Sunday, October 31, 2010

Poker Night 203: Chicken-Hearted?

To ensure we avoided stray Halloween visitors, we made our first poker visit tonight to The Sports Page. It's perhaps the best-known sports bar in Columbus, and we've enjoyed their version of a "Scrambled Dawg" for years as a dinner to go with big-screen games.

The Sports Page also has become known as a busy poker spot, with tournaments three nights a week. So we had plenty of competition, and faced several big challenges....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-J of hearts

Because we ate a Scrambled Dawg before the tournament, we started with double the normal chip stack -- 10,000. But after winning the first pot of the night by making a diamond flush on the flop, we're down to about 7,500. When a player across the table raises to 500, we hope history will repeat itself. Several players call.

ON THE FLOP: Qh-Jc-8h (as best we recall)

The man who raised doesn't slow down, betting 2,000. A man between us calls. Now we have to think a moment. This is the flush chance we hoped to see -- but the bet is so large that we'd lose a lot of chips if we call and we're wrong. (We also suspect a bigger bet on the turn is coming.)

"I'm tempted -- but I'll fold," we finally say.

ON THE TURN: 2 of hearts

Ouch! The hand plays out to reveal the big bettor had two pair. We were the only one with two hearts, and could have gained a small fortune.

We show our cards afterward, and overhear someone to our left say something about "calling a raise pre-flop" and following up on it. That big bet on the flop probably was designed to scare off flush-chasers -- and we admittedly lacked the backbone to follow through with our hope nearly realized. (Hmmmm; there could be a lesson there for another post.)

We reached the one-hour break, but then tried to fight for our life with A-8 when a high-card 8 showed up on the flop. But a 6 which also was showing gave a man to our left two pair (8-6), and he eliminated us in about 31st place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Did I ever show you this?" we asked a man to our immediate right. We showed him the "Jesus as your Savior" coin. When we asked if he agreed with the message, he nodded -- barely.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 203 nights (40.9%) - 15 cashes.

Saturday Night Barn Dance

"What are you doing here?" one man asked as we stepped inside The Red Barn Saturday night.

"On a Saturday?!?" another said with surprise. We'll explain their surprise in a moment -- but first to the game. Every Saturday night The Red Barn has a "heads-up" poker tournament for prize money. We wanted to escape Halloween keepers knocking at our door (since we don't keep Halloween), so this event was part of our strategy.

We knew how to approach the game from watching NBC's National Heads-Up Championship and playing one-on-one games at National League of Poker. Since this tournament had only 16 players, there were fewer hurdles to jump to win the first-place money.

We won our first match easily, with our opponent only winning one hand and splitting another. We won our second match, although it took a bit longer. Then came the semifinal, and a crafty opponent who we knew would be a challenge....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-7 offsuit

We're dealing, which makes us the small blind in this format. We tend to play hands in this format unless desperation requires a tighter approach. So we call, but our opponent is in the lead and exploits it. He doubles the bet, and we call.


Our opponent checks, and we're feeling good. After all, we hit two pair! A hand or two before, our opponent held two pair and tried to put us all-in (he showed the cards afterward) -- but we said no. Now it's time to return the favor.

"I'm all-in," we say. "23-skiddoo" -- as in 2,300 chips left. (The starting stack is 3,500, not counting food and drink purchases for bonus.)

Our foe stares at us for several seconds, as if he's pondering this carefully. At last he answers. "Are you sure you want to do this?" Well, yes -- we committed to it.

"I'll call," the opponent answers -- then turns over A-K. Ouch! We need a seven, or some odd combination to split the pot.


Close, but no.


"I had you going, didn't I?" the winner says. He pulled an acting job on us, but no doubt knew all along he had us topped.

We had the right hand -- but we simply had bad timing. But we still made the semifinals in our first heads-up tournament. At the NBC event, two winning rounds would have earned us $25,000. At the Red Barn -- well, at least there was free chicken on the grill with potato salad inside.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The quarterly championship tournament for our poker league occurred at 12:30 Saturday afternoon. We qualified for it, but we didn't go -- and we explained to our first opponent why.

"I keep a seventh-day Sabbath." So we went to a worship service, which happened to be within a mile of the tournament. Yet we could attend this Saturday night event, based on how the Bible indicates time is measured:

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. -- Genesis 1:5 (all from KJV)

This "evening-morning" pattern continued for the first six days of creation. But interestingly, it is not mentioned when it comes to day seven....

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. -- Genesis 2:2

Perhaps that's because the seventh-day Sabbath pictures a coming rest for this world, when Jesus returns to Earth. A "rest" from sin and strife, from Satanic influence and war -- one in which the Kingdom of God will extend into eternity.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left of us entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. -- Hebrews 4:1

Do you want a place in that eternal "rest area" -- and are you fearing God, so that He might let you in?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poker Night 202: Keep Them Guessing

Sometimes poker tables seem to have trends during a game. For instance, 8's seemed to turn up fairly often tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. But we spotted another trend, which had its benefits....

BLINDS: 50/100


We won an unlikely earlier pot with A-2, when a 2 on the flop was good enough to win. This is a better hand for action, so we raise to 250. About three other players choose to call.


Two high cards make our "better hand" suddenly look worse. A man across the table bets 400. On other nights we would have assumed an obvious losing hand and folded, but we decide to hang tough and call.


Patience pays off! But our memory is a little murky of what happened here; as we recall, our opponent bet 500 and we raise to 1,000. He calls; everyone else is out of the hand.


A big hand for us -- but is there danger lurking? Our opponent throws out 2,500. Could he have A-7 for a top-floor full house? We don't take long to decide we ought to call.

"Do you have a full house?" we ask as we show ours. Thankfully no; he has A-Q, and three of a kind falls short.

"Trips" worked for us again on the next hand, as pocket 5's brought a third one on the flop. Two big wins increased our stack to 17,500 chips, and a couple of other wins gave us a high of 19,500. But things turned sour in the second hour of play, as hopeful chases fell short.

