Friday, January 29, 2010

The Wanted Man

"This is a progressive bounty tournament," the director announced Thursday night at Lil Kim's Cove.

One of the players had a bounty on his head. Take him out of the game, and you'd receive a 5,000-chip bonus. Only then, you would become the bounty player -- and whoever took you out would get 10,000 bonus chips. The bounty would go up from there.

It reminded us a bit of playing tag, on the grade school playground. Only problem: the original marked man kept surviving -- reaching the final table with a huge stack of chips.

What do you think of this idea?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Poker Night 132: Skating with Pairs

We sang in the high school choir years ago -- and our director Mr. Wright liked to say, "Tenors are lovers." But if you fall in love with 10'ers too much at the poker table, you're asking for it. Consider what happened tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 100/200


We won the first hand of the night, but have been sliding ever since as big draws have fallen short. With about 5,400 chips, this could be the time to make a move. We "double up" the bet to 400, and several players call.

ON THE FLOP: A-7-9 (suits are not a factor)

The play checks to us. We offer a continuation bet of 300. A couple of people call.


Hmmmm -- two pair with an Ace?! The trend at tonight's tournament has been for people to bet big if they have even two-thirds of a hand. So we bet 600, hoping to scare pretenders away. Only one man calls us.


We presume if our opponent had an Ace or a 7, he would have raised by now. This makes us feel cautiously safe -- but to avoid looking weak, we bet 600 again. The man calls.

"Tens and sevens with an Ace?!" we say uncertainly. Not good enough -- he hit a Queen on the River for two higher pair.

Amazingly, 10-10 came again on the next hand -- but again, it didn't bring good results. Yet when we dropped to 1,800 chips, 4-4 worked! A flop of 3-4-5 led us to go all-in, and everyone folded.

We reached the semifinal table, but with only 3,500 chips left. We dropped to 2,000 after being forced to fold weak big blind and small blind hands -- then went all-in with yet another pocket pair. Our 5-5 lost to Queens and 8's, leaving us in tenth place. We missed the final table by one little hand.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You seem to bring something different every time," a man to our right said before the tournament began. We took our bottle of Dove soap for a card protector again -- and the man had no idea the phrase, "Wise as serpents, harmless as doves" came from Jesus and the Bible.

That verse from Matthew 10:16 happened to be in a Christian magazine article we read earlier in the day. If you're going through tough times in a down economy, this article could inspire and encourage you.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 52 final tables in 132 nights (39.4%) - 10 cashes. Had we reached the final table tonight, the percentage would have moved above 40 again.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER SCOREBOARD: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-7-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 9 final tables in 126 games (7.1%), no cashes.

POKERSTARS.NET SCOREBOARD: One-table tournaments - 0-1-0-1-1-4-0-0-1. Pretend cash game total: $9,992 - up $8,342.

What's behind that amazing one-week gain? Careful play, since we start cash games with only $300! Suffice to say, we've doubled our money against wild all-in bets several times. Somehow we doubt that would happen at a casino.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Could a Serpent Know?

At our last live poker night, we borrowed the words of Jesus: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16, KJV)

One man didn't quite understand, and didn't consider serpents very wise. We don't claim to know habits of the animal kingdom -- but we know from the Bible that serpents can be shrewd operators (as the NIV translates "wise").

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made," says Genesis 3:1. This serpent persuaded Eve to violate God's instructions in the garden of Eden, thus introducing sin to the world (Romans 5:12). Revelation 12:9 identifies that serpent as "the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray...."

Satan as a serpent brought harm, in terms of humans sinning and dying. On the other hand, Jesus tells us to be shrewd and crafty in a positive way -- not harming people, and even finding clever ways to help them.

Paul puts it this way: "In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults." (I Cor. 14:20) Don't be naive about what people in the world (and even at the poker table) might try to do -- but set a better example for them, by showing godliness. And when all is through, be sure to give God the glory for what He can do in you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NLOP Senior Championship III: Break, Then Broken

We joined 836 other players tonight in the January National League of Poker Senior Open Championship -- and we stayed out in the open quite awhile! Here are the highlights:

:00 IN: We're dealt A-4 on the opening hand. The table is quite tight, and a 4 on the turn allows us to bet with a pair in win right off the bat.

