Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poker Night 180: Eights Are Enough?

"You just can't play a bunch of...." Well, the man didn't finish that sentence with the word junk. But his point is well taken, when it comes to having success in a poker tournament. Tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, we saw low offsuit cards time after time. So we tried to borrow the Doyle Brunson line, and "go through the window" in one hand....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 8h-7d

The closest we've come so far to being serious with a hand was an A-9 which missed on the flop, and we wound up folding. With 6,400 chips, we decide to try these mid-range connectors. A player across the table doubles the bet to 400, and half the table joins in.

ON THE FLOP: Ks-8s-8d

Triple eight should be great! But players are betting all around us -- first 500, then 1,000. We call, and suspect most of the action is based on bluffs.

ON THE TURN: 4h

A seemingly harmless card doesn't slow anybody down. Now the bet to our left is 1,000 straightway. Two other players call, and we feel we must -- but is someone holding a full house here? Could an 8 on the river confirm our suspicions?

ON THE RIVER: As

The man who started the betting before now checks -- but the next man in line goes all-in. A player between us says he "has to call," and says something about there being a lot of options on the board. We thank him for saying that -- because we were about to go all-in for 4,000. But we then take a second look, and realize three spades are showing.

"I'll fold." We decide our three 8's are worthless. It turns out we were right; the first player who pushed made a flush, but the caller had A-8 and hit a full house on the river. We trailed in the hand all along.

We trailed all night long, in fact. We never won a pot, and tried to go all-in with 8-8 and 3,500 left. But big cards fell on the board, and a straight topped us. We did no better than fifth at the table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I'll stay out of the hands you're in," the man to our left said to the man to our right before the tournament began. But on the very first hand, they wound up heads-up after the flop.

"I thought you two had an agreement here...." we said mostly as a joke. The man to our left claimed otherwise after winning the hand.

"I don't play favorites when it comes to playing poker."

"So you're like God, then?" we answered. "The Bible says He's no respecter of persons." We repeated that explanation for the man to our right. They didn't really respond to it. If you'd like to respond, leave a comment; we'll have more on this in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 75 final tables in 180 nights (41.7%) - 15 cashes.

We understand a quarterly Big Dog Poker championship game is this weekend, and we qualified for it be placing 33rd in points. But again the tournament is on Saturday -- the Sabbath for us. Too bad.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments -- 64 point wins in 346 games (18.5%), 27 final tables, 1 cash.

This may have been our best week ever at NLOP, with five point wins in 11 games!

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $10,723 (unchanged).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fastest Finger

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to be learned; but time and chance happen to them all. -- Ecclesiastes 9:11


We don't know if King Solomon ever played poker -- but there's a lot of truth to learn from that verse he wrote. Yet in online poker, sometimes being swift is an advantage. There's an absurd example of that right now at PokerStars.Net .

Every two hours around the clock, there's "The Lamborghini Freeroll" - satellite tournaments leading to a big game Sunday afternoon to win a sports car, with perhaps some cash along the way. Registration for each freeroll opens 30 minutes before game time, with room for 10,000 players. So a few minutes ago, we were ready -- and clicked the "register" button almost as soon as it appeared.

Too bad for us. The field was filled with 10,000 players in less than one minute! And we apparently didn't click the follow-up "OK" button quickly enough.

Fast cars require fast mouse-clickers. Who knew?

Betting on a Loser

The online game was anything but G-rated. One person wrote a double expletive, including one mentioning God's name. So we responded....

Me: I'd rather praise God, to be honest.
Lever: lol
lowrider1: amen to that
Lever: i like satan....
Me: That's too bad. An eventual loser.


We noted in an earlier post that Satan lost long ago. He's called "Lucifer" in Isaiah 14:12 (KJV) - and the context shows God kicked that "morning star" out of heaven for trying to have a higher throne than the God who created it.

Revelation 12:7-9 indicates (though it's open to interpretation) Satan tried again to claim a place in heaven. But God's angels fought Satan's demonic army off, and threw them down to the earth. And then....

Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. - Rev. 12:12


This is why many believers, such as the man who sat next to us at The Red Barn, consider Satan responsible for the disasters in this world. But thankfully, Jesus is coming back to bring "a new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness" (II Peter 3:13).

