Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poker Night 124: On Tilt - Me?

The person who first declared, "Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place," apparently never played poker. It happened to a man at our table tonight at Soho Bar & Grill tonight. He bet big against pocket Aces, and wound up bankrupt in a hurry. We had the second A-A to take him out.

But our lesson tonight really was about overconfidence. A top deal doesn't always guarantee success in the end....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

We're in the Big Blind - and last time we had this position, we made those pocket Aces. We think about raising pre-flop, but then a man to our right goes all-in with 2,150. We have more than 9,000, so we decide to call and be potentially generous.

"I'm all in," a man to our immediate left then says. He raises the stakes 4,050 more. We ponder this and stare at him, seeking some kind of sign.

"Be careful. Be very careful," he tells us. But this man tends to talk bigger than his hand, so we dare to call. Immediately he shows A-A -- much as we feared.

ON THE FLOP: 2-K-4

We're looking for Jacks, and this does not look good.

ON THE TURN: 10

Still not looking good.

ON THE RIVER: Q.

"STRAIGHT!" a man across the table and out of the hand declares. All we can do is laugh -- because it's our straight, and we didn't notice it at first! We cracked the big bettor's Aces, and we also eliminate the first player who pushed with 3-3.

This put us in the 20,000 chip range -- but then without realizing it, we became overconfident ourselves. In the last hand before the one-hour break, we again were in the Big Blind with 5-9. Standard calling allowed us to check and see a flop, and a 9 came.

Then a man across from us who was talking loud and acting tipsy started betting big -- 2,000 on the flop, then 4,000 on the turn. We admitted we might regret calling, but we did. Then another 9 landed on the river, to give us three of a kind.

"5,000," the aggressive opponent bet.

"All-in raise," we declared with 5,050 more. We felt good. But he called.

"You got a boat?" he asked. No -- three 9's.

"I'm got a straight." From 6-10, and he's drained us away. A promising night crash-lands in about 30th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our little battery continues to spark discussion at poker tables. Two people asked tonight why we brought it.

"It's a reminder to me," we explained, "that I'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon me." (Acts 1:8)

"That's cool!" a young woman said in response. And she recognized on sight that it was AAA, because she once worked at Radio Shack. But when we told her the phrase was from the Bible, she seemed ready to change the subject.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 124 nights (38.7%) - 10 cashes. With only one final table in the last 13 nights, this is the most serious slump we've had since starting in 2007.

(P.S. Lil Kim's Cove will NOT have poker Thursday night, because of a New Year's Eve party. Maybe the rest will do us good.)

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,944 - unchanged (no play there in a month).

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-7-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 7 final tables in 78 games (9.0%), no cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - one top-three finish in eight games. Full tournament - 0/2.

Now that it's over....

Our current schedule allows us to play online poker tournaments almost every day. We even played last week on December 24 and 25 -- with the usual levels or turnout for afternoon games at National League of Poker. That led to this brief chat....

Me: I don't celebrate Xmas, so it's no big deal to me.
Dealer: rustypac wins Main Pot ($1560) with Full house, nines full of queens
Me: Very good
drglover: u jewish
Me: No, Christian.
Me: But there's more Biblical evidence Jesus kept Hanukkah than Xmas.
Me: (He was a Jew, after all.)
Dealer: upanddown wins Side Pot 1 ($670) with Two pair, aces and queens

Dr. Glover was eliminated at this point, so we couldn't continue the discussion. But that's enough for us to ask: did you realize there's no Biblical evidence of Jesus keeping Christmas?

In fact, you won't even find the word "Christmas" or the phrase "Merry Christmas" in the Bible. (Despite what some of the "Christmas under attack" people might tell you.) So where's the evidence that Jesus kept Hanukkah?

I find it in John 10:22-23. "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade."

The margin of my NIV Bible indicates the "Feast of Dedication" was Hanukkah. (Eugene Peterson's The Message goes ahead and calls it Hanukkah.) Considering Jesus's lineage goes through the tribe of Judah (Matt. 1:2, 16), this really shouldn't be surprising.

Don't miss the main point of the next few verses. Jesus does not correct Jews for keeping this festival. Instead, He says believing in Christ and listening to His voice leads to eternal life -- and "no one can snatch them out of my hand" (verses 25-29).

So as you plan ahead to 2010, remember: you don't have to keep Christmas, since Jesus never ordered anyone to do it. But you do need to listen to Christ's instructions, as they speak to you in Scripture. Don't get so addicted to poker hands that you ignore the One who wants to carry you in His hands -- well beyond the river, and all the way into eternity.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NLOP Senior Championship II: Swimming with a Shark

We came head to head tonight with an online example of "power poker." We were joined at the November Senior Championship by a player named "SharkAttck." He lived up to the name -- frequently doubling the blind bet before the flop, then making bets after the flop to scare lingerers away.

With a player like that around, you have to pick your spots. Let's see how we did....

:05 IN: We're dealt K-8. Nothing pairs on the flop, but our King is high card to win $285. (We think this is before SharkAttck showed up.)

:22 IN: We play 9-10. The flop is J-7-8, giving us a straight! We bet big when a King comes on the turn, and an opponent folds. We gain $1,385.

:36 IN: We have 10-10. A player bets all-in, which could potentially put us out. We fold, and other hands appear which would have eliminated us.

:40 IN: We have K-K -- and it's time for a power move of our own. We double the blind to 400, and go all-in with 635 chips left after SharkAttck re-raises. The Shark is bluffing with Q-2! The board only brings a second pair of 3's, boosting us in 1,670.

"Yarrrrr" we say to SharkAttck, who had written in pirate talk minutes before. He declares our word "a bit wimpy."

:46 IN: Holding A-10 of hearts, the flop is 10-K-4. A player goes all-in. We suspect weakness and call -- but the opponent has K-J. He wins big, and we're down to 330. Things don't look good.

:49 IN: We feel forced by rising blinds to go all-in with A-4 of hearts. But the flop is 2-5-3! The 5 is a heart, and running hearts follow to give us a nut flush -- jumping back from 330 to 1,800!

1:01 IN: After missing a flop with A-10 and losing 600 chips to SharkAttck's aggressive betting, we go all-in with A-7 of clubs. The hopeful flop is 6c-Kc-7s. A 3s-10h follow -- but amazingly, our 7's top everyone else! We're back to 2,250.

1:21 IN: With 2,025 chips in our stack, A-A comes! We push all-in, and only get one caller (even SharkAttck bails out). Nothing harmful hits the board, and we jump to 5,100 -- finally feeling some breathing room.

But A-4 and A-3 didn't turn out well after that, and rising blinds and antes reduced that big stack back to the 2,000 level. Then with less than 100 players left out of a starting 959, we were moved away from the "Shark Tank." Would things get better?

1:34 IN: Holding Q-K of hearts and needing 800 to play, we push all-in with 1,950 chips left. The flop is a promising 10-K-9 (the 10 a heart). Then a Jack comes on the turn, giving us a straight!

Other players fold at this point to a man who has the only thing which could kill us -- A-Q. His higher straight knocks us out. But we finish in 84th place -- a "top 10 percent" finish which would have earned money at most live tournaments.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Million-Dollar Mike and a $20K Dream

In case you missed it: A New York firefighter named Mike hit the jackpot today on the Fox "Million Dollar Challenge." An 8 on the river gave him a gutshot straight, to defeat Daniel Negreanu in the heads-up "Million Dollar Match."

(Come to think of it, has Negreanu ever reached the finals of NBC Heads-Up? We don't think so.)

Connected with that was another freeroll tournament for $20,000 tonight at PokerStars.Net. The play went incredibly quickly -- and it had to be that way, with 36,664 players registered. Here's how we did:

:00 IN: We start with 10-7 of diamonds. A 10 comes on the flop, and we bet with it. But another player has pocket Queens, and beats us.

We played the first three hands, in fact. K-J didn't pair, and lost. 8-8 was met with an Ace on the flop, and a player with an Ace beat us. We were deflated, until....

:05 IN: K-10 brings K-8-3 on the flop. Our top pair earns $550.

:09 IN: We have Q-7 of clubs. Two clubs come on the flop, and a third lands on the river. We hit a flush! Trouble is, another player hits a full house. We're deflated again.

:12 IN: A-Q brings an Ace on the river. We bet, players fold, and we gain $375.

:20 IN: Q-Q is met with A-A on the flop. Our two pair are good enough, for a pot of more than $1,100.

:31 IN: Q-Q comes again. This time Q-9-3 lands on the flop. After a modest bet is called, a 7 on the turn leads us to go all-in. A caller errs, and suddenly our stack jumps to $4,580.

:37 IN: A-10 is met with an Ace on the flop. That pair leads to $1,700.

:40 IN: We have A-10 of clubs, with $3,155. But a player ahead of us goes all-in. Blinds are 200/400 with antes of 50. What would you do?

We dare to call -- and see our opponent has A-K. The flop is K-J-7. That's followed by a 9 and a 5, and our dream is sunk.

Final score: we take seven pots in 40 minutes. But several other plays with promising hands blow up in our face. We finish number 17,961 -- which out of 36,664 at least gets us in the top half.

Sunday Rewind: Set 'em Straight

We mentioned the story of someone walking by a poker table, and spotting a straight no one else did -- a straight which could have kept someone in a poker tournament.

Our live tournaments usually are at locations where the players take turns dealing, and there's no impartial "referee" over hands. When there's a question, the players around the table haggle it out based on their knowledge of the rules. A designated tournament director is called in, should all else fail.

