Thursday, January 29, 2009

Up to Cloud 9

Since our plans for a poker tournament were changed, we'll make it up to you by showing an online hand we promised awhile back. This one took our pretend chip stack at Yahoo above $12,000 on January 18:

BLINDS: $1/$2

IN THE POCKET: 9-2

It's a fairly busy table, with plenty of what critics call "pot pumpers" -- raising back and forth at will, because they know it's not real money at stake. We were suited (as best we recall), so call it along in hope.

ON THE FLOP: 9-9-K.

3x9 = really fine. We're betting, and a couple of others do the same rather obliviously.

ON THE TURN: 8.

We keep on betting, and one player to our right insists on taking us on. Could he have a set of Kings, and have a full house?

ON THE RIVER: 10.

Hmmm -- our opponent might have caught a straight with that. But we bet in hope, and he takes us all the way to the $20 limit.

End result: He had K-10 for two pair. Our three nines hold up, for a heavy-duty pot of more than $280.

In a small cash game, it was worth betting our three of a kind. In a tournament, the chance of a big hand on the flop or the river would have brought more caution -- especially if the opponent had thrown out a big bet of his own. There is a difference.

YAHOO POKER SCOREBOARD: $11,713 -- down $15. (We haven't had time to play much lately.)

If it's Thursday, this must be....

UPDATED/11:45 a.m. ET

well, this would have been our Poker Night. But a work emergency has come up, so we'll have to fold our plans for tonight. The Boss pays, guaranteed. Poker doesn't always.

But the Texas Hold 'Em tournament doubleheader is still on at Lil' Kim's Cove, on Fourth Street near the Columbus Civic Center. The first game starts at 7:00 p.m. ET. The second should start around 9:00-9:30. Have fun, although we might not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Believe and Win

Unless you're in the blinds, why do you bet during a poker hand?

Silly question, you may say. I'm betting because it's the only way to win the pot.

Yes, but why do you bet what you bet? In some cases, players are bluffing. But most of the time, players throw chips in because they think they have a winnable hand. (Of course, that perspective could change if the wrong cards show up on the flop.)

As the hand goes on, you may become sure the pot is yours. You believe your two pair are good, for instance -- until an opponent surprises you with a pocket pair which makes three of a kind.

Believing in a hand can be risky. But in most countries which allow religious freedom, believing in Jesus doesn't have to be. (We should pray for God to protect believers in difficult countries and situation.)

Remember the earlier post about the online player with believer in his handle? He told us he believed in Jesus. That won't necessarily win you any pots, but you can gain something much more valuable.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved," Paul and Silas told a jailer in Acts 16:31. That means you're saved from your sins -- sins which lead to death (Rom. 6:23).

But it means more, as Hebrews 1:14 says believers "will inherit salvation." That's a future thing, as Jesus "will appear a second time.... to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Heb. 9:27). It's an eternal salvation, for "heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Tit. 3:7).

This is good news, and Jesus told people years ago we should "repent and believe" it (Mk. 1:15). If you want to believe in Jesus but aren't sure how, leave a comment. We'll be happy to help explain it to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Poker Night #56: Nearly Worst to Nearly First

Now this was more like it. Good cards came. For the most part, they held up. And with the help of a couple of all-in escapes late in the evening, we rebounded from Wednesday night's early crash to finish fifth in tonight's first tournament at Lil' Kim's Cove. (We skip the second game, so we can blog about it for you.)

Our approach admittedly was more cautious tonight. We only "chased" marginal hands if we were in the blinds, or had the chip advantage to afford it. Many times that worked. On this hand at the semifinal table, it didn't:

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: 5-5.

It's enough to call, but not much more with blinds at this level. Several players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 5-A-Q (as best we recall)

We're effectively on the button, and sitting very pretty with three of a kind. So when our turn comes, we raise 7,000 on top of the 4,000. Two players take the challenge.

ON THE TURN: K.

Hmmmm. We check, as do the others. Maybe if we had bet again, we wouldn't have seen....

ON THE RIVER: J.

Uh-oh. A straight is there for the taking, and suddenly a late play isn't advantageous anymore. A player ahead of us makes a bet of 5,000 or so.

"I think you've got it." And we fold. We were right.

The final push came for us with blinds at 5,000/10,000. We bet early with K-Q, but another player has the cards to make a seven-card straight.

MINISTRY MOMENT: At our starter table, one player wore a metal cross around his neck. We bring it up asking, "Is that a fashion statement or a statement of faith?"

"I'm Catholic," the man admits. The man to his immediate left mentions he is as well.