:04 IN: After winning another pot, we have A-J of clubs in the small blind. A pair of 7's come on the flop, followed by A-J! We bet big on the river, face an all-in opponent -- but he has A-J too. Splitsville.

:29 IN: We have Q-J of diamonds. The flop is 3d-Kd-10h. The table checks. The turn is a 9, giving us a straight! Our $570 bet puts an opponent all-in, and A on the river gives us "Broadway" for a $1,370 pot!

:33 IN: Pocket Aces show up! Someone bets ahead of us, allowing us to simply call. The river brings a third Ace, and we gain $2,570.

At the first break, we have $3,900 -- good enough for 42nd place, with 323 players left.

:53 IN: We play J-4 of clubs. The flop is a hopeful 10c-7c-9s. The turn disappoints, with a 4s. The river really disappoints, with 3d. Yet somehow, our pair of 4's takes the $2,580 pot!

:59 IN: We're dealt 10-10. The third 10'er comes on the flop with 5-J, and we bet $900. That puts a player all-in, and 4-3 follow to raise our total to $5,490.

1:02 IN: K-J comes in the big blind. A King on the flop with no other pairs allows us to bet on the river, with an opponent folding. Up we climb to $6,565.

1:08 IN: We have K-7 of hearts. No hearts come after that, but a 7 shows on the turn. That's good enough to give us a $3,450 pot, putting us in 12th place at $8,940!

At the second break, we're in 35th place out of 90 with $7,140. But sadly, the pool starts draining from there....

1:40 IN: We have K-10 of diamonds. The flop is 6h-Qc-5d. A player bets with the blinds at 600/1,200. We're not comfortable with that dare, and fold.

1:55 IN: Antes and poor cards in the blinds have lowered us to a measly 340 chips. We're forced to go all-in with J-8 -- and a Jack comes on the flop. But a Queen on the river gives someone else a higher pair.

Final score: 43rd place out of 837. In a casino tournament, that would be well in the money -- perhaps earning us double our buy-in. But in NLOP, only the top three seniors get paid. This makes Social Security a much safer option.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Not only was the early table tight in terms of betting, most of the players were tight-lipped all night. When a player named Animal was eliminated, we tried to spark something by writing "Animal sacrificed" -- but it went nowhere.

But we can be thankful animals no longer have to be sacrificed to pay the penalty for our sins. That was the norm in the Old Testament, God eventually provided something much better.

"It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins," Hebrews 10:4 says. But Jesus came to Earth to do His Father's will.... "and by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (vs. 9-10)

Have you applied the sacrifice of Christ to your sins, to become holy in God's sight? It's a lot less messy, but a lot more meaningful.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Poker Night 131: All-4 Won

Ace is high in the game of poker -- yet some pros won't play an Ace unless the right card is alongside it. How many would have played the Ace we saw at Club Eighty-Five tonight?

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-4 of diamonds

We won an early hand to jump from a starting 6,000 chips to 7,950. But now we're down to about 5,500 chips and are looking to make a move. We call in the leadoff position. So do a few other players.

ON THE FLOP: Ac-4h-2h

One player is ahead of us, and checks. We notice two hearts are out there -- but we also realize top two pair are pretty good. We bet 900.

"I only need one card," a man to our left admits. But he folds. So does everyone else, except the player who checked in the beginning. He calls.


A third heart brings a moment of noisy regret from others at the table. Obviously, our full house leaves no reason to be sympathetic. So we stay deadpan, as our opponent checks again. Then we bet 1,500 -- enough to put the man all-in. He's tempted and thinks it over, but folds. We win the pot, but others want to see....


With the hand over, the regret level increases. The man who only needed one card shows me the Queen of hearts.

"Did you have a King or an Ace?" someone else asks.

"I had something...." we say as we muck a hand better than any flush. We'll see how many of those players read this blog.

We held on to reach the final table for the third Monday night in a row, but then had our own moments of regret. We folded 8-10 of spades -- and three spades came on the flop. We folded 2-6 of spades, and 3-4-5 hit the board to allow a straight.

Finally we had to go all-in for a 10,000-chip big blind. Our 3d-10h looked promising when four hearts came out -- but another player made a full house with Aces and 2's. Final score: a tie for eighth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We puzzled several players tonight with our latest card protector -- a small bottle of Dove soap. We assured one man it was not an attempt to mark the cards.

