Monday, May 31, 2010

Poker Night 163: Q's As in Lose

Our Memorial Day poker tournament at The Red Barn included one of those memorable hands you might see only once in a lifetime. But we don't want to give away the plot:

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Q of clubs - Q of spades

We're in the small blind with a potentially big hand. The play calls to us, and we raise 400. A couple of other players call.


Potentially?!?! We have just hit quad Queens on the flop!!!! But we're first to act, and remember a Big Dog Poker rule: you can only claim a 5,000-chip bonus for quads or a straight flush if the hand lasts through the river card. So we play dumb and check.

The Tournament Director sits across from us, and bets 600. A woman to our right raises to 1,200. We call. So does the Director. Poker face is turned on.


We innocently check again. So does the Director. But the woman to our right bets 1,500.

"1,500?!" we ask, pretending to show stunned disbelief. With a sigh, we call. The Director does as well. Sweet.


The appearance of this card assures us the quad bonus. But since our neighbors are in such a betting mood, we check once more to them. The Director checks. Now the woman bets 1,800.

"1,800 more?!?!" we say in the same tone of voice. But we notice at this point something unusual -- top three hearts are on the board. A royal flush is possible. But that's so unlikely, and we've quietly dominated this hand all along!

We pretend to bumble with the chips a bit as we call. The Director amazingly calls again. Now comes the big moment for us to announce our quads: "Q is...."

"This has never happened to me before," the woman interrupts, "but I have a straight flush!"

Shock of shocks -- she has J-10 of hearts! She was on an open-ended straight flush draw, and wound up with a ROYAL flush to top our quads!! The gold chip for a 5,000 bonus goes to her. We get nothing but words of consolation.

The Tournament Director had 3-4 of hearts, for a flush of his own. "If this was a casino, everybody would have won," he says. Some poker rooms have "bad beat jackpots" for the worst loss of a tournament. He called this the "worst of all bad beats." Oh yeah -- we agree.

(So put yourself in our chair -- how would you have reacted to this moment? We'll reveal what we did in our next post.)

That hand obviously cost us a lot of chips -- but minutes later, Q-Q came our way again. This time we simply called. But when the flop showed J-J-8, we pushed all-in with 1,425 left. Trouble was, the Tournament Director had a Jack. His three of a kind eliminated us in 17th place. But if you have to get bounced from a tournament early, it might as well be in a way that will have people talking.

MINISTRY MOMENT: That woman who hit the royal flush is one of the few poker players we've met who's able to talk somewhat about the Bible. We had a follow-up discussion with her tonight about last Monday night's chat concerning salt and light.

"I thought you said He was the salt of the earth," the woman said. She misheard us. Jesus actually said in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth...." We promised to double-check for verses where God or Jesus is called salt -- and we found none.

But both Jesus and you qualify for the "light of the world" title. Jesus called Himself that in John 8:12, then added: "He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Christians need to be mirrors, reflecting the light of their Lord.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 66 final tables in 163 nights (40.5%) - 11 cashes. A streak of six consecutive final tables ends. The hard way.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

NLOP Championship 4: Turned Away

A fourth-place finish in a Friday afternoon combined with a strong showing Saturday night qualified us for the weekly National League of Poker championship tonight, for the third time in four weeks. Things started well -- maybe too well....

:00 IN: We begin in the big blind with J-Q. The flop is Q-3-3, and a man goes all in We dare to call, and he has little. We eliminate him with two pair, and double our starting $1,000 stack to $2,080.

:01 IN: Next hand, small blind - A-K! We double the pre-flop bet. Then A-K arrive on the turn and river. We gain another 600.

:03 IN: Third hand, a lowly 4-3. But we limp in to A-9-3 on the flop. When a 7-J follow, we dare to bet 70 -- and chase the table away. Another small gain!

We lose a bit after that, but reach the first break (15 minutes in) at $1,875.

:21 IN: We have A-8. The flop is 9-3-3. No one bets. K-9 follow. We bet 100 with two pair and an Ace, and it's good enough. We gain $650.

:31 IN: We have 10-9 of hearts. The flop is 5-Q-9. No one bets. 7-J follow. Still no one bets -- but our pair of 9's prevails for $1,500. We reach the second break at $3,325, in the top 100 out of 556 still playing (1,301 started).

:38 IN: We have 7-5 of clubs in the big blind. The flop is 5-6-8, with the 8 a club. We call a bet of 640, with a straight draw. The turn is Kc. We call a player's all-in bet for hundreds more -- and 2c comes on the river! We gain 2,640.

At the third break, we're up to $3,677 -- in the top half of the table, with 322 players left.

1:03 IN: We have K-K in the big blind, and double the bet. The flop is 2-10-6. An opponent goes all-in for 756, and we call. A-3 follow -- but our Kings are good enough for a $3,422 gain.

1:10 IN: We have A-2. The flop is 10-9-10. No one bets. 3-9 follow, again giving us two pair with an Ace. Our minimum 400 bet makes the table fold. Our stack increases at the fourth break to $6,476 -- in 62nd place, with 198 players left.

1:18 IN: We have 6-5 of hearts, and call an opponent's all-in bet for an extra 177. The flop is 6s-7h-Jh. Then the turn is 3h -- and holding a flush, we call another player's all-in bet. But that player has K-9 of hearts, for a bigger flush. Ouch.

That was the turning point of the evening, due to rising blind and mid-range hands which didn't fare well. It came down to....

BLINDS: 600/1200/125 ante

IN THE POCKET: A-9 of clubs

With only 1,300 left, it's now or never. We go all-in, and a few players call.


Two pair. We have to like that.


Inconsequential card.


We're confident we've made a big comeback with a full house -- until another player turns over A-10! A bigger boat brings a bad beat, and sinks our ship. But we finished 109th out of 1,301 -- our best weekly finish yet. If this wasn't a weekly championship, we would have earned points for next week.

