Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Midnight Madness

In a 22-minute span just now (yes, just after 12:00 midnight to start 2009), we crossed the $11,000 mark in Yahoo poker.

Counting a Wednesday afternoon session after our "year-end" post, we had a $442 gain on the day! Details on how it happened, coming soon....

Yahoo! Our Year in Review

We began 2008 with $2,824 in our pretend Yahoo poker chip stack.

As of this posting, we're at $10,613.

Wow -- a gain of almost $7,800! We've more than tripled our total! How did that happen?

We actually drooped to a low for the year of $1,890 on May 7. But we rallied to above $3,100 in late June.

On July 3 we dabbled in Yahoo blackjack, and had a big gain of $661. That put us above $4,000. We did it again August 7, and gained $1,500 in one fell swoop -- pushing us to almost $6,000. Another $800 came September 1.

But since Labor Day, almost all the gain has been from poker -- a jump of about $3,500. We think it's because we play at small tables (3-6 players), fold bad hands before the flop (you'd be surprised how many online players don't), and get away while we're ahead.

In real tournaments, we had first-place finishes at Lil Kim's Cove in January and December, seconds in April and July, and a couple of thirds as well. Six "podium finishes" in 32 nights?! Not bad.

May you have even better success in 2009!

Show and Tell II

We wondered what you thought of the ClubWPT.com "bluff chip."

It strikes us as an interesting gimmick -- and sometimes a dream come true. But we'd want to hold it until it's absolutely necessary. For instance, if things look like a showdown between two big hands or big bets.

Ecclesiastes 3:6 says there's a "time to seek, a time to lose...." If a bluff chip is in play, we'd sugegst choose that moment of "seeking" carefully -- as in seeking the information about your opponent's hand. Else you might make yourself a target, and your ability to bluff might be diminished.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Show and tell

We were watching the "ClubWPT.com" marathon on Fox Sports the other night, and saw something which was new to us -- the "bluff chip."

Each player has one, that can be used anytime in the game. Throw the bluff chip at your opponent, and he/she has to turn over hole cards so the entire table sees them.

Good idea? Bad idea? Our thoughts on it are coming shortly.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

H-2-No

Quickly updating a couple of items:

1. Club H2O will NOT have poker on Wednesday night, December 31. The club's web site is promoting a year-end party with a $10 admission fee. (Their poker nights are always free to play.)

2. With no local tournaments available for us on our best nights to play (Wednesday-Thursday), we're sticking to Yahoo online games. Our updated total is $10,245 - up $107 in a week.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A "boat" and pairs

At our online table Monday, a player whose ID begins with "wood" won a pot with a full house.

"The ol' wooden boat," we wrote to congratulate.

A few hands later, that player did it again.

"Fleet of wooden boats!" we wrote.

"All that and Noah!" the winner replied. Now that's the way to turn the discussion Biblical.

"Well, he really only needed one," we noted.

"Right on!" came the reply.

"And he had much more than two pair."

If you're puzzled by this post right now, we invite you to review Genesis 6-9. Noah built a boat to save the human race, because he was obedient to God. Then pairs of unclean animals and sevens of male and female clean animals entered the ark, and God preserved them as well.

We're not sure how the full house in poker gained the nickname "boat." But one of the most full "boats" which ever sailed made it possible for us to write this -- and for you to read it. Noah's obedience mattered that much. Are you obedient to God that much?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One card later

It occurs to us that we gave this blog the wrong name. It shouldn't be On the Flop. It should be On the Turn.

A lot can happen on the "turn card," you know. Hopes for a flush can disappear -- for instance, if two spades are on the board and you're holding a third. But if you're holding the right pocket pair, the turn card can give you three of a kind. Or even quads.

The Christian life centers around a turn as well. Turning from a life of sin, to a new life in Jesus Christ. Some call it the "conversion" process.

We've written an article about that, and posted it online. Find a Bible, and take a little time to read it. One good "turn" deserves another, you know.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Poker Night #52: Better Late Than Never

First the bad news: The Thursday night poker action has changed at Lil Kim's Cove. There's now a tournament doubleheader -- first game at 7pm, second around 9:30pm. So when we showed up at 8:20pm, the action was already down to three tables. All we could do was watch.

Now the good news: we WON the nightcap! With about 30 players taking part, we survived to the final two. Then we split the prize money with a young man, who looked like a college student. We win $30; he gets $20 and the "bucket of beers" we don't drink. But we had a 2-1 chip lead when we settled, so we can claim victory. (Or at least we're going to!)

Several big bets did not go well for us early. But then several all-in moments did. One with pocket aces gained us a double-up of 9,000 chips, which gave us enough cushion to hold on to the final table. We also were helped by the fact that a couple of players quit early for the evening, and "shared the wealth" with everyone else when they did. We're calling this "Barack Obama rules."

At the final table, we started with a rather small stack. So we bided our time while a couple of players ran out of chips and patience. Then the pocket pairs came in bunches. In one case, our pocket Kings led to a third on the board -- and we sang a poker version of "We Three Kings."

In another case, we took out two players at once:

BLINDS: 5,000/10,000

IN THE POCKET: 10-10

A woman to our right goes all-in with 30,000 chips. We dare to call it. Then a third player goes all-in. Both our opponents have the same hand: A-J.

ON THE FLOP: Other stuff. They were turned over so fast that we couldn't take notes -- but the 10's held up, to knock the field down to four.

A couple of hands later, we had pocket 7's when a man across from us went all-in. A third 7 came on the turn, and he was gone.

We'd like to declare our recent live tournament slump over. This was our first final table since late September at The Roadhouse, and our first time in the money (top two) since July.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Two players had a look at our "Jesus as your Savior" coin. One woman quietly agreed with the message, saying nothing. We never could ask the question to the second person -- a man who had a scorpion in a tiny plastic case for his card protector. He explained it was a horoscope thing.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 22 final tables in 52 nights (42.3%) - 7 cashes (13.5%).

We should note Lil Kim's Cove will be closed the next two Thursday nights for holidays. (We had work commitments, anyway.) We're assuming Club H2O will be closed for Wednesday night play December 24; we'll have to call about December 31, because we're not sure.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $10,138 - up $531. (Off $130 from our record high, set Dec. 17.)

Life, or Something Like It

"We're playing an online cash game with pretend money," a player named Supersonic wrote at a Yahoo poker table this morning. "God, we have no lives."

I commented in reply that I was practicing for a real tournament tonight. We plan to be back at Lil Kim's Cove on Fourth Street (you're invited to join us; game time is 8:30 p.m. ET). But Supersonic was not impressed.

"Go practice at a no-limit game, for real," he wrote.

"Such as?" I replied, looking for recommendations. But he folded his hand and left as I wrote that. Too Supersonic for me.

But let's go back to the comment which started this. Do you have a life? Is poker your life? Or are you looking for a better life?

If poker is the only life you have, I'd like to recommend a better one. It's a new life which comes from accepting Jesus as your Savior.

"As Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father," Romans 6:4 says, "we too may live a new life."

You might be surprised to learn you DON'T have to give up poker to have that new life. There's no verse in the Bible that says card-playing is sin -- poker or otherwise. But God wants you to make Him the primary focus of your life. The reward is eternal life in His Kingdom.

How do you do that? "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins," Peter explained in Acts 2:38. Repent of sin. Then be baptized into the Church of God, symbolizing death to self.

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God," Paul wrote in Colossians 3:3. You'll still have a life, but somewhat in disguise.

Play poker in that disguised holy life, and you'll probably get noticed at your table. Not smoking, not overdrinking, not swearing -- that makes a Christian poker player tends to stand out from the crowd. Any comments about God and Jesus simply come at no extra charge.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The 10K run

Here's some more on our personal milestone at Yahoo poker. We just stepped away from an online table, staying above $10,000 at $10,077.

We topped 9,000 for the first time less than a month ago, November 20. Since then, we exited with 12 additional records -- with only six declines in our bankroll along the way.

Among the highlights:

Dec. 8 -- I gain $196 to $9755, winning five pots in a row! (Can you top that?) But somehow, Yahoo doesn't register that gain.

Dec. 9 -- Next time out, I gain $164 to $9723. Yahoo stores that one.

Dec. 10 -- A bad session, with me losing $116. But that session isn't recorded, either. Yahoo gives, and Yahoo takes away (a good principle to remember in poker, from Job 1:21).

Sunday, Dec. 14 -- In less than 30 minutes, we jump $274 to $9997. A mere pair of kings wins us a $168 pot, as people fishing for better hands fall short.

Then this afternoon, we gained $80 more -- and stopped atop the $10,000 pyramid. So should we move on to bigger online games? Whattaya think?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

10K! 10K!!

Our pretend Yahoo online poker count topped $10,000 Sunday. We haven't dabbled in blackjack there since early October, so we've earned about $1,600 in two months solely from poker games.

More details coming shortly....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Poker Night #51: The Professor is Wrong

"You remind me of a professor of poker," a man said when he saw me at Club H2O Wednesday night. I think he was comparing me to poker pro Howard Lederer -- but I don't have the beard, much less the bankroll.

Now this was a poker tournament -- as 140 players crowded around tables, at what's probably the biggest poker night in Columbus. We lasted a long time. More than two hours, in fact. But we didn't win, finishing in a fairly respectable unofficial tie for 33rd.