"This is a reminder to me," we explained, "that I should be wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove." Then we noted it was a statement Jesus made (Matthew 10:16, KJV).

"I don't think of serpents as very wise," the skeptical man said. What do you think of Jesus's words? We'll elaborate on them in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 52 final tables in 131 nights (39.7%) - 10 cashes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Words of a Warrior

Some people can be friendly at an online poker game. Others seem to role-play as the exact opposite. We're giving that benefit of the doubt to someone we encountered at National League of Poker the other day -- a man who was calling players he beat "loooooosers" and sounding like quite the bully. An excerpt from the chat:

junkmanisin: the names are not needed brock if U cant say nothing nice then say nothing at all....
BROCKwarrior: that advice is for sissies
BROCKwarrior: a real man sais what he thinks

Do you agree with that statement ("says" being misspelled)? Some poker stars on TV seem to do that often; the name Hellmuth comes to mind. But when we read this, a scripture came to our mind:

Me: Well.... to a point.
Me: I read once you should speak the truth in love.

That phrase is in Ephesians 4:15. "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

It's one thing to merely speak the truth. People can do that in a mean-spirited and attacking way -- whether in evaluating poker hands or telling off their spouses. But Paul adds the words in love to show where our heart should be. The modern-day term for it is "constructive criticism" -- to lift up and not beat down.

Paul writes elsewhere concerning people's spiritual gifts: "If it is encouraging, let him encourage.... if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:8) Maybe this is a gift you can show someone at the table. Ask God to reveal the gifts He's given you.

Friday, January 22, 2010

They might; we won't

We know some people in our home city of Columbus, GA check this blog for updates on the local poker schedule.

This week we found out Lil Kim's Cove is expanding to a late-night tournament on Monday nights at 9:30 p.m. ET. And Club Eighty-Five is adding a Saturday matinee tournament at 2:00 p.m. ET.

It's our normal custom to only play early games on doubleheader nights -- so we can race home to blog about what happened, of course. So we'll probably only play the Monday 7:30 p.m. game at Club Eighty-Five.

And we don't play ANY poker during the day on Saturdays. If you'd like to why, click here -- and have a Bible handy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Poker Night 130: The Kings and I

Poker is all about making decisions -- and that can include the way you make those decisions. We wonder if our method got in our way tonight, with a key hand at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 8-7 offsuit

We won the first two hands of the night in a big way, and had more than 11,000 chips. But at this point, we've been knocked down to about 6,300. Sitting in the leadoff spot, we call in hopes of making a straight. Standard calling occurs around the table.


It's a pair, but only bottom pair. We're still first up to bet check. Other players are in a "Hollywood" kind of mood, and fake bets before checking.


The play checks to us -- but we're not faking now with two pair. We bet 600. A man to our left thinks about this a moment.

"You've got two pair, right?" a man on the other side asks. We say nothing, and politely clap our hands to The Devil Went Down to Georgia on the jukebox. Finally the other man calls. Everyone else has folded.


The board pairs, with just about the last card we want to see. Now we take a moment to ponder -- and then we check.

"I'm all in," our opponent declares. He has 2,900 left.

Now we take even longer to ponder this. Was our opponent betting with top pair, and now has three Kings? If we call and lose, we'd be down to less than 2,000 chips. We finally decide he means it.

"I'll fold."

"I didn't have nothing, man...." Sure enough, he has J-3 of hearts. He missed a flush draw, but bluffed his way into making us surrender a big pot.

Looking back in our mind, an immediate bet on our part at the river might have persuaded this man to fold. If he sensed a lack of confidence on our part, he made it work.

We never rebuilt our chip stack after that -- and while we reached the semifinal table, we eventually had to push with 8-8. But two 3's came on the board, and a man with a third 3 eliminated another player along with us. We finished in a tie for 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: During the one-hour break, a man across the table from us talked about some sort of situation where "I was praying like a m****r f****r...."

"Praying is good," we said in response, "but I wouldn't recommend praying that way."

The man laughed at that -- but hopefully he understood our point. There's a much better way to word this in James 5:16. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (KJV)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 51 final tables in 130 nights (39.2%) - 10 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-7-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 9 final tables in 114 games (7.9%), 0 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - 0-1-0-1-1-4-0-0-1. Pretend cash game total: $1,650.