Given Satan's record "heads-up" against God and the angels, why would any thinking person bet on the devil in a match against Jesus? Or for that matter, against anything godly?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July Senior Championship: He's Right on Time

"The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time - Psalm 145:15

We've heard ministers say God is "always on time" and "never late." That exact wording isn't in the Bible, but the principle certainly applied to us tonight at the National League of Poker July Senior Championship.

The game started poorly all around for us -- with hopeful hands not panning on, and nice flops being met with all-in challenges which we had to fold. Then at the 47-minute mark, one hand changed everything....

BLINDS: 150/300

IN THE POCKET: 5-5

We have 385 chips left. "Little choice," we write as we push all-in. Three other players call to take us on.

ON THE FLOP: 8-Q-9

Ugh -- three higher cards.

ON THE TURN: A

One of the other players makes a big all-in bet. "Uh-oh" we write and prepare to say good night.

ON THE RIVER: 2

Things look very grim -- until the other three players turn over their cards. Believe it or not, nobody paired!

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($1540) with One pair, fives
Me: whoa
Me: PTL!
FiveAces: dah u go boy
Me: Thanks -- sure didn't expect that


That surprising win allows us to survive to the third break with 1,090 chips. Out of 847 players, 198 remain -- but we're still near the bottom. Yet look at what happened from there....

:56 IN: We have K-J in the small blind, and call a player's all-in bet for 350. The flop is 6-K-6. A big 500 bet makes the rest of the table fold, and we take out an opponent with Q-4. We climb to $1875.

1:20 IN: After folding two semi-good hands which would have earned at least a split, we have A-J in the big blind. We go all-in, and prevail when the board brings a pair of Queens. We're up to $3805.

1:23 IN: We have pocket Queens, and call a player who doubles the bet. The flop is 10-4-2. Our opponent pushes, we call -- and he has A-9! The turn and river are 3-8, and we've jumped to $7,710.

1:44 IN: We have K-A in the big blind, and go all-in with 6,060 left. The flop is Q-6-3, followed by 4-7. Another player pairs, but we escape with two side pots and gain to $11,728. All this from $385!

1:47 IN: We have K-K on the button -- and here we make a safe play, which proves to be a big mistake. We call, and let the big blind check. When the flop shows J-7-7, we go all-in with 7220 left -- and the big blind happens to have 7-3. (Another player has A-Q.) The turn and river are 6-3, and the big blind takes everything. If we had dared to push, that winner probably would have folded and....

But still, we finished 25th out of 847 players. In a real tournament, that would have meant a nice payday. But only the top ten won money in the NLOP format. A thrilling evening nonetheless -- and we thank God for showing how big comebacks can happen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Poker Night 179: Kicked to the Curb

Are you one of those players who's automatically in when you're dealt an Ace? Sometimes that approach works. But sometimes that second card matters. Consider what happened to us at The Red Barn tonight....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Q-2 offsuit

It's the final hand before the one-hour break, and we're in the big blind with about 6,200 chips. No one raises ahead of us, so we get in for free -- well, sort of.

ON THE FLOP: Q-5-3

Here's our chance to make a move. The player ahead of us checks, and we bet 500 with top pair. Three other players call.

ON THE TURN: 8

That card seems harmless, so we bet 500 more. But two players stay in -- and now we start to wonder. Our "kicker" card (the 2) is as weak as you can get. And for all we know, someone might have two pair.

ON THE RIVER: 4

Smelling trouble, we check. The other players check as well -- and a man across from us shows Q-7. His pair of Queens tops ours, because his kicker was better.

That scene repeated itself somewhat after we reached the final table. With the blinds at 1,000/2,000, that same man bet the minimum when an Ace appeared on the flop. We called with A-4 -- and he made the same bets on the turn and river, draining our stack. We both had a pair of Aces, but his 9 outkicked us again.

We only lasted a couple of hands at the final table, finishing ninth. But we've now made the final table at The Red Barn in six out of the last seven Monday nights!

MINISTRY MOMENT: For some reason we can't recall, a man sitting to our left claimed at one point "Lucifer" was at another table. As it happened, earlier in the day we eliminated an online player with Lucifer in his name.

"I wrote: 'Lucifer lost long ago, too.'"

