Friday, October 30, 2009

But who's counting?

An interesting dispute came up at our poker table Thursday night -- and we're not sure what the right answer is. Perhaps you do.

A woman bet 2,000 (as best we recall). A man then asked her for a chip count.

"I don't have to give you that," the woman said.

"Yes, you do," the man answered. "I want to decide whether to raise."

The woman then displayed her chip stack -- a very unsorted stack, since she had won the previous pot moments before.

"All I have to do is show them to you," she maintained. "Count them for yourself."

She called the display of the chips a "courtesy" to her opponent. What do you think of this? Our answer will come in an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poker Night 109: Stumbling at the Heights

It's become clear to us in recent weeks that we need to improve our handling of late-game situations -- where blinds are high, players are fewer and you can't really wait for a big hand to come.

Thursday night at Lil Kim's Cove was an example. We had 8,500 chips after the one-hour break, but wound up folding two promising hands when the flop went against us. That led to this....

BLINDS: 500/1000

IN THE POCKET: 10-9 of clubs

With 4,500 chips left, we think for a moment about what to do with this. Hoping to get in small, we call. A couple of other players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 10h-9h-5d.

Not a perfect flop -- but at this point, it seems very good for us. A player ahead of us checks, then we push all-in with 3,500 left. A man to our immediate left calls. Everyone else folds.

"I have two pair," I say turning the cards over.

"I don't care," our opponent says. "I'm about to get you on the turn."

"Are you?" we say quietly.

ON THE TURN: Jack of hearts.

"There it is," our opponent says -- and he shows two hearts. He has an overpowering flush.

"Unless I can get a full house on the river," we note quietly.

ON THE RIVER: 6 of hearts.

Not tonight. We're out in about 26th place.

By the way, the man we thought pulled the scary stunt outside Soho confessed to it as we set up the poker tables tonight. "I was just kidding," he explained. We told him about our reasoning, which is posted below this. The man assured us he's NOT a criminal, but never really apologized.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When we win pots online, we increasingly are typing in three letters: PTL. So far, no one has asked for an explanation.

If you need one, think back about 20 years -- to the heyday of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Their "PTL Club" on television had some excesses, but they wound up being 20 years ahead of the texting wave. The letters stand for "Praise the Lord."

That phrase appears often in the Psalms. Consider this example from Psalm 135:3. "Praise the Lord: for the Lord is good...." If you have a good game at the poker table, or a good day in any walk of life, don't be afraid to give God praise for it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 45 final tables in 109 nights (41.3%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - up $18.

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 31-36-10-6-8. Full tournaments - 24 final tables in 205 games (11.7%), 2 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 1-1-0-0-0. No full tournaments there yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scared off my game

As we drove to a poker tournament tonight, two ideas were bouncing in our head -- fear and fleeing. The Bible seems to be against the former, and in favor of the latter. Yet some would say we wound up doing both.

We walked down the strip mall sidewalk toward the door of Soho Bar and Grill. "You coming in?" a man at the door asked.

We were, so we correctly guessed what that meant. We pulled out our wallet, to show a legal ID. "Sweet," the man said.

"NO! You can't play tonight! You can't play tonight!" Someone from behind reached around and grabbed us.

"OK, I'll leave." We did a 180-degree turn and walked the other way -- away from the door of Soho, never stepping inside.

"Come back," a voice behind us said -- the voice of the man who had grabbed us. "I was kidding. Please stop!"

We didn't. The voice sounded familiar, as a man who plays with us often. But without even turning around to see who was talking, we went directly to the car, pulled out and drove home -- not stopping until we reached home to post this.

It's a sad truth that most free poker tournaments take place in bars and nightclubs. Our city has had several shootings at bars in the last couple of years, including places which have poker nights. (Admittedly, the attacks came well after the poker ended.)

It's also a fact that Halloween is approaching -- an annual event which plays on people's fears. It's an event we personally avoid as much as possible, because we don't consider it a Christian thing to do.

Put those two pieces of evidence together, and you might understand why we reacted as we did tonight. If we don't feel safe entering a place to play poker, we're not addicted to the game enough to go in and risk trouble.

We don't have to go out and drive across town for poker nights, after all. We can play online, in the safety of our computer room. It's obviously not the same, but we can.

"Deliver me, O Lord, from thine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me," says Psalm 143:7 in the King James Version. On the other hand, I John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love.... He that fears is not made perfect in love."

How do we balance these two things? We're not sure if we did it the right way tonight or not. Your comments are welcome about it.

