Monday, November 30, 2009

Love vs. Peace

Poker players can come up with curious online names. We watched a head-to-head fight over the weekend between "Peace4Twenty" and "LoveLiftedMe."

Peace4Twenty won a pot with a pair of threes. And it led us to spark a discussion, as the game continued:

Me: Peace over love
_pokerdiva: lol
TheHoy: lol
Me: Different from how I've seen that listed....
Dealer: Peace4twenty wins Main Pot ($820)
Dealer: loveliftedme wins Main Pot ($4554) with One pair, nines
Me: Love, joy, peace is the order I read in a book once.

No one responded to that comment. Do you know which "book" we're talking about?

If you visit us regularly, you probably guessed we're talking about the Bible. Galatians 5:22 has an even more complete order: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness...."

Some ministers say the fruit are listed in that order for a reason. We won't go into that here. Our point is that you need God's Holy Spirit to develop those fruit properly.

How do you obtain the Holy Spirit? Peter gave a two-step formula in Acts 2:38. "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (NASB)

Peace4Twenty soon fell out of the game. But LoveLiftedMe kept building chips, as we return to the chat....

Dealer: loveliftedme wins Main Pot ($9085) with Full house, sixes full of threes
Me: Love hurts.
loveliftedme: love prevails
Me: Now -- and ultimately. :-)
loveliftedme: yes

As Paul put it in I Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails." Especially the love of God, if you care enough to obey Him. Do you?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big Hand, Big Word

When was the last time you played at a poker table with a straight flush? An online National League of Poker game we played Saturday night had TWO.

The first one brought a player a straight flush on the flop. A "500,000:1 shot," wrote an opponent who had pushed all-in and wound up burned. Now for the second one....

BLINDS: 40/80 (we think)

IN THE POCKET: 8-10 of clubs

We jumped above 3,000 chips (from a starting 1,000) early in the match when a big hand took two players out. Now we're down to about 1,300. But the blinds are relatively small, so we try a call. A few other players join in.

ON THE FLOP: Qc - 8d - Jc

We make bottom pair, but have hopes of much more: straight, flush, or even straight flush. A player ahead of us bets 410 -- about one-third of our stack. But we can't run from these possibilities, so we call.

ON THE TURN: 9c

Wow! The 47-to-one shot (in terms of probability) came in! But the player ahead of us seems unconcerned, and bets 640. This is a rare case where there's no way he can beat us, so with 835 left we push all-in. That opponent calls -- and we frankly don't remember what he had.

ON THE RIVER: 8d.

A straight flush -- and three of a kind besides! "Deja vu," we write.

That nice pot and others gave us our best result yet in the nightly "big game" with $200 in prizes. Out of 841 players who entered, we finished 34th. In terms of weekly championship points, the return was almost 4:1. But only the top four players earned money.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Later in the tournament, we folded a weak small blind hand to a player named "Nightwolf." We joked we were afraid of wolves -- and that led to this exchange:

nightwolf: im scared of me 2
Dealer: nightwolf wins Main Pot ($6300) with Three of a kind, tens
Me: I C Y very good
nightwolf: ty
Dealer: nightwolf wins Main Pot ($4575)
nightwolf: this is y
Me: This is a word.
nightwolf: word is bond
Dealer: DonJuan420 wins Main Pot ($7290)
Me: Bond? James Bond?
Me: A Word once became flesh and dwelt among us.

Nightwolf didn't respond to the last one, as we were moved to a different table. But do you know which "Word" we're talking about?

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." So begins the gospel of John. Our chat exchange referred to a verse shortly after that - John 1:14. Christians believe that Word is none other than....

"Christ Jesus, who.... existed in the form of God.... but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2:5-7, NASB) Read all the way to verse 9 to see why Jesus did that.

