Sunday, August 30, 2009

NBC Sports Championship #5: Don't Blame My Brother

It took a sit-n-go win at 2:45 in the morning, but we qualified for the NBC Sports poker room weekly championship tonight. And if they had awarded money for the top ten percent of the players, we would have taken home some -- finishing a best-yet 55th place out of 697 players. (Sadly, only the top three get checks.)

How did it go -- and how in the world did we get that title? Here's a summary....

:08 IN: We finally reach an online table, after our computer starts freezing at 6:57 pm. We're convinced it was another one of those "mal-ware" attacks to lock us out.

:16 IN: We have A-K, and a player ahead of us pushes all-in. "Daring us, eh?" we write -- and we wind up all-in with him. Our opponent has A-Q -- but a King on the flop wins us $1,720.

:22 IN: We're in the small blind with A-K. We decide to limp -- and are rewarded when no Ace or King comes up. The loss is minimal.

:32 IN: We play K-9 suited. The flop is K-3-3. Another player with more chips goes all-in. We fear the worst, but dare to call. Indeed, that opponent has A-A. BUT a King on the turn gives us a full house, for $3,270. "Alleluia," we write.

:42 IN: Our computer slows markedly, and a "latency" message appears on the screen telling us we're hopelessly behind play and need to reset. The thing is, the poker game is the ONLY thing open on our computer. We're delayed a few minutes getting the game reset, and return just in time for....

:47 IN: Q-K. We play it, and the flop is K-4-6. Our small bet with top pair is called. The turn is a 4. Our bet is called again. The river is a 9. Both of us check, and we beat the opponent's K-5 to gain $3,400.

:55 IN: K-K with cautious betting wins us $2,850 more.

Then comes the one-hour break, with our stack at $6,545 -- 23rd place our of 149 still playing. An opponent notes 500 players were dismissed in an hour, and we answer: "More pushers than at a drug addiction clinic."

1:25 IN: The first good hand in awhile comes our way -- A-K. A King on the flop brings a $2,900 all-in bet from us. The opponent folds, and we're back to $5,395.

1:30 IN: At about this point, our older brother calls from another state. We seek his advice with an A-8 before us, but he's admittedly a poker novice and doesn't really know what to do. We call, but miss the flop and lose about $1,200 to rising blinds.

"Bet you never thought you'd hear running poker commentary when you called me," we joke. Big blinds and antes erode our stack during the discussion, and then just as our brother is about hang up so we can "concentrate on the game"....

1:45 IN: We're down to about $2,400 with Kc-8c. With blinds at 1,600, we dare to raise all-in. But Queens and 9's come instead, and we're out.

We promised our brother we would NOT blame him for the outcome. So there, we didn't. :-)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Need Some Help?

A digital TV channel in our city shows the Retro Television Network -- and it's showing 40-year-old reruns of Dragnet every afternoon, right before dinner.

Today's episode caught our attention because poker came up. Detectives followed a suspected embezzler to a town 100 miles from Los Angeles, where he played draw poker at a card club.

The episode ended with the man confessing the crime, and pretty much admitting he was addicted to gambling. Harry Morgan's character then reminded him an organization called Gamblers Anonymous can help people come out of that addiction.

We recommend the "20 questions" link at the G.A. web site, if you think you or someone you know is falling into gambling addiction.

But we also noted the suspect's statement to police: "I prayed." Jack Webb's character responded with what he admitted was a guess about how prayer works: "You have to ask for the right things."

Sgt. Friday had a good point. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:3)

If you pray about gambling, what exactly are you praying for? Help in overcoming an addiction? The book of James offers advice about that, too. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

Pray to hit the jackpot, and odds are you'll come away disappointed. Seek wisdom in doing God's will, at a poker table or in the general challenges of life, and He's willing to provide.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Poker Night #96: Adding Up to Nine

What do poker players do when they're "in the tank?" Deep in thought about how an opponent plays a hand, and how they should respond? We heard an out-loud example of one player's analysis tonight at Lil Kim's Cove -- and it was directed toward us.