Poker is played Tuesday and Wednesday nights at H2O. It's up a set of glassy dance-club style stairs, and free to play. There are NO extra chips for buying drinks, unlike some places we've visited. And with only $100 in chips to start and slow-rising blinds, conservative play is somewhat encouraged. (But that didn't stop one player from going all-in on the first hand at our table, and seeing his three 10's lose to a full house.)

We gained a few pots, which were more timely than huge. In one case, we had a queen high vs. A-A -- but the board gave us an ace-high straight, which beat his three aces. In another case, we went all in with A-A and it held up.

The final straw came a couple of hands after that man called us a professor. With the blinds at 20/40, a man ahead of us went all-in with $75. We had K-Q of spades, had only $80 left, and decided to go all-in as well. But a third player who stayed in took the pot with a pair of 7's, when the board didn't pair anything we had.

This tournament seemed more like Las Vegas than any we've experienced. The table and seat assignments were determined randomly by a computer, among the 140 players. Yet after a couple of table combinations, we wound up with last Wednesday's top two players at either side of us.

H2O pays well, which may explain the crowd. First place wins $175. Second is $75, and third is $25. And by the way, sodas only cost ONE dollar -- half-price, compared to other places with poker.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took our silver "Jesus as your Savior" coin for a card protector again. "Do you agree with that message?" we asked a man sitting next to us while we waited for play to begin. Thankfully, he did. A second player read it later in the evening, and didn't really have a response to it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 51 nights (41.2%) - 6 cashes.

OK, here's the spin on that. If we had played at Lil Kim's Cove (which we won't Thursday night due to other commitments) with a tournament about 1/4 the size of H2O, a 33rd-place tie whittles down to about ninth -- and we're fighting for a seat at the final table.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $9,607 - up $45.

There's spin for that, too. The total should be about $9,800, as we won five hands in a row Monday to gain $196. But Yahoo never recorded our gain! So much for trusting in Yahoo finance....

Get a Clue

Some online poker players openly tell you what they have, as if they don't care. We don't mind dropping hints, as opposed to blatantly telling all.

Some pocket hands have a lingo of their own. Example: A-A = "Pocket Rockets" or "American Airlines."

K-K = Krispy Kremes.

Here are a few clues we might drop, if you ever play us....

A-Q = Al-Qaeda. (Not nice, admittedly.)

A-J = McClungs. The late A.J. McClung was a Mayor Pro Tem in our city, and the main football stadium in town is named in his honor.

A-10 = Xavier. Top basketball team in the Atlantic 10 conference.

K-10 = Ada. Ada, Oklahoma is where you'll find KTEN-TV.

K-9 = woof. (Obvious.)

8-9 = WLS. The "Big 89" on AM radio for years in Chicago.

We'd say more -- but we'd be giving too much away now, wouldn't we? :-->

Since it's raining....

We're planning to try the poker night at H2O this evening for the first time. The sign says play starts at 7:30 p.m. ET.

It's located on Veterans Parkway, just south of Whittlesey -- where Muldoon's used to be, next door to Goodwill Industries.

We understand this place had 150 for poker a couple of weeks ago. So this WILL be a challenge.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Three Tenors

(n) -- What we call it when we have pocket 10's, and a third 10 hits the board.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Your turn to win

We have to miss Thursday night poker at Lil Kim's Cove, due to work commitments. Perhaps next week we'll be back (no guarantees).

We've been so busy that Yahoo poker has been an "as we can" proposition. In four sessions since last Thursday, we've lost nine dollars to $9,553. If the buyout rumors about Yahoo are true, we want the bankroll made real.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Your Cheatin' Hearts (and Spades and....)

As we write this, CBS's 60 Minutes is about to show a feature on how cheaters made millions of dollars from online poker web sites.

We won't get into the details of that report here. Instead, we'll consider the temptations involved.

We've heard people say they're hesitant to play in big-money online poker tournaments, because opponents could "tag team" against them to take pots. All they need to do, we were told, is communicate with each other by phone while they play.

Poker can be like any sport or activity -- tempting for cheaters, if there's big money involved. It's a test of ethics. As in whether or not you have any.

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap," says I Timothy 6:9 -- not to mention "many foolish and harmful desires...."

On the other hand: "He whose walk is upright fears the Lord, but he whose ways are devious despises him." (Prv. 14:2)

This may sound cold -- but if you feel compelled to cheat at any poker table, you probably shouldn't be playing. God eventually will reward honesty. Maybe not with a big pot today, but with a reward for your works later (Mt. 16:27).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you, thank you very much....

It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and we hope you have a nice one.

We also hope you take time to be thankful to God every day. "Give thanks in all circumstances," says I Thes. 5:18.

In terms of poker, we're thankful right now for a big winning run online at Yahoo. As of the close tonight, our pretend bankroll stands at a record $9,562. That's up a massive $681 from our last Thursday report! (And that's even though Yahoo stole 70 bucks from us tonight, due to computer problems of some sort.)

Last Thanksgiving, our pretend chip count was around $2,900. So is it time to head for a web site where we can win real money?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

If it was real II

The last time we figured our success in local poker tournaments compared with a casino, the numbers looked great -- double our investment through 40 poker nights.

Now that we've played 50 poker nights, let's do the math again using the same formula as before.

We assume a $50 buy-in to tournaments: 50 x 50 = $2,500.

We've had top five finishes only twice in the last ten poker nights: a 2nd and a 5th. We add those to the earlier record, with the same presumed payouts of $500 for the winner down to $100 for fifth.

Our record over 50 poker nights would be as follows:

First -- 3 ($1,500)
Second - 3 ($1,200)
Third -- 3 ($900)
Fourth - 4 ($800)
TIES for fourth:
one two-way ($150)
one three-way ($67)
Fifth -- 3 ($300)

TOTAL -- 18 for $4,917.

The return on my buy-in investment is dropping, compared to the score after 40 nights. But still, I would have come close to doubling my money with a return of almost 97 percent. Take that, General Motors.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On a happier note....

A late-night Yahoo poker session finally pushed us about $9,000 for the first time there. We've gained more than $800 in November -- including a handsome $256 pot on this hand last week, which we meant to post earlier:

BLINDS: $1/$2 (pretend money)

IN THE POCKET: Kc-8c

Several players call; a few are in a mood to raise, so we join in.

ON THE FLOP: Qc-10c-9c

Can you say "flop-flusher" five times fast? In fact, we're one card from a STRAIGHT flush! (And we hit one of those on Yahoo earlier this week, for a much smaller pot.)

Of course we're betting this. A couple of players stick around.

ON THE TURN: Jd.

Not a straight flush, but close -- as we now have a straight and a flush. (Flushes beat straights, if you don't know.)

We keep betting, and one player insists on betting all the way to the $20 limit. Hmmmm -- only one card would beat us....

ON THE RIVER: 6h.

A meaningless card for this hand? Well, not really. It means no full house is possible, for beating me.

I keep betting, and the player to my right pushes me to the $20 pot limit. Does he have that one card, the Ace of clubs? Drum roll........

Nope -- he has pocket 10's. In his case, 3 x 10 = a negative number.

By the way, we're inviting people at our Yahoo tables to visit this blog now. If you're one of them, welcome. Please visit often.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Poker Night #50: Cold-Blooded

Before the windy wintry front came through town, a cool customer at my table blew me away Thursday night. Out of a table of six, I finished sixth -- and went bust on the sixth hand of the evening. (No, I don't think Rev. 13:18 applies here.)

BLINDS: 25/50.

IN THE POCKET: Kc-Kh.

I'm in the small blind, and raise 150 when my turn comes. That chases a few people -- but not a man to my left, who's wearing sunglasses and a dark hooded sweater. You know, the Laak look.

ON THE FLOP: 9d-9h-2h

Three hearts + two pair = big bet. Leading off, I throw in 500. The Laak-a-like calls. Everyone else bails out.

ON THE TURN: Jh

Four hearts + two pair + no Ace showing = another bet of 500. But this time, the man under the hood quietly raises 1,500.

He's taken one hand already, so he has me covered chip-wise. A quiet alarm bell goes off in my mind -- but I recall this man pushed me off a pot by bluffing last week. So I call the 1,500, leaving me with only 1,000 chips on hand.

ON THE RIVER: Qd

I'm hearing the alarm bell (and seeing my slim chip stack) enough to check. My opponent bets 1,000.

"That would put you all in, sir," the man sitting between us says. Yeah, I know. Thanks for the words of assurance. I'm quietly pondering this.

"Don't even bother looking at him," says a woman across the table who notices me doing exactly that. Mr. Hoodie is simply grinning.

The inner voice is telling me he has a third 9, to beat my two pair. But would he push in that many chips simply to bluff -- perhaps to fake hitting a flush on the turn? I finally conclude he just might be doing that.

"If I go bust, I go bust," I declare and push in the last 1,000. I show two K's. Sure enough, he has the third 9.

"I thought so," I say as I shake the man's hand and give him two Carmike Cinemas movie passes for KO'ing me.

In John 13:27 Jesus said, "What you are about to do, do quickly." It's obviously not fair to compare another poker player to Judas Iscariot, but he certainly made quick work of me. To borrow from Psm. 150:4, he played me like a "stringed instrument." It was not the first time I've been eliminated first on poker night -- but this one certainly stung the most.

MINISTRY MOMENT: I was out in under 20 minutes -- so fast that I never even brought up matters of God. I guess John 13:27 needs to apply to me, too.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 50 nights (42%) - 6 cashes.

