Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poker Night 154: Better Late Than Early

The night started well for us at Lil Kim's Cove. After we were moved twice in the first ten minutes, we landed at a table where nice cards came. We won three of the first four hands. But as someone once said in sports: It's not how you start, but how you finish....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

After the early success, not much has come our way. We were moved to a table with a big bettor who rolled up a huge score, then decided to give up the game and abandon it all. Thanks to the distribution of his 31,000 chips among the remaining six players, we're at 7,000. Now five people are playing -- and there's little to think about here.

"All in," we declare after the first player in line calls. A man to our left calls the 7,000. Then a man to our right pushes in all his chips, and he has something around 25,000. The man to the left surrenders.

"I've got al-Qaeda," we say showing our cards. Our opponent, as usual at Lil Kim's Cove, keeps his cards face down.

ON THE FLOP: 7-5-3

It would be nice if we paired something here.


As we say, it would be really, really nice if a big card came.


Remember what we noticed about the Heads-Up Poker telecast Sunday -- that overcards won races over pocket pairs? Trouble is, pocket pairs were shown on NBC's computer as a slight statistical favorite. And in this case, our opponent had 10-10.

"His blog is called Losers-Are-Us," a skeptic across the table jokes as we record the hand, finishing in about 15th place. With friends like that at the poker table....

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You know who invented that?" the Tournament Director asked when he saw our small bottle of Liquid Paper which was used as a card protector. Nope, we didn't know.

"Remember Mike Nesmith of the Monkees? His mother invented that." We fact-checked as we wrote this -- and he's absolutely correct. Nesmith wound up a multi-millionaire as a result of his creative mom.

"You know why he brought it, don't you?" that skeptic across the table said. He knew the answer, because we discussed it with him weeks before. But now the Tournament Director was stumped.

"It reminds me that Jesus can wash my sins whiter than snow," we said. The Director thought that connection was clever.

"What did you say?" the skeptic asked. We were glad to repeat that answer for the entire table.

"You're kidding," a young man to our left said -- the same young man who told us Wednesday night he reads this blog, and wanted his pair of 9's mentioned.

"No, I'm not kidding. Jesus can wash your sins whiter than snow" (Isaiah 1:18).

We think the young man's statement really involved our using that bottle as a religious witnessing tool. He eventually admitted he believes in Jesus.

A message of Jesus pleases some, while annoying others. It's been that way since the apostle Paul stood before a crowd in Athens nearly 2,000 years ago.

"When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said: 'We want to hear you again on this subject'.... A few men became followers of Paul and believed" (Acts 17:32-34).

By asking us to repeat the explanation, the skeptic actually opened the door for us to present a quick message about Christ. But we have to ask in light of Acts 17: which group are you in when it comes to Jesus?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 154 nights (39.0%) - 11 cashes. It's our lowest percentage in a long time, but does that mean we're a loser?

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Heads-up games: 6-4. Full tournaments - 32 point wins in 205 games (15.6%); 13 final tables, 0 cashes.

For the second time in ten days, we came in second at a big tournament this week. Wednesday's game had 212 players -- and it's an amazing story to be told in another post.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: One-table sit-and-goes - 2 wins in 10 games. (We had a win there Tuesday, in our first tournament there since February.) Pretend cash game total: $12,543, down $2,260. (If not for the tournament, things would have been much worse.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poker Night 153: His Way and Our Way

"Put this in your blog," a man sitting next to us said during a hand at Soho Bar and Grill. He won the hand with a pair of 9's. OK, why is that blog-worthy?

"I went by the odds, the percentages, their facial gestures and their betting habits during the game."

Now he tells us this. Earlier in the evening, our thinking was a little different:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-6 offsuit

We're in the big blind, and no one raises ahead of us. We probably could, but we don't.


A man ahead of us bets 600. With bottom pair but an attractive kicker, we decide to call and see what happens. One or two other players do the same.


The first player in line doubles the bet to 1,200. But now we have two pair, and we sense (without looking at him) the turn card left the man to our right weaker than he thought. We call again. Everyone else bails out.


Our opponent checks -- which we don't mind. A big bet might have made us sweat a little. Now we bet 1,000. A call in response indicates to us we're safe.

