Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poker Night #64: W.W. K-Q D.?

Our apologies for not mentioning in advance we'd be out playing poker tonight. If you need to know, please tell us and we'll return to advance mentions. The Thursday night game at Lil Kim's Cove had a tense moment, but we wound up back at the final table with an eighth-place finish.

We started well, using slow-played pocket A's to win a nice pot and advance from a starting 5,000 chips to 10,500. But a couple of chases fell short, the blinds went higher, and we wound up in a pinch at semifinal time:

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: K-Q of spades

Our chip stack is down to about 4,000, so it's time to put up or shut up. We go all in, and two other players call us. A man to our left goes all-in as well, covered by a woman to our immediate right.

The man has K-8. The woman has K-J. It's a race, and we narrowly lead. The spades turn out to be a moot point.


"I like that," the woman says. Why not? She seizes the lead, because she has a straight.

ON THE TURN: A small card (we forget which). Uh-oh.


Now we like that. The woman -- well, not so much. It's a three-way "Broadway" straight, and we all split the pot. We gain about 2,000 when all is said and done.

"I was ahead," the woman tells us. Indeed -- and for awhile, so were we. But all they count is the order at the finish line.

The finish for us came after a color-up, which left us with one solitary 5,000 chip. We tried it on A-2, and 3-4 came up on the board -- but no pairs and no 5.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took something different for a card protector tonight -- a little packet of salt, like you'd get at a fast-food restaurant. Someone asked about it early in the evening.

"I read in a book once that I'm the salt of the earth," we explained. No one commented farther. You might say we put out a bet, and no one called it.

Then at the final table, we showed the salt packet to a young man at our immediate left. We repeated the quote, then pushed the issue. "Do you know who said that?" He didn't -- but the answer to the question happened to be on his wrist.

"Jesus," we dared to add.

"Really? What book was that in?"

"The Bible." This is a "Jaywalking" moment waiting to happen, until....

"The Bible? That's my favorite. Which book is it in?"

"It's in Matthew."

"That's my favorite book!" Good for him. He simply hasn't memorized it all yet.

Moments later, we noticed the man was wearing a W.W.J.D. wristband. So for a nice change, the final table had two believers. We'll continue our conversation with him in our next post - and maybe spread some "salt" as well.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 26 final tables in 64 nights (40.6%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,925 - up $43. (Spring cleaning is limiting our online playing time right now.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Poker Night #63: Miss-Read

One thing we still need to learn when it comes to live poker is how to "read" opponents. Read them correctly, and you'll have success in hands. Read them incorrectly, and you'll pay for it. The latter happened for us tonight, and we wound up tied for last place at our Lil Kim's Cove table.

We never won a pot all night. And we admittedly were weakened on chips due to bad chases, when a big loss came....

BLINDS: 100/200


A promising start. We call, as do several others.

ON THE FLOP: Js-10d-4c

Top pair for us, and nearly top kicker. We're second in line to bet, and throw in 200. A few players join us.


The woman in lead position (to our immediate right) bets 400. We're not sure why -- two pair, maybe? But now we have a straight draw, so we call. So does someone behind us.


Now we have three Jacks. Yet the woman playing first pushes in 2,000.

We entered this hand with about 4,000 -- and our gut instinct says this is a big bluff to push us off the pot, perhaps pretending to have a pocket pair for a full house.

"I may regret this, but I'll call," we say. Sure enough:

"I hit a straight, that turned into a flush," the woman declares. She shows Qc-8c -- and admittedly we never saw either one coming. Our "read" might as well have been in French.

A few minutes later, we were in the big blind with K-J of spades. When someone raised 500, we went all-in with 1,175 more. An A-Q came on the flop (no spades, though) -- but with no 10 on the river, our evening was over. The woman who topped us before took a second player out as well, with two pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The man to our left admitted he was distracted by our "big card" tonight. For the first time in months, we took the "Get Out of Church Free" card we picked up last year for a card protector. So we explained the story behind it, and why you should leave a church service free of your sins.

"Disguise your sins," the man joked.

"No, I don't think that's quite the answer," we answered with a laugh. Later we put it another way: "It's a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."

The man seemed to understand what we were saying. Do you? Here's an article which might help it make sense.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 25 final tables in 63 nights (39.7%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,882 - up $59. (We haven't had time to play much.)