When the Time is Right

Our Thursday night poker game included a discussion of Jesus's second coming -- and the big question: When will it happen?

Good poker players know how to wait for the right set of cards, before making a move. They could be Aces in the pocket, or they could be on the board in the formation of a flush (real or bluffed).

We'd like to think God is waiting for the right time, before sending Jesus back to Earth. It may not be the time that's most convenient for us, but it will be the right time.

Much of Matthew 24 contains a list given by Jesus of things which must occur before He comes back. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days.... then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.... and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (24:29-30).

When Jesus said these words, He didn't know the exact timing of that great event. He said in verse 36 "my Father only" knows. If Jesus knows the precise moment now, there's no Scripture to indicate it -- despite what some so-called Bible experts might tell you.

Whenever that precise moment happens, the Bible indicates it truly will be an "all-in moment" for God. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True.... his name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses...." (Revelation 19:11-14) We assume those "armies" to mean angels.

God's final push for victory is coming. Are you rooting for it? And are you ready to welcome it?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poker Night 162: The River Wild

When players sit down for a free poker tournament at a bar, anything can happen. Egos can come out, in the form of trash talk and "i dare you" bets. Should a serious player play along with that approach, or wait for things to calm down? At Lil Kim's Cove tonight, we decided to take a chance....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We're third in line to bet. The first man in order likes to bet big early in the game, so he tosses out 1,000. We won an early pot, stand at around 9,000 and decide it's worth a call. A man to our left then raises all-in, adding 2,500 more. The man to our right calls -- and our hand is simply too good to fold, so we call.

ON THE FLOP: J-8-5 (last two cards may not be precise, but they were small)

We're admittedly concerned the man to our right might bet again -- but he checks. So do we.


The concern continues -- so we're thankful for another check. Ditto.


"That killed me," the all-in man mutters. But despite gaining top pair, we're still wary -- so when the man to our right checks, we check once more.

"Queen high," the man to the right announces.

"I have an Ace," we say modestly.

"F**k!!!" curses Mr. All-In -- and throw-slams a pair of Kings onto the table. He'll be muttering for the next couple of hands about how we escaped on the river.

"Sorry," we say quietly to him a couple of times -- but we're thankful to jump to more than 17,000 chips.

That big gain helped us endure through a lengthy drought, as well as an open-ended straight draw we folded which came through on the river. On a pre-holiday weekend night with only three active tables, We survived to our sixth final table in a row. Then we finished in seventh place, when our K-10 all-in bet failed to bring a pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that your card protector tonight?" a man to our immediate left asked as we were dealing. Our protector was a small travel pack of tissues.

"I brought this to remind me," we explained after the hand, "when Jesus Christ comes back, there will be no more tears, no more crying. He'll wipe away every tear."

The man to our left seemed stupefied by our explanation. "Do you believe Jesus Christ is coming back?" we asked.

"When?" was all the man could quietly answer.

"That's the question," we responded. "No man knows the day or the hour."

We mentioned several Bible verses there. Do you know where to find them? We'll let you look, and have the answer in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 66 final tables in 162 nights (40.7%) - 11 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 41 point wins in 250 games (16.4%), 19 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $11,363, down $465.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Are the Odds?

"I don't know if God likes poker I know lady luck does...." So someone wrote during one of our recent online poker tournaments. Another National League of Poker game brought up the "L-word" as well....

dokerbohm: guess it time to go as usual at this site
dokerbohm: good luck all
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($2150)
dokerbohm: cause thatsll you need here luck
Me: What percentage of poker (in general) would you say is luck?
Gonad: skill wins here bwahaha
boondock618: Cant u hear the violin in the background
dokerbohm: use to think it was 70 precent luck 30 precent skill
dokerbohm: but here its 95 luck and 5 precent skill
boondock618: so it is skill to go all in with 1o jack
dokerbohm: constant river saves way beyond industry norms

We've also lost our share of big pots and all-in bets online, to opponents catching river cards. So does that mean poker is entirely a game of chance -- and condemned by the Bible as wrong?

We'd answer NO to both parts of that question. There's a measure of skill (how much is open to debate) in terms of knowing if your cards are good, and utilizing them properly. And believe it or not, we heard a legendary U.S. Southern Baptist Pastor on radio the other day saying risk can be biblically acceptable.

The late Adrian Rogers based that view on the book of Ecclesiastes. "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." (Ecc. 11:5-6)

A farmer has no guarantee his planted seed will yield a bumper crop. All sorts of things could happen, from pestilence to a killing frost. But a farmer plants in faith -- and a believing farmer trusts God with the outcome.

We do the same when we play poker. A bad beat could come early. A big pot could come our way, leading to a win. The outcome is in God's hands, and we trust that His outcome is best for us.

"Trust in him at all times, O people.... for God is our refuge," says Psalm 62:8. Is that where your trust is -- at all the tables of life?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May Senior Championship: Small or Large?

Poker star Vanessa Rousso talks on TV about playing "small-ball" - winning several small pots to build a stack, as opposed to one big pot. That approach worked for us at the National League of Poker monthly Senior Championship tonight. For awhile, at least....

:00 IN: We begin with A-9 on the button. The 9 is a club, and a club flush develops. We take the lead, with a $480 pot. (We're at a very tight-playing table, so the hands move quickly and gains aren't that big.)

:04 IN: We have 3-3. A third 3 hits the river, and we win $290.

:08 IN: It's 3-3 again. The board shows 6-4-9-2-Q, but no one pairs! It's a $300 win.

:21 IN: We have 8-7 of hearts. A heart flush shows up for us by the turn, and we win a $550 pot.

:28 IN: We have A-7. The flop doesn't thrill at 9-2-Q, but a 7 on the turn allows us to bet the 200 minimum -- and everyone folds.

