Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This is a big week for Jews and practicing Christians -- the "Passover season," or the Days of Unleavened Bread. It marks the time when ancient Israel sounded like it was playing poker.

"And they departed from Rameses in the first month.... the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians." (Numbers 33:3, KJV)

We could have some fun joking about what sort of "high hand" the Israelites had:

* A full house? No, they left their homes (Ex. 12:37).

* A straight? No -- check a Bible map and you'll probably see their exodus was a rather wandering path.

* A flush? No -- because the pursuing Egyptian army was flushed away at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:27-20).

We're open to ideas on this, but we think Israel's "high hand" was simply a pair. Moses was the human leader. And the Lord brought His children out (Ex. 12:51), leading them with an interchangeable pillar of cloud and fire (Ex. 13:21).

As some ministers like to say: one person and God can make a majority. Make God your partner -- not only during the Spring Holy Day season, but all year long.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Any P.R. Beats No P.R.

At least that's what we've heard. So we note our site has been added to the blogroll of "Purple Hymnal" - a blog run by a church member-turned-atheist.

If you connected with us from there, welcome. If you come for the poker, you might learn other things -- and even be challenged by them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Poker Night 145: Fear Factor

"Scared money never wins," a man across the table from us said at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. We think he was advising against small hesitant betting. Sometimes we don't mind that approach -- but sometimes we have little choice but to bet big:

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 9-8 of clubs

We're content to call our way into this hand, but a man to our left raises to 200. Then a man across the way raises to 700. We're not comfortable with this -- but big-time poker players on TV go big with suited connectors, so we call. The first raiser does as well.

ON THE FLOP: K-9-10 (10 is a club)

We're first in line to act, and check. The man to our left bets 800, chasing away the man who re-raised a moment before. It's bottom pair and we're asking for trouble, but we call.


Hmmmm -- so much for the flush. But now we have two pair. We check in the hope our opponent will fire again. He doesn't, checking along with us.


Uh-oh. Now a Jack makes a straight, and our hopes are more cautious. We check again, and quietly are delighted when our opponent does the same.

"WLS," we declare in honor of one of our favorite radio stations growing up. "Eight-y nines." The old "rock of Chicago" is too much for our opponent, who concedes without showing his hand.

We won a couple of other hands as well -- but lost a couple of chases, including a hand with A-10 which led to two pair, but cost us 3,000 to a man with three of a kind. Our last stand with A-J fell short to two smaller pair, and we finished in 19th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Two players across the table from us were talking about a hand. One said to play what he had, "I've have to be f***ing God."

"I don't think God would do that," we responded.

The man who made the comment said nothing more about it -- but we felt compelled to say something. So many people seem to attach God's name to foul language.

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God," warns Deuteronomy 5:11, "for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." The Contemporary English Version says God will punish anyone who misuses His name.

But earlier in the day, we were reminded in Bible study of this surprising guidance from Jesus: "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man shall be forgiven...." (Luke 12:10)

It's the time of year for thinking carefully about the forgiveness Jesus offers. "Father, forgive them," the Savior pleaded as He died, "for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Are you grateful for Jesus's sacrifice for your sins? Or have you spoken against Him carelessly in the last year, perhaps without giving it a second thought? There's still time to ask God to forgive you for wrong words from your mouth -- and for the Holy Spirit's help in speaking better.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 145 nights (40.7%) - 11 cashes. If all goes well, we might be able to resume online poker play next week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cheating does not pay

If you think you can cheat at a poker table and win, think again. People are always watching -- including some you might not expect.

Watch one example from a recent TV commercial (episodes 7 and 8). How they found matching playing cards is a mystery to us -- but then, we don't cheat.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Poker Night 144: I Shall Not Be Moved

Have you ever sat down to play poker, and felt like someone had a target painted on your shirt? We felt that way at times tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. A man sitting to our immediate right seemed intent on intimidating us. A couple of big bets chased us off promising hands. But the time came for taking a stand....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-4 offsuit

We have yet to win a hand, and begin with 3,900. We'd prefer to get in small with this, but a man across the table raises to 1,025. The man to our immediate right calls, and we decide to join him.