We were forced to go all-in after the two-hour break with 6-8, and the flop included 6-8! But this time we were "tripped up," as a woman who also pushed with 10-10 received a 10 on the flop for three of a kind. We came close to the final table, but finished in 12th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What's that thing on your cards?" a man asked at the start of the evening. We once again took our little bandage, and tried to explain it reminded us of how Jesus is a healer.

"I don't talk religion...." the questioner said. End of discussion there -- but let's pick it up here. When Jesus walked on Earth, He "healed many who had various diseases" (Mark 1:34). But when Christ died, the concept expanded greatly....

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. -- I Peter 2:24

Our Savior endured scourging and crucifixion -- a process actually prophesied to happen centuries earlier (see Isaiah 53). As mystical and strange as it may sound, you can have spiritual healing as a result. The sins which condemn us all to death can lead ultimately to "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Will you accept that offer of healing -- one that in the long run is far better than any doctor can provide?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 202 nights (41.1%) - 15 cashes. We've missed the last table seven times in a row.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 83 point wins in 458 games (18.1%), 35 final tables, 2 cashes. Our latest final table came Sunday afternoon -- ninth place out of 593 players.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - two "top ten-percent" finish in 11 games (18.2%). Pretend cash games - $22,414, up $1,470.

We entered our first $500 "Nightly Freeroll" Wednesday night, in the North American Poker League. Out of 10,000 players, we finished 938th -- earning us a ticket to a "rookie division" tournament for money. Now all we have to do is figure out how to redeem it....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Seat of the Scoffer

"SATAN!" was the online chat/cry at a PokerStars.Net pretend cash game Tuesday. Someone responded to a flop of 6-6-6 -- and that opened the door for us to have a fascinating discussion with two other players.

flopblogger: That's from Rev. 13 of the Bible, you know. [NOTE: actually verse 18]
Dealer: atlas91, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
atlas91: who cares
flopblogger: Those of us who want to live forever care. :-)

Why should you care? Because a couple of chapters later, the apostle John writes these prophetic words:

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God.... -- Revelation 15:2

Overcome that Satanic number (whatever it means, and that's admittedly open to question), and God will reward you with a harp -- and eternal life which goes with it. The conversation continued, with a third player joining in:

atlas91: good luck with that
Dealer: ibgoho, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
flopblogger: It's not luck. It's Who you know.
ibgoho: Whats "the bible"?
Dealer: ibgoho, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
atlas91: ya rgt.u people crack me up
flopblogger: The Christian Scriptures.
ibgoho: Who are these "christians"?....
flopblogger: Those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior.

The apostle John put it in clear terms, in another book of the Bible:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.... -- I John 5:1

It then became clear that "Atlas" was a scoffer when it comes to God and Jesus, while "Ibgoho" was more of a mocker:

ibgoho: HA! Fools!
Dealer: atlas91, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
ibgoho: Jesus shaves?
flopblogger: That's Psalm 14:1.
Cardye: you having church at the poker table wow!!!
flopblogger: about fools.
flopblogger: Don't know if He shaved or not. :-)

We actually double-checked a Bible before writing that reference: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." Atlas apparently then lost it a bit, because he started writing like he was shouting:

atlas91: god was created bucuz somebodie knew man would do whatever with out fwlala GOD
Dealer: atlas91, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
ibgoho: Jesus approves of my winning ways
atlas91: THERE IS NO
Dealer: ibgoho, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
atlas91: ELSE....
flopblogger: And that Bible says God created us.
flopblogger: But people let you down, don't they?

The discussion eventually turned into the "chicken or egg" argument -- did God create humans, or vice versa? To be sure, all sorts of people-made gods have been around for millennia. But Christians believe the words passed on to Moses long ago:

You shall have no other gods before me.... Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. -- Deuteronomy 5:7, 6:4

The God of Judeo-Christian history has stood the test of time -- mainly because He invented it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October Senior Championship: Drip by Drip

We knew we'd be away at a church convention on the night of the National League of Poker September Senior Championship, so we didn't bother qualifying. But October's tournament found us back home, and resolved to do well....

:00 IN: We have A-10 right off the bat, and triple the bet to 90. But the flop is 9-7-6, and someone bets 140. We dare to call with overcards. The turn brings a Q, and we call a slowed-down bet of 30. Another 6 on the river brings a bet of 50. We hold our nose, call -- and take the pot with Ace high, for a quick gain of $525!

:02 IN: We have A-Q, change to a limp and call a doubled bet of 60. But a flop of 5-8-K brings two all-in bets. We "turn tail" and fold -- and are thankful when Kings take the pot.

:03 IN: Another Ace comes! We have A-2, and call a doubled bet again. The flop is 4-5-3 for a straight! Small bets ahead of us lead to our raising to 360. An opponent calls (all-in, we think) with 5-6. The turn is a 2, giving him a higher straight -- but thankfully the river is a 6! A straight on the table means a split pot.

:05 IN: We play 10-6 of clubs. The flop is 8-5-7, giving us an open-ended straight draw. After calling a minimum bet, the turn and river are 7-9. Our bet of 250 brings a fold, and we gain $630.

:07 IN: Strength again, with A-J! A player ahead of us raises to 200, so we call. The flop is J-8-8. We bet 100, putting an opponent all-in - and our two pair hold up for $654 more!

We doubled our starting stack in eight minutes -- but sadly, the tailspin began from there. Hopeful plays of Ace-small or suited cards brought failed flops and folds. We marveled at how 75 percent of our stack drained away, one hand at a time.

:51 IN: We have 9-10 in the small blind, having just folded A-2 to a raise. We're down to 508 chips, but dare to play this. The flop is an ugly 4-3-K. But the table checks. The turn is a 7, and more checking ensues. When the river is a 10, we cautiously bet 200 (about half our stack) - and our 10-9 tops an opponent's 10-6, for a $1,400 comeback!

But more draining followed with rising blinds, leading to another moment of truth....

1:02 IN: We have 7-7 in the big blind, and go for it -- pushing all-in with about 500 chips left. One player calls with A-8, so we're ahead.