Sometimes those other players can see things you can't. That worked in our favor a couple of weeks ago, when we hit a straight flush. In everyday life, good friends can do the same thing -- and sometimes even outright enemies.

Several examples of this can be found in the Biblical story of the early Church. A conference was called in Acts 15, to settle a dispute about whether Old Testament regulations still applied. Another more personal dispute also developed, between two big-name apostles.

"When Peter came to Antioch," Paul writes in Galatians 2:11, "I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong." Paul didn't even take Peter aside for a private consultation. "I said to Peter in front of them all.... 'How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'" (verse 14)

We hope Peter got the message from that correction. And we hope you're not afraid to speak up when you see something wrong. It could be as simple as spotting a hidden winning poker hand -- or as complex as telling fellow church members they're sinning or in error.

Yes, sometimes the most important "testimony" you can give is to someone personally close to you. "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault," Jesus said in Matthew 18:15. Do it in humility, not self-righteous pride -- and if someone truly is converted, he or she should thank you for turning their life back on track.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Poker Night 122/123: Double-Down

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: In a cost-cutting experiment, today's post is a "blog simulcast" - appearing on both The Blog of Columbus, Georgia and On the Flop.)



'Twas the night before Christmas. At least for most people. Not for me - because I'm a Christian who doesn't keep Christmas. It would have been a challenging Thursday night, looking for something to do besides watching the local 24-hour weather channel to see where the mass of rain is going.



But thankfully, this year offered something unusual. While most Columbus bars and clubs shut down for the holiday, Lil Kim's Cove on Fourth Street was open as usual, holding its weekly Thursday night poker doubleheader. Someone might sing "We Three Kings" there for a very different reason - holding three of a kind, to win a pot.



Since Lil Kim's Cove is walking distance from home, Thursday night has become poker night for me over the last couple of years. I play fairly well and have won money on several occasions, but that's not the only reason for going. I conduct "poker ministry" when the time is right - trying to show there's more to God than cursing when you lose a hand.



So while much of Columbus shut down Thursday night for Christmas, it was business as usual for me. I took the short walk, and for a change played in both poker tournaments instead of the first one. A mix of rain and the holiday reduced the odds of late-night trouble significantly. Next Thursday night may be different, due to amateurs shooting fireworks.



As we suspected, the turnout for poker night was down this week. Only about 20 people showed up -- which increased our chances of making the final table and winning money for the top two finishers. These were the hard-core poker players. I hesitate to call them addicts - but hardly any of them bothered to pay attention to Southern Methodist winning the Hawaii Bowl on TV screens.



I sat for the first tournament at a seven-player table. Five players were African-American, one was Asian-American - and then there was I. A minority in terms of race, and perhaps in morality as well.



The Asian-American man sat next to me, and plopped a basket of fries on the table. He apparently bought them merely for the bonus poker chips you get for a purchase, as he allowed me to eat most of them. Those were the only "chips" other players were willing to share all night.



"Since we're all here playing poker," I said to the table at one point, "I suppose you're like me - not keeping Christmas." No one really responded to that. Perhaps it would have been an admission many of the people didn't really have a life.



It didn't take long for the action to get interesting in Game 1....



BLINDS: 25/50


IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit


It's a strong hand and it's early, so we raise to 250. Several players around the table call.


ON THE FLOP: 10-8-10


We missed, but we have "overcards." Not wanting to look weak, we bet 300. A few players call to stay in.


ON THE TURN: Q


Ah, that's better - two pair with the top kicker. We bet 300 again, and one other man calls.


ON THE RIVER: 5


That looks harmless and inconsequential. But now we check, hoping to get a read on what our opponent has -- and he answers by betting 1,050. Uh-oh. Is he hiding a third 10? We call to see if he's bluffing - but he's not. He has 10-5, and had us topped all along. His full house leaves us emptier.



While that loss hurt, I recovered by winning a few modest pots. One hand was downright strange, when I played A-4. Nothing paired on the board, and it turned out three other players held Aces with small secondary cards. The pot wound up as a four-way split -- something General Motors hasn't even been able to accomplish this year.



Late in the first hour of play, a shouting match erupted at the table next to ours. "You had a FLUSH!" one man standing at the table yelled. A lot of haggling ensued - in a possible preview of what department stores will face Saturday.



(I was told later the argument developed because the dealer put out all five face-up cards at once - not waiting for players to bet "on the flop" when the first three came out. Some players simply are too used to high-speed broadband online games.)



But then came the strangest sight of the evening, as a little girl walked into Lil Kim's Cove. She held a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and gave some kind of prepared speech which I couldn't really hear. Is this what school clubs have to do in December, to compete with the Salvation Army?



The girl had no mother or father standing by her - and after a moment, one of the female poker players suggested she leave. Lil Kim's Cove is essentially a bar, after all. The only product made with yeast that most people want is a bottle of beer.



Back at the game, our chip stack increased to 9,500 by the one-hour break. But the cards didn't come our way after that, and we finished the first tournament in tenth place. The remaining nine combined for the final table - so at least we had the courtesy of making room for them.



Usually we leave after the first game at Lil Kim's Cove, and walk home to blog about it. But this week we stayed for the second game - since late-night local newscasts were canceled, and the Christmas Eve church services downtown weren't giving away door prizes.



There's a jukebox inside Lil Kim's Cove, and its screen offered "Christmas hits" for the playing. But no one at the club selected any Thursday night. Well, I heard "The Midnight Special" at one point -- but I don't think that really counts as a carol.



When an Elvis Presley song came on the jukebox, I started modestly doing the twist in my seat. "You can't dance here," a man to our right declared. "This is a no-dancing table." Talk about a killjoy - but then again, Lil Kim's Cove does NOT have a pole in one corner.



The second half of the poker doubleheader began shortly before 10:00 p.m. ET, after the first tournament was settled with a three-way division of the prize money. While the play settled down, the "trash talk" by players escalated - leading me to say: "If a poker player tells you Santa Claus is real, don't believe him."



A moment of courage and decision came our way in Game 2, and it had nothing to do with trash talk....



BLINDS: 200/400


IN THE POCKET: A-7 offsuit


Our chip stack is only average, compared to the players around us. We call the blind, prepared to push if necessary - but the table doesn't.


ON THE FLOP: A-K-6


A pair of Aces always looks nice to us. But a man to our immediate right is playing first, and betting.1,000. Holding top pair, this is a no-brainer - and we call.


ON THE TURN: 8 (as best we recall)


The man to our right checks. So do we, actually feeling a bit relieved by this.


ON THE RIVER: 6


The man to our right examines our chips, then bets 3,000. That's enough to force us all-in, as we have 2,950 left. Uh-oh - is he holding a third 6?


"Ooh boy," a woman across the table says in sympathy with our situation. Then she asks about our work situation - a perfect stress release.


We explain what's happened to us in recent weeks. "But in this case...." we add, as we contemplate some more. Finally we decide to risk it all.


"Show me your 6," we say in semi-defeat as our stack of chips hits the table. "I have two pair with a King."


"You got it," the opponent says - as he held a King. Our two pair were higher, and we're thankful for an A-grade.



I reached the one-hour break in Game 2 with 9,000 chips. Then the second hour brought my strangest personal moment of the night. I put in a 1,000-chip piece for the big blind as the jukebox began playing Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind." So I stood up, and removed my hat. "It's the state song," I explained. If GPB had played it at sign-off, I might still have done it.



Trouble is, it was NOT my turn to post the big blind. Someone else wound up dealing the hand, and by the time play reached me it was too late to remove it. I made a substantial donation to someone else's chip stack - and didn't even get a doughnut for my trouble.



Forced to go all-in with the big blind with only 1,500 chips left, my Q-8 was outgunned by players with A-Q and A-10. An Ace on the river paired them, but not me. I wound up in 12th place, going none-for-two in reaching the final table -- even though earlier in the day I finished fifth in an online tournament with 250 players. Of course, they can't see your eyes or sweat online....



No one said "Merry Christmas" as I left Lil Kim's Cove. The remaining players simply kept up their games, as I stepped outside in pouring rain to quickly walk home. The only major holiday reference of the evening came when a player sitting next to a Christmas tree complained of having "pine needles up my...."



MINISTRY MOMENT: For the second night in a row, I took a AAA battery for a "card protector" at the tournaments (and of course much more).


"Why do you have the battery?" a man across the table asked during Game 2.


"It reminds me that I receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes upon me. I read that in a book once. Do you know what book that is?"


The man surprisingly made a good guess. "That's the Good Book, isn't it?"


I'm not sure how that phrase became attached to the Bible. It isn't found in Scripture -- and by the way for you zealots, neither is "Merry Christmas."



But I'm convinced reading and studying the Bible can do much good. It contains "good news," which is what the word "gospel" means. Paul summarizes that gospel in I Corinthians 15 -- and interestingly, he does NOT mention Jesus's birth. Paul focuses on the Savior's death, burial and resurrection. So if a minister Thursday night tried to keep Him in a manger, that was a mistake.



Paul then offers the hope of a resurrection to all who believe -- but verse 33 reminds us: "Bad company corrupts good character." Perhaps that's why I haven't probed too deeply into the lives of the poker players around me. Many of them smoke, some don't mind getting drunk - but at least none of them have tried to play strip poker at our games.



UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 123 nights (39.0%) - 10 cashes. We're counting Thursday's doubleheader as two nights. But with only one final table in the last 12, this is a serious slump for us.



YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 (no play)



NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-6-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 7 final tables in 68 games (10.2%), no cashes. There's no slump here right now, as we've had top-five finishes three times in the last eight days.



POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - one top-three finish in seven games.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eyewitness Testimony

"I've got one for your blog," a man across the table from us said Wednesday night. An unusual poker story, that is.

He was in a tournament this week where one player went all-in with pocket sevens. "I had pocket eights. The board had nothing." So he took the other player out of the game, right?

Well, hold on. "A bystander walks by and says, 'I see a straight.' A bystander. The other guy had walked out." So it was too late to make amends, and bring the supposed loser back to the table.

What do you think of this? We'll offer our thoughts in an upcoming post.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Poker Night 121: Sick, Then Better

A man across the table from us at Soho Bar and Grill tonight said he'd been sick. It was his first time outside his home in three days. So how would he do at the poker table? We learned that answer the hard way....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 10-7 of diamonds

It's only the second hand of the evening -- so this is worth a try. We call, as do most players.

ON THE FLOP: 10-8-5 (8 is a diamond)

It's top pair, and the action checks to us. We bet 200, hoping to scare "chasers" away. But a couple of players stay in, including the recovering sick man.

ON THE TURN: Ace of hearts

The flush dream is gone, and our "top pair" is topped. But we've seen cases where players continue to be aggressive in situations like this, and wind up with the pot. We bet 200 again.

"Raise," says the sick man. He adds 1,000, and we're in a quandary. He lost a lot of chips on the first hand. Is this a bluff to steal the pot? Is he prepared to throw in the towel, go home and recover? We sense a bluff, and call. Everyone else has folded by now.

ON THE RIVER: 7

Now we have two pair. But it's time for us to play some cat-and-mouse. We check, and our opponent throws in 550.

"I don't mind helping a sickly man," we say -- and call.

"I've got two pair," he announces. Trouble is, he has A-5. He takes the pot, costing us more than one-third of our chips.

That ailing man did it to us again in the next hand, winning a big pot to lower us to 950 chips. "Sick," we said to the players around us -- as in the modern lingo for very good.

Yet all was not lost tonight. We went all-in with 850 chips holding K-J, and a pair of Kings was enough to bounce us back to 4,350. Then we were dealt pocket Aces, went all-in again and improved to about 11,000. But things drained away after that huge comeback, and we finished 14th -- barely missing the semifinal table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I see you have a battery as a card protector," a man walking to our table said to us. (For the record, it was AAA.)

We're glad he brought that up. "You know what that reminds me?" we answered. "That I receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon me."

This analogy seemed to go right over the man's head. But we were quoting some of Jesus's final words of advice to His disciples, in Acts 1:8. We were in a mood for something a bit more provocative tonight -- but do you think it was too obscure?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 121 nights (39.7%) - 10 cashes.

People in our home city of Columbus, GA will want to know Lil Kim's Cove will have poker as usual Thursday night. And we're told (but have not confirmed) the Shanty Shack will have poker Friday night. Yes -- poker tournaments on what many consider Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What do you think of that?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If it was real: 120-game report

It's been three months since we checked our live tournament performance against what might really happen at a casino. Of course, one recent tournament was real -- a $35 buy-in nightly game in northwest Florida which earned us fourth place and close to $200.

We use a pretend payout matrix based on money for the top five players. (At Ebro Greyhound Park, it actually was four -- but Harrah's in the Kansas City area told us they reward five.) In the last 20 tournaments, we made the final table seven times. But we finished in the top five at SIX of them: third twice, fourth three times (two of them ties) and fifth once.

Here's how the scoreboard breaks down:

BUY-INS: 120 nights x $50 = $6,000

First -- 4 ($2,000)
TIE for first: 1 ($450)

Second - 4 ($1,600)

Third -- 6 ($1,800)

Fourth - 6 ($1,200)
TIES for fourth:
three two-way ($450)
one three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 8 ($800)
TIE for fifth: 2 ($100)

TOTAL -- 35 for $8,467

We're in the top five almost 30 percent of the time -- and our return on buy-ins is still good, at 41.1 percent. That's admittedly down from about 45 percent in our last check. But we still fondly remember the night in October when the real return was 465 percent.

Two big events

We played in our second big Sunday championship in as many weeks tonight -- and at least this one went better than the first one.

For the first time, we qualified for the National League of Poker weekly championship with $1,000 in prizes. It's similar to NBC Sports, only with twice the players -- as the top 2,000 in weekly points made the field. But NLOP has so many more members that qualifying is tougher. Two top-five finishes in daily tournaments almost was not enough!

But we made the game, thanks to modest Saturday night sit-n-go success. And here's how it went....

:02 IN: King-Queen of hearts turn into two pair on the turn. Another player bets along with us, and we take a $640 pot.

:20 IN: We're dealt 10-9. We make top pair on the flop with 5-6-9 -- but then another player pushes all-in. Fearing that player has a higher pair, we fold. And of course, a third 9 shows up on the turn. He takes the pot with 9's and 7's, while we dream of a missed opportunity.

:33 IN: We're dealt A-10 with about 500 chips left. We think its time to take a stand -- but the flop is K-8-10, all diamonds. We don't have a diamond, and decline an all-in challenge. (We don't know what the pusher had.)

:37 IN: Holding K-J with rising blinds, we decide enough is enough. We push all-in with 320 left. A player calls with J-10. But a 10 falls on the flop, and a King never shows.

Final score: 674th out of 1,396 who entered. We're in the top half -- but as a speaker at church said earlier in the weekend, that's simply an "empty platitude."

Now back to last Sunday. We signed up for PokerStars.Net, to take advantage of the "$20,000 Freeroll" advertised on Fox's "Million Dollar Challenge" telecast. That site has a lot more players, a lot more tournaments -- and we're still trying to make sense of it all, to see which areas might offer cash prizes.

As for the tournament: more than 35,500 people entered. In fact, the number kept rising as we were playing. Trouble is, we didn't play long -- as we lost a classic "two pair vs. three of a kind" showdown with a big bet. Poker Stars reported we finished #34,964. Not dead last -- but close enough.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Poker Night 120: Is This a Trap?

Some poker players have a knack of figuring out their opponents' cards, simply by how the opponents bet. We admit we do not have that knack yet. So when we faced a moment of truth at Lil Kim's Cove tonight, we feared the worst....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: Q-A offsuit

We haven't won a hand yet, and we're down to about 3,200 chips. This is our moment to strike, so we raise to 500. Several players call.

ON THE FLOP: Q-8-7

Good! We have top pair and top kicker. But a woman ahead of us may have something better, because she bets 1,000. That's a substantial amount for us, but we choose to call. No one else does.

ON THE TURN: 3

Ouch -- the woman going first bets 1,000 again. We're down to 1,725. Does she have two pair? After several seconds of pondering, we decide to take a stand.

"I'm all-in," we announce with the extra 725 pushed in. Perhaps not surprisingly, the woman calls.

"I have Queens with an Ace," we admit reluctantly.

"You've got me beat, with the Ace," the woman admits. She has a Queen, but with a smaller kicker.

ON THE RIVER: 6

Three clubs are on the board -- but there's no second pair and no flush. We made the right decision, and jump to 9,550 chips!

We climbed as high as 20,000 in the second hour of play. But then we admittedly started making big bets in "chases" of straights that never came. We dropped to 3,000, then went all-in again with K-Q. But nothing paired for us, while it did for a man with a 3. We finished 12th overall, reaching the semifinal table for the second night in a row.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Earlier in the day, we had our best finish yet at the National League of Poker -- third place out of 225 players. (But only first place took the cash prize of $10.) Along the way, we took on a player named "PornKing." After a polite conversation about online poker sites, we won a nice pot over him.

"PTL, Mr. Porn King," we wrote on the chat line. He didn't respond. But hopefully he looked up what that abbreviation means -- to "Praise the Lord."

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 120 nights (40%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,944 - unchanged (no games played)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-3-2-1-0. Full tournaments - 5 final tables in 58 games (8.6%), no cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Hey wait -- we haven't told you about that, have we? We're there now; details are coming up.

Wait Your Turn

We learned a lesson Wednesday night in how a poker dealer is supposed to operate. But someone else received all the blame for the problems that resulted.

We dealt a flop, then a turn card. A man to our immediate left (next in order to deal) then started collecting the face-down cards which had been folded and burned. But in the process, he raked in the cards of a man still in the hand! He'd leaned back for a moment and taken his hands off them, with no card protector (like our "Jesus as your Savior" coin).

The man who took charge of the cards said such raking is common by the dealer at real poker rooms. But others said he was out of line to collect cards while a hand was in progress -- and besides, he had already folded.

In an effort to make peace, we apologized. We didn't realize part of our duty was to clean the table of dead cards, so it was our fault. No one else wanted to accept that explanation.

The point of the moment? Patience should be exercised not only when you're playing a poker hand -- but even when you're out of it. The man who collected the cards has a habit of playing very quickly and urging others to do so, as if he has a classic "Type A" personality.

"Be completely humble and gentle," Paul advises in Ephesians 4:2; "be patient, bearing with one another in love." One player at our table noted if a cash-game was underway, the man who collected cards quickly would NOT have been treated lovingly. He might be shown the door - at least.

Poker has an order to it, in terms of taking turns. May you be a courteous example by not jumping the gun, and risking offense to those around you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poker Night 119: Let It Snow

In poker lingo, pocket pairs can have all sorts of slang names. Tonight at Soho Bar and Grill, we saw snowmen. Indoors.

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 8 of spades - 8 of clubs

A man sitting to our left already has noticed we've barely played any hands. We explained we were waiting for the right moment. This looks like one -- but we merely call, as several other players do.