With seven consecutive final table misses, maybe it's time for a break -- and on Thursday nights, we'll have one. Lil Kim's Cove will be closed next Thursday for Thanksgiving, and work commitments will prevent us from playing December 4. We make no guarantees about other nights.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $8,888 - up $218. We were as high as $8,989 during online "warm-ups" Thursday afternoon, but couldn't quite climb to $9,000. Yet.

Come watch us play

In fact, you can do that old Columbus State University basketball slogan one better. You can play WITH us tonight.

We mark our 50th live poker tournament tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, down the street from the Columbus Civic Center. Sign up at 8:15pm ET, start shuffling around 8:30.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peek-a-boo Straight?

The player to my right raised me. I assumed he had a straight which beat my pair or two, so I folded and he took the pot.

Then when he threw the cards face down on the table and before the next dealer started shuffling, I couldn't resist. I reached for the cards, and looked at what he had.

"You're not supposed to do that," the man said to correct me. "That's not good etiquette."

He made a good point, and taught me a lesson. At some friendly tables, looking after the hand would be no biggie. But at a tournament (as this was), I could be in trouble. I could be sneaking a peek at an opponent's strategy.

So at a big-time poker table, secrets have some protection. And there's some Biblical backing for that. "Discover (reveal) not the secret of another," says the margin of my King James Bible in Proverbs 25:9.

If you really need to know a secret at the table, trust God to reveal it to you in the course of time. "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest." (Luke 8:17) Otherwise, we suggest not worrying about it.

P.S. That man to our right was bluffing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ministry Moment: From the Community Chest

On our last vacation, we found this unusual calling card in the lobby of a Chattanooga motel. Hopefully the church which prepared it won't get in trouble with Parker Brothers over it.

We used this for a "card protector" Thursday night at Lil Kim's Cove. It turned out to be a good conversation-starter, among several people who bailed out of a pot early. They were surprised to learn a church developed it.

A man on my left talked in nice terms about Chattanooga. When I tried to ask him if he attended church, he seemed to quickly say no and changed the subject.

People don't want to be confronted with this sort of thing on poker night, you might say. Probably not. But you can't run from these matters forever. Our ministry attempts to take the things of God to people who probably don't go to church, and probably need some stirring to see their need for a Savior.

If you're in the Columbus, Georgia area, we attend the United Church of God service. It meets every Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, down the street from the main post office. You can skip those Saturday poker sessions, to think about a "King" which has much more clout.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Poker Night #49: Straight is Not the Way?

Dennis Eastgate won the World Series of Poker main event this week with a "low-ball" straight - A-5. Tonight we hit a "Broadway" straight, A-10. But it doomed us to the rail, with a very early exit at Lil Kim's Cove.

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: J-10 of spades

Calling goes quietly around the table, and we join in.

ON THE FLOP: Kd-Jd-trash (we forget).

We hit middle pair. More calling occurs at the minimum, and we stay in.

ON THE TURN: Ace of clubs.

Three players keep on calling at the 200 minimum. With others folding, we're unofficially on the button.

ON THE RIVER: Qd.

One player at the table speaks up about a straight being in play. To be honest, we hadn't even noticed it until he said it -- and hey, we have one. Another player points out a flush is possible.

The two players ahead of us check. Playing last, we bet 1,000. Then the first man in line raises 2,000. Uh-oh.

Could this guy be bluffing, or thinking we were? We were chased off one pot earlier in the session by a different man who bet big with an Ace high, and shoved us off a winning pair of 3's.

"I'm all-in," I announce -- holding about 2,975 in the stack. We guess this man is being a bully. But no -- he rolls over two diamonds for a flush. Ouch.

We did take a couple of pots tonight -- one with a pocket pair of Queens which held up, another in the big blind with K-5 when K-3-3 fell on the flop to give us two pair.

But while we tried to be more conservative in not chasing marginal hands, we were tempted to try a couple which fell short. And another man escaped when we put him all in, as he had three of a kind to beat our two pair.

Oh yes -- if our title sounds familiar, it should. Jesus said in Matthew 7:14: "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life...." A different spelling from the poker straight, admittedly. That's a big difference.

In poker, going "straight as a nail" (to borrow another player's phrase tonight) sometimes gets you into trouble. We hit a "Broadway straight" -- but Jesus also said in verse 13: "Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."

The strait Jesus said means "narrow" in Greek. Are you walking that way? If you're not, perhaps we can help. Leave a comment with an e-mail address, and we'll contact you -- no names needed.

(NOTE: We'll hold our Ministry Moment of the night for this weekend.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 49 nights (42.9%) - 6 cashes. Six misses in a row: not good.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $8,670 -- up $310 to a record high, thanks to one amazing Thursday afternoon session. Details on that are coming, too.

Riddle answer

We asked why most poker players probably supported Barack Obama for President.

The answer: They support the redistribution of wealth!

(Isn't that what most poker games are about? Winning everybody else's chips?)

Oh well -- we plan to be at Lil Kim's Cove for poker night tonight. Game time is 8:30 p.m. ET

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let's hear it for the Philippians!

Well, what do you know -- a book of the Bible came up during the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Third-place Dennis Phillips had a block of fans which the WSOP online play-by-play called "Phillippians." The New Testament book is spelled a little differently, but we'll take it.

So what sort of poker advice can we learn from Philippians -- the book, we mean? Here's one gem we found: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Phil. 4:11b, KJV)

Those of us who live in Georgia like to joke this refers to our trips into Alabama. But poker players can be in all sorts of "states" -- states of despair when the chip count of low and you feel "hungry," or states of euphoria when you win a big pot and "abound" (verse 12). Not to mention the states in between, from emotional border to border.

The key word is "contentment" -- which comes from realizing there's more to this life than poker. "Godliness with contentment is great gain," says I Timothy 6:6. May you have both, and rake in the fruits which go with them.

P.S. Our wild guess finalist made it to the final two, and heads-up play tonight. We'll see how Ivan Demidov does -- but he certainly isn't Ivan the Terrible.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A poker riddle

Q: Why did most poker players probably prefer Barack Obama for President?

(Leave a comment with your guess. Answer coming soon.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Poker Night #48: Go Big or Go Home

When a player goes all-in on the first hand of the night, a tone is set. That happened at my Lil' Kim's Cove table tonight -- and it led to several all-in bets, including a couple by me. I won one. But alas, I lost one -- and wound up 15th, out of about 30 players.

I was dealt A-J on the first hand of the night, and made a quiet weak-looking call as the play went around. The player to my left raised 300, and I joined in. But then after an ordinary-looking flop, that player went all-in. He scared me off, and that was good. He had pocket aces, which beat a challenger's solo remaining ace.

Several more early all-in bets followed, many of them justified. One young man held Q-Q twice, and rolled up big scores. But he went all-in one time too many in a bluff, and was called and busted.

"I came to play Wal-Mart poker," I joked to others at the table, "and everybody else is playing Neiman-Marcus."

From a starting chip stack of 6,000 (5,000 + 1,000 for buying a soda), I went all-in with about 3,000 left. I had pocket kings, and they held up to put my chip count in the 15,000 range.

But then old-fashioned overconfidence kicked in, as I attempted to eliminate other players who went all-in. I lost about 2,500 in one case, when a man had three 8's and my dream of a gut-shot 10 for a straight didn't happen. (We'll talk about that "confidence" in another post.)

The last straw for me came shortly after the one-hour break:

BLINDS: 500/1000

IN THE POCKET: A-10 of diamonds

Standard calls happen. Six players are at the table, and three stay in.

ON THE FLOP: 2d-10-3 (suits for the others don't matter)

I make top pair, with an outside shot at a flush. I'm on the button, and bet 500 after others check. The two remaining players call.

ON THE TURN: 5d

The first player in line started the fireworks by going all-in with pocket aces. Now he goes all in again. Player 2 folds, so it's up to me.

I suspect my neighbor is holding a high pocket pair, or maybe a 10 of his own. He really hasn't bluffed all evening. I show my hole cards to a player at my right, and she whispers that I should call him. I probably would have, anyway.

"I'll call." My neighbor turns out to have hit two pair on the flop, 3's and 2's. But I have all sorts of escape routes -- A for my own two pair, 10 for a set, 4 for a straight, several diamonds for a flush....

ON THE RIVER: 6h. Not the way out, so I'm out.

No one mentioned the blog, so the man who beat me wins our prize -- and he seems genuinely stunned to receive two Carmike Cinema movie passes.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A young man across the table with a Western-style hat declared Jesus's name twice. Not in praise, but the other way.

My response to the first one: "He's my hope of salvation."

To the second: "He's the king of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16). No response in either case.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 48 nights (43.8%) - 6 cashes. The slump continues.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $8,360 - up $159.

WSOP Official Guess

The final table of the World Series of Poker finally gathers this weekend, after four months of waiting.

I've admittedly never heard of any of these guys. So based on the bio pages, I'm guessing Ivan Demidov will win. (A 100% guess.) So who do you like?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Back to the beginning

Since The Roadhouse now is out of play, we plan to return to Lil Kim's Cove tonight for the free poker tournament.

You're welcome to join us, with the action starting around 8:30 p.m. ET. The first person to mention this blog wins a prize!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Look Like Laak

The last time we played poker at Lil' Kim's Cove, it was a rainy night. So we wore a hooded rain jacket to the club, and told people we were trying to look like pro poker star Phil Laak (aka the "Unibomber").

Well, except we had on regular glasses instead of sunglasses. It was raining, after all.

A few people who knew we meant. But at least one player next to us said, "Take that thing (hood) off. You're scaring me with it."

