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.