Free to Play

It is -- and we are.

We're along far enough in Serious Spring Cleaning to take a break for Thursday night poker at Lil Kim's Cove, near the Civic Center.

The tournament doubleheader is free to enter -- but buying food or a drink will get you bonus chips. We'll be in only the first contest, starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Poker Night #62: Survivor Series

Not in Brazil, and not in the WWE -- but at the poker table. Thanks to some timely pots and back-to-back all-in escapes, tonight was our best finish at Lil Kim's Cove since we won it all in mid-December. We finished fourth, out of more than 30 players.

They say good poker players are always learning something new. Tonight we learned how to stop an aggressive player who's right behind you in the order. We called him "Carmelo" since he wore a Denver Nuggets T-shirt, and several times early in the match he made large raises immediately after we called. He scared us away often, even though he sometimes had very little. But when we started raising before his bet -- well, let's say a conservative reputation scared him away a few times.

A big gain with pocket Aces (which led to a third Ace on the board) put our chip count above 23,000 at one point. But a few misfires and missed chances drained it all away, until we were down to one little gold chip at the final table....

BLINDS: 5,000/10,000

IN THE POCKET: A-6 of spades

After folding several bad or iffy hands, we can't wait any longer. We push our one chip all in, and a woman quickly calls. She has Q-Q. We need help.

ON THE FLOP: 10-5-3

That's not it. We openly (but quietly) root for an Ace.

ON THE TURN: Another 10.

That's still not it -- and a flush now is out of the question.


Thank you, Sir -- that's it. And that was the first of three all-in double-ups we accomplished at the final table, before conking out with 9-10 to a woman with 3 Queens.

MINISTRY MOMENT: There were several tonight. We'll note one which started when a player to our immediate right faced an all-in decision.

"Good Lord," he said.

"All the time," we answer.

This man knew the standard response to that in many churches. "And all the time...."

"God is good."

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 25 final tables in 62 nights (40.3%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,854 - Down $129.

Ministry Moment: Anywhere but here?

During Wednesday night's poker tournament at Club H2O, David sat at our right. And he grabbed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin to look at it before we brought it up.

"Do you agree with the message on it?" we asked.

He had to check it a second time, to read what it said. "Yeah, but not when you're playing poker," David answered. "Gambling is a sin."

We could have responded to this in several ways. We could have quoted the interview with Canadian poker pro and committed Christian Daniel Negranu. Or we could have gone to a Bible concordance, and noted the English word "gamble" is nowhere in the Bible.

Before mentioning how we replied, let's stop there a moment. That second answer might surprise some people, who have been taught various "old-time religion" lists of vices over the years. You know, the ones against playing cards or dancing. They may be traditional, but they're not Biblical.

But hold on, you may be saying -- what about that incident when Jesus was crucified? Didn't soldiers gamble over the Lord's clothing?

Matthew 27:35 says this, from the New International Version: "When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots." (Only the Contemporary English Version uses the word "gambled.") This moment actually fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy of Jesus's death (Psm. 22:18).

The same Greek words for "lots" appear in Acts 1:26, but with a very different purpose. The apostles used lots to decide who would replace Judas Iscariot -- and they did this after Jesus was resurrected, and had ascended to heaven.

The Greek for "casting" admittedly is different. In Matthew, something was thrown. In Acts, something was given. The paraphrase The Message says the candidates "drew straws," and the CEV says they "drew names" as if out of a hat.

But one Bible commentary pointed us to a bigger difference. The apostles prayed for guidance before the drawing (Acts 1:24-25). We say Christians who play poker should do the same thing -- yes, pray before you play. Pray that you'll be a good example of Jesus Christ FIRST, above anything else. Put your witness first, then trust God with whatever blessings come at the table.

Now back to our chat with David. We tried to explain how all of us "gamble" in life by taking risks every day. Even driving on the freeway can be a gamble, because an aggressive or drunk driver might cross your path.

David seemed to understand that -- but he explained: "My Mom would say, 'What if Jesus came back right now? Would He want to find you here?'" As in a club, among drinkers and smokers (he was the latter).

David might have been surprised to learn he was sharing a poker table with the Executive Director of a local faith-based charity. He's attended poker nights for awhile, and describes poker as a game "with some thinking involved." We're not sure how much he uses poker as a witnessing tool, but he's there.