Looking back, that player may have had a point. He was African-American, and our hooded jacket was white. You can finish the logic problem from there.

"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." -- I Cor. 10:32, KJV

Our apologies if we came across as insensitive to anyone at the table. That wasn't our goal. We simply wanted to look, well, poker-stylish. Not that it helped us win -- it didn't.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ohhhhh. Never mind.

We went to The Roadhouse for poker around 8:00 Wednesday night. We were still standing outside around 8:25.

Two men standing near the door confirmed it was poker night, but no one had shown up yet. Then those men showed they were NOT interested in poker camaraderie -- as they walked across 11th Street to avoid me, and continue their conversation.

A few people were inside The Roadhouse. Eventually one saw me at the front door, motioned me to a side door -- and that's when I learned the bad news. The club no longer has poker nights, and now officially is closed on Wednesdays.

"It wasn't bringing in enough people," a man told me. On the nights I attended, about 25-30 showed up.

So a downtown poker option no longer exists. Does this mean Columbus poker is in decline? You tell me.

A song for the table

We were online playing Yahoo poker just now, when 103.7 FM "The Truth" played the Twila Paris classic Christian song "Days of Elijah." We put some new words on the chorus on the spur of the moment, and came up with....

Poker time! Poker time is here!
Grab your chips! Get cards in the air!
Lift your voice, to raise over the top....
And on the river will the payoff come!

Play poker, avoid the other stuff

That's our strategy tonight. We plan to join in the Wednesday night free tournament at The Roadhouse, on Broadway in downtown Columbus.

That way we miss half-hour campaign commercials, 3 1/2 inning baseball games -- and who knows what else?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The hot seat

At Yahoo poker the other day, I practically could do no wrong. I hit a full house on the flop. Then I won a couple of pots by hitting flushes on the river.

"Hot seat," a woman at the table wrote.

"I know," I replied with a giggle.

In only a few minutes, my pretend cash count jumped $200. Apparently that was too good for the table's host, who booted me without any real reason. (All I said after that was about how I folded back-to-back flushes at Lil Kim's Cove the night before.)

Sometimes people get jealous of other people's success. They even want to take vengeance. But that's not really what a Christian should do.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice," Paul wrote in Romans 12:15. "Mourn with those who mourn."

Be happy if you win -- but be controlled. But here's the tough part: being happy when someone else wins. In poker, that's the difference between the "only a game" and the "win or else" philosophies. We hope your choice is the right one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Poker Night #47: Expect the Unexpected

We didn't play any poker during vacation -- not even online. In fact, the deck of cards we took never even left the motel room drawer. We were at a religious convention, after all.

So we might have been a bit rusty on our return to Lil Kim's Cove tonight. But the better explanation for our performance was probably bad timing and instinct. We lasted more than an hour, but wound up in about 20th place among four crowded tables.

We won the first hand of the night, with modest "warm-up" or "feel things out" betting which left a couple of people at our table puzzled.

BLINDS: 25/50.

IN THE POCKET: 9-6 of hearts.

Several players toss the minimum in the pot, to start the party. We're in early position, which works to our favor.

ON THE FLOP: Kc, another club and a 6 (spade, I think).

Checks abound.

ON THE TURN: 6 of clubs.

"Somebody hit a flush," one player boastfully speculates. Thanks for the reminder.

"350," I bet. I have three of something, all right -- but not clubs.

Several players fold. "Why would he bet THAT if he had a flush?" one wonders. But one man stays in.

ON THE RIVER: A red 9.

OK, I'm listening to you skeptics -- "1,500." The other player quickly folds, so he's left to guess about whether I might have hit a full house.

But a couple of fairly big tries for pots after that fell short. As the blinds went up and my stack went down, I mucked back-to-back hands with two diamonds -- only to see enough diamonds turn up on the board to cost me consecutive flushes.

I won an all-in bet late in the evening with Kc-Jc, as a pair of Kings topped an opponent's Jack high. But when I went all in again with pocket 6's, aces and a King turned up -- and a man to my left had a King to top me.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that for good luck?" a first-time poker player to my left asked after a couple of hands about my silver coin [Oct 1].

"No, it's not for that" -- and he read the message about Jesus it contains. "What do you think of that?"

"I don't expect to see that when playing poker," the man admitted.

I told him how I acquired the coin. The flip side of it has the logo for a Christian Motorcycle Association; a member gave it to me at a Bible study a few months ago. The other man told me he saw that group's booth at a Labor Day weekend drag racing competition in Reynolds, GA. "They were way up on a hill!" Above it all, perhaps?

The discussion about godly things ended with a quote of our unofficial motto: Our "King of Kings" can beat any Ace.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 47 nights (44.7%) -- 6 cashes. For us, this is turning into a slump: only one final table in the last six sessions.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $8201 (Down $221; - 130 from poker).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The road, not The Roadhouse

We're going away for about ten days, to an area where poker playing is unlikely -- in person or online.

But maybe we should take a deck of cards. Even to a religious convention.

UPDATED YAHOO TOTAL: $8201 (- 65)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where have we been?

Online lately -- but not playing a lot, as we prepare for an upcoming road trip.

Unless we find a free poker tournament on the road (and we may not have time), we hope to return to Lil Kim's Cove for Thursday night action on 23 October.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $8266 (down $156, but only down 65 from poker -- that blackjack bug can be dangerous)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Poker Night #46: The Aces Crack'd

Playing carefully helped me win an early pot at The Roadhouse tonight. But a top pair in the pocket wound up biting me, and I wound up in about 15th place. (We have to say "about" because only two tables were in action, but latecomers kept being added to the game as others were knocked out.)

BLINDS: 50/100.

IN THE POCKET: Aces!

I'm the big blind, and players call around to me. I raise 400, and several people join the party.

ON THE FLOP: K-Q-junk. (I think it was an 8.)

I'm first up, and bet 1,000. The man to my left calls without a flinch. One or two others do the same.

ON THE TURN: More junk -- maybe a 5.

Something tells me trouble is looming here, even though there's nothing to indicate a straight or flush. So I check.

"I'm all in," the man to my left says right away. Uh-huh. "You don't go f***ing me by checking there. Take my chips."

What would you do? He might have an A-K or A-Q and merely have top pair.

"I'll do it. I'll call," I decide -- pushing in 3,300 to match his bet. "I've got rockets."

"Two pair," he says -- showing a K-Q.

"I feared that," I say in response. My hunch turned out to be right. Something WAS wrong here, but I dared to play on anyway. Yet all I have to do is pair the board on the river, and I'll win the pot with a higher two pair....

ON THE RIVER: More junk -- a 6, I think.

We never recovered from that big loss, finally going all-in with K-Q with the blinds at 100/200 and 625 left in our bank. But in that case, another player had pocket Aces -- and they held up to take the pot, and take me out. Didn't we just have a post about giving and taking away?


MINISTRY MOMENT: Before the game begins, a man notices my new card marker. It's a coin mentioning Jesus being your Savior. (More on that coin another time.)

"Feel mine," he says -- a thick, gold-edged old Mexican coin. The man then talks about the devaluation of the peso years ago relative to the dollar, and how Mexico's economy recovered from that much faster than the U.S. is from its housing mess.

"This," I say referring to my coin, "is more about the message than the money."

"Maybe it's platinum," the man says. But after holding it a second and looking at both sides, he concludes it's made "from the top of a Mountain Dew can."

This man must have read the message on the coin. But he didn't want to talk about what it said. Maybe another night he will -- or maybe he needed to think about it.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 46 nights (45.7%) -- 6 cashes. As we mentioned below, this will be our last live tournament for a few weeks due to an upcoming church convention.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: RECORD HIGH $8422 (Up $652). We've been cooking there lately, gaining more than $1,500 since Labor Day.

Some give and take

"Jesus Christ" someone wrote at a Yahoo poker table we visited recently.

"He's my hope of salvation," I wrote in reply. (Rom 10:13) A short reply, more factual than preachy.

An actual discussion about Jesus then followed, which is rare for online games. Someone else wrote the first writer had best be careful with that name. And that led to this comment:

"He giveth and he taketh away."

Downright King James -- and Biblically accurate. It's what Job said in the Old Testament (Job 1:21), after Satan took away much more than a tall stack of poker chips.

Job lost all his belongings, then most of his family. Yet his initial response was one of worship toward God (verse 20) -- and the Bible notes he did NOT sin in what he said (verse 22).

Read on in Job, and you'll find his frustration slowly seems to build. But that first reaction was quite impressive -- and as they say in government these days, faith-based.

How do you respond when a bad beat or a big bust-out happens? It's only natural to say something you'll later regret. Yet it's better to be like a spur-of-the-moment Job, instead of the one who starts sulking the more he thinks about what happened.

But back to the table. I answered the quote from Job by writing God has given me a lot. I did NOT write, but could have added, that we should focus on what God gives more than what He takes.

By the way, Job ends with him receiving greater blessings than he had before (42:10-15). So God can give again, even after He takes. The ultimate hope of the believer is that God will do that, in the form of eternal life.





Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the Roadhouse again

We're planning to return to The Roadhouse at 11th and Broadway for their Wednesday night poker tournament. From what we saw last week, there should be room for you to join us.

This probably will be our last live tournament for a few weeks. An upcoming church convention will keep us busy for most of October.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Poker Night #45: You Push Me, I'll Push You

A change of work plans opened the door for us to play tournament poker two nights in a row. But Thursday wasn't as successful as Wednesday -- as we only reached the semifinal tables at Lil Kim's Cove, finishing 15th overall.

