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



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."


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.


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.

On The River

And when at the river, at last I stand,
The Lord will be waiting -- He'll take my hand.
He'll carry me over into that land....

Just heard those lyrics (more or less) on Radio 74. That last card on the board is aptly named after all, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Poker Quiz Answer

The big-time poker star who's a committed Christian is Canadian Daniel Negreanu. He apparently admitted it two years ago.

I'm not sure I would trust Negreanu as a Bible scholar. (What about the guards who supposedly gambled over Jesus's robe?) But his comments are worth thinking about.