Too high to be comfortable for us. A straight is waiting.


But top pair will do for our opponent.


We lose the race, and finish 169th out of 879 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When we made the $1,400 comeback, this short chat occurred....

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($1400) with One pair, tens
Me: (whew) PTL
TYTIKI: amen
Me: Good to see believers here. :-)
TYTIKI: amen 2 that 2

This was refreshing -- because earlier in the day, we encountered a scoffer and a mocker at a play-money cash game. (More on that session in another post.) We actually expect skeptics when we play; that makes it more of a ministry, after all. But for "Tytiki" we'd say....

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. -- I Peter 2:17

Do you want to become part of this brotherhood? Two other New Testament-era ministers explained how....

They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -- you and your household." -- Acts 16:31

Honor King Jesus, more than any king you're dealt at the table.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Poker Night 201: Straight Downhill

One mistake can lead to a big disaster -- whether you're playing poker or living an everyday life. We made a sinful blunder first thing this morning, before sunrise. A series of failures followed throughout the day, perhaps as a result. So this hand at The Red Barn tonight probably shouldn't have been a surprise....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-5 offsuit

We're getting promising cards, but they haven't been working out. An A-4 brought an Ace on the flop a few minutes ago, but an opponent's A-K topped us. Now we're in the big blind with about 3,650 chips. We're itching to make a move, but we choose to check when several other players simply call.


We have bottom pair and lead betting position -- but it's not a good flop for betting, so we check. A man across the table bets 200. We call, as do a couple of others.


Now we have two pair, and sense a need to be aggressive with it. We bet 1,000. A man to our left calls. The player who raised before trades "reading you" stares with us, then decides to fold. We're now heads-up with the caller.


It's still two pair -- but now we sense the need to slow down. Did our opponent call on the turn with something like A-J? We're not sure, so we bet 500.

"Another 1,500," the opponent announces. Ouch -- we only have 1,825 left. But no potential flush is showing on the board, so we conclude this is a "scare-you-away" bluff. With not much hesitation, we call.

"Two pair?!" we say showing our cards.

"Straight!" our opponent says. He has 6-8, made an open-ended draw on the river -- and he had a big enough stack of chips to make a big hopeful call.

Summary: we think we played the hand properly considering the circumstances. Some people might have pushed all-in on the turn, and scared the table off the pot. But that's admittedly not our style, and bigger cards than a 5 were showing to make us more cautious.

That big loss left us with 325 -- and when we saw A-7 in the next hand as small blind, we went all-in. Of course, that didn't work either. The board brought a pair of Jacks, and a woman held a third one to take two players out on the same hand.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We emptied a box of bandages the other day, and spotted a straggler at the bottom -- a small one, which could be a perfect card protector.

"You brought that for good luck?" a man asked before the game.

"No. I brought that to remind me that Jesus can heal the sick." He can even heal sinful wounds you open, when you're careless. If this whole concept puzzles you, we'll explain in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 201 nights (41.3%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poker Stars Freeroll: Outdeuced

Only 39,581 people stood in the way of our winning $20,000 tonight, in the Poker Stars.Net "Million Dollar Challenge" freeroll (based on the TV show). And things looked hopeful early....

:10 IN: We have J-8 of spades. A spade flush comes on the river, and we win a $960 pot.

:15 IN: We have K-9 of clubs. The flop is A-Q-10. Players check. The turn is J, and we call a lead player's bet of 400. The river is a 6, and the opponent bets $2,300 with three diamonds showing. We dare to call, and he has nothing! Our stack jumps to $6,735.

:29 IN: We have 7-3 of hearts. The flop is 2-2-A (with one heart, as we recall), and players check. The turn is a 3, giving us two pair. We call a fair-sized bet. The river is a 2, giving us a full house. An opponent bets $1,000. We call, skeptical of a bluff -- but the opponent has a 2, and hit quads! Our stack falls back to the $3,300 range.

:41 IN: Having been outmuscled with rising blinds when good pocket cards missed the flop, we push all-in with J-10 for $896. A player calls with 5-5.


We're losing the race, but have over-cards.


So much for straight chances....


The small pair wins the race, and we finish in 17,686th place. Another "top-half" finish, like two weeks ago -- but leaving us wanting more.

Sunday Rewind: Guarding the Borders

"For someone who's a Christian, you have a dirty mind," a man said to us as he tried to show us a video on his cell phone the other night.

"Be wise as a serpent, but harmless as a dove," we responded as we turned away. We quoted the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16 (KJV). The apostle Paul explained it a different way:

Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you: but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. -- Romans 16:19

We don't need to watch sinful behavior (even if it's a fake-out) to know it's out there. We've noted before how a lot of free poker tournaments occur in bars -- places known for alcohol, smoking, profane language and more.

The Bible is filled with lists about things believers should avoid. In this case, we chose to protect what fundamentalist preachers like to call the "eye gate."

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. -- I John 2:16 (KJV)

Your blogger happens to be a single man, who chooses to save his body for marriage. It's a daily choice, and we don't need even suggestions of pornographic images to get in the way of that.

If we err on the side of caution in what we see, that's OK. Come to think of it, that's a lot like playing poker. Stick around in a hand to see one card too many, and you take a big risk -- potentially a disastrous one.

If It Was Real: 200-Game Report

If we tried to make a living playing in online poker tournaments, it probably wouldn't be much of a living. We've made points (which would be money in a casino) less than one-fifth of a time -- and while we haven't done the math, big payoffs at a final table probably would be offset by frequent losses at other times.

So are local free live tournaments any better? Yes -- as we've had "top five" finishes 51 times in 200 nights, and five in our last 20 nights (not counting cash games in Florida and at sea). Two recent third-place finishes at The Red Barn helped our record, which is based on what a Kansas City casino pays for its tournament....