BLINDS: 100/200


Standard calling goes around the table. Holding "Gretzkys," we choose to call instead of raising.

ON THE FLOP: 9-7-6 offsuit

A top "trip" comes our way! A player ahead of us bets 500. We raise to 2,000 -- a raise that's a bit daring, because a straight is makeable from the abord. About three other players take the dare and call.


Two clubs now are showing. The player ahead of us checks. We're a bit concerned about all these callers, so we slow down and bet 1,000.

After one player calls, a man across the table takes a moment to talk pretty much to himself and think about this. "I know you don't have 8-10." (That would make a straight.)

"I don't?!?!" we ask to play along.

"No, you don't.... You limped in. Then you checked, and bet 2,000." (Not quite true; a player bet ahead of us.) "Now you're betting 1,000...." Our opponent pauses for a moment. "And I'm on a draw. I'll admit it. And it's the nut draw."

Our opponent keeps talking as if he wants a discussion which might reveal something, but we say no more. Finally he decides: "You must have hit trips on the flop. I'm gonna fold." Was he right or wrong -- all in all?

ON THE RIVER: 5 (not a club)

The straight chance is more likely now. We check. The player to our left does as well.

"You're right, I did have trips on the flop." Our three 9's leave the others frustrated, and leave us with thousands of extra chips (including 500 tossed in by the Tournament Director just for fun).

We were at 15,000 chips at the one-hour break -- but a couple of promising hands didn't go our way, and we wound up losing at the semifinal table in 14th place. With the blinds at 4,000 and our stack dwindling to 3,500, we joined another player all-in with K-10 -- but that other player made Aces to knock us out.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Early in the evening, the Lil Kim's Cove jukebox played a surprising song for a nightclub -- Josh Turner's big country hit "Long Black Train." We happened to be dealing at the time, and said some of the lyrics out loud. "Don't go riding that long black train.... There's victory in the Lord."

"You like that song, don't you?" a woman sitting to our immediate left said after it ended and the deal had moved on.

"Yes, I do. Do you agree with that song? That there's victory in the Lord?"

"Oh, I do. Really, really, really do." Good for her. How about you?

"With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies." - Psalm 60:12. It may not always happen at the poker table, but believers have faith Jesus will return to bring victory over death and the grave.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 40 final tables in 96 nights (41.7%) - 9 cashes. We should note live poker games may not happen next week, due to another commitment.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,226 - unchanged. (Haven't played there in 16 days; no real money)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 28-34-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 19 final tables in 139 games (13.7%), 2 cashes.

We came close to a $20 top prize in an afternoon tournament today, finishing fourth out of 137 players. Hopefully we gained enough poker points to clinch a spot in Sunday night's weekly championship.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poker Night #95: A Push Too Late

"To every thing there is a season.... a time to keep, and a time to cast away." (Ecc. 3:1,6, KJV)

At a poker table, good timing can make all the difference in the world. We think we had bad timing tonight, which cost us a final table finish at Lil Kim's Cove. The tournament was down to ten players, with five players at two tables, when the moment came....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: A-J of diamonds

"Blinds up next hand!" had been called by the tournament director moments before the deal. We're second in line to bet, with 13,000 chips.

Ali Nejad on Poker After Dark says when you have fewer than ten big blinds in your chip stack, it's "push or fold" time. We don't really believe that -- so we split the difference and raise to 6,000. A man in the small blind calls.

ON THE FLOP: Q-8-5 offsuit (admittedly unsure on the smaller cards)

We miss the flop. Both of us check.


We miss again. Both of us check again.


The small blind now bets 5,000. With 7,000 left, we think it over -- then fold. It's simply too risky.

We think we hear the other player confirm later he had a Queen. If we had gone all-in with 13,000 in the first place (especially knowing the blinds were about to jump to 2,000/4,000), we might have chased him away.

With only 7,000 left, we felt forced to push next hand with A-7. Two players called, and a young man gained 8-8-8 to knock us out in tenth place. We walked home concluding we handled the A-J wrong.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A loud clap of thunder was heard inside Lil Kim's Cove during the semifinal tables. "God going bowling," a man to our left jokes.