Aggressive betting worked early, as we hit a 3-4-5-6-7 straight on the turn with a pocket 7. A bet of $450 (blinds 25/50) on the turn was called. A $1,200 bet on the river wasn't.

But then it didn't work, as we went fishing without success for a few big hands and lost the edge. And for awhile we couldn't bet at all, as the pocket cards were dreadfully weak.

But then it worked once -- in a battle of the 200/400 blinds. The flop was a 6-7-9, and in the small blind position we went all-in straightway with a pocket 9. That scared our opponent off.

But then the final failure came....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-Q of diamonds

Our stack is low at 3,350, so one off the button we raise to 1,000. A couple of opponents call.

ON THE FLOP: 9-6-4, rainbow (no diamonds).

A man across the table bets 2,000 ahead of us. It's a tough decision time, and with two "over cards" we go all-in with 2,350. An easy call for our foe -- and he has a 9, so he leads the race with a pair.

ON THE TURN AND RIVER: The dealer put these out so quickly that it's a bit blurry, but I think it was A-10. In any case, I missed a straight by one card -- and the opponent's 9's hold up.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Good Lord!" a man to our right exclaimed when he received the latest in a series of unplayable deals.

"He's good all the time," I answer. Jesus did that when He walked the earth (Acts 10:38). Hopefully you do, too.

I've learned in recent years how to answer outbursts about God or Christ. Say something short and to the point, of about one sentence. And if the oath-maker takes issue with you giving a Christian response, I say: "Hey, YOU brought Him up."

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 45 nights (46.7%) - 6 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: RECORD HIGH $7770 -- Up $114, in a single Thursday session (a topic for another time).

We're #2!

Not in some tour rankings. (Bummer.)

But do a Google search for "poker ministry" and you'll find this blog as the second item among the results. Right below a writer who seems to dismiss such things. (Bummer again.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poker Night #44: One for the Roadhouse

We went to a Wednesday night poker tournament for the first time tonight, and we did well. But the turnout was smaller than we expected -- as we expected laid-off Bill Heard employees to show up, trying to win some money. (See our other blog Thursday for more on that.)

We played at a rock-and-roll bar called The Roadhouse, at 11th and Broadway. Modern rock and hip-hop tunes played in the background all evening long, as thankfully no band was on stage to distract us. (Or at least me.) A lone TV behind the bar showed the ESPN baseball game.

Reflecting the bar setting, most of the players were younger than I -- and the crowd was almost completely different from Lil' Kim's Cove on Thursday nights. Still smoking, drinking and cursing, sadly -- but different.

So how did we do? Very well, actually. We finished fifth at the final table. And we could have kept playing awhile, except for this hand (memory admittedly a bit fuzzy):

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: Ah Ac.

I'm on the button with about 34,000 in chips. I raise 10,000 when the play comes to me. Most players fold, but a woman an opponent has labeled a "cheerleader" calls me.

ON THE FLOP: Three high cards -- two of them hearts, the other Kd.

The play checks to me, and I bet 15,000. The cheerleader calls.

ON THE TURN: A smaller card (I forget which one).

The cheerleader bets, and I go all-in with my remaining 9,000. She calls me, with no Aces. I'm feeling good until....

ON THE RIVER: Kh.

I have top two paid. But the cheerleader had two smaller hearts in her hand, so she hit a flush. Ouch.

Should I have gone all-in on the flop? I didn't because I wanted to bring more chips my way, instead of scaring everyone off the pot (as I did once before with the big blind at this final table).

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I haven't lied about my hand all night," a man next to me at the semifinal table said a couple of times.

I praised him for his ethics, then reworded a bit what he said. "You should not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Ex. 20:16) I don't think he really caught what I said.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 21 final tables in 44 nights (47.7%) - 6 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: RECORD HIGH of $7656 (Up $212, all from poker) -- and since "We Wuz Robbed" (post below), the gain in six days actually is $512.

Special Wednesday Edition

We're planning to try Wednesday night poker tonight, for the first time.

The tournament is at The Roadhouse, near 11th and Broadway -- and from what we've heard, the rules seem to be similar to what Lil Kim's Cove has on Thursdays.

Except we expect the music to be a bit louder than classic country on the jukebox. Our ministry may stand out more than ever....

Friday, September 19, 2008

We Wuz Robbed

Remember that $300 gain we mentioned taking at Yahoo poker Thursday afternoon?

We went back Thursday night -- and found our earlier total. Yahoo never registered it.

That's twice Yahoo has missed a gain on our part in a month. Maybe Microsoft DOES need to merge with it. :-->

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Poker Night #43: When Not to Race

I wondered if I would be rusty tonight, after five weeks away from Lil Kim's Cove. Then I took the first hand of the evening, with two pair.

But it was all downhill from there -- as I was the second player to crash out at my table of eight.

I think I bet a bit too aggressively on a few nice-starting hands, hoping the flop would fall my way. In the Yahoo pretend-money cash games, that doesn't cost you much. In a tournament format with no limits, that can whittle away at your chip stack.

There was big-time drama when I held K-J and three queens showed up on the board. The river card was a K, and I went all in -- but a woman across from me had a king as well, so we split the pot. (An older woman also had a full house, but with Q's and 6's. Yet she survived longer than I did.)

It came down at the end to an all-in bet I couldn't refuse, but almost did:

BLINDS: 200/400.

IN THE POCKET: Jh-Jc.

I smooth call as the wave comes around -- but a ponytailed man two seats to my right raises 800. A couple of us go in with him.

ON THE FLOP: Kh -- plus two small cards I forget now, one a heart.

"I'm all in," the ponytailed man says.

I've played this man before, and know he hardly ever bluffs. He probably hit something, and I think I K-now what it was. I have a longshot flush chance, and give it some thought.

"Let's have a race," I say -- and in goes my 2,350. (He has me covered with ease.)

Sure enough, my opponent paired a K. No hearts or jacks come on the turn and river, and I lose the race by two cards.

Because no one mentioned this blog, I give the man who eliminated me the prize I brought -- two movie passes to Carmike Cinemas. He seems to like them. "I can go to a movie this weekend," he says. Now all he needs is a date -- as he said something during the game about splitting from his wife a few hours before.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Turn, turn, turn," the man to my immediate right said as he was dealing.

"As in the book of Ecclesiastes?" I say. He seems to get it -- the 1960's rock song based on Ecc. 3:1-8.

The Moffatt translation has for verse 6: "A time to seek, a time to lose, a time to keep, a time to throw away...." In poker, it's all about the timing. Tonight mine was bad.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 20 final tables in 43 nights (46.5%) - six cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $7444 (Up $189, +221 with blackjack ruled out) -- a RECORD high. It was fueled by a $306 gain in a hot streak Thursday afternoon. But things cooled considerably down the street.

Back tonight at last!

It appears all is well for our return to Lil Kim's Cove for Thursday night poker. We're assuming game time hasn't changed, at 8:30 p.m. ET

And to hype things up a bit, the first player to mention this blog tonight in our earshot wins a prize!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

12's are Wild

Boo-hoo -- just lost about $150 pretend dollars at a Yahoo table, where someone completely threw me off my game.

This person claimed in a chat message to be 12 years old -- and he acted like it at times. He'd bet on almost every hand, whether he HAD a hand or not.

In one hand, he bet big $$ all the way to the river. But someone kept calling him -- and he got caught holding a 3-2, which didn't match anything on the board. "Yuthful exuberance," he explained afterward. Absolutely. (By the way, he left the table with his "chip count" at more than $6,000. Yes, negative.)

That sort of ultra-aggression, "devil may care" approach admittedly can scare me out of a lot of pots -- especially if I have a small pair. I dumped a pair of 2's at one point before the river, which seemed promising.

When someone is that wild, it's not easy to stay calm and focused. The last time I placed second at Lil Kim's Cove, I quieted my enthusiastic opponent a bit by using the strategy of Proverbs 15:1, KJV: "A soft answer turns away wrath...." It also makes you look MUCH more civilized than the person across the table.

Now how do you do that online? I'm open to suggestions....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Back to the action?!

If all goes well, we'll resume our Thursday night tournament tries at Lil Kim's Cove this week. (Wow, we've been away five weeks!)

After being bitten too many times by Yahoo blackjack, we only went there once this past week. We quickly lost $105 in pretend money, and gave it up for awhile. But online poker has been VERY good of late....

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $7255 (Up $233, up $338 if blackjack left out -- down from a RECORD high Sunday night of $7293)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A lost edge?

In the last few weeks, my gains at Yahoo poker haven't been much. But I can explain it, really.

I'm sticking around a few hands too long after a big pot win. I'm lingering in marginal hands on the flop, hoping to hit a turn card. And Yahoo poker lets me try some approaches I probably wouldn't take at a real tournament.

Are those acceptable excuses?

By the way, another "all or nothing" dare night at Yahoo blackjack left me busting out again -- but then making another ridiculous comeback, to a record high of $6900. I haven't done that since. (I need to quit daring myself at bedtime this way.)

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $7024 (Up $833, but only +41 from poker)

Monday, September 1, 2008

$500 overflow

Happy Labor Day -- and may you rest in some holiday action, which just unfolded in a Yahoo poker room.

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 off suit.

The maximum ten players are at this table, and they're in a betting mood. We go all the way before the flop, $12 a player.

ON THE FLOP: 8h Jh Ad.

A nice draw for a top straight. I keep betting, as do several others.

ON THE TURN: Kd.