ON THE FLOP: J-9-8

A third snowman decorates the green felt. We bet 600 -- which may seem modest, but it's the "bottom trip." Most players fold, but one man with a studded $ sign on his hat calls.

ON THE TURN: 6

A lower card means a higher bet. We toss out 1,200, but the man across from us still calls.

ON THE RIVER: 3

We're not sure what our opponent has. Might he be sitting on pocket Jacks? We slow down and bet 600 again. He calls -- and shows J-8 for two pair.

"I'm toll free," we say. As in 8-8-8. As in a handsome pot. This is a classic case of two pair feeling deceptively strong, when an opponent has a hidden three of a kind.

But then came a couple of big losses, which left us with only 1,500 chips at the one-hour break. A desperate all-in push with J-6 of clubs was good enough heads-up for a recovery to 9,000. But higher blinds made that fade away, and we wound up 11th -- missing the final table, but still gaining our best result at Soho since early November.

MINISTRY MOMENT: On a night which had several, we'll long remember that man with the $ sign on his hat. He wound up next to us at the semifinal table, and brought up the name of God a lot with nearby friends. Trouble was, profanity followed that name.

"That's the difference between you and me," we finally told him. "If I had your success [and his chip stack was much bigger], I'd be praising God." (See for example Psalm 113:1-3.)

"Instead of what?"

"Instead of saying what you said."

"What did I say?" (No, we did not repeat it for him.) He admitted after a moment, "I don't know what I'm saying."

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by that. When a bar offers big poker chips as bonuses for buying beer and other beverages, some players can lose their senses -- yet somehow they still have enough sense to keep playing poker and doing well.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 119 nights (40.3%) - 10 cashes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Rewind: Angels Unawares

The final table topic turned to angels the other night. (No, not the Los Angeles baseball team.) As far as we can tell, the Bible names only two.

Gabriel was sent to Earth to tell a young woman about her firstborn -- Jesus, "the Son of the Most High.... his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:26-33)

Michael is an archangel, who must have had an interesting conversation years ago "when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses...." (Jude 9) Some religious groups claim to know what that dispute was about, but that's not our issue here.

We found no Scripture to verify the sort of musical instruments these angels play. But we think they have more important duties than that.

Michael is also a "great prince who protects your people," according to Daniel 12:1. That angel protected heaven in some kind of dramatic war against Satan and demons -- a battle the "righteous angels" won (Rev. 12:7-9).

Hebrews 1:14 says angels are "ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation." Are they serving you? Have you assured yourself a place in the salvation inheritance list? That comes not through angels, but through Jesus as your Savior.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Poker Night 118: Do You See What I See?

Do you dream of hitting a big hand at a poker tournament -- just one big hand? Then you won't believe what happened to us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 10-8 of clubs

We played well getting to the one-hour break, and hold about 15,000 chips. With a smaller stack and blinds this high, this hand would be marginal. We call, sitting "on the button" (dealer). Several players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 9c-10-3 (don't really recall the last card)

The table checks to us. People have been betting big at this table all night, so we see top pair and bet 2,500. A player across from us calls; the rest fold.

ON THE TURN: 6 of clubs.

The man across from us checks. So do we -- and that puzzles one player who folded.

"You bet before, and now you're not going to bet again?!?!"

We see a straight draw, but we're not going to say that. As we hold the river card aloft, we answer: "Maybe I'm waiting. Waiting to see [dramatic pause] ....THIS!"

ON THE RIVER: 7 of clubs

The man across from us must sense weakness on our part. He bets 5,000 -- and of course we call.

"I've got a straight," we say turning the cards over. Oh wait. "And a flush."

"A straight flush," a man to our right points out. WOW -- we never even noticed that until he mentioned it! We not only win a big pot, but a 5,000-chip bonus for that huge hand.

Impressed by that? Believe it or not, another big hand came our way once the final table gathered -- as holding a 10, we hit QUADS on the river! No one bet into us that time, but the "tenor quartet" earned us another 5,000-chip bonus.

And yet, alas, we did NOT win the tournament tonight. We wound up in third place (one off the money -- losing a decisive race when our A-9 paired a 9 on the board, but another player paired a Jack to top us.

Yet all in all, it was a nice night to remember. We told ourselves as we walked to Lil Kim's Cove we were due to have a big night -- and indeed we did.

MINISTRY MOMENT: On a cold night in Columbus, we wore a black hoodie -- imitating pro poker star Phil Laak, except without the sunglasses. A man sat down next to us for the final table, wearing a white Sean John hoodie.

"I'm being an angel," the man joked as we compared clothes.

"If you're an angel, what does that make me?" we answered.

A few minutes later, we went back to that. "So are you the angel Gabriel? Or Michael?"

Our friend wasn't sure how to answer that -- but he recalled there are two angels with that name. We pointed out they're both actually archangels.

"Gabriel plays the horn," a woman across the table said, "while Michael plays the harp. Is that right?"

We didn't recall that detail, but said we'd "have to look that up." We invite you to do the same, and we'll compare notes in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 118 nights (40.7%) - 10 cashes. Good to be back, after six misses in a row.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,944 - unchanged (no play)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-3-2-1-0. Full tournaments - 4 final tables in 49 games (8.2%), no cashes.

We had a third-place finish online this week as well -- in a 46-player Tuesday qualifying tournament for the monthly Senior Championship.

Them vs. Him Part 2

In Part 1 of this chat from an online poker game, we told a player he should trust in the true God, not the "card gods." The discussion continued to seeking Jesus in prayer, and the thoughts overlap a bit....

stingray74: now im gonna ask jesus for help
Me: Always a good idea.
stingray74: he loves to gamble
Me: Whether it works at a poker table.... open to debate.
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($270)
Me: I think when He came to earth, it was a sure thing.

The part we meant as "open to debate" is seeking Jesus's help in a poker tournament. We're open to discussion on this, but we think there are bigger things to pray about than poker.

"You do not have, because you do not ask God," says James 4:2-3. But then James adds, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

There's one for some soul-searching and self-examining. How do you plan to use any poker winnings you get? To buy "buckets of beer" at the bar, to drink the night away? Or for something beyond yourself (the King James Version says "your lusts") -- maybe giving some to do the work of God?

Is God a gambler -- and was He, when He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins? We did a Bible study on this several years ago, in relation to another casino game. Click this link to read and consider it.

The religious chat didn't end there....

stingray74: oh c**p now jesus wants 10 of my earnings
Me: It's only 10%. the feds take much more.
stingray74: lol so true
Me: And you may be able to deduct the 10% as a charitable donation.

The idea of tithing goes all the way back to the book of Genesis. After Abram won a major battle, he met "Melchizedek king of Salem" and gave him "a tenth of everything." (Gen. 14:18-20) Many Bible experts believe Melchizedek actually was a figure of Christ, encountering Abram long before entering the world as Jesus.

And as for that last line: donations to charities such as religious groups can be tax-deductible in the U.S., especially if you have a high income. Check Schedule A -- and don't forget to pay taxes on your poker winnings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Poker Night 117: Super Sloppy Double Dare

OK, we'll admit it right up front. We played lousy poker tonight at Soho Bar and Grill. Downright lousy. As in second player out at our table.

Maybe it was the woman who started at our table with 25,000 extra chips -- a bonus for bringing five new players. (Yes, some places treat poker like Amway.) Maybe it was because we tried a hand of old-fashioned solitaire before the tournament -- and while the woman near us played every card, we were left holding 38 of them.

To be fair, we DID won a pot. Holding Q-Q, we bet 500 when A-7-7 came on the flop and everyone folded. But too many hands were like this one....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit

It's a promising hand, and we haven't done much so far. We raise to 400, and several players call.

ON THE FLOP: 10-Q-9 (the queen is a club)

With middle pair and a nice kicker, we make a continuation bet of 200. A man to our immediate left calls; everyone else folds.

ON THE TURN: 6 of clubs

We're concerned our opponent might have a Queen to top us. We bet 100. He calls.

ON THE RIVER: 4 of clubs

This is even more trouble, as it puts three clubs on the board. We check.

"1,500," our opponent announces.

"Why did you have to do that?" we ask with a bit of fake disdain.

"I hit." That's all he says.

Fearing the worst, we fold. Then the pot-winner shows what he had -- 8-2. Of spades, not clubs. He was bluffing all along.

Our frustration grew from there -- and minutes later, we bet the minimum 200 with A-9 of hearts. A man across the table raised to 1,200. We were down to 2,125, and dared to go all-in. He called, and showed A-A. Two hearts hit the board (as did a 9), but we were left one card short.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When a flop came tonight, a man across the table mentioned God. Only he followed it with a common four-letter expletive.

"He might be blessing it," we said -- but we're not sure he heard that. No one pursued what we said.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 117 nights (40.2%) - 10 cashes. We've missed the final table six times in a row.

Them vs. Him

Sometimes it's easy for us to bring up the things of God at a poker table. A moment of online frustration inspired one this week....

stingray74: the card gods are not with me today
Dealer: flopblogger [Me] wins Main Pot ($160)
Me: Don't trust them. Trust the one true God.
stingray74: maybe thats my prob

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." So says Deuteronomy 6:4. The idea of a group of "card gods" is a nice way of explaining a bad day. But the Bible says they don't exist. The chat continues, and things turn around....

Dealer: stingray74 wins Main Pot ($860) with Two pair, aces and threes
Me: there ya go
Me: very good
stingray74: thanx man
stingray74: now im gonna ask jesus for help
Me: Always a good idea.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." That's how the book of John begins -- and from there, John explains that Word "became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14).