:31 IN: The big blind gives us 10-5. But a 10 comes on the flop, followed by a 5 on the turn! We bet. They fold. We gain $900.

:32 IN: Next hand, the small blind looks grim with 3-2 of clubs -- until the flop shows 7-A-Q, all clubs! We bet 500, hoping to scare chasers away from the flush we already have. It works; we gain $1,475.

:34 IN: We take a chance on 9-5 of diamonds. We're rewarded by a 9 on the flop, and another on the turn. Our big bet is declined, and we gain $1,300 more!

Those two big wins get us to the second break at 3,070 -- 53rd place. Another 1,300 pot came our way after the break, thanks to A-K of spades. But then came the turning point....

:46 IN: We have A-Q offsuit. The flop is hopeful at 7-K-J, and an opponent bets for us. But when J-Q follow, we lose to an opponent's K-9. Calling minimum 300 bets cost us a lot.

1:06 IN: We've dropped to 650 chips, and go all-in with 9-9. The board brings three Queens, giving us a full house! Trouble is, another player has the "case Queen" for quads! A classic bad beat eliminates us in 116th place, out of 774 players.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poker Night 161: Knowing Me, Knowing You?

When a poker night only has enough players for two tables, getting to the final table should be easy. And if you're a regular player, you're likely to be around people you know. Know their tendencies, get a read on their actions -- easy, right? Let's see if it worked tonight at The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 9-6 offsuit

It's early in the evening, and we're in the small blind. No one raises ahead of us, so a call is relatively harmless....

ON THE FLOP: 9-6-2 (6 is a spade)

....and potentially profitable. A dreamy top two pair land in our lap, so we bet 400. A man to our immediate left pauses for a moment at this.

"You ought to be thankful I'm just calling," the man then says. A couple of other people call as well.

ON THE TURN: 5 of spades

It's still top two pair, so we remain confident: "400 sounds good again." But now, the man to our left raises to 1,300. Other players fold, and now it's our turn to think. This man isn't afraid to bluff in a move to shove people off pots. That's what we think he's doing, so we call.

ON THE RIVER: 10 of spades

Three spades are now showing. But we still aren't persuaded our opponent has anything substantial, so we check. That's probably a bad tactical move, as we let him engage in some creative betting. He bets 1,050. We call, unconvinced.

"I had a straight, and it's now a flush," he says matter-of-factly. Ouch! Our opponent has 7-8 of spades, and truly has us overwhelmed. That hand cost us substantially.

We were down to about 1,800 chips near the one-hour mark. But then we gained a big double-up, and picked up a couple more big pots. Yes, we made it to the final table -- and we survived for quite awhile, reaching the two-hour break with 25,000 chips. But the man to our left did it to us again, persuading us to call his all-in bet. We had A-10, but his pocket Jacks brought a Jack on the flop and eliminated us in fifth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Several players figured out our card protector of the night -- a small restaurant packet of salt. They knew if referred to being "the salt of the earth."

"I try to be a light of the world," one woman responded.

"I think you can be both," we answered. After all, Jesus mentioned both traits together in Matthew 5:13-14. What do you think?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 65 final tables in 161 nights (40.4%), 11 cashes.

If It Was Real: 160-Game Report

Making the final table is good. Advancing deep into the final table is even better. Our regular review of the last 20 live tournaments bares that out.

We reached seven final tables in those 20 games, including four in a row at the end. But our formula for success, based on a Kansas City area casino, only pays money for a top-five finish. We finished sixth four times in the 20-game span -- close, but no dinero. Only once (last Thursday) did we wind up fifth.

The grand total looks this way:

BUY-INS: 160 nights x $50 = $8,000

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 -- 10 ($1,000)
TIE for fifth: 3 ($150)

TOTAL -- 41 for $9,717

We only would have earned $100 in the last 20 games - a substantial $900 loss. And overall, our pretend profit is down to only 21.4 percent.

The overall lesson for us is that we need to keep pressing forward toward victory, not merely a final table seat. We'll see how that works....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Poker Night 160: Play and Record

"You'd better have your recorder ready," one man across the table from us said several times tonight. He knows we carry a voice recorder to note the hands we post here. And tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, there was definitely one to remember....

BLINDS: 50/100


Having won a pot earlier in the game, this is worth a try. A couple of others join in.


Wow -- we make a straight on the flop, and have an open-ended draw for a straight flush! But this flop also is potential trouble, since A-Q would be a higher straight.

A player ahead of us bets 200. Since we're at a table that's betting big, we try to settle the pot by raising to 2,000. A woman to our left calls; the others respect our bet and bail out.

At this point, we quietly pull the voice recorder out of our pocket and set it on the table. A woman sitting between us points it out.


That doesn't help us, and probably doesn't help her. We bet 3,000, yet our opponent raises 3,000 more. Deep-down, we think she's trailing in the hand -- so we call.


This card opens the possibility of our opponent having a full house. We check, and so does she. Our opponent has pocket Aces, and we cracked them on the flop.

The woman to our immediate left helps us verbally record the hand, as we forgot the betting order. The woman we beat then says with a laugh it was "b**l***t."

"Put that on your blog," another man says. OK, there - sort of.

That big win put us above 25,000 chips -- and while few other pots came our way, we rode that stack to another final table. We improved to fifth place, dropping out when A-Q in the small blind lost to small cards on the board giving someone else a straight.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Why did you bring that?" a woman asked at the final table. "I know you always have a reason for everything you do."

The item again tonight was a small electrical plug. "This reminds me," we explained to several people, "that I receive power from the Holy Spirit of God."

"Be sure that thing is grounded, though," a man across from us said half-jokingly.

"Oh, you're right," we answered. "Rooted and grounded in love."

