Sunday, September 14, 2014

Poker Day 432: The Return of the King

This time there was no trouble getting a seat at the table.  We offered our $20 today, and sat down to play at Arrowhead Poker.--even showing up an hour early, because the website indicated Sunday tournaments now begin at 12 noon.  (It was fixed after we pointed that out.)  Could we take advantage of players distracted by a room filled with pro football games?

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

We captured a couple of early pots, including two hearts which became a flush that an opponent never saw coming.  But several promising pre-flop hands have missed the flop, so we need to win another hand fairly quickly.  Sitting in the Small Blind at a table of six, no one raises before us - so we dial it up to 2,500.  Only one player dares to call us.

ON THE FLOP: 3-10-5

An ordinary flop at best.  But we're first to act, and see a need to look strong.  So we make a continuation bet of 1,500.  Our opponent calls.

ON THE TURN: 5

The board pairs, but we doubt that changes anything for our opponent.  We check to make sure.  He checks as well.

ON THE RIVER: K

Now that's what we needed!  We make a "go-ahead, call me" bet of 3,000.  But after thinking it over, our opponent folds.

"I figured you had a King," he says.  We respond by saying half-jokingly he "had me figured out."  But the river was a fountain of blessing for us, as we gain several thousand chips.

We won another big pot minutes later when two diamonds turned into a flush on the flop.  We checked, and a big better obliged us by wagering 10,000.  We raised all-in to 19,000, and he folded.  From there, we endured to the final table (admittedly on a two-table day) with 35,000 chips.

Once there, a man went all-in across from us.  We saw A-Q, and couldn't resist calling.  But that man had K-K -- and despite the notorious difficulties pocket Kings can bring, we only paired a Queen.  We were eliminated in tenth place.  Out of 12 players, that's not really good -- but a final table is a final table, in our scoring.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The female dealer at our table took a short break, and the poker room manager took her place.  She's "getting the dew off her lily," he said.

"That sounds so Southern," we noted (remember we used to live there).

"More like hillbilly," a man across from us joked.

But we recalled an old Atlanta afternoon newspaper which claimed on the top of Page 1 it "covers Dixie like the dew."  Then we noted: "Now Jesus is the lily of the valley.  The Bible makes that clear."

That comment seemed to stump the table -- and perhaps that's OK, because we couldn't remember exactly where in the Bible that phrase is.  It's in a book you may have never read:
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.  Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. - Song of Solomon 2:1-2

What does this mean -- and how do we know this refers to Jesus?  After all, it's in a section of the Old Testament.  But by turning to similar-sounding sections of scripture, we can understand this better:
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely.... I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. - Hosea 14:4-5

Who is our ultimate Healer?  None other than God....
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. - Psalm 103:2-3

Jesus did numerous miraculous healings when He walked on Earth.  Several Bible translations indicate Song of Solomon is an exchange of poetic language between a "Beloved" one and a "Lover."
I am my lover's and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies. - Song 6:3

Are you browsing in this world for true love - perhaps for physical or emotional healing?  With apologies to Whitney Houston fans, God offers the greatest love of all....
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

This admittedly is a complex topic.  If you have questions about it, leave a comment and we'll research things further for upcoming posts.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 152 final tables in 432 games (35.2%) - 25 cashes.  Today marked our first final table since mid-June -- but we're still at a 50% final table percentage in 2014 (7/14).


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Free To Play

A recent post mentioned our frustration in trying to enter a "true freeroll" poker tournament.  But on this day, we're at least thankful for one thing - we're free to play any kind of poker.  Online or in person.  For fun or for potential prizes.

This is Patriot Day, marking the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.  Terror groups then (and now) wanted to put the U.S. under serious restrictions.  Not in relatively little things such as playing poker - but in big things such as freedom to speak and worship.