This "Word" truly is good -- although Jesus said at one point there's none good except the Father (Matt. 19:17). Are you "Word-Up" when it comes to Jesus? And even better, is your life focused upward?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poker Night 114: Thanks and Nothing

Someone was in a Thanks-giving mood at Soho Bar and Grill tonight, and gave everyone at our table 5,000 bonus chips. So our starting stack was 11,000 (1,000 above the base, because we bought a soda) -- and then we returned the favor, and returned all those chips back.

A few promising hands came our way. But when we had A-Q, the board didn't pair and someone bet big with a King showing. So our raise before the flop was given up. When we had A-2, an Ace came on the flop. But other people bet big, we didn't trust our kicker -- and we were right, as another player made two pair with 9's and 8's. Eventually it came to this....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 9-8 offsuit

We're in the small blind, and down to 5,500 chips in the first hand after the one-hour break. The good news is that the table folds to us. We call, and the man in the big blind checks. It's a heads-up battle of the blinds.

ON THE FLOP: A-J-6

Not much there. Both of us check.

ON THE TURN: Q

That's a bit better. Now we have a straight draw. We both check again.

ON THE RIVER: 10

At last! A straight comes on the river -- our first real chance at a pot all night. "I'm all in," we announce with 5,000 left.

"I'll call," Mr. Big Blind says. Uh-oh.

"Please don't tell me you have a...."

He doesn't tell. He simply shows. He has a King, and made the "Broadway" A-10 superior straight. We hang our head, covering it in our cap -- but we're actually laughing a little as we show our losing 9-8.

"When it's not your night," we say to the Big Blind at our left, "it's not your night."

"That 10 helped both of us," he offers in consolation.

"No, it didn't," we answer laughing. "No, it didn't!" It left us out in the cold, the second to be eliminated at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: But that bad beat loss couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. For a change, we asked the players around us what they're thankful for this year.

"I give thanks all year long," the man to our left said after a moment. "Thankful for every day, just to wake up in the morning."

We couldn't have put it better. The man agreed with us that the best approach is Thanks-living -- and we challenge you to try it, even after the traditional U.S. Thanksgiving turkey is put away.

"I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness," says Psalm 7:17. He's righteous, even when we're not. David goes on to promise God, "I will give you thanks forever." (Psm. 30:12)

The only way David really can do that is through a resurrection to eternal life -- and Jesus makes that possible for believers. Are you thankful for that, at Thanksgiving 2009? Have you accepted that wonderful offer from Christ? If you need help with it, leave a comment and we'll be glad to assist you. May you truly be thankful to God!

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 114 nights (41.2%) - 10 cashes. The holiday will mean no live tournament on Thursday.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,944 -- up $128 to a RECORD HIGH! That gain only took one quick 15-minute "lightning round" at a cash game table.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-1-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 24 games (12.3%), no cashes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NLOP Senior Championship 1: Winning the 400

The trouble with that headline is that 812 players competed for the National League of Poker November Senior Championship tonight. We did well to finish #400, apparently thanks to dozens of players being disqualified for not showing up.

Things looked so promising. In the first ten minutes of play, we were dealt:

* K-K -- which prompted us to double up the pre-flop bet. But with three hearts on the board on the turn, a player went all in. "Too early," we wrote (holding no heart) and folded. (The pusher won the pot, and never showed.)

* A-K -- which came to nothing.

* 9-9 -- which we had to fold, when cards came to give someone an A-10 straight.

We finally won a pot at the 30-minute mark, when we pushed all-in with only 100 chips left. Our A-10 led to a pair of tens, giving us 250.

But we pushed again three minutes later with Q-J and building blinds. A player called with K-J, and a lower pair on the board gave him the pot. Oh well, December's coming.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Bus ran me over

We admittedly missed the Fox Sports "$1,000,000 Poker Challenge" on the Sunday a priest from South Carolina hit it big. He won $100,000, and is through to the finals.

But today brought a reminder of how embarrassing that show can be -- when a contestant lost the first heads-up round to Jerome Bettis. Yes, the retired football player. (Is this why Bettis isn't on "Football Night in America" anymore?)