We show the man our "Jesus as your Savior" coin, and he agrees with the message it has. It turns out he attends Columbus's biggest Catholic church, and his daughter is in a Catholic high school. And he didn't really harm his religious example during the evening.

He didn't make it to the final table, but we did -- and at one point there, a man frustrated by his cards exclaims the name of Jesus. "He's my hope of salvation," we add.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 24 final tables in 56 nights (42.9%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,728 - up $391. But that's very misleading, as we climbed to a record high of $12,232 two days ago. We've dropped $500 in two days there, due to some bad beats.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poker Night #55: If You're Posting Early....

Yup, you guessed it. We were sent packing early.

On a night when about 190 players showed up at Club H2O -- so many that police were called to tow some cars away -- the best thing we could do is surrender our legal parking space. We didn't really TRY to do that, but it happened when we finished ninth out of our starting table of 10.

It was a short and strange night for us. We won three pots in about 15 hands, yet never climbed above the starting chip stack of 100.

Perhaps we didn't play two of them well. One case was a K-3 of hearts, where a K came on the flop for top pair. We somehow didn't grasp that and failed to bet until the turn, minimizing our gains. The other case found up with pocket Aces one off the button. We raised 15 above a call of 2, and the rest of the table folded.

We dreamed of a big gain when a player to our right went all-in for 29 chips -- but another player called with us, and topped our pocket jacks by pairing an Ace on the river. That same player put us out for good a few hands later....

BLINDS: 2/4

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 of clubs

We're down to about 44 chips, and call early. The player to our right raises 10 to put the pressure on, and we decide to match it.

ON THE FLOP: J-J-3 (3 of clubs)

The player to our right plays first, and throws in a small bet. We feel committed to this pot, and call -- but we need help.

ON THE TURN: A second 3.

Two pair are showing. The opponent checks, and so do we. Could our Q kicker be good enough?

ON THE RIVER: A third 3.

A full house is on the board! "I think I'll say.... all-in?!" says the man to our right.

"I'll call," we say. We think we're both playing the table. But no -- our opponent has a third J for a higher full house.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Someone asked for a 5 to come up during a hand -- and then it did.

"Ask and ye shall receive," a woman at the table says.

Between hands I point out to other players, "That's a verse from the Bible." (John 16:24) "Along with 'Seek and ye shall find'" (Lk. 11:9) -- where the "ask" part admittedly is a bit different. No one really responds, but one man seemed to stare closely at our "Jesus Savior" coin.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 23 final tables in 55 nights (41.8%) -- 7 cashes.

UP NEXT: We did so poorly tonight that we'll come right back and play at Lil Kim's Cove at 7:00 p.m. ET Thursday night. We'll update the Yahoo count after that game.

A Clue and an Invitation

Well, let's reverse the order of that.

First the invite: We're going for the big crowd and the big bucks tonight -- playing in the Texas Hold 'em tournament at Club H2O on Veterans Parkway. Register at 7:30 p.m. ET, get down to business at 8:00.

(We should note one of last week's top winners didn't finish playing until 1:00 a.m. This could be a long night.)

Now our new clue, as to what sort of hand we might have:

4-4 = Obamas. (Get it?)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This I Believe

The person to our left at the online poker table had believer in his handle.

"So Believer," we asked, "who or what do you believe?"

"In Jesus."

"Praise the Lord," we responded.

What would your answer to that question be? We think this person gave a great one. Learn why shortly.

Also ahead - the hand which jumped us above $12,000 at Yahoo!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Black and Red, Not Black and White

It's a one-of-a-kind weekend in the U.S. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, then Barack Obama is inaugurated as President on Tuesday.

So what does this have to do with poker? Simply this -- poker is a game of equality. (Or should be.)

Anyone can become a big winner at the table, regardless of their nationality (see Humberto Brenes), gender (see Annie Duke) or skin color (see Phil Ivey). But admittedly, it takes a big bankroll to do the buy-ins necessary to win at top-dollar events in Las Vegas and on the WPT.

At local tournaments which are free to enter, the equality should be on display even more. We sat down last Thursday night at a table which was mostly African-American. We're Euro-American, and everyone got along well. The cards can't tell any difference, you know. Every hand can cause equal opportunity success -- or failure.

"There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female...." -- at the poker table? No, this is somewhere else. "For you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28)

Paul indicates the Church and its members should have no racial or gender barriers. Hopefully you don't have any mental blocks in your poker game, either.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poker Night #54: Two Great Escapes

"You're the only one, sir," the Lil Kim's Cove tournament director told us tonight. Then he corrected himself, looking toward another table. "You and he are the only regulars still coming." He claimed other Thursday night players had stopped coming, because of the shooting a couple of weekends ago.

