Monday, January 31, 2011

Poker Night 229: Leery of the Loot

The chips were flying in abundance at The Red Barn tonight. Two kinds, in fact. An order of nacho chips with cheese earned you 10,000 bonus poker chips! So we seized on that opportunity -- and found the stakes were higher with some hands as well.

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: J-10 of spades

We're under the gun -- first to act, and needing some action. Despite the bonus, we've yet to win a hand and hold about 14,000 chips. We simply call, and several players at the table join in.

ON THE FLOP: A-10-8 (8 is a spade)

It's a pair, but it's not top pair. So we play cautiously and check, only to find the man to our immediate left throwing out 1,200. Primarily because we can afford, we join a couple of other players in calling. Our big hope is for spades.


So much for that idea. We check again. Now the bettor plunks down 1,700. One player calls, but we decide he has an Ace and folds.


Aarrgh! This would have given us two pair -- and a winning hand, because the bettor took the pot with merely an 8. He bet big with little, and chased us off a sizable gain.

A three-way split of a Broadway straight at the end of the first hour left us with about 22,000 chips -- but then hour two brought a few big pots. In one case, Q-Q beat an opponent's semi-bluff big push with 7-7. Our stack climbed above 40,000 -- but then the cards went dry, and our stack went down.

With blinds at 5,000/10,000, we finally pushed all-in with 3-3. But we lost to a woman with an Ace who paired it on the flop. That push cost us another final table appearance; we finished tied for ninth (due to a double take-out).

MINISTRY MOMENT: A classic album rock song came up on the jukebox during the second hour -- but we only realized when we came home we've misunderstood the lyrics for decades. Van Halen sings Runnin' With the Devil, but we thought they sang "Flirting."

"You don't want to flirt with the devil," we tried to tell our table. "Love God, but don't flirt with the devil."

No wonder the players didn't understand. But come to think of it, running with Satan is every bit as bad an idea as flirting.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. - James 4:7

It's tempting to recommend you run from the devil. But the New Testament actually recommends a different strategy....

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. - I Peter 5:8-9

You can stand strong against Satan's temptations by being clothed with "the armor of God." Read Ephesians 6:10-18 to learn all about that.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 93 final tables in 229 nights (40.6%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January Poker Studs Championship: Early to Rise

We never told you about our third online championship try of this past week - "Poker Studs" on Wednesday night. It paid to be a "stud" who shows up on time....

:00 IN: We open the night with 6-5. The flop is 9-6-3. We bet 90, and the table folds!

:01 IN: We have 8-7. The flop is J-4-6. We bet 90 again - and the table folds again! Two hands, $240.

:18 IN: After a couple of small losses, we're in the big blind with A-3. The flop is 2-A-9. We bet 110, and the table folds once more. We gain $260.

Small losses lowered our stack to $725 at the half-hour break. Out of 367 players remaining, we're a woeful 319th. But then....

:37 IN: We have 4-A. The flop is 4-J-A. We bet 150 with two pair, and get a caller. The turn is an 8. We push all-in with 425 remaining, and gain a fold! We're back in the hunt at $1,250.

:38 IN: We have A-J of diamonds. The flop is 5-2-8 with no flush chances. The table checks. When the turn is a 7, we bet the minimum 150 - and it works! We gain another $675.

:41 IN: We're in the big blind with 2-3. The flop is 6-4-6. But then come A-5, giving us the "wheel" straight! We gain $450 more.

:45 IN: We have A-7 of diamonds, and bet 200 with a 9-2d-A flop. Trouble is, an opponent raises 500 -- and his A-K tops us. We take a substantial loss.

:51 IN: We have K-K with 525 left, and push the "Krispy Kremes" all-in. Someone takes us on, but with merely 6-J. The board is 9-2-5-2-Q, and we rebuild to $1,575.

:54 IN: We have A-6 of diamonds - but someone goes all-in for a huge amount, and we fold. Too bad; three diamonds show up on the board.

1:02 IN: We have A-9 in the small blind. The flop is A-6-3, and we bet the minimum 300. The turn and river are 5-8 - and we beat Q-J, to gain $2,025.

We hung around to the one-hour break, with $1,925 in our stack -- 104th, out of 147 left.

1:25 IN: After a long wait for good cards, we're forced to go all-in in the small blind with 7-J. The flop is 5-Q-K -- which settles things, as an opponent called with K-Q.

Final score: 83rd out of 907 players. We would have won money in a casino, but only the final table won money under NLOP rules. We still are not a "poker stud."