If you lost heads-up to an amateur like Bettis, what would your reaction be?

Sunday rewind: It's only metal

A woman at our poker table the other night indicated Jesus is better to have than silver and gold. Many poker players (or athletes in general) strive to "go for the gold." And that's OK -- to a point.

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty," says Haggai 2:8. Before you could declare gold "all mine," there had to be, well, a gold mine. God had to create it.

Tall stacks of chips look impressive at a final table, but you can't take them beyond the final table of this life. You need something more -- or better put, Someone more.

Consider these words of Peter: "You were rescued from the useless way of life that you learned from our ancestors. But you know that you were not rescued by such things as silver and gold that don't last forever. You were rescued by the precious blood of Christ...." (I Pet. 1:18-19, CEV)

A big poker payday might buy your way out of the slums of poverty, but Jesus offers something everlasting. He saves you by His resurrection from the dead (3:21) -- to eventually present you with "a crown that shall never lose its glory" (5:4).

Have you taken Jesus up on this offer? If not, why not?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poker Night 113: Cliffhangers

"Wait, I say, wait on the Lord," sang a duet on Christian radio as we arrived home from tonight's poker tournament at Soho Bar & Grill. But sometimes, the rules of poker won't let you wait. Blinds go up. Blinds come 'round. And if your chip stack's really down....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: A-10 of hearts

We won a pot early in the evening with two pair, but nothing after that. Our chip count dwindled to a measly 500 shortly before this hand -- but J-J allowed us to stay alive and triple up. Trouble is, our 1,500 still doesn't cover the blind now.

But playing second at a six-player table, we're not likely to see anything better than this. We go all in, as we think most poker players in our situation would. Three other people bet the 2,000 minimum.

ON THE FLOP: 2-4-7, one heart

The first man in line bets 5,000. (We're second and all-in.) The other players in the hand call.

ON THE TURN: 4

A flush is now out of the question for us. Player #1 bets 5,000 more. One player folds.

"All right, let's see it," declares the bettor -- so we flip over the cards and....

"Hang on a minute!" says a player across the table. We quickly flip the cards back. He's still deciding what to do, and apparently trying to provoke a tell.

"You ain't got s***," says the prosecutor.

"If you want to stay in the game, you'd better get out of my pot," says the bettor.

"You're right, because you'd put me all-in if I call." But after a little more questioning which would make Phil Hellmuth proud, he folds.

Now we can show our A-10. But as usual, the opponent doesn't show his cards until the river comes.

ON THE RIVER: 9

Ouch. We didn't make a pair, and he did. He has a 9, and we finish in around 19th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed a woman to our left the "Jesus as Your Savior" coin. "Amen," she said to it. "Better than silver and gold."

She quoted the first line of another Christian song: "I'd rather have Jesus than silver and gold." Do you know which book of the Bible presents that idea? The answer's coming in a later post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 113 nights (41.6%) - 10 cashes. A Thursday road trip probably will rule out our usual trip to Lil Kim's Cove.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - unchanged. (No games played)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-0-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 18 games (16.7%), no cashes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Rewind: Honestly Now

So what did you think of our fellow player's comments about honesty, during a chip exchange?

It's a common joke at poker tables that players "never lie." Some players go beyond bluff-betting to make false statements about their hands, without even caring. Take this recent example online....

yzmann: ak
Me: No, I'm not in Alaska. :-)
Me: Taking you at your word. [We fold; he eventually shows two much lesser cards]
Me: Ha! Had A-Q
Dealer: yzmann wins Main Pot ($2270) with One pair, eights
Me: So much for that (sigh)

It could have been our pot -- but we gave another player the benefit of the doubt. The phrase "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" will apply should we meet again.

We make it a practice never to verbally lie about our hands. Instead, we might say "maybe, maybe not" we hit a straight -- or we might say nothing at all.