That phrase is part of a wish for the Ephesian church from the apostle Paul: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge...." (Eph. 3:17-19, KJV)

Other translations explain this as knowing how wide, long, high and deep Christ's love for us is. Do you appreciate that love -- and let it be the roots of all you do?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 64 final tables in 160 nights (40.0%) - 11 cashes. Four final tables in a row have brought our percentage back up.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - 3-8-3-2-0. Full tournaments - 40 point wins in 241 games (16.6%), 18 final tables, 1 cash. We had a fourth-place finish last Friday afternoon, and a seventh on Wednesday of this week.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $11,828, up $95.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NLOP Championship 3: Saves and a Slap

We haven't mentioned the fact that we qualified for our second Sunday night championship in a row at National League of Poker. A second-place and a fourth-place on consecutive days gave us a chance at the $500 top prize. So here's what happened....

:02 IN: We have 7-8. The flop of 5-Q-8 gives us middle pair. Then the turn is a 4. We call a $200 bet, hoping for a big river -- but it's a 10. We take a big loss, and fold.

:12 IN: Just in time after another big loss shrinks our stack to 320, we're dealt pocket Aces! We push pre-flop, and survive a caller to rebuild. But at that moment, this chat exchange occurs:

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($730) with Three of a kind, aces
Drewster: SMD
Me: Uh oh , stumped me with that one

We checked an acronym web site later, and came to the conclusion this was not a polite compliment by our opponent. In fact, it spelled out something vulgar. But people who "praise the Lord" really shouldn't be surprised by such things.

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," Paul writes in II Timothy 3:12. While verse 13 mentions "evil men," we have no way of knowing if this opponent is evil, good or something in between.

"If they persecuted me," Jesus said in John 15:20, "they will persecute you also." Compared with what Christians in some terror-laden countries face, a vulgar acronym online is microscopic.

Whatever the level of challenge, pray to God for patience to endure it -- and remember other words of Jesus: "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13).

Now back to the game....

:22 IN: We have A-K of spades in the big blind, and raise to 300. The flop is Js-9s-A. Then 8s on the river gives us a nut flush, and we're up to 1,360.

:46 IN: With blinds climbing, we have a lowly 10s-2c in the big blind. But the flop brings two more 10's! We push, an opponent folds and we gain a $1,085 pot.

:55 IN: Another big blind brings us Q-5 of diamonds. The flop is Q-4-4, and we go all-in. An opponent calls, but only had pocket Jacks. After a 2-8 appear, we hit a high of $2,445.

But then came high blinds and no help from the deck. A-9 led to two Kings on the flop, and we had to fold a big bet. K-J of spades brought an all-in dare by another player pre-flop, and we folded fearing the worst. (Yup, the opponent had A-A.)

1:12 IN: With only 420 chips left, we're forced to go all-in with 9s-3d. The flop is A-6-2. Then come 6-7, and we're topped. Out of 1,412 players, we finished a respectable #230.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It Beats Starving

We didn't know until today about a long-time TV news reporter who's having trouble finding full-time work. Matt Stevens told one website: "Some of the very best TV journalists in America are unemployed."

In the meantime, Stevens is playing poker in U.S. east coast casino tournaments -- and doing well, with a couple of titles worth more than $14,000 so far this year.

We can relate to what Stevens is doing -- as we've been without steady work for almost a year. Poker gives us something to do, and the possibility of income to gain. We've documented several wins and cash gains here. (But we have no casino or poker room close by, to play on a regular basis.)

Has the bad economy revealed you're a good poker player? Leave a comment, and share your story. You might inspire others.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Poker Night 159: Thrill of the Chase

It's as true with poker as with any other casino game -- early success can be deceiving. Score some wins right off the bat, and you might think it's your night. But what happened to us at The Red Barn tonight was a reminder of reality....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-6 of clubs

"Hey Larry!" the Tournament Director shouts across the room from two seats to our right. "I've got the hand you love.... to hate." We don't remember right away what that hand is, but the Director decides to play it. "Be glad I'm just calling." We're in the big blind, so we're glad about it. We check.


This is a flop with lots of potential, as we have a "nut flush" draw. And with about 7,500 chips, we can afford to spend money on it. But there's only potential for us at this point, so we check. Play checks to the Director, who bets 500. We call, as does one other player.


The board pairs, but not with the shade we want. We check again, and the Director now bets 2,000. Still hoping to hit it big, we call. So does the other player.


Ouch! Our flush dream is denied. We check again, hoping the Director also missed a draw and our King might hold up. But no -- he bets 4,000, which almost would put us all-in. It's an easy decision to fold. And it's a good thing we did; he had A-Q and made a full house on the turn.

That loss hurt, but we held on from there to make our third live final table in a row. We hoped for a comeback when we had to go all-in with A-10 in the small blind. The flop was Q-10-8, which helped. But a woman next to us had pocket 8's, which hurt immensely. Then a 9 and 2 followed, to seal our fate: a tie for sixth place with someone else who pushed.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that thing your good luck charm?" asked a puzzled man across the table during the one-hour break. We were using a three-prong to two-prong electric plug adapter as our card protector.

"No," we answered with a laugh. "I brought this to remind me that I receive power from the Holy Spirit of God."

The man now seemed even more puzzled. "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit's power?" we asked.

"I do," he answered after thinking for a moment. "But I don't carry it with me."

Don't worry -- we don't, either. But we used it here to bring up the things of God. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power," Peter said in Acts 10:38.

That Spirit is now available to believers (potentially even to you) -- and the upcoming Christian holy day called Pentecost focuses on that. If you want to know more about that, click here for an in-depth explanation.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 63 final tables in 159 nights (39.6%) - 11 cashes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heads-Up Week 5: Enough is Enough

We've played online poker long enough to know some people will go all-in with anything, especially in the first few minutes of play. But when Jason Mercier went all-in on NBC today with 7-5 of clubs, it didn't seem right at all. It turned out to be fatal, as Scotty Nguyen had Jacks and eliminated him with ease.