He did that in the person of Jesus Christ. Now the resurrected Jesus "speaks to the Father in our defense" when we sin (I John 2:1). In fact, verse two calls Christ "the atoning sacrifice for our sins...." when we appeal to God in prayer. Have you appealed to that heavenly attorney lately?

There's more to this discussion. We'll continue it in a future post.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Spirit of Giving

No, this post has nothing to do with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa -- or even Festivus. It's about an attitude which may seem strange to take to a poker tournament.

The object of the game in poker is to take everyone else's chips. Show up in a mood to give your chips away, and you may have plenty of fun at a free tournament (nothing wrong with that at all) -- but your success record won't be very high.

The other night a poker regular came up to us, short on real-life money. He asked us to buy a soda for him. We're assuming it's a one-time-only deal, so we did it -- and he let us keep the 1,000-chip bonus for buying a drink.

Giving shouldn't be merely a December thing. Big-time poker names and celebrities have joined for several years in the Ante Up for Africa charity tournament, helping needy people in the Darfur region of Sudan.

You might be able to find a worthy cause or group in your city which could benefit from a special poker fund-raiser. Or perhaps at least you can be on the lookout for a fellow player with needs, whether great or small.

"A gift opens the way for the giver, and ushers him into the presence of the great," says Proverbs 18:16. Who knows what your act of generosity might do?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Poker Night 116: Kiss Me K-8

"If you check, you lose. If you bet, you win." A young man to our right told us that tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. But poker hands don't always work that way. In fact, the young man should have realized that a few minutes earlier....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-8 of clubs

This is a hand we wouldn't play most of the time. But we're in the big blind, and no one raised. In fact, only a couple of players even bothered to toss in the minimum. So sure, we'll call.

ON THE FLOP: K-K-8

Talk about hitting the jackpot! But we're first in line to bet. So we take our time, pause for a moment, then politely check.

"I'm all in," a man to our immediate left declares. He has 3,000 or so -- and to be honest, we didn't bother to count because there's nothing to think about. The other remaining players don't jump into the trap with him, and fold.

"I'll call -- because I hit it." The table is impressed by our full house. Our opponent has A-6.

"I think he's drawing dead," another player guesses. But we note he could hit running Aces.

ON THE TURN: 9

He didn't. The last card (a 7, as best we recall) doesn't matter. We take him out, and our chip count jumps above 10,000.

After the young man left, one or two players said he learned how to play poker from someone named John -- a man who bet big against us with bad results during the summer. Moral of the story: sometimes aggressive betting can blow up in your face.

Our outcome tonight was a tie for 13th place, practically the same as last night. The end came when we pushed with A-Q, but the board failed to match and another player made two pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A player across the table from us asked what we were doing these days. We gave a similar answer from the night before -- explaining the fill-in, low-income job we've been doing. But we added at the end: "God provides."

"He said he would," the man across the table answered. Let's reinforce that point with the words of the apostle Peter. "Whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies...."

But is the end result to exalt ourselves? I Peter 4:11 (NASB) goes on to declare the answer is no: "....so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 116 nights (40.5%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,944 - unchanged (no play)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-1-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 37 games (8.1%), no cashes.

We removed NBC Sports from our computer this week, since the merger with NLOP seems permanent. We're finding NLOP a much more challenging place to play, because the daily tournaments are larger (700 to 800 players at times) and the betting tends to be more daring (all-in early or else).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Poker Night 115: The Price is Right

We mentioned here recently how some people make big moves with their chips early in a tournament, hoping to grab the lead. To borrow from Ecclesiastes 3, we believe there's a time and a place to be "pushy." Tonight's game at Soho Bar and Grill was one of them....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

That's potentially a big hand, and we won an all-in bet a few hands before with K-K. We raised in the big blind before the flop then. We simply call now. Several players do the same.

ON THE FLOP: J-7-9

We're first in line to bet, and put out 3,500. "Are you trying to buy the pot?" a man sitting next to us asks.

"Now would I do that?" we coyly ask in reply. After all, we could have said, we have top pair and top kicker. Is that an attempt to buy the pot, or simply make the most of what we have?

The man next to us folds -- and so does everybody else, giving us the pot. But the man who asked the question asks the dealer to play out the cards.

ON THE TURN: 8

ON THE RIVER: Q

One player curses, bemoaning the fact that he had a 10. Our big bet scared him off a straight draw. Ahhhh -- the very idea.

We won several hands tonight, but only reached the semifinal table. An all-in push with 9,500 chips and K-Q didn't work, as the board didn't pair and an Ace appeared to give someone a pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "How come you haven't been to Lil Kim's Cove?" a player asked us during the one-hour break. We explained we went out of town for a job interview a couple of Thursdays ago, and then there was no game on Thanksgiving.

"They also play on Tuesday," the man said. We knew that, but explained Tuesday is the night when we take part in a telephone Bible discussion. (If you'd like to join in, leave a comment and we'll provide details.)

We told the man we're still looking for full-time work -- but "God provides." Many Bible verses indicate this, such as Psalm 111:5. "He provides food for those who fear him...." It turns out we were able to provide for someone else tonight; we'll share details in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 115 nights (40.9%) - 10 cashes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Love vs. Peace

Poker players can come up with curious online names. We watched a head-to-head fight over the weekend between "Peace4Twenty" and "LoveLiftedMe."

Peace4Twenty won a pot with a pair of threes. And it led us to spark a discussion, as the game continued:

Me: Peace over love
_pokerdiva: lol
TheHoy: lol
Me: Different from how I've seen that listed....
Dealer: Peace4twenty wins Main Pot ($820)
Dealer: loveliftedme wins Main Pot ($4554) with One pair, nines
Me: Love, joy, peace is the order I read in a book once.

No one responded to that comment. Do you know which "book" we're talking about?

If you visit us regularly, you probably guessed we're talking about the Bible. Galatians 5:22 has an even more complete order: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness...."

Some ministers say the fruit are listed in that order for a reason. We won't go into that here. Our point is that you need God's Holy Spirit to develop those fruit properly.

How do you obtain the Holy Spirit? Peter gave a two-step formula in Acts 2:38. "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (NASB)

Peace4Twenty soon fell out of the game. But LoveLiftedMe kept building chips, as we return to the chat....

Dealer: loveliftedme wins Main Pot ($9085) with Full house, sixes full of threes
Me: Love hurts.
loveliftedme: love prevails
Me: Now -- and ultimately. :-)
loveliftedme: yes

As Paul put it in I Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails." Especially the love of God, if you care enough to obey Him. Do you?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big Hand, Big Word

When was the last time you played at a poker table with a straight flush? An online National League of Poker game we played Saturday night had TWO.

The first one brought a player a straight flush on the flop. A "500,000:1 shot," wrote an opponent who had pushed all-in and wound up burned. Now for the second one....

BLINDS: 40/80 (we think)

IN THE POCKET: 8-10 of clubs

We jumped above 3,000 chips (from a starting 1,000) early in the match when a big hand took two players out. Now we're down to about 1,300. But the blinds are relatively small, so we try a call. A few other players join in.

ON THE FLOP: Qc - 8d - Jc

We make bottom pair, but have hopes of much more: straight, flush, or even straight flush. A player ahead of us bets 410 -- about one-third of our stack. But we can't run from these possibilities, so we call.

ON THE TURN: 9c

Wow! The 47-to-one shot (in terms of probability) came in! But the player ahead of us seems unconcerned, and bets 640. This is a rare case where there's no way he can beat us, so with 835 left we push all-in. That opponent calls -- and we frankly don't remember what he had.

ON THE RIVER: 8d.

A straight flush -- and three of a kind besides! "Deja vu," we write.

That nice pot and others gave us our best result yet in the nightly "big game" with $200 in prizes. Out of 841 players who entered, we finished 34th. In terms of weekly championship points, the return was almost 4:1. But only the top four players earned money.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Later in the tournament, we folded a weak small blind hand to a player named "Nightwolf." We joked we were afraid of wolves -- and that led to this exchange:

nightwolf: im scared of me 2
Dealer: nightwolf wins Main Pot ($6300) with Three of a kind, tens
Me: I C Y very good
nightwolf: ty
Dealer: nightwolf wins Main Pot ($4575)
nightwolf: this is y
Me: This is a word.
nightwolf: word is bond
Dealer: DonJuan420 wins Main Pot ($7290)
Me: Bond? James Bond?
Me: A Word once became flesh and dwelt among us.

Nightwolf didn't respond to the last one, as we were moved to a different table. But do you know which "Word" we're talking about?

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." So begins the gospel of John. Our chat exchange referred to a verse shortly after that - John 1:14. Christians believe that Word is none other than....

"Christ Jesus, who.... existed in the form of God.... but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2:5-7, NASB) Read all the way to verse 9 to see why Jesus did that.

This "Word" truly is good -- although Jesus said at one point there's none good except the Father (Matt. 19:17). Are you "Word-Up" when it comes to Jesus? And even better, is your life focused upward?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poker Night 114: Thanks and Nothing

Someone was in a Thanks-giving mood at Soho Bar and Grill tonight, and gave everyone at our table 5,000 bonus chips. So our starting stack was 11,000 (1,000 above the base, because we bought a soda) -- and then we returned the favor, and returned all those chips back.

A few promising hands came our way. But when we had A-Q, the board didn't pair and someone bet big with a King showing. So our raise before the flop was given up. When we had A-2, an Ace came on the flop. But other people bet big, we didn't trust our kicker -- and we were right, as another player made two pair with 9's and 8's. Eventually it came to this....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 9-8 offsuit

We're in the small blind, and down to 5,500 chips in the first hand after the one-hour break. The good news is that the table folds to us. We call, and the man in the big blind checks. It's a heads-up battle of the blinds.