BUY-INS: 200 nights x $50 = $10,000

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

Second - 8 ($3,200)

Third -- 9 ($2,700)

Fourth - 8 ($1,600)
TIES for fourth:
4 two-way ($600)
1 three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 12 ($1,200)
TIE for fifth: 3 ($150)

TOTAL -- 51 for $12,467

Our "return on investment" after 200 games has dipped to 24.7%; it was much higher previously. This may explain why many "poker pros" constantly play cash games, and probably make the bulk of their living there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poker Night 200: Speak of the Devil

To mark our 200th live tournament, we returned tonight to where we began. Lil Kim's Cove is walking distance from home, as opposed to a short drive for Hookahmeup -- and since the prize money now is the same at both places, we prefer to keep the car parked. Now how much gas would you put on this hand?

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-5 offsuit

We split a pot early, but feeler bets since then have led to nothing. Holding about 3,700 chips, we give the Ace a try. We wind up heads-up with the big blind, and we're dealing....

ON THE FLOP: 6-6-6

"Devil of a flop," we declare. "Really a mark of the beast flop."

"Lord, have mercy," a woman out of the hand says. "And you dealt that?!" She knows about our Christian faith. Meanwhile, the player to our left checks.

"That Revelation just came to you!" we say with a pun as we review our cards (more for show than anything) and check. The section of the Bible which mentions 666 and the mysterious mark is Revelation 13.


Our opponent checks. We're tempted to bet our Ace, but suspect our opponent might be hiding a full house. So we check again.


The big blind checks again. We still play it safe. "I only have Ace high," we admit. But that's good enough; our opponent throws away his cards without showing them and we win a modest pot.

The loser in that hand gained revenge on us after the one-hour break. We went all-in with A-5 when an Ace came on the flop. But a Queen was there as well, and another Queen with an 8 followed. That gave our opponent a full house, and sent us away in about 28th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Take a look at this," a man said during the one-hour break. He'd called up a video on his cell phone -- and without going into detail, it looked possibly pornographic.

"No, thank you," we said turning away.

"It's not what you think," the man kept telling us -- but we still didn't want to look. "It was a man rubbing his eyeball," he finally explained. But the video started with such an extreme close-up, it was designed to be misleading.

"For someone who's a Christian, you have a dirty mind," the man then told us. Do we? Really? We're open to your comments on this; we'll explain our actions and response in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 200 nights (41.5%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 80 point wins in 446 games (17.9%), 34 final tables, 2 cashes. (Back to two, after our appeal was denied.)

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $20,944, up $650.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The First Dinner

In our last post, we asked about the elements in the Biblical "Last Supper." They're actually two things you might find at a poker tournament -- as players drink wine (or other alcoholic beverage), while chomping on bready sandwiches.

But notice what Jesus said at that meal with his disciples....

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes." -- Luke 22:17-18

Christ said this as the disciples "chopped the pot" with the cup of wine -- but He said no such thing about the bread. Notice what happened only hours after the resurrection:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. -- Luke 24:30-31

When Jesus broke bread, several disciples realized who was with them. Indeed, the "bread of life" was with them....

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. -- John 6:51

Next time you try to win some "bread" in the form of a poker jackpot, consider this other Bread -- which can lead to a much more enduring reward.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Poker Night 199: Pair and Pray

Tonight's tournament at The Red Barn was a night for resisting temptation. We folded several suited cards, and were thankful when they didn't match the board. We even folded A-J when a player went all-in with more than 5,000 chips -- and were rewarded, when smaller cards were the only ones that paired. (A woman next to us also had A-J, and played them to a big loss.) But eventually, we had to take a stand....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000


We've only taken one pot all night, claiming about 1,500 chips with two pair. That was enough to reach the semifinal tables. But rising blinds have whittled our stack away, and only 1,000 chips remain.

"In the words of Dr. King: NOW is the time!" we announce as we put the last big chip down to go all-in. We've seen small pocket pairs take big pots online against hands such as A-K. But two players call behind us, not counting the big blind. Uh-oh.


The sight of an Ace doesn't make us feel good. But the table checks.


This opens the door for a straight. But a man to our right, who for some reason is wearing a giant black wig with a necktie attached, bets 3,000. One player still in the hand calls; the other folds.


We know we're sunk -- but we forget two players still can bet, and show our 5-5 too soon. It turns out Mr. Big Hair has 4-4, and his three of a kind eliminates us. We wind up 11th, two spots short of the final table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We brought back our biggest conversation-starter tonight, one which nearly the entire table asked about. Our card protector was a small piece of bread.

"I brought this to remind me," we explained, "that Jesus is the bread of life." (John 6:35)

"Well, that's true," an older woman said before the game began. But she still seemed puzzled by our symbolism. Another player jokingly asked if we picked up that bread at "the Last Supper." We explained we usually only eat bread at breakfast.

(Can you name one thing Jesus did with bread after the "Last Supper," that He did NOT do with the wine? We'll have the answer in an upcoming post.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 199 nights (41.7%) - 15 cashes.

NLOP Championship 9: Quick Work

We never did mention how our latest Sunday night weekly championship went at National League of Poker. We qualified through that (ahem) fifth-place finish in a big Wednesday night game. And things looked promising, when we were dealt an Ace four times early in the game.

:04 IN: We have A-8, and call a raise to 300. The flop is 2-6-Q. We call a bet of 90. But the turn is a 5, and a bet of 190 chases us away.

:05 IN: We have As-3d. The flop is 7-Q-J, all spades. Several players check. The turn is 5s, giving us the nut flush! But when we try to offer a modest bet of 100, the table folds. Oh well; we gain about $100.

:07 IN: We have A-9, and choose to limp. The flop is K-4-Q, followed by a 5. Big bets run us away.

:09 IN: We have A-10 offsuit in the small blind. We elect to lay low and simply call.


Top pair looks good -- until another player bets big. We conclude it's a "go-away" bet that's built on a bluff, so we go all in. Not smart; our opponent has A-K, and our 10 never does pair.

Ten minutes of work earned us absolutely nothing -- position #1,309 out f 1,453 players. Clearly we have work to do.

Honor Among Thieves?