The NBC commentators noted Mercier was well down in chips, and probably bet out of frustration. At times poker certainly can be a frustrating game -- although we wonder if it's any more frustrating than golf or bowling.

Perhaps you've become frustrated with life itself -- not simply big hands falling short, but big plans being stymied. Whatever those frustrated plans might have been, you may be surprised to learn it's all part of God's plan.

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it," says Romans 8:20. It's been God's will for humans since the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 -- but why?

" hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21).

God wants us to look for something beyond this life -- to be "freed.... from our sins" by the shed blood of Christ (Rev. 1:5), to eventually have freedom from death through the gift of eternal life.

So if you're frustrated by big pocket pairs getting cracked -- or anything bigger than that -- pray about it. And ask God to help you see the ultimate victory beyond human defeat.

(P.S. We'll have to skip next Sunday's final telecast, due to the Biblical festival of Pentecost. This article about the festival actually addresses our main topic here.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poker Night 158: Turned Too Soon

Poker rooms and casinos have dealers on the payroll, who keep order and sometimes act as referee. Free tournaments in local bars usually don't have that, and the players take turns dealing. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, as we found out tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 5,000/10,000

IN THE POCKET: K-9 offsuit

We've reached the final table (for the second time today; more on that below) -- and we're in the big blind, with a healthy stack of 75,000 chips. The play calls to us, and we check.

ON THE FLOP: 5-5-7 (memory a little fuzzy on the third card)

We check, as do the three other players in the hand. (Only six remain at this point.)


With two pair, we try to claim the pot by betting 20,000.

"Eight more," says a man to our left. He raises 40,000 and puts himself all-in. Two women then fold.

"All right," says the dealer nonchalantly, without looking at us....


She turns over the next card before we can call the all-in bet! We were prepared to call before seeing this card. Now our two pair has improved, and we're glad about it.

"Well, I'll call," we say.

"That card ought to be shuffled back into the deck," our opponent notes. Under our usual rules, he's correct. We probably could have appealed to the Tournament Director and raised a fuss, but we accept this because we still feel confident about our King.


We go ahead with the call, then declare: "I have Kings with a 9."

"Kings with an Ace." Ouch -- our opponent wins.

Because of inattentive dealing, our opponent made a huge chip gain. Our big stack was cut to 15,000. We were eliminated a few hands later, when A-4 failed to pair on the board. And even though we finished sixth for the second live tournament in a row, we were left to mumble about what might have been.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We did even better earlier in the day, at a National League of Poker online tournament. For the fourth time in as many weeks, we reached the heads-up final twosome -- and this exchange occurred when we took out the third-place player:

Imamirage: nh
Me: Thanks (handshake)
imamirage: what is ptl
Me: Praise the Lord.
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($12000)
Me: Is Jesus your Lord?
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($68720)
imamirage: yeah
Me: Good!

Mr. Mirage admitted later he wasn't very good with acronyms. But he was good in heads-up poker -- entering with a 2-1 chip lead, and defeating us after about five minutes. Here's hoping he praised Jesus for his $10 win.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 62 final tables in 158 nights (39.2%) - 11 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five/six-player sit-n-goes - 3-8-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 37 point wins in 230 games (16.1%), 16 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: $11,733 - down $1,240.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Buddy System?

"Are you going to fold?" the man to our right asked quietly at a recent poker night.

"I haven't even looked yet," we answered. We sat in the big blind, with the questioner in the small blind -- and somewhere along the way, we learned it's proper poker etiquette not to look at your cards until it's your turn.

Someone to our left had pushed all-in before the flop with a lot of chips. Mr. Small Blind told us he was going to fold if we called, but he was ready to call if we stayed out of the hand.

On the one hand, this might be considered a compliment -- that the man respected us enough to ask about our plans. (Or perhaps he trusted us to play only quality hands.)

But on the other hand, this struck us as a moment of cheating. Why should we share privileged information with one player, and not the others at the table?

The Old Testament prophet Amos scolded well-to-do Israelites who acted unethically.... "skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales" (Amos 8:5). Before Samuel retired from leadership, he made the people of Israel publicly declare he had not "cheated or oppressed us" (I Samuel 12:3-4). We try to operate the same way -- in day-to-day living, as well as poker.

If a director or dealer in a major tournament had caught that man asking us such a question, the man probably would have been punished on the spot -- perhaps even ordered to leave the table.

So what did we do in this free game? We tried to deflect the question with humor. "You're an adult now," we told Mr. Small Blind in a quiet mother-knows-best tone. "You can make your own decisions."

That man wound up folding -- and when we saw 4-2 in the Big Blind, we did as well. The man was annoyed with us. But when the hand played out, he admitted his cards would have lost the pot.

So by not playing along with a potential cheater, we actually saved him at least 1,000 chips. He didn't really thank us, though. Certainly not in a loud voice.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poker Night 157: Shindig in the Barn

There's been a big fuss in Alabama recently over electronic bingo in casinos. You can't play poker in those casinos at all -- but tonight we tried a place in Alabama where the poker is free, and we had some success.

We crossed the bridge from our home to Phenix City, and visited the Red Barn Saloon. It's a small bar, with cheaper soda prices than Columbus. And with a smaller number of players, we had a better chance of making the final table. But you still have to earn that....

BLINDS: 50/100


We're in the small blind, and decide to lay low. We simply call, and most of the table joins in with no raises.

ON THE FLOP: A-Q-4 (suits don't matter)

We're first up to play -- and if that Ace wasn't sitting there, we'd bet straightway. But we keep the caution light on, and check. A man two seats to our left bets 200. He's been playing on the loose side, so we're not afraid to call. A man between us calls as well.