"Queen-10." He has one pair, missed a straight draw -- and seems surprised we stayed past the flop with bottom pair. "You hit runners." (Only one, really.)

That big gain was erased minutes later, when a man fooled us by betting big with a well-disguised full house. We never really recovered after that -- finally going all-in with K-Q. Both cards paired on the flop, but a man across from us caught a flush on the river. We went home in approximately 30th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Even before play began, players at our table were puzzled by the little bottle of Liquid Paper we used as a card protector. (At least one man knew we like to bring these discussion-starters.)

"I brought this to remind me that Jesus can wash my sins whiter than snow," we explained (based on Psalm 51:7).

"There are two things I don't bring up: politics and religion," a man said in response. "I'm not really religious. I consider myself spiritual."

We didn't answer that comment, because we wanted to check a book at home before responding to that statement. Our check found "spiritual" people shouldn't be afraid to be Christians. An upcoming post will explain why.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 153 nights (39.2%) - 11 cashes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Senior Championship: 50-Something

So what happened with that race to sundown? We qualified for tonight's monthly National League of Poker Senior Championship -- and things started amazingly well.

In the first ten minutes we saw 4-A, K-A, K-K, A-K and A-J! Four of those five gave us modest pots; A-K fell to a diamond flush.

At the first break we stood at 1,220 chips (everyone starts with 1,000). Nothing came our way in the second period, dropping us to 870. But then....

BLINDS: 75/150

IN THE POCKET: A-6 offsuit

Since we're below "sea level" (the starting amount), we're admittedly playing tight. We call to get in small, as do a few others.


One player is ahead of us, and bets the minimum. Nope, sorry -- with two pair, we dare to push all-in. Two players call us. The first player joins in with K-5; the other opponent has A-4. So we lead by one pair.


No harm there.


"PTL" we type - because the full house jumps us to 3,060.

Our stack rose to 3,935 at the third break, as we hit pairs on the flop and scared people off with early modest bets. But then we made two safe choices that wound up hurting us. A player pushed all-in when we had A-6; our fold cost us a split pot with an Ace on the board. Then we folded A-8 to an all-in bet -- and 4-5-6-7 came on the board.

We finally pushed ourselves with A-2 of clubs and only 820 chips left. A flop of 9-K-K didn't help us top an opponent with pocket Jacks. Our final score: 55th out of 809. A moneymaker in a real poker room -- but only the final table won money in this tournament.

As we folded those two potential big hands in the second hour, we asked ourselves: "Am I playing scared?" There's a fine line between cautious conservative decisions and "playing not to lose."

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear," Paul advises in II Timothy 1:7; "but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

If you're looking for a rule beyond that in handling challenging poker moments.... well, we're not sure what to say. What advice would you offer someone in our situation?

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Not Your Day When....

You're playing an online heads-up game.

You're dealt A-K on the second hand.

Your opponent raises you to 3x big blind.

A King comes on the flop.

Your opponent bets 110. You call, with top pair and top kicker.

A small card comes on the turn.

Your opponent bets 370. You call again.

A small card comes on the river.

Your opponent puts you all-in. You call.

Your opponent has K-K.

It happened to us just now.

As we said -- not our day. :-(

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heads-Up Week 2: What's the Hurry?

A couple of themes have developed, as we watch today's second week of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

1. Overcards beat mid-range pocket pairs in races. For instance, Don Cheadle's A-Q beat J.P. Kelly's 8-8. That happened several times during the first hour.

2. Longer matches are winning praise. Even though Phil Hellmuth gained a quick win over Howard Lederer, Hellmuth said it's a sign of skill in heads-up if you play a longer contest.

Cheadle later mentioned playing with "discipline" in a match. And NBC's Ali Nejad admitted it's good to be "methodical."

The theme in all these statements? Don't rush into something, because you be rushing into trouble.

Proverbs 6:18 warns against having "feet that are quick to rush into evil." And Jesus advised against impulsively following those who think they've found Him in other places: "Men will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them" (Luke 17:23).

Unless you're playing heads-up, you can't win a poker tournament in one hand. (Someone tried to do that to us online the other day, and we laughed at it.) It's not a Biblical statement, but it works well here -- good things come to those who wait.