It's top pair, but we have a weak kicker. That man to our right bets 1,000. We smell an attempt to bluff us off the pot, and decide to call. Another player is pushed all-in by this.


That man bets 1,000 more -- and we stare at our stack. If he had more, we might have folded on the theory he has A-K for two pair or a higher kicker. But we decide to call again.


Wow -- the unexpected happens! The man to our right bets 3,000.

"All I have is 1,875," we say -- but with no flush threat showing, this call is a no-brainer. "And I think I'm about to get a rebate, because I hit a straight on the river."

"You have a straight," the intimidator says quietly. "You win."

The first player to go all-in surrendered already, with J-6. Our other opponent later admits he had an Ace -- but he didn't say what else he had.

Sad to say, that was the only hand we won all night. K-K was corrupted by a player with three Queens. A-J fell short to a player with 2-2. And when we finally pushed all-in with A-6, a 6 came on the flop -- but a woman had two pair with 5's and 4's to eliminate three players at once. By our figuring, we finished tied for 15th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What's up with the nail?" a woman asked us late in the tournament. We took a simple long metal nail to use as a card protector -- and of course, more.

"This reminds me of what Christ went through," we answered. "It's the time of year to think about that, you know."

"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were.... I will not believe it." So said the famous disciple "doubting Thomas" in John 20:25. A few days later, the resurrected Jesus ended his doubts by making a personal appearance (verses 26-27).

"Because you have seen me, you have believed...." Jesus told Thomas in verse 29. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

The woman who asked about the nail believes in Jesus as her Savior. "Always," she told us. No one else at the table spoke up. So we have to ask -- do you believe? Especially as the season marking the crucifixion of Christ approaches?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 144 nights (41.0%) - 11 cashes. Online poker action is still suspended, but we hope to resume that in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Rewind: Knowing For Sure

The man to our left at Thursday night's poker game made a very perceptive comment about the Holy Spirit. "If you need to be reminded you have it, you don't really have it."

How many times have you seen someone look at their cards during a hand -- over and over again? "The cards didn't change," someone else at the table might point out.

"I can hope, can't I?" we like to say in response.

Part of that looking could be an acting job, to "sell" uncertainty about making a play. But a player also could be making sure he has the winning hand he thinks he has. Believers can't really do that with a invisible Holy Spirit -- or can they?

"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit," Paul wrote in Romans 8:5 -- not long after writing in verse 2 that the Holy Spirit "made me free from the law of sin and death"(KJV).

Paul added the Holy Spirit empowered him to perform "mighty signs and wonders" (15:19). This could range from inspired preaching (I Corinthians 2:4) to speaking in completely different languages (Acts 2:4).

If you want to be sure the Holy Spirit is in you, here are some good Biblical guideposts to use in examining yourself:

1. Do you believe Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? (I John 4:2-3)

2. Do you display fruit of the Holy Spirit? The fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23which should be growing in believers.

3. Do you show gifts of God (I Corinthians 12:8-11)? Keep in mind not all Christians have every gift (verse 4).

But don't be misled here. The Bible also indicates you do not have the Holy Spirit unless two vital things are done first: "Repent, and be baptized.... in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...." (Acts 2:38) If you need guidance with those key steps, e-mail us and we'll be happy to assist you.

We've concluded the man at the poker table was correct in his thinking about the Holy Spirit, based on these words of the apostle Paul. "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16)

(P.S. We admitted to the man that little power plug is also a way for us to spread the word about the Spirit -- not only to be reminded we have it.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Poker Night 143: All That and a Stack of Chips

"I need a drink," said the man across from us at the final table at Lil Kim's Cove tonight.

"No, you don't," we told him. Because he clearly was drunk -- so drunk that he couldn't understand simple instructions from us about how to raise before the flop, and he sometimes flung in big stacks of chips without even counting them.