A card that doesn't really matter for us. We check again. The man two seats over bets 200 more. We call, as does the man in the middle.


With top pair on the board and second pair in our hand, we decide it's time to move. We bet 600 -- hoping this will dissuade the bettor from making an outlandish bet in the last position to buy the pot. If he makes a big raise, we'd probably presume he has an Ace and fold.

After the middle man folds, our remaining opponent tries to raise 100 more. But tournament rules require him to double our bet if he raises. So he does that, and we call the extra 600.

"Do you have an Ace?" we ask showing our kings. We feared he did -- but nope, he doesn't even have a second pair. Our presumption that he was betting with nothing but hope is right.

A couple of nice pots helped us endure a couple of bad chases. When another man took out three players at one time with a flush, we staggered to the final table with 3,000 chips. Then we survived to finish sixth -- our all-in bet with K-J losing to pairs of lower cards.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I didn't bring my glasses, so I can't read it," a man to our left said when we showed him our "Jesus coin."

"It says 'Jesus as your Savior is more valuable than any coin,'" we told the man. "Do you agree with that message? Is Jesus your Savior?"

The man quietly said he agreed. Here's hoping you do.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 61 final tables in 157 nights (38.9%) - 11 cashes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Up, down and out

The National League of Poker has so many players competing for hours at a time, tonight marked only our second weekly championship appearance there. The last one in December left us in the top half of the field. Tonight? Welllll....

BLINDS: 30/60


We're in the small blind, having just hit a "Broadway straight" on the turn in the big blind to claim an $1,100 pot. But we don't overplay this, and call. No one raises.

ON THE FLOP: 5-2-5

Three of a kind with top kicker looks very nice. We're first in the order to bet, but decide to be cautious and bet the minimum 60. A player across from us doubles to 120. We call; everyone else bails out.


We're a bit concerned now about an oddball straight. We bet 60 again, but our opponent doubles to 120 again. Another call.


We hope to persuade our opponent we have something by betting 60 more -- only he responds by going all-in! We're a bit puzzled, and conclude our opponent is bluffing to chase us away.

We call, putting ourselves all-in -- only the opponent has K-5. He bet big because he hit a full house on the river. We're gone in ten minutes, finishing in 1,237th place. (Thankfully, 147 others were below us.)

The big rally

With the Sabbath past, we now have time to explain what happened to us late Friday afternoon -- our first full tournament win at National League of Poker.

It was another one of those amazing comebacks for us. More than one hour into the match, we were at 275 chips with the blinds at 300/600. We pushed with 6-6, and survived several players with big cards to take a nice pot.

Then another pot came our way. And another. In less than ten minutes, our stack jumped 8,625....

Then to more than 32,000 at the two-hour break, with seven players left at the final table. And minutes later, we were close to 53,000.

After a lengthy three-player fight at the final table, we eliminated a woman to go heads-up with more than 131,000 chips.

We thought we had our opponent here -- with top two pair on the flop. But the other man had a pair of 4's, and escaped with a 4 on the river. He took a $46,000 pot, but we maintained a three-one chip lead. A couple of minutes later, our advantage was 5-1 in chips....

BLINDS: 3,000/6,000


We're in the small blind, and call. Our opponent doubles the blind, and we call it.


It's top pair and an open-ended straight draw. Yet our opponent bets 7,200. We double that in a raise, and put him all-in. He also has a Queen, but a mere 5 for a kicker card.


There's that pesky 4 again! Except this time, it doesn't help either of us. If we can only escape a 5....


Two pair! Victory! A mere 10-dollar cash prize (which for a 2 1/2-hour game is less than minimum wage) -- but oh, the satisfaction. AND the thankfulness to God for bringing us all the way back! (Yes, there were several PTL's typed along the way -- which brought no response from anyone.)

This marked our third online win in a full-tournament format. The last one was with NBC Sports 11/10/09 -- and the next day, NBC Sports had merged into NLOP. We're thankful to report NLOP remains in business, after our latest win.

We outlasted 182 other players, in our 220th full NLOP tournament. Given those numbers, perhaps we finally were due mathematically to win. But we came in second twice in April, and had a fifth-place finish only four days before. So maybe we're finally figuring something out.

P.S. The win gave us enough NLOP points to qualify for tonight's weekly championship with big money on the line. Watch this space....

Heads-Up Week 4: Thou Shalt Not Tempt....

Bad beats happen in poker. Top players talked about their most painful losses today, during the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. Then we saw one, as Jason Mercier caught a 5 on the river to eliminate Phil Laak.

Mercier had pocket 5's, and only two outs. Laak decided to be playful, and put Mercier's cards on either side of the spot where the river card would come. Shame on him -- it was tic-tac-toe.

But shame on NBC's Craig Hummer for declaring Laak "tempted the poker gods." Why do we say that? Let's look at some simple statements....

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." - Deuteronomy 6:4

"I am the Lord your God.... You shall have no other gods before me." - Deuteronomy 5:6-7

"For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens." - I Chronicles 16:26

We believe there are no "poker gods" -- only the one true God, presented in John 1 as a Father and a Son named Jesus Christ.

Yet Hummer was right in one sense. Jesus said during a moment of trial, "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." (Matthew 4:7, KJV)

Laak might have been better off doing what Chris Moneymaker did as he was eliminated -- simply turn away from the table, and be pleasantly surprised if a blessing comes.

P.S. We could go after NBC colleague Ali Nejad as well, for comparing Laak's attitude to Zen and Oprah Winfrey -- but not this itme.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Q-Q-10-10 = 10

We're thrilled and thankful to report we have just WON our first full tournament at National League of Poker!!!!

We won the $10 prize with Queens and 10's, after a tournament with 182 opponents which lasted 2 1/2 hours.