Hurry. Sundown.

We mentioned earlier that we passed up on a $1,000 opportunity this weekend. We qualified for a big seasonal championship in our city -- but it was scheduled for 12:00 noon Saturday, and we put the keeping of a seventh-day Sabbath to God first.

But Friday afternoon was quite a different situation. We entered a online qualifying tournament for the National League of Poker monthly senior championship. The top ten finishers qualified. Only 46 entered. The game began 65 minutes before sunset where we lived, and the start of Sabbath.

At the 20-minute break, our stack was fairly strong -- and 26 players were left. At the 43-minute break, we were still well above the 1,000-chip starting level. But now 17 players were left -- only nine falling away in the "second period."

With 20 minutes left before sundown, we could have tried a big "all or nothing" push to settle the issue. But instead, we became extra-tight: minimum calls before the flop, bail out if you miss the flop. That gained us a pot shortly before sunset, and security with about 2,600 chips.

At two minutes until sundown and 11 players left, we turned on NLOP's "post and fold" option for the first time ever. It automatically posts blinds and folds if anyone calls. Doing that in the big blind actually won us a pot with a straight at sunset!

We checked back at the computer a few times while we were making dinner, and NLOP disqualified us after ten minutes of inactivity in sixth place. We qualified -- and we typed a chat note explaining to the final table what we did.

So you tell us -- were we a "Sabbath breaker" in this case? We let the computer do the work, after we reached the brink.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Poker Night 152: If Looks Could Kill

"I'll tell you right now, you scare me." So said a young man as he sat down next to us tonight, at a semifinal table at Lil Kim's Cove. Trouble was, he was not talking about our poker prowess.

"You look a little like a serial killer," the young man continued. He even mentioned the BTK serial murderer in our home state of Kansas. After looking at Dennis Rader's picture, maybe it's time for a full shave.

"You have a facade," the young man explained. "You look sneaky. Now that can be a good thing. You can be sneaky good."

The man said this as we shuffled and dealt cards -- with a WWJD wristband on full display, as in "What Would Jesus Do?" But come to think of it, "sneaky good" can work to your advantage at a poker table. It did for us....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: K-6 of clubs

The tournament is only a few hands old. We join most of the table in calling, hoping for something big.

ON THE FLOP: Qc-9c-8c

Aha -- something big! We're a flush-flopper! But we're first in line to act, and we want to maximize our potential gains. So we bet 200. Four other players call.


Now it's time to turn up the heat. We bet 1,200.

"Straight?" a man across the table asks as the other opponents keep calling. We say nothing and only look at him. So he keeps talking. "You see, I've got the Ace of clubs...." But then he stops. "But you know, I'm not going to chase it." He folds.


A pair on the board is potential trouble, because someone might have hit a full house. But we still bet 2,000. That scares two players away. A woman across from us calls, admitting she might regret it. Sure enough -- she does. Our flush had it all along.

We were dealt several potentially big hands tonight. But several of them fell through, and big bets by others ran us away from potential winners. An all-in bet with 7-7 after the one-hour break helped us recover and survive to the semifinal table. But then 7-7 came again -- and our push was topped by someone who made a pair of Kings on the flop.

Our final outcome was 11th place. But we're admittedly feeling mixed emotions as we write this. The young man who compared us to serial killers later admitted he was "jiving" -- saying almost anything that came to his mind, to liven up the table and avoid dead poker silence. Yet after nearly three years of poker nights and almost two years of focused poker ministry, this is the last sort of reaction we'd expect from someone. We'll meditate more on this in a future post.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Before we met that young man, a conversation started at the table over a "card protector" we hadn't used in awhile -- a card promoting a church in Tennessee, which we found at a motel.

"I once saw a card with something like that," a woman said. "It said, 'Get out of hell free." She added that one had "John 3:16" on the back of it.

That's one of the most famous verses in the Bible, but we shouldn't assume you know what it says. Jesus declares there: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

If you think we're material for a serial killer, remember one thing -- we're all under a death penalty. "Adam brought death to all of us," says I Corinthians 15:22 in the Contemporary English Version. That's due to Adam's sin (Genesis 3:17-19).