To which we respond: "If God decided to strike, you'd better split." This play on words has some Biblical basis; consider how God punished rebellion by Israel in the wilderness.

One hand later, we're moved to the other semifinal table to balance things out. As we leave, we tell the man to our left: "Remember, God is the REAL kingpin." Even over Jesus Christ, according to I Corinthians 11:3.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 40 final tables in 95 nights (42.1%) - 9 cashes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reward Point

You never know what might come up, when you play online poker. Take this exchange from the other day:

P [other player]: i missed the 25 cash due to door knockers jehova witnesss
Me: Did you agree with their message?
P: nope and they didnt agree with my pipe being lit
Me: Ohhhh.
P: lol
Dealer: flopblog [Me] wins Main Pot ($570) with One pair, jacks
Me: whoa didn't expect that
Pnder57: lucky with them high cards showin
Me: have you ever read their lit?
Pnder57: nh
Me: Thanks
Pnder57: wayyyyyy back
Me: I don't agree with all their points....
Me: but they're right when they talk about Jesus coming back someday.

No one commented further after we brought up the return of Jesus. So we'll ask -- do you believe He's coming again?

Denominations dispute the details of exactly how it will happen. But Jesus said this in Matthew 16:27 - "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." The Lord already was on earth when He said that, so that means Jesus is coming again.

If it happened right now, what would your reward be? Have you done anything spiritually lasting, to build what Jesus called in Luke 12:33 "a treasure in heaven?" For believers in Christ, that's a bankroll which isn't likely to drain away.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Can He? Could He? Should He?

Some people may remember this cute tune about Jesus from The PTL Club years ago. There's a variation of that in poker -- the "could-a, should-a, would-as." Or so this meditation says.

A minister in our city put it a bit differently in a Twitter message recently. To some extent or another, we're all "recovering grumblers." How many have you met at a poker table lately?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Poker Night #94: Ezekiel Saw the Wheel

That title was one of the first "spiritual" songs our junior high school chorus sang years ago. It's based on a vision a prophet saw in Ezekiel 1:15. "As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces."

Read the rest of the chapter to figure out what the vision means. (And if you need help, please let us know.) But we bring this up because in poker, a "wheel" refers to the lowest straight: A-2-3-4-5. And tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, we saw a wheel....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-3 offsuit

Standard calling takes place, and we join several at the table in this hand. Our chip count is about 7,500.

ON THE FLOP: 2-4-5

Wheel, wheel! A woman ahead of us seems confident for some reason, and bets 500. We're really confident, and raise to 1,500. One other player dares to call, and the woman reluctantly does as well.


The woman playing first tries to frighten us again, betting 2,000. There's no flush threat on the board.

"That's not enough," we say -- and raise to 4,000. The man to our left doesn't have nearly that much, but he goes all-in. After other people sort out what his total potential winnings would be, the woman who started this pounds her remaining stack of 1,850 chips onto the table. She's all-in as well.

"I flopped a straight," we say matter-of-factly. The woman defeatedly slams down J-J. But she could make a full house if....


Thankfully, she didn't -- and the man to our left couldn't match us, either. We take out two players, and gain several thousand chips.

Our chip count zoomed to more than 20,000 at one point -- but after a strong early start, the cards didn't come and we lost some marginal hands. We survived to the final table, carrying only 4,500 chips with blinds in the 4,000 range. That meant a push-or-else moment, and our A-K push fell short to a man with two pair.

Yet by finishing ninth overall, we made the final table for the third time in the last four live games. And we're guaranteed to be no worse than 40 percent on final tables, when we hit the 100-night mark in a few weeks. We give God the glory for helping us play well -- although we're clearly not perfect yet.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin to a man next to us tonight, and he agreed with the message. Unlike some players, he didn't curse very much either.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 40 final tables in 94 nights (42.6%) - 9 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,226 - unchanged (no play there).

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 27-33-9-4-8. Full tournaments - 18 final tables in 130 games (13.8%), 2 cashes.