ON THE FLOP: A-J-6

Not much there. Both of us check.

ON THE TURN: Q

That's a bit better. Now we have a straight draw. We both check again.

ON THE RIVER: 10

At last! A straight comes on the river -- our first real chance at a pot all night. "I'm all in," we announce with 5,000 left.

"I'll call," Mr. Big Blind says. Uh-oh.

"Please don't tell me you have a...."

He doesn't tell. He simply shows. He has a King, and made the "Broadway" A-10 superior straight. We hang our head, covering it in our cap -- but we're actually laughing a little as we show our losing 9-8.

"When it's not your night," we say to the Big Blind at our left, "it's not your night."

"That 10 helped both of us," he offers in consolation.

"No, it didn't," we answer laughing. "No, it didn't!" It left us out in the cold, the second to be eliminated at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: But that bad beat loss couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. For a change, we asked the players around us what they're thankful for this year.

"I give thanks all year long," the man to our left said after a moment. "Thankful for every day, just to wake up in the morning."

We couldn't have put it better. The man agreed with us that the best approach is Thanks-living -- and we challenge you to try it, even after the traditional U.S. Thanksgiving turkey is put away.

"I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness," says Psalm 7:17. He's righteous, even when we're not. David goes on to promise God, "I will give you thanks forever." (Psm. 30:12)

The only way David really can do that is through a resurrection to eternal life -- and Jesus makes that possible for believers. Are you thankful for that, at Thanksgiving 2009? Have you accepted that wonderful offer from Christ? If you need help with it, leave a comment and we'll be glad to assist you. May you truly be thankful to God!

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 114 nights (41.2%) - 10 cashes. The holiday will mean no live tournament on Thursday.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,944 -- up $128 to a RECORD HIGH! That gain only took one quick 15-minute "lightning round" at a cash game table.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-1-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 24 games (12.3%), no cashes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NLOP Senior Championship 1: Winning the 400

The trouble with that headline is that 812 players competed for the National League of Poker November Senior Championship tonight. We did well to finish #400, apparently thanks to dozens of players being disqualified for not showing up.

Things looked so promising. In the first ten minutes of play, we were dealt:

* K-K -- which prompted us to double up the pre-flop bet. But with three hearts on the board on the turn, a player went all in. "Too early," we wrote (holding no heart) and folded. (The pusher won the pot, and never showed.)

* A-K -- which came to nothing.

* 9-9 -- which we had to fold, when cards came to give someone an A-10 straight.

We finally won a pot at the 30-minute mark, when we pushed all-in with only 100 chips left. Our A-10 led to a pair of tens, giving us 250.

But we pushed again three minutes later with Q-J and building blinds. A player called with K-J, and a lower pair on the board gave him the pot. Oh well, December's coming.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Bus ran me over

We admittedly missed the Fox Sports "$1,000,000 Poker Challenge" on the Sunday a priest from South Carolina hit it big. He won $100,000, and is through to the finals.

But today brought a reminder of how embarrassing that show can be -- when a contestant lost the first heads-up round to Jerome Bettis. Yes, the retired football player. (Is this why Bettis isn't on "Football Night in America" anymore?)

If you lost heads-up to an amateur like Bettis, what would your reaction be?

Sunday rewind: It's only metal

A woman at our poker table the other night indicated Jesus is better to have than silver and gold. Many poker players (or athletes in general) strive to "go for the gold." And that's OK -- to a point.

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty," says Haggai 2:8. Before you could declare gold "all mine," there had to be, well, a gold mine. God had to create it.

Tall stacks of chips look impressive at a final table, but you can't take them beyond the final table of this life. You need something more -- or better put, Someone more.

Consider these words of Peter: "You were rescued from the useless way of life that you learned from our ancestors. But you know that you were not rescued by such things as silver and gold that don't last forever. You were rescued by the precious blood of Christ...." (I Pet. 1:18-19, CEV)

A big poker payday might buy your way out of the slums of poverty, but Jesus offers something everlasting. He saves you by His resurrection from the dead (3:21) -- to eventually present you with "a crown that shall never lose its glory" (5:4).

Have you taken Jesus up on this offer? If not, why not?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poker Night 113: Cliffhangers

"Wait, I say, wait on the Lord," sang a duet on Christian radio as we arrived home from tonight's poker tournament at Soho Bar & Grill. But sometimes, the rules of poker won't let you wait. Blinds go up. Blinds come 'round. And if your chip stack's really down....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: A-10 of hearts

We won a pot early in the evening with two pair, but nothing after that. Our chip count dwindled to a measly 500 shortly before this hand -- but J-J allowed us to stay alive and triple up. Trouble is, our 1,500 still doesn't cover the blind now.

But playing second at a six-player table, we're not likely to see anything better than this. We go all in, as we think most poker players in our situation would. Three other people bet the 2,000 minimum.

ON THE FLOP: 2-4-7, one heart

The first man in line bets 5,000. (We're second and all-in.) The other players in the hand call.

ON THE TURN: 4

A flush is now out of the question for us. Player #1 bets 5,000 more. One player folds.

"All right, let's see it," declares the bettor -- so we flip over the cards and....

"Hang on a minute!" says a player across the table. We quickly flip the cards back. He's still deciding what to do, and apparently trying to provoke a tell.

"You ain't got s***," says the prosecutor.

"If you want to stay in the game, you'd better get out of my pot," says the bettor.

"You're right, because you'd put me all-in if I call." But after a little more questioning which would make Phil Hellmuth proud, he folds.

Now we can show our A-10. But as usual, the opponent doesn't show his cards until the river comes.

ON THE RIVER: 9

Ouch. We didn't make a pair, and he did. He has a 9, and we finish in around 19th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed a woman to our left the "Jesus as Your Savior" coin. "Amen," she said to it. "Better than silver and gold."

She quoted the first line of another Christian song: "I'd rather have Jesus than silver and gold." Do you know which book of the Bible presents that idea? The answer's coming in a later post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 113 nights (41.6%) - 10 cashes. A Thursday road trip probably will rule out our usual trip to Lil Kim's Cove.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - unchanged. (No games played)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-0-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 18 games (16.7%), no cashes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Rewind: Honestly Now

So what did you think of our fellow player's comments about honesty, during a chip exchange?

It's a common joke at poker tables that players "never lie." Some players go beyond bluff-betting to make false statements about their hands, without even caring. Take this recent example online....

yzmann: ak
Me: No, I'm not in Alaska. :-)
Me: Taking you at your word. [We fold; he eventually shows two much lesser cards]
Me: Ha! Had A-Q
Dealer: yzmann wins Main Pot ($2270) with One pair, eights
Me: So much for that (sigh)

It could have been our pot -- but we gave another player the benefit of the doubt. The phrase "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" will apply should we meet again.

We make it a practice never to verbally lie about our hands. Instead, we might say "maybe, maybe not" we hit a straight -- or we might say nothing at all.

Jesus explained one of His parables by saying people who bring good fruit for God's Kingdom have "an honest and good heart...." (Lk. 8:15) It takes both -- because honesty without a good heart can make you look downright ugly before others.

Paul encourages believers in Philippians 4:8 to think on "whatsoever things are honest" -- but that's in the context of things which are just, pure and lovely. Mix all those character traits together, and your honesty will be welcomed by others. If you don't, you'll look no better than a trash-talking fan at a sports event.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poker Night 112: Over the Top

The flop in poker can make you sad, make you smile -- and sometimes make you smile a bit too soon. Consider what happened to us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 offsuit

The tournament is only a couple of hands old, but we're at a table surrounded by players we know are good and successful. This is the first hand we play -- and after we toss in our 50, a man raises 300. We call, as do a few others.

ON THE FLOP: 10-8-7

Top pair of 10's? Didn't we see this somewhere before? To be honest, we did NOT remember last Thursday night when this came up. The player who raised is keeping us occupied, betting 500 ahead of us. We call.

ON THE TURN: 4

We still have top pair -- but the man ahead of us is still betting. He tosses in 500 more, and we join a couple of others in calling again.

ON THE RIVER: 3

The big bettor now throws in 1,000 -- and this is not one of the players we noted as good and successful. Did he make two pair? Has he been bluffing all along?

We dare to call 1,000, thinking it's a bluff -- only to discover he has pocket Kings. The "overpair" leaves us in despair.

That hand cost us a lot of chips, and we never got them back. In fact, we never won a hand all night. Tight play (along with large-scale wild betting by several others) allowed us to finish 17th, barely missing a semifinal table. Our last straw was going all-in with A-2, only to have nothing pair while another man made pairs.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The Big Dog Poker tournaments take a "color-up" break at the one-hour mark, as blinds increase to 500/1,000. We had enough smaller chips to earn one green chip for 500. When the man doing the conversion offered us a second one, we gave it back and noted he'd given us one before.

"I appreciate your honesty," said a man who had just taken a seat to our right.

"Just doing what I'm supposed to do," we answered. "Shouldn't people be honest all the time?"

"I don't know," the man says. He explained some people can be "brutally honest" -- even to the point that countries go to war against each other.

The man's point is a very insightful one. "Honesty needs to be mixed with something, doesn't it?" we said. "It needs to be mixed with love."

The man wasn't quite ready to go that far. He tried to draw a distinction between lying, "white lies" and "misdirecting" people.

What do you think of that? We'll analyze that some more in another post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 112 nights (42.0%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - unchanged. (No play)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 31-36-10-6-9. Full tournaments - 27 final tables in 221 games (12.2%), 3 cashes.