One online version of the Muslim Quran (which we're admittedly not sure we should trust) only includes the word "freedom" once -- and that's in terms of making deals with idol-worshipers.  In contrast, the Christian Bible mentions freedom many times....
Live as free men; but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. - I Peter 2:16


Some people use the word "freedom" to justify all kinds of bad behavior.  But living "as servants of God" means accepting God's standards for proper conduct.
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. - Psalm 119:45


A precept in the original Hebrew refers to a "mandate" -- in this case, something ordered by God such as a commandment.  Walking and living within the boundaries God sets can keep you out of trouble with the law (such as not stealing), and gain respect from other people (such as not lying at a poker table).

Believers in Jesus long for a different kind of freedom.  It has nothing to do with rules set down by tournament directors.  It's for freedom from "bondage" in human bodies....
...That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. - Romans 8:21


The decay of death will turn into a "godly body" that cannot die.  Read the first half of Revelation 20 to find out more about that -- and be thankful to God that you're free to even read about such things from the Bible, and openly hope for eternal life to come.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stuck In Neutral

Can playing poker make you a business success?  We've seen several articles over the years indicating the answer is yes.

The latest one comes from the executive vice president of a high-tech company.  Scott Welch offers five business lessons he's learned from poker rooms.  His top tip is "watching for clues" - checking people's body language or "tone of voice" to determine if they're honest or phony.

In poker, we suspect one of the best approaches to take with a hand is neutrality.  Make yourself as nondescript as possible, in your betting gestures or comments.  We learned to do this long before we entered our first poker tournament -- and sadly, we learned it by listening to church messages which sometimes made outlandish or inaccurate claims.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. - Proverbs 10:19


There are times when saying nothing during a hand is the best way to stay out of trouble.  You won't be caught lying, and you might leave your opponent guessing.
Even a fool is thought wise is he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. - Proverbs 17:28


But the wise writer of these proverbs also noted this....
There is a time for everything.... a time to be silent and a time to speak.... - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7


So we're open for your thoughts on this.  When do you decide to speak during a poker hand, and when do you keep quiet?  Does it depend on the opponent?  The time in the tournament?  Leave a comment, and we'll get back to this in a future post.



Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Daily Grind

If all you've seen in the poker world are big televised tournaments, it might look glamorous.  Players toss around big-money chips in lavish casinos, and make ridiculous sums of money - right?!

Well, let's be realistic. Not all poker players are gazillionaires.  Some do well simply to make a living at the tables - and some may be trying to cheat you out of yours.

An essay posted by the New York Post reminded us of this.  It's about an Australian player who talks about losing or winning more than $1,000 a day - and does it by playing ten hours a day, five days a week.  In other words, "professional poker" becomes a job.

But it seems this job is an exception to what the Bible says about work:
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. - Proverbs 14:23


Is that a guaranteed paycheck in poker?  Unless you have a sponsorship deal, the logical answer is no.  What you earn depends on how long and how well you.... uh.... play?! Work?!  Whichever.

The key comes in knowing what you're doing, and doing it well.  That's not only true for poker players, but in other walks of life.  For instance, farming come to mind....
The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. - I Corinthians 3:8


That principle will be true at the end of our lives as well, no matter how long we play poker:
....You, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. - Psalm 62:11-12


But don't overlook one important standard God uses in figuring that reward....
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. - Psalm 18:20


Do you "labor" in poker in a clean way?  An ethical way?  A way which sets an example for others of proper (even godly) conduct?  That kind of work will bring a good reward - including the hope of eternal life with Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

When Free Isn't Free

What's the earliest exit you've ever made from a poker tournament?  We may have set a new standard today - by exiting before the tournament even began.

But we should start at the beginning.  For weeks Arrowhead Poker's website offered this event:

Sunday @ 2pm 

August 31st

$500 True Free Roll
Chair Rental $0-0**

You can qualify for this tournament by simply buying into any daily tournament. 

We played in a $20 Friday tournament a couple of weeks ago, so we presumed our spot was secure.  But no - our name didn't come up on today's qualifying list.