We sadly had to file a report with today, after a "Trojan attack" interrupted our game for the second time in three days. Both attacks occurred at 3:57 p.m. ET. They froze our computer, then proceeded to shut it down and restart it with some kind of "Spyware 2010" program added. When he hurredly called the online poker room back up 10-15 minutes later, we could not return to our table. (A man at Lil Kim's Cove told us the malware seems to have that goal.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poker Night #93: F.A.Q's

We were prepared to write that today was one of those days at the poker table. In an afternoon online tournament, we busted out in a record-fast two hands -- folding A-J when opponents bet big and wound up with a straight, then sent all-in and losing with A-7.

Things didn't look much better at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. A big early loss compared with only one modest pot win left us with only 1,500 chips after the one-hour break. But then the rally started! A push all-in with A-5 led to three Aces. A big bet with pocket Kings led to another big win, putting our chip stack above 10,000. Could we keep it up?

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000


Wellll -- we were already heading the other direction. A losing bet had dropped our count to about 3,500 at this point. We call, as do two others at the semifinal table.


We're first in line to bet -- and with three Queens at this point in the match, a push is automatic. We go all-in. A man to our right guesses correctly that "you caught a Queen." His turn is coming, but a man in between calls.


Hold it -- that card-guesser hadn't decided about calling yet. The dealer turns the card around, but too late. Everyone saw it. He decides out of courtesy to fold, and even shows the 6-7 he gave up. His two pair wouldn't have beaten us.

Trouble is, it also wouldn't beat the man who called us. He shows K-Q, which means he has a higher kicker.


Change that abbreviation to Favored, but Annihilated Queens. Our opponent hit a full house, but we take comfort in knowing we rallied to finish 11th overall.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The closest one that came tonight occurred when the table talked about college football. A man next to us said Florida quarterback Tim Tebow "should have taken the money" and entered the N.F.L. draft last April.

"But he decided some things are more important than money. Like mission trips," we replied.

The man granted us that, but still thought Tebow should have left Florida after his junior season. We then disagreed about whether he would have been the top overall pick in the draft. (He said yes.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 39 final tables in 93 nights (41.9%) - 9 cashes.

WSOP, ESPN Split the Pot

We found this on a TV news web site today:

ESPN and Harrah's Interactive Entertainment extended their partnership with a new seven-year deal which keeps the World Series of Poker (WSOP) on ESPN through April 2018. ESPN has aired WSOP tournaments since 2003, drawing in a total audience of approximately 82 million US viewers annually.

Good news? Bad news? And is that big crowd of viewers due to all the reruns on various channels?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sugar or Smacks

Some people approach the poker table the way they approach a basketball game. They seem to borrow from the old book Winning Through Intimidation, and try to "psych out" their opponents by talking them down with semi or full-fledged insults.

This has many street names -- from "trash talk" to "talking smack." Yet when we visit a poker table, we take exactly the opposite approach. We think it's a much more godly approach.

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones," says Proverbs 16:24.

You can boast about yourself or put down others -- as some people seem to have forgotten Muhammad Ali did in his boxing prime. Or you can do what the apostle Paul recommended in I Thessalonians 5:11. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up...."

The latter approach is what many youth league coaches tell children to take. We're old enough to remember when it was called sportsmanship. Which approach do you think makes a poker table more pleasant and more fun -- and might actually gain you more friends?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Poker Night #92: A Tie is Like....

In sports, they sometimes say it's like kissing your sister. But when you're unemployed and trying to make money any legal way you can, a tie can feel a bit like heaven -- and it did for us tonight. We tied for first place in the early tournament at Lil Kim's Cove!

How do you tie for first? When two players remain at the final table, and a crowd of players is waiting for the second half of the doubleheader to begin. A man named Mike across the table offered to settle things by splitting the top two prizes, and we accepted. It turned out to be a financial gain from the second-place finish we probably were facing.

(Mike actually could have cleaned us out in heads-up play. With the blinds at a staggering 50,000/100,000, we posted the big blind with only 10,000 to spare -- and we were dealt 5-3. It should have been curtains, but Mike never called and allowed us to take the pot unopposed.)