"And he'll lose again," the man to our left responded -- adding he believes Satan knows of impending doom, and is spreading troubles around the world as a result of it. What do you think of that? Our thoughts about it are coming later this week.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 75 final tables in 179 nights (41.9%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Master J

Augusta, Georgia has "The Masters" every April -- but that's in golf. The U.S. government has appointed "Special Masters" over compensation funds from time to time. But as we noted in our last post, when we found an online player taking the name "TheMaster" we took exception to it.

We said Jesus is our Master -- and apparently His original disciples did as well:

You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. - John 13:13 (KJV)

Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1 indicate that Master is now in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father. While Jesus was on Earth, he warned against taking some of His names on ourselves....

Neither be you called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. - Matthew 23:10

How do you make Jesus your Master in life? Jesus thankfully offers guidance with that as well:

A student is not above his teacher [KJV "Master"], but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. - Luke 6:40

In other words, be like Jesus in all you do. In how you approach people in a game of poker, what you do during the game -- in fact, in every aspect of your life.

As it happens, National League of Poker has another player with the name "LoveLiftedMe". There's a Christian song by that title, which includes these lyrics about Jesus: "He's the master of the sea. Billows His will obey." If the sea can do it, maybe you should try it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Poker Night 178: The Presence of Royalty

If Wednesday was "not our night" in live poker, Thursday was quite the opposite. Several timely big hands came our way at Lil Kim's Cove -- and they started early:

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: Q-Q

We're first in the betting order -- and one night before in this position, K-K didn't quite work out for us. But we don't change our approach, raising to 600. A few players call.

ON THE FLOP: 10-7-3 (admittedly not sure about the third card)

We have the overpair again -- but this time, with no straight threat here. The play checks to us, and we make a "continuation bet" of 500. It doesn't scare many players away.

ON THE TURN: 10

Now we have two pair -- but the risk of someone else having three of a kind. so when the play checks to us again, we slow down and bet 300. A man to our immediate left looks puzzled, but calls. Two other players do the same. "You have Jacks?!?" someone around the table guesses.

ON THE RIVER: 6 (not exactly sure; something that small)

The play checks to us once more, and we decide to be daring. If someone was hiding a 10, we conclude, they would have raised our weak-looking bet on the turn. So now we plunk down 1,000.

"You're buying me out...." the man to our left says as he folds. The second man folds.

"I've got to see it," the big blind says as he calls.

"Can you top Queens?" we ask. No, he can't -- and we never see what he had. It's a nice gain to about 9,000 chips.

The big hands kept coming from there, even though our stack was often precariously weak. Pocket Kings came at one point, to beat a man holding 7-7. Then at the final table, A-Q won a big pot when an Ace came on the flop and no one else had one. Then pocket Kings came again, to split a big pot with a man who held the other K-K. (We both topped a woman who pushed with Q-Q.)

At last we reached heads-up play, and settled on a split of the prize money with the man who looked puzzled earlier in the tournament. He had a bigger stack, so he took $30 and the runner-up "bucket of beers." We took home $20 -- our third win of money so far in July!

MINISTRY MOMENT: It didn't really happen at Lil Kim's Cove, but an interesting moment occurred during an online tournament in the afternoon. We won an all-in bet over someone named "ThEMaStEr" -- which led to this:

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($610) with Straight, ten to ace
Me: (whew) PTL
ThEMaStEr: nh
Me: Thanks
Me: Nothing personal - but Jesus is my Master.
esuom333: about 20 more and ur in there
Me: 20 more all-ins? Hey, why not? :-)
esuom333: just not through me and amen to that


Can you say "amen" as well? We welcome your comments on that exchange; we'll share more on it in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 74 final tables in 178 nights (41.6%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 59 point wins in 335 games (17.6%), 26 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $10,723, up $635.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Poker Night 177: Kings on the Sword

We've heard ministers say when an argument or debate develops with someone (say a spouse or a co-worker), you should ask: "Is this hill worth dying for?" The same sort of question comes up in poker all the time. We faced it tonight during a critical hand at Soho Bar and Grill....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-K

We're first in line to bet, and have 3,275 chips due to early losses. Sensing a comeback hand, we raise to 400. Several players at the full table call.

ON THE FLOP: 7-8-9 (various suits)

A flop filled with potential trouble. We don't want any straight-chasers to stick around. So when the play checks to us, we bet 1,000. It's not enough, as three players call.

ON THE TURN: J

As we said.... trouble. Is someone holding a 10? The play checks to us again. This time we check. The entire table checks.

