Sunday, May 29, 2016

Poker Day 472: A-Plus

The final school report cards are coming out across the U.S. Some students "aced" the test. Others didn't do so well. In poker tournaments, you don't have to wait weeks for the grades to come back. Sometimes your work is rated right away. Take what happened to us Friday at Kansas Star Casino....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit

The start of the day was dreadful for us. Small feelers missed flops. Other players made pre-flop raises which kept us quiet. Our starting stack of 3,500 chips drained to about 2,200. But then a comeback began. A-J of spades brought a nice nut flush. And now we have these high cards in the Big Blind. No one raises at the table of nine, so we lay low and check.

ON THE FLOP: A-A-J

"Triple-A" is a club we love to join. We check again, and are rewarded when a man around the table bets 100. We politely call, and other players fold.

ON THE TURN: A

Turn cards don't get much better than that! Now we have unbeatable quads - but we remember the A-J hand, where we waited until the river to bet our flush, and no one called. Now we don't want to wait. But we also don't want to run our opponent off. So the best is a modest 250. Our opponent ponders - then calls. Good.

ON THE RIVER: 3

A meaningless card, considering what we have. Now we remember hearing something in the pre-game rule announcement about players being required to bet the best possible hand on the river, or risk a 10-minute penalty. But we still don't want our opponent to get scared. So with the poker face firmly on, we bet 250 again - and to our pleasure, he calls again.

"I had to bet," we say - and show our quads. The opponent knows he's been had, and surrenders without showing.

Then other players correct our understanding. We would have been required to bet the river had we been last to act with the nuts. So we could have checked - but that's OK; we gained more chips from it.

Our stack reached well above 4,000 by the first break. Then we split a big sidepot holding A-K. But we fell victim to the same problem we had Monday night - trying to increase our stack with potentially good starter cards, only to fold when big pre-flop raises came.

With the chips dwindling and blinds rising, we went all-in with A-Q when an opponent pushed. Trouble was, he had A-K. A King on the river gave him the win, and sent us away. Out of 63 players, we finished a disappointing 39th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I knew what you had there," a man to our left said to someone across the table at the end of a hand.

"So you were psycho?!" the dealer asked.

We heard his wording properly. "I noticed you said psycho, and not psychic," we told the dealer. He chuckled, realizing we got his joke.

"You never hear about psychics playing poker," we pointed out. "They'd win all the time."

That old line can apply to huge lottery jackpots, too. Why don't psychics clean up and make millions in those kinds of games? We think the answer says a lot about what those people do not have...
Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God. - Leviticus 19:31


Psychics, mediums and "wizards" (as the King James Version has this verse) all are from the same area: the world of the occult. The Bible warns such things are not of God - and if you're not careful, you could invite Satan to become a major player in your life.
I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people. - Leviticus 20:6


Some people go all the way to the edge, and live by what horoscopes and psychics tell them. They may not realize they're worshiping - but in the wrong direction.
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? - Isaiah  8:19


Some people might move toward astrologers and psychics instead of God because they're afraid of what God might require them to do. But we don't recall any winner of a major poker title thanking their psychic or medium for it. After all, how could they legally give guidance hand-by-hand?  We think it's far better to seek God's help ahead of time - in anything you do.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 176 final tables in 472 games (37.3%) - 33 cashes.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Join the Fold?

It's probably the least respected move in poker. To fold your hand means you give up your cards. You surrender. You're out of the hand. You can't win - even if the 2-4 you fold before the flop is followed by 2-2-2 on the flop.

Yet is a "fold" always a bad thing? We pondered that this week when a radio speaker referred to this....
Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. - John 10:1 (KJV)


We could hear the scoffers right away, joking a "sheep" at a poker table folds all the time. But in King James English, a "sheepfold" refers to a yard where the sheep are kept. (Other Bible translations say "sheep pen.")

Yet here's the amazing thing, which we didn't even know until we looked it up tonight. The Greek word for fold in John 10 is translated in most other parts of the New Testament as "palace." Here's one example....
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, to the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas. - Matthew 26:3 (KJV)


The Greek word usually refers to palaces of worldly leaders. But Jesus also talked about a "fold" that was quite different....
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. - John 10:16 (KJV)


Jesus is organizing one of the biggest "folds" in history - and if you consider yourself enough of a loser to surrender your life to Jesus, He wants you to be part of it!

But did you notice the warning of John 10:1? You have to enter Jesus's fold by "the door." What does that mean?
I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. - John 10:9


Have you ever played private poker games, where you might need to know the password to get inside? Jesus says He is the door to this massive fold. You can't enter it without knowing Him.

There's more to this folding action, and we'll explain it in a future post.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Poker Night 471: Bringing Your "A Game"

The sports world has given us many famous A.J.'s in recent years. A.J. Foyt was a champion race car driver. A.J. Green plays football in Cincinnati. But A.J. Hinch is hanging on as a baseball manager these days - and in poker, A-J can be both a winner and a loser. Let's see what happened at Yvie's tonight....