For both of us, this was a final table of dramatic comebacks. We were at 15,000, going all-in barely above the big blind level. But then an amazing run happened:

* A-7 all in -- and both cards pair on the flop. We gain a big double-up.

* Q-Q all in, next hand -- and a third Queen falls on the flop. Suddenly our 10,000 chips has become more like 100,000.

* A-J all in, after a couple of setbacks -- and a Jack pairs on the board, to top the other players.

* An opponent pushes all in with K-J (or something similar), and we call with 6-6. Nothing pairs on the board, and we win again.

Then there was this hand, when another player was sure he had us....

BLINDS: 5,000/10,000

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 of spades

We have about 20,000 chips, but the blinds are huge. A player across from us bets even more than that, and we go all-in. A third player calls the higher bet, creating a sidepot.

ON THE FLOP: 9-9-5 (no spades)

Our main opponent makes a big bet, and the player who started the action folds. We turn over the cards, and he has A-8. He leads the race.


The Ace is still ahead, and we need help in a hurry.


The opponent starts to claim all the chips and a big win, thanks to his Ace kicker. But hold on....

"Don't I have a straight?" we say -- and point out our cards make 8-9-10-J-Q. Why yes, we do. Our opponent wins the sidepot, but we capture the main pot with a major escape. We praise the Lord out loud -- one of several times we do that during the final table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Where's your baseball?" a man to our left asked early in the match. We carried our candle again, as we did last night. After a hand was finished, we were ready to explain -- and that man made sure nearly the entire table was listening.

"I read in a book...."

"You can read?!" the man to our left joked.

"Yes I can," we answered playing along. (We'd just read cards well enough to win a nice pot.) "I read in a book that you're supposed to be a light to the world."

The table seems stumped, and doesn't really say anything more about it. We later explain to a young woman at our right that the phrase comes from Jesus in the Bible. She didn't know it was there.

"Do you read the Bible?" we asked her.

"Not really," she answered. We encouraged her to try it, in small portions.

"You don't have to read it all at one sitting," we explained. This may be one reason why some people don't read the Bible at all -- it can be imposing at first reading.

The man to our left happened to be the one we engaged in the "esteem others better than yourself" discussion last Thursday night. He also didn't know this was a Biblical phrase. But he added: "No one's lit your candle.... I don't think you're very hot."

He had a point. The candle sat unused all evening, except to protect our cards. Cigarette smokers around us never offered to light it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 39 final tables in 92 nights (42.4%) - 9 cashes.

This was our first "cash finish" (top two) at Lil Kim's Cove since early June. And the last time we finished first (sort of) was a similar settlement last December.

(P.S. We were the only player to make the final table at Lil Kim's two nights in a row. We're praising the Lord for that -- but that's a topic for another day.)

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,226 - down $69. (But we hit a personal record last Friday at $13,341.)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 27-33-5-4-8. Full tournaments - 16 final tables in 117 games (13.7%), 2 cashes.

That's another thing we're praising God about -- as we actually made TWO final tables today! The first was an afternoon online game, where we finished fifth out of 137 players. Going back to Wednesday afternoon online, we've made four final tables in a row.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poker Night #91: Candle Power

"Where's your baseball?" the man sitting to our right asked at Lil Kim's Cove tonight.

"That was last week," we explained. We changed "card protectors" tonight to a small candle with a glass holder. See if you can guess why we brought it, as we review a hand which had us guessing to the end....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit.

We're late in the betting order, and a man ahead of us raises to 400. Fine by us.

ON THE FLOP: 10-4-2 (suit not a factor)

We make top pair with the "top kicker." Yet the man who raised before bets even more now, tossing out 600. We call; perhaps one other player does.


The man ahead of us bets 600 again. Could he actually be in the lead with two pair? We're fretful, but calling.


Now we have two pair -- but the man ahead of us attacks again, betting 1,200.

We had resolved before tonight's match to play a little tighter. Chasing dream hands hurt us online a few times this week. But....

"I'm probably wrong," we say -- and call.

"I ain't got nothing," the opponent says. Oh yeah? He's a master of understatement, as he shows a 10-J. He has the same two pair we do.

