Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poker Night #71: Trippin'

At least the man was consistent. On the first several hands tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, the man immediately to our right bet 500 early -- even with the blinds at 25/50.

And amazingly, he was a consistent winner -- getting three of a kind on the flop three times in a row, in the first four hands.

His betting (and winning) kept us close to the vest for most of the evening. We took him once, calling a 500 bet -- but we missed a flush draw. But eventually, a little of "Mr. Trip" rubbed off....

BLINDS: 200/400.


It's our best hand in awhile, so we call before the flop. A few other players do.

ON THE FLOP: A-Q-3, all clubs.

We bet 700 with top pair, hoping to scare away people dreaming of a flush. It works for all but one opponent.


The "trip" has moved our way. We have 3,150 chips, but we only bet 3,000 -- holding back 150 in case another bad beat happens. Our opponent calls.

ON THE RIVER: J -- not a club.

Before we can bet our remaining 150, the opponent folds his hand. He missed it. We never even have to show that we "hit it" -- but we do to a neighbor.

Sad to say, that was the only pot we won all evening. But it put our total at 11,650 chips -- and we held on tightly to them from there to reach the final table. An eighth-place finish means we've come within two little hands of FIVE final tables in a row.

We made a couple of bad chases at the final table, with blinds at 500/1,000. Bailing out after the flop was still costly. We wound up going all-in with 3,500 when our Queen turned out to be top pair on the flop -- but a woman holding pocket Kings wound up defeating us.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We had a couple tonight, but we're going to backtrack to an NBC Sports online poker tournament earlier in the week. For some reason we're not sure about, another player wrote after a hand: "You're not believin."

"I'm a believer," we replied, "in the K of K's. If you know Who I mean."

The other player never replied to that. In fact, no one did. Do you believe in the K of K's? That's what Jesus will be wearing on His robe at His return -- "King of Kings and Lord of Lords"(Rev. 19:16).

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 29 final tables in 71 nights (40.8%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $12,990 -- up $560. (We hit a record high of $13,144 on Wednesday!)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player tournaments - 10-14-1-1-3. Cash tournaments - three final tables in 15 games (20%), no cashes.

We're counting computer kickouts in five-player tournaments as a last-place finish -- and we're blaming an annoying "mal-ware" advertisement for booting us. But on Memorial Day, we finished 10th out of 276 players in a tournament. That amazing moment is worth a post all by itself -- soon.

Remember as you play....

"When you see trouble coming, don't be stupid and walk right into it -- be smart and hide."

Believe it or not, that's a Bible verse. It's the Contemporary English Version of Proverbs 22:3.

We were reminded of it from a religious magazine's article on sound handling of your money. It quoted the Good News Version of that verse, which is admittedly a bit less blunt: "Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later."

We contend poker is a thinking game, every bit as much as a "gambling" game. It takes wisdom to see a hidden straight opportunity on the board -- and either bluff on the pretense of having it, or fold when someone bets with the nuts.

Players who make bets simply on a whim or an impulse might win pots once in a while -- but we don't think they succeed in the long run. Poker tournaments tend to be marathons, not drag races. Being alert to possible trouble increases your chances of success.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is poker your life?

If it is, we'd like to offer something that's even better.

"When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory," says Colossians 3:4 (NASB).

You can play poker all day long, all week long -- but if that's all you ever do with your life, you're likely to be disappointed when all is said and done.

But if Jesus is your life, you can have confidence that this life will NOT be all there is -- because an eternal life without end is promised in the future.

The writer of Colossians says that better life is "hidden with Christ in God" (verse 3). It may not always be shown with a religious T-shirt or bumper sticker. But it should be shown by putting away several all-too-human traits.

Verses 5 and 8 list what those traits are. Please note poker-playing is NOT there. But other habits are, which could be much more difficult to break.

If you want to change your focus in life, put those traits of the "earthly nature" to death. IF we can help with that, please e-mail us.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Running Unopposed

How do you know it's really a holiday?

We've played two "stop-and-go" five-player poker games at NBC Sports this afternoon -- and won them both virtually by default.

In game one, all the other players kept "auto-folding" until they were disqualified for inactivity.

In game, three players acted that way -- then our opponent heads-up, who actually had played a few pots, seemingly left the computer to go eat dinner. We drained his pool, until a DQ was called.