On Week 1, the winner was paid $150 -- and we're told the business was packed. One Week 2, the promise was $150 -- but the winner only received $50. Last Thursday night was Week 3 -- and the business hosting a poker tournament did well to fill only three tables with players.

The business hosting the event reportedly explained the payout was reduced because of a lack of bar sales. But at least one player last week told us if an owner promises one thing but does another, it's a sure way to lose customers.

As we heard this, several thoughts went through our mind -- especially the irony of it all. Poker players apparently were revolting against a business owner who didn't keep his word. Yet many of those same players bluff during games to win pots. And some of them probably have told lies about their hands, to throw opponents off the track!

This is a classic case of poker players telling a business owner: "Do as I say, not as I do." But the Bible shows ethical conduct should be displayed, not simply discussed....

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. -- Proverbs 14:8

"But it's part of the game!" some people may respond. Yes, bluffing is a part of poker -- such as a big bet to run opponents off pots. But strange as it may sound, there's a godly and ungodly way to bluff. If you're lying with your words in the process, we don't consider that godly.

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. -- Matthew 12:36-37

Every careless word? Yes, that's what Jesus said. That's a high bar -- whether you're at the poker table, or offering a set prize to the tournament champion.

Yes, we think businesses which promise a certain amount to the winner should be true to their word and pay it. But people who point fingers at the businesses which don't do that should look in the mirror first. What sort of ethical example are you setting?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Rewind: A Second Chance?

Some poker tournaments allow "re-buys." If you're ousted early, you can pay to re-enter before the tournament closes. You could still win, but you wind up paying twice as much to do so.

Wouldn't it be great if life worked that way? All sorts of books, movies and songs have expressed the desire for a "do-over" -- correcting the mistakes made in our childhood, romance, marriage, job or whatever.

A recent post mentioned something from the Bible which may seem surprising. It speaks of two resurrections of the dead, not simply one. The book of Revelation explains what happens to people who die for the cause of Christ:

They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. -- Revelation 20:4-5

Read on in the chapter, and you'll learn people who are in "Resurrection I" will be "priests of God and of Christ" (verse 6). So what happens to everybody else?

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.... And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. -- Rev. 20:12

Some refer to this as the "second resurrection" or "general resurrection." It seems safe to say a lot of people will be there, before the throne of Christ -- from babies killed by mysterious diseases to 100-year-olds who lived in ages before Jesus was born.

It will be their second chance to have breath. But will they all automatically be tossed into the lake of fire (verse 15), because they never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will they be disqualified, even if their chances for long life suffered a "bad beat" before turning a year old?

While some believers would answer yes, we tend to think God is more gracious and merciful than that. The God who gave Samson another chance to serve Him and rehabilitated the apostle Peter after his night of denial is the same God who can offer an opportunity at salvation to those who never understood it the first time.

This can be a complex and emotional subject. So if you want to study it more, we suggest reading this article -- actually a section of a book on God's Master plan of salvation.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Answer to Our Appeal

It wasn't quite what we hoped:

Thank you for contacting Poker Customer Support.
We show you finished 5th in the $100 Xyience Cash Tournament. Please note, the final standings are displayed after the completion of the championship.
Listed below are the final standings.
Please let us know if you require any additional assistance.

Your Poker Support Team

Rank User Screen Name Reward
1 kristi919 180400Pts, $50 Cash
2 _samber 102500Pts, $25 Cash
3 ron1dave 65600Pts, $15 Cash
4 07wsopfinals 49200Pts, $10 Cash
5 flopblogger 41000Pts

A comment left with our earlier post offers one possible explanation for why we were shuffled down in the order. We think (but we could be wrong) the rules for multiple take-outs vary from house to house. In our local live tournaments, the player eliminated with the larger stack gets the higher finish. (That was our case in this tournament.) But we've also seen cases where the first player to push gets the higher finish.

So we didn't win $10 Wednesday night after all. We'll have to do better, to put the payout beyond question. In the meantime, we're reminded of these classic words:

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. -- Job 1:21

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Poker Night 198: No Royalty

What a difference a week makes. Hookahmeup was crowded with five tables of poker players last Thursday night. Today, it barely had three -- as several players apparently are upset with the owner changing the rules for paying the winners. We'll have more on the irony of that protest in another post. But at the tournament....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

A "bounty tournament" has been declared, because there aren't many players -- and we claimed a 5,000-chip bonus minutes earlier, by knocking out an opponent with a J-7 straight. But we decide not to be too aggressive with this, and simply call. Several players join in.


We have top pair -- but a man to our right may have the same thing. He leads off with a bet of 400. We call, as does a man across the table.


Now it's top two pair -- and the man in lead position checks. Thanks very much; we'll confidently bet 1,200. One man out of the hand sounds impressed.

"Raise," says the man across the table. "Four thousand on top."

The man to our right folds. We're puzzled by what the other man has. "I'm probably going to regret this," we say -- but we call, concluding our opponent is bluffing with only one pair.


Our opponent checks. We have to respect his raise on the turn, so we also check and announce our two pair. Trouble is, the man across from us says nothing -- simply throwing down a pair of 2's. Ouch. He had three of a kind on the flop, and actually led us from start to finish.

That big loss lowered our chip stack to 2,750, and we couldn't recover from there. Careful play allowed us to hang around for tenth place -- but we were eliminated short of the final table, when our push with A-8 lost to that same big winner with a full house.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Nineties rock music -- where has that gone?" Our conquerer asked that question as the Hookahmeup speakers played the Guns N Roses version of "Knocking on Heaven's Door." We don't know where the music went, but we knew the song gave us an opportunity.

"I knock on heaven's door every day," we said to a man on our left. "It's called prayer." The man liked that comment -- so we pushed the issue a little. "Are you a praying person?"

The man said he was, and we think that's a good thing. The Bible certainly recommends it:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. -- James 5:16

You could pray for victory before a poker tournament, but we make no guarantees God will oblige you. We choose instead to follow the example of King Solomon long ago....