But thankfully, the verse doesn't end there. It continues, "....and Christ will bring life to all of us." That's the eternal life Jesus mentioned.

"And so, if we have God's Son, we have this life," promised I John 5:12. A warning then follows: "But if we don't have the Son, we don't have this life." If you're not sure about whether you have it, leave a comment -- we'll be glad to help settle the matter for you.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 152 nights (39.5%) - 11 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 29 point wins in 193 games (15.0%), 11 final tables, no cashes.

There's a chance we could qualify for NLOP's Sunday night $1000 weekly championship, so we're trying heads-up games there to increase our point count. So far we're one-for-one.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $14,803, down $110.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poker Night 151: Scattered Seed

"He who does not gather with me scatters," Jesus said in Matthew 12:30. We came upon a gathering of believers at our poker table tonight -- but our chips were scattered early.

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-7 offsuit

We sit in the big blind, hoping this is the hand which will turn around our night. We missed draws early which cost us thousands of chips, then bailed out of weak-looking hands which turned out to be potential winners. The play calls to us, and we're glad to check.


The woman in the small blind checks. We bet 500. A man across the table who was just burned by someone with a straight goes all-in, raising to 750.

"2,500 more," announces the dealer, who made that straight one hand before. At the end of that hand, the re-raiser said he "probably didn't hit" the straight. So he bluffed with a lie once. Now we suspect he's bluffing with this bet. We're not really comfortable about it, but we call.


We check to the raiser, who grabs a big stack of chips to put us all-in. Could he be doing all this while holding a 2?

"Aw, why not?" we say, still skeptical. We push out our last 625. As usual in our local poker games, no one shows anything at this point.


"I've got an Ace," we declare.

"So do I," says the first man to push. Except he has A-10. A higher kicker earns him the main pot.

"I also have an Ace," the dealer says. "But I've got you outkicked." Sure enough, it's A-9. Aces, aces everywhere -- and we were the odd man out, first to go at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: While we didn't stay in the game long, three different people at our table had a look at the "Jesus as Your Savior" coin while we played.

"Is Jesus your Savior?" we asked a woman to our right.

"I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe Jesus died for my sins." She answered quite matter-of-factly. And she gave a good answer, based on Romans 4:25. Some ministers might have longed for a bit more enthusiasm in her answer -- but at least she gave a statement of faith.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 151 nights (39.7%) - 11 cashes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Step Away

We know, we know -- "almost" doesn't count for anything in poker. But we almost won our biggest tournament yet at National League of Poker this afternoon.

We came in second out of 175 players. Sadly for us, only first place in that tournament won cash - so there was no 10-dollar prize for us. But there was a good bit of satisfaction, that we still can play well online.

Can't Get Next to You?

In an earlier post, a poker Tournament Director tried to wrap his brain around our relationship to Jesus Christ. He said we can be "next to Him."

We answered that by saying personally, we're not next to Jesus -- we're below Him. There's evidence for this in Ephesians 5:23-24. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.... Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

If we're talking about a church "corporate structure," Jesus is at the top and we're all below Him. But here's the thing -- Jesus also talked about a closer relationship than that.

"Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother," the Lord said in Mark 3:35. That's a family relationship.

"Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family," adds Hebrews 2:11. "So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."

We're heard some Christian groups even suggest believers can be "co-Saviors" with Jesus when He comes again. That's a deep concept, which may sound almost blasphemous to some. We won't delve into that here -- but suffice to say Jesus wants us to become part of His family. Are you doing God's will, so that can happen?

(P.S. We're admittedly having a hard time wrapping our brain around the end of Mark 3:35. Have female readers ever thought about being a mother of Christ? What does that mean to you?)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Heads-Up Week 1: Read Me Wrong

Again this year, we're offering thoughts on the National Heads-Up Poker Championship telecast (except for the final round, which we'll have to miss). One of today's moments of drama came when Daniel Negreanu had 5-5, while Jason Mercier had Q-Q. With a pair showing on the board, Negreanu dared to go all-in -- but Mercier called and had him dominated.

The NBC announcers called it a "rare mis-read" by someone famed for reading opponents. Perhaps it was a case where the looks wound up being deceiving.