But come to think of it, many a chip stack has been lost by the poker player who boldly went all-in with what he thought was a good hand -- only to find his opponent across the table had one even better. It's the stuff of poetry....

He who should have folded and fled
Pushed and went all-in instead --
Only to wind up drawing dead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On the NLOP

The NBC Sports online site wasn't working right Tuesday afternoon, so we gave another popular poker spot a try -- the National League of Poker.

We marveled at how the site's set-up was remarkably similar to NBC Sports. But then we remembered seeing an NLOP address appear, when we accidentally clicked on one or two NBC Sports banner ads.

The number of daily games for cash prizes admittedly disappointed us -- and we really don't need to win a "tailgate grill."

If you've played at NLOP, what do you think of it?

(P.S. We played two five-player sit-n-goes and finished second twice.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NBC Sports Championship #6: The Wrong Time to Strike

For the first time in about two months, we qualified to play in tonight's online Weekly Championship at NBC Sports. (Our schedule was such in several recent weeks that we couldn't have played the big Sunday night game, even had we qualified.) Here's how it went....

:05 IN: We have Q-Q, which turns into a full house with Q's over 3's. We score a fast $1,020 pot.

From then, the deal doesn't impress us for quite awhile. We barely play a hand for the next 25 minutes.

:34 IN: We have A-Q, and an Ace appears on the flop. We bet carefully, fearing another player has two pair -- but no one does, and we take a $380 pot which eliminates a player.

:37 IN: A check of the scoreboard shows 302 players remain, out of a starting 635. Half the field dropped out in a big hurry.

:42 IN: We have 7-8. The flop is 5-6-10, giving us an open-ended straight draw. Another player is betting the minimum $200, and we call. An 8 on the turn gives us a pair, but not what we really want. After another $200 call, a 6 on the river gives us an uninspiring two pair. Everyone checks -- and another player has the 9 we lacked, to make a straight.

:47 IN: The prior hand cost us a lot of chips, and we're left with $920. Dealt A-8, we double the bet to $400 and attract a couple of callers.

ON THE FLOP: A-5-3.

With $520 left, we decide it's time to push all-in with top pair. But another player calls -- who happens to have A-J. This is big trouble.

ON THE TURN: 4.

If a 2 comes on the river, we'll split the pot with a straight on the board.

ON THE RIVER: 6.

Final score: a finish in 224th place. Try, try again.

Sunday Rewind: This Important Message

During our Thursday night poker tournament, we had a chat with a man about messages. He said there's no other message than the one about Jesus. We said there are many messages out there. We're actually both right -- but looking at things from a different perspective.

The way you play a poker hand sends a message. You could "limp" with a big hand -- simply calling other people's bets as if you don't have much, but laying low until the time is right to strike. We were burned on this in an online game Saturday night. We kept betting with Aces and 2's for two pair, while a man kept calling with a third 2 hidden away.

Or you could bet big right away. Sometimes that's setting up a bluff, but sometimes not. This burned us Saturday night as well. We bet into a pot with Q-Q, then someone pushed all-in before the flop. We called it in hope -- only to discover our opponent had A-A, and our game was over.

So there can be true messages and false messages in poker. It's that way when it comes to God as well. Paul warned the Galatians against "turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." (Gal. 1:6-7)

That gospel is THE one and only real message. "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news [or gospel] of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all." (Acts 10:36)

For whatever reason, many people don't want to hear that message. Yet Paul declared, "....the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (I Cor. 1:18)

So it's a message vital for your salvation. Are you listening to it? And if you've heard it, are you living in obedience to it? After all, the way you live actually sends a message to others as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poker Night 108: True Love Waits

After the overconfident moment one night before, we didn't go to Lil Kim's Cove intending to play extra-tight tonight. Things simply happened that way. But we took what you might call an early romantic fling....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 of hearts

It's only the second hand of the tournament, so there's no trouble in throwing 50 in this pot. A man to our immediate left raises 100, and we join several players in calling that.

ON THE FLOP: Kh-8h-5 (not a heart; number may not be exact)

We check -- but the man who raised 100 before bets 250 now. With a flush draw before us, we call.

ON THE TURN: 7 of spades

We check. The man to our left now bets 500. It's still early and we're still hopeful, so we call. Everyone else is out of the hand.

ON THE RIVER: 3 of hearts

The river runs perfectly! But we check again. Our opponent now bets 1,000. You might be tempted to raise there, but we're concerned our opponent might also be on a draw. We simply call.

"The hearts came in for me," we say as we show and tell. Our opponent is stopped cold. He says nothing, and simply drops his cards without showing them.