A plastered poker player sometimes can be the most dangerous at a table -- liable to bet big with anything. "He's playing happy," a man told me outside the club as we left. But he kept making so many big hands and winning so many pots that he frustrated and infuriated other players.

How do you take on someone like that -- a drunk acting like a bully? "Wait for a hand, then take him on," said the man outside the club. We faced a different scenario....

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: K-10 offsuit

We're at the semifinal table, with 12 players left. But we only had 5,500 chips when this hand began, so we're in desperate straits. The drunk man across from us raises to 8,000, without bothering to count them. As he's said several times in the game, it's "all that." One player between us calls.

"I'll take you on. I have nothing to lose," we say -- and go all-in with our last 1,500 chips.


Not great, but it's still an open-ended straight draw. While we're all-in, betting continues among other players. The "high" roller bets thousands more, to chase away all but one other opponent.


Another big bet chases off that opponent -- yet as we recall, the drunk only had Ace high. "How about a King?" we ask.


Turned over with dramatic slowness, but lovely for us. Two pair is enough to double us up, and more.

We joined the big-betting drunk at the final table -- but the big bets eventually did him in. Too many losses left him out in seventh place. Yet we wound up sixth -- and a bit stunned that we finished ahead of him. Patience indeed does pay off. For us, it means three final tables in the last five Thursday nights.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What did you bring this time?" a man to our left wondered. Tonight our card protector was a plastic plug, used to cover holes in power strips.

"I brought this to remind me," we explained, "that I'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon me. [Acts 1:8] Do you have the Holy Spirit?"

The man nodded to indicate he did, but then he challenged our explanation. "If you need to be reminded that you have it, you don't really have it."

Hmmmmm -- what do you think of that statement? We'll offer our thoughts (and our response) in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 143 nights (41.3%) - 11 cashes. Online play is still suspended, due to a busy work and cleaning schedule.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remember As You Play....

"The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, 'O man of God, there is death in the pot!' And they could not eat it." (II Kings 4:40)

Go ahead -- cry aloud, "There is death in the pot!" at your next poker game. See what sort of reaction you get. :-)

But seriously: When someone bets enough chips to put you all-in, there's "death in the pot" for you. That's when you have to take special care. It's time to do something Jesus recommends, in terms of becoming a disciple.

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14:28, KJV)

In poker, going all-in usually is a choice -- and it could mean death to your chances of winning the tournament. Jesus goes on to indicate in the Christian walk, there's really no choice. "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (verse 33, NIV)

Yet here's the amazing thing: God promises if you go all-in for Christ, there's NO "death in the pot" after all!

Elisha found flour in II Kings 4:41, which somehow made the stew safe to eat. Jesus offers Himself as "the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51).

Jesus paid a tremendous price to provide you eternal life. Will you count the cost to eat of the Lord's "living bread" -- to gain a reward better than any tower of poker chips?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

All the Money's on the Table?

It may not be at big poker tournament finales anymore, after what happened this weekend in Berlin. An organized group of robbers reportedly stormed into the event, and stole tens of thousands of Euros which was destined for the winner.

Let's be honest here: don't big poker events put the money front-and-center at a final table to get your covetous nature going? The very thing the Bible warns against, in verses such as Romans 13:9?

But it's really no different from a loan office commercial -- the ads offering needy people much smaller amounts of dollar bills.

Are poker events inherently dangerous? Not if the organizers take proper security precautions. Remember, there's also plenty of cash around every time you visit the national bank.

March Heads-Up Madness

Unless you have a good memory or a close watch on poker blogs, you might not know the National Heads-up Championship is underway in Las Vegas this weekend.

If you don't want to wait until NBC shows the tournament in April and May, the field is at eight as we write this. Hopefully we won't spoil anything by noting no "celebrities" are left in the field. Who do you like, of the players remaining?