The King is coming! The King is coming!! (Rev. 19:11-16)

But hold it -- flush chances abound on this board. I keep betting, as do about seven others to the $20 max. The pot climbs well above $350, which is huge for Yahoo's small cash games.

ON THE RIVER: Ah.

Uh-oh. Did someone hit the flush? I'm committed big-time to the pot, and so are several others -- so the betting goes to the max again.

We all turn 'em over -- and a player to my left has 8-8. He hits a FULL HOUSE on the river, and takes a $514 pot! The biggest I've seen at Yahoo.

I took another big pot minutes later, with 8's and 3's. It was worth $184. Nice.... but oh, what could have been.





Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday update: Be back soon

At a real tournament? Not for awhile.

The workplace needs me on Thursday nights at least two more weeks. So the next scheduled appearance at Lil' Kim's Cove is now planned for September 18.

Ahhhh -- two more weeks to clean the lungs of second-hand smoke. :-->

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $6190 (Up $98; up $138 from poker).

Even the pros do it

Did you watch Poker After Dark this past week? I tend to watch only the "Director's Cut" on Saturday nights, while finishing the other blog -- but there was something unusual there this weekend, which ties in with a recent post here.

The Poker After Dark format has six players buying into a "winner-take-all" game, at $20,000 each. This past week, one player went all-in on the very first hand -- and LOST!

But then the unusual thing happened. The other five players agreed to let him have a second "buy-in" for another $20,000. It increased the total payout to $140,000. And perhaps the players were merciful because the invites to this table have a tendency to be "jam up" big gamblers.

Hey, did you catch that word -- merciful? Even big shots on the pro poker circuit showed it here. They included well-known winners such as Howard Lederer and Mike "The Mouth" Matusow.

No, the player who bought back in did NOT win the top prize. (David Williams did.) But I think everyone showed a winning spirit there.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." -- Matt. 5:7

Monday, August 25, 2008

Work, work, work

It will keep us from Lil Kim's Cove at least the next two Thursday nights. So the earliest we MIGHT be able to return is September 11.

Our table-mates must think we're on a summer break at the beach or something.

Meanwhile, thanks to Sonya Sorich at the Ledger-Enquirer for alerting us to new Wednesday night tournaments at The Roadhouse on Broadway -- just as free as the ones at Lil Kim's. Too bad we're too busy to play there right now, as well.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Update: Mercy Said 100

We wanted to play Yahoo! poker late Saturday night -- but somehow lost the connection on the river, and couldn't get it back. Oh well, a $4 (pretend) loss.

Unable to restore the connection, we spent a few minutes at Yahoo! blackjack. How addictive -- and as we recall mentioning here before, how risky.

We were betting $5 a time, and breaking even a bit. Then we decided to go for a "big finish," by making $1,000 maximum bets.

Amazingly (or was it really?), we started having a massive losing streak. We went from $6,000 to zero in no time. We should have wound up at about $-7,000, and with Yahoo pretend bankrolls that's possible.

But something even more amazing happened. Several times when we bet $1,000 with only $100 in our bankroll, Yahoo did NOT put us in what they used to call on Jeopardy the "minus column." Instead, we were restored to $100 and allowed to try again -- not once, but about eight times!

After being shown such incredible grace, we rallied to regain our $6,000 -- and there we stopped. Try THAT stunt at a real casino, and see if it happens!

We went to bed thankful the Yahoo account we SHOULD have had wasn't on display. And we were reminded of mercy -- shown by the blackjack computer, and by God toward us.

"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy...." (Rom. 9:15)

Sometimes at the poker table we have that option, too. Perhaps a show of mercy with an opponent's chip stack might make you a friend, and open a door. But be ready, in case other players consider it a sign of weakness on your part. "There is a time for everything...." (Ecc. 3:1)

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $6092 (Up $350, but only +12 in poker). Blackjack giveth, and blackjack taketh away.





If we started a poker band....

What would we call it?

Maybe the "Suited Connectors"?

Other names welcome....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday at the table

A busy schedule has restricted us to online play in the last few days. But we can sum things up this way:

1. Happiness is a full house on the flop. That happened to us just now at Yahoo -- with a 2-9 in the pocket, 9-2-9 showed up on the flop.

2. Online cash games can ebb and flow in a hurry. We were just in one where we fell $-124 for the session -- then rallied and won it all back in a couple of hands. We finally left with a gain of $60.

3. A player named Buddha admitted to us he/she is "into Wiccan and Buddhism." (Quite a combination.) We asked why he/she doesn't go to church, and had no response. Some people would rather play poker than face tougher questions.

4. Yahoo blackjack can be a fun distraction -- but also scary. Ten days ago we dared to bet $1000 maximums, and dropped $2000. But then we rallied with a double and a 3-2 payoff blackjack, and hurried away with a $1500 gain.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $5742 (Up $1281, but only + 21 in poker)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend Leftovers

1. At Thursday night's tournament at Lil Kim's Cove, I sent a man out early with three 2's. I then said something about being a "gentleman" with the person I eliminated -- and someone at the table said, "Gentleman?!?!"

"Speak evil of no man.... but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men." -- Titus 3:2

2. Wow -- we hit quads AGAIN at Yahoo poker Friday afternoon! It happened for the second time in seven days, and this time it was AAAA! It only earned us $38 in pretend money -- but what are the odds of that?

3. Are you kidding -- NBC pre-empted Saturday night's "Poker After Dark" wrap-up for something called the Olympics? They haven't made poker an Olympic sport yet?





Thursday, August 7, 2008

Poker Night #42: The Eve of 8.8.08

So much for that being an Asian lucky number. Eights came up big against us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. We wound up in 13th place, barely making the semifinal table.

The end came when we chose to go all-in with J-9 of clubs, after another woman bet big with pocket aces. A Jack came up on the flop, along with a 7. An 8 on the turn offered hope for a straight, but a 6 fell on the river instead of the 10 we needed.

As for those eights, which cost us a lot of chips....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 5-4. Standard calls occur.

ON THE FLOP: 5-8-6.

A man loaded with chips to our immediate right bets $1,000. We call, with straight chances -- and wind up heads-up against him.

ON THE TURN: Another 4. We now have two pair.

"Four thousand," the man to our right declares. He's occasionally bet big with very little since arriving at the table, so we have to think about this. Is he trying to push us off the pot, with a taller chip stack?

"I'm probably going to regret this, but I'll call," I say. Then I show my cards to a friend to my left who already folded.

"You're not gonna regret it," he assures me. "It's coming." Sometimes he has an uncanny ability to know, but....

ON THE RIVER: An 8. Having three pair in Texas Hold 'em doesn't count.

"Ten thousand," the man to our right says. Gulp. Calling in effect would put us all-in. This is too much for our taste, so we fold.

"If you had a full house, you would have won," the man to the left says.

"No, he wouldn't," says the pot-winner to the right quietly. "Could he beat quad 8's?" Why, no we couldn't.

MINISTRY MOMENT: It didn't really happen tonight. One time when someone mentioned the blinds, we said, "Every round goes higher, higher." If anyone grasped the reference to the Christian children's song, "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder," they didn't show it.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 20 final tables in 42 nights (47.6%) - 6 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $4461 (Down 138 -- but if blackjack losses are ruled out, we actually gained 194. We're not playing blackjack as often these days.)

P.S. We will have to miss the Lil Kim's Cove tournament for at least the next two Thursday nights, due to work commitments. We'll keep posting here as we can, and as the online action warrants.





Remember as you play....

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." (I Cor. 13:4)

There's good advice for temperament at a poker table in the verses that follow, but we'll focus on this one.

If the person blowing cigarette smoke in your face across the table has a big chip stack and a mouth to match, take him/her on the right way. Be patient, wait for a good hand -- then try to make the most of it.

Shut up a boastful player by politely taking a big pot, and you might find other players at the table thanking you.

Break Time is over....

We plan to be back at Lil Kim's Cove, Fourth Street and Second Avenue, for Thursday night poker tonight.

The DVD voice should say "shuffle up and deal" around 8:30 p.m. ET.

We're in a busy season, so this may be our only live poker night for awhile.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One in a million

Well, we're not sure those are the exact odds of it happening. But it happened to us late Saturday night, playing poker online at Yahoo!

BLINDS: $1/$2 (pretend money)

IN THE HOLE: A-2 of diamonds

It's a limit hold 'em game, with the maximum pre-flop bet of $12. Several players call before then.

ON THE FLOP: 5 of diamonds (plus two other cards I forget now; I think one was an ace)

I keep betting, as do a couple of other players -- but the bets are modest.

ON THE TURN: 3 of diamonds

Modest betting continues, with my pair of Aces -- but could this really happen?

ON THE RIVER: 4 of diamonds

It DID!!!!! It DID happen!!!!

I'm in the lead position, and humbly check. A woman around the table bets 4 (the standard at Yahoo tables). I raise to 8. She calls, and a straight flush wins me a $90 pot.

This has happened to me at Yahoo poker once before. But believe it or not, I never saw it in June 2007 and called a $4 bet. Call it the learning curve.

I don't rub in my win, though. "With humility comes wisdom." (Prv. 11:2)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not tonight, dear....

Work commitments will keep us from playing at Lil Kim's Cove this week.

So here's your big chance -- take our place, and see how you do. (With the cards, as well as your example.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Yahoo International Raceway

The poker tables in Yahoo's Hold 'em Poker (where we usually play online) are described as "lounge" areas. Yet sometimes they're anything but.

