Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poker Night #88: Reading is Fundamental

We'd like to think we're getting better at reading our opponents in live tournaments. Wednesday night at Lil Kim's Cove, we kept betting after making three 8's on the flop -- and even though straight and flush chances eventually appeared, we scared away other players. Tonight's tournament brought a different sort of challenge....

BLINDS: 50/100.


We're in the small blind, and choose to merely call. Several players jump in for the minimum.


Make two pair -- it's time to scare. In lead position, we bet 600. A man two seats away tries to raise to 1,000, but is told by other players he has to double our bet. So his bet actually is 1,200. We call it; no one else does.

(The NBC Sports online tournaments don't seem to have this "double-up" rule; they let you raise at big-blind levels anytime. Does this vary from place to place?)


We're wary, so we check. Our opponent bets 1,000. We shake our head and call, fearing we've already been topped -- but realizing a full house still could come.


So much for that "dream boat." We check again. Our opponent bets 1,000 again, and really makes us think about it.

"I think you've got me," we say after a moment. We have about 3,200 chips at this point, so calling would put us in deep trouble. "But I'm gonna call. I've got an Ace."

"So do I," the other man says. Two pair plus a Queen equals a split pot -- and a sigh of relief from us.

"You knew I had an Ace, right?" the man asks us twice after the chips are split. No, we really didn't. We feared he had a third 9. Thankfully he didn't -- and daring to be bold paid off in the end.

We won a couple of all-in moments along the way, and wound up tied for 10th -- once more coming potentially within one hand of the final table. But with blinds at 5,000/10,000, we were forced to go for it all with A-9. Neither card paired, while another player made a pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our friend Harry keeps having his thyroid surgery delayed. He told us tonight because he's had heart surgery, he has to visit a cardiologist before being cleared for another operation. That appointment has been pushed back to August 11.

"I've had eight surgeries in three years. It's no fun," Harry told us. We had five operations before we turned 13, so we can relate. But the more this is delayed for Harry, the more we're wondering if he'll even need an operation at all. We're praying for God to intervene with his health problems.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 37 final tables in 88 nights (43.0%) - 8 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,295 - up $92 to a RECORD high! (We actually topped six dollars higher Monday night.)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 25-30-4-4-8. Full tournaments - 14 final tables in 100 games (14.0%), 2 cashes.

Have we mentioned FIVE final tables in the last two weeks? And all the tournaments had 150 players or more? And in July, we've earned "points" in the standings 36 percent of the time -- all for finishing in the top ten percent of entries. (Overall we've earned points 23 percent of the time.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poker Night #87: Amazing Card Tricks

It was a seemingly typical night for us at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. We won a couple of pots and gained ground. Then we lost a couple of chases and lost ground. Then we held on through an all-in moment -- and we wound up barely missing the final table, tying for ninth place when our all-in push with J-10 found an A-K on the flop, but no Queen for a straight from there.

Yet the memorable hand of the night came much earlier, and reminded us of why casino poker games have professional dealers:

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 4-6 (we think; don't remember completely)

We're not in the blinds, so we're not interested in this hand. We fold, while most of the full table calls.

ON THE FLOP: 9h-9s-3c

Someone raises to about 300. Three players stay in the hand, including the dealer.


The first player checks. The second player bets around 800. The dealer calls, then....


"Hold it, hold it!" someone at the table says. What about Player 1? He still has a decision to make. The dealer tries to cover up his mistake with his hand, but it's too late.

The tournament director happened to see all this. "You have to re-shuffle," he says. The King of hearts is pulled back and shuffled with the remaining cards in the deck. After a moment, with the river card already burned....


The table is amazed, as the exact same card came up! If the dealer ever goes to Las Vegas, he could make money in a couple of ways -- playing poker, or doing card tricks.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The player sitting to our left brought a "lucky" coin to the table tonight -- a 1942 Liberty silver dollar, with a small hole in it.

We showed the man our "Jesus as your Savior" coin. "That's cool," he says. Asked if he agrees with the message, he says yes.

But sadly, the man seems to forget that Savior as he works toward the final table. One hand later in the evening leaves him saying, "Jesus f****** Christ!"

"Jesus did many things," we respond quietly, "but He didn't do that." We're not sure if the man heard that.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 37 final tables in 87 nights (42.5%) - 8 cashes. If we had resisted temptations through three recent semifinal table close calls (including tonight), our percentage would be around 46 percent.

NBC SPORTS POKER UPDATE: The poker day was not a complete loss, as we finished SECOND out of 152 players at an afternoon tournament! Second pays five dollars -- not much, but better than nothing.

