Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Senior Championship: You're Too Modest

The August Senior Championship at National League of Poker had 944 players tonight. If we're posting this after less than two hours, you can probably guess our outcome....

:00 IN: We begin with A-Q, and double the blind. The table promptly folds, and we take the lead with 1,045 chips - but the way the first few hands play, it appears only one other "real person" is at the table.

:04 IN: We have 6-5. The flop is 7-5-2. We call small bets with middle pair, and it winds up being good enough to win the pot.

:15 IN: We're on the button with A-3 of clubs. The flop is A-5-K. Top pair takes it, and we gain $380.

:18 IN: We have 10-6 of diamonds, and decide to play.

BLINDS: 30/60

ON THE FLOP: 4-5-6 (suits don't matter)

A player ahead of us bets the minimum 60. With top pair, we're pleased to call.

ON THE TURN: 10

The first player bets 60 again. Now we have top two pair, and decide to bet accordingly. We raise to 220 -- only to see the first man re-raise to 1,300! That's much more than enough to put us all-in.

Without giving it much thought, we conclude our opponent is simply trying to bully us off the pot. That happens in online games a lot. So we call -- only to find our opponent with 7-8! He flopped a straight, then led us along to build overconfidence. With two pair, our only hope is to hit a full house on the river.

ON THE RIVER: 4

It's not a 10 or a 6, and we're stung. In July we finished this tournament in 25th place -- tonight, a lowly 830th. Ugh.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poker Night 189: Short Trips

"Trip" is poker slang for three of a kind. Tonight at The Red Barn, trips appeared on the board several times at our opening table. A man across from us insisted we dealt them all. We only recalled dealing this one....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: K-10 of hearts

It's early, and one or two players have been aggressively betting before the flop. But no one does here, and we call. Two other players jump in.

ON THE FLOP: 7-2-7 (suits won't matter)

We call flops like this a "Boeing flop." As in the airplane, you know. :-) But anyway, everyone checks -- and so do we.

ON THE TURN: 7

"There are those trips again," we remember saying. (Only as we write this do we remember dealing three Kings by the turn earlier.) No one's bailing out of the plane; everyone checks again.

ON THE RIVER: K

If no one else hit the board, we just did! The two players ahead of us check. We bet 800, hoping to entice callers. A man to our left does.

"Do you have a King?" we ask. He doesn't. We do. A nice full house gains us about 2,500 chips.

But we missed some draws later -- and once we survived to the final table, we folded back-to-back hands which would have given us trips on the flop. Finally forced to go all-in in the small blind, our desperation 5-10 fell short. We finished in a three-way tie for sixth place (eighth in points), due to a triple take-out.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I know several of those guys," a man said as he reviewed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin tonight. It was a gift from someone in a Christian motorcycle club several years ago -- and the man analyzing it belongs to a different biker club.

"Do you agree with that message? Is Jesus your Savior?"

"No, He's not," the man answered after a moment.

"Is there a reason why not?"

The man gave this question a lot of thought. A noisy room made his answer difficult to hear, but it involved not accepting the idea of "predestination."

"Not all Christians agree with that," we said. "There's the predestination side, and the free will side. It's a big religious dividing point."

The biker then explained he tends to live his life without religion, by "playing the cards as they're dealt." That admittedly caused us to have a lot of thought. How would you answer this? We'll compare notes in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 80 final tables in 189 nights (42.3%) - 15 cashes. With this third final table in a row, we clinch a goal of making 40 percent for 200 games.

A Moment in Time

In a recent post, we mentioned a Biblical skeptic we met at a poker night. He wants to see "tangible evidence" of God's existence. And he claimed people "existed" somehow before they were born.

Let's take the second statement first. If you believe in an "immortal soul," this man would be tough to answer. Some Christians tend to talk about a soul living forever into the future -- but what about the past?

Our search of the Bible has concluded both sides are wrong in their thinking, and we have NOT always "existed." Consider what happened at creation:

And The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul. -- Genesis 2:7 (KJV)


Note man became one. He wasn't always one. God may have a plan to create humans with souls in eternity past -- but there's no evidence from the Bible He actually had the souls. God must have created them.

Our skeptic said, "When you die, you won't know anything after that." In one sense, the Bible backs up that skeptic's claim....

For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. -- Ecclesiastes 9:5


This statement is true because of sin. Souls that sin die (Ezekiel 18:4), and all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23).

Yet where did King Solomon (who wrote Ecclesiastes) get the idea of "no further reward?" Doesn't the Bible talk about a reward for believers when Jesus comes back? Yes -- in fact Jesus does:

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." -- Revelation 22:12


Some Bible commentaries explain Solomon's statement by saying the dead have no further reward in this human life. It actually comes later.

And that "later" brings us back to the skeptic's first comment. Many religious writers have offered various proofs of God's existence. The most compelling one to us involves radioactivity. If the Earth has decaying uranium that's billions of years old, how could life on Earth ever develop long ago?

But as we said to the man originally, matters involving God and eternal life ultimately are matters of faith. Some poker players have faith they'll hit a straight or flush draw after the flop -- except they're sometimes disappointed. Christians need faith in God's plan all the way to the river, because....

....Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he reward those who earnestly seek him. -- Hebrews 11:6


We've heard some ministers put it this way: if you believe in God and nothing happens after you die, there's no penalty. If you refuse to believe and something does happen after you die.... well, we shudder to think what you might face. Which one would you consider the safer bet?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Be careful where you play

If you play poker for money in the wrong place, you could be arrested.

It happened in our city over the weekend.

"Abstain from all appearance of evil." - I Thessalonians 5:22

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Want Some More Bread?

We've had a lot of comments at local poker tournaments about our piece of bread at the table. If you're interested in digging deeper into the "bread of life," we recommend a sermon we heard online today.

The title actually includes Joseph, not Jesus -- but both Biblical figures come up. (The message is formatted for RealPlayer.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Going By the Book

When we play in live poker tournaments and bring up the things of God, we often encourage players to read the Bible. One recent night, we mentioned you might find some surprising things there.

What kind of surprising things? We could list many -- and in fact, one journalist did in a recent eye-opening book. One item on Joe Kovacs's list admittedly threw us for a moment -- the claim that "God ran lotteries."

Plenty of people who gamble in poker cash games also play lottery games, especially at bars. But lots were used in Bible times for more serious matters -- such as who would replace Judas Iscariot among the 12 disciples.

Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. -- Acts 1:26


The followers of Jesus did this to seek God's will in a matter -- a little different from the purpose many modern gamblers have for playing a cash game.

Other examples of lot-casting can be found in I Chronicles 26 and Nehemiah 11. But we won't quote those in detail here. Read those sections of the Bible for yourself. As we say, you might be surprised.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poker Night 188: The Great Escapes

We disrupted our usual poker schedule this week, and went to Soho Bar and Grill Wednesday night. It's the largest local tournament we play these days -- usually with enough players for six tables. Yet this night brought our best Soho finish to date: fourth place overall.

The first hour went very slowly for us -- with several easily-distracted players and few quality hands to play. A lost hand with an Ace left us with only 4,000 chips at the first break. But on the first hand after the break, we went all in with the Ace of diamonds and made a diamond flush on the river! A few other dramatic gains came later, which led to the final table and this....

BLINDS: 20,000/40,000

IN THE POCKET: 2-6 offsuit

Ugh. We're in the big blind, entering with only 45,000 chips left. Posting that blind left us with a mere 5,000. But most of the table folds, and two players ahead of us merely call. We're happy to check, knowing we have a little pad left.

ON THE FLOP: 3-4-8

To be honest, we halfway-expected that last card to be a 5. But at least there's hope, with an open-ended straight draw. And thankfully, the table checks.

ON THE TURN: 5

"Here it is! My last 5,000," we say plunking a gold chip firmly on the table after the first player in line checks. One player is so underwhelmed by the board that he doesn't even call. The first player does.

ON THE RIVER: 2

"Big blind straight!" we say as we show our cards. Our opponent can't beat it, and we triple our stack to 135,000.

Trouble was, the blinds kept climbing -- eventually to 50K/100K, the largest we've ever played in Columbus. We felt compelled to go all-in with A-4, but they didn't pair while a woman with J-8 paired them both.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our small crust of bread still has people asking questions. But when we brought up Jesus as the "bread of life" to a man across the table during the one-hour break, a different response came.

"Do you believe in Jesus?" we asked.

"No, I don't."

"That's too bad," we said practically under our breath. But we knew this was an opportunity for dialogue. "May I ask why you don't believe?"

"No tangible evidence."

"Well, Christianity is a walk of faith."

This man clearly had none. "People have been doing that for thousands of years.... yet they're no better off for it."

His explanation continued: "Do you remember anything before you were born?"

Since we don't believe in reincarnation, the answer was no. But we added: "Franklin Roosevelt was President before I was born, yet I know he existed."

"There's that empty void space," the skeptic answered. "You don't know anything before you're born, yet you 'existed.' And when you die, you won't know anything after that. I'm sorry."

How would you respond to that man's explanation? We'll offer our thoughts in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 79 final tables in 188 nights (42.0%) - 15 cashes. We had two "final four" finishes this week!

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 69 point wins in 381 games (18.1%); 29 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $13,294 (up $225). We haven't played any of the extra-large freerolls lately.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Poker Night 187: Crusty, But Not a Clown

The poker game went well at The Red Barn tonight -- but that wasn't the real story. We're reversing our usual order, because of the continued reaction our card protector is receiving....

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You brought a f***ing piece of bread?!" a woman asked at the final table. Yes, we did. One man thought at first it was cake.

A few people actually figured out the meaning of the crust without our mentioning it -- "the bread of life" (John 6:35, 51). A couple of them even explained it to other puzzled players! Yet there were skeptics.

"This isn't a.... church," said one man when we said the crust reminded us Jesus is the bread of life. Yes, we know. But Jesus's disciples shared the gospel in non-church settings many times.

"I don't think you should mix Jesus and poker," a woman said later at the final table.

"But Jesus went all-in more than anyone ever did," we answered. For some reason, this brought laughter from a man to our left. Perhaps he took our comparison as a joke -- but John 3:16 is pretty serious to us.

We may not have converted anyone tonight, but we certainly made several people think about Jesus -- and we hope they're stirred by God to think of the Lord more often.