ON THE RIVER: J

Two players are in the hand ahead of us. The first checks. The second bets 2,000 -- and since we have 1,875 left, this would put us all-in. While we have an "over-pair" for two pair, we decide after a moment this man has a Jack to top us.

"I can't do it," we say folding. Everyone else folds.

"I didn't have anything...." says the pot winner. He shows A-4, and indeed bluffed his way to victory. Ouch.

We pull out our Kings and show them -- and a man across the table can't believe it. "Kings!? You go HOME with those! You go HOME!!.... If someone beats you, they beat you."

We try to explain our thinking. The man who bluffed asks what our chip count is, and notes we had an all-in decision to make. "You made a good decision," he tells us. "There's plenty of time...."

Maybe so -- but we're left thinking we squandered the right time. Perhaps we could have run off pretenders by betting more on the flop, or even before it. But that's admittedly not our normal nature.

Time ran out for us rather quickly after that. Several potential strong hands failed to develop on the flop -- and we wound up losing an all-in bet holding A-6 when the board didn't pair. Sometimes it's simply not your night.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed that big bluffer our "Jesus as your Savior" coin tonight. As it happened, he'd seen the Christian Motorcyclists crest on the back of it earlier in the week. He quietly agreed with the message about Jesus on it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 73 final tables in 177 nights (41.2%) - 14 cashes.

What's in a Name?

Me: Happy All-Star Tuesday to all.
savior: baseball is gay


This exchange occurred last week, at the start of an online poker tournament. We won't get into the "gay" part here. Instead, we're struck by the other player's name. We've encountered several players who refer to God or Jesus, but put the name on themselves.

After a short discussion about baseball, we responded to the name:

Me: By the way, nothing personal -- but Jesus is my savior.
savior: ty


The chat went no further.

We've felt convicted recently to be more loving and less strident -- when we're playing poker in general, and especially when we see names like this. But make no mistake: we meant what we wrote.

....We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. -- I Timothy 4:10

The word "Savior" is mentioned in the Bible as early as Deuteronomy. But New Testament writers made the identity of that Savior more specific:

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. -- I John 4:14

Thus we see that Son named Jesus is God -- and He's our Savior, too. Take that title upon yourself, and we think you're asking for trouble. After all, have you seen how much President Obama has been mocked because some supporters called him a messiah?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Up, Up, Up

Two weeks after it began, the World Series of Poker Main Event was reduced to a final table of nine today. Of all the places to learn this, we saw a story about it at SRN News -- which offers "breaking news for Christians."

Perhaps the poker tournament qualified because of what happened when Italy's Filippio Candio won a big pot....

he scurried around tableside press and kneeled and pointed upward in celebration.


Somehow we do not think that was aimed at a security office upstairs from the poker room. We'll give Candio the benefit of the doubt, and presume this was his spontaneous way of thanking God.

There actually are two representations of God "up there." Hebrews 1:3 explains:

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sis, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.


Blessings can come from both God the Father and Jesus the Son. Perhaps sometimes, those blessings can include running cards that bail you out.

So what about the November Nine? Who do you like?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poker Night 176: A Little Scared

"I think I've spotted a tell," a fellow player told us quietly during tonight's game at Lil Kim's Cove -- as in spotted on us. He said we seem to "tense up" when we're about to play hands, and part of our face starts to twitch. Maybe we need to play online games in front of a mirror, for practice?!

The man mentioned this well after a challenging early hand, where another player apparently didn't notice anything unusual....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 9-5 of diamonds

The night is young. The blinds are small. So when a player across the table doubles the bet to 100, we don't mind calling suited cards. About four people get in the hand.

ON THE FLOP: Ad-10d-8c

The man who raised throws out a minimum 50. We're on a flush draw, and that's a small price to pay for one more card. We call.

ON THE TURN: Ah

The betting man bets 50 more. Compared with some online tournaments we play, this is bargain-basement shopping. We call again. No one else is left in the hand by this time.

ON THE RIVER: 7d

There's the flush -- but now along comes trouble. The man who bet small goes big, tossing out 2,000. Does he have a face-card diamond to top us? We have about 5,800 chips, and think a moment before deciding.

"Prove it," we say as we call. "I've got the diamonds."