Jesus explained one of His parables by saying people who bring good fruit for God's Kingdom have "an honest and good heart...." (Lk. 8:15) It takes both -- because honesty without a good heart can make you look downright ugly before others.

Paul encourages believers in Philippians 4:8 to think on "whatsoever things are honest" -- but that's in the context of things which are just, pure and lovely. Mix all those character traits together, and your honesty will be welcomed by others. If you don't, you'll look no better than a trash-talking fan at a sports event.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poker Night 112: Over the Top

The flop in poker can make you sad, make you smile -- and sometimes make you smile a bit too soon. Consider what happened to us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Q-10 offsuit

The tournament is only a couple of hands old, but we're at a table surrounded by players we know are good and successful. This is the first hand we play -- and after we toss in our 50, a man raises 300. We call, as do a few others.

ON THE FLOP: 10-8-7

Top pair of 10's? Didn't we see this somewhere before? To be honest, we did NOT remember last Thursday night when this came up. The player who raised is keeping us occupied, betting 500 ahead of us. We call.

ON THE TURN: 4

We still have top pair -- but the man ahead of us is still betting. He tosses in 500 more, and we join a couple of others in calling again.

ON THE RIVER: 3

The big bettor now throws in 1,000 -- and this is not one of the players we noted as good and successful. Did he make two pair? Has he been bluffing all along?

We dare to call 1,000, thinking it's a bluff -- only to discover he has pocket Kings. The "overpair" leaves us in despair.

That hand cost us a lot of chips, and we never got them back. In fact, we never won a hand all night. Tight play (along with large-scale wild betting by several others) allowed us to finish 17th, barely missing a semifinal table. Our last straw was going all-in with A-2, only to have nothing pair while another man made pairs.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The Big Dog Poker tournaments take a "color-up" break at the one-hour mark, as blinds increase to 500/1,000. We had enough smaller chips to earn one green chip for 500. When the man doing the conversion offered us a second one, we gave it back and noted he'd given us one before.

"I appreciate your honesty," said a man who had just taken a seat to our right.

"Just doing what I'm supposed to do," we answered. "Shouldn't people be honest all the time?"

"I don't know," the man says. He explained some people can be "brutally honest" -- even to the point that countries go to war against each other.

The man's point is a very insightful one. "Honesty needs to be mixed with something, doesn't it?" we said. "It needs to be mixed with love."

The man wasn't quite ready to go that far. He tried to draw a distinction between lying, "white lies" and "misdirecting" people.

What do you think of that? We'll analyze that some more in another post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 112 nights (42.0%) - 10 cashes.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - unchanged. (No play)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 31-36-10-6-9. Full tournaments - 27 final tables in 221 games (12.2%), 3 cashes.

This apparently will be our final score from NBC Sports. While we've found no official announcement about it, the poker room's merger with National League of Poker seems to be permanent. At least we went out a winner there, with first place on Tuesday.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 2-2-0-0-0. Full tournaments - 3 final tables in 8 games (37.5%), no cashes.

We finally played full tourneys at NLOP in the last few days -- and were surprised to make final tables the first two times, in fields of more than 140 players. Our best finish so far was seventh out of 50 today, which qualified us for a monthly "senior championship" in two weeks. (Yes, we're that old.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jesus Take the Deal?

We have a couple of updates on Tuesday's big win at the NBC Sports poker room. We logged on there today, and discovered it's turned into the National League of Poker room!

They share the same gaming software -- but the merger apparently cost us all the points we won Tuesday, to get into a $1,000 weekly tournament Sunday night. Hopefully our $20 check was not lost as well. (You don't think that was the last straw?!?!)

We promised to share some more about Tuesday's win. We entered the final table near the bottom of the chip list, then won five pots to roar into the lead. But before that, there was this chat....

Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($2740) with Two pair, jacks and fours
Me: (whew) PTL
Bucky: was yhe dealing
Bucky: he
Me: Don't know - but I'm thankful anyway.

