Friday, December 31, 2010

December Poker Studs Championship: When Big is Little

Every month National League of Poker has a "Poker Studs" championship tournament for men only. (There's a separate tournament for women.) We never tried to qualify for this until this month. So did we win the title we dubbed "Stud of the Month?" Here's what happened Wednesday night....

:01 IN: We have Ad-Jc, and double the blind to 60. The flop is 4-6-Q, two of them clubs. We bet 30, and get a caller. The turn is Ac, and we bet in hopes of claiming the pot -- but the caller remains. The river is 3c. We bet another 60, and our opponent raises to 120. Only one card can beat us -- and he has it, Kc for a better flush! Ouch.

:12 IN: We have A-6 in the small blind -- and Ace high is good enough to win $280.

:18 IN: We have Q-10 of diamonds. The flop is 9-6-J, and we call a bet of 60 with an "open-ender." The turn is an 8, completing our straight! An opponent bets 200, and we happily call. The river is a 4, and when the opponent only bets 60 we push all-in with 450. He calls. His 6-6 is topped. We jump to $2,550!

:29 IN: We have K-K. The flop is 4-10-4, with a third 4 hitting the river. No one had quads, so our full house earns $1,650.

At the half-hour break, we had $3,140 -- good enough for 72nd place, from a starting 1,137 players. But several hands fell short after that. A-J didn't pair, and we folded to a big river bet. 7-Q of hearts brought two hearts on the flop, but no flush.

:57 IN: We have A-J of hearts with 875 chips left. Playing in lead position, we call with rising blinds.

ON THE FLOP: 4s-Ac-7h

Here's our chance for a big move. We push all in for our remaining 675. An opponent calls.


Three Aces! Yes!


Three spades?!?! Oh no! Our opponent has 9-Q of spades! Running spades gave him a winning flush.

Right move + wrong cards on the board = a finish in 211th place for us. In our going-away message we write: "That's why I'm not a stud."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poker Night 220: Aces and Races

"Scared money don't win," a man at our table told us early in the evening at Lil Kim's Cove. We folded two meager hearts, which turned into a winning flush. But there are times when being afraid is not an issue....

BLINDS: 500/1000

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We reached the one-hour break with a healthy 10,500 chips, thanks to several pot wins. But a recent loss has left us with 4,500. Seeing these cards, we could simply limp or push. Taking a middle course usually is not recommended. But after thinking it over, that's what we try -- raising to 2,000, in hopes of attracting as many players as possible. A couple of opponents call.


Three Aces look very A-ttractive! But a woman to our left goes all-in first, stacking up 4,000. We see no choice but to call, with our remaining 2,500. Everyone else bails out. No one turns over cards, except the dealer....

ON THE TURN: 9 (we think; it happened fast, and others at the table disputed this)


"I've got a full house!" Our opponent throws down J-J with confidence.

"But I have quads," we respond. Yes, we hit quads in a live tournament for the second time in a week! Not only do we double our stack, we get the 5,000-chip "quads bonus" under tournament rules.

But to borrow from Job 1:21, A-Q giveth and A-Q taketh away. We went all-in again with those cards later in the second hour, matched against a man with J-10. Trouble was, a Jack came on the flop and a 10 on the turn. We were sunk -- eliminated in 14th place at the semifinal table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: There's nothing that can clear the tables at a poker tournament quite like word that someone's car has been hit in the parking lot. We won a pot by default that way tonight -- but things turned ugly moments later. Someone involved in the collision used a racial slur, to refer to a young man at our table coming into a "white bar."

"I'm not afraid of him," the young man said. But his actions said something else -- as he was clearly distracted by the presence of the "redneck" (as others at the table called him), and he used a cell phone to call police.

"I've never seen a sign anywhere outside that says this is a white bar," we said.

"That's because there isn't one!" a woman next to us added. (In fact, we believe the bar owner is an immigrant from South Korea.)

Everyone at the table came to the defense of the young African-American man -- and that's good to see. We pointed out during the discussion that poker is a game where anyone can play and win, no matter what their skin color and gender is. (We added "age," but technically you have to be 18 to play at Lil Kim's Cove.)

As it happened, we used a church newspaper article about racism for Bible study earlier in the day. The African-American author points out "racism is a sin.... found within the hearts of people of all races...." That kind of heart needs to be changed -- and the Holy Spirit within you can help make it possible.

Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. -- Galatians 3:28, CEV

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 90 final tables in 220 nights (40.9%) - 15 cashes. Heads-up: 8-13.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 102 point wins in 544 games (18.8%), 40 final tables, 2 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games -- $34,489 up $435.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Turn (without a card)

A tournament director said earlier this week we'd be more likely to "turn the other cheek" than fight back against him.

In poker lingo, players "fire barrels" at each other all the time -- in the form of big bets and raises. That's part of the game. But away from that, the quote from the tournament director has some significance. Consider the One who said it first....

But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. -- Matthew 5:39

Sadly, we've heard Christians in church groups try to explain away these words of Jesus. They might say you really ought to run away. Or they'll justify their carrying of weapons for "self-defense." But did Jesus live what He preached?

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. -- I Peter 2:23

That's why we tend to avoid "trash talk" at poker tables -- and even fold frequently when someone acts as a "betting bully." Let the cards, and your example, do the talking. Attackers admittedly probably won't get the message right away -- but with time and careful thought, they will.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December Senior Championship: Care Package

We have two opportunities this week to win monthly championships at National League of Poker. The first came tonight, with the Senior Title and $100 at stake....

:02 IN: We have 10-A, and double the bet in a tournament where big early betting doesn't happen much. But our cards don't pair, and a 6 on the turn gives someone else a pair and the pot.

:06 IN: We have J-10 in the Big Blind, and double the bet again. The flop is 5-9-10, but then the betting climbs until someone goes all-in. We smell trouble despite top pair and fold. We never see what the pusher had.

:18 IN: We're back in the Big Blind with K-A, and try yet another double. The flop is Q-7-6, and a continuation bet of 60 on our part chases no one. Then come 5-9, and someone has an 8 to make a straight.

:19 IN: Holding J-Q of diamonds in the small blind, we simply call. (This leaves our chip stack at 220.) The flop is K-J-4 with the 4 a diamond. An opponent bets 120 -- and without top pair, we fold. Good thing; 7-9 follow giving a player with 10-8 an oddball straight.

