Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A night off

If you're looking for our Wednesday night report from Lil Kim's Cove -- sorry. The owner said karaoke replaced poker tonight only.

(We may not be able to play there Thursday night, due to a crowded schedule. We'll see.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Who's in charge here?

We won a critical pot online the other day, when a key card came on the river. That led to this chat discussion:

Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($1025) with Two pair, aces and nines
Me: alleluia
Me: Lovely river.
init_2winit: amen
init_2winit: u r the king of rivers
Me: not me.
Me: Simply a child of a King.

After thinking it over, maybe we understated our position a bit. Consider Revelation 5:9-10 from the Moffatt paraphrase Bible:

"Thou deservest to take the scroll and open its seals, for thou wast slain and by shedding thy blood hast ransomed for God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation; thou hast made them kings and priests for our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

With apologies for quoting some old English, the "Thou" here is Jesus Christ our redeemer for sin. Revelation 19:16 declares Jesus "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." But did you notice the Lord makes humans kings as well? (And we don't making "a set of Kings" at the poker table.)

Christian groups debate whether believers can claim the title of "King" now, or have to wait for the return of Christ to take it. Either way, it's quite a promise. Have you accepted the One who paid the ransom price, so you can wear a crown? If you'd like to know more about that, e-mail us -- we'll be happy to help.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Poker Night 103: Giving Away Too Much

"Freely you have received, freely give," Jesus said in Matthew 10:8. We didn't purposefully try to do that at Lil Kim's Cove tonight -- it only seemed that way.

Only one small pot fell our way in the first 45 minutes of play. Like last Thursday night, the cards coming our way didn't inspire us at all -- and people were making big bets all around us, anyway. But we waited for our patience to be rewarded....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 10 hearts-Q spades

We're dealing. We have about 2,625 chips. And we finally have a passable hand to play. So we call, hoping to get in small. The good news is that a few other players get in without raise.

ON THE FLOP: 10s-7c-3c

Top pair -- but bottom of the betting order. A man across the table bets 1,200, leaving us with a big decision.

"I don't really have much choice," we say. "So I'll call and go all-in...."

"You can't do that," a spectator to our left points out -- and he's right. We said "call," so that word settles the bet. We've seen this happen enough times in tournaments to know that. Shame on us.

"I'm sorry," we admit. "I'll call, and shut up." Our remaining 1,025 chips stay put.


Our opponent is the same man who's been guessing at our hands in recent weeks, with a good amount of success. "You've got the 10 of clubs," he says (incorrectly) -- then mumbles, "I've got two pair. I'll check."

"Since you said that...." we mumble in reply. And we check -- yes, taking a poker player at his word. Dangerous, isn't it?

ON THE RIVER: Q (not a club)

Our opponent apparently gave away his hand, and now gives us a break. "I'll check, because I don't want to take your last." We also check -- and sure enough, he has 7-3. He made the bottom two pair on the flop.

"Thank you for keeping me in the game," we say to the man who corrected us. By listening to the people around us, we survived -- and obeyed part of Proverbs 15:10: "He who hates correction will die."

Our tournament death came a couple of hands later, when we were dealt A-10. "I'm all in," we announced. "I didn't say call; I said all in." Maybe we should have simply called -- because our 1,025 had a couple of takers, and they wound up with pairs while we didn't. Final result: about 23rd place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed a man our "Jesus as your Savior" coin tonight -- and not only did he agree with the message, he asked if he could keep it. We agreed to check with the motorcycle ministry which makes them about their availability. This could be worth the $8.50 it costs for a full package of 25 -- to keep on giving, you know.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 41 final tables in 103 nights (39.8%) - 9 cashes. Uh-oh, we haven't been below the 40-percent mark in a long time. We've missed the last table five times in a row.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,798 - down $37. (We set another personal record Monday, at almost $13,900.)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 29-34-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 21 final tables in 167 games (12.6%), 2 cashes.

Our latest final table came earlier in the day -- with an eighth-place finish, and one opponent challenging whether anyone really reads this blog. (He admitted he had not.) If you do, please leave a comment or contact us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Poker Night 102: Turn or Skid

After several recent online losses through longshot river cards, we concluded it's vital to respond to the turn card properly. If you have a good hand, don't wait -- do something to win the pot then and there. That lesson was reinforced to us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 10-7 offsuit

We're in the small blind at a table of five, and standard calling occurs around us. Holding 5,600 chips, we call.


We have middle pair. That's OK, but not too thrilling. We check, as does everyone else.


Aha! We have three of a kind, sit first in line to bet -- and it's a good time to bet. We throw in 500. One man calls; the others fold.