We finally figured out how to build our chip stack at this site -- by playing "fun" walk-in tables with small blinds. Starting with 1,000, we gained 55 dollars in a five-card stud room. Then at no-limit tables with blinds of 5/10 or 10/20, we gained 1,405 in a two-day rush! Since Tuesday, we've given up 810 -- but we're still ahead.

(After making this discovery, we admittedly might not play Yahoo poker anymore. The action is faster, with higher stakes and easier entry and exit.)

Temptation Island

We mentioned in our last post how poker is a game fraught with temptations. Take the player who bets big ahead of you, when you have a "gut shot" straight draw. Do you call that bet, in hopes the one missing card comes?

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap," warns I Timothy 6:9. This is the sad with many compulsive gamblers. They keep spending money, thinking the cards or numbers are bound to "come their way" sooner or later -- only to wind up destitute.

So what should you do about temptations at the table? You might not believe what we're going to recommend -- but you should pray in advance for wisdom. "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves," Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 (KJV).

I Corinthians 10:13 adds: "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." There's a word for that in poker -- folding. :-)

We should note the atmosphere at many live poker tournaments can also be tempting. They're often held in bars, where alcohol and tobacco are everywhere. If those issues are problems for you, perhaps you'd be better off sticking to online games. As Jesus said when He faced a great temptation, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." (Matthew 4:7; see also Deuteronomy 6:16)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Poker Night 129: Al-Qaeda vs. Cowboys

Some professional poker players say the most troublesome hand to have is seemingly one of the best: pocket Kings. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a man went for it all with that hand at Club Eighty-Five -- and we had to stare him down.

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We've just arrived at a nine-player final table. The bad news is that we showed up with only 4,000 chips. The good news is that we won the deal -- so we dealt ourselves this nice hand right away.

Then bad news again: a man at the other end of the table pushes all-in with a much larger stack. "I have to do it," we say as we call. Everyone else gets out of the way -- and our opponent has K-K. That's trouble, so we have to deal. (In more ways than one.)


"I like that flop!" we declare. We're now in the lead.


"I really like that turn...." And with two pair:


A big hand gets topped, and we jump to about 11,000 chips. We never won another hand after that -- but we held on tight with rising blinds, and wound up in fifth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Some people bring cell phones to the poker table. One or two even bring mini-DVD players, to watch movies between the hands they play. Then there's the young woman who sat down next to us tonight with a paperback book called Up Pops the Devil.

"Does the devil show up in that?" we asked the woman. The answer -- not exactly. She explained it's about a corporate executive who spends time in prison, then faces temptations when he gets out.

"We need to resist temptation," we said -- and the woman agreed with that. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you. I read that in a book."

"Really?!" The woman didn't realize that quote is from the Biblical book of James (4:7).

"The trouble is," we added, "you face temptation all the time here." Example: we folded A-9 at the final table when two players went all-in ahead of us -- and after the dealing ended, we would have lost. More on that subject in an upcoming post.

(P.S. After reading an online synopsis of the book, we wonder if James 4:7 might actually be quoted in it!)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 51 final tables in 129 nights (39.5%) - 10 cashes. Now this is more like it: three final tables in our last four nights!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poker Night 128: If the Suit Fits....

With Waldenbooks closing stores across the U.S., we bought our first poker book for the small blind.... oops, we mean half-price. It's a Gus Hansen book in which he analyzes most of the hands he played to win a big tournament -- and one line struck us about 4-2 of clubs: "This is the name of the game."

Armed with this knowledge, we went to Lil Kim's Cove tonight. Would Gus be right?

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Q-4 of clubs

Well, it's half of Gus's hand. We're in the big blind and no one raises around the table, so we check.

ON THE FLOP: 4-2-2 (one 2 is a club)

For many players, this flop would be ugly. Not for us. With two pair, we bet 400. A man to our left laughs at this.

"You won't let me play a hand," he says shaking his head as he folds. But another player calls.

ON THE TURN: 5 (not a club)

Our memory is admittedly a bit fuzzy about what happens from here. But we believe we bet 400 again, on the theory our opponent couldn't possibly be playing cards this low. Yet he calls again.


