Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reading Properly

If you saw that title and thought we'd talk here about determining your opponent's hand.... well, we'll get to that. In a roundabout way.

But we're primarily referring here to a recent post where we talked with a player who had been thinking a lot about Jesus recently. We advised him to read the Bible, and act on what it says.

But we noted there's one extra bit of advice we didn't mention in that conversation. It's an important "bit," in fact. You see, simply reading the Bible can be puzzling at times....
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?"... Acts 8:30-31
That's true in poker as much as it is the Bible.  If no one explains how to read an opponent's gestures or actions, you can only guess about whether or not he's bluffing. And if you don't read parts of the Bible carefully, you can draw very wrong conclusions on your own.
The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very same passage of Scripture, and told him the good news about Jesus. - Acts 8:34-35
It took the appearance, death and resurrection of Jesus to make a lot of Old Testament prophecies clear - even though some still admittedly puzzle Bible readers today. So when you're reading the Bible, there's nothing wrong to get a "second opinion" about what you're reading.

It's good if that opinion comes from a person who knows the Bible well. But if that's not available....
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. - Ephesians 1:17 
God offers His Holy Spirit to help you better know Him - and by extension, to better know His Word. It's available if you follow the instructions of an early apostle:
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." - Acts 2:38
May God provide you with wisdom in "reading" Him - as in the Bible, or His nature. We pray this little blog can help with that.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Poker Day 477: Passive? Aggressive?

The British vote on leaving the European Union came up during our Friday poker tournament at Kansas Star Casino. But of course, no one was there to make a "Brexit" - they wanted to stay and win:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-10

We've made it well past the first break, as a few good pots ballooned us from a starting 3,500 chips to a high of 6,125. We start this hand with 4,900, and a player at our table of eight raises to 1,500. With some people already showing they're making desperation shoves, we sense it happening again. These cards are high enough that we call; two players are with us.

ON THE FLOP: A-Q-J

This is a flop that can produce fireworks well before Independence Day. We have top pair and a nice kicker - and we're first to act. What would you do? We decide to move toward winning the pot right now, matching the 1,500 bet an opponent made pre-flop.

"I'm all-in," the man sitting to our left says.  He's been one of the pushers since the break, so that's not really a surprise. But then a young man with a strange-looking hairdo calls, and that concerns us. Did someone hit a two-pair jackpot - or better? Or are they both dreaming with big draws?

We don't think about this long, primarily because we started all this. "I've committed this much," we say, "so I'll call." Our last 1,900 goes into the middle, and it's time for the explosion.

The man to our left shows - K-10! He hit the jackpot, all right - a straight on the flop.

The weird-hair guy doesn't like seeing that. He has J-J - three of a kind on the flop! We moved forward with the weakest hand of all. We need a King to escape with a straight and a split.

ON THE TURN: A

A is for Arrrgh - anything but that! The three-Jack man now gets a winning full house.

ON THE RIVER: 3 (for the record)

So the bulk of the chips go to Mr. Full House. "Do I get some back?" we ask the dealer.

"No, they go to him" - as in the man who pushed first. His straight gets a consolation prize - and we simply get a walk to the door, in about 35th place.

Looking back at it, we realize some poker experts don't consider A-10 strong enough to push at a time like that. We probably should have held our fire on the flop, and checked to see what others would do. But we thought we were in a strong position - much to our sad surprise.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What time does the game end? Around 4:00-4:30?" asked a man to the dealer's left during a break. He admittedly preferred cash games, and had entered only his second tournament.

The dealer indicated that timing was correct. It was great timing for us. "I can stick around till about 8:55. For those of us keeping a seventh-day Sabbath, it's a great time of year."

Longer days mean longer "preparation days" for people who keep the Sabbath. But the dealer seemed a bit stunned by our comment - and perhaps you are as well.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God... - Exodus 20:9-10


The Sabbath is one of God's ten commandments - and it's considered so important that the word is capitalized in many Bible translations (curiously not in the King James). Sabbath matters so much to God that it was part of His creation:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. - Genesis 2:2-3


The Sabbath is a holy time - and it's supposed to be a rest time, to take a break from your work. That's why you'll never see us playing in a tournament on Friday nights or Saturday mornings. If we're trying to make money, we consider that work. Besides....
...On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. - Exodus 20:10


We admit we played "fast and loose" with this part of the command for years - going out to dinner on Friday night after sunset, or filling the gas tank on the way home from a Saturday worship service. We don't do that anymore, because we don't want other people working on Sabbath, either. That includes the staff at a poker room or casino.