It's our second paycheck in 11 days from NBC Sports -- and in the 2:30 p.m. ET tournament, we've made the final table FIVE times in the last ten tries! Maybe we're starting to figure this out....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

If You're Happy and You Know It

"You seem to be in a good mood," someone wrote at our online table Sunday night.

To which we responded: "I try to be. It beats the alternative."

Even though we play poker to win, we strive to be balanced -- and have fun as we play. The Bible encourages believers to be happy, whether they're at the table or not.

"Whoso trusts in the Lord, happy is he," says Proverbs 16:20. It certainly is a better advertisement for Christianity than being 100-percent serious -- although there are times when that approach is understandable.

The Bible also speaks of having joy. In fact, it's one of the spiritual fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. If you're not sure why you should rejoice, check Isaiah 61:10 for some wonderful reasons.

Our point is this: being a good Christian example at the poker table can include being a happy and joyful example. Light, clean humor is one way to do that. You might be able to come up with many others.

NBC Sports Championship #3: Boricua Broke

The last week at the NBC Sports online poker table was wonderful, with three final table appearances and a $20 win. But in tonight's big weekly championship game, it didn't matter a bit -- and we went bust early with a bad hunch.

BLINDS: 20/40


We're the small blind, with a man named "Boricua" to our immediate right. He's already won a few pots, and leads the table. But he merely, and we join about five players in the hand by calling.

ON THE FLOP: 4-4-9

Small blind means we play first. We check with two pair -- but when the play checks around to Boricua on the button, he bets $340. We have $800, and this comes across to us as an "I'm boss, and I dare you" bet. We dare to call. No one else does.


We check. Boricus shoves all-in. Is he bluffing, and stabbing at the pot with a chip lead? We've already committed so much that we take the dare again. We call.

Then Boricua shows he had J-9 -- a higher two pair. We're in big trouble.


And we're gone in 15 minutes. Out of 696 players, we're #588. Ugh-ly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poker Night #86: The Man in Charge

It's a common concept in group psychology that where there is a vacuum of power, someone eventually will move in to fill that vacuum. At our main table at Lil Kim's Cove tonight, that was done by a man named Lou.

"You're slowing down the game," he said several times to a woman across from us who took her time betting. (The slowness may have been due to the bottle after bottle of Corona she was given.)

Lou insisted there was no reason to think about calling before the flop. One look at the cards, and the decision should be instant. "Trying to move the game along," he explained.

"Ship 'em! Next dealer," he declared after a few hands.

Lou's bossy approach irked a couple of players, and they told him so. We tried to be the obedient type -- and without saying so, we were waiting for a good hand to take a stand on multiple fronts. Trouble is, our best cards were marginal and other players raised around us before the flop to run us off.

Things were so bleak that we didn't win a pot in the first hour of play. but when you least expect it....

BLINDS: 500/1,000


It's the first hand after the one-hour "color-up" break, and we have only 3,000 chips. Deciding it's now or never, we go all-in. Three other players do the same.

ON THE FLOP: A-3-5 (all black cards)

It's looking bleak -- but everyone who still can bet checks.


Bleaker still -- but everyone checks again.


We presume we're sunk -- but then everyone checks. "I've got a queen," we say.

"I've got nothing," Lou and another player say. The Queen is high card -- and amazingly, we jumped from 3,000 to 10,000 chips despite it all.

But we couldn't win any other hands, and did well to make the semifinal table. We went all-in again with A-10 in our first hand there, and an Ace fell on the flop. But three diamonds fell as well, and another man made a flush to put us out in 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: At an online table a day or two ago, we had a nice chat with another player who finally decided: "You must be a preacher.... or a teacher."

"Wellll...." we wrote in response -- then invited the other player to this blog. We welcome that player, as well as others we've invited from the NBC Sports table. If you're interested in some preaching and teaching, we have a separate part of the web for that.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 37 final tables in 86 nights (43.0%) - 8 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,203 - unchanged, because we haven't played there.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player Sit-N-Go games: 25-27-4-4-6. Full tournaments - 12 final tables in 91 games (13.2%), 1 cash.

We made the final table in the 2:30 p.m. ET tournament today, for the third time in six days! We've scored a 1st, 8th and 5th -- and the smallest turnout in any of the tournaments was 161 players.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Poker Night #85: The Waiting Game

It's amazing how many religious messages we've read or heard in the last few days with the same general theme: waiting -- usually in terms of waiting on God. That word sometimes pays dividends in poker as well. Tonight's live tournament at Lil Kim's Cove reminded us of that a couple of times. Take this hand....

BLINDS: 500/1,000


A man ahead of us tends to make pre-flop raises often, whether he has a strong hand or not. He challenges the semifinal table here by raising to 4,000. We have about 32,000 -- some of it from a check-raise against this man earlier in the evening which cost him 1,250, and wound up putting another player out. So we decide to call. No one else does.