Jesus warned a crowd of people long ago about doing that. "Do not judge according to appearance," He said in John 7:24 (NASB), "but judge with righteous judgment."

Someone could make an impressive-looking bet -- and even look impressively confident doing it. But it could all be "Hollywooding" (to borrow some poker slang) to scare you away. On the other hand, someone could make a weak-looking bet while holding pocket Aces.

The warning here is against "reading" too much into what you see. There's a thinking element to poker, every bit as much as there is an aspect of luck. Think carefully before you act.

"A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge," Proverbs 22:3 reminds us, "but the simple keep going and suffer for it." Sadly, the Bible evidence shows King Solomon didn't always follow this good advice. How about you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Poker Night 150: All Figured Out?

"I was open-ended the last two hands," we admitted at one point tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. "But I didn't get anything."

"That's God's way of telling you not to play poker," a man across the table said in a deadpan way. Then we heard him say something quietly to the player next to him about God and us. (We've talked with him about faith matters at the table before.)

We'll give that man the benefit of the doubt, and assume he was joking. But was he really right? Based on what we saw at times tonight, we don't think so....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 8-4 of clubs

The game is early, so the bets are light. We take a stab at these suited cards, and several players at the full table call.

ON THE FLOP: 9-10-7 (we think one was a club)

This open-end situation actually happened before our comment about two misses in a row. Here, a woman ahead of us bets 500. We call, and several players fold.

ON THE TURN: 5 (not a club)

Close, but not quite it. The woman bets 500 again, and we call again. We're now the only two players left.


There's the right answer for us. But the woman is consistent, and bets 500 more.

"Raise -- 1,500," we respond.

The woman didn't want to hear that. "I fold," she grumbles.

"Why did you do that?" a player out of the hand asks.

"What do you think he had?" she answers. "He never bets unless he has something."

This comment sparks a short discussion about how we play -- by other people, but not by us. At least one man disagrees with her assessment. But a couple of hands earlier, the table folded when we bet 500 after a flop brought two 7's. (Yes, we had a 7.)

Having this sort of "reputation" could work in our favor at future tables. And it can be a good thing in life as well. I Timothy 3:7 says anyone desiring to have a high office in the church must "have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap."

Back at the table, a big early stack drained away -- but big hands came to our rescue after the one-hour break. An all-in bet with a 6 turned into a full house with 6's and Kings. Another with A-7 brought an Ace on the board, and a valuable double-up.

We endured to the final table for an eighth-place finish -- finally falling short when A-2 missed a straight, while the man who commented on God telling us not to play poker made one.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed a married man our "Jesus as your Savior" coin tonight. "Do you agree with that message?" we asked.

"I think God is my Savior," he answered quietly. "Jesus was a prophet," he added one hand later.

He's not the first man to reach that conclusion. "Jesus of Nazareth.... was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people," two people said long ago.

Which two people? Two disciples -- only they said those words to the resurrected Christ! You can read that statement in Luke 21:19. They continued in verse 21, "....we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel...."

Well, Jesus did accomplish that -- but not in the way they expected, with liberation from the Roman Empire. Through the Son of God, "we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," Paul writes in Colossians 1:13-14. That's what a Savior does. Will you accept Jesus holding that title -- an even more remarkable title than a prophet?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 150 nights (40.0%) - 11 cashes. We told you we were due for a big night, and on a milestone night of sorts it came.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments -- 27 point wins in 182 games (14.8%), 10 final tables, no cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $14,913, down $950.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poker Night 149: Couples Dance

Pocket pairs seemed to come up often tonight at Soho Bar and Grill -- at least at our table. One man used pocket 4's to make a full house, eliminating two players on the third hand of the night. But a higher pair should have the edge.... right?

BLINDS: 50/100


Another player jumps in ahead of our jumping Jacks, raising to 475. We join several players in calling, unsure of our chances.


We're early in the betting order. If we held an "overpair," we might bet at this point -- but the King tops our Jacks, so we check and probe. The entire table checks.


This card opens the door for an open-ended straight draw. But the man who had 4-4 awhile ago bets first, and throws out 1,000. We call solely on the hope of a straight. Only one other player remains.