This is a tricky subject -- does God really care that much about a poker tournament with a $20 prize?

If you say God inspires the deal of the cards in your favor, you'd better be ready to give Him "credit" if you're dealt 2-5 offsuit. Or that heart on the river which gives someone else a flush to beat your straight.

"If he snatches away," Job said of God, "who can stop him? Who can say to him, 'What are you doing?'" (Job 9:12)

That follows this more famous Bible quote: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21, KJV) The next verse points out Job did not "charge God foolishly" -- as in charge with wrongdoing.

God indeed knows what He's doing -- whether you win five hands in a row, or push all-in and lose on the opening hand of the night. The better question may be: Do you know what you're doing when you play? Do you seek God's wisdom -- not only in the way you handle cards, but handle yourself around the table?

We choose to give God the "PTL" when we win a pot (note the person who commented above knew what that shorthand meant). When in doubt, be thankful -- because it beats any alternative.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winner winner....

....well, we probably won't rush out for a chicken dinner. But we just WON the 2:30 p.m. ET NBC Sports tournament, to win $20!


We beat 118 other players -- and here's the way the final hand looked. With blinds at 2000/4000, "Loverboy" called. We raised from the Big Blind (holding about a 2:1 chip lead), and he called again.

When a third Ace came on the flop, we bet 12,000. "OK here goes," Loverboy wrote as he pushed all-in.

"Uh-oh" we wrote in calling. Our opponent had only 4-2 of hearts, but he had a flush draw. When no flush came, we prevailed.

It's our second full-tournament win at NBC Sports. The last happened in mid-July -- and in full tournaments on two online sites, we've now made the final table four times in the last six games!

This came at the end of an amazing big final-table comeback -- but we'll save that for another post.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Rewind: Mercy, Me?

We asked a friendly, yet direct question to a player at Thursday night's live tournament: "Do you believe Jesus is merciful?"

We say Jesus is -- and it was shown in how He treated a woman who supposedly was caught in the act of adultery. Check the first part of John 8 for details.

A crowd brought the woman before Jesus, pointing out how the Old Testament law called for such women to be stoned -- and this was for the most part an accurate quote of the Lord (Deut. 20:10).

But the crowd apparently didn't realize a couple of things. Jesus could have told them the law required the "adulterer and the adulteress" to die -- both of them. (Perhaps He wrote that in the sand in John 8:6, 8; we don't really know.) Jesus also could have told them He was the Lord who spoke the command to Moses in the first place.

The accusing crowd eventually left -- and Jesus told the accused women: "I do not condemn you.... From now on sin no more." (John 8:11, NASB)

At that moment Jesus showed mercy -- and He reinforced it elsewhere by saying, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (Mt. 9:13)

Poker can be a "take no prisoners" sort of game. The goal is to claim all the chips from everyone else. But when a moment of mercy makes itself available, don't be ashamed to show it. Click on the "mercy" label below for some examples we've noted at poker tournaments.

How high the Moon?

It's one thing to be a poker blogger -- but Darvin Moon is even more old-school than that. He's a poker-playing logger.

Moon survived this morning to reach the WSOP Main Event final heads-up showdown on Monday night. We have to admit: we'll be rooting for Moon to comeback and KO Joe Cada.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November Nine Weekend

The World Series of Poker Main Event is being decided this weekend -- and already there's been a very bad beat. A-A vs. K-K turned into QUAD Kings!

Phil Ivey's still around with seven players left. The longer he hangs around, the more dangerous he becomes. Agree? Disagree?

For live updates on the final table, check the WSOP Twitter feed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Poker Night 111: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Some poker players seem intent on getting a fast start at a tournament, by making big bets right away. In some cases that works. At Lil Kim's Cove tonight, it didn't....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 10-9 offsuit

We lost the draw for dealer, so we sit in the big blind for the first hand of the night. A man across the table raises 250, and we join a couple of players in calling.