The cards are offsuit. What could go wrong? We bet 1,100.

"I'm all in," the man to our left says -- and he has more than 6,000 in his stack. Huh?! What could he have? Based on how the table has played, we conclude he has a Queen or a pocket pair -- still only two pair.

"All I have is 3,900," we say as we call.

"I've got a straight," the opponent declares. He has 5-6 -- and hit an open-ended draw on the river. To be honest, it was a straight possibility we never saw.

Should we have bet more on the turn -- maybe 1,500 or 2,000? Looking back, it might have chased that opponent off his draw. But we wanted to maximize our gain from this hand. Trouble is, we wound up minimizing it -- to the max. We finish 17th, on a night with only about 25 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We won a big all-in pot earlier this week at NBC Sports. As we recall, our A-9 topped an opponent's K-Q. The opponent then wrote we logically should NOT have called his big bet. That led to this exchange:

Me: I'm sorry.
roket88: i forgive you
roket88: this time
Me: May God bless you for a forgiving heart.
roket88: amen

Forgiveness -- it's a good thing. We think it beats holding grudges at a poker table. The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 41 final tables in 102 nights (40.2%) - 9 cashes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fool's Gold

We've said here before that poker is a game that can keep you humble -- sometimes in ridiculous ways. Consider what happened a few minutes ago in an NBC Sports poker tournament:

BLINDS: 30/60

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

We're doing well, with more than 2,300 chips from a starting 1,000. So we "double up" and raise to 120. The player next to us triples up, raising to 180. Then someone across the table pushes all-in with 780.

As other players get out of the way, we realize what "the book" says here. You simply don't fold A-K. So we call an additional 660. Then the man to our left also goes all-in, with about 3,500 chips -- even more than we have.

"How far-fetched is this?" we write as we call. Then everyone shows their cards. We have A-K. The player across the table has A-Q; we can't blame him for pushing with that. But the player who pushed beyond that has 7-9 of spades. What was he thinking -- that everyone else was bluffing? We like our chances.

ON THE FLOP: 9-5-5

Aw, c'mon! The man who bet too much has the lead, with two pair. But one Ace or King could change things.


Oh no, please don't tell me....


"Incredible," is all we can write. The man who pushed with two simple suited spades winds up with a full house, and takes out two players with far better cards.

Would this happen at a live tournament with big bucks on the line, as opposed to an online game for $20? We frankly doubt it, unless the player with 7-9 was practically out of chips and desperate for a comeback. But in online poker, players sometimes do illogical things -- and sometimes succeed.

"A fool utters all his mind," says Proverbs 29:11 (KJV). And sometimes throws out all his chips as well. Occasionally it works -- and it leaves us shaking our heads in disbelief.

We think it's better to follow the advice of Proverbs 13:11 (NIV): "He who gathers money little by little makes it grow." That worked with investments for decades (until admittedly last September) -- and is a patient approach to building a chip stack as well. What do you think?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Poker Night 101: Know When to Fold 'em

Hand after hand the cards were dealt -- and hand after hand, we had to fold before the flop. Not many promising hands came our way at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. J-6 of hearts brought success on the second hand, when a flush fell on the river. And you'd think this combination would have worked....

BLINDS: 100/200


Hey -- didn't we see this last night?! Yeah, and it didn't pay off. That can't happen again, can it? We raise to 600, and several people at the full table call.


Ouch -- this flop is potentially even worse than the one we saw last night. We're third in line to bet, and a player in front of us throws in 800.

"I started this mess," we say -- and call with two pair. A couple of other players call as well.


The leading man now bets 2,000. We've gained a straight draw, but we fear the worst.

"You're probably not going to believe this when you see it, but I'm going to fold," we announce. Despite draws for a straight and a full house, we guess the bettor has an Ace to top us. Then a couple of other players call the 2,000 bet. Wow.


The man who bet in the beginning bets again -- and winds up taking the pot with J-8. Our suspicions were confirmed, and we did well to minimize our losses.

Yet we had 7,500 chips at the one-hour break -- only to see a long series of poor-quality hands come our way. We folded a 6-7 which could have made two pair, but would have lost to a straight. Finally we went all-in with 3,500 and A-J -- and lost to a man with a pair of sevens.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Even before the tournament began, we told a woman at our table about a church convention we're attending in a couple of weeks. We'll keep the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles -- a festival which observing Jews call Sukkot (Lev. 23:34-36), and which Jesus marked when He was on the earth (John 7:2-10).

If you're interested in attending this feast, click on this link for a site near you. In the meantime, a happy Rosh Hashanah/Feast of Trumpets to all who are keeping it this weekend!