"Play faster," someone told me at a table Sunday night. Some people at the table wanted to play quicker than this year's Brickyard 400.

"I'm sorry," I replied. "I need at least one second to think."

Think? That's not what these players want to do. "It's play money," a player scolded me. And that's true. But....

"It's practice for me," I answered. For Thursday night's real-life tournaments. Sometimes older people at those tables deal out flops slower than some online bidding rounds last at Yahoo.

Thankfully, I wasn't booted for taking one or two seconds. Some hosts would have done that. But the high-speed play resulted in my making a couple of mistakes -- and made me wonder if I should look for a different place to really practice.

Mr. Limbaugh may have "Rushed to Excellence" long ago, but I've learned it doesn't work that way for me. "Feet that are quick to rush into evil" are feet God doesn't like (Prv. 6:18).

Or to borrow from a classic SOS Band disco song: "Take your time, do it right."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Poker Night #41: Exciting Second

That title is what Second Baptist Church in Houston used to call itself. And it describes tonight's outcome at Lil Kim's Cove.

For the first time since April 24 (three months to the day), we finished in the money. Second place earned us a "bucket of beers" -- and while we were assured it was going for six sodas, we went ahead and sold it to a final-table dropout for $10.

Things were going along modestly until we won three big pots in a row, knocking out a couple of semifinal table players along the way. In one hand, we had Q-10 -- and with a K-J showing on the turn, we dared to call a $5,000 bet. We looked hard for an ace on the river, but a 9 came up instead. OK by us.

The player immediately to our left had two high pair, and cursed a bit when he could not believe what he saw. "You don't have to apologize," he said when we tried. "I just want to see you make that play in a cash game."

"It's not real money," I assured him. But would we have made that play? Hmmmmmmm....

That man wound up busting out one hand later, beaten by us again. "I'm on tilt," he admitted as he went all-in in the wake of the hand before. I could be wrong, but I think we had pocket 3's and a third 3 turned up on the board.

We took a huge stack of chips to the final table, only to see a young man named Clint knock it down and take it all away. He was so pumped by his final table seat that he was yelling on big hands. (Well, he was shouting when two tables were still going for that matter.)

"Poker After Dark doesn't come on until 2:05 in the morning," I reminded him. That calmed him down a bit.

Clint talked about winning $12,000 online recently at Ultimate Bet. But a $50 win at Lil Kim's Cove thrilled him nonetheless. "I love this game," he said.

"I can tell," I quietly answered with a smile.

In heads-up play, we both made some cautious lay-downs -- but Clint kept gaining ground. It came down to this, as we were dealing:

BLINDS: 10,000/20,000

IN HIS POCKET: Q-Q

IN OUR POCKET: Jh-9h

Clint raises all-in with 12 gold chips, worth $60,000. After a moment of thought, we call -- and Clint jumps to his feet as if he's already won a WSOP bracelet.

ON THE FLOP: 10h-K-7

Clint gets scared for a moment. I have three hearts on my side, and one more Queen gives me a straight.

ON THE TURN: Ace, not a heart. My hopes diminish.

ON THE RIVER: Another 7. Clint wins with two pair.

Clint notes that heads-up play began with him holding Q-Q (I folded) -- and it ended the same way.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A frustrated player next to us said early on, "Jesus Christ."

"The way, the truth and the life," we answer. (Jhn. 14:6) Nothing more comes of the discussion.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 20 final tables in 41 nights (48.8%) - 6 cashes (14.6%)

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $4597 (Up 86, up 106 in poker games)

If it was real....

As we mark 40 poker nights on Fourth Street, we wondered: what if Lil Kim's Cove was a real casino, with real buy-ins and payoffs?

We tried to play at a Kansas City casino's tournament in May (but the tourneys were canceled on Memorial Day), so we decided to use their rules.

Lil Kim's Cove has a small game, with never more than 40 players. So we presumed a $50 buy-in, and called the Harrah's poker room to see how many positions win money. The top 5 are paid in a 40-player game. Assuming it's a full tournament, 40 x 50 = $2000 pool.

As it happens, our buy-ins on poker nights would total 40 x 50 -- also $2,000.

We did NOT ask Harrah's how much is paid for positions 1-5. But let's assume it's a stairstep format, with $500 for the winner down to $100 for fifth.

Our record over 40 poker nights would be as follows:

First -- 3 ($1,500)
Second - 2 ($800)
Third -- 3 ($900)
Fourth - 4 ($800)
TIES for fourth:
one two-way ($150)
one three-way ($67)
Fifth -- 2 ($200)

TOTAL -- 16 for $4,417.

So if I had played poker in a casino over the last 13 months, I would have doubled my investment -- and then some. This seems to beat the Dow 30 these days, not to mention my 401(k) plans.

And even better -- at a casino, the cans of soda don't cost two dollars each. :-->

This week, yes....

But next week, no.

We'll be at Lil Kim's Cove on 4th Street for Thursday poker night tonight. The action should start around 8:30 p.m. ET.

But we'll have to skip next Thursday night, due to work commitments.

Coming shortly: What if we applied the Thursday poker tournaments to a real casino's rules?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Remember as you play....

"Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man." -- Prv. 27:20

Some people seem to be able to play poker non-stop for hours online -- making them "no-limit" players in a very different way. I'm admittedly not one of them.

I can go online and make/lose my personal threshold -- but then I get out. Usually I do this in 30 minutes or less, and it's usually a case of having other things to do.

If I entered an online tournament, I realize things would be different. I'd be prepared for that. (One Thursday night at Lil Kim's Cove, we started at 8:00 p.m. and I couldn't finish the last person off until after midnight.)

My point with this verse is simply to repeat a phrase beer companies sometimes use -- know when to say when. Don't be afraid to cut your losses. Or if the cards are good, to take the money and run.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hunches Happen. Sometimes.

We've raced over here from the Yahoo poker site, feeling really good. Read on to know why....

BLINDS: $1/$2 (pretend money)

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 of diamonds. I raise to 4, thinking something good is coming. Others raise with me.

ON THE FLOP: A-K-J, rainbow.

No flush, but I'm a straight-flopper. (Which is easier to say than "flush-flopper.")

In this limit hold-em game, I bet the allowed $2. A woman to my right raises to $4. I go to $6. She goes to $8. I go to $10 -- and type "Back at ya!" She raises to the top level of $12, and I call.

ON THE TURN: A small club, putting two clubs on the board.

I'm first in line, and Yahoo will only let me check or fold. I check, and the woman to my right starts the stairstep again -- only now it's 4-8-12-16-20. Three players go all the way to $20 calls. I root for no clubs.

ON THE RIVER: 6 of spades.

No flush. No chance for a full house. Yet the woman to my right dares to bet once more, and raises me all the way to the $20 top. The third player calls along, apparently thinking it's a bluff. But in Yahoo poker with small limits, bluffing doesn't happen often -- and it seldom works.

I thought sure the woman had her own Q-10, and we were splitting the pot. But no -- my top straight wins with ease, as all she has is a pair of Aces! The third player clung to a pair of Kings in vain. So I take a $200 pot, wishing it was for real.

The lesson for the opponents may be an old standard: Don't fall in love with your cards. I'd add: Love the Lord your God instead (Deut. 6:4).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Four months to wait?

So they trimmed the field at the World Series of Poker main event to a final table of nine players this week. And now all nine have to WAIT until November -- so the final table can be an ESPN November event. (Apparently it won't be televised live, as some had rumored.)

I'm a firm believer in momentum at a poker table. Someone can get on a roll (pardon the reference to another casino game), and run over several opponents at a time. Do you like this four-month waiting period? It's even longer than the three months before the Daytona 500.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Poker Night #40: Running Scared

A final table at Lil Kim's Cove tonight would have brought us to the .500 mark -- 20/40 in reaching final tables. But alas, we wound up tied for 12th and one table short.

We probably did well to finish tied for 12th out of some 30 players, because we never won a pot all night. But it's not like we didn't have chances. A big-betting man scared us off a pair of Jacks, with a King and Queen on the board. He later admitted he was bluffing. Then there was this hand....

BLINDS: 50/100.

IN THE POCKET: A-2. Several players call.

ON THE FLOP: 5-6-7.

The man next to me bets 200. Another player calls -- and I do, a bit hesitantly. I have an "over-card."

ON THE TURN: 10.

The man next to me bets 200 more. Another player calls -- and after thinking it over a moment, I fold.

ON THE RIVER: A of clubs. It figures. Another player won the pot with a pair of 7's.

MINISTRY MOMENT: That man to my left likes to talk a bit -- about hands he's played elsewhere, and things in general. One flop brings out an exclamation, "Good Lord!"

To which I say, "He is all the time." He didn't respond. But one night, that man talked without any prompting about the mistake Lucifer made, to rebel against God long ago (Isa. 14/Ezek. 28) -- the Lucifer we now know as Satan the devil.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 19 final tables in 40 nights (47.5%) - 5 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $4,641 (down 46, but up 33 in poker games).

Against All Odds....

It appears we WILL be able to play poker tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.

Regular readers of our other blog know we had to work an overnight shift Tuesday night-Wednesday, because of a sickout. The sick person missed again Wednesday night-Thursday. So we declared the chances of our fillng in once more tonight were "80/20."

A co-worker set odds at 90/10, then went "all in" late in the shift and said several times: "I'll see you tomorrow night!"

But as of this writing, the phone call to fill in HAS NOT COME! (If that changes, we'll update it here.)