ON THE FLOP: 10-5-3

Top pair is nice to us. We modestly bet 100, but the man who raised a moment ago raises 800. Does he have a higher pocket pair?

"I'm probably asking for trouble," we say -- but we call, as does another man.

ON THE TURN: 10

Three of a kind is even nicer to us. But now we play coy and check. Emboldened player #2 (not the one who's been raising) throws out 3,500 -- a huge sum, considering players start with a base of 5,000 (plus bonus chips for purchasing food and drinks). Player #3 goes mano a mano and calls. So do we -- but what do these guys really have?

ON THE RIVER: K

That's a bit concerning. If one of the other players had pocket Kings, they now have us topped. We check again. Player #2 goes all-in. So does Player #3. We've come this far by faith (to borrow from a Christian song), so we call -- which somehow leaves us with about 650 chips to spare. We're not sure why.

"I have a 10," we announce.

Player #2 apparently doesn't hear us. "I have TWO PAIR!" Yes, he does -- 5's and 3's. But that's not good enough. Player #3 also had two pair, but he's eliminated as well. One hand down, two players out -- and our chip count above 17,000 already.

It was the start of another hot night for us. We claimed another big pot in the second hand with A-Q, and kept building from there. After one hour, we had 49,500 chips. After two hours at the final table, we had about 90,000.

But then some losses came -- and despite a furious three-way fight where we kept rallying, a man went all-in against us with two hearts and caught a flush with a heart on the river. That hurt big, and we were eliminated minutes later. But by finishing third (one away from winning money), we were the only person to make the final table two nights in a row.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We bailed out of one big pot late in the first hour -- a pot which prompted a woman to our right to say, "Have mercy, Jesus."

"May Jesus have mercy on us all," we answered quietly -- probably too quietly for anyone to hear it. But then we turned to a man on our left and asked, "Do you believe Jesus is merciful?"

That man gave no answer. What would yours be? Ours will come in another post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 47 final tables in 111 nights (42.3%) -- 10 cashes. We've made the final table at Lil Kim's Cove in four of our last five tries!

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 - unchanged (no games played)

NBC SPORTS POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes: 31-36-10-6-9. Full tournaments: 25 final tables in 216 games (11.6%), 2 cashes.

While the Sunday night championship tournament was strong for us, we missed earning points by one position three separate times in the last week! (And we had one monumental bust, but that's a story for another day.)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes: 2-1-0-0-0. No full tournaments yet.

Poker Night 110 (UPDATED): Quadzilla

When was the last time you had made quads at a poker table? It could have happened to us Wednesday night at Soho Bar and Grill -- not once, but twice.

It was part of a night where we finished tied for fourth place, out of more than 40 players. After an early escape when we topped an opponent 8 of spades for a flush with a 9, the first big moment of the night came....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 8-8

It's a full table, and several people call. We choose to limp.

ON THE FLOP: 9-5-5

A woman to our immediate right is first to act, and bets about 600. "Get out of my pot," she warns with a bit of humor. Not with two pair, we won't. We call, as do a couple of others.

ON THE TURN: 8.

With a full house, we're certainly not getting out now. The woman seems to smell trouble and checks to us. We bet 2,500. A man who was moved to our table only one hand before calls, and the woman bails out.

ON THE RIVER: 8.

On the night the World Series ends, the runners come home to score! But knowing the house rules for Big Dog Poker, we have to check to assure a quad bonus.

A man to our left later says he caught us noticeably squirming at this point, and figured we had quads. Looking back on it.... yeah, our posture changed a bit at the turn. We knew we had a big-time winner. Around poker pros, that would be a "tell" which could cost us big profits.

But the man across the table apparently doesn't notice this, perhaps because he just sat down with us. So he bets 8,000.

"I'll call," we say. "And this is a $5,000 call, because I've got quads." (We kept a level voice at that point, instead of shouting and jumping around like we just won a TV game show.) Our opponent never saw that coming.