"I have 10 with an Ace," we note -- and the kicker saves the day, allowing us to claim a pot on the order of 6,000 chips.

We only won one other hand from that point, missing out on a couple of others by "resisting temptation" and folding potential winners. But we held on through other people's all-in moments and a couple of timely "blind skips" to reach the final table. Our last straw came with only 4,500 chips, and 4,000 committed to the big blind. The play checked to us.

"I'm ALL-IN!!!!!!" we declared with loud mock drama. Our last green 500 chip went in, and we had 7-7 -- but another player had an Ace, and paired it on the flop. He knocked out another player with us, so we wound up tied for fifth place -- our best live showing in three weeks.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Do you know why a brought a candle?" we said to the man at our right who asked about it. "I read in a book I'm supposed to be a light to the world."

"Oh," the man answered. He was baffled by the reference, so later we explained what book had that phrase.

"It's in the Bible. The words of Jesus. [Mt. 5:14, 16] Do you read the Bible?"

"Not regularly." We encouraged the man to do so, saying he might find some surprising things there.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 38 final tables in 91 nights (41.8%) - 8 cashes.

This actually was our second final table of the day. During the afternoon, we finished ninth in a 43-player online game at NBC Sports.

Less than or equal to?

At a live tournament last week, we mentioned a player's comment about Philippians 2:3. He said he doesn't like to consider someone "better than yourself" because we're all equal.

In a perfect world, we'd all be equal. But this world isn't perfect -- so while it's nice and noble to consider the people around you as equals, we're really not. Some have more money than others. Some have health problems, while others don't. You can cite your own examples from there.

In most poker tournaments, the players all sit down as equals. There's no handicapping, as in golf. As an online poker TV ad says, we all start with the same number of chips (unless you play where we play, and buying drinks can gain you 1,000 bonus chips at a time.)-- but the difference lies in what you do with them.

All that being said, what's wrong with "esteeming others better than yourself?" It comes from a part of Philippians 2:3 we admittedly didn't quote at the table. The King James Version puts it this way: "in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."

The NIV Study Bible notes about this verse: "This is the mind-set of the person who is not conceited but who has a right attitude about himself."

To say I'm equal with you is an even-handed approach -- and it's something the Bible confirms. We've all sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). To treat you better than me takes a change of mind and spirit -- especially at a poker table, where some people can play "psych-out" mind games to gain an edge.

Jesus didn't play such games when the critical moment came. "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter," Isaiah 53:7 says. Verse 13 goes on to note, "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

While Jesus had equality with God the Father (Phil. 2:6), He gave that up to bear our sins at Calvary -- so that we might have salvation. We don't deserve it. Jesus opened the door for it. His crucifixion put us before Him. That's what Philippians 2:3 is all about -- and it's available equally to all who accept it. Will you?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almost perfect

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48, NASB

That's a tough standard set by Jesus, isn't it? In poker, it's even tougher. Sometimes the most perfect moments can fall apart. We saw this today at an NBC Sports online tournament....

BLINDS: 150/300 (25 ante)

IN THE POCKET: Q-6 of spades

We have 2,640 chips, and decide to give it a try by calling. A few other players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 7-5-4

We don't recall any spades falling -- but that's OK, because we have an open-ended straight draw. We check at first. But someone else bets $300, and we call in hope.


Perfect! And we're first to bet, so we don't hesitate to push all-in with about $2,040. But a player across the table calls us. He has 7-7. Three of a kind vs. our straight? "He needs some help," we say.


"Nooooooooooooooooooooo" we write in anguish -- like a wicked witch floating into outer darkness in a movie. His help came, and he hit a full house. Ouch, that hurts -- but at least we finished in 20th place, barely getting points from the game.

If all this talk about being perfect concerns you, maybe it shouldn't. Grab a Bible, go through our study on that subject -- and you may wind up comforted.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Getting down to business

This weekend at church, our pastor said too many ministers "soft-pedal the gospel" these days. Then last night, we heard a sermon on Christian radio which recalled how Dwight L. Moody tried to witness to someone every day.