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 41 final tables in 101 nights (40.6%) - 9 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,835 - up $257 to a RECORD high! We've set records the last four times we've played there.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 29-34-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 20 final tables in 156 games (12.8%), 2 cashes.

If it was real: 100-game report

So what have we learned, after walking into 100 poker tournaments? When it comes to the game -- we're not doing that badly at this thing.

We mentioned in the last post that we've made the final table 41 times in 100 nights. We've earned money nine times, for first or second place. But in a real casino with a 30-40 player game, the top five positions would be rewarded with money. Using the rules at Harrah's in our home area of Kansas City, it would break down this way....

BUY-INS: 100 nights x $50 = $5,000

Our last ten outings went fairly well -- with a handshake-settled tie for first place, an outright fifth and a tie for fifth (two players eliminated at once). Presuming a payoff of $500 for first, $400 for second and so on, here's the grand total:

First -- 4 ($2,000)
TIE for first: 1 ($450)

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

Fifth -- 7 ($700)
TIE for fifth: 2 ($100)

TOTAL -- 29 for $7,267.

(We only realized as we compiled this that we misfigured our "top five" total at 80 and 90 games -- shortchanging ourselves! That should be fixed now.)

So in a real casino format, we'd make money nearly 30 percent of the time -- and get a 45.3 percent return on our buy-in investment. We'd love to know how this compares with professional poker players. But how many of them are willing to post this sort of information -- such as how many times they miss the money?

NOTE: Now that we've hit the 100-game mark, we won't be posting these updates on our performance that often. We do this to show what a Christian newcomer can do, starting poker from scratch.

Why Poker Players Should Follow the News


An African-American player at our poker table then declared without even grinning, "I've got a straight right now."

To which we said: "I'd give you a two-word reply, but I might be accused of being racist."

(We meant it as a joke -- but we're not sure he even heard it.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Poker Night #100! The Rulers Dethroned

Tonight was a big night for us at Lil Kim's Cove, although we never told anyone around us about it. It was our 100th night of live poker! But other than a couple of early pots, we didn't have much to celebrate -- as we finished 13th overall.

Pocket Aces and some aggressive betting won us one of those pots, and prompted a question from another man at the table about whether we had "Aces and Kings." We never answered him, hoping to set up another hand....

BLINDS: 50/100


We like to call them "Krispy Kremes" -- but we don't simply call before the flop. We raise to 300, and several other players join in.


One player is ahead of us, and he checks. We bet 400, and a few other players call.


We still possess the "over-pair," and now have two pair. But early this morning in the shower (yes, we thought about poker in the shower), we decided two pair is the most dangerous hand in poker to possess. It's too easy for opponents to disguise three of a kind. So when our bet of 400 is raised to 1,500, we smell trouble.

"I'm asking for it...." we admit out loud - but we call.


The first player in line goes all-in -- and now we really smell trouble. Two pair are showing, and it's too easy for one of our opponents to have a full house.

"I'm going to assume you've got it, and I'll fold," we say. Another player then calls the all-in bet -- and sure enough. They both have 10's, and split a big pot.

Would a bigger bet on the flop have chased people away? The way this table played, we don't think so -- as people made big bets often on relatively marginal hands.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We admittedly fumbled a chance at one tonight, when a man to our right was on a flush draw. "Can I have a heart?" he asked during the hand - but we didn't speak up.

God wants us to have new hearts -- but it's recommended in a section of the Bible you might not expect. It surprised us, in fact. "Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit," says Ezekiel 18:31. Read the entire chapter to learn why God (through Ezekiel) urged Israel to do that.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 41 final tables in 100 nights (41%) - 9 cashes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Timing and Scoring

We were talking about this blog with some relatives over dinner recently, when it suddenly occurred to us. Doing a ministry involving poker is a great deal like playing poker. A major key to success involves making your move at the right moment.

For instance, we could walk to a poker table and say, "How are all you sinners doing tonight?" It's one way to approach people with the gospel, yes. But it's a bit like pushing all-in with pocket Aces before the flop, on the first hand of a tournament. Is it an approach that draws people in -- or repulses them away?

To maximize your gains, most poker players probably would suggest handling a strong hand with a measure of restraint. Doing ministry at the poker table can work the same way. That's why we usually bring up the things of God with the players immediately around us, as opposed to a table-wide "broadcast."

We're reminded of how the apostle Paul did this in Acts 17. He was brought to a forum at Mars' Hill, and used one of the altars there as a springboard to preach about repentance and resurrection (verses 22-31). What were the results?