We earned plenty of points, but really not the way we desired. We're not THAT imposing online, are we?

Casino K.C. Royal

Happy U.S. Memorial Day to you! This holiday marks one year since we tried our hand at a casino's poker cash game for the first time -- and still only time. Here's what we wrote about it May 27, 2008 in our other blog, The Blog of Columbus, Georgia:

KANSAS CITY, KS -- In southern England in 1992, I refused to do it. In Puerto Rico in 1995, I also refused to do it. But on Memorial Day 2008 in my home area, I finally did it. Call me an infidel if you wish -- but I set my feet inside a casino.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: “I hadn’t told you about this,” I confessed to my older brother during a Sunday evening dinner with some of his friends. “But if Ryan can do it, I can do it.” I followed the lead of my youngest niece’s new husband, and went to a casino to play poker. Even after discovering my brother is a church treasurer and his wife co-chairs the church board.

Ryan plays poker often, and even had a seat at a World Series of Poker event a couple of years ago. But I didn’t ask him for advice about how to play in a casino. He might have challenged me to a game on the spot, and emptied my wallet.

The Kansas City area has become filled with casinos since I moved away 26 years ago. The Wyandotte Nation of native Americans even opened one recently, inside an old historic church. This seemed so wrong to me -- until I remembered how many Catholic churches have bingo nights.

I wanted to play poker at a famous-name casino, where the chances of being cheated were slim. So I went to Harrah’s in North Kansas City, where they normally have two poker tournaments every day of the week. And unlike the Columbus poker games, people actually will park your car for you -- and bring it back.

The Harrah’s casino in North Kansas City is NOT quite like Las Vegas. I learned this while walking to the casino -- when I passed the buffet restaurant, and found dinner Monday night cost $13.95. Maybe more gamblers win here than I thought....

This casino also includes a Starbucks coffee shop (as if free soda isn’t enough for staying awake) -- and a “Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill.” Now I understand how Keith led a recent magazine list of the most successful country singers. He does NOT simply go around asking, “How do you like me now?”

My plan was to play in the 1:00 p.m. poker tournament, so I arrived a bit before noon. Harrah’s required me to submit a photo ID for a “Total Rewards” card, because Missouri law states gamblers can lose no more than $500 every two hours. Sadly, the baseball Royals have no such limits -- and they’ve now lost eight games in a row.

My timing was perfect for arriving at Harrah’s, because the staff was handing out free T-shirts to customers from 12:00 noon on. So what do you know -- at least I could take home a consolation prize: a fine limited-edition T-shirt.

But when I reached the Harrah’s poker room, the tide suddenly turned. Because it was Memorial Day, the 1:00 p.m. tournament had been canceled. Isn’t this wonderful? They think this much of the people who died for our country -- the people who gave their lives, so we could blow all our money in casinos....

Funny thing, though -- Harrah’s didn’t care enough about our armed forces to shut down the casino completely. Cash games kept going in the poker room, like any other day. And there was no sign saying the proceeds would go to any American Legion post.

But the good news for me was that the 7:00 p.m. tournament was still on. And since seats can be purchased as early as 8:00 a.m., I reserved a seat for $50. Before your jaw drops at that price, consider something -- a seat aboard any flight from Columbus Airport probably will cost at least twice as much.

Hold on here, some of you may be saying -- aren’t you a Christian? Yes, I am. So I set personal ground rules for this casino trip. I would NOT play any “gambling” games -- no blackjack, no dice, no slot machines. In fact, when a roulette hostess I passed called “Six Black,” I thought she said “Six Flags” and told her that was in St. Louis.

A poker tournament is different from the “cash game” format, where people buy chips and sit down at a table with the potential of losing it all. The $50 “buy-in“ at a tournament is like an entry fee. You don’t lose any more money -- unless you’re silly enough to spend at least five dollars for valet parking.

So I returned to Harrah’s at 6:00 p.m., and had The Buffet (the name of the restaurant) before tournament time. If you’re planning a trip like this, take my advice -- go to Golden Corral or Ryan’s Buffet instead. The cost is lower, the food every bit as good, and the staff won’t forgot to bring you silverware.

Up the stairs we went to the poker room at 6:45 p.m. -- only to see the tide turn again. The evening tournament was canceled as well, blamed on the “Memorial Day holiday.“ Perhaps all the veterans filled the cash game tables, and I didn’t realize it.