:28 IN: We have 10-10 and little choice -- going all-in with our 220, with two players calling. The flop is J-9-5. The turn is a 3. The river is a 6. But thankfully, no one has anything better than a 9! We rebuild to 930.

:34 IN: We have Q-7 in the Big Blind. The flop is 9-Q-A. We check, as does the table. The turn is a 6, so we bet 250 -- and the table folds. We're up to 1130.

:38 IN: We have A-6. The flop is 3-J-6, giving us middle pair. An opponent bets 150 (the minimum), and we call. The turn is another 6, and the opponent offers 150 again. We raise to 500 -- but he calls with another player, anyway. The river is an 8. All parties check -- and we're stunned to see that bettor with 3-3. His full house hurts. Hard.

:45 IN: With A-Q under the gun, it's time to push again -- all-in with 280 left. The flop is J-6-10. The turn is an 8. The river is a 10. But another player has a Jack, and his two pair send us packing. Final score: 304 out of 894.

MINISTRY MOMENT: After that all-in bet with 10-10, this chat happened....

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($930) with One pair, tens
Me: (whew) PTL
StevoinHTown: The Lord dont care bout Texas Holdem
Me: but He cares about me. And I dare say- about you.

We personally hope God does care -- because we're in a financial pinch right now and need every dollar we can win. As for the bigger picture, the Bible advises this....

Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. -- I Peter 5:7, KJV

The "he" obviously refers to God. But Peter adds more to the guidance of receiving God's care:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.... -- I Peter 5:6

The money didn't come for us on this night -- but we think God is far more willing to bless a humble person than an arrogant, pride-filled one. What do you think?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Poker Night 219: Four the Win

Holding one big card in poker often isn't enough. The second card can matter. At The Red Barn tonight, we were reminded it can matter a lot.

BLINDS: 100/200


After winning an early pot with pocket Aces, our chip count is back down to about our starting level of 6,000. We're "under the gun," first to act. This is a marginal hand to play, but the blinds are reasonable enough that we can "play any Ace" with hope. So we call, and no one around the table raises.

ON THE FLOP: 9-4-3

"We hit it," as they say at our tournaments -- but we didn't hit it very well. But we doubt anyone else did, either. We send out a "probing bet" of 200, and about half the table folds. Three others remain.


That didn't help much. This time we check -- as do the other players.


Now that helped -- a lot! The players ahead of us check, but we won't. We bet 1,100. At least one man guesses we have a 4, but we say nothing. A player to our left calls.

"I've got two pair," a man to our right says, "but I'm not sure they're good enough." After thinking a moment, he calls.

"No, they're not good enough," we say showing our hand.

"I should have known you had a 4," that man admits as we gain about 2,500 chips.

We held on to that gain long enough to reach the final table (albeit on a night with only about 18 players). Then we went all-in with Q-J, caught a Queen on the river and jumped from 3,000 to 19,000!

That allowed us to stay around amid rising blinds -- and we finished fourth, for our best outcome since Thanksgiving week. The end came with a forced all-in bet in the big blind with 8-6, and nothing pairing.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The tournament director at The Red Barn likes to be a little "touchy-feely." Before tonight's game, he pretended to punch us around the waist, then follow up with other blows. We ducked, but didn't move beyond that.

"He probably could beat you up," another man said in our defense.

The director knows our works well. "But he'd turn the other cheek."

"But he'd eventually run out of cheeks."

We said nothing through all this. What do you say about it? Our thoughts will be in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 90 final tables in 219 nights (41.1%) - 15 cashes. That's three final tables in the last four live tournaments.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The X Factor Continued

A Friday post mentioned an online chat about Christmas, in which someone wrote: "Xmas takes the Christ out of Christmas."

That statement is incorrect in two different ways. In one sense, the "X" does not remove Christ at all. We found this information Friday at a website about using proper English:

In Greek, the letter chi (pronounced ky, to rhyme with tie) is written as an X. Chi is the first letter of the Greek word for "Christ." Greeks sometimes abbreviated "Christ" as X. They abbreviated "Christ savior" as XP. P is the symbol for the Greek letter rho (pronounced row, to rhyme with toe), which is the first letter of the word "savior" in Greek. The Oxford English Dictionary shows the first known English use of Xmas in 1551.

(Side point: this could give a whole new meaning to Windows XP, couldn't it?)

Yet in another sense -- the sense we meant in our reply -- changing the start of a word does NOT change a day's meaning. That's because the Bible doesn't show any time when Jesus or the early disciples kept Christmas. The story of Jesus's birth is there (Luke 2:1-20), but the holiday is not!

Some Christian groups maintain a "Christmas" season holiday was around long before Jesus was born. And we noted there's more evidence Jesus kept Hanukkah; we addressed this in a post last July.

Then a player wrote about Jesus: "The world has lost an important man...." With all due respect, is Jesus lost -- or might you be?

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. -- Matthew 18:11, KJV

Jesus ultimately will do that when He returns to Earth....

These [trials] have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. -- I Peter 1:7

When that happens, all nations truly will see "the salvation of our God" (Psalm 98:3).

Heads-Up: Dressed to the Nines

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: This entry is our second annual "Blog Simulcast," also being posted at The Blog of Columbus, Georgia.)

As I scurried to the car around 8:10 p.m. ET Saturday night, a "wintry mix" was falling -- more snow than rain. The forecasters on TV went back and forth so much on the chance for snow that I'm not sure if they wound up being right or not.

Yet I was undeterred as I drove down U.S. 280 in Phenix City. I remembered the old "over and under" rule from icy winter storms in Atlanta -- slow down at overpasses and underpasses. But where I was going, people were more likely to put "over and under" on the Saturday night pro football game.

I drove to The Red Barn in Phenix City, for its weekly Saturday night heads-up poker tournament. Yes, a bar was open on 25 December. But from what I could see, it was NOT serving spiked egg nog.

"Are you here to play?" the tournament director asked when I walked into the side room of The Red Barn.

"Yes, sir," I said. "It's a day on, not a day off." In terms of winning money, that is. My apologies if that explanation disappoints people looking ahead to Martin Luther King, Junior Day....

"That's a snappy suit you have on," the director added. It was the same suit I'd worn to a worship service during the afternoon, which was followed by a nice dinner with friends. If only my gray tie hadn't been so uncooperative - because the director fixed it for me once, spotted it crooked again and wondered who tied it in the first place.

The side room at The Red Barn was chilly for several people - even though the window "air conditioner" at one end was set to 86 degrees F. There weren't enough warm bodies on hand to improve things. And of course, that meant not as much hot air from trash-talkers.