Replying to the Adventist

"Always be ready with a reply for anyone who calls you to account for the hope you cherish, but answer gently and with a sense of reverence...." (I Peter 3:15, Moffatt translation)

Sometimes you even have to reply to fellow believers. This is what we've done this weekend -- posting an answer to a sermon posted online by Seventh-Day Adventist minister Will Fults.

We noted in February his message would make a good Bible study for us -- a chance to probe whether "poker ministry" is an oxymoron, and whether we should avoid the game completely. In the end, we don't agree with his main points. But we also find common ground on some issues. Take a look with an open Bible, and let us know what you think.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Poker Night 142: Small as in All

We've heard pro poker player Vanessa Rousso say she likes to play "small ball" -- building chips through a series of small pots instead of one big one. We tend to do the same sort of thing. But tonight at Lil Kim's Cove (yes, we DID play there after all), another player forced a strategic shift....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-7 offsuit

It's early in the evening, and a couple of hopeful hands haven't turned out well. So we somewhat reluctantly bet the minimum -- until a man to our left raises to 300. We call, as do a few other players.

The man who raised is notorious at local tables for making big bets with almost anything. We've caught him doing this before, and took him for 28,000 chips. History could repeat, you know....

ON THE FLOP: Ad-9d-Ac maybe right here. A player ahead of us checks, and we decide to go small -- a bet of 150, to lure people in.

"He's got an Ace," the big bettor quietly says. We say nothing. "I'll call for you," he says. A couple of other players call as well.


Now two diamonds and two clubs are showing -- but there's no flush yet. So we bet 250. Mr. Big Bettor calls, as does a woman across the table from us. No one else remains.


Uh-oh -- someone could have hit a flush with that third club. At least we want our opponents to think that's what we're thinking. So we bet on the small side again, at 600.

"I'm all-in," the big bettor declares.

"Call," we say -- forgetting that other woman is still in the hand. But she folds, and we're certainly still calling.

"Do you have a boat?" our remaining opponent asks.

"Did you hit the flush?" we ask in response. Yup, he did -- with K-10 of clubs. But yup, we did. It's a popular win around the table.

"And that will cost you," we say politely as we count our stack, "6,325." After he paid, we thanked him.

That big gain was followed later by another with pocket Aces and a win with pocket Kings -- which led us back to the final table! But the good cards stopped there, and we finished the evening in seventh place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Several of them came tonight, but the most unusual came after we sat down at a semifinal table. Serious haggling was underway at the other table, involving big bets which put two players all-in. So we had a little fun at their expense.

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!" we sang -- and we clapped. No one else at the table did.

"What is this, vacation Bible school?" a man to our right asked. "Weak punch," he remembered.

"....And duplex cookies," we piped up. Then we quietly added, "But we learned about Jesus, too...." A woman across from us nodded, indicating that was a good thing.

But here's the rather sad thing: thinking back to vacation Bible school of our youth, we remember the duplex cookies and "Red Rover" games on the lawn -- but don't remember any of the lessons about Jesus. What about you? Is there a way to make those stories memorable, perhaps for a lifetime?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 58 final tables in 142 nights (40.8%) - 11 cashes. Still no online play, due to a busy season -- and no guarantee of live tournaments next week, either.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Poker Night 141: Ain't as in Paint

We've been on quite a "Big Monday" roll at Club Eighty-Five -- making six final tables in a row. But after missing last week's tournament due to a road trip, the momentum clearly was lacking tonight. Good cards simply didn't come -- even when we thought they had....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: King diamonds-Jack hearts

This is about our best deal of the night -- but trouble develops immediately. A man across the table raises to 1,000. A man to our immediate right raises all-in with 1,250. We're hoping and hunching it's finally our turn to win something.

"I'm gonna try. I call."

"I'll raise," announces a woman to our left who usually plays tough. She doubles the stakes to 2,500. The man who started this calls. We've committed so many chips already that we feel compelled to call again. This leaves us with about 2,800.