Our opponent does not. He has two pair, and admits he had that on the flop. His bets were designed to run off everyone else. If he had made bigger bets in the first place, it might have worked with us -- but small ball early gave us a big pot at the end.

Not much else went that well for us tonight. We made it past the one-hour mark, but then felt compelled to push with A-9 and an Ace showing on the flop. A woman to our left with A-J wound up topping us, and we finished in about 22nd place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The tables were turned tonight, as we received correction from another player about something we've written elsewhere online. We won't go into details (it had nothing to do with our religious views), but we could understand why the player was upset. After the person spoke his/her piece, we said "thank you" and went on our way.

"If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body," says James 3:2 (KJV). That's a very high standard -- one that religious and political leaders admittedly can't always match.

Romans 14:21 adds, "It is best not to.... do anything else that causes problems for other followers of the Lord" (CEV). We're tempted to go one step farther, and say you should do nothing that might hinder non-believers from becoming a follower of Christ. It includes watching what you say, and even what you write.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 73 final tables in 176 nights (41.5%) - 14 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 57 point wins in 323 games (17.6%), 26 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $10,088, down $530.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hanukkah in July

Plenty of Christian ministries (and even department stores) like to have a "Christmas in July" event of some sort. We're daring to be different here, in light of something we mentioned from Monday's first-place poker night.

We told a man there's more Biblical evidence for Jesus keeping Hanukkah, not Christmas. Why do we say that? For starters, the word "Christmas" isn't anywhere in standard Bibles. Nor is there any mention of Christmas celebrations in the New Testament church. But in John 10 we find this:

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. - John 10:22-23


The NIV Study Bible says this refers to the "dedication.... of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in December, 165 B.C., after it had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes." The religious community commonly calls it Hanukkah today.

The following verses indicate a conversation between Jesus and Jews -- and nowhere does Jesus suggest they start keeping His birthday. But why would Jesus attend this event in the first place? Hebrews 7:14 offers the answer: "For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah...." In other words, the Messiah has a Jewish heritage!

If all this startles you (whether you're Christian or Jewish), we certainly understand. We've been challenged several times over the years about whether or not to celebrate Christmas. Our findings are in a lengthy Bible study -- a response to a Christian who himself went back and forth on the issue.

Maybe it's good that we're recommending this article now, so you have time to adjust possible year-end plans. Who knows -- you might gain more time for poker nights.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Poker Night 175: 10-10 WINS

If our title brings a familiar smile to your face, you either live in the New York area or know something about broadcasting. That's the name of a radio station in that city. It brought very good news to us tonight -- as we WON a live poker tournament at the Red Barn in Phenix City!

This was our first live win since last August (which actually was a heads-up handshake), and the first outright triumph since December 2008. We'll get to the meaning behind our title, but another big hand turned the tide for us along the way....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

We only have 4,000 chips left at a semifinal table (three tables played). There's little choice here but to call and hope. Three other players get in the hand, giving us a potential win of 17,000.

ON THE FLOP: A-6-9

The other players plunk down thousands, while we sit and watch. Not a comforting sight, without a pair.

ON THE TURN: J

The betting continues around us. We feel even more doomed. But hope remains....

ON THE RIVER: 10

....and did it ever come! Two players left in the hand bet 4,000 on a big sidepot.

"You can call me the Lion King, because I'm on Broadway," we announce -- as in a "Broadway" straight that no one else can match.

We took about 12,000 chips to the final table, and had a setback or two there. But then that title came to life. We went all-in with pocket 10's, and it held up despite face cards on the board. Other players' stacks drained away, leaving us heads-up against a young married woman -- trailing in chips by about a 3:1 margin.

But then our cards started pairing on the flop, and our experience playing heads-up games online seemed to kick in to our advantage. We only recall our opponent winning one pot which was not a pre-flop fold. So we rallied for the lead, and she eventually pushed all-in with 45,000. She had a 9, which matched the top card on the flop. We had a 10, with an open-ended straight draw. But a 10 on the turn was good enough -- and 10-10 won us the match!

First place at the Red Barn is $25 -- but we wound up taking home much less. With five players remaining, one of the five suggested the prize money be split five ways. We had the low stack at the time, so considered this a generous offer. Everyone accepted a five-dollar night, but we had the satisfaction of first place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A final table hand found everyone checking the flop. Almost everyone checked the turn -- but then the woman who eventually finished second made a bet.