The man ahead of us tries to chase us away from three Jacks with a continuation bet of 9,000. Unh-unh.

"I'll go all-in" -- and we set out a total of 28,000. Our opponent wasn't quite expecting this.

"You hit a jack?!" he wonders aloud.

"Maybe I did...." We think a woman sitting between us finished the sentence before we did. "....and maybe I didn't."

In the earlier situation, three hearts fell on the flop and the man decided NOT to match our raise from his 900 to 2,100. He was wise, because we had A-6 of hearts and hit a "nut flush." But after thinking it over this time, he calls by adding 19,000. Not so wise -- because his best card is a 9.

"That's a bad call," another player at the table says several times afterward. "I can't believe you did that."

"Running 9's?" a different player suggests. Nope. A 9 comes on the river, but even then three 9's are not enough.

This hand and another nice pot win moments later gives us about 73,000 chips. But believe it or not, it eroded and we wound up in fifth place. We take the blame for that -- chasing a couple of pricey draws which didn't pan out, and folding another player's all-in bluff after we called 25,000 on the flop and turn with 10-10-7-7-A. (We were one diamond short of another nut flush.)

MINISTRY MOMENT: We're not sure who's choosing it on the jukebox, but the Brooks and Dunn song "Believe" came up again tonight.

"Do you believe?" we quietly asked a young man sitting to our left.

"I'd better," he decides. We think you'd better do it, too.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 37 final tables in 85 nights (43.5%) -- 8 cashes. If that impresses you, consider this: another man across from us claimed he makes final tables "about 80 percent of the time." Wow, we have work to do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who gets the glory?

We made the final table this afternoon at the NBC Sports poker room, for the second day in a row. We finished eighth, not first -- but the bigger story is how we got there, and how we responded to it. Check out the chat, beginning with us going all in with 82 chips left and the blinds around 1,500/3,000:

Me: OK everybody fold
killamatic12: sry i was on the flush draw
Me: Please visit my poker blog
gator103: nh
killamatic12: ty

(We have a 5, and it pairs on the board with Kings.)

Dealer: AZHOCKEYMOM wins Side Pot 1 ($2840) with Two pair, kings and fives
Dealer: flopblog splits Main Pot ($246) with Two pair, kings and fives
Dealer: AZHOCKEYMOM splits Main Pot ($246) with Two pair, kings and fives
Me: whoa still here! Alleluia
killamatic12: still alive LOL
Me: OK fold again
Me: pleeeese.
killamatic12: i got my favorite hand and im the dealer
Me: uh oh

(We're all-in again with 246 chips. A pair and three high cards show up on the board, and it's a chopped pot for everyone still in -- including us.)

Dealer: gator103 splits Side Pot 1 ($1354) with One pair, threes
gator103: told ya i get cut out
Dealer: killamatic12 splits Side Pot 1 ($1354) with One pair, threes
Dealer: flopblog splits Main Pot ($396) with One pair, threes
Me: woo hoo
Dealer: gator103 splits Main Pot ($396) with One pair, threes
Dealer: killamatic12 splits Main Pot ($396) with One pair, threes

(NBC Sports then combines players, to a last ten.)

killamatic12: lol STILL ALIVE
Me: to the final table!!!!!!
killamatic12: dude u made the final table LMFAOOO
Me: Hallelujah!!!

(We then go all-in with Q-J of diamonds -- now up to 396 chips.)

Dealer: gator103 wins Side Pot 1 ($6416) with One pair, queens
Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($2430) with Straight, nine to king
killamatic12: DUDE U R THE MAN
gator103: lol
Me: No I'm not. "He" is. But thanks.
gator103: hey flop still hanging
killamatic12: how does he do it
Me: Give God the praise!

(Next hand -- well, we don't recall it completely. But in another big showdown....)

Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($11060) with Flush, king high
killamatic12: THIS IS F*KIN AMAZING
Me: amazing.
Me: simply amazing.
gator103: wow
killamatic12: I SWEAR from like 80 chips 2 11k
Me: 82 in fact, four hands ago!
killamatic12: if it was n e other player i would hate them but since its my good luck charm its ok lol
Me: Did I mention I won this game yesterday?
Me: Bless you Killa.
killamatic12: good thing i didnt take u out huh

We won only one or two more hands after that -- but did you notice Who we glorified for a few hands? We give God thanks and praise for whatever success we have. Even if no one responds to it.

Poker, Politics and the Truth

Happy National Poker Week to you. Or did you even know about it?

A more fitting time for this might have been last week or the week before, as the World Series of Poker Main Event was in full swing. But this designated week seems to have another purpose.