Of course, we realize the dealer was probably stunned by our comment for another reason.  Can you figure out what that reason is? We'll explain it in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 177 final tables in 477 games (37.1%) - 33 cashes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Poker Night 476: Stand Your Ground

There are times in many lives when you have to take a stand. That's true in poker tournaments as well - but the key is knowing when to take it, and how. Here's a case from Monday night's tournament at Yvie's....

BLINDS: 400/800

IN THE POCKET: King-10 of diamonds

We won a small early pot, but folded most of what we've been dealt. We come to this hand with about 8,100 chips. While this hand is iffy for us, we decide to play it - and are thankful when no one raises. About half the table of seven is in.

ON THE FLOP: 10s-2c-4s (suits may not be exact)

Top pair with a higher kicker is good news for us. But a man across the table wearing a bowler hat hints at bad news: he raises ahead of us to 2,000. With that phrase "taking a stand" clearly in mind, we call - but we wonder if he's hiding something like pocket Jacks.

ON THE TURN: 9d

We're heads-up now - and as long as the cards are numbers and not letters, we're satisfied. Our opponent checks. So do we.

ON THE RIVER: 9s

The board pairs, so we have two pair. When Mr. Bowler Hat checks again, we sense a chance to gain the advantage. We bet 1,500, and our opponent ponders it for a moment.

"Probably hit a flush," he mumbles as he folds.

To be honest, we didn't notice three spades on the board until that moment. If he had hit a flush, we would have been embarrassed. Instead, he backed down and our chip count jumps above 13,000.

"Good bet," another player says. Thank you - risky as it was.

We played safely, and reached the first break at 9,600; coloring up chips brought us back to our starting 10,000. But then we missed a great opportunity right after the break, when Mr. Bowler raised to 10,500 pre-flop. We saw 5-5, decided against betting it all - and were amazed to see a third 5 arrive on the turn, while other players fought over things like A-10.

We finally pushed with Q-Q in the Small Blind, after a woman to our left pushed as well. The man in the Big Blind simply had to check. He did, showed 2-2 - and amazingly, he caught 2 on the river to go with 3-3 on the board for an absurd full house. He knocked out two, and we left tied for 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We don't recall the exact details, but a man at our table complemented a woman for being "blessed."

"I think we're all blessed in some ways," we commented.

No one challenged that at the table - but does that comment challenge you? Have you received any blessings lately? They can come in many ways, you know - and we believe this:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. - Ephesians 1:3


You might think of a "blessing" as a physical thing - anything from a new car to a spouse to rain for your garden. But the apostle Paul puts the emphasis here on spiritual blessings. For instance...
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. - Romans 2:7


God wants people who will seek His rewards. They might not include a big poker payday. But they'll last a whole lot longer. In fact, they can last forever. So please leave a comment and let us know -
how has God blessed you lately?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 177 final tables in 476 games (37.2%) - 33 cashes.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Sweet Life

This part week we marked nine years playing live poker, mostly in tournaments. We've had some modest successes, reached a large percentage of final tables and won money from time to time.

Most recently, we've won a few small pieces of candy. The Tournament Director at Yvie's throws them on the table every time the blinds go up. Whoever wins the next pot takes the candy as a bonus.

We're not sure why he was inspired to do this. After all, a mini-candy bar at a place serving burgers and beer doesn't amount to much. For us, we're looking for a reward that's far sweeter than that:
In fact, Christ thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death. - II Corinthians 2:15-16 (CEV)

This is NOT about wearing cologne to the poker room. This is about setting a proper example to people around us - and that example can rub different people in different ways.