When the man ahead of us bets 1,000 now, the decision is easy. We fold, presuming he has a King or Queen. We're wrong -- he had something even better: 7-7. His lower pocket pair made three of a kind on the flop.

Clearly we needed a more powerful pocket pair. When we dropped to 1,000 chips, it came -- and A-A allowed us to make two pair and jump to 5,000. But with higher blinds, a comeback couldn't really happen. Our last push with A-J brought two Aces on the board -- but a man to our left topped us with a flush. Final position: about 25th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: As we entered Soho, the Tournament Director at the door did NOT ask us to sign in. He did that for us, directing us to Table 4. "You're the man," he said.

"No, I'm not," we answered.

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not." Then we added a sentence he understood. "Ask who That Man may be?"

The Director knew the answer -- remembering a hymn that's almost 500 years old. We didn't get the question line exactly right, but the answer Martin Luther wrote is: "Christ Jesus, it is He."

The Director didn't name Jesus aloud, but he offered a follow-up question. "We're next to that Man, aren't we?" How would you answer that? Our answer is coming in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 149 nights (39.6%) - 11 cashes. We've missed six final tables in a row. But the way play tends to go for us, that means we're about due to hit a big one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The D-Word

We had our best finish today in online National League of Poker action, since taking our spring cleaning break -- 15th out of 205 players. But as we chatted with someone else, we were met with this:

RRBEML: shut up god d**n
Me: I'd rather praise God, personally. :-)
RRBEML: suck a ***
keithdob: yes ty

Praise God if you mean it -- because if you bring up the alternative, He might just do that.

"He that believes and is baptized shall be saved," a resurrected Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "but he that believes not shall be damned." (KJV) Other translations change the "D-word" into "condemned."

Admittedly, you're not likely to praise God unless you believe He exists, and that He sent Jesus the Son to pay the penalty of our sins. We don't recommend the alternative at all.

"It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," warns Hebrews 10:31. The prior two verses show the context is one of God's vengeance for rejecting Christ and insulting the Holy Spirit. Do you really want to risk that?

Friday, April 9, 2010

85 to Nothing

A busy schedule prevented us from playing Monday night poker at Club Eighty-Five in Columbus for the past several weeks. We stopped by this afternoon, to see if we could return next Monday -- and were told the club no longer has poker at all.

Too bad for us. We made the final table there six out of eight Mondays. We even bought soda every week, at two dollars for a big glass. So where do we play next?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poker Night 148: Straight, No Chaser

We were on time for tonight's tournament at Lil Kim's Cove. But we sat down "late," because they started the clock about 12 minutes early. Then we didn't stay late, because we were ousted early. Hands like this one didn't help....

BLINDS: 50/100


We're in the small blind, and waiting for a good hand to play. One early try failed, but we call now. Several players enter the hand.


We're first in line to act -- and with top pair and a straight draw, we bet 300. It's a modest bet to see if someone with a bigger hand will raise, but no one does.


Maybe we shouldn't feel more optimistic, but we do. People chasing straights missed with that card. So we move the bet up to 400. Our poker buddy Harry to our immediate left calls; everyone else folds.


It's amazing how a better hand can make you more cautious about it. Now we have two pair -- but we have to check, given what's on the board. Harry ponders a moment, then bets 2,000.

"Were you waiting on that river card?" we ask in hopes of a clue.

"Sometimes I don't even know what I've got," Harry answers. Well, sort-of answers. Most of the time, his bets reflect what he has -- but he's bluffed us out of pots before.

"I've got to see it. I'll call," we decide.

"Show him the Jack," a man across the table tells Harry.

Harry turns over -- yup, a Jack. He hit the river, and cost us about half our chip stack.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we decided to go all-in later for 2,025 with A-10. A woman called us with A-J. The board brought only a pair of Queens, and we were left with an estimated 35th place -- oh yes, and a basket of fries Harry didn't want after finishing his grilled cheese sandwich.

MINISTRY MOMENT: While we've missed five final tables in a row, we've played well enough since the start of 2010 to place among the top 30 players in Columbus's "Big Dog Poker" standings.

"What does that get you?" someone asked the Tournament Director before Wednesday night's game at Soho Bar and Grill.