"We were going along just fine until you did that," we joked as we folded.

"She was on your Christmas list until then, wasn't she?" a man between us joked. Of all topics, that opened the door for some thoughts about Christmas in July.

"I used to keep Christmas," we told the man between hands. "But then I started studying it -- and I found more evidence in the Bible that Jesus kept Hanukkah than Christmas."

What do we mean? We'll give you some time to check the Bible about it, before we explain in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 73 final tables in 175 nights (41.7%) - 14 cashes.

Playing on the Edge

You never know what you'll see or hear at a poker table. But at the World Series of Poker Main Event, you'd think things would be cut-and-dried. Focused. Serious.

Not so. "A guy just sat down at my table he has a lot of chips and a naked barbie doll," was a Twitter message over the weekend by one of the Main Event players. She didn't say if the man used that doll as a card protector, or something else. But apparently the WSOP didn't think too much of it:

"The floorman just came over and made the french guy remove his barbie from the table," the woman tweeted three hours later.

There's a fine line between distracting opponents and, well, being tacky. The book of Proverbs offers some guidelines about this:

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (Proverbs 17:27-28)


Many people in the world consider Christians a "peculiar people" (Titus 2:14, KJV) because of the God they choose to follow or the lives they live. Why display any behavior that's strange or bizarre, to make matters worse? That would only harm your potential witness to players around you.

We say it's best to stay level-headed as you play, and let the Christian example come out naturally. In fact, you might stay in the tournament longer that way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

NLOP Championship 5: Behind the Times

Fourth place on Friday afternoon, then 16th out of 656 players Saturday night. If we had bet real money in those two National League of Poker online tournaments instead of points, our $1,250 investment would have returned almost $10,000. But it only earned us a spot in tonight's weekly championship, hoping to win $500 -- where one hand could change everything:

BLINDS: 15/30

IN THE POCKET: 4-9 of clubs

Blinds are small and the table is playing tight early, so we get in with suited cards. Three players call.

ON THE FLOP: 3c-Qc-Ac

Almost a dream flop come true! But players bet ahead of us, and we're concerned someone might have one of the three higher clubs which can top us. The betting reaches as high as 180, and we call throughout.

ON THE TURN: 10d

A player ahead of us bets 150. We hold our breath a bit and call, still fearing a higher flush.

ON THE RIVER: As

Now the bet is 170. We're committed this far, so we call -- and our opponent has A-3. He bet with two pair, and gained a full house on the river to give us a big loss.

Looking back, we should have bet a lot on the flop to put the pressure on our opponents. After all, we were a bit aggressive playing our pocket cards in the first place -- so why become defensive after hitting the flop?

We were fighting from behind after that, and survived a couple of all-in moments. But a push with 5-5 and 275 chips left finally failed us, as an opponent hit a diamond flush. Out of 1,512 players, we did well to finish 534th.

The Ultimate Push

Some online poker players take audacious names. In a Saturday night game, we spent a long period of time with someone named "PokerGod863". When we won a big pot, this chat ensued....

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($4715) with Three of a kind, nines
Me: A real God would have known I had a 9. ;-)


Our opponent didn't respond. But our point is that the real God is all-knowing.

"'Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?"' declares the Lord...." says Jeremiah 23:24. You can't hide from God -- not your "hole cards," and not your deepest secluded sins. The game continues:

Dealer: pokerGod863 wins Main Pot ($4180)
Me: Here's hoping everyone here knows the real God....


We didn't plan to go beyond that statement unless someone responded -- and someone did:

MackinawGirl: i do but i dont think he plays poker
Me: But sending His Son was the ultimate all-in moment.


"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all...." is how Paul describes God in Romans 8:32. Don't overlook the rest of that verse: "....how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" The gifts include eternal life for those who seek "glory, honor and immortality...." (2:7)

MackinawGirl: i guesss that would be the DEGREE all in moment
Me: Well, before there were sponsorships for those things. :-)
MackinawGirl: true


You might say God loved us to the "n'th degree" -- because "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Do you love God enough to give up your secret sins, and seek His most wonderful gifts?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Poker Night 174: Enough Already

"There is a time for everything...." the Bible says. Even "a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecc. 3:1, 8).