We didn't mention that man, since he was playing under a nickname and might not have wanted us to blow his cover. But we told David Jesus might not mind our location, as long as we were being a godly example.

Keep in mind that Jesus was accused of being "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and 'sinners.'" (Matt. 11:19) But then Jesus added: "Wisdom is proved right by her actions." Wise people realize our Savior was not a sinner at all. Instead, He preached the Gospel TO them by spending time around them. And that's one of our goals as well.

"However, when the Son of Man comes," Jesus asked elsewhere, "will he find faith on the earth?" (Lk. 18:8) It's not necessarily where you are when Jesus comes back, but what you'll be doing when He comes.

Will you be displaying faith in God, by your daily actions -- whether you're on the job, in your home or at a poker room? It's actually possible in all of those places. If you're not sure how to accomplish that, pray to God for wisdom and help.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Poker Night #61: Killer's Substitute

One nice thing about playing poker at Club H2O is that you can learn the names of everyone at your table. The seats are assigned at random by a computer, then posted on a screen. But that could have been a bad thing Wednesday night, because we were put in a seat next to "Killer."

Given the news of the prior 24 hours, we're not sure why anyone would want to take that nickname. Especially not an innocent-looking 20-something guy.

"So you're Killer?" we asked cautiously before play began.

"I'm not Killer. We switched."

The man's name really was David. Killer apparently wanted to play at a non-smoking table. David smoked two cigarettes before he was eliminated -- so some might argue he was killing himself.

David was gone before we were, yet he helped provide the most interesting night of poker ministry we've had so far. It's so interesting that we'll have details in our next post. But as for the game: an ultra-conservative style of play brought us a Top 100 finish out of 140 players. We were booted after a little more than an hour, with ten tables still playing.

We were forced all-in with only 24 chips left, holding a 9 of clubs which paired the board. Three clubs were showing, so we dreamed of a flush on the river -- but a King of spades came instead.

We never won a hand all night, and seldom had good cards to play. Pocket 2's came to us at one point, but face cards on the flop left us unwilling to call opponent's bets. Another hand appeared even more promising....


IN THE POCKET: A-Q of hearts.

We decide to limp in, but a desperate player two seats down goes all-in for 27. Two players call, including David to our immediate right. This is too good a hand to fold, so we call as well.

ON THE FLOP: 7h-7s (we think) -5h.

It's a great flush draw for us, but we've invested a good bit in this pot already. We lay low and check, as everyone else does.

ON THE TURN: 9 (not a heart).

Same thinking, same actions.


With three 7's showing, David bets 25. Since he called the big bet before, we conclude he must have a full house. We don't dare challenge, so we fold. But another player calls him.

"King high!" David declares -- and that's good enough to beat a Jack high, and take the pot.

"I had an Ace, and you scared me away!" It would have been the top hand, but a good bet on a fair-to-middling hand (we hesitate to call it a bluff) worked -- especially since the cards had not been in our favor all night.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 24 final tables in 61 nights (39.3%) - 7 cashes.

We dared to go to a crowded house, even though we risked falling below the 40% level. We'll try to climb above it, when we play Thursday night at Lil' Kim's Cove (a rare two-tourney week for us). We'll update our Yahoo action then as well.

Big Rivers

We're not talking about the musical production at the Springer Opera House in Columbus. We're talking about what could be ahead tonight, when we play at the biggest poker night in town.

We plan to be at Club H2O on Veterans Parkway, and you're welcome to join us. (But be advised, some nights they have 200 players.) Registration is at 7:30 p.m. ET; table assignments and play come at 8:00.

And if that's not enough, it's the final qualifying night of Club H2O's season for the "Tournament of Champions." We haven't played there much, so that's not our goal. If you read this blog regularly, you know what our goals are.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Very good, very bad

Just came from Yahoo poker, where our pocket 6's turned into QUAD 6's -- on the turn! We checked with lead position on the turn, and a couple of other players bet behind us. Shame on them. It turned into a $98 pretend (boo hoo) payoff.

But our recent record of bad beats included one at Yahoo as well....

BLINDS: 1/2 (pretend; $12-$20 limits)


A nice start, and several people join in betting.