As we recall, we checked here. Our opponent does as well.

"I have a 4," we say reluctantly. But that's good enough; our opponent concedes without showing cards.

The man who laughed at our bet on the flop can't believe we played those cards. So we quoted the Gus Hansen line.

"If you're playing like Gus Hansen -- he'll play about everything."

We won the next hand as well with two clubs. Everyone folded after our Jack paired on the flop, and we made a bet.

A few big hands came our way in the first hour, and we had 16,000 chips at the break. But we lost some big hands after that -- and even the skeptical man beat us with pocket Aces, when we had A-6 and an Ace came on the flop. Our final result was 14th place, dropping out at the semifinal table when our 8 made top pair on the flop but an opponent hit running K-Q for two pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You always bring something different," the man who knocked us out said before tonight's game began. He noticed we brought a small candle in a glass holder.

"I brought that to remind me that I'm supposed to be a light to the world. I read that in a book." Not a Gus Hansen book -- but the Bible, quoting Jesus in Matthew 5:14. The other man didn't know the source of the quote, and had nothing to say after we mentioned it. (He even had a cigarette lighter, and didn't light our candle.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 50 final tables in 128 nights (39.1%) - 10 cashes. We're taking back the second-place "cash" from Monday night, after deciding only actual payouts should count.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-7-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 8 final tables in 104 games (7.7%), no cashes.

We had no play at Yahoo or PokerStars.Net in the last week -- but we had a strong 12th-place finish in a 514-player tourney at NLOP Sunday evening.

Remember as you play....

"Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city." -- Proverbs 16:32, NIV

Every poker tournament, online or in-person, seems to have its share of "donkeys." (They put it so politely in poker slang.) These players want to win by any means necessary -- and they aren't afraid to bet big right off the bat.

We assume their strategy is to get an early chip lead, then exploit it by playing "king of the mountain" to gain ultimate victory. But it's risky -- because if they're caught bluffing by someone with a legitimate hand, they'll tumble down the hill like Jack and Jill.

Our approach to poker tends to be different from that. We prefer to be patient, and wait for the right cards and right moment to strike. Another regular in our city has noticed that, and told us that would help us succeed in cash games. (Our play in pretend cash games at Yahoo has shown us that.)

The NIV Study Bible notes on this verse put it very well: "Although one who practices patience and self-control receives far less attention and acclaim than a warrior who takes a city, he accomplishes better things."

Many financial experts tell clients the best approach is savings is to "build wealth slowly." In poker, that always depends on the cards you have and what other players do. But we think the patient approach works -- and it's helped us reach a lot of final tables. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mysteries and more - Part 3

In our third post of this series taken from a recent online poker room chat, we've brought up how God can be mysterious in His ways -- and how one mystery is the promise of a resurrection, with believers receiving eternal life. But the self-proclaimed "alienologist" at our table had more to say about the things of Christ:

yourmama: name 1 thing thats cause more death and wars than your so called gods nothing
yourmama: so u might whant 2 rethink that
Me: Did God do that? Or people's misunderstanding of Him?

Misplaced zeal can lead to all sorts of wrong behavior -- whether it's a Christian zealot murdering suspected sinners, or Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up to kill Western soldiers. To be truthful, that also can happen in poker. Ask anyone who's gone "on tilt" and blown a big chip lead after a bad beat.

Another person at the table picked up on what we meant....

yourmama: no god so whats the answer 2 your
vegasmon: more like peoples misuse
Me: The Crusades were based on zeal - but misguided zeal, it seems to me.
Me: Jesus didn't call on His followers to go kill everyone they saw.

Paul testified of the first-century Israelites "that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." (Romans 10:2) He goes on in verse 3 to say it's important "submit to God's righteousness," instead of establishing some of your own. We all need to search the Scriptures carefully, to understand what that righteousness is -- and verse 4 says it stems from Christ being "the end of the law." So we added....

Me: But when Jesus comes back...... well, He'll take charge then.

Make no mistake: the second coming of Christ will be powerful. And the Bible indicates it will be bloody. "Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.... killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." (Revelation 19:15, 21)

Thankfully, the story of human existence does not end there....

yourmama: if people thought there was no reson 4 life it would be alot worst here so your so call gods do have a reason
Me: Plenty of reason to live - and live well.