Take the example of Jesus Christ. He attracted a following, as He told off religious leaders and performed miracles. But it also led some people to conspire for His death.
...But we preach Christ crucified: a stumblingblock to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. - I Corinthians 1:23-24


We try to be a sweet example for God wherever we play poker. And we realize that might annoy some people - especially when we dare to bring up the things of God and Christ. Yet....
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - I Corinthians 1:18 

Given the consequences of that verse - "perishing" vs. "being saved" - how "sweet" are God and Jesus to you?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Poker Night 475: House A-fire

Maybe it's because the players shuffle their own cards. Maybe it's because Kansas Star Casino has an automatic shuffler under its poker tables. Whatever the reason, we're finding Yvie's poker games tend to have stranger hands. Here's an example from Monday night....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-K

Blame us for this one. We're dealing, in a game where we've won a couple of small early pots. A woman at our table of seven has raised to 1,600. We're certainly not going to run away from "donuts," so we call. About four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: Ad-Ah-Ac (suits may not be precise)

Talk about stunning the table!  "The Auto Club flop," we say - as we've dealt ourselves a superior full house.  But there's one nagging little problem. The deck has a fourth Ace somewhere. Does the woman across the table have it? She makes a continuation bet of 1,000. A man to our right calls. So do we. Everyone else is out.

ON THE TURN: 2d

A card from the other end of the galaxy which doesn't seem to matter.  Now the woman across from us checks, The man in the middle checks.  We sense some insecurity from this, make a bet of 1,500 - and get two callers.  If one of our opponents had that fourth Ace, wouldn't they have raised?

ON THE RIVER: 3d

Now three diamonds in a row are showing - but we know a straight or flush won't do someone any good. Our opponents check again, and we reach for chips.

"C'mon, just call," someone at the table tells us.

"No, I have to bet," we answer - and set out 2,000.

"He has to be an a*s about this," someone else says.

"I have to call," the woman opposite us then decides. "I have a boat, too."  Those actually are comforting words. We were concerned she might have quads.

"I'm going to fold," the man in the middle says. "My boat's not good enough."

Then the woman shows - J-J!  Our Kings top her and the other player who admitted to 6-6. We make a massive gain of more than 10,000 chips, and receive a bonus of 5,000 from the Tournament Director for the best hand of the night so far.

"You weren't afraid of the Ace?!" the woman asks. Well, that's why we didn't go all-in at some point. We made the bets big, but not so big as to be potentially crippling.

Good cards kept coming for us, and our starting stack of 10,000 grew to 34,600 by the first break - then to 60,500 in the second term. We reached the final table with 45,000.  But then the good cards ran out, with the blinds getting huge. We went for it all with K-10 of clubs and our last 25,000. But the board didn't pair for us, while A-9 by another man was rewarded with 9 on the river.

We finished the night in fifth place, satisfied to score our best finish since mid-April. And the take-home lesson for us from the last two tournaments is that being slightly more disciplined can make a big difference.

MINISTRY MOMENT: At one point we bet 2,500 to take a pot. An opponent across from us said, "I'll fold, you silver-tongued devil."

"I try not be a devil," we answered. "I try to be an angel." Then we turned to a man at our left. "But I can't even be an angel. I can be a child of God, but not an angel."

Does this confuse you?  If you think humans are on Earth trying to "earn their wings" to become angels in heaven, what the Bible says might come as a surprise.
But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor...." - Hebrews 2:6-7


Humans are made "a little lower" than angels - and verse 9 goes to say Jesus was "made a little lower than the angels" when He came to Earth. Yet should our human goal be to become angels?
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life? - I Corinthians 6:3


That's not merely a rhetorical question. Your Bible says humans someday will judge angels. This implies we won't simply be on their levels - we'll be above them. How is this possible?
...Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.... Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in is sufferings in order that we may also share in is glory. - Romans 8:14, 17


True "children of God" have an amazing future - as heirs of God's Kingdom, joining in an inheritance with Jesus Christ Himself. That's a step above angelic living. If you'd like to know more about it, leave a comment and we'll try to explain it further.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 177 final tables in 475 games (37.3%) - 33 cashes.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Poker Day 474: The Ten-ny Award

The Tony Awards were presented Sunday night to the outstanding performers and shows on Broadway.  But we had the show in mind two days earlier, when we played poker at Kansas Star. Read on to learn why:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit

We've been biding our time, trying to play more disciplined poker. As a result, we've played few pots and only lost a few chips. Now we have good starting cards in the Small Blind, and a player across the table has gone all-in for their last 75. We decide to spend a little extra, and about half the table of nine gets in.