Meanwhile at the game, only about a dozen people showed up tonight. But several of the players are high-ranking regulars, so a good finish would have to be earned -- with some help from good cards:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Q-J of clubs

A player across the table from us raises to 200. With high suited connectors, this seems fine to us. Several players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 10d-9h-8d

A straight on the flop looks fine, indeed! We're first up to bet, so we toss in 400. A couple of people call, while the man who raised pre-flop apparently smells trouble and folds.

ON THE TURN: 8h

The board pairs, but we're more concerned about players possibly chasing a flush. We increase the bet to 600 -- yet nobody runs away, as calling continues.

ON THE RIVER: 6h

Anyone holding a 7 at this point has a losing straight, so that's not our issue. We now see three hearts, and that makes us think a moment. If we check, another player might sense weakness and make a big bet even without the hearts.

"Split the difference -- 500," we announce. A woman to our left who concerned us most folds. A man to the right calls. He has a 9, but his two pair is only second-best.

We made a big 4,050-chip gain minutes later when a man went all-in with pocket 4's. We had to call with pocket Queens, and they held up. From there, we held on to finish third. In a 12-player casino game, we think that would have earned us some money.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 78 final tables in 187 nights (41.7%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Rewind: My Goodness?

Our last post mentioned a man who claimed at the poker table to be "a good person" -- even though he said false words during hands to throw opponents off the track.

What does it mean to be a good person, anyway? You can buy food or drinks for other players. You can compliment players who win big pots. There's nothing wrong with those things at all. But Jesus defines being good in a different way....

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." -- Matthew 19:17

Jesus goes on to list several of the Ten Commandments, including a couple that man claimed to do the other night: "Do not steal, do not give false testimony.... and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" (verses 18-19)

But when you do good, it's important to point out the goodness does not come from you -- or at least shouldn't come from you. Where's the real source?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.... -- Galatians 5:22


Real goodness should come from the Holy Spirit working in your life.

A few verses later, Paul urges a church to keep doing good things -- and "do good to all people...." (Galatians 6:9-10) We'd urge you to do the same thing. But if you're commended for doing good, don't pile it up as if you have a stack of "good chips." Give glory and praise to God, for whatever good He's really doing through you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poker Night 186: When Smooth Becomes Bumpy

When poker players on TV talk about "limping" into a hand, they sometimes mean it as a fake-out -- entering quietly with a big hand. We tried that approach at Lil Kim's Cove tonight, and found it isn't always easy....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Q-Q

We've barely played any hands all evening, and hold about 5,100 chips. We could raise to suggest our hand is big, but we hope to get a lot of players into a big pot. So we "smooth call," and three players join in.

ON THE FLOP: 8-A-5

We didn't want to see that Ace. But we're virtually on the button, and have the advantage of seeing what everyone else does. They check, so we bet 500. Two players call.

ON THE TURN: 3

The players in front of us check -- and we're concerned one of them might be hiding an Ace for a higher pair. This time we check.

ON THE RIVER: 5

A man across from us bets 1,000. A man to our right calls. Now we're perplexed -- and fear the Ace isn't really the issue. Or are they both stabbing at a nice pot?

"I may regret this," we say, "but I'll call."

We show our Queens -- and indeed, two pair isn't good enough. Our opponents both have K-5, and three of a kind lets them split the pot.

"You didn't bet on the flop?!" an observer wonders. One of the opponents notes we did after the flop, but not before. Perhaps we should have raised in the first place, even if it meant smaller gains.

We won a couple of pots during the evening, but enough to last far beyond the one-hour break. A push with A-7 led to our being eliminated in 22nd place, to a man whose K-2 turned into a full house.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I'm a good person," a man to our left said to the table between hands. "I don't lie. I don't steal."

"You don't lie?!" we answered quietly.

"Nope."

We knew better -- having seen the man talk about "hitting the flop" and "having an Ace" a few hands earlier, when he really only held J-10.

"I think you did a few hands ago," we said. Nothing more came of the conversation -- but what do you think about someone who lies about lying? We'll offer our thoughts in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 77 final tables in 186 nights (41.4%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - 6-10-6-3-2. Full tournaments - 68 point wins in 371 games (18.3%), 29 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - 1 "point win" in 6 games (16.7%). Pretend cash games - $13,069, up $2,360.

We're counting our 83rd place finish in a 10,000 player freeroll as a point win, because we ranked in the top one percent -- much less ten percent. And the big cash gain came last Friday, when we went heads-up against a "serial pusher," and doubled up numerous times.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Comeback Son

We mentioned recently that a woman declared us "the comeback master," because of how we rallied from a small stack to a top-five finish at a local tournament. We took it as a compliment -- but we could have challenged it for a couple of reasons.

1. I am NOT a master. I merely serve one....

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. -- Matthew 23:8, KJV

The word "Rabbi" here comes from a Greek word meaning "my master." Jesus said that title belongs to him -- although to be honest, we've been in church speaking clubs over the years where people were called "Topicsmaster" and "Toastmaster" with no one raising questions about it.