So this Sunday when we played in a 10:30 a.m. ET online tournament, we wrote this comment: "So is everyone here like me, and went to church yesterday?"

Only one person responded with a "rofl" (roll on floor laughing)

To which we answered, "No really. Seventh-Day Sabbath, you know."

That person then wrote something like, "I hear ya. I'm just yanking your leg."

No one else at the full table commented at all. Perhaps we started them thinking a bit. But then again, maybe this started you thinking a bit. Good.

"Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other...." - Hebrews 10:25, CEV

Is meeting at a poker table really worship? Especially if you're not making comments along the way?

Friday, August 7, 2009

If it was real VI (90 games)

One of our college hall-mates liked to say: "Close, but no cookie." That sums up our last ten live tournaments pretty well. Would two final tables have been enough to improve our record, if real money was on the line? Let's check, using our usual standards....

BUY-INS: 90 nights x $50 = $4,500

We only finished in the top five once in the last ten, and that was a fifth-place showing. 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 -- 6 ($600)
TIE for fifth: 1 ($50)

TOTAL -- 22 for $6,667.

The return on our pretend "buy-in investment" is dropping -- but still stands at 48.2%.

Looking at it another way: we'd finish "in the money" at live events 24.4% of the time. At NBC Sports online tournaments, we're getting "top ten percent" finishes (good for money most of the time at a casino) 22.9% of the time. That's a closer percentage than we expected.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Poker Night #90: Resistance is Futile

Sometimes at the poker table, an opponent will make a bet that's awfully hard to turn down. Reject it, and you could miss out on a big pot. Take it.... well, and the same thing could happen. It did tonight at Lil Kim's Cove:

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

Blinds are high, so not many people are calling before the flop. Yet a man to our immediate right goes all-in, with 9,000 chips. What would you guess he has?

"This is very hard to throw away." We show our cards to a man at our left who folded. (This is free informal poker, where you can do that.)

"I agree," that man says. Yet if the opponent bet big with pocket Aces, we'd be in big trouble -- and we've been burned that way before.

"I have to play this," we finally decide -- and call the all-in bet. We have only 8,500 left.

"Good call," we hear our opponent say. Well, maybe not. We show our K-Q. Our opponent has A-6. It's an old-fashioned race, and he leads.

ON THE FLOP: A-9-3 (don't recall the third card exactly).

Our opponent hit it big. We're in that big trouble.


With no way of making a straight or even two pair, the river card (8) doesn't matter. We're out in about 21st place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The man who sat to our left tonight is built big, and likes to talk big. Yet he provided our best Christian discussion on a poker night in some time. The man joked (we think) about being all for himself in a tournament.

"Esteem one another better than yourself," we said. "I read that in a book once."

"That sounds real pretty," the other man said somewhat dismissively.

Several minutes later, we returned to that quote between hands. "Do you know what book I read that in?" The other man didn't know. "In the Bible." It's from Philippians 2:3, in fact (slightly adjusting the King James Version).

"Do you read the Bible?" we asked the man.

"Every now and then."

"The more you read it, the better it will become," we said to encourage him.

"But I've got a problem with one word," he answered. "Better than. I say we're all equal." Hmmmm -- how would you respond to that? We'll share our thoughts in a later post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 37 final tables in 90 nights (41.1%) - 8 cashes. After a good run for a few weeks, we've suddenly blanked in our last five.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,295 - unchanged (didn't play).

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 26-31-5-4-8. Full tournaments - 14 final tables in 105 games (3.5%), 2 cashes. We're earning points (equivalent to finishing "in the money" at a casino) almost 23 percent of the time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Poker Night #89: Bigger Isn't Better

Maybe it's just as well that the poker room in north Florida was closed when we stopped there. We wound up losing our proverbial shirt in free poker at Lil Kim's Cove tonight -- never winning a hand, and dropping out in about 16th place in only one hour of play.

We should have known it wasn't our night when we were dealt A-Q early, raised accordingly -- only to find they didn't show up on the board at all. Then there was a show of strength which blew up in our face:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Q-J of clubs

We're in the big blind, so we ought to play "for free" -- except the dealer with a huge stack of chips decides to raise 2,000. Our chip stack stands at 4,250, so this is a big decision. After pondering a moment, we call. The small blind player between us calls as well.