"Some began to sneer, but others said, 'We will hear you again concerning this'.... But some men joined him and believed...." (vs. 32-34, NASB)

To be honest, we've met very few players who sneer. And several have told us they believe in Jesus as their Savior. So which of those three categories describe you?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poker Night #99: Tired Top Ten

Three long days of driving as we returned home from vacation admittedly left us weary tonight. We yawned openly more than once, as we dared to play at Lil Kim's Cove. Yet our mental faculties apparently were still strong -- strong enough to come within one hand of the final table.

We sat at a table where players were willing to challenge each other, by making big bets early. For instance....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

Nice to see an early opportunity. We're second in line to bet with about 4,500 chips, so we raise to 250 -- but then we hear words of trouble. "I was going to raise," the man to our immediate left says.

"Sorry to spoil your fun," we say with a smile. That man simply calls -- but then a player across the table pushes all-in for 2,200 more. What do we have here? Desperation? A large-scale bluff?

In most situations, A-K is simply not a hand you fold before the flop. So we don't. "I've got to call it," we say. The man to our immediate left does as well.


We have no pair, but a straight draw. We check -- but the man to our left aggressively bets 2,000.

"You two fight," we say as we fold. That's our usual approach online, when other players around us at a table bet big -- especially if we essentially have nothing. In this case, it was the right move. The man to our left has A-J, with a pair on the flop. But the man who pushed all-in has Q-Q -- and three Queens win him a huge pot.

We had all-in moments as well, after crawling into the second hour at 1,500 chips. K-J led to a straight, increasing our stack fivefold. Then we called before the flop with 3-3, went all-in with a third 3 on the turn and gained again. But a push with pocket 4's eventually was topped by an opponent with pocked 5's, so we finished tenth.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Even before the tournament began, two across the table were sharing stories of gambling junkets. One talked about making a rule for the group, including "no praying or whining" on the way home.

"I'd think you'd be praying on the way there," another man said.

We agreed. "You should pray all the time." Then a couple of minutes later we asked the second man about a gambling bus from Arizona to Las Vegas. "Did you pray on the way there?" He admitted he didn't.

So what about you? Philippians 4:6 says, " everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Yes, it says everything. You might consider some matters too trivial, like the outcome of a poker game. And there's no guarantee God will grant you victory. But as they say in lottery ads -- you never know if you don't try.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 41 final tables in 99 nights (41.4%) - 9 cashes. Maybe if we had played #99 on 9/9/09....?

(No online poker was played during our vacation.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Poker Night #98: Kansas Comeback

We're on a road trip to surprise our older brother -- a surprise we were careful NOT to reveal when he called us during an online tournament last weekend. (Read about it in the 6 Sep 09 entry at The Blog of Columbus, Georgia.) A little Google searching led us to a free poker tournament tonight in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas.

"The Pool Room" is filled with pool tables (duh), but offers poker tournaments on Sundays and Wednesdays. We hurried in a couple of minutes late for the 7:00 p.m. CT game -- but room was made for us, and we were happy to find it. Despite some moments which made us look like a road rookie, we made the final table and finished fifth in a three-table tourney. (Labor Day weekend apparently reduced the crowd.)

Starting with 4,000 chips, we won a couple of small pots -- but we stood under 5,000 when a breakthrough hand came:

BLINDS: 100/200


We're dealing, and a player ahead of us raises to 500. We call, as do a few other players.


Oooo -- a tempting, well-disguised open-ended straight draw. The player who raised before bets 400, to "give us a break." We talk about him hitting the breaks, and call along with a couple of others.


Perfect -- only then, we are not for a moment. The player doing the betting checks. Then we bet 1,500, forgetting a player next to us still hasn't acted. We apologize. He checks. We leave the 1,500 out as our bet. Two players call, including the original bettor; all others fold.


Oh-oh -- not so perfect. The man who started all the action pushes all-in, with a much bigger stack than we have. Did he hit a full house with that Queen? As committed to the pot as we are, we're prepared to take our lumps.

"All I have is 1,075," we say. But we call -- and our "Broadway" straight impresses the table.

"All I had was a Queen," the other man admits. "I was stabbing at it." Good try, but not good enough.

We had 14,000 chips at the final table, but then we ran into a buzzsaw player. He pushed all-in for the third hand in a row, after taking two all-or-nothing bets. We had K-10 again, and dared to call a bet of 12,000 -- but he had A-3, and a three (!) came to top us. That left us with 2,000 in the big blind, and our 5-5 was beaten by another man who paired an Ace.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The Pool Room's music is largely hip-hop -- and at the final table, a rapper said something about going to church.

"Do you go to church?" we asked a young man to our immediate left.

"No," he admitted. "I wish I did."