BLINDS: 800/1,600

IN THE POCKET: If you haven't guessed by now, Ace-Jack offsuit

We stumbled early at a table of six, but fought back to return to around our starting count of 10,000 chips. A seventh player now has joined us, and he's talking somewhat big to match his stack. We sit second in line in this hand with 8,200 chips, and choose to limp early. No one raises, to force the issue. Most of the table is in.

ON THE FLOP: K-K-A

Those letters could spell trouble for anybody. But we have top two pair and a very good kicker - so when the play checks to us, we think it's a good sign. We bet 2,000. That brings some folds, but a man and woman call.

ON THE TURN: A

Hmmm. Now we have the full house "nuts" - and we can't all have an Ace, can we?

The other players check. We have an impulse to go all-in right now, but that might make our hand too obvious. To maximize our potential gain, we bet 2,000 more.

"I have to call this," the woman says after thinking a moment. Our guess: she has the missing Ace.  Or with two spades and two clubs showing, she could be dreaming of a big flush.  The man between us calls for some reason as well.

"I'm going to put the full house on the table," the dealer jokes....

ON THE RIVER: 8

Nope, he didn't. And any chasers now are in big trouble. The two opponents check again.

"All of it," we say. We have 2,600 chips left. The insistent woman calls. The man in the middle surrenders.

"You didn't think I had an Ace," we say - and show it. The woman mucks her cards in response. Maybe she had a third King. But whatever she had, we get a windfall - including a 5,000-chip bonus for the best hand of the tournament so far.

We won another big pot to put that middle-man out - and at the one-hour break, we had an impressive 41,500 chips. But it's amazing how quickly that stack can collapse when blinds go up and promising hands miss flops. It did for us.

We held on until nine players were left, one away from the final table. Then seeing A-4 in the Big Blind, we pushed for our last 10,000. The Small Blind called with something like 6-9 -- but of course, the flop had a 6. No Aces came, and our bubble burst with a ninth-place finish.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Out drive home takes us past one of the leading "beggar's corners" in town. Tonight a man was in the intersection well after dark, holding a "HELP" sign.

"I don't want no trouble," he told us as we walked to the middle island to meet him. But he also didn't want the things we were offering: a card for a city "Homeless Outreach Team", or a small bag with food and a Christian booklet inside.

"I'll give this to my friend." The beggar pointed to one of four men along the side of the street. He considered only one of them a friend - a man who looked familiar, from helping him in the past.

"Thank you very much. God bless you," that friend said as he offered to shake our hand. Then he had a question for us: "Do you know Jesus?"

Yes, we assured him - we do. "Tell him," we said to "friend" referring to the original beggar. "I think he needs Him."

That beggar was a hardened homeless man - on the streets for five years, cursing a lot. And while he originally told us he wanted "money and food," a can of Vienna sausages in our bag didn't impress him. We see several problems in his life - but we'll only focus here on one:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. - Romans 1:21


We're probably giving the beggar the benefit of the doubt by presuming he "knew God" at some point. But when he grumbled about any effort to provide assistance, it's a reminder that unthankfulness can hurt your own reputation. Consider what happened when ten people received a medical miracle from Jesus:
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus's feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" - Luke 17:15-18


Maybe the other nine didn't realize what had happened. Maybe they were too busy. Or maybe they were too hard-hearted, like that beggar in the intersection. How do you view life and the small blessings that come - like our beggar, or his friend?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 176 final tables in 471 games (37.4%) - 33 cashes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Breaking Up the Band

What an amazing poker year it is for us. Not really in how we're playing, but what's happening to poker rooms where we've played. We've now found out another room has closed - a place we visited only once.

Prairie BandPrairie Band Casino in northeast Kansas has shut down its poker room, apparently to turn it into a bingo hall. When we were there last August, we finished second in a Sunday tournament. But apparently not many players showed up during the week. One man told us the "Bad Beat" jackpot there reached $250,000, but people still weren't interested.

One video we've seen online notes casinos really don't care about it, because they don't make much money from it. We'd guess that's especially true beyond tournaments. Cash games tend to have players shuffling chips (and money) between each other. The only time that changes is when a player is kind enough to tip a dealer.

Come to think of it, some poker players could learn a lesson from Prairie Band. If you're not making money and having success at it, you should minimize your losses and get out. That's true in card games, business.... and even bigger things:
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. - Isaiah 55:2


Some ministers would turn this into a commentary on eating whole wheat bread - but of course, the point is bigger than that....
Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. - Isaiah 55:3


You may be surprised to learn "souls" can die. The Bible says so more than once (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). But they can be resurrected to live again, under God's covenant plan:
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God.... They came to life and reigned with Chris a thousand years. - Revelation 20:4


The resurrected souls gave up their lives for Jesus - and Jesus is "bread" worth the cost of your money and time:
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.... If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." - John  6:35, 51


Listen to Jesus. Take Him into your life. And your life can last long beyond this one - long after the bread served in casino restaurants runs out, and the last poker room shuts down.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Who's Gonna Win?

