players might conclude you are a pushover.  They might conclude that based on some verse they might vaguely recall Jesus once saying....
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. - Matthew 5:39
Our NIV Study Bible notes indicate this "strike" is "more of an insult than an act of violence."  But it's easy to overlook something else Jesus said in this same chapter....

You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." - Matthew 5:38

This quote recalls a principle established by God way back in the Old Testament:
If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.  As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. - Leviticus 24:19-20

This is "fair and balanced" justice. It's leveling the amount of damage.  If someone "pushes" you in a poker hand, you can push back in kind -- as long as you don't go overboard and take vengeance.

Sometimes in poker, that "second cheek" might be a trap you set to get your chips back -- even with interest.  That's the nature of the game.  But away from the table, it shouldn't be that way.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8
 Play humbly, for that matter -- but be ready when the moment is right to show you have a "strong hand" at your disposal:

The Lord gives strength to his people.... - Psalm 29:11

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Talking a Good Game

The player seemed to need one card to make his hand.  He called for something (let's say a club to make a flush) - and the dealer dropped a club on the river.

"Ask and you shall receive," a player next to us at the table said.

"I read that in a book once," we told him.

Do you know which book?  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you can probably guess....
Hitherto have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full. - John 16:24 (KJV)

Jesus said these words to His disciples shortly before He died.  They indicate disciples are to ask for things "in my name."  That's not the name of the "poker gods" - but the God who became man.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.... - John 1:14 (KJV)

So what things should be on our "wish list" for God?  Should it be a club at exactly the right moment?  Should it be for opposing players to make bad decisions?  Not necessarily....
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. - James 4:3

If you ask God for breaks at the poker table simply because you'll win beer money -- well, we have the feeling God will turn that down.  Here's a better approach:
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. - I Samuel 12:23

We can't recall ever hearing a player asking the "poker gods" to intervene with another person's all-in bet.  Yet in our lives, it's good to ask God to bless other people - as well as ourselves.  That way, everyone can benefit.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poker Day 436: Ace is Enough?

Life can become very busy at times.  For us, it's been so busy that we hadn't played in a poker tournament in five weeks.  So we went to Arrowhead Poker this afternoon, after practicing a bit in an  online cash game.  Would absence make our play better or worse?

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-8 offsuit

Only 11 players have shown up for Sunday action on a holiday weekend, giving us hope for "small table" success.  We're at the table of five, but have yet to win a hand.  With nearly our full chip stack, we take this cautiously and limp in.  Most of the players are in.


Top pair is nice -- and when the table checks, we get the feeling we're leading.  We bet 500 to see how serious the opposition is.  One man calls; the others fold.


That seems harmless - and something tells us our opponent is chasing something, perhaps with a Queen.  We bet 1,000.  He doesn't hesitate, and calls.


That complicates things a bit.  Now there are three cards for a straight.  We check with caution - but our opponent offers 1,900.  This strikes us as a "get lost" bet.  But with top pair, we really can't.  So we call -- and he shows A-9!  His kicker card topped ours to take the pot.  And our read on that man turned out to be very wrong.

It was that sort of day for us -- betting on promising hands, only to lose to better ones.  Our stack of chips drained rather quickly.  An all-in moment with 9-9 brought a third 9 on the flop to allow a triple-up to 8,200 chips.  But it didn't last -- and a final push with J-9 when a Jack came on the flop led to an opponent making two pair, while we did not.

We finished 11th out of 11, which is technically in last place.  But if the tournament had not allowed re-buys, we would have been a couple of spots off the bottom.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Lord's Supper" card protector to a man at our left -- the one with a depiction of a long-haired Jesus on the other side, when he turned it over.

"That's awesome," he said.

"I think Jesus is awesome.  Do you think Jesus is awesome?"

"Yes, he sure is," the man said quietly as he refocused on the game and his smartphone.

We think the word awesome gets overused today.  We've even heard church pastors say it to describe young people playing music a bit less than perfect.  The ministers may be trying to encourage young talent.  But consider how that word is used in the Bible....
Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? - Exodus 15:11

This verse comes from a song celebrating God's miracle for the Israelites at the Red Sea (verse 4). We think God showed a bit of that glory in providing a "pillar of fire" for Israel to keep moving away from the Egyptians (Exodus 13:21).
The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land. - Zephaniah 2:11

This moment of "awesome-sauce" (to borrow from that credit card commercial) is written for the future.  The "Lord God" plans to destroy all other gods. How will that happen?
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." - Revelation  19:15-16

To borrow from a carol at this time of year, the return of the "Lord of Lords" Jesus Christ will not be "tender and mild."  Jesus will strike down all opposition - and we suspect that will include the gods of those opponents as well.  Now that's one awesome Lord.  Agree?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 155 final tables in 436 games (35.6%) - 25 cashes.  We missed a final table for the first time since mid-August (five tournaments ago).