"The top 50 get in a tournament, to win 1,000 bucks."

Good news for us -- maybe. "When's that going to be?" we asked.

"April 24th, at noon...."

"Oh, that's too bad."


"Saturday is the Sabbath," we explained. Regular readers know we keep a seventh-day Sabbath -- and it's not merely based on the Ten Commandments.

"Jesus returned to Galilee.... He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom." -- Luke 4:14-16

There wasn't any "Christian church" before Christ walked the earth -- and since "our Lord descended from Judah" (Hebrews 7:14), He followed the proper Jewish religious tradition.

Some Sabbath-keepers would dispute this next point -- but we believe you can worship God and Jesus anytime you wish during the week. But the Sabbath remains the time God set apart as holy, so we make sure to worship Him then. Or as we told the Tournament Director, we put the "King of Kings" first.

The Director understood our reasoning, but said he didn't feel comfortable playing the $1,000 tournament on a Sunday because others might want to attend church then. Hmmmmm -- do you agree with that point of view? Or would most poker players put the opportunity before the worship service?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 148 games (39.9%) - 11 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 26 point wins in 173 games (15.0%), 10 final tables, no cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $15,863, up $75.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poker Night 147: Tell It All, Brother

It had been more than three months since we played midweek poker at Soho Bar and Grill. While we didn't play that well tonight, the evening was eventful. A free tournament sometimes has a more friendly atmosphere than a cash game, and that helped us out several times....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 9-8 offsuit

A few hands before, a big bettor to our left scared us off a nice high pair -- then showed a measly 2-7 of a bluff. We're anxious to atone for that, so we play this hand despite his raise to 500. A man across the table calls the 500 bet as well.

ON THE FLOP: 9-6-6

Two pair looks nice, so we offer a bet of 200. That man across the table raises 2,000 -- or nearly half our stack. Could he be bluffing, too? We're thinking so, and call.


"I'm all in," the man across from us announces -- and he has our remaining 2,300 more than covered. But then he shows how friendly the table is.

"If you don't have a 6, you do NOT want to call." He actually turns over the 6! Yes, he has three of a kind -- and we don't need to see anything more.

"Well, I don't, so I'll fold." Many players at other tables would not have been that gracious and generous. (P.S. the last card wouldn't have helped us.)

We rallied from that setback by going all-in with pocket Kings, and jumping from 2,200 to more than 11,000. But we never won another hand -- and daring to push with middle pair left us steamrolled by another player's full house. Final result: about 34th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Soho is primarily a rock music nightclub, and someone put money in the jukebox for a couple of songs which sounded like "death metal" -- or even construction equipment. A young man across from us was glad, when that music stopped during the one-hour break.

"It was like they were calling up demons or something," he told us.

"That's why I have this," we answered -- tossing our "Jesus as your Savior" coin across the table, for him to examine. "Do you believe that message? Is Jesus your Savior?"

The young man with a giant spiderweb tattooed on one arm said he believed it. "He's the best out there," he answered -- and he's right about that. Compared with Jesus, who else really is there?

"Covet earnestly the best gifts," Paul recommended in I Corinthians 12:31. The best gift God could give sinful man is a perfect sacrifice, to pay our penalty. Have you accepted it -- namely, the Son of God?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 147 nights 940.1%) - 11 cashes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Show and Tell

Player A had grown tired of how the poker game was going, so he pushed all-in early in a hand. Player B, who was dominating the play, called.

The board was nothing special -- K-J plus three small cards. No flush or straight likely, either.

Then the debate began. "You got an Ace?"

"No, I've got nothing."

"If you've got an Ace, you got me."

"I don't have an Ace."

"If you've got an Ace, you got me!"

Player A took this repeated statement to mean Player B had an Ace. He mucked his cards, which under usual poker rules means automatically losing the hand.

Then Player B showed a 10 high with no pair. Player A had thrown away a Queen, which would have won!

Player A appealed to the tournament director, and explained what he thought he heard and what had happened.

"I never said I had an Ace," Player B maintained -- and sitting next to both of them, that's how it sounded to us as well.