Going By the Book

During a recent poker night we brought up the "book of life" mentioned in the Bible. And a man told us everyone's name is in that book -- with the only changes occurring if God removes your name due to some terrible sin.

To be honest, this was a point of view we hadn't considered before. So we went back to the first apparent Biblical reference to God's book of life....

So Moses went back to the Lord and said.... "Please forgive their sin -- but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book." - Exodus 32:32-33

Moses knew about this book, and God said he would blot sinners out of it. (The Hebrew word for "blot" also can meant "wipe out" or "destroy.") So indeed, it seems fair to say God puts everyone's name in that book -- perhaps at birth, perhaps even before (a topic for another time). King David also knew about the book of life....

You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you.... May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous. - Psalm 69:19, 28

So the book of life should be a roll call of righteous people. But there's a perilous problem with the Lord's answer to Moses:

There is no one righteous, not even one.... For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.... - Romans 3:10, 23

Since all (save for Jesus) have sinned, how can anyone have their name in the book of life? We think the answer lies in getting your name restored by God, through a life of repentance and obedience to Him.

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. - Revelation 3:5

Verse 3 mentions those two keys to overcoming - "obey.... and repent." We think the best order is to repent first. Then to borrow from a gospel song, one angel may say to another: "Give me the pen" - to be in God's book for good.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Poker Night 228: House of Representatives

If our title makes you think we're going to talk about online gambling legislation -- sorry, that's another topic. We're talking about what happens when a poker room is filled with bluffers. Tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, we "sorta kinda" became one of them.

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 8 of spades-7 of clubs

We're in the small blind with about 7,200 chips -- slightly above where we started, thanks to an early pot win with two pair. No one raises, so we call and give this a try. About half the table is in.

ON THE FLOP: 5s-3c-Kc

We have three clubs and little else. We check, as does everyone else.


We now have a pair -- but perhaps more importantly, three clubs are showing. We lead out 300, to feel what our opponents have. A man to our immediate left ponders for a moment, then calls. The others fold.


No flush for us, but still "second pair to the board" as they say on TV. So we can represent a flush -- and we bet 400 to make our opponent wonder. The man to our left goes into the tank. After about 20 seconds, he reluctantly folds.

We never showed what we had, nor did he. But if he had a flush, we imagine he would have called or raised.

That small gain was followed by a large loss, and we had 6,000 chips left at the one-hour. Then with 4,500 left, we were dealt A-Q -- and a woman across from us pushed with a much larger stack. We felt compelled to call, and discovered she had J-J. Trouble us, all the cards came out low and her Jacks knocked another player out as well as us -- tied for fifth at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We forget exactly what led to it, but a woman to our right at one point exclaimed, "Lord!"

"King of Kings and Lord of Lords," we answered. The woman laughed a bit, as if she knew what we meant -- or better put, Who we meant.

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. -- Revelation 19:16

Who would wear a name like this? Another verse in Revelation helps explain it....

They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings -- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. -- Revelation 17:14

A "Lamb" is a Lord? And He has followers?? Who could this be?

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" -- John 1:29

The Bible truly can be a "connect-the-dots" book -- but we can connect Jesus to the "King of Kings, Lord of Lords" title. Have you connected with Jesus, and made Him your Lord?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 93 final tables in 228 nights (40.8%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 113 point wins in 588 games (19.2%), 43 final tables, 2 cashes.

NLOP changed its "point matrix" this week, making it easier to win points in large tournaments. We earned points Tuesday for finishing 97th out of 625 players. Before this week, that would have fallen short -- with 70 the cutoff for games with 600-699 players.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $38,807, up $2,270.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January Senior Championship: Tight Pockets

Some people take the monthly championships at National League of Poker seriously. Our first table showed that tonight -- as we went seven hands before a single river card appeared. So how did we do during tight times?

:03 IN: We have K-K, and have seen moderate bets bring table-wide folds. So we limp, and bet 60 (double the blind) with a flop of A-8-Q. Sure enough, we win; up $150.

:08 IN: We have K-A in the small blind. But nothing pairs at all on the board, and we have to fold to a river bet.

:11 IN: We have J-K. The flop is A-Q-J, and we call a minimum bet of 40. The turn is a 2, and we fold to another 40 bet. (The river is a Q, and we would have been topped.)

:13 IN: We have K-Q, and call a raise to 120. The flop is 10-J-6, and we call a bet of 110. The turn is a J, and the opponent bets 240. We only have 350 left, and decide not to take the chance.