This apparently will be our final score from NBC Sports. While we've found no official announcement about it, the poker room's merger with National League of Poker seems to be permanent. At least we went out a winner there, with first place on Tuesday.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-0-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 8 games (37.5%), no cashes.

We finally played full tourneys at NLOP in the last few days -- and were surprised to make final tables the first two times, in fields of more than 140 players. Our best finish so far was seventh out of 50 today, which qualified us for a monthly "senior championship" in two weeks. (Yes, we're that old.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jesus Take the Deal?

We have a couple of updates on Tuesday's big win at the NBC Sports poker room. We logged on there today, and discovered it's turned into the National League of Poker room!

They share the same gaming software -- but the merger apparently cost us all the points we won Tuesday, to get into a $1,000 weekly tournament Sunday night. Hopefully our $20 check was not lost as well. (You don't think that was the last straw?!?!)

We promised to share some more about Tuesday's win. We entered the final table near the bottom of the chip list, then won five pots to roar into the lead. But before that, there was this chat....

Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($2740) with Two pair, jacks and fours
Me: (whew) PTL
Bucky: was yhe dealing
Bucky: he
Me: Don't know - but I'm thankful anyway.

This is a tricky subject -- does God really care that much about a poker tournament with a $20 prize?

If you say God inspires the deal of the cards in your favor, you'd better be ready to give Him "credit" if you're dealt 2-5 offsuit. Or that heart on the river which gives someone else a flush to beat your straight.

"If he snatches away," Job said of God, "who can stop him? Who can say to him, 'What are you doing?'" (Job 9:12)

That follows this more famous Bible quote: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21, KJV) The next verse points out Job did not "charge God foolishly" -- as in charge with wrongdoing.

God indeed knows what He's doing -- whether you win five hands in a row, or push all-in and lose on the opening hand of the night. The better question may be: Do you know what you're doing when you play? Do you seek God's wisdom -- not only in the way you handle cards, but handle yourself around the table?

We choose to give God the "PTL" when we win a pot (note the person who commented above knew what that shorthand meant). When in doubt, be thankful -- because it beats any alternative.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winner winner....

....well, we probably won't rush out for a chicken dinner. But we just WON the 2:30 p.m. ET NBC Sports tournament, to win $20!


We beat 118 other players -- and here's the way the final hand looked. With blinds at 2000/4000, "Loverboy" called. We raised from the Big Blind (holding about a 2:1 chip lead), and he called again.

When a third Ace came on the flop, we bet 12,000. "OK here goes," Loverboy wrote as he pushed all-in.

"Uh-oh" we wrote in calling. Our opponent had only 4-2 of hearts, but he had a flush draw. When no flush came, we prevailed.

It's our second full-tournament win at NBC Sports. The last happened in mid-July -- and in full tournaments on two online sites, we've now made the final table four times in the last six games!

This came at the end of an amazing big final-table comeback -- but we'll save that for another post.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Rewind: Mercy, Me?

We asked a friendly, yet direct question to a player at Thursday night's live tournament: "Do you believe Jesus is merciful?"

We say Jesus is -- and it was shown in how He treated a woman who supposedly was caught in the act of adultery. Check the first part of John 8 for details.

A crowd brought the woman before Jesus, pointing out how the Old Testament law called for such women to be stoned -- and this was for the most part an accurate quote of the Lord (Deut. 20:10).

But the crowd apparently didn't realize a couple of things. Jesus could have told them the law required the "adulterer and the adulteress" to die -- both of them. (Perhaps He wrote that in the sand in John 8:6, 8; we don't really know.) Jesus also could have told them He was the Lord who spoke the command to Moses in the first place.

The accusing crowd eventually left -- and Jesus told the accused women: "I do not condemn you.... From now on sin no more." (John 8:11, NASB)

At that moment Jesus showed mercy -- and He reinforced it elsewhere by saying, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (Mt. 9:13)

Poker can be a "take no prisoners" sort of game. The goal is to claim all the chips from everyone else. But when a moment of mercy makes itself available, don't be ashamed to show it. Click on the "mercy" label below for some examples we've noted at poker tournaments.

How high the Moon?

It's one thing to be a poker blogger -- but Darvin Moon is even more old-school than that. He's a poker-playing logger.

Moon survived this morning to reach the WSOP Main Event final heads-up showdown on Monday night. We have to admit: we'll be rooting for Moon to comeback and KO Joe Cada.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November Nine Weekend

The World Series of Poker Main Event is being decided this weekend -- and already there's been a very bad beat. A-A vs. K-K turned into QUAD Kings!

Phil Ivey's still around with seven players left. The longer he hangs around, the more dangerous he becomes. Agree? Disagree?

For live updates on the final table, check the WSOP Twitter feed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Poker Night 111: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Some poker players seem intent on getting a fast start at a tournament, by making big bets right away. In some cases that works. At Lil Kim's Cove tonight, it didn't....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 10-9 offsuit

We lost the draw for dealer, so we sit in the big blind for the first hand of the night. A man across the table raises 250, and we join a couple of players in calling.

ON THE FLOP: 10-5-3

Top pair is nice to us. We modestly bet 100, but the man who raised a moment ago raises 800. Does he have a higher pocket pair?

"I'm probably asking for trouble," we say -- but we call, as does another man.

ON THE TURN: 10

Three of a kind is even nicer to us. But now we play coy and check. Emboldened player #2 (not the one who's been raising) throws out 3,500 -- a huge sum, considering players start with a base of 5,000 (plus bonus chips for purchasing food and drinks). Player #3 goes mano a mano and calls. So do we -- but what do these guys really have?

ON THE RIVER: K

That's a bit concerning. If one of the other players had pocket Kings, they now have us topped. We check again. Player #2 goes all-in. So does Player #3. We've come this far by faith (to borrow from a Christian song), so we call -- which somehow leaves us with about 650 chips to spare. We're not sure why.

"I have a 10," we announce.

Player #2 apparently doesn't hear us. "I have TWO PAIR!" Yes, he does -- 5's and 3's. But that's not good enough. Player #3 also had two pair, but he's eliminated as well. One hand down, two players out -- and our chip count above 17,000 already.

It was the start of another hot night for us. We claimed another big pot in the second hand with A-Q, and kept building from there. After one hour, we had 49,500 chips. After two hours at the final table, we had about 90,000.

But then some losses came -- and despite a furious three-way fight where we kept rallying, a man went all-in against us with two hearts and caught a flush with a heart on the river. That hurt big, and we were eliminated minutes later. But by finishing third (one away from winning money), we were the only person to make the final table two nights in a row.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We bailed out of one big pot late in the first hour -- a pot which prompted a woman to our right to say, "Have mercy, Jesus."

"May Jesus have mercy on us all," we answered quietly -- probably too quietly for anyone to hear it. But then we turned to a man on our left and asked, "Do you believe Jesus is merciful?"

That man gave no answer. What would yours be? Ours will come in another post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 111 nights (42.3%) -- 10 cashes. We've made the final table at Lil Kim's Cove in four of our last five tries!

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - unchanged (no games played)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes: 31-36-10-6-9. Full tournaments: 25 final tables in 216 games (11.6%), 2 cashes.

While the Sunday night championship tournament was strong for us, we missed earning points by one position three separate times in the last week! (And we had one monumental bust, but that's a story for another day.)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes: 2-1-0-0-0. No full tournaments yet.

Poker Night 110 (UPDATED): Quadzilla

When was the last time you had made quads at a poker table? It could have happened to us Wednesday night at Soho Bar and Grill -- not once, but twice.

It was part of a night where we finished tied for fourth place, out of more than 40 players. After an early escape when we topped an opponent 8 of spades for a flush with a 9, the first big moment of the night came....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 8-8

It's a full table, and several people call. We choose to limp.

ON THE FLOP: 9-5-5

A woman to our immediate right is first to act, and bets about 600. "Get out of my pot," she warns with a bit of humor. Not with two pair, we won't. We call, as do a couple of others.

ON THE TURN: 8.

With a full house, we're certainly not getting out now. The woman seems to smell trouble and checks to us. We bet 2,500. A man who was moved to our table only one hand before calls, and the woman bails out.

ON THE RIVER: 8.

On the night the World Series ends, the runners come home to score! But knowing the house rules for Big Dog Poker, we have to check to assure a quad bonus.

A man to our left later says he caught us noticeably squirming at this point, and figured we had quads. Looking back on it.... yeah, our posture changed a bit at the turn. We knew we had a big-time winner. Around poker pros, that would be a "tell" which could cost us big profits.

But the man across the table apparently doesn't notice this, perhaps because he just sat down with us. So he bets 8,000.

"I'll call," we say. "And this is a $5,000 call, because I've got quads." (We kept a level voice at that point, instead of shouting and jumping around like we just won a TV game show.) Our opponent never saw that coming.

The second quad chance came in the second hour, when we had a 5 and the flop was Q-8-5. A woman across from us went all in -- and fearing she had two pair, we folded. Yet when the dealer played out the hand, the turn and river were 5-5. Ouch, that hurts.

Suffice to say it was a night when we hit big hands several times. In one case, we had the Queen of spades when A-K and two other spades hit the board. The "nut flush" let us eliminate two other players.

We took 100,000 chips to a nine-player final table -- but big blinds ate away at our stack, and we finally had to go all-in with A-4. A young man wearing a New York Yankee hat had K-K, and no Ace came to bail us out. Yes, we did the proper NYY thing at the end -- declaring: "Thaaaaaaa Yankee wins."