Revelation 20 talks about time of judgment for "the dead, great and small." We like to think God will have mercy on those who never truly understood Him and the Gospel message -- such as people who lived in far-flung lands before Jesus came to Earth, as well as those with mental handicaps.

"He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9) A key question in that verse goes back to our original topic at the table. Are you willing to repent of your sins, and accept Jesus as your Lord? On this day, it appeared our opponent was not....

yourmama: yes but keep your storys in your house dont force than on others
Me: Not forcing - simply saying.
Me: You asked about PTL. :-)
yourmama: keeping it 2 yourself we will both be better off

We disagree with that last viewpoint. It's better to turn to Jesus and live for God -- eternally better. What do you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Poker Night 127: Push to the Finish

A phrase in business says, "You've got to spend money to make money." That's true in poker, too -- but in poker, other people are striving for the same money you want. That means both higher risk and higher reward. A hand at Club Eighty-Five tonight was a classic example....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Ace of spades - Ace of clubs

We've hardly had any cards worth playing so far, so this is worth the wait. Sitting second in the betting order, we raise to 400. But a man to our left isn't impressed by that, and re-raises to 900. Then a man across the table (giddy over hitting quad 8's on the opening hand of the night) hikes the stakes to 4,000!

We have 5,400 chips left at this point, but elect a simple call. The man who went above us first does the same.

"You ought to go all-in," a man to our right who folded suggests. But there's a method to what we're doing....

ON THE FLOP: 3-8-3

Now comes the all-in bet, tossing in our remaining 1,400. This timing could give the impression we hit something big on the flop -- and we seriously doubt anybody still would be in this big pot with a 3. The first man to our left is wary of this, and folds. The other man calls.

"Rockets' red glare," we say as we show the Aces. (Well, OK -- the cards really are black.) Our opponent has face cards, but no pair.


Looking good for us....


We raised a little. They raised a lot. But when all was finished, we gained a big pot -- jumping to more than 15,000 chips.

Our stack kept growing as the night went along -- to 20,000 at the one-hour break, and 55,000 at the two-hour break! Patient play with rising blinds allowed us to not only make the final table, but wind up SECOND on the night! We trailed badly when heads-up play started, and lost when we were forced to go all-in with 7-9. Two pair came on the board, but that gave our opponent a winning straight.

If this was Lil Kim's Cove, second place would have earned us a "bucket of beers" worth about $10. At Eighty-Five, which was hosting poker for only the second time.... well, we went home empty-handed. The young man who won was pointed out to the bartender by the tournament director -- but when we left, he still didn't know if he earned a prize for it. Still, this was our highest finish in live play since mid-August.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I see you brought a battery," a man across the final table from us said. "A little AAA battery."

"Is there a reason for it?" another man to our immediate right asked.

"Yes, there's a reason," we answered with a nod and a smile. (Besides being our card protector, of course.)

"You knew he'd have a reason for it," a woman across the table alertly said. She's getting to know our tricks rather well, isn't she?

We then explained the reason to the final table. "This is to remind me that I receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes upon me." (Acts 1:8)

The man who first asked about it decided we could have brought a better illustration. "You should have brought a size D!"

"Watch out," the woman added. "He'll bring a big marine battery, and slam it down!"

We all had a good laugh about that -- but the man's point was that a big battery could reflect more of the Spirit's power. His point is a good one. But remember what Jesus said about little things?

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20) Does moving small mountains of stacked poker chips count along those lines?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 50 final tables in 127 nights (39.4%) -- and we're going to call this a "cash" based on the Lil Kim's Cove standard, so we're up to 11 (ten first or second places, plus the fourth-place money-maker in northwest Florida).

Mysteries and more - Part 2

In our last post, we came across an "alienologist" named "YourMama" at an online poker table. (No, that person did NOT use a weird green head as an icon.) A chat that began with our "PTL" turned into a discussion of mysteries. Let's pick it up from there....

vegasmon: ever wonder what the u in the other dimensions is like....
Me: I've read a book which says we can be changed into that other dimension.
vegasmon: they say its possible to visit there
bsbpenn78: so is that other side ur exact opposite
yourmama: crasy paople oohhoo oohh et phone home
vegasmon: no just different experiences

What is that book about the "other dimension?" Regular readers should know we're talking about the Bible.