"It's snowing like h**l out there," the tournament director said after a check outside. Nearly a minute later, he suddenly realized what he had said. "That's an oxymoron, isn't it?" Umm-hmm....

While I sat at a table warming up with solitaire, a man holding a cell phone explained why a female friend couldn't play. "Christmas Day is the one day of the year at Waffle House when all employees are required to work." Even calling out sick could get you fired, he said. Who knows what happens to a manager who didn't order enough frozen hash browns?

(The good news for that female employee is that she already had received $170 in tips on her shift. First prize at Heads-Up Poker Night normally is $60 - and you probably don't have to deal with nearly as much cigarette smoke.)

One woman in the unofficial poker room was playing for the first time, so the tournament director explained the rules - and even played a hand with all the cards face-up. Sometimes I wish all the hands were like that - because my chances would improve substantially.

The Heads-Up tournament director delayed the start of play, hoping more players would show up. But 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, only 11 names were on the list. The usual maximum is 24, so my chances of winning were more than twice as good. If only my play could improve that quickly, after three shutouts in a row....

After the draw for bracket positions, I faced a man I've played on two other Saturday nights. We were 1-1, and he jumped to the lead in a few hands. But I rallied by making three sevens and a "double-up" with Ace-Queen, and it led to this....

BLINDS: 400/800

IN THE POCKET: A-K of diamonds

With the blinds this high (each player starting with 4,000), a hand this good is worth a big move. We go all-in, and our opponent calls. He has 10-4 of diamonds - and a chip count reveals we're exactly even, so we're BOTH all-in for a winner-take-all showdown.

ON THE FLOP: J-9-8 (only the 8 is a diamond)

Uh-oh -- our opponent has a straight draw to win.


That pair gives him the lead, and there's no longer any hope of winning with a nut flush. We need a big card.


It's not big enough, and the man beats us for the second time in a row. It's called "winning a race" in poker -- and it beats drag racing on slick roads.

Thankfully, the Heads-Up tournament is double-elimination. We were now in the losers' bracket -- and while we waited, someone called the tournament director to wish everyone "Merry Christmas."

"Bah humbug," one of the players answered. "It's Christmas night, and I'm playing poker." And unlike my Dad's Christmas night card games, he had to pay for the liquor.

After early matches were finished, we sat down for our second match against a man named Ben. "My name's Richard," Ben said. "My name's really Richard Benjamin."

"Well, I'm Richard Burkard." If my middle name had a W, it would have matched his last name -- and I would have someone for comparing notes about identity theft.

Then came one of the most amazing moments in my four years of playing live poker....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 4-9 offsuit

On the very first hand of the match, Ben calls in the small blind. I check the big blind.

ON THE FLOP: 9-9-9

Did I see that right? Yes, I did - quads-come-quick! Hoping to make a big gain, I check. So does Ben.


Not wanting to scare Ben away, I bet a meager-looking minimum 200. "Raise to six," Ben says. I ponder a moment, tempted to go all-in - but instead simply call.


Now it's time to strike. "I'm all-in," I say.

"I have to call," Ben says. "I've got a full house." He shows 7-10.

"Can you beat quads?" I say. Of course he can't - but he's understandably stunned by what just happened. So is the tournament director, whom we both call over to examine the cards. "This was a one-hand knockout," I tell him - a little like another Saturday night match, which put a fighting troupe out of business.

"Awesome two-bet!" a man across the room said to us when he heard about what happened. It's called in poker a "slow play" - but I've never seen it lead to a faster exit.

But one punch doesn't win a poker tournament, even when it's Heads-Up. The next elimination match proved to be the end for us, as several losses led to a forced all-in bet with 5-8 of clubs on the 12th hand. Our opponent had King-Jack, made a full house -- and sent us back to our empty one.

We didn't win the tournament, but at least we improved to winning one match. And for an unexpected consolation prize, we found a buildup of wet snow on our rear windshield to take home and store in the freezer. Columbus now has seen a noticeable snowfall four winters in a row. If only the poker cards fell that attractively all the time....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The X Factor

This online chat occurred during a Friday afternoon poker tournament. Your thoughts are welcome; ours are upcoming....

fmaster: merry xmas e1
Bad1Rad: xmas takes the christ out of christmas please dont lesson the integrity of the season please
Dealer: Bad1Rad wins Main Pot ($9780)
Me: But was Christ really in it in the first place?
Me: The Bible doesn't show Him keeping it.
Dealer: akaalaskan wins Main Pot ($12540) with One pair, nines
Me: In fact, I find more evidence He kept Hanukkah....
fmaster: the worldhas lost an impotant man but his contribitions have forever made an impact
Me: But He's not lost forever. He promised He's coming back. :-)
Bad1Rad: jesus was a ***
fmaster: gl e1 lol
Me: I'm seeing *** -- but Jesus is God.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Poker Night 218: What You Can't See

"The tightest man in poker," a man across the table at Lil Kim's Cove called us tonight, We almost jokingly scolded him for revealing one of our secrets to success. But if he had seen us earlier in the evening, he might have thought differently....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 6-7 of clubs

We won an early hand, so we have plenty of chips to play with. A man to our right raises to 300. We call with our suited connectors, and several players join the pot.

ON THE FLOP: 8-K-5 (8 is a club)

We have three clubs in a row, plus an open-ended straight draw. The man who bet before tries to run us off by tossing in 1,000. The other players run away, but we call to see if something good comes.


So much for the straight flush -- but we still like what we see. The bettor tries 1,000 again. But our straight is the best hand out there, so we raise to 3,000. Our opponent calls.


"I'll check to the man who raised," our opponent says. OK, thank you -- we toss out 3,000 again. That's too much for his liking, and he folds.

"What'd you have? Two pair?" he asks. No. "A King?" No.

"I put him on pocket Kings," another player guesses.

"He couldn't have a straight or a flush," a woman says. We don't correct her -- simply smile, and keep the table guessing.

We had plenty of reason to smile, as several big hands came our way. In one case, 2-2 brought a third 2 on the flop. In another case, 2-8 of clubs led to a flush. It all allowed us to reach the final table with 48,500 chips. But then the cards ran out, as the blinds went up. We went all in with A-Q of hearts, but lost to a woman with 9-9 when our cards didn't make a pair. Not a winning night -- but sixth place isn't bad.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We slow-played A-K in the small blind at one point, and it worked -- eliminating a woman who went all-in with A-6.