2. Jesus the "Master" is coming back someday....

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. -- I Corinthians 15:22-23

If you belong to Christ, you'll get to meet Him in the air at His second coming (I Thessalonians 4:17). If you want to know how to belong to Him, e-mail us -- we'll be glad to guide you through the process.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Poker Night 185: The Top-Pair 500

All that good feeling about a "top 100" finish in a massive freeroll doesn't last long for a regular poker player. In fact, we never even brought it up at The Red Barn tonight. We were too busy getting schooled by other players....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-7 of clubs

Few good cards have come our way all night, so we sit with 3,200 chips near the one-hour break. We don't want to play desperate yet. But to borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps now is the time. We limp in, as does about half the table.

ON THE FLOP: A-9-6

Top pair is good news -- and being first to bet is even better. But we want to maximize our gains, so we bet 500 in hopes other players will stick around. Only one man does.

ON THE TURN: K

Suits are not an issue, so top pair still looks good. We bet 500 again. The other man calls again. Uh-oh -- why is he sticking around?

ON THE RIVER: 4

A straight or flush are out of the question -- but with our stack down to 1,800, we're concerned our opponent might have an Ace with a higher kicker. So we check. So does he.

"Ace with a 7," we say as we show. Trouble is, the other player has K-9. He made two pair on the turn to top us. Thankfully he doesn't tend to be a big bettor, because a raise might have tempted us to go all-in.

We had to go all-in after the one-hour break, with only 2,000 chips. It worked once, with Ace high. But it failed a second time with K-10, as someone else made a pair while we failed. A 15th-place finish beat that freeroll, but a much smaller turnout left us feeling unimpressed.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Following up on the chat in our last post, we ripped a corner from a bread heel to use as a card protector tonight. Several people asked about it -- and we explained it was a reminder Jesus is the bread of life.

"I 100-percent respect that," a woman to our right said when she heard our explanation. Others made a joke of it, warning us not to leave bread crumbs on the table. We weren't hurt by that -- but we're reminded from Scripture:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. -- II Peter 3:3


Simply put: scoff at God's Word at your own risk.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 77 final tables in 185 nights (41.6%) - 15 cashes.

How We Came So Close

So what happened in Sunday night's Lamborghini freeroll, to help us reach 83rd place out of 10,000? We had several highs and lows....

:18 IN: We have A-3. Two Aces come on the flop and turn. Our big bet pays off, and we jump to 5,030 chips. By the end of the first hour, some losses have reduced us to 1,925. But we win a big pot early in hour two, to climb back to 12,956. (Apologies for not having details on every hand; PokerStars.net keeps play moving very quickly.)

1:10 IN: We have A-9. We win the hand with a big bet and several callers, and jump above 23,000 chips.

1:11 IN: We have A-6. Aces prevail again -- we're up above 27,000.

1:22 IN: We play Q-10 -- and two Queens hit the board! We bet big with them, and advance above 46,000.

1:43 IN: We have 6-6. The board delivers a 6, plus a pair of 10's. Full house -- big stack of $81,966!

Our holdings diminished from there, and we had 26.5K at the two-hour break. Only one more winning hand came after that -- but there was an interesting chat with another player during the break. That player asked us to loan him money to visit this blog (ha ha). He reminded us of a beggar we met at a bus stop days before:

flopblogger: Asked first for change (I carried none)....
flopblogger: then sked if my Pastor could help pay his rent.
flopblogger: (asked)
northeast123: lmao
northeast123: did paster help out?
flopblogger: The Pastor laughed at it, too.
northeast123: i asked for minum
flopblogger: The beggar didn't show up for the church service....
northeast123: lol
northeast123: get free bread
flopblogger: The bread of life, in fact. :-)
northeast123: yup


What sort of bread is this? The church service we attend usually has a snack table -- but we're talking about something even better:

"I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world".... Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life." -- John 6:32-35

Jesus goes on to say He is "living bread.... If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever" (verse 51).

Win a little "bread" at the poker table (wow, that slang sounds so 1970-ish), and you'll be happy for a short time. Partake of what Jesus offers, and you can have eternal life. While we personally play for one, we really hope and long for the other.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In the Top 100

Finishing in the top 100 of something doesn't sound too thrilling, does it?

But when you're in an online tournament with 10,000 players, that's different!

Tonight was our best showing yet in a big PokerStars.Net tournament - 83rd place in a Lamborghini freeroll. (Details will be posted another day.)

If we were at the World Series of Poker main event, we would have won six-to-seven times our buy-in -- tens of thousands of dollars!

But in this freeroll, only the top 18 players qualified for next Sunday's weekly championship. So our big finish gained us.... well, you're reading what it gained us. Bummer.

(P.S. Just checked this week's Lamborghini weekly championship. After eight hours, seven are left at the final table.)

Sunday Rewind: Creatures of Habit

You may have seen online ads or heard radio commercials for "Reputation Defender." We think there are times when a reputation is worth defending -- but there also are times when a reputation needs to change.

A key hand in Thursday night's tournament at Lil Kim's Cove brought that to mind. You'll recall another player bet big before the flop, and kept betting big after it. We had 10-10, a Queen was showing on the flop -- and we kept calling until we went all-in on the turn, and wound up winning a big pot.