The National Poker Week web site is focused on a petition drive "to help keep America's most popular game legal...." The home page has been revised since we first saw it a few days ago, to make clear what that means. It's a drive in opposition to the seizure of accounts from big-time poker web sites.

But the way this web site words the issue is quite misleading. In fact, it's in the "editable text" of a petition you can send Washington:

I am not aware of any federal law that restricts my right to play poker online....

In fact, the seizure of those accounts has not restricted that right. People still can play poker online in the U.S. Only they do it at sites which are free, with no entry fees. Readers of this blog know we've done it at two different locations. The payouts and prizes may be smaller -- but hey, we won $20 on Sunday.

We're not going to take a stand on the bill being promoted by the National Poker Week web site. But we will take a stand against how this venture is worded. It's misleading hyperbole -- as poker remains legal in free games across the U.S., and many web sites as well.

The promoters do what Acts 20:30 warns against, in the context of the Church. "Even from your own members men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." (We noticed the National Poker Week web site allows you to sign up for an "action e-list.")

At the surface, the effort exaggerates the truth about poker in the U.S. We're even tempted to say it acts like many poker players in a game -- making a big-time bluff. Issues can be pursued without going to such an extreme.

"I speak the truth in Christ -- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit...." - Romans 9:1.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NBC Sports Championship #2: Sorry, no sweep

We lasted a bit longer at the NBC Sports online weekly championship tournament tonight -- about 32 minutes, versus 22 before. But the only pot we won was an all-in moment with pocket Aces, after a couple of tough losses. (In one case, our 3 10's lost to a spade flush.) We improved to 358th, out of 682 players.

Ahhhhhh, but earlier that same day....

Our blog camera recorded the dramatic moment when we (flopblog) won our first major NBC Sports tournament! It took two hours 50 minutes for us to get to heads-up play. The decisive hand played out this way:

BLINDS: 6,000/12,000


We're in the big blind with more than 127,000 chips. Our foe has around 28,000, but dares to raise to 24,000. We clearly can afford to call.

ON THE FLOP: 6d-8c-3h

We have top pair, and force the issue. A minimum bet puts our opponent all-in, and he calls. Can't blame him: he has Ac-Qs -- but our pair of 8's is in the lead.


Can we escape one more card, to win it all?


We left our foe as friends, based on the chat we had. He'd only won money at NBC Sports once before. First place in the mid-afternoon game earns us $20, and him $5.

We also earn about 21,000 points, putting us in first place on the weekly leaderboard. That will only last a few hours, at a late-night game with $50 at stake will draw a bigger crowd and earn someone else more points for first place. But ooo, that feels good!

155,525 Chips

And even better.... FIRST PLACE!

We just won a 161-player tournament at NBC Sports! Our first tournament win there -- and worth $20 cash.

On top of that, we're in the Weekly Championship game there later this evening, with an $800 prize.

Praise the Lord for a small win. And we won't rule out a possible big one!

Now we'd better take a dinner break....

Friday, July 17, 2009

Just wondering

If a "Sit-N-Go" online poker game can be shortened to SNG, does that mean we can call it a Snuggie?

Music for the table

At an online game a few minutes ago, a man won a big pot with four Aces.

"Is there a nickname for that?" he asked -- as the table was discussing phrases such as "Broadway" for an A-10 straight.

After thinking a moment, we had an idea. "How about Gladly? As in the old hymn -- 'Gladly 4-A we adore Him'?"

He didn't respond, and we were eliminated moments later anyway.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Poker Night #84: A Beastly Hand

"If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." - Rev. 13:18, NIV

For some people, that number is something to avoid. At the poker table, it's sometimes a number to cherish. Take tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-6 offsuit

We decide to limp and call. Trouble is, the woman to our immediate left raises 300. A couple of players match the raise -- and since it's early, we decide to give it a shot.


We're first in line to bet, and offer 500 as a "feeler." The woman next door makes a continuation raise to 1,000. Other players bail out. We dare to call (after mistakenly taking back 500 from the pot for a moment).


Beware the triple 6?! We're more wary of our opponent. Is she holding her own three or a kind, perhaps with Kings? We check. So does she.


We can't wait any longer, so we make a hopeful bet of 700. The woman curses, and folds her cards with a thud on the table. We'll probably never know in this life what she had. But then again, only readers of this blog know what we had. (A couple of guys at the table guessed we hit a flush.)

Sadly, little went well for us after that hand. Hopeful attacks with good pocket cards fell short, and drained our chip stack. When we finally went all-in with A-J, a woman called with K-J and caught a King on the flop. She put us out in about 18th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We bought this lapel pin two years ago, and decided to use it for a card protector tonight. A man next to us said he liked it. It turns out he's the same man who supporter our "Jesus as your Savior" coin last Thursday night -- and he says he praises Jesus all the time.