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Jesus as your savior" coin to a retired veteran at our immediate left early in the evening. He had trouble reading the message for a moment, then eventually said he agreed with it.

This man had recently spent time in a V.A. hospital for a heart problem -- so we reminded him of the comfort Jesus can offer. See II Thessalonians 2:16-17 for more about that.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 46 final tables in 110 nights (41.8%) - 10 cashes. We've now played at Soho five times, and made the final table twice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too far all-in

Before we went to our Wednesday night poker tournament, we heard part of a man's detailed confession of how a gambling addiction ruined his promising law career -- and eventually put him in prison.

You can hear it, too. It's the current book on the "Radio Reader" series on many U.S. public radio stations. If you can't hear it, ask at your bookstore or library for Never Enough by Michael J. Burke.

The segment we heard Wednesday dealt with Burke becoming hooked on slot machines at casinos, and becoming a money-losing "high roller." We think that can happen at poker table cash games, too -- so if you think you might need help, this book could be more valuable than pocket Aces.

Remember as you play....

"You're not safe after a victory. You're vulnerable."

We heard Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll say this on Christian radio this morning -- and we've noted it in our poker playing lately.

You win a big pot, and see good cards dealt to you in the very next hand. It's tempting to say "I'm on a roll" and bet big, only to forget an opponent could have something even better. That "roll" you're on could be a puffed-up yeast roll that collapses under pressure.

"A greedy man brings trouble to his family...." says Proverbs 11:27. So keep your head, after getting your hands on lots of chips. Perfect games seldom happen in baseball -- and we don't recall them ever happening in poker.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chips on the table, not on your shoulder

We asked for your thoughts about the woman who refused to give a chip count, when a player across the table asked for one. She claimed merely displaying the chips for him to count was a "courtesy."

Maybe so, but it struck us as a very limited form of "courtesy." Perhaps the minimum daily requirement -- based on competitiveness, mixed with a dose of legalism.

We happened to do a Bible study on love after we posted our question, and were reminded of this: "Honor one another above yourselves." (Romans 12:10) The New American Standard Bible says, "Give preference to one another with honor."

Consider also I Peter 4:9. "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."

To us, this means being willing to give someone what they ask -- within reason, of course. Counting your chips for someone else seems reasonable to us.

(In fact, we've never followed the Kenny Rogers musical advice: "You never count your money when you're sitting at the table.")

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NBC Sports Championship #7: Deep Into the Night

NBC Sports had some kind of glitch early in the week, which resulted in our receiving an invitation to the Sunday night "Weekly Championship" on Tuesday afternoon. We registered early, and took advantage of the open door....

:04 IN: We have K-10, and go heads up against a player named "Jezebelle." In the Bible, Elijah ran away from a woman with that name making threats (I Kings 19:1-3). We don't, and wind up with K's and Q's for a $415 pot.

:27 IN: We have K-9 of hearts, and go against our tendency by playing it. Two Kings come on the flop! We take a $1,935 pot.

:40 IN: We have A-4. Three hearts come on the flop (we have none), but one of them is a 4. We dare to bet $500 on bottom pair, and the table folds.

:43 IN: We have J-9. On the flop: J-Q-Q. We stay in through a 9-8, and top a King high for a $1,600 pot.

:47 IN: We have A-2 of diamonds. On the flop: A-8-5, with the 8 a diamond. We call a $420 bet. The turn is 7d, but the river is another 7. Another player dares to push all-in. We call -- and he has Q-Q. Our chip stack jumps to $7,570!

:49 IN: We have 6-6 -- and when K-K comes on the flop, two pair are good enough to win for us again. We jump above $13,000, to #11 in the standings out of 857 players!

1:12 IN: We have A-Q of clubs. On the flop: A-6-2 (no clubs). With the blinds at 200/400, a player check-raises to 1,000. We call -- and eventually top the opponent's A-10! The chip stack tops $12,000. With 150 players to go, we reach #9 on the leaderboard!

1:37 IN: We have Q-10. On the flop: 6-K-Q. We stay in through some betting, and a 4-K. Our two pair top an opponent's A-J for an $8,900 pot! The chip stack approaches $15,000.

At the two-hour break, only 40 players remain. We're still alive at #32, with 8,350 chips. Our breathing during hands is getting a bit heavy.

2:00 IN: Right off the bat out of the break, we have A-Q. With the blinds in the 1,200 range, an opponent doubles the bet. We call, and a weak 4-3-7 flop comes. But the turn is a 3, the river is a Q -- and our two pair tops the opponent's A-J! That leads to this MINISTRY MOMENT....

Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($20000) with Two pair, queens and threes
Me: (whew) PTL
FIGJAM: whats that pitty the loser
FIGJAM: Whats PTL
Me: Praise the Lord.
BobbyT1210: p*** the loot
FIGJAM: Ah
FIGJAM: Guess I should have went to church today
Me: I went Saturday pm - to give the devil his don't.

We mentioned our new abbreviation of praise in another post. Figjam was the first person to ask about it. (But sadly, critics of The PTL Club's excesses indeed gave that shorthand other words.)

We actually do keep a seventh-day Saturday Sabbath. That's kept us away from some tempting tournaments, but we're dealing with it. And oh yes, we don't keep Halloween -- so while others may have "given the devil his due" on Saturday, we did the opposite. :-)

2:07 IN: We have K-J offsuit. On the flop: 10h-4h-3 not a heart. Players check. On the turn: Jh. We bet $1,600 with no heart in our hand -- and top pair is enough to scare the crowd away. That's a $7,300 pot!

The Championship now has 32 players left -- and we're #19.

2:14 IN: We have 7-5 of hearts in the big blind. On the flop: 8-3-5 (no hearts). Players check. On the turn: 2. On the river: 7. Emboldened with two pair, we bet about $3,000 -- and get burned by an opponent hiding with three 3's.

2:17 IN: We're dealt K-Q, with $7,900 left. Blinds now are so high that it's time to push this all-in. A player calls -- and the flop brings 2-3-Q! Running 2's follow, and our full house tops an opponent with 9-9! We survive and jump to $21,200.

2:18 IN: We have A-9 of hearts in the very next hand. We limp with them, to avoid being overconfident. On the flop: 7-10-8, all spades. We call a $3,000 bet with an open-ended straight draw. On the turn: 9c. On the river: 4d. We dare to bet $3,000 on the theory another player missed a draw -- but no. He has K-J, and takes the pot with a straight. We admit in the chat that was a bad decision on our part.

2:25 IN: We have K-J, and $8,099 in chips left. We're first to act, and push all-in. A player calls us -- but with K-Q. The flop is K-Q-2. While a Jack comes on the river, we're outgunned.

FINAL: 23rd place out of 857! Not a win, but certainly thrilling -- and it's our best finish ever in the Sunday night big game.

Compared with the prize pool at the World Series of Poker Main Event, we would have been well in the money -- about 175th place, earning 3.6 times our buy-in. Sadly, NBC Sports only pays the top three finishers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

But who's counting?

An interesting dispute came up at our poker table Thursday night -- and we're not sure what the right answer is. Perhaps you do.

A woman bet 2,000 (as best we recall). A man then asked her for a chip count.

"I don't have to give you that," the woman said.

"Yes, you do," the man answered. "I want to decide whether to raise."

The woman then displayed her chip stack -- a very unsorted stack, since she had won the previous pot moments before.

"All I have to do is show them to you," she maintained. "Count them for yourself."

She called the display of the chips a "courtesy" to her opponent. What do you think of this? Our answer will come in an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poker Night 109: Stumbling at the Heights

It's become clear to us in recent weeks that we need to improve our handling of late-game situations -- where blinds are high, players are fewer and you can't really wait for a big hand to come.

Thursday night at Lil Kim's Cove was an example. We had 8,500 chips after the one-hour break, but wound up folding two promising hands when the flop went against us. That led to this....

BLINDS: 500/1000

IN THE POCKET: 10-9 of clubs

With 4,500 chips left, we think for a moment about what to do with this. Hoping to get in small, we call. A couple of other players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 10h-9h-5d.

Not a perfect flop -- but at this point, it seems very good for us. A player ahead of us checks, then we push all-in with 3,500 left. A man to our immediate left calls. Everyone else folds.

"I have two pair," I say turning the cards over.

"I don't care," our opponent says. "I'm about to get you on the turn."

"Are you?" we say quietly.

ON THE TURN: Jack of hearts.

"There it is," our opponent says -- and he shows two hearts. He has an overpowering flush.

"Unless I can get a full house on the river," we note quietly.

ON THE RIVER: 6 of hearts.

Not tonight. We're out in about 26th place.

By the way, the man we thought pulled the scary stunt outside Soho confessed to it as we set up the poker tables tonight. "I was just kidding," he explained. We told him about our reasoning, which is posted below this. The man assured us he's NOT a criminal, but never really apologized.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When we win pots online, we increasingly are typing in three letters: PTL. So far, no one has asked for an explanation.

If you need one, think back about 20 years -- to the heyday of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Their "PTL Club" on television had some excesses, but they wound up being 20 years ahead of the texting wave. The letters stand for "Praise the Lord."

That phrase appears often in the Psalms. Consider this example from Psalm 135:3. "Praise the Lord: for the Lord is good...." If you have a good game at the poker table, or a good day in any walk of life, don't be afraid to give God praise for it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 45 final tables in 109 nights (41.3%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - up $18.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 31-36-10-6-8. Full tournaments - 24 final tables in 205 games (11.7%), 2 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 1-1-0-0-0. No full tournaments there yet.