"Listen, I tell you a mystery," writes the apostle Paul; "We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." (I Cor. 15:51-53)

That "last trumpet" refers to the second coming of Jesus (Rev. 11:15). So we explained....

Me: No. This book says we can become spirit beings.
Me: Changed when Jesus comes back to earth.

"Dear friends, now we are children of God," says I John 3:2; "and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Those who lived for Christ will be raised with new bodies. Exactly what kind of body that will be.... well, that's a mystery, too. But that didn't impress everyone at the table:

yourmama: dude wake up its just a very good story
yourmama: key word is story
Me: Very good, yes. A story? Depends on whether you believe the Bible.
yourmama: like i said its a story....
Me: We'll all find out someday, won't we?
yourmama: yep

This sort of understanding admittedly takes faith -- faith in God, and the Bible as His Word. Paul wrote elsewhere, "We live by faith, not by sight." {II Cor. 5:7) So we brought up the alternatives....

Me: If I'm right, Jesus will change me so I can live forever.
Me: If I'm wrong - nothing lost.

Our thanks to several ministers we've heard on Christian radio for that. We didn't go all the way with this line of thinking, though. What if you think it's "just a very good story" -- and you're wrong?

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment...." (Heb. 9:27, KJV) The Bible says all must face Christ's judgment seat, whether you believed in Him or not.

The Bible chat didn't end there. More in a future post....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mysteries and more

Three little letters can spark a big discussion. It happened again for us the other day, while playing online at National League of Poker. Follow the chat, after we won a big pot....

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($1980) with Flush, queen high
yourmama: what the h**l is ptl
Me: Glad you asked. Praise the Lord.
Me: Is Jesus your Lord?

Oooo -- for a change, we pushed all-in right away! In an era which features "The Lord of the Rings" and other similar stuff, we specified which one we meant. So did Peter on a legendary day of Pentecost.

"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36) The chat continues:

Dealer: yourmama wins Main Pot ($1000)
yourmama: no i am a alienologist
Me: So mysterious things are out there somewhere?!
yourmama: we are here arent we
Me: Yeah, we can all be mysterious. ;-)
vegasmon: its all a mystery to me

We took the discussion in this direction because God's Word refers to several mysteries. Paul even refers to "the mystery of Christ" in Ephesians 3:4.

"This mystery," he writes, "is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 3:6)

When Jesus was on Earth, some people thought salvation was available only to Jews. The Lord made clear it can be gained by all who truly believe in Him.

The discussion builds from here. More in a future post....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Poker Night 126: Gimme an A

When you're trying to play serious poker to win prize money, it can help to have distracted opponents. That happened for us at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. Many players were more concerned about the Bowl Championship Series title game, as the club is practically on the other side of a bridge from Alabama. But we were looking for A's at places other than Alabama flags and caps....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-3 offsuit

We're content to call in the lead position, but an admitted "gambler" to our left raises 500. We've barely played any hands and have about 5,400 chips, so we decide to call. A couple of other players stay in.


Very nice -- but we're wary of that gambler, because our kicker card is weak. We bet 400, and he calls. So do the others.


We turn up the heat by betting 1,100. The gambler has seen enough, and bails out. One other player stays in, and our bet puts him all-in.


"I have an Ace," we announce. No one else does. The gambler says he knew we did. It's a pot which increases our stack by about 3,500.

As the evening wore on, the A's kept coming. Sitting with 6,000 chips after the one-hour break, pocket Aces came -- allowing us to gain to 8,500. But we were more cautious at other times, folding A-3 and A-4 when others made bets in the thousands.

We held on long enough to make a nine-player final table, finishing in a three-way tie for 6th when our all-in bet with 8-8 was outgunned by Queens. (Officially we were declared eighth, because two other players pushed with us and we had the fewest chips.)

MINISTRY MOMENT: With the football game (mixed with alcohol) on many people's minds, it was hard to have one tonight. But we admittedly became annoyed when one tipsy player called another tipsy player the "N-word" several times.

"Why do you call someone by a racial slur, when he isn't even a member of that race?" Both men happened to be white.

"Did I call someone by a racial slur?" Booze can affect people's short-term memory, as well as their tongues.