Why didn't we fold with that Queen on display? In other games at other times, we probably would have surrendered to a big bet on the flop. But we sensed our opponent was bluffing to chase us away -- and we sensed it because we've played with him before. Yet he's also played with us before, enough to think we'd probably collapse under betting pressure.

What we sensed is called a "read" in poker. And believe it or not, it's something God does with each of us. Familiarity can be an advantage in reading -- at a tournament, and in evaluating people for judgement. Consider:

To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God.... I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. - Revelation 2:18-19


Jesus tells four other churches in this section of Revelation, "I know your deeds." And how would He know a church is "now doing more," if He didn't watch it over a long period of time?

Jesus noted this church was changing and growing in certain areas. (Not all areas, though; read verses 20-25.) If poker players want to improve, they also need to change and grow. In Thursday's case, we changed our usual approach to a hand based on our opponent. It was risky -- but it worked. We consider it the best read we've made in a live tournament.

But when God reads you, what does He see? Are you changing your ways, to conform to His much higher ways? (Isaiah 55:8-9) Or are you trying to defend a reputation that God considers seriously flawed?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Poker Night 184: Lie to Me

"This man is the comeback master," a woman said tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. Thankfully, she was pointing toward us -- and doing it at the final table. We actually had to make two comebacks during the tournament....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 10-10

We lost a promising hand early in the game, and sit with about 3,900 chips. Here's an opportunity to recover -- but we're early in the betting order, so we limp. A man to our left wearing a Chicago White Sox baseball cap raises to 1,000. We call; no one else does.

ON THE FLOP: Q-9-7 (unsure exactly what the last two cards were, but they were small)

We check to the raiser -- and he bets 1,000 again. We've faced this man at Lil Kim's Cove before, and know he could be tossing out chips with almost anything. We smell a bluff, and call.

"How much do you have left?" Mr. Sox asks us.

We count our stack. It's 1,800.

ON THE TURN: 3

We check again, almost knowing what's coming -- "1,800." He bets either to put us all-in, or chase us away.

We're still not fully persuaded our opponent has us topped. We think he's trying to scare us, and be a "table bully." So after thinking a moment, we call.

ON THE RIVER: 4

"Pair of Tens?!" we say uncertainly as we show what we have. Mr. Sox smiles, shakes his head as if to say no -- and throws in his cards without showing them. We still don't know what he had. But we read him correctly, and our stack jumps as a result to more than 7,300.

(This was a clash of two players with reputations around the table. One man went against form; the other did not. We'll talk more about that in an upcoming post.)

Meanwhile, a big loss hurt us later on -- and we stood at only 3,000 chips in the second hour. But then came that second comeback.

It started with a push, which won with a pair of Kings. Then we were dealt pocket Aces, pushed again and tripled our stack to more than 12,000. Then we were dealt 7-7, and a third 7 came on the flop! This meant another push, another big gain -- and a nice stack going to the final table. We held on to finish fifth, finally losing when a desperation push with Q-4 lost to a pair of Kings.

MINISTRY MOMENT: For the first time in several weeks, we took our little plastic sword to the tournament. We told a fellow player it was a reminder the Word of God is "sharper than a two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12).

"Do you read the Bible?" we asked the man.

"Not as much as I used to," he admitted. "I'm a Christian. I believe in Jesus. I just don't read it as much as I used to."

We encouraged him to make Bible reading a regular part of his day. "You might be surprised, what you find in there," we noted. We'll talk more about that in a future post, too.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 77 final tables in 184 nights (41.8%) - 15 cashes. We've had top-five finishes in two of our last four live tournaments, and four of the last ten.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 68 point wins in 364 games (18.7%), 29 final tables, 1 cash.

We made the final table earlier in the day in a large tournament -- finishing tenth out of 467 players. (Only the top five won money.) That followed a fourth-place finish out of 229 players Tuesday afternoon.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - 0/4. Pretend cash games - $10,709, down $152.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Each One Reach One

A regular player at one of the local clubs told us several weeks ago he reads this blog, and we're doing "good ministry." We thank him for the kind words -- and thank God for whatever good comes from it.

But we were even more thrilled the other night, when another player showed us his "card protector" of the night. He now has his own silver coin which mentions Jesus! One side has this very direct message:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house. -- Acts 16:31 (NKJV)


We don't know how he obtained that coin, but we encouraged him to "use it wisely." We also don't know if he was emboldened by our example at the poker table -- but if he was, we again do not want the praise for ourselves. Instead, we recall the words of an early apostle:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe -- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. -- I Corinthians 3:5-7


Our friend actually might wind up being more persuasive in sharing the things of Christ than we are. He admittedly has more of a "down-to-earth" personality with other poker players than we do. That's his background; ours is more of a "clean at all costs" approach.

We don't really mind, though. A little "friendly competition" never hurts -- whether in free poker tournaments, or in leading people to a right relationship with Jesus Christ. May God receive the praise, no matter what.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Poker Night 183: Backporch Minority

The Red Barn club in Phenix City has a separate room from the main bar. We suppose it's for private parties -- but tonight it became an exclusive poker room for us. Six players had a secluded table to themselves, while two others were in action elsewhere. It made for a more friendly atmosphere -- perhaps a bit too friendly?!