More details coming this weekend....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poker Night 156: Portland Pilot

Some poker hands have traditional slang names, such as "rockets" for A-A. We've created a few nicknames of our own, which might puzzle opponents if we mentioned them at the table (or maybe even throw them off the track). Take one hand we were dealt at Lil Kim's Cove tonight....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-2 of hearts

We call this hand "Portland," after a TV station in that Oregon city. It's the last hand before the one-hour break, and normally we might be inclined to dump it. But before the tournament began, the director decided to throw in a twist.

"If you win a hand with King-deuce," he announced, "you get 5,000 bonus chips." A player at another table already has earned the K-2 bonus -- and now we've been dealt it! So we call and hope. Good sign #1: no one raises. Only four players are in the hand.

ON THE FLOP: K-7-8 (no hearts)

Good sign #2: top pair! But you have to play a bonus hand to the river to claim the prize, so we check. Good sign #3: the entire table checks.


We check again. Good sign #4: no one bets again.


With the river card showing, the bonus is ours if we win the hand. So still holding top pair, we bet 600. Only one player calls.

"Jackpot!" we announce, showing our K-2 -- and indeed it's a winner! The pot plus the bonus give us 16,000 chips at the break.

We won one hand after the break, but didn't gain many favorable cards the rest of the evening. We held on to have 10,000 chips at the two-hour mark, then went all-in with A-K right after the break. But K-J landed on the board, and another player had them to make two pair. We settled for the semifinal table again, finishing 13th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: In a moment of exasperation late in the tournament, a young woman at our table declared, "Jesus Christ!"

"He's my hope of salvation."


"He's my hope of salvation," we repeated for the woman. "Since you mentioned Him."

The young woman smiled. She knows we like to bring up matters of faith at the table. And we're ready with one-liner responses, when people around us mention the Savior's name in something less than an honorable way.

So is Jesus your hope of salvation? The apostle Peter declared at a major conference long ago, "We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved...." (Acts 15:11) We say nothing else will do. Agree or disagree?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 156 nights (38.5%) - 11 cashes.

Now this is a serious slump: one final table in the last 13.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Heads-up games: 6-6. Full tournaments -- 34 point wins in 218 games (15.6%), 14 final tables, no cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: One-table tournaments - two wins in 11 games. Pretend cash games: $12,973, up $430.

Poker Night 155: Sing-o de Mayo

Soho Bar and Grill is a rock music nightclub -- and Cinco de Mayo was no exception. We didn't even hear La Bamba on the jukebox during Wednesday night's poker tournament. And that's too bad, because there were a couple of times when we wanted to get up and dance a "salsa victoria...."

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit

We're in the big blind, and dreaming of making a big move with 4,225 chips. The table calls to us, but we choose to be cautious and check.

ON THE FLOP: 10-10-4

There's no reason to be cautious now. After the small blind player checks, we bet 1,000. That brings a couple of callers, but then the dealer (who has a very large stack) goes all-in.

"You remind me of that show on AMC," we joke in reply. "Mad Men!" But in reality, there's little to worry about here -- unless someone has a 10-4 or pocket 4's.

"I'm all in," we declare with our remaining 3225. A couple of other players call as well.


That card seems innocent enough. There's nothing left for anyone to bet in a sidepot.


"Three tenors -- sing!" we announce. And the good news is that they do. A man to our left has K-10, but our Ace outkicks him. Our stack jumps to more than 14,000.

A couple of nice pots came our way later as well -- including a surprise win with a pair of 3's. But the tide turned when a man pushed with A-K and 5,100 left. We had A-J and A-J were showing on the flop, but a King on the turn left us burned. Yet we held on to the semifinal table, where we were forced to push with A-6 which failed to pair. We finished tied for 11th (due to a double take-out) -- our best showing at Soho since last November.

MINISTRY MOMENT: For a change, we salute a good deed by another player. When the two-hour break came, a man had just won an all-in bet -- but only had 4,000 chips. The second "color-up" made him trade in chips worth 500 and 1,000, so he was left with only a single gold 5,000 chip.

"I'll help you out," another man at the table said -- giving him a gold chip from his much larger stack. That allowed Mr. Short Stack to post a full 10,000 in the big blind for the next hand. He wound up losing, but at least had a fairer chance.

"God loves a cheerful giver," II Corinthians 9:7 says. Verse 13 adds your "generosity in sharing" can lead others to praise God. So we praise God for this nice example!

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 60 final tables in 155 nights (38.7%) - 11 cashes. Ouch. Our percentage hasn't dropped below 39 since early January.

The N.D.P.

"Happy N.D.P. to all," we wrote at every online poker table we visited, during a tournament this afternoon.

No one "took the bait," you might say -- asking what N.D.P. meant. It stands for the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. (Yes, we're aware it means something else in Canada.) But it really shouldn't be a one-day activity.

"Pray without ceasing," Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV). You can even do it during a stressful moment at the poker table. But we suggest doing it quietly at a live tournament, because otherwise you're bound to raise some eyebrows.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Remember as you play....

"Don't cause problems for someone with a weak conscience, just because you have the right to eat something.... Then what you know has destroyed someone Christ died for." -- I Corinthians 8:9, 11 (CEV)

Paul wrote this guidance about food offered to idols. But a sermon we heard on radio this week reminded us the principle applies to poker as well.

We're very careful in how we talk with fellow church members about poker. We realize some might consider it a sin simply to walk into a nightclub or poker room, where alcohol and tobacco (among other things) flow freely. Others might consider it "the spirit of gambling," even though the tournament is free to play.

We've said it here before: if you're easily tempted to excess with alcohol or gambling, playing poker outside a home or church probably isn't right for you. Online games are a comparatively safe alternative -- although bad language and attitudes can be problems there as well.