ON THE FLOP (revised): J-A-6 (We found our notepad)

That's a big-league flop for us. And since we're first in line to bet, we do so - offering 225. A man to our immediate left calls, to create a sidepot. The other players bail out.
.
ON THE TURN: K

A big pair now is on the board. While we have top two pair, we wonder if the man to our left is sitting on three of a kind.  So we check. He does, too - changing our thinking to whether or not it was wise to give him a free card.

ON THE RIVER: Q

That free card won't be cheap now, because we have the top straight. We increase the bet to 625.

"You'd better have a straight," our sidepot buddy says as he folds.  Now for that Tony moment....

"You can call me Hamilton, 'cause I'm on Broadway," we say showing our top straight. The man who went all-in pre-flop has nothing close to that. We take him out, and gain more than 500 chips.

The day had more valleys than peaks for us - but it had enough peaks to keep us around a while. A-A failed when someone with an 8 wound up with three of a kind, and we were wise to fold his huge river bet.  But A-A became friendly for us later, to win a big pot - and we scored a huge double-up when 7-7 beat a tilting player with A-Q.

Our high chip count was about 5,200 (most players start with 3,500). But then chips dwindled again at a semifinal table, and we felt compelled to push with Q-J. The man we topped earlier had A-K, while a third man pushed with 6-6. A Jack on the flop gave us hope of winning the lottery, but a King on the river proved our downfall.

Final result: 17th place out of 66 players - our best finish at Kansas Star since 24 December 13. We left with a good feeling about it.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We had a discussion with that player who knocked us out. "What do you think of Jesus," we asked.

"A really good guy."

"Is Jesus your Savior?" The man indicated yes.  "What's Jesus done for you lately?"

"I've been thinking about him a lot," the man said. We can't fault him for that - considering how many people probably never think about Jesus at all.
Dear friends.... I have written.... reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. - II Peter 3:1-2
The apostle Peter wanted people to think about not only what Jesus commanded, but what prophets of Old Testament days had written.

"It's good to think about Jesus," we told the man at the table, "but I think it's better to do what the Bible tells me to do."  That's not our own idea....
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. - Revelation 1:3
To "take to heart" those words can mean changing your life - because sometimes what the Bible says might be the exact opposite of what you're doing. Even in ways you might never expect.

As we left the table, we encouraged the man to keep thinking about Jesus and doing what the Bible shows him he should do.  But there's a caveat there which we probably should have added. Can you guess what it is?  We'll explain it in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 176 final tables in 474 games (37.1%) - 33 cashes.



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lessons From a Drop-Out

"Are you doing OK?" the woman behind the bar asked us the other night.

We patted our pockets, then gave a surprising answer. "I don't know."

The problem was that our wallet was not in either pocket. Had we forgotten it somehow?

We quickly retraced our steps, starting in the poker room - and that's where our short search ended.

"I thought you might be looking for that," a man said as we spotted our wallet on top of our chip stack, during the first tournament break. Apparently it dropped out of our pocket at some point.

We thanked the man for his good dead - then added: "It's nice to see there's some honesty in poker."

Poker, of course, is a game known for bluffing. We've done it a few times to "steal" pots from other players. But after almost nine years of playing live poker, in six U.S. states, one Canadian province and aboard one cruise ship, we've learned something which might surprise you: the vast majority of poker players are ethical people. The "stealing" starts and stops at the table.
For the Lord your God detests.... anyone who deals dishonestly. - Deuteronomy 25:16


The context of this verse involves weights and measures. But we think this verse is more than a warning to business owners and farmers' markets. God wants us to be honest in all that we do.
A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies. - Proverbs 12:17


Yes, we think that means speaking true words at the poker table. If an opponent asks probing questions about your hand, you can always keep your mouth shut or dodge the issue.
He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. - Proverbs 2:7


We don't think this verse is a guarantee of wins in poker tournaments. We do think it's a promise of ultimate victory - advancing to eternal life with Jesus when He comes back to Earth. That will be a life you can't lose. And you might not need wallets to hold cash anymore, either.