Yet here's the strange thing: a couple of African-American players were at the table, yet said nothing. Who would like to explain this?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 49 final tables in 126 nights (38.9%) - 10 cashes. This was our first final table in four weeks.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-7-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 8 final tables in 93 games (8.6%), no cashes.

(Yahoo and Poker Stars had no play in the last week.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Remember as you play....

"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." - Proverbs 27:12

Poker sometimes can be an illogical game. Ask anyone who's ever pushed all in with pocket Aces, only to lose to an opponent whose 2-4 turned into a full house.

But as someone told us at church recently, poker has a "measure of skill" involved with the luck. The skill can come in how and when you bet.

Let's say you have 7-7, and the flop is A-Q-10. If someone bets big ahead of you, what will you do? Will you take the Star Trek approach with your pair -- and "boldly go where no man has gone before"? Or will you conclude that bet is a sign your opponent hit at least a higher pair?

The Contemporary English Version is even more blunt with this verse: "Be cautious and hide when you see danger -- don't be stupid and walk right into trouble." But of course, some players intentionally try to conceal the danger. We did this recently, by checking a full house that we hit on the flop. The next player in line pushed all-in -- and pushed himself right to the rail.

Go ahead, confess to us -- what's the biggest blunder you ever made at the poker table? And what did you learn from it?

The law of the land

We've been too busy with a variety of other projects to do a 2009 year-end summary of our poker playing. Suffice to say the highlight was our night in October at a buy-in tournament in northwest Florida -- where a $40 investment brought back close to $200.

The most curious development when it comes to poker in our home city was a crackdown on where tournaments can be played. It didn't come from the police, but the city code officers and finance department. Read what we mean in the 4 Jan 10 entry at our other blog, The Blog of Columbus.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poker Night 125: Folding in the Basement

There's a new place in our city for playing free poker -- a downtown club called Eighty-Five. It's located in the basement of a historic building, so you have to walk down a flight of stairs simply to enter. And it actually has the feel of walking into someone's basement -- wide open with comfy lounge chairs, and a modest bar on one side serving drinks in real glasses.

(But no, there is NO bonus for winning a hand if you're dealt 8-5.)

Our first night there had a promising start, as we gained a couple of mid-sized pots. But we should have known it was NOT our night when we folded 3-3, and a pair of 3's landed on the flop. Then came a hand where we faced a big decision:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

We're dealing, and hold about 8,000 chips. A man to our left raises to 1,200, and we call. Hardly anyone else does.


"I'm all-in," the man to our left says. We have him covered, but by only about 2,500. And this man had bluffed us off a pot before, by going all-in with less.

"You faked me out a couple of hands ago," we say.

Our opponent talks like he means business. "You might hit a draw and take the pot," he says. But he seems too confident.

"I have top pair -- but I'll fold." Then we show our K-Q. He never shows his cards, as he takes the chips.

"I sure wouldn't have folded that," a man to our right says.

"I can't believe you folded," the pot winner says later. Much later we find out he had A-Q, to top us. The hand played out with a 6 on the river, but no King. For once, our reading was correct.

K-Q bit us again after the one-hour break, when we called an all-in bet of 6,000. "You have me dominating," the pusher said showing Q-6. So of course, a 6 came on the flop. A 10 on the turn brought hope for us to hit a straight, but it didn't happen. We were left with 500 chips, which we gave up when A-4 paired only the 4.

Final score: a nice place for poker that's practically walking distance of our home. This Monday night tournament probably will replace a crosstown drive on Wednesday to Soho Bar and Grill. But a 19th-place finish means we're still in a big slump.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Six months ago we mentioned a man named Harry, who was delayed several times for elective surgery. He finally had it a couple of months ago, and the incision is almost healed now.

What did Harry do last Thursday night, when Lil Kim's Cove didn't have poker? "I said my prayers and went to bed," he told me tonight. What did he pray for? "Health. Strength. To be a better person."

Those are simple things to ask of God -- but they're also good things to request. Consider the three items Harry mentioned:

1) Health. "Pray for each other so that you may be healed," advises James 5:16.

2) Strength. "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength," says Isaiah 40:31.

3) How can you be a better person? We suggest the advice at the end of II Peter. "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." (3:18)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 125 nights (38.4%) - 10 cashes.