The second quad chance came in the second hour, when we had a 5 and the flop was Q-8-5. A woman across from us went all in -- and fearing she had two pair, we folded. Yet when the dealer played out the hand, the turn and river were 5-5. Ouch, that hurts.

Suffice to say it was a night when we hit big hands several times. In one case, we had the Queen of spades when A-K and two other spades hit the board. The "nut flush" let us eliminate two other players.

We took 100,000 chips to a nine-player final table -- but big blinds ate away at our stack, and we finally had to go all-in with A-4. A young man wearing a New York Yankee hat had K-K, and no Ace came to bail us out. Yes, we did the proper NYY thing at the end -- declaring: "Thaaaaaaa Yankee wins."

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Jesus as your savior" coin to a retired veteran at our immediate left early in the evening. He had trouble reading the message for a moment, then eventually said he agreed with it.

This man had recently spent time in a V.A. hospital for a heart problem -- so we reminded him of the comfort Jesus can offer. See II Thessalonians 2:16-17 for more about that.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 46 final tables in 110 nights (41.8%) - 10 cashes. We've now played at Soho five times, and made the final table twice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too far all-in

Before we went to our Wednesday night poker tournament, we heard part of a man's detailed confession of how a gambling addiction ruined his promising law career -- and eventually put him in prison.

You can hear it, too. It's the current book on the "Radio Reader" series on many U.S. public radio stations. If you can't hear it, ask at your bookstore or library for Never Enough by Michael J. Burke.

The segment we heard Wednesday dealt with Burke becoming hooked on slot machines at casinos, and becoming a money-losing "high roller." We think that can happen at poker table cash games, too -- so if you think you might need help, this book could be more valuable than pocket Aces.

Remember as you play....

"You're not safe after a victory. You're vulnerable."

We heard Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll say this on Christian radio this morning -- and we've noted it in our poker playing lately.

You win a big pot, and see good cards dealt to you in the very next hand. It's tempting to say "I'm on a roll" and bet big, only to forget an opponent could have something even better. That "roll" you're on could be a puffed-up yeast roll that collapses under pressure.

"A greedy man brings trouble to his family...." says Proverbs 11:27. So keep your head, after getting your hands on lots of chips. Perfect games seldom happen in baseball -- and we don't recall them ever happening in poker.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chips on the table, not on your shoulder

We asked for your thoughts about the woman who refused to give a chip count, when a player across the table asked for one. She claimed merely displaying the chips for him to count was a "courtesy."

Maybe so, but it struck us as a very limited form of "courtesy." Perhaps the minimum daily requirement -- based on competitiveness, mixed with a dose of legalism.

We happened to do a Bible study on love after we posted our question, and were reminded of this: "Honor one another above yourselves." (Romans 12:10) The New American Standard Bible says, "Give preference to one another with honor."

Consider also I Peter 4:9. "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."

To us, this means being willing to give someone what they ask -- within reason, of course. Counting your chips for someone else seems reasonable to us.

(In fact, we've never followed the Kenny Rogers musical advice: "You never count your money when you're sitting at the table.")

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NBC Sports Championship #7: Deep Into the Night

NBC Sports had some kind of glitch early in the week, which resulted in our receiving an invitation to the Sunday night "Weekly Championship" on Tuesday afternoon. We registered early, and took advantage of the open door....

:04 IN: We have K-10, and go heads up against a player named "Jezebelle." In the Bible, Elijah ran away from a woman with that name making threats (I Kings 19:1-3). We don't, and wind up with K's and Q's for a $415 pot.

:27 IN: We have K-9 of hearts, and go against our tendency by playing it. Two Kings come on the flop! We take a $1,935 pot.

:40 IN: We have A-4. Three hearts come on the flop (we have none), but one of them is a 4. We dare to bet $500 on bottom pair, and the table folds.

:43 IN: We have J-9. On the flop: J-Q-Q. We stay in through a 9-8, and top a King high for a $1,600 pot.