"I could cuss you out," the woman said as she offered a hand to shake. "But I can't. You're got the Jesus stuff...."

We complimented the woman on being so nice. She illustrates a characteristic not often found at poker tables -- one mentioned in a Biblical proverb:

He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend. -- Proverbs 22:11

What does it mean to have gracious speech? One Bible concordance relates it to displaying "charm.... the moral quality of kindness...." Sometimes that can mean saying a little, as opposed to a lot.

Words from a wise man's mouth are gracious, but a food is consumed by his own lips. -- Ecclesiastes 10:12

Your parents might have put it another way: If you can't find anything nice to say about someone, don't say anything. Maybe that's what this woman did. And maybe that's what more of us need to do -- whether we play poker or not.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 89 final tables in 218 nights (40.8%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 100 point wins in 534 games (18.7%), 40 final tables, 2 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $34,054, up $5,380.

This was a week when we wish the money was real -- as last Friday afternoon, we won more $4,250 in about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's So Funny?

Our last post included a poker player's joke about the "Last Supper" of Jesus and His disciples. We admittedly didn't laugh at it, especially when profane language was attributed to Christ.

"I doubt He would have used those words," we told the man. Some of Jesus's words from the New Testament lead us to that conclusion....

But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. -- Matthew 5:34-36

The "swearing" here admittedly refers to an oath or a promise -- not really profanity. But the joke attributed by our fellow player to D.L. Hughley could be classified as "taking God's name in vain," which is barred in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7). Paul takes the idea farther....

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity .... Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. -- Ephesians 5:3-4

If the profanity was taken out of the joke, it probably would be acceptable. Jesus used absurd word pictures at times to make points -- such as the "camel going through the eye of a needle" (Matthew 19:24).

So we believe God does have a sense of humor, as long as you "keep it clean." If someone wins a poker hand this week with three Kings and you want to break out in a carol, we'll probably laugh along with you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Poker Night 217: Jacks or Better?

We had a great afternoon playing online poker -- finishing 12th in a tournament with 568 players, barely missing the final table. So a three-table game at The Red Barn tonight should have been a breeze, right? Yeah, right....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: J-Q offsuit

We're in the big blind, and enter this hand with 2,400 chips desperately needing a rally. We haven't won a pot all night. And we missed a golden opportunity in an earlier big blind holding 2-3; a 3 came on the flop, but we folded to a big bet and missed another 3 on the turn. No one raises around the six-player table now, and we check in hope.


Top pair for us says it's time to strike. The man to our right checks, and we push -- all-in for our last 2,000. A man to our left calls.

"I'll throw you a bone," the small blind man as he calls. Hmmmm -- maybe he has nothing.


That feels good. The two remaining players agree to "check it down."


Uh-oh -- not top pair anymore. And that's not good at all, as the bone-thrower makes two pair with that card. He has K-6, and the man to our left had two pair on the turn anyway with J-7. They pinch us to the rail -- fifth out of nine players at the table, out at the one-hour break.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our new card protector depicting the Lord's Supper is drawing a lot of interest. We showed it to several people at our table tonight. One man to our right said he believed the event and Jesus were real.

But then he offered a joke about it, credited to D.L. Hughley. To summarize: Jesus asked Peter if he brought anything to the meal. Peter said no. Jesus asked John if he brought anything, and John said no. Then Jesus supposedly said: "G******it, this is the last supper."

How would you respond to something like that? We'll tell you our response in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 88 final tables in 217 nights (40.6%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Rewind: The Numbers Game

Some poker players have "favorite hands," that they love to play. (Why would anyone prefer something other than A-A, anyway?) Others have what they consider "lucky numbers."

In our last post, we mentioned what some people in Freemasonry apparently consider an unlucky number -- 33. The reason: Jesus died at that age. The thinking behind this comes from the book of Luke:

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.... -- Luke 3:23

Many Bible scholars believe Jesus's ministry lasted 3 1/2 years, based on a prophecy in Daniel 9. So the Lord would have been 33 when He was crucified. But if that makes 33 a bad number, how do we explain King David?

David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. He ruled over Israel 40 years -- seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.... -- I Chronicles 29:27-28

There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that 33. And that brings us to our point: some Christians seem to get caught up in "Bible numbers" so much that they risk forgetting the Bible's key message. It's a bit like poker players concentrating so much on the percentages of a hand succeeding that they don't take other factors into account.

Instead of worrying about numbers, why not do what an old hymn says? "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. -- instead of countless distractions. As Jesus put it:

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. -- John 6:40

If you're still interesed in Numbers.... well, it's the fourth book of the Old Testament.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Remember As You Play....

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. -- I Peter 2:23

These words were written about Jesus, but Jesus provides a perfect example for us. Even for poker players. Remember the man earlier this week who said we'd reached our "last table?" We didn't turn the tables and trash-talk in response. We simply smiled, said nothing and waited to see what happened. (That man turned out to be right, and we pointed it out.)

At a tournament in late November, we were being moved to a different table -- and another player sarcastically told us with foul language to get away from his table.

"And a Happy Thanksgiving to you!" we said as we walked away.

We heard a couple of people laugh at that response -- but we hope they stop to think about our reaction. Sometimes a positive answer to a negative comment can make the insult artist look even worse. It's the principle stated well by Paul....

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -- Romans 12:21

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Poker Night 216: Club-Hopping

Some people like to play "power poker," making big bets to win pots. But Texas Hold 'em is a game where sometimes it can pay to look wimpy. It worked for us more than once tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-J of clubs

We're in third position at a seven-player table with fairly nice cards. We call, prepared to bet behind a raise. but no one raises, and nearly the entire table is in.

ON THE FLOP: 2c-3c-8c

A flop that's almost a dream come true! (Almost, because Ac would give us the "nut flush.") A man ahead of us checks, and we offer a tantalizing small bet of 250. A man across from us raises to 1,000. Another man joins us in calling.


This complicates matters a bit. We didn't think of it at the time, but what if that man across from us had two pair on the flop? He could well have a full house now. We're really not sure what he has (best guess: Ace of clubs), so we check. Both our opponents check.


We check again. The man across from us bets 1,000 -- and now we have the feeling he's trying to buy the pot. The player between us folds, and we have little fear in calling.

"Do you have a flush?" we ask. "Because I do." We show ours. He doesn't show us, saying only that he didn't have a flush. It's a nice gain of thousands of chips.