ON THE FLOP: Qh-10h-2d

The "small blind" man playing first checks. We have top pair, and decide it's time to take a stand.

"I'm all-in," we say pushing in 2,250.

"You started this," other players at the table say to a slightly puzzled dealer.

"But I had the wrong suit," the dealer answers. A few seconds of thought later, he slams down his cards to fold.

"725 is all I've got," the small blind man quietly says.

"That's OK," we assure him as he calls. At least we'll stay in the game one more hand -- and we could get a 5,000-chip "bounty" by taking him out.


These cards are flipped quickly, with neither of us showing.


"I've got a pair of Queens," we say.

"I've got a straight," the other man says. Sure enough, he has K-J -- and caught his open-ender on the turn. Ouch.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took an Orlando souvenir for a "card protector" tonight, but never could get around in the table talk to our ministry point about Walt Disney World. Perhaps tomorrow.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 37 final tables in 89 nights (41.6%) - 8 cashes.

Playing poker on the road

We wondered if it was possible on a quick getaway to Orlando -- and it was. Billboards along Interstate 75 advertised two poker rooms.

One was in Ocala, but we forgot which exit it was and passed by it Tuesday night too late to turn.

Another one is near exit 451, between Interstate 10 and the Georgia line. But when we stopped there this morning (after turning the wrong way at the exit; no signs help you), it wasn't open yet. Not until 11:30 a.m., it said.

Oh well -- their loss. Potentially.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

NBC Sports Championship #4: Stay a Little Longer

We accomplished one goal tonight in the weekly championship game at the NBC Sports poker room. We made it to the one-hour break!

Trouble is, we went bust in the first hand after that break -- improving nonetheless to 185th place out of 691 players. It's a top-30% finish, but only the top three players win money.

Here's a summary of how our evening went:

Hand 1: A-10 leads to a double-up bet right away, and we take the lead with a $430 pot.

:15 IN: We have A-A, then a third Ace comes on the flop! We go all-in, and double-up to the tune of $1100.

:22 IN: Our Ace pairs on the flop, then we gain a diamond flush draw. But the flush doesn't happen, and we lose to a player with three 2's.

:23 IN: The very next hand finds us with Q-4. It becomes Q's and 8's on the flop, and we gain a $425 recovery pot.

:35 IN: We're dealt A-K, and an opponent with fewer chips goes all-in on the flop. We call -- only to discover he has J-9, and the board shows 8-7-10. He flopped a straight, and 5-5 following don't help us.

:36 IN: Next hand again, and we have A-4. Lowered to about $215 in chips, we're forced to go all-in with blinds coming up next hand. Yet a 4 comes on the flop, and our pair of 4's somehow holds up. "Alleluia," we say.

:39 IN: Another nice deal, with A-J. With A-8-10 on the flop, we go all-in -- and a third Ace comes, for a $1365 double-up.

:43 IN: We have J-10, and a player with $400 ahead of us goes all-in. We call, then another player behind us goes all-in with more. We're concerned and bail out -- only to find 7-A-9-8-5 hit the board. We would have won it all with a straight.

1:00 IN: BLINDS: 150/300


We're in the big blind with $645. The man in the small blind doubles the bet to $600, and we feel compelled to go all-in. Another player joins the small blind in calling.

ON THE FLOP: 6-6-6

"Revelation flop," we write. If you're not sure why we wrote that, check the last few verses of Revelation 13.

We watch helpless, as the other two players in the hand check.


That's trouble. Someone must have an Ace, we figure, to put more than $600 into the hand originally. The small blind bets, and the other remaining player folds.


Sure enough, the small-blind had an A. His full house dooms us -- but we consider it an evening of improvement.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Face the Ace

We confess -- we completely forgot about the opening night of this new poker show on NBC until the last few minutes.

Our only comment: did they need someone reminiscent of a New York mobster serving as emcee?

If you watched, what did you think?