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-5 offsuit

The play is leisurely, with no one raising. An Ace invites us to call.

ON THE FLOP: A-5-7

Two pair invite us to stick around awhile. A player ahead of us bets 200. We raise to 600. Hardly anyone is scared away, as most of the table calls.

ON THE TURN: 4

The player who bet first previously checks now. We keep pressing the issue by betting 600 more. Now players bail out, except for the Tournament Director sitting across from us. We're heads-up.

ON THE RIVER: 8

Uh-oh -- that's a card potentially loaded with trouble. We check, but our opponent bets 3,000.

"Were you waiting with a 6?" we ask aloud.

"I'll show you one of my cards!" the Director offers. He turns over an Ace, to match ours. How generous of him. Not.

"Yeah.... but that's not the card I want to see. I'm going to fold."

"Oh, did you want to see THIS card?" Sure enough -- that other card is a 6. He hit a straight on the river, so our fold was wise. But we clearly didn't bet enough during the hand to run him off -- and we're not sure how much would have been enough to accomplish that.

We made an even worse blunder on the next hand with A-8 -- betting an A-8 which we saw on the board, but never noticing three diamonds at the turn which turned into a flush for an opponent.

Our chip stack fell to 600, and we couldn't fully recover from there. A couple of all-in bets paid off, but a push with A-Q at the semifinal table failed to bring a pair. We were one of three players eliminated in a tie for 15th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We used a small packet of salt for our card protector tonight, and took advantage of the secluded room for a "heads-up" discussion at the one-hour break. When we mentioned Jesus wants us to be "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13), a player agreed and said Jesus is his Savior.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 76 final tables in 183 nights (41.5%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The End Game

Our last post mentioned we're in what many ministers call "the end time" -- the time just before Jesus's second coming. How can they be so sure of that?

We noted the phrase appears five times in the book of Daniel. Especially note this one:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, [even] to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. -- Daniel 12:4, KJV


If you're reading this blog, you're part of the "increased knowledge" part. We read an article the other day saying the world's storehouse of knowledge is doubling every two years or so. Speaking simply about poker, the Internet has brought information to a wide audience in the last two decades -- and even made it possible for players from around the globe to get together online for tournaments.

Many preachers have warned of "the end of the age" since Jesus's disciples asked Him about it. Notice what the Lord said one of the signs would be:

And the gospel must first be published among all nations. -- Mark 13:10


To go to "all nations," knowledge again has to increase. The apostle Paul thought that had occurred during his lifetime (Romans 10:18), yet Internet access and other means make that even more possible now. This blog desires to play a small part in publishing that gospel, albeit in an untraditional way.

But for your knowledge to increase about something -- whether poker or the gospel -- it takes a little effort on your part. It takes study, and then practicing the things you study. So we would ask: are you studying the Bible, to see what God wants you to do? And if so, are you putting that knowledge to use in your life? Jesus would say you should:

If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. -- John 13:17


The "end game" phrase in our title usually is applied to chess, not poker. But if you don't finish well, you can't win a poker tournament. And if you don't finish life well, you might be stunned and disappointed when you see Jesus in judgment. We think He'll be every bit as interested in what you did as what you knew.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Poker Night 182: Well Connected

We're heard Ali Nejad on NBC's poker shows claim "suited connectors" are overrated as a potential hand. He would have shaken his head in disbelief at what we tried at Lil Kim's Cove tonight....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 9-10 offsuit

We haven't played many hands so far, so we have 5,950 chips. We put out the minimum -- but then a man to our immediate left raises to 500. A couple of players call, and we decide to join them. After all, we've heard players at local tournaments say this is one of the best hands to play.

ON THE FLOP: 9-9-Q

They seem to know what they're talking about! We're first up to bet, and we toss in 500. The man who raised calls -- but then a player across the table goes all in, with more than 6,000. This admittedly puzzles us, so we think a moment. Did he sneak in with pocket Queens, or perhaps a higher pair?

"All I have," we say as we count our stack, "is 5,450." We choose to call. Everyone else bails out.

"Do you have a full house right now?" we ask a couple of times -- but our opponent says nothing. Then we show our cards, with a third 9. He holds K-Q, but his two pair isn't good enough.

ON THE TURN: 4

Let's keep them nice and low, shall we?

ON THE RIVER: 5

How many times have we seen it, even from us -- two pair overconfidence? We make a massive gain, to more than 14,000.

Another nice pot came our way in the first hour, when we dared to play Q-10 and wound up with a full house. But then a couple of players scared us off potential winners with big bets, and our stack dwindled away. We finally had to push with 5-6 in the big blind, after a 5 came on the flop. But another player had a pair of 8's, to leave us out in 15th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our card protector tonight was a folded digital wristwatch. The timepiece has lasted much longer than our watchband has, but it served our purpose well.

"I brought this to remind me," we told a woman at the one-hour break, "we're at the time of the end." That phrase occurs five times in the King James Bible -- all of them in the book of Daniel.

"Do you think we're in the time of the end?" we asked the woman. "Do you think Jesus is coming soon?"

The woman admitted she didn't know for sure. "He could come tomorrow. He could come 5,000 years from now."