The tournament director showed mercy on Player A, letting his Queen high prevailed to stay in the game. But then we turned to a man on our left, who wasn't part of the hand.

"If they had simply shown their cards, that wouldn't have happened," we said -- and the man agreed.

Watch professional poker on TV, and you won't see this sort of posturing at the end of a hand. Players tend to show their cards at the showdown, to see if they've won. But we marvel at how seldom that occurs in the free tournaments we play. Players will claim they hit it big, or deny they have anything of value -- but they only show their cards when they're absolutely pressed.

The lesson of all this? Big talk seldom pays off at a poker table -- especially after the river betting. You have to show what you have to win the pot. In fact, God works the same way.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (I John 4:9).

Jesus was the personal, in-the-flesh expression of God's love. Yet do a word study of the word "love," and you'll be surprised to find Jesus never really said the phrase "I love you" while on Earth.

Instead, our Lord put love into action -- and ultimately, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). To borrow from an old ad campaign for shoes: Talk is cheap. Jesus just did it.

It probably takes a lot less effort to turn over two cards, than engage in a conversation about them. It also can calm emotions, for you and everyone else. So as someone once said, let your cards do the talking at the end of a hand. A "showdown" is supposed to be about showing a hand -- not showing how macho you are.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poker Night 146: Plenty of Nothing

Did you ever have one of those days? You know -- one of THOSE days? We did tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. Good cards simply would not come. And semi-promising hands kept falling short -- such as 8-8 in the pocket meeting a flop of A-K-9, or A-5 of hearts getting whipped by big pre-flop raises. The drought finally came down to this....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: 7-10 of diamonds

We begin the hand with only 1,500 chips. We're in the small blind, so that post has left us a mere 500 to bet. The play calls to us -- and facing little to lose, we go all-in. Several players are against us.

ON THE FLOP: J-K-10 (K is a diamond)

There's a glimmer of hope here -- three diamonds, but bottom pair. The players around us check.

ON THE TURN: Q (not a diamond)

A man across from us bets 4,000. Uh-oh. The flush dream is gone, and he might have hit it big.

ON THE RIVER: 5 of diamonds

One pair, one diamond short of a nice rally -- and an opponent who bet because he has an Ace. A straight on the turn leaves us turned away, in 17th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What is that?" a young woman asked when she sat down next to us, looking at our card protector.

"It's a matzo," we told her -- actually a small corner of one. She had no idea what that is, so we explained it's a flat kind of bread.

"This is the Passover season -- the days of unleavened bread," we continued. It recalls the time long ago when the Israelites left Egypt, we said.

"Does that bring you good luck?" The woman might as well have cut through our discussion with a bread knife.

"I haven't won a hand all night. I guess not."

Then we added the matzo reminds us to come out of sin. "Oh, OK," the woman answered. Perhaps this item was a bit too complex for a poker ministry topic?! If it's too complex to you, we'll try to clarify things in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 59 final tables in 146 nights (40.4%) - 11 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 26 point wins in 163 games (16.0%), 10 final tables with no cashes.

We finally finished spring cleaning at home this week, which allowed more time to return to online poker. We've placed "in the points" (usually top ten percent) once in four games -- including 23rd out of 599 Tuesday night.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $15,788, up $665.

What am I doing - here?

We just heard a minister on radio talk about a dance he attended in his youth, after announcing plans to study for the ministry. A workplace rival walked up to him and said: "This is an H of a place for a preacher to be." (We're assuming the H doesn't stand for heaven.)

The minister decided his rival was right, and walked out never to return. We've probably surprised many people over the years, by showing up in bars and poker rooms to talk about the things of God.

Yet consider one of the places Jesus visited. The Lord told a curious man named Zacchaeus, "I must stay at your house today" (Luke 19:5). Considering Zacchaeus's background as a tax collector, some people were stunned by the thought of this.

"He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner,'" they muttered in verse 7. Yet the context indicates Jesus actually went inside Zacchaeus's home -- and salvation came to his house (verse 9).

Christians are supposed to take the good news of salvation and Jesus Christ into all the world (Matthew 28:19, KJV) -- not merely church buildings. So if we come to your poker table, don't be afraid of what we might say. The news we bring is good, whether we beat you in a tournament or not.