“It’s not for lack of interest,“ the cashier told me about the tournament cancellation. I reclaimed the 50 dollars for my poker seat -- but now what was I to do? I’d already walked away from The Buffet without leaving a tip....

At that point I started doing a bad thing. I utilized human reasoning -- but in a casino, such reasoning usually isn’t logical and is based more on intestines than brain.

I decided to take 25 dollars in chips to a poker cash game. In one hand I had a pair of aces on the flop -- but was forced to fold, when someone else seemed to have a straight on the river. Then I lost my last chips to a woman with three 10’s. And she didn’t even look like a perfect ten.

With my losses for the day cut to 25 dollars, I wandered around the casino for awhile -- then stopped downstairs at a blackjack table. I watched one man with a small stack of chips slowly build it over several minutes. If he could do it.... well, maybe he was counting cards and not telling anybody.

I dared to claim six five-dollar red chips, since the minimum bet in blackjack was ten dollars. For a short time, I climbed from 30 dollars to 60 -- enough to reclaim my poker loss. But my human reasoning kicked in again. And blackjack doesn’t work the way mutual fund managers do.

(The blackjack dealers actually DO root for players to win. As one of my three dealers put it: “If you don’t make money, we don’t make money.” They want tips every bit as much as the servers at a Waffle House.)

On my second “all in” push of ten dollars, my chips were cleaned away. And this time, I walked out the door. The lessons for me were learned, and obvious. Don’t change your ground rules, even if the house does. And at $55 each, casinos offer the highest-priced T-shirts in the world.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

If it was real IV

Could we make money playing poker in a casino? After every ten live poker tournaments at Lil Kim's Cove and Club H2O, we stop to see -- by using the rules and presumed payoffs of a poker room in the Kansas City area.

BUY-INS: 70 nights x $50 = $3,500

While we've made four final tables in the last ten trips and barely missed two others, we've only had one top five finish -- a fourth on March 12. Presuming a payoff of $500 for first, $400 for second and so on:

First -- 4 ($2,000)
Second - 3 ($1,200)
Third -- 3 ($900)
Fourth - 5 ($1000)
TIES for fourth:
one two-way ($150)
one three-way ($67)
Fifth -- 4 ($400)

TOTAL -- 21 for $5,717.

We're not making double our investment anymore -- but we're still up a healthy 63.3%.

Let's figure it another, more "real" way. Since we regularly pay two dollars for a soda when we play (good for an extra 1,000 chips at Lil Kim's Cove)....

70 nights x $2 sodas = $140

First place at Lil Kim's pays $50. Second earns a "bucket of beers" -- or about $10, since we don't drink beer.

First -- 4 ($200)
Second - 3 ($30)

TOTAL -- 21 for $230.

We've made 64% more than we've spent! (Not counting tips to the server.)

But Lil Kim Cove's games are admittedly small, with 30-40 players. We're finding at NBC's poker room with 100-300 players a tournament, the going is tougher.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poker Night #70: Dumb Like a Fox

"I'm new at this. You've gotta help me out," the woman across the table from us at Lil Kim's Cove said several times tonight. She'd played poker online, but apparently was new at in-person live tournaments. She needed help figuring out chips, figuring out how much to bet -- and the fact that she had a bottle of Corona in front of her probably didn't help matters.

Sometimes newcomers can be the most dangerous players at a table. They do unorthodox things, not knowing any better -- but if you think they're completely out of their minds, you're asking for trouble. Yes, we learned this the hard way....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Q-J offsuit

The table is full, and we're late in line to bet on only about the third hand of the match. The new player starts the action by throwing out a green 500 chip. A couple of players wonder if she meant to do that. Yes, she did. We're not really sure, and decide to call. One other player joins in.

ON THE FLOP: A-10-6 (not really sure about the last card; it doesn't matter)

The newcomer seems to have trouble seeing the cards, but then bets 500. We have a straight draw, and recall she bet big and lost on the last hand with J-5. Based on that knowledge, we call. The third player folds.


The newcomer drops down and bets 100. We don't think she's scared of us; we think she's having trouble figuring out which chip is which. But slowing the pace works for us, so we call.


No straight, but a nice pair. The newbie starts to say she's checking -- but a player next to her senses a lack of logic here.