When chip leaders at your table start acting like Goliath and making huge bets to chase the "little people" away (with apologies to BP), sooner or later a smaller stack has to put his or her foot down. That was our challenge tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-9 of spades

The two players to our immediate right have built big stacks, then have used them for massive pre-flop and post-flop bets to claim pots. Those two men are first in the betting order. One simply calls, then the second counts out 4,750 for a raise. When we see our cards, we have two choices: fold again to let the slow drain continue, or....

"All I have," we say counting our chips, "is 3,575." We go all-in, knowing our opponents sometimes bet big with very little. Other players fold, except for one (we think it was the first man) who calls. The dealing now comes all at once, with none of the waiting and drama of TV games:

ON THE FLOP: 5-J-A

ON THE TURN: 6

ON THE RIVER: 6

No one has anything better than our two pair. (As we recall, a sidepot went to someone with King high.) A timely Ace builds our stack to more than 12,000.

We had to hold on from there -- winning a couple of small pots, and enduring a couple of testy arguments involving betting rules and attitude-overloaded players. But another all-in bet with 10-8 took a pot with two pair, which led us to the final table.

Yet the most logical all-in moment of all proved fatal -- pushing with K-K, and called by a man with A-K. An Ace fell on the flop. We finished in sixth place, thankful simply to have survived that far.

MINISTRY MOMENT: After one all-in success, we dared to praise the Lord aloud. One of the big bettors to our right noticed we were thankful for "blessings."

"Are you thankful for God's blessings?" we asked him. "What are you thankful for?"

"I woke up this morning," the man answered. After that, everything else is a bonus.

"A faithful man will be richly blessed," promises Proverbs 28:20. So how faithful toward God are you these days?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 72 final tables in 174 nights (41.4%) - 13 cashes. We've made final tables in three of our last four live games.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - 4-9-4-3-2. Full tournaments - 55 point wins in 312 games (17.6%), 25 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: $10,618 - unchanged (no play).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Poker Night 173: A Walk in the Dark

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me...."

Those words from Psalm 23:4 could have applied to a hand we played at The Red Barn tonight. Well, OK -- it wasn't quite life-and-death. But it was fraught with danger....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K of clubs - K of hearts

We're in the big blind, with a potentially big hand. When no one raises ahead of us, we're tempted to make a move -- but decide to hide out and check.

ON THE FLOP: 2-10-8 (don't recall exact suits)

We have the "over pair" -- and since the small blind folded, it's time to move. We bet 500, and several players check.

ON THE TURN: K of spades

At this point, two clubs and two spades are on the board. People could be sitting on a flush draw, but we don't want them to be comfortable about it. We bet 500 again, and succeed in chasing away a couple of players; two others remain.

ON THE RIVER: 10 of spades

There's a potential third spade for someone -- but something even better for us. Now we feel confident betting 1,100, hoping to maximize our profits. One player calls, while the other folds.

"I made a full house," we announce -- and no one can top it. Our stack more than doubles, from the 4,800 range to about 10,000.

A big-betting bluffer cost us much of that gain on the very next hand -- but later pocket Queens brought another gain. Yet after the one-hour break, a man raised 5,000 in front of us as we held A-Q. We felt no choice but to go all-in -- only to find our opponent had A-K. No Queen came on the board, and we were gone in about 31st place. (The crowd was inflated at The Red Barn by the fact that two other Monday night poker spots in the area were closed.)

MINISTRY MOMENT: As that last hand came out, the flop was 2-4-5. We noted a 3 could bring a straight, and a split of the pot.

"A Queen is your savior," a man watching the action said after the turn card was an 8. The river was a 5, pairing the board.

"Jesus is my Savior," we said to the man, loud enough for the entire table to hear. He laughed, and admitted the Queen did not come to rescue us.

We got up from the table to see something startling on ESPN News. "Bob Probert died?!" we said. Indeed he had -- and the man who talked about that queen knew all about his life story, as a big Detroit Red Wings hockey fan.

"So he needed Jesus as His Savior," we eventually said. "Is Jesus your Savior?" The man nodded his head in agreement. Good for him; we hope that's also true for you.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 71 final tables in 173 nights (41.0%) - 13 cashes.

Main Event day 1

The biggest event in poker began this afternoon -- the World Series of Poker Main Event. Follow the Twitter feed, and you'll see one big-name former champion already has been shown the door.

So which "poker star" do you think will go the farthest this year -- perhaps making it to the final table, as Phil Ivey did last year?