So we're thankful the sick person is now well. (We prayed for that person a few times, by the way -- since overnight shifts admittedly don't thrill us very much.)

And we invite you to join us for Thursday poker night, with the draw for dealer around 8:30 p.m. ET. Hopefully we won't fall asleep at the table.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend Leftovers: Marker Ministry?

We reached into the bathroom cabinet for our card marker this past Thursday night. We decided to take a small bottle of Advil -- and announced our presence by the pills shaking in our pocket as we arrived.

The man to our left saw the bottle, and pulled out a packet of Goody's Headache Powders.

"So you have Goody's, I have Advil," I said -- "and the man over here has a beer."

Word apparently spread about our Advil, as a man came to us at the final table and asked for a couple of pills!

"They're a little old," I warned him as I handed them over.

I don't know if they worked. But a giving example always does.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Poker Night #39: "Because He Can"

A man wearing an Auburn hat and a ponytail was the dominator tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. I left with the tournament down to two players, but he gained a few early pots and proceeded to control the action with a big chip stack.

He'd call other players' big bets (and a few all-ins) "because I can." And he won more than he lost.

I sat 1-3 spots to his left all evening, and watched him announce a hand or two before the showdown. "Only one card can beat me," he declared when he made one big bet on the river. Sure enough, he had a club flush -- and the other player couldn't top his Qc (the Ac was on the board).

His words of wisdom late in the evening: "If a hand is worth playing, it's worth raising." Even if it means possibly getting burned, I suppose -- but he won about $25 at a different tournament earlier in the week, so it certainly works for him.

Oh, what about me? I survived long enough to finish 4th overall -- out of five tables' worth of players, or 35-40 in total. I survived one all-in moment, with a pair of 7's. But I chickened out of a possible big score when I folded a possible heart flush on the turn -- and you can guess what hit the river.

No hand really stood out, but a couple of other things did:

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000.

"I'm the big blind," a young man immediately to my right said with some pain -- as he proceeded to tip over his beer bottle, with some of the beer landing on my shorts. At least the beer was cold, in a club some said was too warm.

Beer on the shorts + cigarette smoke seeping onto my shirt = one true Southern bar experience.

Mr. Know-it-All sat to my left tonight. We got along fine, and he didn't have to correct me -- unlike last week.

MINISTRY MOMENT: At a semifinal table, I folded -- as did a woman immediately to my left. After the flop, I reminded others at the table that "I surrendered."

"I surrendered, too," the woman said.

"I surrender a little bit...." I began singing a hymn, a bit in jest. (I didn't go all-in, after all.) Then I reminded the fellow surrenderer the proper title is "I Surrender All." We'll see if that registers with her down the road.

And oh yes -- I'm thankful to have walked home in the rain. It came, because He can.

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 19 final tables in 39 nights (48.7%) - 5 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $4,265 (Up 1,025! It's $315 from poker, $710 from blackjack.)

Come Watch Us Play

In fact, unlike Columbus State University athletics (pardon our borrowing a slogan), you can play yourself.

We plan to be at Lil' Kim's Cove again tonight. Game time is 8:30 p.m. ET -- but last week the overseer of poker showed up a bit late. He said he had an event to attend with his child. If you ask us, that's a very good reason.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good things come to....

Online poker can be a strange thing. You never knew who will show up, or what sort of mood they'll be in. Here's an example from a Yahoo poker limit hold 'em we played Tuesday night.

BLINDS: $1/$2 (pretend money).

IN THE POCKET: K-2 of clubs. I call when my turn comes, and just about everyone else at this table of nine does.

ON THE FLOP: To be honest, I don't recall now -- because that's not the story here.

Everyone in Yahoo poker is "on the clock." If they don't play immediately, a countdown clock starts running -- and if it hits zero, you're automatically folded and tossed from the table.

A player ahead of me has the countdown clock reach 5 -- then apparently clicks the "thinking" button, which gives him more time. That player does it SEVERAL times.

"Boot him," one player writes in a comment.

After about a minute, the table host writes: "We're in limbo. I've booted him, but it isn't taking effect."

The other players grow tired of waiting, leaving the table without playing further. Even the table host walks out. Eventually it's down to me vs. Mr. Stall.

I plan to call sooner or later -- but the ultimate slow-player then folds! I win a $90 pot by default!

Someone once said poker is a game of patience. This is an example of it. A bizarre example, but an example.

"A man's wisdom gives him patience...." -- Prv. 19:11.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Us vs. Them?

A visitor to this blog reports he went to his first tournament last week -- and promptly made his first final table, finishing 8th. Impressive! He's way ahead of me!

But his comment about it makes a point we should clarify:

None of the players I remember playing with came across as christian.

Agreed. I find very few of them act that way. Most seem to be there for the cash game $$ beyond the tournaments, to drink away the problems of the work day, have fun with their buddies, etc.

Until local churches start poker nights (I can think of a couple of big progressive ones right away, which ought to give it a try), all the tournaments are in "the world" to some degree or another.

Some ministers say going to smoky lounges for any reason is "a bad witness." But didn't Jesus go where the sinners were? As in, well, everywhere? (Matt. 9:13)

Jesus didn't let the world's sins pollute Him. Admittedly, that can be a challenge for some Christians -- and it's safe to say going to clubs for games is NOT for every believer. (Especially those with smoke-damaged lungs, or easily tempted by alcohol.)

But at least one preacher has said: if you want to catch fish, you go where they are. "Come, follow me.... and I will make you fishers of men." (Mk. 1:17)

So yes, I play poker -- but in a way, I'm also playing "go fish."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Markers 'Round the House

"This guy's got his lucky battery," a player across the table said one night.

"It's not working very well," I said with a laugh. I took a AA battery to use as a card marker -- a device to protect your cards from being declared dead, through things like touching another player's chips.

I've become known at Thursday night poker for bringing a different card marker every week. I simply pick something small that's lying around the house. For instance:

* Last Thursday night -- a wine cork in a kitchen drawer.

* The week before -- my house keys. (I wore shorts which didn't have any pockets.)

* One night in June -- a little bottle of bubbles, from my youngest niece's wedding. Blowing bubbles beats cigarette smoke any day of the week.

* On occasion -- food. A man named Rodney wanted to take me out in the worst way one week because "I've got to get that pretzel!" (I gave it to him after I busted out.)

I do it to make the game fun -- and quietly make a point. Some people believe in taking lucky charms to the poker table. And I don't mean the breakfast cereal. I try to show you can succeed by bringing any old thing with you.

Poker has some luck involved -- but that sort of luck goes too far. And if some players aren't careful, it can become idolatry. Read Exodus 20 for some words of warning about that.




Thursday, July 3, 2008

Poker Night #38: The Legalist

First the good news: We finished in a three-way tie for fourth tonight at Lil' Kim's Cove. Three of us went all in at the final table -- one man with K-K, myself and one other with Q-J. But the woman with the biggest stack called with a 9, and two more 9's came up on the table. So she won it all -- and had the biggest tower of chips when I left, and only three players to go.

By rights, I should have finished 6th -- down to 25,000 at the final chip exchange, with the blinds at 5,000/10,000. But leaving with two other players artifically improves the record. So there's safety in numbers, even if you all go out together.

But what I'll remember most about this night was the man sitting immediately to my right. He knew much more about poker than I did. At least he came across that way.

Case 1: A player bets 800 in a hand. A woman goes all in with only 350. A third player calls the 800, so a sidepot is set up.

"There should be 900," Mr. K (for Know-It-All :--> ) says.

"But she bet 350," I note. My math says 3 x 350 = 1,050 is what the woman can win.

"You don't know how to do this, do you?" Mr. K replies. He explains it's 3 x 300. I admittedly don't quite grasp how he figures that, so I let it go. (The woman won that pot, by the way.)

Case 2: Blinds are at 100/200. I'm in the small blind, and the play calls to me.

IN THE POCKET: A-A.

I toss in the extra 100. "Plus 1,000," I say. Wrong.

"You're string betting," Mr. K declares -- and tells me the 1,000 has to come back. I thought "string betting" meant matching the big blind in a raise, but he won't even let me toss in 200 more.

Why? "Because you said see." But I didn't say see.

He corrects the explanation. "You said and...." Which I still didn't say. His point is that I must use the word "raise," or it doesn't count.

Other players have been informal in betting all evening, but I was the one called on the carpet -- no, felt. I pull the black chip back.

ON THE FLOP: Three smaller cards (don't remember which ones). "Now you can do anything you want to," Mr. K says. But I don't want to cause another correction.

"I will ****bet**** 1,500." He accepts this.

I eventually win the pot with the pocket aces, which he points out. But I make pains to be sure he wants me to say the word "raise" from now on. "I don't want to upset you any more."

"You didn't upset me," Mr. K says calmly. You know, he was probably right. I was the upset one -- because he invoked legalism into the hand. A nice friendly tournament suddenly (at least for me) had the stiffness of a European casino.

Case 3: Mr. K. raises in a later hand, without saying "raise." I say nothing. Many legalists tend to enforce rules for others, then forget to follow them personally. We'll get deeper into this another time.

(By the way, Mr. K. didn't make the final table.)

UPDATED SCOREBOARD: 18 final tables in 38 nights (47.4%) - 5 cashes.
YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $3,240 (Up 17 -- but without blackjack Down 74.)




See you tonight?

We plan to be part of the Thursday night game at Lil Kim's Cove, on 4th Street down the street from the Civic Center. Show up by 8:15, as the game time is scheduled for 8:30 -- but sometime they fudge with the time a bit.