"You go from 500 to 100 to check....?!" he says. The newcomer, perhaps thinking she's done something wrong, bets 100.

"Raise to 400," we say. This is a bet based mostly on skepticism in our opponent, and partly in hopes of scaring her off the pot.

It doesn't work. The woman checks -- and shows an A-K to win. Ouch.

The newcomer was eliminated a few hands later -- but not until after a wild hand (which we folded) in which she tried to raise 300 on top of a bet of 3,700, which sparked a long loud argument.

As for our night? It turned out better than that one hand. An all-in bet at the one-hour break with K-K improved us from a weak 2,850 to 11,500. But then came a bad beat where we had A-Q, an opponent was all-in with A-J, and he caught a Jack on the river.

The final outcome: an elimination in 10th place, missing the final table by one hand for the second week in a row. (So close to four consecutive final tables, but yet so far.)

MINISTRY MOMENTS: For a change of pace, we took a promotional card to the table tonight. "Le Tour de Faith" was a series of messages last year at a Columbus, Georgia megachurch on the Apostle's Creed. It sat at the table all evening, but no one commented until we showed it to a neighbor at the one-hour break.

"What do you think?" we asked the man. "Do you have faith in God?"

The man said he did, and wished we had told him about the series back when it was given.

Then there was the player who admitted he was out of sorts. His mother died a couple of weeks ago, and it became so emotional for him that he "busted a window on my pickup" recently. As we left for the night, we told the man we'd pray for him. We don't know his name, but he wears a University of Tennessee hat -- so if you'd like to join in prayers for his comfort, mention that to God.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 28 final tables in 70 nights (40%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $12,430 - up $215 to a RECORD high! (We were as high as $12,504 in one session.)

NBC POKER TOTAL: Five-player games - 6-13-1-1-1. Cash tournaments - 1 final table in 9 games (11.1%), no cashes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Break it to me gently

We asked about "bullying" tactics at the poker table. For some players, this comes naturally. We finished second yesterday at an NBC Sports five-player game to a man who raised on almost every hand.

"Do you make a bet, ever?" he asked.

"When the time's right," we said.

We think some players overdo the bullying. It didn't work for that Italian wunderkind at the NBC Heads-Up Tournament, as Daniel Negreanu slowed him down and beat him. Maybe that's the key to success -- to take a reasoned approach. We found another word for it.

"Let your gentleness be evident to all," Paul advises in Phil. 4:5. Why? "The Lord is near." We think he meant the return of Jesus, which Paul seemed to expect in his lifetime. But if you're a believer, the Holy Spirit is so near He's inside you.

"Be completely humble and gentle...." Paul adds in Eph. 4:2, "bearing with one another in love." May this reflect your attitude as you play -- and think about trying that approach as you play.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heads-Up Week 5: Bully for You

So now everyone knows Huck Seed won the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. And he did it with a style which seemed more appropriate for pro wrestling.

The approach really started showing with a hand in the other semifinals, between Grospelliers and Rousso. "Elky" had 6-2 offsuit in the pocket -- in other words, barely anything. Vanessa had him dominated, with something like A-Q. But Elky bet big before the flop, then bet big when he MISSED the flop. Vanessa surrendered, based on what looked like a huge hand -- but in reality, Elky was "bullying" her.

Huck Seed did a similar thing, both in the semifinal and final rounds -- going all-in before the flop with marginal hands (like 3-3 three times against Sammy Farha). Seed actually did that several times last year in a middle-round match against Orel Hershiser, winning about nine pots in a row with all-in bets.

It's a strategy, all right -- but do you like it? Our thoughts are upcoming.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tilt Time to Take Time

If you're new to poker, a player who's going wild with his actions or decisions is said to be "on tilt." (We don't know where they came up with that phrase.)

We try to avoid going on tilt -- but in our first two weeks playing in NBC's poker room, we've admittedly done it once. It happened in a game last Friday evening, and we alerted the other players we were going to do it.

Why? "Sabbath approaching for me," we wrote. And it was. We practice a Seventh-Day Sabbath as presented in the Ten Commandments, from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

God comes first, poker second. Agree?

If you don't quite agree with the idea of a seventh-day Sabbath, check web sites of denominations and associations which practice it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poker Night #69: Freak of the Week

One more hand. If we'd only waited one more hand. We could have reported our third consecutive Thursday night trip to the final table at Lil Kim's Cove. But the director decided to play one more hand before combining two tables into one -- and that led to us finishing tied for eighth, after an all-in bet.