(We're only guessing, but we think Daniel Negreanu is due.)

Final Jackpot

In our last post, we mentioned the upcoming return of Jesus Christ to this earth. We said at a poker night He'll bring something "even better" than a gold $5,000 chip.

We could base this claim on many verses in the Bible, but let's see what Jesus personally said. "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done" (Matthew 16:27).

If you're not aware, the "Son of Man" mentioned here is Jesus Himself (see more on that in Mark 8:31). And He's coming with a reward -- but what does that mean, and how can you claim it?

Jesus explained that, too: "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High...." (Luke 6:35)

A way of loving and giving can allow you to share in the title, "son of God." Romans 8:14 adds "....those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."

So this whole process begins with God's Spirit guiding you. That Spirit even can be in you. How? "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Have you repented of old ways, to walk a new and godly way? We recommend doing it in heartfelt prayer to God, asking for His help to start a new walk -- a "walk" ultimately much better than the table folding to a big blind.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Poker Night 172: A Way Out of No Way

An angry crowd of people wanted to put Jesus to death well before Calvary. "But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way" (Luke 4:30).

What happened to us at Lil Kim's Cove wasn't quite that dangerous -- but we endured an onslaught of big-betting poker players to the end, and finished in second place! Perhaps we should have seen it coming early in the tournament....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 7-7

We're one off the button, at a table filled with people who love to make big pre-flop raises. But in this hand, the players merely call. Fine by us; we do the same.

ON THE FLOP: 7-10-2

Very fine by us. And it helps our slow-playing cause that our sumo-wrestling trainee "Buddha" bets 500 ahead of us. We call; everyone else folds.

ON THE TURN: 7

That's not simply fine -- that's fantastic! We make quads for the second time in four live tournaments! But remember the rules: the hand must be played to the river to get a quad bonus. So when Buddha bets 500 more, we say in a semi-reluctant tone: "500 more."

ON THE RIVER: 6

Buddha may be fearing he's outgunned, because he now checks.

"I'm all-in," we announce -- and Buddha throws in his cards before we can finish counting chips. Then we show our 7-7, for 5,000 bonus chips. Unlike last week, it draws an almost who-cares reaction from the table.

That was the only hand we won in the first hour, and we had 9,000 chips at the break. Then we made a move early in the second hour with two big pot wins, including an all-in bet with two pair. But rising blinds and small losses drained us again, and we dropped to a minimum 500 chips. Yet helped in part by confusion over combining to a final table, we reached the second break with that 500 moments before the blinds came.

The second "color-up" jumped us from 500 to 5,000. We joked about how we wished our real-life investments could increase ten-fold like that. Then serious stuff happened in our favor: the real merger to the final table, and a draw putting us one behind the dealer to provide extra time. An all-in K-10 bet, which led to three 10's. Other players betting big to "steal pots," only to lose and go bust. A push which led to a "win" with three of a kind -- only to have our opponent say he'd topped us with a straight, but the cards were picked up before he could claim it.

An amazing double take-out with four players left (in a hand we folded) left us heads-up with about 40,000 chips! Then the Tournament Director proposed a settlement: our opponent (who the Director correctly noted had us "crushed" in chips) would get $40 and the Lil Kim's "bucket of beers." We'd get $10 for second place. Fine by us.... really fine.

The lesson from this is that the old phrase "a chip and a chair" is true in poker. Big comebacks from little stacks can happen. It's happened to us several times -- and we're thankful to God when they do.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "How many here believe in the tooth fairy?" the Tournament Director asked our table early in the second hour. Only a couple of hands went up. (Ours did not.) In their behalf, the director tossed a gold chip worth 5,000 on the table for the upcoming hand.

"How many believe in the Easter bunny?" the director asked next.

A woman to our left had a feisty answer: "I believe in Jesus!"

"Amen to that!" we said -- sharing a high-five with the woman. "And when Jesus comes, He'll bring something even better."

The woman admitted she wasn't sure about that. The rest of the table seemed stumped. Do you know what we're talking about? An upcoming post will explain.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 71 final tables in 172 nights (41.3%) - 13 cashes. Combined with Monday night at The Red Barn, we had a $15 week!

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 53 point wins in 303 games (17.5%), 23 final tables, one cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games -- $10,618, down $115.