There's a curious story behind that pin. We found it at a church convention in Panama City Beach, Florida in 2007 -- only the church convention didn't sell it. A "biker week" motorcycle sales tent across the street from the convention did.

By the way, remember Harry -- the player who needed thyroid surgery? His trip to the hospital now is scheduled for August 4.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 36 final tables in 84 nights (43.9%) - 8 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,203 - down $3.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 21-27-3-3-6. Full tournaments - 9 final tables in 82 games (11%), 0 cashes.

We've finished in the top 20 in four of our last ten online tournaments, including a ninth-place out of 241 players last Sunday night. Barring something weird, we're on track to play in the weekly championship this coming Sunday for an $800 top prize.

The Ivey League

As we post this, the World Series of Poker Main Event has just dropped to its "November Nine" players.

Most of the names are relative unknowns. But there's one big exception -- Phil Ivey. He'll bring star power to the final table, but he's low man on the chip list.

So check the WSOP standings, and tell us -- whodaya like? And is it important for the overall pro poker circuit that Ivey made it this far?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Poker Night #83: Sharing the Wealth

The late Skip Caray said about baseball, "Sometimes all you can do is tip your hat to the better man." After playing poker at Soho Bar and Grill tonight, we're doing the same thing. We're tipping our hat to a better Christian example -- a long-haired, tattooed young man named Eddie.

It was "color-up time" at the one-hour break, where small chips are put in stacks of 500 and traded out for bigger ones. We had 350 chips, good for only one green 500 chip. But prompted by another man at our table, Eddie handed us 350 more chips to make us eligible for two.

"Those aren't my chips," we said.

The other man then explained Eddie was giving away some extras, on top of his stacks of 500. "It doesn't cost him anything," the man at our right said; he'd still get all the green chips he had earned.

We don't know if Eddie is a Christian or not, but he did something you seldom see so outwardly at the poker table. Paul described it this way in I Timothy 6:18: " good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."

Poker is about taking pots, building stacks and eliminating opponents. (In fact, it was "bounty night" at Soho -- with a 5,000-chip bonus for taking players out.) But to Eddie and the other man, poker night at Soho is simply fun and games. Any money on the line at the final table is secondary, so they're happy to help out other players in need -- even though we had 12,500 chips at the time.

So the MINISTRY MOMENT of the night goes to Eddie, probably without him knowing or realizing it. He taught us a trick to use at other tables on other nights. One hour earlier, though, we tricked Eddie in a more poker-like way....

BLINDS: 25/50.


It's the first hand of the night. We're the small blind. Most players call, and we join them.

ON THE FLOP: 6-7-9

We bet 600 in the leadoff position. Eddie is immediately to our left, and he's puzzled. "You limped, then bet 600....?!" It's amazing how one playing card can cure a limping man. Eddie calls, as do a couple of others.


We turn up the heat with a "demonic" 6-6-6 hand, and bet 700. Eddie folds. A man to his left calls; no one else does.


Now it's a well-rounded "boat." We bet 1,000, which actually is risky because the other man could be holding a 9-6 or 9-7 and made a better full house.

"I've got to see what you have," the man says as he calls. He never shows what he has, because it lost to our full hours.

A good start led to a somewhat defeatist finish, right after the one-hour break. We had A-10, and bet 2,000 when an Ace came on the turn. A different man to our left raised all-in, forcing an all-in decision on our part. What we feared became reality when we called -- he had A-5, hit two pair and we missed on the river.

Final result at Soho: about 27th place -- much worse than we did online during the afternoon at NBC Sports, when we finished 12th out of 128 players.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 36 final tables in 83 nights (43.4%) - 8 cashes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ten-High Priest?

From the World Series of Poker Main Event comes a surprising sight -- a Catholic priest at the casino.

(We'll pause here, for you to create your own joke. There's probably a good one here somewhere.)

But seriously: a former member of his church is playing in the Main Event, and has promised to give the church a tithe of his winnings. Should he go all the way, that would come to about $850,000.

Sound absurd? Not to us. In fact, we tithe on all the cash we win at poker tournaments. "Tithe" means to give a tenth to God, and it's a Biblical concept. Jesus refers to it in Matthew 23:23, as He chastises....

"hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices -- mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

Jesus clearly wants other Godly issues to receive higher emphasis. But He didn't want the "hypocrites" to overlook tithing.

Malachi 3:10 challenges people to bring their tithes to God, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

Does that mean you'll win every final table? Not necessarily -- but blessings can come in many forms. (Pssst, including a possible tax deduction for giving to charity.)