The evening was spiked with nice hands for us -- a straight at one point, 10-10 twice to eliminate players, K-K once to win a race against A-J and knock out someone else. But we folded A-K against two players' big all-in bets, and missed out on a golden opportunity to eliminate more.

We reached the final table with about 45,000 chips -- but rising blinds and weak hands whittled us down from there. A big-blind last stand with J-4 fell short. But we still finished fifth, for our best live tournament since Thanksgiving week.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We happened to wear a "faux fraternity" shirt from our college years to the tournament tonight, and the conversation turned from there to a discussion of Freemasonry.

"You don't want to get the 33rd degree," a player said as he held up pocket 3's he'd folded. "You know why? How old was Jesus when He died?" The man asked us this question, knowing about this blog and our ministry.

"History says He died at 33 1/2," we answered. The man then said the 33rd degree in Freemasonry is honorary only, because that number is considered bad luck.

This claim was news to us. What do you think of it? We'll offer our thoughts in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 88 final tables in 216 nights (40.7%) - 15 cashes. Heads-up: 7-11.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 99 point wins in 525 games (18.9%), 40 final tables, 2 cashes.

We finished fifth Wednesday in a qualifying tournament for the monthly "Poker Studs Championship." That puts us in the running for big bucks, when we play for (giggle) Stud of the Month on the 29th!

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - 3 top ten percent finishes in 14 games (21.4%), no cashes. Pretend cash games - $28,674, up $1,825.

To our pleasant surprise, our Internet service was restored in time to play Sunday's Million Dollar Challenge Freeroll. But we won only one pot, and were bounced in 30 minutes -- #25,725 out of nearly 42,000 players.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $13,969, up $25.

Huh? Back at Yahoo? Yes, we returned for the first time in about a year -- playing at a library because our home Internet connection was down, and so downloads are required to play. Have to stay in practice, you know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Heads Up?

In our last post, we mentioned a man gave us a card protector with an artist's depiction of the "Lord's Supper" on it. But as they say, there are two sides to every coin. That depiction was really the "tails" side.

This is "heads" -- what we assume is an artist's rendering of Jesus.

Artwork along these lines dates from the Renaissance. Trouble is, we really don't think this is an accurate depiction. We don't say this based on photographic evidence (since cameras did not exist 2,000 years ago) -- but based on the Bible:

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. -- I Corinthians 11:14-15

Experts say the apostle Paul wrote these words about 25 years after Jesus was crucified. While modern fashion trends may change by the decade, we really don't think they changed that quickly in the first century -- so we're led to conclude Paul had short hair, and so did Jesus.

(Some people use Numbers 6 to contend Jesus had long hair -- but that passage refers to a separated Nazarite vow, where no grape juice of any sort is consumed. Jesus was a Nazarene, which is different. And He actually drank wine at that Lord's Supper on the other side.)

But there's another thing which concerns us about that depiction of Jesus....

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God...." -- Exodus 20:4-5

The King James Version of these verses warns against "any graven image." Bowing down to an idol can be a picture of Christ. Or Buddha. Or even losing control at a poker tournament and bowing down to a big stack of chips.

We appreciate the man's generosity, in giving us this card protector. But we're probably going to modify the "heads" side somewhat. Any suggestions about what we should do?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Poker Night 215: Big Blind-Side

"This is your last table," a man across from us said at The Red Barn tonight. He said that for a reason, which we'll explain in a moment. But this was a full semifinal table -- and since we joined it at the one-hour break, we could look around and see we had the short stack at 9,500 chips. Would this man's prediction prove correct?

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 5-10 offsuit

Not a thrilling hand at this point in the evening. But we're big blind, and no one raised ahead of us. One player was eliminated on the last hand, so seven remain and several call. Thus we're happy to check.


....and we're very happy to see this! The small blind (first in line to bet) checks, and we pounce.

"Three-thousand," we announce. At least one player made a comment in response, which we don't remember at the moment.

"Raise" is the next comment -- from the man immediately to our left. He doubles the bet to 6,000, and suddenly we're concerned. Our first thought is that he has a high pocket pair. But we doubt it's A-A for three of a kind, because he would have raised pre-flop straightaway with that. We conclude he either has one Ace with a high kicker, or a medium-high pair like Q-Q.

"I'll call," we say after a moment. No one else remains in the hand.


"Big slick looks good right now," a bystander in the hand says. We agree, but say nothing and tap the table to check.

"Twenty-five hundred," our opponent says -- knowing it would put us all in. We fear he does have "big slick," and made two pair with that Queen. But part of our brain says he's pushing us around to grab the pot. After a moment of pondering, we decide.

"He already predicted this was my last table," we say with a nod toward the potential prophet. "But I'll call."

"I've got two pair," the opponent says -- and he shows A-5. Uggh. We need a river-card miracle, like a 10.


"Full house," the winner declares. Sure enough, he had us all along. The semifinal table is the end for us, with a 14th-place finish.

Remember that post titled "Two Pair, Beware"? The take-home lesson for us tonight is to remember that title in the future. A lot of things can beat bottom two pair. But to be honest, we sensed our opponent had something less -- and our sense was wrong.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What did you bring tonight?" asked the man who made the prediction about our impending doom.

"A man gave this to me Saturday night at heads-up," we said. We used as a card protector a medallion with an artist's depiction of the "Last Supper." (Now you can understand the "last table" prediction.)

Jesus shared a meal with His disciples on the night before He was crucified. The Lord called it "the Passover," since He kept customs outlined in the Old Testament (Matthew 26:17-19). Which leads us to ask a provocative question: can you show us a Bible passage indicating Jesus or the first apostles kept Christmas?

(There's a second side to that medallion; we'll address that in an upcoming post.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 87 final tables in 215 nights (40.5%) - 15 cashes.

Representing.... Something

A big poker title can change your life. Jonathan Duhamel has discovered that in the last month. Since winning the World Series of Poker Main Event, he's made countless media appearances from Las Vegas to New York.

We found one cable TV interview in which Duhamel admitted he'll be playing more tournaments in person, after years mostly spent playing online. It's part of being a Main Event champion -- becoming an unofficial "ambassador" of poker.

Are you an ambassador? Whether you work in government or simply play poker as a pastime during your retirement, you can be an ambassador. The invitation comes from the apostle Paul:

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.... -- II Corinthians 5:20

Some bluffing poker players make big bets with hardly anything; it's known as "representing" a hand. Believers in Jesus can represent Him and His way of life everywhere they go, just as a political ambassador represents a country overseas -- only they aren't bluffing, in the eyes of those who have faith.