:47 IN: We have A-2 of diamonds. On the flop: A-8-5, with the 8 a diamond. We call a $420 bet. The turn is 7d, but the river is another 7. Another player dares to push all-in. We call -- and he has Q-Q. Our chip stack jumps to $7,570!

:49 IN: We have 6-6 -- and when K-K comes on the flop, two pair are good enough to win for us again. We jump above $13,000, to #11 in the standings out of 857 players!

1:12 IN: We have A-Q of clubs. On the flop: A-6-2 (no clubs). With the blinds at 200/400, a player check-raises to 1,000. We call -- and eventually top the opponent's A-10! The chip stack tops $12,000. With 150 players to go, we reach #9 on the leaderboard!

1:37 IN: We have Q-10. On the flop: 6-K-Q. We stay in through some betting, and a 4-K. Our two pair top an opponent's A-J for an $8,900 pot! The chip stack approaches $15,000.

At the two-hour break, only 40 players remain. We're still alive at #32, with 8,350 chips. Our breathing during hands is getting a bit heavy.

2:00 IN: Right off the bat out of the break, we have A-Q. With the blinds in the 1,200 range, an opponent doubles the bet. We call, and a weak 4-3-7 flop comes. But the turn is a 3, the river is a Q -- and our two pair tops the opponent's A-J! That leads to this MINISTRY MOMENT....

Dealer: flopblog wins Main Pot ($20000) with Two pair, queens and threes
Me: (whew) PTL
FIGJAM: whats that pitty the loser
FIGJAM: Whats PTL
Me: Praise the Lord.
BobbyT1210: p*** the loot
FIGJAM: Ah
FIGJAM: Guess I should have went to church today
Me: I went Saturday pm - to give the devil his don't.

We mentioned our new abbreviation of praise in another post. Figjam was the first person to ask about it. (But sadly, critics of The PTL Club's excesses indeed gave that shorthand other words.)

We actually do keep a seventh-day Saturday Sabbath. That's kept us away from some tempting tournaments, but we're dealing with it. And oh yes, we don't keep Halloween -- so while others may have "given the devil his due" on Saturday, we did the opposite. :-)

2:07 IN: We have K-J offsuit. On the flop: 10h-4h-3 not a heart. Players check. On the turn: Jh. We bet $1,600 with no heart in our hand -- and top pair is enough to scare the crowd away. That's a $7,300 pot!

The Championship now has 32 players left -- and we're #19.

2:14 IN: We have 7-5 of hearts in the big blind. On the flop: 8-3-5 (no hearts). Players check. On the turn: 2. On the river: 7. Emboldened with two pair, we bet about $3,000 -- and get burned by an opponent hiding with three 3's.

2:17 IN: We're dealt K-Q, with $7,900 left. Blinds now are so high that it's time to push this all-in. A player calls -- and the flop brings 2-3-Q! Running 2's follow, and our full house tops an opponent with 9-9! We survive and jump to $21,200.

2:18 IN: We have A-9 of hearts in the very next hand. We limp with them, to avoid being overconfident. On the flop: 7-10-8, all spades. We call a $3,000 bet with an open-ended straight draw. On the turn: 9c. On the river: 4d. We dare to bet $3,000 on the theory another player missed a draw -- but no. He has K-J, and takes the pot with a straight. We admit in the chat that was a bad decision on our part.

2:25 IN: We have K-J, and $8,099 in chips left. We're first to act, and push all-in. A player calls us -- but with K-Q. The flop is K-Q-2. While a Jack comes on the river, we're outgunned.

FINAL: 23rd place out of 857! Not a win, but certainly thrilling -- and it's our best finish ever in the Sunday night big game.

Compared with the prize pool at the World Series of Poker Main Event, we would have been well in the money -- about 175th place, earning 3.6 times our buy-in. Sadly, NBC Sports only pays the top three finishers.