Please make me wise and teach me the difference between right and wrong. Then I will know how to rule your people.... -- I Kings 3:9, CEV

Read on in I Kings 3 and 4, and you'll find God honored Solomon's prayer and blessed him with wisdom. In fact, Solomon gained enough wisdom from God to write most of the book of Proverbs. Wise handling of your cards at a poker table is a relatively small matter, compared to that -- but certainly worth praying about.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 198 nights (41.9%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 79 point wins in 434 games (18.2%), 33 final tables, 2.5 cashes. (We're calling the Wednesday night outcome "half-a-cash" under our appeal is resolved.)

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - one "top one percent" finish in 9 games (11.1%). Pretend cash games - $20,294, up $3,995. (That's where our hot streak has been lately, with gains of $800 or more on four occasions.)

In the Money or Not?

We checked our National League of Poker account today, and it indicates we finished FIFTH in Wednesday night's big game -- NOT fourth!

Fourth place wins $10 cash. Fifth place wins no money (as you'll recall from last week).

Good thing we snapped a picture of the tournament scoreboard, seconds after we were eliminated. It was a double takeout, so that may explain any confusion. In the meantime, we're appealing.

The difference between ten dollars and zero is, well, ten dollars. But it's also a matter of fairness. Maybe even ethics.

Wednesday Night's All Right

My father used to spend Wednesday evenings at the Odd Fellows Lodge -- often playing pinochle late into the night. I don't know if he ever won money doing it, or how much. But a case of "like father like son" may be developing here.

For the second Wednesday night in a row, we reached the final table in a National League of Poker late-night $100 game. Last Wednesday, we finished fifth -- one spot out of the money. Tonight, after almost three hours, we finished FOURTH. Barely -- but worth some dollars from NLOP for the second time in four days!

Details coming soon....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Poker Night 197: Lost in Thought

The start of tonight's pro football game in New Jersey was delayed about 30 minutes by lightning. Delays sometimes can be annoying at the poker table -- but sometimes they can be helpful. Consider a case from our trip tonight to The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-J offsuit

While we've been waiting for good hands to play, other people have been betting with semi-good hands and winning big pots. A couple of players have much bigger stacks, but we're thankful to see them simply call here. That's what we do.


Two pair looks like the break we've been waiting for! But there's a potential problem -- other players are betting ahead of us, calling a lead of 500. We join in calling, but wonder what gives here.


The players ahead of us don't slow down, now betting 1,000 from their bigger stacks. They can't all have three of a kind, can they? A man to our immediate right thinks for a long time, acting like he might go all-in. Eventually he calls, as do we.


The big bettors at the front of the line now check -- and "Big Daddy" two seats from us bets 3,000. But he's acted at times like he's "on tilt," and throwing chips at anything.

The man to our right now thinks even more. A call would put him all-in. If we call and lose, we'd only have about 900 chips left.

While that man is deep in the tank, other players talk as if they have two pair. Hmmmm - OK, but do they hold an Ace to top our two pair? In addition, three diamonds are showing. (We don't have one.)

The man to our right finally folds. "I'm going to believe you," we say to the players across the table," and I'll fold. One or two remaining players call. Too bad for them -- Big Daddy shows 8-3 of diamonds, and wins a massive pot with a runner-runner flush.

Take-home lesson for us: raise the two pair even if others bet ahead of us. Big Daddy knows our style well enough that he likely would have folded, and the rest might have run away as well.

We never recovered from that loss -- finally pushing all-in with 5-5 and 2,500 chips, losing to two pair and finishing sixth at our table of eight.

MINISTRY MOMENT: One woman at our table apparently is studying mortuary science. We learned tonight from her that only five U.S. states have laws prohibiting you from burying someone in your backyard.

We met our end (in poker, that is) as people around the table discussed their possible funeral plans. "May you think about what happens after you die," we said to a woman next to us, "as much as what happens when you die." Why?

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment -- Hebrews 9:27, KJV

Christians believe death is not the end of it all. Just as poker players on television have "exit interviews," everyone eventually will face Jesus the Judge. Jesus said so:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. -- John 5:28-29

Notice carefully the wording of those verses -- as they speak of two resurrections. We'll dig deeper into that in another post. But in the meantime, how can you end up in the "done good" (pardon our Southern) resurrection of life? Go back to that verse in Hebrews, and keep reading.

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. -- Hebrews 9:28

In other words: If you're looking for Jesus, you'll see Him eventually -- and be saved for eternity. Isn't that word preparing spiritually now?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 197 nights (42.1%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

One for Three

We qualified for two weekly championships at National League of Poker tonight -- not to mention the $20,000 Poker Stars TV freeroll.

The weekly NLOP game didn't turn out so well: 992nd out of 1,457. The freeroll was a bit better: 14,464th out of 33,894 (top half of the standings, at least). But the NLOP weekly video poker championship was a blessing from God -- a top-level money-winning finish!

This was a 100-hand game where you're dealt five cards, and decide which ones to hold for three more deals. Our breakthrough came on the third hand, when we were dealt three Aces. Quad Aces came at the end, for 2,000 points! Another set of quads came later, for 800 more points.

When our 100 hands ended, the standings looked like this -- as we held a 490-point lead. Could we hold on, to win $50? Seven minutes of somewhat anxious waiting followed, as other players wrapped things up and the 13-minute clock wound down....

Alas, we had to settle for second place. Another player jumped ahead of us, by earning 4,000 points for a royal flush. But second place wins us $25 -- our first money at online video poker, in a championship with more than 225 players.

We know what some of you are saying -- video poker is simply dumb luck. And we agree with that. The only "skill" involves knowing the right cards to hold. Thank God we knew!

Return of the Challenge

We apparently missed the first episode of this season's "Million-Dollar Challenge" on Fox -- the poker show where Daniel Negreanu is star, coach and funnyman.

After watching this afternoon's program, we'll say this: losing heads-up to Vanessa Rousso is one thing. But losing to a Playboy Playmate -- wow, that has to sting a little.