And Christ's ambassadors have an "appeal" to make, even if people around them don't want to hear it. It's in other words of Paul....

We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.... God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. -- II Corinthians 5:20b, 19

It's your opportunity for a "re-buy" in life, which can lead to eternal life. Are you interested in it -- to become part of an ambassador corps?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poker Night 214: You're Bluffing, Right?

In a recent TV interview, World Series of Poker Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel said he was able to remain focused throughout the final table. He might have felt right at home Thursday night at Lil Kim's Cove -- as the tournament seemed much quieter than usual. So how do we explain this hand?

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: J-5 of hearts

We won a nice pot with pocket Jacks earlier in the evening, so we have about 9,000 chips -- enough to call in hopes of a flush. About half the table calls.

ON THE FLOP: K-Q-4 (no hearts)

We're first in line to bet, and toss in 300. Two players follow by folding. But one man across from us calls.


While this card is dealt, we double-check what we have. We thought we hit the flop -- but no, we didn't. So now we check. Our opponent bets 300, and we fold.

We could have carried on with the hand, staging a bluff. But that's really not our style -- and to be honest, we forgot what our original cards were. We thought we paired with that King! Even in poker, "brain freezes" happen.

But we warmed up later on -- winning a couple of big pots, including 7-7 which brought a third 7 on the turn for a key double-up. As players gathered for the final table, we went all-in again with A-J -- but an Ace of diamond on the river gave an opponent a flush. Only seven reached the final table; we wound up eighth, and call it a miss on our part.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A man grabbed our "Jesus as Your Savior" coin during the game and examined it.

"Do you agree with that message?" we asked him.

"Is Jesus my Savior?" he answered. "He can't save me...." Then the man went on to declare he's heading for Hell.

But a female watching the table disagreed. "You only have to believe...."

We tried to tell the man Jesus desires to be the Savior of everyone....

....God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. -- I Timothy 2:3-4

What is required for that salvation? Some ministers and church denominations try to make it seem complex and difficult. But start with what two budding evangelists recommended to a scared convert:

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

Then start reading God's Word, the Bible. Act on what it says. Your "belief" will expand. Your faith will grow deeper. And you salvation will become more sure.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 87 final tables in 214 nights (40.7%) - 15 cashes. Heads-up record: 7-9.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - 8-11-7-3-2. Full tournaments - 98 points wins in 517 games (19.0%), 39 final tables, 2 cashes.

We won a ten-player SNG over the weekend, to make the Sunday weekly championship.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $26,849, up $2,630.

There's a "Million-Dollar Challenge" freeroll tonight, the last one of the Fox season -- but our Internet connection is down, so we'll have to pass. :-(

Thursday, December 9, 2010

That God and Beer Song

We've been so busy lately that we almost didn't get back to that song on the jukebox at Lil Kim's Cove last week. Billy Currington's tune People Are Crazy has three main points, as a good short sermon should:

1. "God is Great." True.

Great is the Lord and worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. -- Psalm 145:3

2. "Beer is good." Uh-oh -- now we're getting controversial.

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. -- Proverbs 20:1

Yet the Bible is not against alcohol consumption completely. After all, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-10) -- and drank a little "Passover wine" one night before He died on the cross. We think the key is to be moderate, not drunk.

3. "People are crazy." The daily news is filled with examples which might lead to that conclusion. But believers in Christ aren't supposed to be.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.... For the grace of God that brings salvation.... teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. -- Titus 2:6, 11-12

The King James Version uses the word "sober" instead of "self-controlled." So the third point is connected to the second -- and includes another segment of Currington's song, about a "God of grace."

At a local poker tournament, you're likely to find items 2 and 3 in abundance. It's our job to ensure #1 is there -- and we hope you'll make it your job as well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Marathon Monday

"My longest poker game. Ever." That's what we wrote in the middle of Monday's afternoon "turbo tournament" at National League of Poker.

Every afternoon there's a game with a $50 top prize at 1:00 p.m. U.S. ET. The blinds go up every five minutes -- well, most of the time. On Monday, the blind clock became stuck after the half-hour break! The blinds remained at 100/200 for the rest of the game.

"I came to a turbo tourney, and a cash game broke out," we wrote at one point. Yet the field did diminish -- much more slowly than usual. Some gave up and were forfeited for inactivity; others grew tired and simply pushed with anything to move on. We had nothing else to do, so we resolved to keep playing patiently.

We hit several huge pots during the game, and at one point had more than 97,000 chips -- leading the field by more than 20,000. At that point, we started playing "fast and loose" with big pre-flop raises and pricey bluffs on the river. Our goal was to pad the lead and knock other players out. A few big losses changed all that -- but we still made the final table.

At that point, the people who wanted the money were clear. Players with tens of thousands of chips wanted to make minimum bets (still 200, remember). We tried to provoke things to move the game along, but several moves went badly. Finally with seven players left, we were dealt A-A and dared to go all-in with about 11,000 chips. Two players pushed with us to call! We felt good about this.

One opponent had Q-Q. Another had 7-7. But a third Queen came on the turn, with no third Ace. Our big play failed, and we were eliminated in seventh place -- with only the top five making money.

The lesson for us, after 5:50 of online poker? That we're sometimes not really as patient as we think we are -- especially when we have a lot of chips and a big lead. We want to drive on to victory. In a sit-n-go with rising blinds, that's easy. In circumstances like this, it certainly wasn't. Which reminds us:

Better a patient man than a warrior.... -- Proverbs 16:32

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NLOP Weekly Championship 10: Keep On Pushing

It's not easy for a part-time online poker player to make the National League of Poker weekly championship, with a $500 prize. Sunday night marked only the tenth time we've made it in more than a year. And we had 1,463 opponents, as well....

:00 IN: We're dealt Q-Q right off the bat. But the flop has 10-K -- and even though a third Queen comes on the turn, a Jack hits the river. An opponent goes all in -- and we fear the "Broadway" worst as we fold. We lose 280.

:02 IN: We have J-K in the big blind. The flop is 4-9-5, and we fold to a bet. Trouble is, Q-10 come next and we miss a straight.

:08 IN: We have 5-4 of hearts - but with a lowered chip stack, we choose to fold. Wrong again; the flop is 5-4-3.

:11 IN: We fold J-5. The board brings two more Jacks. (Are you sensing a trend here?)

:13 IN: We have 2-A of hearts, and this time we play them. Tow hearts come on the flop, and a King of hearts hits the river to give us the nuts. We reclaim 680. But at the first break, we're limping at 460.