That nice pot was the only one we took in the first hour of play. Even though the man we beat poked us a little about playing scattered hands, unimpressive deals kept forcing us to fold. We took 6,500 chips to the second hour of play, then won a couple of big pots to climb to 59,000!

The end result was a final table for the third Thursday night in a row. We finished fifth, finally falling with an all-in raise from the big blind with A-3. A 3 came on the flop, but another player had Queens to beat us.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The man we topped with the heart flush (who also wound up at the final table) took a look at our "Jesus as your Savior" coin. "Do you agree with that message?" we asked him.

"Oh yes," answered a grandfather of at least three. "Absolutely. There IS no other message!"

We beg to differ. "Well, there are plenty of other messages out there -- but only one true one." More on that message in another post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 45 final tables in 108 games (41.7%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,798 - unchanged. (They don't award real money, so we seldom play there now.)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 30-35-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 23 final tables in 195 games (11.8%), 2 cashes.

We're on a good roll online at NBC Sports -- with five top-20 finishes and two final tables in the last five days!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poker Night 107: Get Over It

A pastor in our city likes to say, "Get your higher education -- and then get over it." We should have remembered that advice tonight, as our Wednesday night poker game moved to Soho Bar & Grill. But we didn't, and a big loss led us to an early end in about 30th place.

We won two nice pots early, including one where Q-9 of diamonds turned into a flush on the turn and gained us 4,000 chips over the man who always seems to know what hand we have. (He guessed "flush draw" on the turn, when we already had it.) But a huge stack of chips made us a little overconfident....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-Q suited

Standard calling occurs at a full table, until we raise to 300. One man to our left calls -- but then a man in the big blind re-raises by 2,000. Our stack is huge enough that we can afford it, so we call. Only then the man to our left raises even more, and goes all-in for about 9,500.

"Yeow," we say as we count our chip. We have a lot, but this would cost a lot. But we think there's some deep-down bluffing going on (we took a man out earlier who bet big with only 8-10), so we call again.

ON THE FLOP: K-9-7 offsuit.

The man who went all-in turns over pocket Aces. Trouble is, two players still can bet! If that's not bizarre enough, our opponent then pushes all-in for several thousand.

"You know they're going to bet now," a man out of the hand declares. And since we have top pair (at least compared with the board), we call a second all-in bet. The opponent for the sidepot shows 8-8.

"They're two-timing you," the man to our left says. But we still could get a consolation prize -- especially if a King or Queen comes.

ON THE TURN: 4 (we think, can't recall)

No help to anybody.

ON THE RIVER: 8.

"Hey, I've got 8's." The man whose big over-the-top raise started all this winds up taking everything -- an estimated 30,000 chips. We're left with about 3,000, and a good dose of disbelief.

MINISTRY MOMENT: At one point late in our time at the table, a player brought up the idea of "karma" happening in poker.

"Or as I read in a book once," we responded, "you reap what you sow."

A man sitting next to us affirmed that idea. "That's why I try to be nice to other people," he said -- which was interesting, because he spent a great deal of time during the tournament engaged in cursing taunts aimed at other players (including us).

Do you know what book has that line about reaping and sowing? It's the Bible -- Galatians 6:7, to be exact. Read verse 8 with it, and consider what you're sowing in life.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 44 final tables in 107 nights (41.1%) - 10 cashes.

Worship in silence

We made a club flush online some time back, to top a player named "LuekyLen." When someone else made a club flush in the same game, the following condensed chat occurred:

Me: Clubs can hurt people.
TAPrice: Thats poker
Me: I know. I did it to Len awhile ago.
luckylen: WHAT
Me: When I topped Len with the club flush.
luckylen: DUDE GET A LIFE
Me: Don't worry - I have one.
Me: I have a way and a truth, too. :--)
luckylen: SO WHY YOU TALKING *** THEN JUST PLY ***
Me: OK.

Perhaps Len didn't want us to bring up a loss he took. Our apologies if that caused him to be upset. But in his moment of frustration, and before we stopped chatting for awhile, we slipped a word of God in.

It was Jesus who said in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life." What sort of "way" was Christ talking about? The way to salvation.

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved," Jesus adds in John 10:9. Have you stepped through that gate -- a gate which can lead to everlasting life? If you're not sure how to do that, leave a comment with an e-mail address; we'll be glad to help you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Clean Poker Jokes

Good humor can make you the life of a poker table. Good clean humor might even get you noticed as, well, different. So we're trying to develop a list of clean poker-related jokes to use at tournaments.