Which leads us to ask: what's the most embarrassing poker loss you've ever had? (Take that question in any direction you wish.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wearing It on Your Sleeve

In the World Series of Poker, the competition is about more than money. Win a tournament, and you receive a prized WSOP bracelet to wear on your wrist.

Wristbands can advertise or promote all sorts of things these days. In a post earlier this week, we mentioned a woman who wore a "Philippians 4:13" wristband in honor of a boy battling cancer.

Some trace the trend back to this -- a "W.W.J.D.?" band developed in the last 15 years or so. It asks the simple question: What would Jesus do?

We've worn this wristband to poker nights for several months, partly to help start a conversation about the things of God. But we were surprised at a recent church convention to hear a top leader of one association call WWJD bands "rather trite and rather meaningless, because they [evangelicals] have this on their arms, and it's certainly not something that we should do" (about 41:00 into the video).

The leader agreed with the principle behins WWJD. But the statement against the bands struck us as strange -- especially since we've attended Messianic conventions where worshipers wear added blue tassels on their clothes, and sometimes suggest you need to do the same....
Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear. -- Deuteronomy 22:12
Jesus made a statement about such things, which can spark debate among believers:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.... But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.... Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long.... -- Matthew 23:2-5
Supporters of tassel displays claim Jesus condemned the lengthening, not the tassels themselves. Critics say Jesus opposed any display of tassels -- and in this day and age, believers don't need outward reminders of their faith because the Holy Spirit dwells in them (II Corinthians 1:22).

We took off our WWJD wristband at the church convention, after we saw the video complaint about it. (We made sure people sitting on either side of it were witnesses.) But for now, we're still wearing it to poker nights.

Why -- to show we're "goody-goody holy rollers," while others around us are not?  No. We wear it as a witness to the non-Christians around us. The WWJD wristband has brought a comment on one poker night so far -- and we're ready to talk about it, should others bring it up.

Let's be honest here: if some poker players at bars can wear T-shirts and hats promoting cigarettes and beer, why can't a believer in Christ wear something promoting that personal Favorite?

Or are we totally wrong about this?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Poker Night 196: The Unhappy Hookah

For three years, it's been our Thursday night to walk across the street from our home to Lil Kim's Cove for poker. But that changed tonight -- as we visited another Columbus location offering an even larger poker prize.

Hookahmeup is a downtown "hookah" lounge (please note the spelling), which awards $150 to the tournament winner. In only its second week of action, enough players showed up tonight to fill five tables. Perhaps as a result, not enough quality cards were passed our way. And when they came.... well....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: Q of clubs - J of spades (those suits might be reversed)

It's been a grim evening for us, beginning with a saddening phone call shortly before we left for the tournament. Very few hands have been worth our trouble. But these cards are high, so things could be different. We join several players in calling.

ON THE FLOP: Jh-10h-3d

Aha -- top pair! We're first in line to bet, so lead for 400. Several players fold, but a woman across from us does not.


Three hearts are now showing, but we decide to keep up the aggression. We bet 500, but the woman calls again.


Uh-oh -- a fourth heart. Now we have to check. The woman does as we feared, and bets 500.

"I don't have a heart," we admit as we fold. Sure enough, the woman does. In fact, she shows the nine of hearts for a straight flush!

We split a pot later in the evening, but nothing else worked out for us. We wound up pushing with K-Q of hearts, only to lose to a 3-7 straight and finish in 22nd place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Have you served in the military?" a man to our left asked during the game.

"No," we answered -- then realized a moment had come. "This is who I'm a soldier for," we said as we handed over a "Jesus as your Savior" coin. It made the man smile -- but when we asked if he agreed with the message, his response was noncommittal. Maybe he'll think about it; we'll certainly pray about it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 196 nights (42.3%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 77 point wins in 421 games (18.3%), 32 final tables, 2 cashes.

Wednesday night was a very late night for us - as we played in a tournament with 842 players, and made it to the final table! After more than three hours, we were eliminated in fifth place. That would have earned money in an afternoon game, but only the top four were paid in the late-night game.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $16,299, up $40.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Knowing Where to Go

In our recent posts about a "cash game" vacation, we mentioned a young man who looked at our "Jesus as Your Savior" coin at a Daytona Beach, Florida poker room. The man said he believed the message, but admitted: "I don't go to church."

"Is there a reason why you don't?" we asked. As we recall, the man's answer had something to do with not feeling comfortable there.

These days, there seem to be church groups for almost every taste. There are old-fashioned conservative groups. There are modern, rock-and-rolling groups. One megachurch now even has a "life group" for people who are fans of Ultimate Fighting. (Hopefully, that group discusses "turning the other cheek" once in a while.)

There are so many options that you'd think every believer could find a place to "fit in." Yet we think there are too many options -- especially for people seeking to know what God really is all about.

Jesus is described in Colossians 1:18 as "the head of the body, the church...." That body is made of believers from all walks of life -- but unless they're connected, they can't really function very well. Read I Corinthians 12:12-27 for a complete, almost humorous explanation of that. Another Biblical passage puts it this way:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -- Hebrews 10:24-25

So if you're looking for a place to meet and worship, where should you go? Plenty of websites offer "guidelines" and rules -- but the problem is that they're a bit like poker instruction books. The standards are often slanted in favor of the author's approach, and a congregation's particular area of emphasis.

We'd suggest looking for a church group that stays close to the Bible, which is the Word of God. That takes reading the Bible carefully, and comparing it with what you're seeing and experiencing. It also means praying for God's guidance and wisdom -- to let Him lead you in where you should go.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. -- James 1:5

Monday, October 4, 2010

Poker Night 195: My Merry Oldsmobiles

General Motors stopped making Oldsmobiles several years ago -- but one particular hand at the poker table brings them back to mind for us. That hand came tonight at The Red Barn. And it came in handy....

BLINDS: 50/100


Some call them snowmen. We call them "Oldsmobiles," because of the "Rocket 88" model. When you're in the big blind as we are and no one has raised, we also call them a pair worth hiding. We check with them, instead of raising.