The blinds were at 1,000/2,000, and it was our turn in the big blind with only 3,500 chips left. We hoped the director might bail us out -- but when he said no, we had to go. A-9 was dealt to us, and we dared to push 'em all when a player ahead of us raised. But our opponent had 9-9, and the deck brought no Ace to bail us out. (It was a tie for eighth, because another player was eliminated with us.)

We sat at a table tonight where some strange things happened. It started with the first hand, when the dealer tried to deal the cards backwards around the table -- right to left, instead of left to right. A later hand took about four minutes to play, because of a lengthy discussion at the table with a cable TV employee about HDTV. And then there was this....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

This was almost the best hand we had all night. Our stack had been slowly draining due to chases after flushes that didn't pan out, but we decide to simply call. A few other players join in.


We check. A player to our immediate left goes all-in, with about 900. Another player calls, and we decide to do the same.

ON THE TURN: A small card (don't remember which one)

The two of us still able to bet check.

"I've got a full house," says the man who went all-in and shows K-3. Oops. He's a little early.

"I thought there were five cards out there," the man says after we correct him. In the meantime....


We wind up with top two pair -- but we think we're beaten anyway, so we simply check. The other player does as well. We would have won a sidepot -- except there is no sidepot.

"You should have bet there," another player at the table says later.

"He freaked me out," we admit -- and the other player in the hunt claims he would have folded, anyway.

MINISTRY MOMENT: No good opportunity came up tonight. We hereby claim the post below this one in its place.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 28 final tables in 69 nights (40.6%) -- 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $12,215 -- up $205.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player games, first through fifth -- 3-9-0-1-1. Cash tournaments -- 1 final table in 3 games (33.3%), 0 cashes.

We made the final table earlier in the day, finishing 10th out of 93 players. But we're even happier with the first cash tournament we tried Tuesday night: 23rd out of 263.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The big staredown

We've just come from a Yahoo poker table, where a player threw a 17-minute hissyfit. He refused to play and apparently kept clicking the "thinking" button, because he felt another player was too slow. That other player refused to accommodate him, by leaving the table.

The table's host was away "feeding dogs," as he wrote on his return. And he couldn't boot Mr. Freeze, because a countdown clock wasn't running.

We sat waiting pre-flop with pocket 10's. So after plugging this blog via chat, we decided to make Mr. Freeze think a bit. Here's what we wrote:

"Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud or rude. Love isn't selfish or quick tempered. It doesn't keep a record of wrongs that others do."

"And where did you get that fragging trash?" Mr. Freeze replied.

"I Corinthians 13, of the Bible," we answered. (verses 4-5, CEV)

"Oh." The man whom some might consider rude and selfish paused for a moment.

"Can I be saved?"

"Yes," we answered.

He didn't ask how. And a few minutes later, when the object of his freeze left, he quit the table as well.

Our pocket 10's won a pretend nine-dollar pot, but perhaps we accomplished much more. And oh yes, you can be saved as well. We'll be glad to tell you how; simply e-mail us for information.

After the Big Bucks

The NBC Sports poker room has a weekly tournament, with an $800 top prize. But you have to rank among the top 1,000 in "leaderboard points" to qualify.

We climbed into the top 1,000 Tuesday night, by trying the biggest daily cash game on the site. The 10:30 p.m. ET tournament offers a $35 first prize. We didn't quite get there, but we finished 23rd out of 263 players. Finishing in the "top 10 percent" earned us about 1,400 points.

There was drama right off the bat, when we had Q-J -- and A-K-10 came on the flop. Yes, we flopped a straight in our first online hand for money!

Three other players eventually went all-in, with hands such as K-K and A-Q. We dared to join them, even though three clubs were on the board for a possible flush. The result: a starting stack of 1,000 chips jumped to a dominant 4,000 justthatquick.

"Whew" was all we could write on the chat line about that.

Be Fair, But Firm

So what would you have done with David Williams's flopped full house?

We think he smooth-played it too much. Instead of checking, we would have put out at least a small bet right away. That would have allowed him to feel out the opponent's hand a bit -- and maybe scared him away. A bigger "I'm serious" bet would have come on the turn, after a little 3 showed up. (But we admittedly doubt that would have chased Sammy Farha off the pot.)