True-life example: On our drive home from Panama City, Florida last week, we passed the perfect restaurant for poker players.

Why? It was a pancake house -- called Short Stacks.

(Too bad we'd already eaten Sunday breakfast. We should have stopped and asked for a chip count. Tortilla chips, especially.)

Which brings us to true-life example 2: We told players online Monday we had to "move some of our chips away from the table."

Why? "The Pringles can was getting low."

What clean poker humor would you add?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Poker on Fox

Tuned in to the "PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge" on Fox, after a football game today.

Playboy playmates -- playing an "ordinary person" with a coach?

Daniel Negreanu -- in an isolation booth??

Two words: game show. (And that's not a compliment.)

No wonder Doyle Brunson isn't thrilled by it. It didn't thrill us, either.

(Well, except for that "dome of silence" Chris Moneymaker ordered. Sometimes with Negreanu, that would be a good thing.)

What did you think?

Sunday Rewind: Shaken, Not Broken

We left the poker table discussion with an Iraqi veteran admitting he's become unsure about religion, after growing up Catholic. A woman with us at the table brought out the comment that what the vet saw overseas left his faith shaken.

We tried to comfort him in the thought that when it's all said and done, it's about believing in Jesus. It's not really about what church you attend or what denomination's practices you follow.

Some denominations would challenge that notion, because they claim to "know the truth" and their ways are more biblically sound than any other group. But if we pay close attention to the words of Jesus, a different view emerges.

Note John 7:38: "Whoever believes in me [or "on me" in KJV], as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." The next verse points out the "streams" refer to the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you.

John later wrote, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.... Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (I John 5:1, 5) And Paul adds, "....A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." (Gal. 2:16)

A doubting Thomas needed that sort of faith, after the Lord was resurrected. If you need it, do what the first apostles did. Ask Jesus prayerfully, "Increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) Then practice a believing faith in God -- seeking God, that He might reward you in His good timing (Heb. 11:6).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poker Night 106: Mr. October?

Well, OK -- that title may be overstating things. But we're now three-for-three in making final tables this month. We held on tight through the semifinal hands at Lil Kim's Cove tonight, and wound up in eighth place overall.

A man across the table from us won two huge pots by making flushes on the river. We had to settle for a few mid-sized wins, including one where we apparently telegraphed our hand....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Kh-Kd

A player in the blinds is so low on chips that he's forced to go all-in. We have about 7,000 chips, and raise to 1,200. A couple of other players call.

ON THE FLOP: J-8-6 (not completely sure on the last two, but they were low)

We're now first up to bet -- and holding an overpair, we dare to bet 1,500. A man to our immediate left mulls it over, then folds. (Another player in the hand folds as well.)

"You've got a f***ing pocket pair," says the man who tends to swear a lot.

"Do I?!?!" (playing along with him)

"You raised before the flop, then bet after the flop with junk out there."

"Oh. Then I guess I'd better show my pocket pair." And we do. The player who was forced to push is dominated, and the remaining cards don't pair anything. Our Kings are good enough to win.

MINISTRY MOMENT: That man who figured out our hand was given a glimpse of our "Jesus as your Savior" coin at the semifinal table.

"Do you agree with that message?" we asked.

"I don't know," the man said after a moment. "My faith has been shaken."

The man is a two-tour veteran of Iraq -- and after playing a hand, he admitted the experiences overseas shook his faith. "I was baptized a Catholic, and then...."

The facts turned into some wandering opinion from there. "I believe there's a spirituosity, and then there's religion. I think there's some kind of a higher power." But the veteran admitted the dog-tag he once wore with a Catholic saint on it is now gone.

How would you have responded to these comments? We'll share the rest of the conversation in our next post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 44 final tables in 106 nights (41.5%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,798 - unchanged (didn't play there)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 29-35-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 21 final tables in 184 games (11.4%), 2 cashes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lil Kim's big change

The "one-night-only" break from poker at Lil Kim's Cove is now an every-week thing. Wednesday night tournaments have stopped, I was told tonight.

The bar still has games on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We plan to be there Thursday. But Tuesday isn't good for us, because we're involved in a telephone Bible discussion then.

Bottom line: we didn't play tonight. We know where we can play on Wednesday nights, and we may head there next week.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Poker Night 105: Fourth of Jolly

Now that we're back from the road, we can tell you more about some big winnings on the road. They came last Monday night at the Ebro greyhound park and poker room northwest of Panama City Beach, Florida.