ON THE FLOP: 4-5-7

Very nice -- a flop giving us an "over-pair" and a straight draw to boot. We make a lead bet of 300. About three players call it.


We now have two pair, and don't really have the feeling someone else is holding a 4. But we repeat the relatively small bet of 300 to be sure. Only one other player stays in the hand -- a young woman across the table.


We advance to a well-disguised full house. But what if our opponent is hiding something better? We see no outward sign of concern, and bet 500.

"Raise," the woman announces -- up to 2,000. Hmmmm. Now it's thinking time. We lost a hand earlier in the evening to another woman who flopped a straight. Did this woman top our Olds with a "four-by-four"? Based on the size of her raise, we conclude she didn't.

"I'll call," we say showing our eights. Thankfully for us, the woman was trying to buy the pot.

"I had to bet," she explains to another player. "I hit the 5." Our full house beats hers, for a nice gain.

But a man at the table suggests she didn't bet enough. "If she had gone all-in, would you have folded?" he asks us.

Hmmmm again. "I would have thought about it," we answer after a moment -- making as non-committal and diplomatic a reply as we dare.

An all-in dare on our part later with pocket Queens tripled our stack to 19,000 chips. But we had to hang on from there to make the final table -- and on the first hand at that table, our push with A-6 lost to a woman with three of a kind. We finished ninth, in our first live tournament in almost three weeks.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The woman who eliminated us wore a blue wristband, which appeared to have a Bible reference on it. When we asked, she showed it. The words were "Philippians 4:13"....

I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

The wristband also had a first name "Shawn" on it. The woman explained she works as a restaurant server, and was given the band by a regular customer. Shawn is that customer's teenage son, and is battling brain cancer.

That story admittedly put a sober turn on a nice evening. Will you join us in praying for Shawn (last name unknown) -- that God will strengthen him physically and spiritually, perhaps to grant him miraculous healing?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 83 final tables in 195 nights (42.6%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why Did You Do That?

Admittedly, we felt a little desperate. Our budget for a two-week vacation which included a church convention and a quick cruise was tight from the start. Then our car rental plans had to change at the last second, requiring us to spend twice as much as we'd planned.

So when we boarded a ship in Palm Beach, Florida for Freeport, Bahamas two Sundays ago, the on-board casino was more tempting than usual. Amidst hundreds of slot machines and plenty of blackjack, there was one poker table in the corner -- and we knew it was our chance to balance the vacation budget.

Trouble was, the Texas Hold 'em table had a cash game format -- not the tournament style we feel more ethically comfortable playing. It was real gambling; plunk down some bills in exchange for chips, and you could win more money or lose them all.


We were aware of the risk to our limited budget -- and we were aware playing a cash game might hurt other travelers' budgets as well. (But then, do you think they'd admit it if we asked them?) And the stakes were small: a $2/$3 pot limit format. So we handed over $30 to give it a try.

On the first night at Wynmore Casino, our stack jumped to $80 within an hour. Good cards came several times early, and we think our experience in careful play helped. On top of that, we took the "Jesus as your Savior" coin to the table -- and two people sitting around us agreed with the message about Christ.

At the one-hour mark, we left to cash out -- probably to the delight of several players at the table. One couple openly discussed cutting their losses and quitting, before we did. We don't know if they applied the advice of Jesus before sitting down:

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to finish it? -- Luke 14:28

We told ourselves several times before the trip: "If you can't afford to play poker, you shouldn't play poker." But the risk certainly paid off for us in this case. The dealer kept two dollars for a tip (we admittedly hadn't thought about handing that over after winning hands), so we departed with $78 -- more than doubling our money.

(Then we promptly lost five of them in one "make-or-break" try at blackjack, helped by a casino matching bet offer.)

On night two, the gambling crowd was markedly smaller. Only two women (and for a short time three) played poker. We wanted to "go for it" and win a lot more money -- but our opponents were clever and good. After three hours, our $30 investment stood at $31.

"I'm going to quit while I'm on level ground," we announced -- thankful for a mere one-dollar gain. We were growing internally frustrated, and probably would have gone "on tilt" had we played much longer. Professionals such as Michael Mizrachi get nicknames like "The Grinder" for a reason; this was a grind, feeling more like hard work than play.


Then last Sunday, we used "Family Day" at the church convention we attended to play at the Daytona Beach, Florida Kennel Club and Poker Room. We checked the room's website in advance, and hoped to get into a $40 "sit-and-go." But the only tournament announced during the afternoon had a steep $275 buy-in -- much more than our tight budget could afford.

So we settled for another cash game, at the $1/$2 table. With a gain at sea of $44, we invested 40. A couple of good hands helped us climb to $62. But this sort of low-stakes game invites players to stick around until the river with marginal hands. Enough players did that to drain away our stack. The final blow came when a 9 of spades on the river gave us a straight -- but a man to our left a straight flush.

(We should note that man with the straight flush had a look at our "Jesus coin." We'll mention his response to it in another post.)

With that loss, we decided our poker playing for the trip was finished. Our cash game profit was all of four dollars, and we didn't dare risk going into the red with a tight budget.


Yet here's the amazing thing: we figured the travel budget incorrectly! Only on the final night of the trip did we realize we were counting our "emergency fund" line as part of the actual expenditures. We thought we were limping home with a skimpy eight dollars left to spend -- but the final surplus was more than $150.

In addition, we didn't figure on other people at the church convention being giving to us. A long-time friend invited us to his condo, which led to two nights of free meals. Another friend peeled off a 20-dollar bill for us outside the meeting hall when we explained our Family Day plans, advising us: "Don't spend it all on one hand." (We didn't; that bill stayed in the wallet for days.)

A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great. -- Proverbs 18:16

May this Scripture come true for everyone who helped us during the road trip. And yes, we did some giving of our own during the vacation -- providing items for church charity drives in the community. Oh, and we gave back most of our poker profits to total strangers.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. -- Job 1:21b