ON THE FLOP: 7-7-?? (we forget the third card, and it doesn't matter)

As we recall, our Jacks were an overpair. So we bet, and a few others stick around.

ON THE TURN: ?? (we forget this one, too)

We don't recall any straight or flush threat. So we bet again, and one other opponent remains.


We bet and get called. Could our opponent have a pocket pair of his own?

Nope. Try a fourth 7. We get burned and lose. Call it the other side of the quad.

Monday, March 9, 2009

If it was real III

After every ten local poker nights, we stop and see how we're doing -- and if we would do well playing at a casino.

The last time we checked after 50 nights, our potential return on investment would have been almost 97 percent. After 60? Let's see....

Assuming a $50 buy-in to tournaments: 50 x 60 = $3,000.

Just like our last check, we've only had top five finishes twice in the last ten poker nights. (Not to make excuses, but two of those nights were in extra-large tournaments at Club H2O.) We had a first place and a 5th. So based on our presumed payout scale of $500 for the winner, down to $100 for fifth....

First -- 4 ($2,000)
Second - 3 ($1,200)
Third -- 3 ($900)
Fourth - 4 ($800)
TIES for fourth:
one two-way ($150)
one three-way ($67)
Fifth -- 4 ($400)

TOTAL -- 20 for $5,517.

The return on my buy-in investment is still dropping, but remains strong at 83.9 percent. And how about earning theoretical money one-third of the time? Nice, if we can ever do it....

Friday, March 6, 2009

Music to play poker by

At our Thursday night poker tournament, someone called up a very fitting song on the jukebox -- "Heartbreak Tonight" by The Eagles.

If you could program a jukebox especially for poker, what songs would you put in it?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Poker Night #60: Getting Warmer

Thankfully, there was no ultra-early exit at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. When you're dealt lousy cards time after time, quick folding can keep you in the game.

But when great cards come and they don't work -- well, you might say it happened to us again tonight....

BLINDS: 500/1,000


We had only won one hand all evening, and that was with pocket 8's. So our stack has dwindled to 1,500 chips, and we'd put in 500 as the small blind.

"All in, 1,000 more," we say after a few players call. A no-brainer decision. But it's also a no-brainer for people with bigger stacks to call, because it's only a double-up for them. So a couple of opponents join in.


As they say in television news, all we can do is wait and see. The other players check quickly.


Quick checks again -- faster than even an online game.


Two high pairs look nice -- but a man to our right shows a third Queen. He had us at the flop.

We wound up 13th, reaching the semifinal table. But for the third tournament in a row, a potential monster hand was slain. The tournament organizer noted as we left the table that when your chip stack gets small, pocket aces can become simply another two cards.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin to a woman at our immediate left tonight. She agreed with the message on it, as she sang out loud at times to old-school soul music.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 24 final tables in 60 nights (40%) - 7 cashes.

This is our lowest final table percentage in a long time -- since January 2008. Not that long ago, we were at the threshold of 50% in reaching final tables. Perhaps the odds have caught up with us?!

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $11,983 - Up $444. We've bounced above the $12,000 barrier a couple of times this week, but can't quite stay above it.

The Big 6-0

No, that's not our age. It's the number of live poker nights we reach tonight.

Almost all of our tournaments have been at Lil Kim's Cove on Fourth Street, and that's where we plan to be for the first of two evening matches. You're invited to join us (and take us on) at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Chance card

We ask in a post below if poker is a game of skill or luck. We've concluded it's really a mix of both. Luck in the cards that you receive, then show up on the table -- skill in how you handle them.

Our lives can be like that, too. The word "luck" doesn't appear anywhere in the King James Bible, but a similar word shows up a few time -- "chance." For instance:

"The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." -- Ecc. 9:11, NIV

The Contemporary English Version puts it: "We each have our share of bad luck."

Play poker long enough, and you'll probably be able to build a folder filled with stories when chance and luck didn't go your way. We've felt that in the last two live tournaments we've attended. But we've also learned that good cards sometimes can come when you need them most.

We think success comes in mastering the skill part of poker -- knowing how and when to bet, and when to call or fold. That means, well, careful thinking.

But remember these words of Paul in I Corinthians 8:2. "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." The prior verse warns, "Knowledge puffs up...." -- as in making you a proud, arrogant know-it-all. Don't think too highly of yourself, or the chance card that beats you will sting that much harder.