"Plenty of churches out there," we answered -- and we think most of them would be happy to welcome that man. We mentioned a Sabbath-keeping congregation where we worshiped Saturday morning. It leaves plenty of room to play poker on a Sunday night.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 41 final tables in 98 nights (41.8%) - 9 cashes. (Oh yes, The Pool Room only pays $10 for the winner of a poker tournament -- nothing for the runner-up.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Poker Night #97: Bigger Isn't Better

So it turns out we were able to play in the Lil Kim's Cove poker tournament tonight. (We'll have to skip Thursday.) And it turns out we were at a tournament with only about 21 players, and three tables. But no, we didn't reach the final table -- finishing mid-list in 11th place.

It was a night when lesser hands seemed to do better than big ones -- or at least for us they did. Early in the match, we had A-K and lost to a pair of Jacks. But the turnaround came minutes later....

BLINDS: 50/100


We like to joke about not playing K-9, because it's a dog hand. (Get it?) But they're suited, so we try it. Several players offer the minimum.

ON THE FLOP: 3-9-3.

That seems nice -- but we've been burned a few times online lately, by three of a kind crushing our two pair.

A man across the table bets the minimum 100. We raise to 400. Only a man to our left stays on -- the same man who analyzed our betting last week, and correctly figured we had three of a kind.


It's a full house, with one card to spare! But a higher pocket pair could top us, so we don't overbet -- or at least we don't think we do. We offer 1,100.

The Lil Kim's Cove house rules reward a player 5,000 bonus chips for making quads. Mr. Analysis knows this, and now speaks up about our bet. "See, that tells me you don't have quads. You would have checked to the river to get the 5,000." (He's correct; the hand has to go all the way to the end.) "You've got a 9. You knew that, right? About the quads?"

We'd actually forgotten that for the moment, since we didn't have quads in the first place. But we say nothing, and eventually give a noncommittal "thank you for reminding me" answer.

Mr. Analysis then concludes: "I'll fold, out of respect for you." It's a small gain, but not the big one we wanted. (For the record, the dealer played out the hand and showed an Ace on the river.)

So smaller cards paid off there -- but they worked against us at the semifinal table. We pushed all-in for 2,500 with Kd-Qd, and made a flush. But then we pushed again for 5,500 with As-Ks, and were topped by a man with pocket Kings when no Ace appeared on the board.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The first all-in bet prompted us to say out loud, "Praise the Lord."

"You had to go bring God into it," a man to our left said -- we think half-joking.

"Why lock God out of anything?" we answered. And this strikes at the point of what we're doing at live poker tournaments in the first place.

"Your life is now hidden with Christ in God," Paul wrote in Colossians 3:3. He went on in verse 4 to tell a church congregation, "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

If Jesus really is your life, you'll let Him lead your life (II Cor. 2:14). And that means you should let Jesus be the Lord of every aspect of your life. Why leave Him out of anything, if His presence can make things better?

If you're one of those who lives with a "God-free zone," we invite you to read our Bible study about such thinking.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 40 final tables in 97 nights (41.2%) - 9 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,578 - up $349 to a RECORD HIGH! We've played cash games at Yahoo the last three days, and gained every day. Holding K-J and seeing A-Q-10 on the flop this afternoon led to a $254 straight.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 29-34-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 19 final tables in 146 games (13.0%), 2 cashes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Every Player's Worst Nightmare

Admittedly we're playing a little "fast and loose" at the NBC Sports online poker room this week. Another commitment will keep us away from Sunday night's big game for $800, so our daily tournament approach is "$$ or bust."

Monday afternoon it worked -- as we joined four other players all in with a King in our hand and a King on the board. The K's held up, our stack jumped from a starting 1,000 to more than 5,000 justthatquick. Then came a game moments ago....

BLINDS: 15/30


A nice start -- and we lead off the betting in this very first hand. So we bet 120, to see if any aggressive players want to push right away. (It happens often at NBC Sports games.) We scare everyone at the table away, except for one caller.

ON THE FLOP: Kd-7d-3 (club, we think)

We see no problem, and bet 120 more. Our opponent is not scared, and calls.


Undaunted, we press forward with a bet of 150. But again we're called. "Is he on a draw?" we wonder -- as in a flush draw?


This is where the "fast and loose" comes in. We dare to bet 150 more, committed from start to finish. But now our opponent pushes all-in! Uh-oh. Is this a desperation bluff? Does he have two pair to top our one?

We dare to call the all-in bet, guessing it's a bluff. It's worse. Our foe had two diamonds, and hit a big flush well before the river. We finish 223rd, out of 228 players.

Yup -- it's time to tighten up again.