Ecclesiastes 3:8 declares there's "a time for war and a time for peace." With a big hand, it's time to go to battle -- but carefully, lest everyone else declare a time of peace and run their chips into hiding.

NBC's Ali Nejad is right when he talks about poker sometimes being unfair. Life is the same way, as President Jimmy Carter once said to a reporter. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't care about fairness.

Solomon wrote most of Proverbs, as well as Ecclesiastes. It was written in part "for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair." (Prv. 1:3)

Be fair to others, and they might actually be fair in response to you. It's an offshoot of that famous "golden rule."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heads-Up Week 5: No Fairness Doctrine

For awhile, the first hour of the NBC Heads-Up Poker Tournament was a downright yawner. Neither match went above the first round of blinds, and it was like a "meat loaf" hour with the network filling the time with whatever it could find.

But as they say, one hand can change everything. It happened when David Williams faced Sammy Farha.


FARHA: Q-10.

A bit of raising occurs.


Williams makes a full house -- but both players merely check it.




Now Farha hits a bigger full house. He bets $15,000. Williams raises to $35,000 -- and Farha re-raises. Williams goes all-in, and is visibly stunned by the outcome.

Ali Nejad summarizes it all by saying poker is NOT always fair.

Before we comment on this hand.... your thoughts?!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Too Good to be True

The trouble with Yahoo cash games is that they get your hopes high, only to knock them down. It happened again late today....

BLINDS: $1/$2 (pretend dollars)


Connected? OK. We'll bet. Several do.


A straight on the flop! A rainbow straight, at that!! The odds of someone having A-10 to top us seem very slim, so we're betting this. A few players at the full table join in, all the way to the $12 maximum.


Nice and harmless. We keep betting, as do others -- and we actually stop at 12 (limit now 20) so we don't rub it in.


Uh-oh. Now others are raising before we do. That's not a good sign, but we're pot-committed. We call and go the distance -- and sure enough, a player to our right hit a club flush on the river. (The only person who did.)

"Aaarggggggggggggh," we write. If only Yahoo had an all-in button, to scare people away from "river fishing."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Finally First

We went to our Thursday night live tournament with a bit of momentum -- or at least we'd like to think so. After five consecutive second-place finishes at five-player NBC Sports Poker Room tables, we broke through today and finished first!

The victory came when we modestly played pocket Aces, to make sure our opponent would keep calling and stay in. The board brought a 3 on the flop, then running 3's to give us a full house.

First place in that event earned us 875 points toward a Sunday night "leaderboard" tournament with an $800 top prize. But we're finding playing only a couple of times per day puts us far down the ladder. The real poker addicts seem to have much more at the top. Thankfully we're not addicted, and have a life outside poker.

Which invites the question -- which one are you?

Poker Night #68: The 2-2 Train

Did you ever have a night at the poker table when the same cards seemed to keep coming up? That happened to several people in our tournament tonight at Lil Kim's Cove -- including us.

Trouble is, we saw 10-6 several times. Not that good. Yet we fought through that, endured to the end (Mt. 24:13), and wound up with another final table appearance. We finished 6th for the second week in a row (this time without a tie).

A player to our immediate right had K-K in the pocket at least three times in the early going. But he didn't last. A woman across the table from us kept getting dealt 2-2 -- yet she was able to make lemonade with it several times. She told me about getting three 2's, then full houses. So when we clashed at the final table, the result was really no surprise....

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

Well, hold it. We're the big blind, and down to only 2,500. After waiting several hands for something, anything, to push all-in, we're down to a forced play.

IN THE POCKET: Q-2 offsuit.

If we had a choice, we would have surrendered that as well. But we've run out of choices. The woman across the table calls, while no one else does.

"Remember what I told you about getting deuces?" the woman says.

"Again?!?!!?!?" we ask, expecting to see.... "AGAIN!!!!!" Yup, she has 2-2.

"She's dead," a man next to me whispers. He shows me the last available 2, which he folded. Yet we still need help.

ON THE FLOP: A-10-6.

"I need a queen," we say to state the obvious.


"I still need a queen."

ON THE RIVER: A. The board pairs, and her second pair of 2's hold up.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Since today is the U.S. National Day of Prayer, our card protector this week was an "I prayed" sticker we saved from last year's event. (A rainout kept us away from the event this year.)