We have yet to invite anyone in our church congregations to join us on a poker night. If they're curious about where we play, we'll tell them. Otherwise, we don't want to offend by being imposing.

By extension, we hope you don't offend other poker players in a room with your habits. Don't force alcohol or tobacco on anyone who doesn't want it. That's showing courtesy. As Paul put it in another letter: "Let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3, KJV).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Head, Heart and Hellmuth

Poker fans probably are still buzzing about Phil Hellmuth's latest televised disaster. If you haven't seen it, we don't want to give away too much. But in the second hand of this NBC Heads-Up Poker segment, Hellmuth thinks out loud about how to answer an all-in challenger -- and does it for so long that his opponent forces the issue.

"My heart is telling me I should ship it all in," Hellmuth tells Annette Obrestad more than once. Interesting words -- since believe it or not, the Bible seems to suggest you go against what your heart tells you to do.

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" says Jeremiah 17:9. Ecclesiastes 9:3 is even more blunt: "The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live...."

Hmmmm -- on second thought, maybe these verses are not about making decisions by "going with your gut." They're talking more about an overall attitude of life, with hearts producing all sorts of "evil thoughts" as Jesus said in Mark 7:21-22.

Bible writers put the thinking process and the heart together. That's why there are verses such as, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...." (Proverbs 23:7, KJV) Nowadays, most people refer to the heart as the center of emotion -- with the mind as the base of cognitive thinking.

As NBC's Craig Hummer pointed out, Hellmuth in this case should have put the two areas together. If Hellmuth had put the brain first (as he admits in a post-match interview), he would have folded easily and looked for a better opportunity.

But what all of us need (and this goes for Obrestad as much as Hellmuth) is a new heart. One with all the evils of a sin-filled life removed.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God," David prayed in Psalm 51:10. How does God make that happen? We'll suggest two ways -- by putting your faith in God (Acts 15:9), and allowing the positive example of other believers to refresh you (Philemon 20). Maybe you can come up with others.

Sometimes hearts win poker hands with a flush. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes listening to your "heart" can get you into a disastrous hand (yes, we know from experience). But may your goal be to have a completely changed heart -- as Galatians 4:6 says, changed by God sending "the Spirit of his Son" to dwell there.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The New Spirituals

The other night at Soho Bar & Grill, a young man said he considered himself "spiritual," but not really "religious." He reflected the majority of people in his age group, according to a new survey. Nearly three-fourths of adults age 18-29 say they're "more spiritual than religious."

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily -- and in fact, it can be a good thing. Check a Bible concordance, and you'll discover God's Word uses the word "spiritual" much more often.

"Keep your spiritual fervor," Paul recommends in Romans 12:11. How? He answers: "serving the Lord." Verses 9-10 indicate that means practicing a way of love, and honoring others above themselves.

On the night the young man made the comment about being spiritual, we asked if he tried to put others above himself. He gave an "it depends" answer -- and in this society, we can understand that. Some people can take your honor and turn it into an attitude of dominance and control.

That's when you need something else that's spiritual in nature. Paul told a church he asked God "to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9).

You can ask God for that spiritual wisdom, too. It takes what some might call a religious act -- seeking Him in prayer (Col. 4:2). But there's really no better way to gain help from the greatest spiritual power source of all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Heads-Up Week 3: The Long Hard Climb

"Nothing comes easy, baby." So said Scotty Nguyen today, as he kept doubling up Phil Ivey at the Heads-Up Poker Championship feature table. Nguyen was as low as 2,400 chips, yet kept hitting big hands and roared back from behind to win the match.

We can tell a similar tale, from only a few days ago. We took a big hit to a big hand early in an online tournament, dropping to only 150 chips. But then we waited for the right moment to come -- and several big blinds fell in our favor. We rebuilt above 1,000, then grew from there. To 3,507. Then 23,440. And all the way to 104,822 at the final table!

Trouble was, then we became Phil Ivey. We had a 2.5-1 chip lead over a woman in heads-up play for first place -- and she rallied to win. Ten dollars for her, none for us. But we thanked God all the way, for the thrill of the comeback. It wasn't quite the "chip and a chair," but it was on that order.

God can use little things in a big way, too. I Kings 17 has the story of a widow whose possessions apparently consisted of a son, "a handful of meal.... and a little oil...." (verse 12) But after committing a little of those items to God's servant Elijah, the remainder was extended by God. "She, and he, and her house, did eat many days," says verse 15 (KJV).

Jesus had only 12 named disciples, and one of them betrayed Him at a critical hour. Yet Acts 2 shows those disciples were used by God to learn 3,000 people to baptism on a day of Pentecost. And while you might feel repulsed by modern-day preachers with million-dollar planes and ministry buildings, remember -- they undoubtedly started small as well.

Jesus referred to it as "faith as the grain of a mustard seed" in Luke 17:6. So commit your "little" to God, whether in life or a poker match.

Scotty Nguyen is right -- growth probably won't come easily. And there's no guarantee you'll roar all the way back from the brink to victory. But amazing things could happen. We've seen it. Twice.

P.S. While we were preparing this, we missed an apparent Heads-Up "classic moment" -- with Phil Hellmuth talking himself into a disastrous all-in bet. We hope to check the video online and talk about that later.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why Are We Here?

"It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation."

Those are NOT our words. We found them in a Bible study this week. Paul wrote them in Romans 15:20. But that verse describes very well what we do -- taking the things of God and Jesus Christ to a place where people are unlikely to know about Him.

Does that mean going to poker nights in bars and nightclubs? Yes, very often. But Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34) -- when His main goal was to offer a way out of their sins. John 14:6 shows Jesus is that way.

Jesus instructed His disciples to be witnesses for Him "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). We're not sure if this is going to the ends of cyberspace -- but we know people from many lands visit this blog. We welcome you. May you learn about the things of poker here -- but may you learn of Someone much more important.