From what we saw, it didn't seem that way. Several long-time Thursday night people were there -- enough to deprive us of success. We fell out at the semifinal table, tied for 14th out of about 30 players.

To be honest, we should have finished even lower. Good cards simply didn't come our way -- and when we tried to force the action with bets chasing straights or flushes, the right cards didn't come. The exceptions came during two all-in moments. The first was a classic "luck-out":

BLINDS: 100/200.

IN THE POCKET: Ac-Qc.

We haven't won a hand all night. Our chip stack has shrunk from 6,000 to 1,550. So we go all-in, and the woman to our immediate left takes us on. Her pocket 5's are deceptively dominating.

ON THE FLOP: 4-6-7.

No clubs come, and our opponent has an open-ended straight draw. Big cards suddenly look grim.

ON THE TURN: 10.

ON THE RIVER: Q.

What happened on New York's Hudson hours before was an even more important "miracle on the river." But this will do.

The second escape came at the semifinal table, as we played one quick hand before break time:

BLINDS: 200/400.

IN THE POCKET: Kh-Qh.

A couple of bad chases against big bettors has reduced our chip stack again. Now we go all-in with 1,100. The two players to our left join in, and the second with a "humongous" stack (we talked in Texan words like that all night, in honor of outgoing President Bush) puts the first man all-in as well.

We never saw what Player 1 has. But player 2 has pocket Aces - diamond/club.

ON THE FLOP: Ah....

Player 2 nods with approval. He's made a habit of hitting "trips" tonight. But wait....

9h-6h.

"Let's play hearts!" I declare. But anything pairing the board gives Player 2 a full house.

ON THE TURN: 7h.

ON THE RIVER: 5h.

At last a big flush comes! But Player 1 hits one as well, which limits our winnings.

After the break, the blinds went up and our success ran out. We went all-in with Q-10, but that Player 2 had A-5 and wound up with A-A-A-5-5 full house.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A young grandmother to our right took a look at our "Jesus as your Savior" coin tonight. "Interesting," she said when we asked what she thought of it. Then she seemed to agree with the message. But earlier, she admitted she'd probably be drunk by the time the poker doubleheader night ended.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 23 final tables in 54 nights (42.6%) -- 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,301 - down $278. (We've made some bad chases into big pots lately there as well.)

It's a great night for poker

You know -- the temperature outside dropping to 20 degrees. A biting north wind.

You'll want to be inside, around a crowded table. (Which you hope will become less crowded, as players drop out.)

So we hope you'll join us at Lil Kim's Cove, near the Columbus Civic Center. It's poker doubleheader night there -- but we plan to play only the first game, at 7:00p.m. ET.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meditation on Moderation

We told you in our last post about the big man at our poker table -- who was very loud, seemingly very drunk, and pushed all-in when we tempted him with 500 chips on pocket aces.

There's a word that man needs to learn -- a word which applies not only to playing poker, but all aspects of your life. The word is moderation.

It only appears once in the King James Bible, but Paul is in favor of it: "Let your moderation be known unto all men" (Phil. 4:5).

We'd commonly understand that today in political terms -- not being extreme in your views. But the NIV surprised us by translating that word "gentleness." A couple of other translations put it along those lines as well. (A Greek concordance adds being "appropriate" or "mild.")

If you exercise moderation with your voice, fewer people are likely to be annoyed. If you exercise it in your drinking, you'll remain under control -- and probably play better poker. (Our big man scored a final-table finish the night before we played him, and he admitted he "played sober" then.)

Thinking moderately in playing poker can have advantages, too. For instance, don't overbet marginal hands -- because if your opponents hit something big, they could come back to haunt you with over-the-top raises.

(Or should we say: don't overbet them too often? Sometimes a little bluffing can pay off.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Poker night #53: Quieting the Loudmouth

"I've only had a fifth today." So said the man across the table from us Thursday night, as if we'd show him some sympathy.

"Only," I deadpanned.

That's the thing about playing poker at bars like at Lil Kim's Cove. Some players are there for fun and booze -- and sometimes the players with too much booze in their system can be the most dangerous players at the table. They'll bet big with nothing, steal pots and last far longer than they should.

A young man they call Buddha was like that tonight. He admitted from the start he was drunk, and it showed. He talked in shouts, more than anything. He reached for neighbors' chips like a grabby two-year-old. His comments were annoying and a bit crude, but occasionally entertaining.