Her point of view has some validity. A lot of people have set dates for the second coming of Christ (including a couple who claim it's within the next two years), but they've all been wrong to this point. So how can we say this is the time of the end? Check an upcoming post for the answer.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 76 final tables in 182 nights (41.8%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - 6-9-5-3-2. Full tournaments -64 point wins in 355 games (18.0%), 27 final tables, 1 cash.

We played three SNG's last weekend to qualify for the Sunday weekly championship, and won two of them.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - 0/3. Pretend cash games - $10,861, up $138.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lamborghini Wednesday?

PokerStars.Net changed its rules for the Lamborghini freeroll, allowing players to enter only once a day. That allowed us to get in the 8:05 pm ET game tonight.

The hands came fast and furious, so notes were hard to take. But we didn't do that badly....

:10 IN: We have Q-7 in the small blind. The flop has three clubs (we have none), but one is a 7. We bet the minimum, and the table folds for a $90 gain.

:15 IN: We have Q-Q and limp. The flop is 8-A-Q, and the betting rises until we're all in. No one else has three of a kind, and K-2 follow to bump us up to $3,310!

:18 IN: We have A-8 -- and after a 7-2-4 flop, A shows on the turn. We bet and win, gaining $450.

:22 IN: After a big loss, we have A-Q. Challenged to raise with blinds at 125/250, we bet $750 - leaving only $15 in our stack. When the flop is 2-2-9, we throw in the last 15. Then come 8-6 - but our A-Q tops an A-J! We rebuild to $2,130.

:33 IN: We have A-K offsuit, and merely call when another player named "SatanCardz" doubles the blind to $600.

ON THE FLOP: K-3-J

Satan bets 900, and we're ready to give an answer (I Peter 3:15). With 1,380 left, we raise all-in. A third player raises even higher! What are they hiding?

ON THE TURN: A

Top two pair? We're feeling good about this....

ON THE RIVER: J

....but we shouldn't. The third player who took on Satan and us has a Jack, and his three of a kind overcomes us. Out of 10,000 players, we finish #2,911.

Only the top 18 players qualified for Sunday's big game, so the odds were awfully slim. At a casino, the payouts probably would have started at #1,000. But we think this is our highest score yet in a huge tournament like this -- so we leave a little satisfied. Even if Satan's cards finished ahead of ours.

This Little Light of Mine

Our last post mentioned the use of a small flashlight as a "card protector." That device can produce light in a couple of ways -- one more effective than the other.

The man next to us at the table noticed the flashlight appeared to be on, when it reflected the ceiling lights. Christians can do the same kind of thing, by reflecting the light of Christ in their lives.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - II Corinthians 3:18

Reflected light can appear when we're turned just right -- in this case, toward Jesus. But the more reliable use of our flashlight would come if we installed a battery in it. Jesus put it this way:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. - Acts 1:8


If you really want spiritual "power and light" together, the best way is by accepting the gift of God's Holy Spirit. If you're not sure how to accomplish that, e-mail us and we'll be glad to help you.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Poker Night 181: Wait and See

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day.... -- Exodus 14:13 (KJV)

Moses said this when Israel was fleeing Egypt, and appeared trapped at the Red Sea. What happened to us tonight at The Red Barn wasn't exactly that dramatic, but incredibly similar. The first hour of play was simply horrid for us. For example....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 10-10

We've barely played any hands all evening, because the cards have been ugly. But here we have a good-looking pair, so we raise to 500. Three other players call.

ON THE FLOP: A-A-9

The play checks to us, and we offer a classic continuation bet: 300. Two players take our "hint" and fold. A man to our immediate left does not, and calls.

ON THE TURN: J

Hmmm -- what's our opponent up to? Could he have a third Ace? We check, hoping to get an answer. He checks, so we don't.

ON THE RIVER: A

Yeow -- three Aces showing! We have a nice full house, but also a little insecurity. He could have quads, after all. But we dare to try one more "go-away" bet of 1,200.

"I have to call," our opponent says. "I have to show you this."

We show our 10's. He's not fazed. "You see, I hit two boats....." with a Jack and a 9! "You had one of them topped," he says to offer consolation -- but his Jacks beat our 10's.

Other chases (and perhaps a little moment of "on-tilt" desperation) failed as well, and we staggered to the one-hour break with only 875 chips. But after the "color-up" to 1,000, it was as if God told us to get out of the way -- because He was taking over our game:

+ A-5 all in led to an Ace on the board. We gained to 3,500.

+ A-10 all in won as well. We jumped to 7,000.

+ A-2 all in topped an opponent with face cards. We advanced to 10,000, and had enough chips to make the final table.

+ An all-in bet before the flop with Q-Q made the final table fold. Suddenly we were in the 13,000 range!

Proper folding beyond that helped us reach the final five. But the big run ran out there, as we pushed with a King in the big blind after a King landed on the flop. An Ace on the river gave a woman across from us a better pair. Yet what a rally it was -- coming back from the brink to finish tied for fourth! (We tied, because another player was eliminated with us.)


MINISTRY MOMENT: "I think I know why you have that," a believing friend next to us said about tonight's card protector. We used a small flashlight, which we obtained as a gift from a credit union several years ago.

"Light of the world," our friend guessed. Correct! (See Matthew 5:14, among other places.)