The discussion at our poker table the other day turned to matters of belief - and sadly, that did not mean God or Jesus Christ.

"The devil is in control," a man said (or words to that effect).

"The devil only wins if you let him," we responded.

A couple of people at the table seemed to agree with our view. But let's take the comments in order. There's a bit of truth to that....
In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them. - II Corinthians 4:4 (KJV)


Who or what is this opposing God - trying to block the light of the gospel?  None other than the original "prince of darkness" - Satan.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved to judgment.... II Peter 2:4 (KJV)


Those angels were cast down from heaven with the devil, which was once a top-level angel called Lucifer (Isaiah 14). But even if Satan is a "god" over this world, that doesn't mean Satan has to be the god of your life:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. - James 4:7


That may sound simplistic - but even veteran Christians know it's a constant challenge and fight. We need help....
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. - I John 4:4


The "one who is in you" needs to be Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit:
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. - Colossians 1:27


Would you like to know how Christ can be in you? Leave a comment, and we'll be happy to help -- so the "good God" wins in the end.





Sunday, May 15, 2016

Poker Day 470: Royalty to the Rescue

We didn't recall seeing it there a week earlier, but Kansas Star Casino now has a "family bathroom." It's between a men's room and a women's room on the casino floor -- a casino floor you cannot enter unless you can prove you're 21.

We saw a "woman" come out of that restroom during a break in Friday's poker tournament, without a child. You're welcome to comment on that if you wish - but we went primarily for the poker:

BLINDS: 75/150

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

We've had ups and downs during the first hour of the tournament: we won a couple of pots, including one with pocket Aces we never showed, but we were burned in others. With the first break approaching, we're down to about 2,000 chips. (We misplaced our little note pad, so some of this is a guess.) We think someone raised to 300, so we call it.

ON THE FLOP:
J-10-7

There's a lot of promise here, with an open-ended straight draw. I man across the table tries a bet of 500 (as best we remember). A man to his left calls - and we decide to take a stand. We call as well.

ON THE TURN: 9

Talk about an action card!  A man across the table bets 1,000. A man next to him goes all-in, for a bit more than we have.

"I'm all-in for 1,200," we announce.  The worst we can do at the moment is split the pot - but somehow we think that other man made his straight with an 8. The first player thinks it over, then calls.  He has two pair, so he's outgunned.

"I have an 8," the first player to push says.

We pause for a moment of study/drama.  "I'm higher than that," we then say as we turn over our cards - holding the best possible straight.

ON THE RIVER: 10

The board pairing changes nothing. We gain a near triple-up, returning to near the starting point in chips at 3,350.

We gained even more shortly after the break, when 5-8 in the Big Blind turned into two pair on the flop. Our high chip count was about 6,500. But then attempts for more big gains with A-8 and A-7 fell short against bold bettors. Those are cards we probably should have folded, playing tighter.

Finally we were down to 1,200 chips again - and seeing A-10, we pushed again. But another player called with pocket Kings, and no Aces came for us. On a day of improvement, we finished 24th out of 62 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: There were improvements here as well. For instance, at one point the top prize in the tournament was $666.

"The devil's game," someone said.

"And in what book of the Bible will you find 6-6-6?" we asked a man to our right, turning it into a trivia question.

After a moment, he took a guess. "I think it's in Revelation..." Yes, he was correct:
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. - Revelation 13:18


"Do you read the Bible?" we asked the man. He indicated he did. We didn't ask what he's read lately. Perhaps we should have. And if we really wanted to press the issue, we could have mentioned this....
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. - James  1:22


It's amazing how many people apply this to "unlucky numbers," avoiding 666 -- but they don't often do that for other things in the Bible.

For instance, we challenge you to examine a list in I Corinthians 6:9-10 - a list of traits which will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God. Might any of those apply to you?  We'll look at that list closely in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 176 final tables in 470 games (37.4%) - 33 cashes. A busy schedule will keep us from playing at Yvie's Monday night. .

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Free, Indeed?

"I've noticed a couple of you come here and don't buy anything," the Tournament Director at Yvie's said before Monday night's game began. He was in a mood to give some people a lecture.

"If you're not going to spend money, don't bother showing up," he continued bluntly. He went on to explain his point - that bars such as Yvie's host poker nights because they expect players to buy food and drinks.

The Director's point is only logical. And as long as we've played in "free poker" situations like Yvie's, we've made it a point to buy at least a soda. It's simply the courteous thing to do - not to mention Biblical:
For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." - I Timothy 5:18


But on the other hand, that Tournament Director had better watch what he says - especially considering what's happened to poker rooms in our city in the last four months. Places expecting a "chair rental" buy-in either were shut down by police, or closed before the police showed up.
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good.... - Romans 13:3-4


The Director put it this way: buying food and drinks on poker nights benefits Yvie's. But buying a Platinum WPT League membership benefits him. We trust he's telling the truth about that distinction. Whether police see things the same way could be another matter. We'll see.