If the dealer deserves a tip for giving you a winning hand at the casino, why not offer a piece of the pot to God? He's not asking for all of it -- even though He wants a commitment from all of you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Poker Night #82: Advice and Consent

Sometimes when you play poker, the good cards simply don't come for awhile -- and when they do, they aren't good enough. That happened to us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. This early hand will give you an impression of how the night went:

BLINDS: 50/100


We're in the small blind, and choose to limp in by simply calling. Several players join the pot without raising.

ON THE FLOP: 5-7-8

A great flop -- but what do we do with it? First in the betting order, we lead out with 600. Several players are unafraid, and call.


Uh-oh. Now we wish we'd bet more before, to chase the "chasers" away. A potential straight is obvious, but we feel a need to stand tall. So we bet 500, and a man to our left calls.

"You two are the blinds," a man across the table says -- then reviews the betting aloud. "I'm trying to figure out what you have." After a moment of pondering, he raises to 1,000. We fear the worst, but call. After all, if the board pairs on the river, we have a full house. The player to our left folds.


We hit the brakes and check. The man across the table bets 1,000, and we feel compelled to call in the hope he's bluffing. He's not -- as he shows a 6 to win with a straight.

"I should have bet more at the flop," we say. Several players then talk about the hand, and the consensus is that our bet of 600 was proper if the goal was to get people betting and take a big pot.

"The cards simply didn't go your way," the pot winner concludes. Amen.

That man later offered us on-the-spot guidance, when we were down to 2,500 chips with blinds at 500/1,000. "Might as well go all-in and get your money's worth," he said.

"Don't listen to him," a man to our left responded.

We decided right there to apply the principle of Proverbs 15:22. "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." So we poll the table for advice, not telling anyone what we have. Enough players suggest folding that we fold.

Result: our J-10 would have split the pot with the man who suggested going all-in.

Next hand, we look at pocket Aces. "What do you think I should do now?" I ask the man across the table.

"Fold," he says. Another player at the table says fold. One says call, while a young man to our right suggests going all-in."

"Sold! I'm all-in," we announce. Trouble is, another player hits two pair on the flop with Jacks and 3's -- and when nothing on the board pairs, our Aces are beaten. We finish about 27th overall.

"That's the last time I listen to YOU!" we mockingly complain to the young man on our right. It makes for a good laugh all-around. (But you know what? The man across the table was right twice in a row.)

MINISTRY MOMENT: We wondered last week if the jukebox at Lil Kim's Cove had any Christian music hiding in it. As you might guess at a bar, we didn't find any. But early in the evening, we heard a surprise -- the Brooks and Dunn song "Believe," with its refrain about finding truth in the "words written in red."

We quietly sing along to it, and find a man next to us doing the same thing.
"That's a good song, isn't it?" we say to the man.

"Sure is."

"Do you believe those words -- about the words written in red?" The man said he did. "The words of Jesus," we add.

If you have a "red-letter Bible," Christ's words are printed in red -- not only at the start of the New Testament, but at the end in Revelation. Take some time to review those words, and you might be challenged. The way you live might be challenged as well.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 36 final tables in 82 nights (43.9%) - 8 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,206 - up $42 (only one session played there in the last week).

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 18-26-3-3-6. Full tournaments - 7 final tables in 72 games (9.7%), no cashes.

Independence Day weekend was strong there for us -- with a 6th place out of 152 players on Friday, and a best-yet 5th out of 62 on Sunday afternoon. We figure we've earned "poker points" in about 15 percent of our games.

Still not the national pastime

"So are any of you following the World Series?" we asked our poker table Wednesday night.

No one knew what we were talking about. "They're not playing that right now," an older woman said.

We mean poker, not baseball. That series in Las Vegas apparently has some P.R. work to do.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Poker Night #81: Am I Bothering You?

"How are you tonight?" we said to a man joining us to our right as Wednesday night poker began tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.

"Irritated," the man said. This was the same man who expressed his irritation toward us one week before (Poker Night #79) because we brought a Canadian flag to the table. We tried to tell him we brought a U.S. flag on Thursday night which he missed, but that didn't help.

The Iraq combat veteran later explained irritations had built up for him all day. In one early hand, we didn't help matters....

BLINDS: 25/50.

IN THE POCKET: K-5 of hearts.

The night is young, the tournament director has given everyone 5,000 extra chips simply for showing up (starting stacks 10,000), so plenty of people call -- including us.

ON THE FLOP: K-9-7 (no hearts).

The action checks to us, and we bet 200 with top pair. A couple of people fold, but the irritated vet calls.


Play checks to us again, and we offer 200 more. A couple more players fold, but our veteran calls again.