:43 IN: We have 3-K of spades in the big blind, and decide to go all-in. A caller has 10-Q. Another 3 and two Aces come on the board, and we rebuild to 720.

1:00 IN: Rising blinds force us to push again with J-8 of hearts with only 70 chips left. Jh-Kh come on the flop, followed by 9h on the turn! We're back to 450.

1:02 IN: On the next hand, we push again with J-J. The turn provides a third Jack, and suddenly we're back "in the game" at 1,450 -- but a miss or two leaves us with 850 at the second break.

1:09 IN: We have Q-J of hearts, and limp in with $300 blinds. The flop is a dream-come-true 9-10-K! Of course we push with 525 left -- and the straight restores us to 1,975.

1:12 IN: We have 7-8 in the big blind. The flop is 3s-8d-9s. An opponent checks. Then comes 10d. We smell weakness by our opponent, and dare to go all-in with 1,250. The foe calls with 7-5 of spades. But sadly, he HITS the flush draw on the river with As.

If not for a spade, we would have jumped to 4,100 and been in quite a rally. Instead, we finished 289th. Not bad -- but not even a "top-ten percent."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poker Night 213: A Tens Moment

Today was a long day at the office for us -- if you call poker tables an "office." It started with a "turbo" online tournament which lasted nearly six hours (a topic for another post). Then about one hour after we were eliminated from that game, we were at The Red Barn for the second half of a Texas Hold 'em doubleheader. At least we were warmed up for this....

BLINDS: 25/50


We tried to be a bit aggressive early, but it didn't work. Now we have about 4,200 chips, and another player raises to 200. It's a high enough pair to give it a call. Several players join in.


A man to our right tosses in 200. Hmmmmm. We lean toward thinking he has a Queen, but we lean more toward thinking our "luck" is about to turn around. We call, as does one other player.


The bettor now throws in 300. If he had a Queen before, this seems like a wimpy bet now. We're actually more confident about the board pairing, so we call again. No one else remains in the hand.


The bettor simply checks. Now we're puzzled. Is this a move to lure us into an overconfident bet? We're more comfortable checking this.

"Pair of tens?!" we say as we flip our cards over. Yes, it's good enough! Our read is right, as our opponent has A-9. Our stack rebuilds to above 6,000.

Several good hands came along for us, especially in the second hour. We started with 4,500 chips -- but after making a flush and making top pair out of an Ace, we jumped to more than 22,000. That led us to the final table, where we held A-9 and saw an Ace on the flop. We moved all-in with 7,500 -- but the man who semi-bluffed earlier made a straight to eliminate us.

We finished seventh in both games. The online game had 580 players, so that was a bit more of an accomplishment. But neither one earned us money, so moral
"victories" would have to do.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We wound up sitting tonight next to the "drunk woman" who eliminated us in heads-up play Saturday night. Her story sounds even more dire than we first thought -- as among other things, she's unsure about having money to pay the rent and utilities.

It's cold in our area right now, and she noted "heat rises" from her natural gas heater. "So I'm sleeping in the car with the motor running" -- apparently because she considers that warmer. Yet she had to "borrow" money from strangers at a convenience store to fill her fuel tank today. "Someone gave me ten dollars," she said with a bit of a smile.

The woman added she also talked today to her preacher about her plight -- and the minister gave her a blanket to sleep warmly. "I've prayed and prayed," she told us -- yet somehow this woman had money to buy drinks during the game (non-alcoholic this time).

It's nice to know this woman apparently has a "church home," where she can turn for support. But does this whole picture seem confusing to you? It does to us. Perhaps she needs to pray for something other than money....

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. -- Ephesians 1:17

God's wisdom is valuable for all aspects of life. We think this woman could use some for dealing with limited finances -- prioritizing where to spend money and where to cut back. We'll keep praying for God to bless this woman not only with steady income, but a wise approach to handling it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 87 final tables in 213 nights (40.8%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

November Senior Championship

We've been so busy with various projects lately that we've overlooked a big tournament we played at National League of Poker last Tuesday. The November Senior Championship had 1,068 entries:

:13 IN: We have 2-A. An Ace on the turn gives us a winning pair, and a $500 pot.

:18 IN: We have pocket Aces. The board shows J-K-8 (we bet 125) 6 (we bet 60) and 5 - which leads to the final fold. We gain $840.

:21 IN: We have Q-J in the big blind. The board shows 6-2-2 K 7. But no one bets, and our bet of 60 on the river wins us a $270 pot.

:24 IN: We have pocket Queens -- and they survive an Ace on the river. It's a $1,450 pot! At the first break, we're in 72nd place with $2,640.

:43 IN: We have pocket Queens again in the big blind, and double the bet to 400. But the board brings J-A-7 9 8, and an opponent costs us money by hitting a straight.

:46 IN: Pocket Queens AGAIN - this time with the button. But a board of 2-6-2 J K only earns us a $400 sidepot, against someone who pushed with K-J.

:56 IN: We have an ugly-looking 6-4 in the big blind. But the flop is 7-6-7. We go all-in for 770. Our opponent has 6-5, and we wind up splitting the pot.

We limp to the one-hour break with only $435 left; 201 players remain.

1:08 IN: We go all in with pocket 10's -- but it's not enough, and we're eliminated in 199th place (sorry, we didn't write down what beat us).

Of Alcohol and Aces

"May the angels of heaven smile down on you, in the game you're about to play." Those may sound like strange words from a poker tournament director. But this weekend, he wanted us to eliminate someone he considered a pest.

We were already in the loser's bracket of a heads-up tournament, after losing our first match. Now we had to play a young woman who openly admitted she was drunk and was being annoyingly confrontational with some people. "I want nothing to do with a drunk-a** woman," the director declared at one point.

"Do you believe in angels?" we asked the woman who heard the director's blessing.

"Yes, I do."

Yet the woman was drinking -- and telling people about how she "chopped the prize money" earlier in the evening at a regular poker tournament in the next city. "I may be drunk, but I know what I'm doing," she told us as we started to play.

"I haven't been this drunk in a long time," our opponent declared. Then, perhaps because we were a listening ear and not talking back, she explained what was behind it. "I'm feeling heartbroken right now." It was emotional pain for a female friend, whom she said was being treated badly by a boyfriend.

"People think they know all about me," the woman continued. "But they don't know what's in my heart."