But we admitted during the evening we didn't bring the battery for the flashlight. We tend to leave them separate, only putting the battery inside if a power outage requires us to use the light. Yet at one point, our friend noticed the flashlight appeared to be on, anyway -- reflecting ceiling lights, apparently. There are good lessons in all of this. Think about it, and we'll make that a "light" topic for another day.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 76 final tables in 181 nights (42.0%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

NLOP Championship 6: Dare and Double-Dare

A couple of nice SNG wins Friday and Saturday helped us qualify for tonight's National League of Poker weekly championship, with $500 for the winner. All you have to do is defeat 1,403 other people! Let's see how we did....

:00 IN: We open with 10-J of hearts, and call. It winds up being a heads-up flop with 10-J-K. We bet a modest 60, and a fold makes us the table leader with 1,030!

:01 IN: We have 6-6. A pair of 7's comes on the flop. But a King on the river costs us the hand, to a player with a King.

:06 IN: We have A-Q and limp. The flop is 10-A-K. We bet 60 (double the blind), and a couple of players call. We bet 60 again after 6 on the turn, and even K on the river. It works; we win $690!

:14 IN: We have A-K and double the blind, betting 80. Several players call. The flop is 8-4-6 -- but another player goes all-in, and we feel compelled to fold.

:15 IN: We have A-8. A player ahead of us doubles the blind, and we call. The flop is A-10-9. The player before us bets 180, and we call. The turn is Q, and our opponent goes all-in! Fearing he bet with A-K, we fold.

Those two hands cost us a good deal of chips. We don't know for sure what the other players had; perhaps they were testing our chutzpah, or perhaps they really had us topped.

:21 IN: We have A-9 and call. The flop is A-K-8, and a player ahead of us goes all-in with 335. We dare to call, and look at Q-10. Our opponent is on a desperate draw.

ON THE TURN: 9

We mistakenly think for a moment this gives the opponent a straight. Thankfully not -- but a Jack still will.

ON THE RIVER: A

Instead we make a full house, and win $1260! But bad chases follow from there, and we stumble to the half-hour break with only 430 chips.

:38 IN: We have A-Q, and choose to limp -- ready to push if forced. Other players merely call. The flop is 2-7-K. Everyone checks. The turn is 3 -- and when a player bets the minimum 150, we make a frustrated fold.

:39 IN: With 9-9 in the big blind, we go all-in with 280 left. Another player pushes as well. The flop is Q-7-6. J-4 follow -- and that other player has Q-J to gain a big pot; our pair earns a meager side pot of 165.

:41 IN: We have little choice in the small blind, holding A-3. We push, and 2-10-9 come on the flop. The turn gives us hope for a straight with a 4, but a 2 on the river leaves us out of the game. We finished in 590th place -- top half, but nowhere near the money.

If It Was Real: 180-Game Report

The last time we added up the score of our live tournament performance, we noted it's better to go deeper at the final table -- at least the way we keep count. That improvement is evident, as we review our last 20 nights. We made the top five on five occasions, with one outright win and two second-place showings. (And four of the last ten nights earned us real money!)

Using the outline given us by a Kansas City casino, here's how our account would look if real money had been involved:

BUY-INS: 180 nights x $50 = $9,000

First -- 5 ($2,500)
TIE for first: 1 ($450)

Second - 8 ($3,200)

Third -- 7 ($2,100)

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

Fifth -- 11 ($1,100)
TIE for fifth: 3 ($150)

TOTAL -- 46 for $11,417

Since we play live tournaments twice a week, a $1,000 investment in the last 20 games would have returned us $1,700 -- 70 percent more in only ten weeks!

Our overall return is up from 160 games, and now stands at 26.9 percent. If you can deal with the nights or weeks of setbacks, the moments of success can be worth it.

Friends With the Hi-Lo

Some people play in free local poker tournaments simply for the friendship and fellowship. We see nothing wrong with that. But sometimes they want all their buddies to gather at the same table to play -- and that can be a thorn in the side of other players, who think the Tournament Directors are "playing favorites," or giving certain people protection.

In a high-stakes tournament at a casino, that never would happen. Your seat might be determined by a blind draw or computer randomization. By comparison, free games for a small prize tend to be more informal. "Fun and games" are supposed to come first -- although the seriousness of the play and the drama of a final table can change all that.

In our last post, we talked with two players about making pre-game agreements -- and we mentioned God is "no respecter of persons." That concept comes from the book of Acts:

Then Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him and works righteousness, is accepted with him. -- Acts 10:34-35, KJV

Other translations say God "does not show favoritism" with a person. But The NIV Study Bible adds this note: "He does, however, respect his character and judge his work."

The first half of James 2 explains this farther -- indicating you shouldn't play favorites based on someone's financial standing or wardrobe. "But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers," warns verse 9.

This admittedly can be a tough balancing act. But we take these verses to mean you should try to be friends with everyone you meet at a poker table -- whether you've known them for years, or they're playing for the first time. The attitude they display and the things they do can determine how deep you want the friendship to go.

(P.S. The way those people play poker can determine whether you want to privately paint targets on their chests, and aim to eliminate them early. All in fun, of course....)