Both our cards have paired, so now we bet 600. Everyone remaining in the hand folds except the veteran, who calls once more.

"Kings and 3's," he says and shows.

"Good," we say quietly. "Kings and 5's."

The pot is ours. The veteran seems reluctant to congratulate us: "Lucked out on the river." Do you notice poker players never talk about "lucking out" on the turn?

We win the next pot as well in the same way, then turn to the veteran. "There are some nice rivers in Columbus." We sailed on rivers early, but cooled later -- yet we wound up at the final table and finished eighth on the night.

The second "color-up" break caught us at a terrible time, as we were left with three gold 5,000 chips coming to a 5,000/10,000 big blind. Facing 10-9 of clubs, we went all-in when Q-10-8 came on the flop -- but the man to our immediate right had a Queen, and it held up.

MINISTRY MOMENT: It turns out Harry (also mentioned here last Wednesday) is not yet in the hospital. He sees a doctor next Monday, then will check in for what he calls "minor" thyroid surgery.

We told Harry we had a group of people pray for him, during a Tuesday night telephone conference call Bible study. Harry seemed to really appreciate that. We'd ask you to keep praying for him as well.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 36 final tables in 81 nights (44.4%) - 8 cashes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

If it was real V (80 games)

We think our live tournament results are getting stronger because we're playing NBC Sports online tournaments on a regular basis. In fact, results are better at both -- with three final tables in our last seven at NBC Sports, and a record high 5th Sunday afternoon (out of 62 players).

(There's a Biblical principle that comes to mind here. Proverbs 27:17 talks about "iron sharpening iron" -- and while that is used in relationship to friends, it probably can work for one game improving another as well.)

This regular feature measures live match results -- and in our ten outings, we've made SEVEN final tables! Using our standard from a Kansas City area casino....

BUY-INS: 80 nights x $50 = $4,000

Four of the seven final tables resulted in top five finishes -- one of them really a tie for fifth, due to two all-in players being eliminated at once. Presuming a payoff of $500 for first, $400 for second and so on:

First -- 4 ($2,000)
Second - 4 ($1,600)
Third -- 4 ($1,200)
Fourth - 5 ($1,000)
TIES for fourth:
one two-way ($150)
one three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 5 ($500)
TIE for fifth: 1 ($50)

TOTAL -- 21 for $6,567.

The return on our pretend "buy-in investment" is now at 64.2%.

As for applying this to the NBC Sports online games -- uhhhhh, right now we're thankful we only invest points there. But we're improving.

Their Main Event, and ours

It's arguably the biggest week of the year in professional poker. The World Series of Poker "Main Event" is underway in Las Vegas.

Why aren't we playing in it? Two reasons:

1) The buy-in. We can't really afford to throw $10,000 in the pot right now.

2) The tournament schedule. Advance beyond the first two days of play, and you'll probably have to play on Friday night and Saturday.

Those days are holy time to us -- and more importantly, to God. "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy," God directs in the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:12). We'd be working toward winning prize money on the seventh-day Sabbath -- and verse 13 says we're to labor and work only six days of the week.

"We must obey God rather than men," the New Testament apostles said in Acts 5:29. And so that's what we do, too.

How interesting that as the WSOP Main Event occurs, a Sabbath-keeping denomination is holding its biennial conference in south Texas. Take your own playing cards, and you might have an even better time. It certainly would be more spiritually uplifting -- and perhaps less expensive at that.

By the way, we didn't know until we checked the schedule that there's a Senior World Championship as part of the WSOP (Event 43). With a Monday-Wednesday schedule and a smaller buy-in, we could have played in that one. But we're not sure we're "senior" enough to qualify yet.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Remember as you play....

"Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others." -- Psalm 52:7

A poker tournament is a bit like the board game Risk -- you know, the "game of world conquest." The objective is to build the biggest chip stack you can, and knock out opponents as you do.

But we've seen occasions when big stacks can crumble, in a matter of only a few hands. In fact, it happened to us Wednesday in an NBC Sports online tournament. We won $11,000 in chips in a single pot. But when we tried to use our big stack to eliminate another player, they made a better hand and doubled up against us.

It reached the point where we made a bold $5,000 bet with two pair on the turn -- only to be stunned by two opponents who both had Ace-high straights. We fell from $13,000-plus to zero in a hurry.

Looking back, we think we were overconfident for a moment -- the wrong moment, which cost us badly. In life, overconfidence might work for a while. But sooner or later, it's bound to bite you.

So thank God if you're wealthy -- whether in your 401(k) or at the table. Then display what Paul calls "confidence in the Lord" (II Thes. 3:4), not in your bankroll. The changes in the world's economy over the last 12 months should have taught all of us that lesson. Have you learned it -- and are you applying it?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Poker Night #80: The Man With a Slow Hand

People who only play poker online might go crazy at some live tournaments. The pace at times can be soooooooo slow, as some people simply seeking a good time seem more interested in talking than playing -- and admittedly some players are older, so they don't move as quickly.