Then our opponent switched the talk to poker -- and we failed to offer our thoughts on what she was going through. First of all, God knows what's in her heart. And what He knows might disappoint her....

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? -- Jeremiah 17:9

The woman's heart may have convinced her she needed alcohol to cope with a friend's pain. But the angels she believes in probably would offer an alternative approach.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. -- Ephesians 5:18

God's Holy Spirit is a comforter with far fewer side effects than "Southern Comfort."

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. -- II Corinthians 1:3-4

We prayed at the end of the night that this woman might come to know the comfort which God offers. It's even less expensive than shots at a bar.

Oh -- you're wondering how the game ended? We went all in for 2,500 with pocket Aces. The opponent who kept saying she "didn't care" called with Q-4. Then she hit Q-4 on the flop, and a 4 on the turn for a full house.

Yes, we lost to a drunken woman (who we think deep-down wasn't quite as drunk as she sounded). We went home humbled. Poker can do that to you. May she learn that lesson, too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poker Night 212: Two Pair, Beware

First came the five-dollar win online in video poker. Then came a run of more than three miles around sunset -- far better than we expected. So as we walked home, we said to ourselves (and oh yes, to God) we felt confident heading to Lil Kim's Cove tonight. But we didn't want to be overconfident. Maybe God nodded yes to that request, because....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: J-7 of spades

We're in the small blind, quietly showing the "patience of Job." We've scarcely played a hand all night, because almost all the cards have been lousy. But these are suited and we're already in for half-price, so we call. Several players do at this full table.

ON THE FLOP: Jc-9d-7c

Aha! Two pair gives us the opening we've waited to see. In lead position, we bet 600 -- and people around us start guessing.

"Be careful of 8-10," someone says while folding. "Especially 8-10 of clubs." Hmmmm -- thanks for the "straight-on" advice. Two players call our bet.


A harmless card, so we bet 800. Our two opponents call again.


Uh-oh -- that's the last card we wanted to see. Now a straight draw is very possible, so we check. A man to our left checks.

"Five-thousand," bets the dealer - a bet which would leave us with less than 1,000. This man ran us off a winning hand several weeks ago, with a similar big bet on the river. He might just be doing it again, so we have to think this over.

"I know your works," we finally say (using words from Revelation 2:2). "But I can't call that." We fold, as does the other player. The dealer quietly reels in the big pot.

"Didya?" we quietly ask a minute later while shuffling the cards to deal.

"I had a straight," he answers. We mention our two pair. End result: good moves on both our parts.

That's the sort of night we had -- not winning a single hand. We went all-in with K-J right after the one-hour break, but fell to a man who held a 10 and made three of a kind on the river. Eighth out of eight at the first table -- nope, no reason for overconfidence at all.

MINISTRY MOMENT: You never know what sort of music you'll hear on the jukebox at a bar. Tonight we heard a country tune with the words, "We talked about God's grace...."

"God's grace is a good thing," we said -- unsure if anyone at the table heard it.

Then came the refrain: "God is great, beer is good and people are crazy." A man dealing cards to our left said he agrees with those words.

"Do you agree God is great?" we asked him. "Greater than beer?"

He said he did -- but he especially agreed with the "people are crazy" part. Do you agree with it? And with the song in general? We'll offer our thoughts in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 86 final tables in 212 nights (40.6%) - 15 cashes. Heads up record - 7-7.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 94 point wins in 507 games (18.5%), 38 final tables, 2 cashes. (We're not counting the video poker win.)

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $24,219, up $1,160.

Video Victory

We were eliminated from the National League of Poker 1:00 p.m. ET money game today in 95th place, out of 679. Is that bad? Well, not in this case....

....because we exited just in time to enter a 2:00 p.m. video poker tournament for money -- and we WON IT! We topped 96 other players, thanks to one wonderfully-dealt hand.

We were given A-K-Q-J of clubs, plus one "stray". We saved the four clubs, and received a 10c for a 4,000-point natural royal flush!

If we were on a poker telecast, someone might ask next what we'll do with the prize money. Well, five dollars for first place isn't much -- but we'll do with it what we'd do with $5,000: tithe on it.

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." -- Malachi 3:10

A "tithe" means a tenth. So 50 cents of our five-dollar win is set aside for God; we do this by donating to the church congregation we attend or a ministry. And if you think 50 cents is no big deal, remember these words of Jesus:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. -- Luke 16:10

From the eternal perspective of a watchful God, 50 cents matters. We thank Him for five dollars -- and for all heavenly blessings, great and small!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lessons from Four Aces

Language issues can happen in online poker, every bit as much as in live tournaments. Take what happened today at National League of Poker....

Dealer: cher67 wins Main Pot ($740) with Four of a kind, aces
Me: wow excellent
cher67: holy sh

Cher may have stopped short of finishing the second word, because NLOP seems to have a language filter. (At least it does for us; profanity shows on our screen with asterisks.) But the first word was enough to get us thinking....

omajor: nh
cher67: too bad there wasnt more money on the table
Me: What makes that stuff holy, anyway? :-/

Exclamations beginning with "holy" have been around for a long time. We remember "Robin the Boy Wonder" uttering them all the time on the old Batman TV series. We avoid them because a Biblical warning:

Above all, my brothers, do not swear -- not by heaven, or by earth or by anything else.... -- James 5:12

So we had a little fun with the exclamation, in hopes of making a larger point. The fun stuff continues with this response....

cher67: oxidation
Me: Ohhhhhh.
Dealer: suarez801 wins Main Pot ($630)
cher67: didnt think i knew the answer didja
Dealer: stolen wins Main Pot ($1550)
Me: I was expecting more of a Biblical answer than that.
cher67: lol
Me: Something like "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

That quote comes from I Peter 1:15-16 -- but it's really based in Leviticus 11:44-45.

cher67: well i guess if you say grace before u eat
cher67: jk
Dealer: mjgtlc wins Main Pot ($1210) with Straight, ten to ace
Me: Welllll - that's always a good idea.

It's a good idea because Jesus did it, to perform a great miracle:

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. -- Luke 9:16

Matthew 14:21 indicates more than 5,000 people were fed by that small donation. (In fact, we heard radio preacher Chuck Swindoll claim the other day the fish were little more than sardines.)

The "holy chat" ended there -- but we hopefully made others at the table think a bit. Holiness really doesn't come from exposure to the air, you know. It comes from exposure to God -- by "breathing in" the Holy Spirit, as God speaks to you in Bible study. The best "meat" to enjoy is the meat of God's word.