"Did you do the ten-dollar buy-in?" the manager asked us -- as in paying $10 extra up-front for bonus chips.  No, we didn't.  And that left an organizer with a look of frustration on his face.

"That ten-dollar buy-in pays for this tournament," the organizer explained.

We invite you to look up and down the website and tell us: where does it define "buying into" as paying the extra $10?  We don't think it does.  In most tournaments we've entered, the "buy in" is the main entry fee - in our case the $20.

But we decided against making an argument about it.  We shook our head, bit our lip a bit, walked across the parking lot to a convenience store for a "consolation prize" soda and drove home.

How many things in life claim to be free -- only to have hidden strings attached?  Yet Jesus Christ makes this offer:
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36
What does Jesus (the Son of God) mean by this?  He explains moments earlier:
Jesus replied. "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever." - John 8:34-35
Jesus wants to set you free from sin, to become a son of God.... not simply for today, but forever.  How?
And from Jesus Christ.... him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.... - Revelation 1:5
As orators like to say on holiday weekends such as this one: The price of freedom isn't free.  In this case, the blood Jesus shed when He sacrificed His life on our behalf frees us from sin.  We don't have to pay for that, because Jesus already did.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. - Galatians 5:1
So how will you respond to that truly free gift?  We've been studying a religious magazine article on how to respond.  The author seemingly doesn't want to use the phrase "go all in," but he could - and it seems we should.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Fear Factor II

Our last post attempted to show the importance of fearing God - and even fearing Jesus Christ, our Savior.  (After all, the first part of John 1 shows Jesus is God.)  We stopped at the importance of overcoming our sinful nature.

Some poker locales sadly can lead to sinful things.  Bars can have alcohol and smoking (at least).  Casinos can fuel gambling addictions.  You can stay away from those places, to wean yourself off bad habits.  But truly overcoming takes something else....
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. - I John 5:5


Sound simple - almost too simple?  Well, let's back up a verse:
...For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. - I John 5:4


Faith in Jesus and being "born again" brings overcoming.  But it comes by living out your faith every day.  Back up a little more....
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome... - I John 5:3


Yes, God has "commands" for you to carry out.  But He provides help in doing them:
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


Who is that "one.... in you"?  Verse 2 indicates it's the Holy Spirit, which enters believers.

And here's the ironic thing: this section of the Bible indicates that poker player who asked why he should fear his Savior has a point....
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. - I John 4:18


We've heard ministers put it this way: We should fear God and Jesus Christ because they hold the power of ultimate judgment, life and death.  That's the idea of awe and respect. But those who obey God's commands don't need to fear every single move they make. They should love God for setting boundaries for right living and conduct.

It's easy to fear playing poker against a big winner with a championship reputation.  (Maybe you shouldn't - but that's another blog post.)  But the One everyone should fear is God - and we should live our lives accordingly.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Fear Factor

At a recent poker tournament, we talked about how everyone should fear God.  That brought a good question from another player: "Why should I fear my Savior?"

Let's start with the simple answer: the Bible indicates we should....
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.... - II Corinthians 5:11
OK, you may admit, the apostle Paul knew about it.  But why fear the Lord?  Back up one verse:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. - II Corinthians 5:10
If people are operating an illegal cash game in their home, there's a reason why they don't put a large ad in the newspaper promoting it.  They fear getting caught.  They fear police arriving, breaking up the game, sending people to jail and bringing those people eventually before a judge.  The thought of Jesus's final judgment should be even more concerning:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.... If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown in the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:12, 15
This judgment is a matter of life and death - eternal life and death.

We've become persuaded in recent years that everyone's name originally is in that "book of life" - but then something happens:
The Lord replied to Moses," Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book." - Exodus 32:33
Since we all sin (Romans 3:23), we've all had our name removed.  We need to get back in -- and that takes more than a strong finish in a "qualifier" somewhere.
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.  I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge is name before my Father and his angels. - Revelation 3:5
We need to overcome our sinful nature - and we can't do that by ourselves.  Our next post will explain the way to do that.