Ebro has cash game poker 12 hours a day, seven days a week (and we do mean cash; no checks or credit cards are allowed to play). It also has nightly tournaments with big cash prizes; we played on the night with the least expensive buy-in -- $35, plus $5 house fee.

We'd guess about 40 people participated. And careful play on our part led to small early gains. At one point, a pair of Kings was good enough for us to eliminate two players. So our chip stack was healthy enough to reach a nine-player final table -- but not dominating. Tentative betting with large blinds hurt us, and led to a big moment....

BLINDS (as best we remember): 300/600/75 (The 75 is an ante everyone pays, whether in the blinds or not)

IN THE POCKET: A-9

Six players are left, and only the top four will be paid -- but one man has proposed splitting the prize money evenly among all remaining players. That sounds good to us, but men with big stacks object so the game continues. So with our stack low, it's time to go -- as in all-in. One player calls us, and leads with J-J.

ON THE FLOP: J-10-8

Ouch -- the opponent has three of a kind. We're in trouble. But then the dealer notes we have an open-ended straight draw.

ON THE TURN: 7.

We can't resist praising the Lord aloud, and clapping our hands a little! The straight is made -- and the river card is an inconsequential 3.

We were struck by how many players pushed all-in at the final table with big chip stacks, as if to get things finished to go home. Enough players did it that we made the final four, to finish in the money! After another prize-splitting proposal was vetoed by a player, we went all-in and failed. (And of course, then the remaining players agreed to split the prize money.)

But still, fourth place earned us $186 -- more than we've ever made at a poker table. (Yes, we did leave a nice dealers' tip.) Our $40 investment paid off fourfold, and Ebro more than made up for the money we lost trying a cash game at Harrah's in Kansas City last year. We resisted the temptation to try another cash game this time. Why spoil a dream poker night, which came true?

MINISTRY MOMENT: This area was every bit as nice and surprising as the tournament result. Two people at the starting table agreed with our "Jesus as your Savior" coin message -- one of them the manager of a Panama City bar which has free poker several nights a week.

At one point a man to our immediate left needed "change" for big chips, and we happy to take care of it for him. To which he said with no prompting from us: "Grace is what it's all about." Absolutely. We'll say more about that another time.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 43 final tables in 105 nights (41.0%) - 10 cashes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This time it's for real

We went to a northwest Florida poker room Monday night, and played in a real buy-in poker tournament for the first time.

Our buy-in: $35 (+ $5 house expenses).

Payout to us at the end of the evening: $186 -- fourth place out of about 35 players (admittedly a guess).

We think we did well. And we were pleasantly surprised at how many Christians we met -- including one who brought up "grace" without our mentioning it.

Details coming on our return home in a few days.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Poker Night 104: My Weekly Reader

"It's easy to play when your opponent knows how to play well." So a man to our right said during tonight's poker tournament at Lil Kim's Cove. We think that was a compliment -- but then again, maybe our plays are too obvious.

The comment came after we bet in response to a King on the river. Other players folded when we bet -- a good idea, since we had two pair. Someone else would take us on at a critical moment later....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

We've played only a few hands, because the cards have been poor. But this is a bettor's hand, so we raise to 1,100. Two other players call.

ON THE FLOP: Q-Q-8

We're first in line, and we check. "Oh man...." a folded player across the table says in response to this. We later learn he knew we had "big slick." If the other two in the hand know, they aren't saying; they check as well.

ON THE TURN: 4

Still not quite it. We check, as do the others.

ON THE RIVER: K

That's it! "I'm all-in," we announce -- shoving 3,175 chips.

"Instant call," a man to our left says. Gulp. We fear bad news is coming. The third player folds.

"Kings and Queens with an Ace," we show with hope. It beats the opponent's K-10. He's out of the tournament a couple of hands later -- while we use that big gain to keep advancing. A break follows shortly after this hand, and a man marveled at how we went all-in with A-K while three clubs were showing on the board. (We never told him we didn't notice that.)

Our stack was never huge, but we wound up tied for fourth. A man took two of us out at the final table by making a full house.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our "Jesus as your Savior" coin may be gaining a following. The man who liked it last week picked it up tonight, and showed it to a woman at the semifinal table. She liked the message as well. An order for a package of coins will be coming, after we attend an upcoming church convention. (That convention will limit our posts for the next week or so.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 42 final tables in 104 nights (40.4%) - 9 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,798 - unchanged. (No games played).

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 29-34-10-5-8. Full tournaments - 21 final tables in 176 games (11.9%), 2 cashes.