It simply sat there at the table without comment. But when a man named JoJo joined the table, we spoke up. "A happy National Day of Prayer to you," we said to JoJo.

"I've done that," JoJo told us. "Twice." Assuming he'd prayed twice already during the day -- good for him.

Moments later, JoJo told someone else he was "blessed." We suggest you pray with thanksgiving to God for the blessings He's given you -- such as poker winnings.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 28 final tables in 68 nights (41.2%) - 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $12,010 -- down $269.

NBC POKER ROOM TOTAL/UPDATED FRIDAY A.M.: 13,975 points. Check a separate post for big news about that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Call Me Buffalo?

So in the last two days we've played in four five-person tournaments at the NBC Sports poker room. And our record is four-for-four -- as in four second-place finishes.

We're gaining points with every #2 finish. So what do we have to do to close the deal, and finish on top?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Trying a new table

We just played our first mini-tourney at the "Heads-Up Poker" room. We had to download some software to our computer, and took a seat in a five-player tourney.

There was no limit in the tourney we played, and we started with $1,000. What a start-- as we won the first two pots! But then we lost a bundle in one hand, admittedly not realizing an opponent had raised substantially beyond the minimum.

We wound up second out of five -- but two of the players walked away from the table early, and were DQ'd for inactivity. As a result, the game was over in about 30 minutes. Once we get used to this look and format, we may well do better. But for now....


P.S. Who decided to make all the players in the room look like comedian Chris Elliott?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Heads-Up Week 4: Humbler Hellmuth

Did Phil Hellmuth go to church with Daniel Negranu or something?

After he beat Tom Dwan in a heads-up TV rematch today, Hellmuth declared Dwan the "best player in the world under 30" -- and even introduced Dwan to his father!

Quite a change from last year, when Hellmuth had that A-A vs. 10-10 bad beat and openly asked if Dwan would be around in five years.

Time can heal wounds -- even at the poker table. And even help you gain respect for someone who did in your best-laid plans.

James 3:13 says our deeds should be "done in the humility that comes from wisdom." Hellmuth seems to have thought things over in the last year, and showed a humble approach in today's rematch. May your success at the table (and in life) show wise humility as well.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Poker Night #67: Long Live the King

Either things were going to be really good at Lil Kim's Cove Thursday night -- or really bad. That's because in only two Yahoo online hands earlier in the day, we made QUAD 10's (on the turn!) and three J's to win a $200-plus pot. (Then we folded a poor hand before the flop, and went back to work.)

The answer: we did well, all in all. We gained several pots, and held on to tie for sixth. In one hand, our high hopes became reality....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Q-J offsuit

We're early in line to bet, and the cards seem high enough to call. Several players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 10-9-3 (rainbow; our memory admittedly is fuzzy about the 3)

It's an open-ended straight draw. A man ahead of us bets 600, which seems reasonable. A third player who's the runaway chip leader calls as well.

ON THE TURN: 4 (fuzzy again)

"Six," the man ahead of us says again. We decide to show some courage after a miss, so we call another 600. So does the third man.


The straight is made! The first man bets 600 again -- and from where we're sitting, he appears to be all-in. So we turn to the big stack, and raise 2,000 directly toward him. He folds. But the first man actually is NOT all-in. He thinks it over, calls -- and his two pair get burned.

A player sitting between the two of us sees a teachable moment here. "That's why you bet big early," he tells the loser. "You don't let him hang around to have a chance at the pot."

As we so often seem to do, we walked a tightrope at the final table. We doubled up twice in a row, once when K-K held up against other short-stack players. But our escape routes ran out when a player made three 10's to top our J-9.

MINISTRY MOMENT: It didn't happen until the final table, when we were almost eliminated. We went to poker night directly from work, and didn't take a "prop" with us. But then a woman to our left rallied from one gold 5,000 chip to about ten.

"Amen," she said. "Thank you, God. I know you don't like this, but thank you, anyway."

"I don't think God doesn't like it," we answer. "There are some Christian poker players, you know." We bring up Daniel Negranu, and repeat our note atop this blog that playing free games isn't gambling.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 27 final tables in 67 nights (40.3%) -- 7 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $12,279 -- up $199, only $13 below our record high.