At Lil Kim's Cove tonight, one man at our table pointed out to another that the first 15-minute segment of the game had only four hands played. But one of them was memorable....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: We honestly don't remember -- but it was uninspiring, so we folded. Let's say 3-6 offsuit. Several players call, since the game is only a few hands old.

ON THE FLOP: 7c-Qc-Ac.

A young man "one off the button" bets 1,500. (Everyone starts with 5,000.) A man to the dealer's left, who's older and doesn't move so well, calls. Everyone else bails out. After a moment....


The older man checks. The young man bets 1,500 again. The older man ponders it carefully for a minute, but finally calls.


Three sevens are on the board, but the young man is undaunted. "All in," he decides with about 5,500 chips left. The older man waits for him to add up the chips -- then calls.

"I had a flush on the flop," the young man says. He shows 10-6 of clubs.

The dealer turns over the 7 of spades. He also has 8c -- but he hit quads on the river!

"Ouch! That's gotta hurt," we say to offer some sympathy.

As they say around the table, the older man "won it all:" a big stack of chips, a 5,000-chip bonus for hitting quads and the cards for dealing. But the big winner decided to slowly sort out all those chips first, and give the rest of us a quick verbal review of the hand. Perhaps he was relishing the moment, but it must have been three minutes before he bothers to shuffle the cards for the next hand.

That man still had a big stack of chips when we met our end in 17th place, barely reaching the semifinal table. We won a couple of pots, but lost a lot in a "two pair vs. three of a kind" matchup and a "low flush vs. high flush" clash.

The ending was a tough one as well, as we called with A-2 and went all-in when 3-4-5 of spades came on the flop. But we didn't have a spade, and another man had two of them. We were beaten all the way.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our "Jesus as your Savior" coin was popular tonight. Players on both sides of us wanted to look at it, without our bringing it up.

A man to our left agreed, "That's more valuable than any coin." In fact, he wanted us to give the coin to him -- but we only have that one, and it's become a very good witnessing tool.

A man to our right also agreed with the message. "I'm a Christian. I became saved on Easter Sunday three years ago." But he's admittedly wary of attending any local churches. "All most of them seem to be interested in is your money." An interesting comment at a poker table, isn't it?!

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 35 final tables in 80 nights (43.8%) - 8 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,164 - down $47. (We set a new record high Tuesday, at $13,243.)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player games - 17-23-2-3-5. Cash/point tournaments - 5 final tables in 63 games (7.9%), no cashes.

We had our best finish there Tuesday afternoon, finishing 6th in a 50-player match.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Poker Night #79: Yes, We CAN

"Happy Canada Day," we said throughout the day -- to our neighbor (who visited Vancouver years ago), in an online tournament (to hardly any response) and in tonight's live game at Lil Kim's Cove. We actually took a Canadian flag we bought at a church convention in Toronto in the 1990s, and waved it a little when we won pots.

"That's really irritating me," a man finally admitted. Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised. He's a Fort Benning soldier and an Iraq veteran, who says Canadians never were deployed to Iraq. They were sent to Afghanistan, he said. He seemed reluctant to admit the duty there was every bit as difficult.

The soldier wound up joining us at the final table. He went out early there, while we held on to finish third -- good, but one place shy of the prize money. We survived one all-in bet with the field cut to three, but not the second one:

BLINDS: 5,000/10,000


We're dealing -- and with three players to go, that means we're first up to bet. Not expecting anything better to come, we push our stack of 20,000 chips all in. The player to our left, who's become known for betting big with almost anything, calls. The player to our right raises and puts himself all-in with about 25,000 more! The man to the left calls, to potentially take us both out and win the match.

Some players at Lil Kim's Cove are reluctant to flip over their cards at a moment like this, for reasons we don't quite understand. We show first. The man to the right then shows A-A. "I'm probably about to get busted," he says with skepticism. The man to the left only has 9-8.

ON THE FLOP: 10-Q-6.

One down, one to go.


Swing and a miss.

ON THE RIVER: 8. The Aces hold up, while we don't.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We've told you recently about Harry, one of the better players we face at live tournaments. He told us tonight he'll probably go into the hospital next week for voluntary thyroid surgery.

Harry is well aware of how things can go wrong at a hospital. He says he wound up spending seven months in care last year, including one month at a hospice. We told Harry we'd pray for him. Will you join us?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 35 final tables in 79 nights (44.3%) - 8 cashes. (Seven final tables in the last nine!)