"I'm all-in," the woman who raised to 2,500 declares. "I admit, I'm scared of hearts," she adds. We suspected before the flop she might have pocket Aces, and now we're sure of it.

"You've got me outkicked," the man across the table decides. He folds.

"I think I know what you have, so I have to fold," we say next -- conceding a big loss.

The big betting woman is left heads-up with the man who pushed all-in. No more hearts appear, but a 3 does on the river.

"Two pair," the woman says.

Huh?!?! Then she shows A-K. We were only half-right -- but right enough, as her Ace had everyone outkicked. (The man who pushed originally conceded, without showing his cards.)

Another big loss later left with only 500 chips, which we were forced to throw in the big blind after the one-hour break. A-2 of diamonds was promising, but not enough diamonds came and the woman who won earlier had a pair while we did not. Amazingly, we survived to tie for 11th place -- nearly earning points.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We were given this whale pencil sharpener years ago, while working with the American Red Cross. It became our card protector and conversation-starter tonight.

"This whale reminds me," we told a young man as we were being eliminated, "that Jesus was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth -- like Jonah was three days and three nights in the fish's belly." That's what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, referring to His death before the resurrection.

"Do you believe in Jesus? Is He your Savior?" we asked the young man.

"I'm a believer," he answered, "but I haven't attended church in years because so many churches seem.... blood hungry." At first we thought he said money-hungry, which is a common complaint many people have against established churches.

What would you say to this young man? We'll tell you what we said in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 57 final tables in 141 nights (40.4%) - 11 cashes. Because of a busy schedule, it's highly unlikely we'll play any more this week.

If It Was Real: 140-Game Report

It's time for another report card on how our live tournaments are going. In a word -- streaky. We've recently seemed to get hot for a few nights in a row, then cold the same way. Who wants to explain why that happens?

But in our last 20 live tournaments, we've made NINE final tables -- not far from half of them! And we've finished in the top five on five occasions. We had two second-place finishes, a fourth, a fifth and a tie for fifth.

Using the scoring and potential prize pool we started long ago based on a Kansas City area casino, here's how it would look:

BUY-INS: 140 nights x $50 = $7,000

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

Second - 6 ($2,400)

Third -- 6 ($1,800)

Fourth - 7 ($1,400)
TIES for fourth:
3 two-way ($450)
1 three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 9 ($900)
TIE for fifth: 3 ($150)

TOTAL -- 40 for $9,617

A $1,000 investment in the last 20 games would have returned $1,150. Not much, we thought -- until we calculated that's a 15 percent return in about two months of action. Overall, our profit since June 2007 is down to 37.4%.

The mercy rule

We asked what you thought of Matthew 9:13, where Jesus advises: "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'"

Jesus actually quoted there from the Old Testament book of Hosea (6:6) -- and He used it to explain why He ate with local "sinners" (Matt. 9:11). Jesus added to His statement about mercy: "For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

A few churches have started "poker nights" for men, to build bonds of fellowship in a wholesome atmosphere. We think that's a great idea, and wish more churches would do it. But let's face it -- a lot of poker is played in smoky bars, where "sin taxes" are collected from sales of cigarettes and alcohol. The people most likely to gather there are the people Jesus came to call.

(Matthew 9:9-10 shows Jesus met the sinners at the home of a tax collector named Matthew -- one who had recently become a follower of Him. We know of no verse specifically saying Christ went into a bar or nightclub. But we're honestly not sure those things existed 2,000 years ago.)

Our point is this: Jesus was willing to step outside the synagogue walls to meet people who needed Him. The Lord was perfect at all times, yet was willing to sacrifice a little "perfect atmosphere" to interact with the imperfect who needed a Savior.

Eugene Peterson's paraphrase The Message puts the last part of verse 13 this way: "'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders." That's what we try to do at poker tables. And in the process, we encourage those who show aspects of godliness. As James 3:17 says, "The wisdom that comes from heaven is.... full of mercy and good fruit...."