At one point it was Buddha's turn to deal. "This is tough," he said in a bit of a joke.

"It takes dexterity," I said in a test. "Do you know what dexterity means?" I expected a funny response, but he gave a correct answer.

"I'm smart drunk," he said. A dangerous player, indeed.

Buddha was the man several players wanted to see eliminated. He actually was put out early, when an all-in bluff didn't work. But Buddha took advantage of the house rule giving you 1,000 chips for every drink, and came back to our table with 2,000 more. So it was left for us to quietly take care of that, when the moment was right:

BLINDS: 100/200.

IN THE POCKET: Aces!

We're in the leadoff position, and bet 500. The players next to us quickly fold, but Buddha does what we thought he might do. He's emboldened.

"I'm all-in." Buddha haphazardly throws in about 3,200 chips. He keeps talking loudly, as a woman to our right asks if we'll "check it down" if she calls along with us. It takes her two requests before we can hear her, and we accept that.

"I've got rockets," I tell a partially-stunned table -- and Buddha quiets down after that. He has something like a J-9. We didn't set much of a trap, but for a drunken man it doesn't take much.

ON THE FLOP: Nothing which helps anyone else. Our aces hold up. We gain about 6,500 chips from two players. And we gain "thank yous" from a few players, even at other tables.

But our big stack of 15,000 slowly evaporated after that. We survived to a nine-player final table, but had to put in a big blind of 4,000 right away with only 6,000 on us. A player bet big, and we felt forced to play an 8-7 in hopes of a straight. It almost happened with a J-9 came -- but there was no 10, and we lost to an A-10.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Buddha knew the word dexterity, but we quipped a couple of minutes later: "He doesn't know moderation." based on Phil. 4:5, we hope you do.

A couple of other players around us later admitted they don't drink. We hardly ever do, and never do at the poker table. But we didn't really use that as a springboard to Biblical topics.

But as we left in ninth place (one hand at a final table is still a final table finish), we showed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin to a woman to our left. She reminded us she'd seen it before, and agreed with the message.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 23 final tables in 53 nights (43.4%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,579 - a RECORD high for us, up $718 since 2009 began!

Champion Until Dethroned

We've been the Thursday late-night poker champion at Lil Kim's Cove for THREE LONG WEEKS!

Well, OK -- it was because the club was closed for holidays on December 25 and January 1.

But tonight things are up for grabs again. Can you take us out? We plan to play the early tournament ONLY, with dealing starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. It's a doubleheader night, if you want to stay for the second tourney. But after last weekend's events, we plan to be "one and done."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Remember as you play....

The object of poker is to take all the chips. The object of life should be something else.

One big gain

We're still moving forward in Yahoo poker -- now at $11,250, even with a few setbacks the last couple of days.

But in the last seven days, our pretend chip stack has jumped by more than $600. The biggest gain came last Wednesday afternoon:

BLINDS: $1/$2 (pretend money, $20 limit cash game)

IN THE POCKET: 6-6

This is a crowded table, and plenty of people jump in. Our pair is small, so we don't raise -- we "call it along" as our turn comes.

ON THE FLOP: K-K-junk.

Two pair on the flop is nice. But other players suggest they hit something every bit as big. They bet. They raise. We "call it along."

ON THE TURN: Don't recall -- but we think it was a diamond, putting two on the board.

Betting and raising continues. Did someone else hit a full house already -- with a pocket pair which matched the junk, or a third King? We're unsure, but keep calling things around.

ON THE RIVER: 6d.

Now we have a full house -- and with three diamonds showing, anyone betting on a flush is in big trouble.

A couple of players bet up to the limit, and we call with a bit more confidence. It turns out no one else hit a full house, so we a take a personal Yahoo record for us -- a $410 pot!

(The most you can win under Yahoo rules is $640, based on a 10-player limit per table and betting restrictions.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shot Down the Street

It was disturbing to learn on the news tonight of a shooting at our usual Thursday night poker spot.

A man was shot in the parking lot of Lil Kim's Cove at around 12:30am Sunday. The club has Saturday poker tournament doubleheaders (at least according to its web site), but much earlier in the day -- at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m.

We've had a couple of successful poker nights at Lil Kim's, which stretched past midnight. On one occasion, a man stopped us as we hurredly walked home -- but the man claimed to be homeless and hungry. He gained a can of Vienna sausages at our door, but no more. We did this based on Matthew 25:35; he stated the food need first, so that's what we provided.

Now we're thankful Lil Kim's is starting Thursday night poker doubleheaders. You'll hopefully understand if we play only in the first one this week, at 7:00 p.m. ET.