:16 IN: We have J-4 in the big blind -- and the table folds! (We told you it was tight.) We get a walk, and say "bless you" to our opponents.

:19 IN: We have J-Q. The flop is 10-A-J, and we make a feeler bet of 60 which gains one caller. The turn-river are 8-6. Our opponent has 7-Q, and our pair takes $300.

:26 IN: Finally moved to another table, we have Q-Q under the gun -- but we merely call. When the flop comes 7-3-5, we go all-in with 310 left. A caller has only 10-J, and a Jack on the river isn't enough.

We almost go back to our starting point with a $970 pot. After the blinds, we reach the break with $820 -- 306th out of 408 players still in the game (864 started).

:40 IN: We have 10-A and try to limp -- but a player to our left raises to 780. That practically would put us all-in, and we decide to risk it with 40 more. A second player is all-in as well. Trouble is, the raiser has A-J.


No help there. We need a 10.


No, not good.


We're outpunched, and wind up in 336th place -- down about 30 spots from December.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Poker Night 227: Getting Well Soon

Around three hours before tonight's tournament at The Red Barn, we were not feeling well. (Let's just say we didn't heat the leftovers long enough the night before, and they came back to bite us.) But thanks to some soothing chicken noodle soup at dinner, we made the game -- and then the game made some nice memories.

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 8-2 of hearts

It's the first hand after the one-hour break -- and what a first hour! We gained several big pots (one so big, the Tournament Director noted it was a "two-hand snatcher"), and jumped from 6,000 at the open to 26,500. Now we're in the big blind, and no one from our table of six has raised. We safely check.

ON THE FLOP: 5h-6h-8d

Top pair, table beware! We lead out 2,000, continuing a rather aggressive betting run at the end of the first hour. Most players fold, but a man to our somewhat reluctantly calls.


There's an obvious straight possibility here -- and when we check, our opponent bets 5,000. We stop and ponder this for a while. Then suddenly, we realize something -- we made a flush with that card! And we're open-ended for a straight flush to boot! So sure, we'll call 5,000.


Now we check in confidence, hoping for a bet we can counter with a big raise. But our opponent only checks, and shows his 9. He did hit the straight, but we topped him and added about 11,000 chips to our stack.

That big gain came in handy, as we lost a big pot to that same man later when he hit a full house on the river. Our stack drained away until we had to go all-in with 8-9 of hearts. It turned into an open-ended straight draw, and we hit a winning Jack on the river!

That led us to the final table -- and we won big again there with A-K under the gun. But the cards ran out, as other players dropped out. Forced to go all-in again with 4-4, we lost to a man who made a pair of 10's. Yet we wound up tied for third (tied due to a double elimination), for our best live tournament result since Labor Day.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "It's your lucky pencil!?" a man to our left asked when we showed him tonight's card protector -- a stubby yellow pencil, like you might find at a mini-golf course.

"It's not really for luck," we said. Then we had to wait through a conversation before we explained its purpose. "I brought it to remind me that need to be written in God's book of life."

"We're all in the book of life," the man responded. That is, every human name is there. "You don't want to be erased."

"What would it take to be erased?" we asked.

"Something really bad," the man said.

What do you think of this explanation? If you're not sure what we're talking about, here's a clue from the Bible....

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the 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. -- Revelation 20:12

So we ask you: is our fellow player's statement on target? We'll offer our thoughts in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 93 final tables in 227 nights (41.0%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 11: If Only

For the first time since early December, we qualified for tonight's weekly championship at National League of Poker. It's not easy to get there (especially if you don't play online a lot, and we don't). And it's not easy to win, with 1,441 entries. So here's what happened....

:00 IN: We start with 3-4. Someone doubles the bet, and we fold -- missing out on a 4-3-A flop. It winds up being a straight on the board with 5-2 following, but two pair could have led to an early gain.

:01 IN: We have 10-J in the next hand. The flop is 7-8-5, and we call a minimum bet of 30. The turn is a King, and a bet of 90 leads us to fold. Too bad -- the river is a 9, and we would have made a straight.

:20 IN: We have 10-10 under the gun and call. Another player raises 100, and we call. The flop is 8-6-6. We bet the minimum 60, and two players call. The turn is 6, giving us a full house. We bet 120, and players call again. The river is an 8, putting a full house on the board -- only ours is better, so we bet 120 again. Players call, but they don't have a pocket pair. Our "boat" brings in a $1,420 pot.

:35 IN: We have Q-A and limp, calling a doubled bet of 400. But the flop is 2-10-6, and we bail out when a player goes all in with it.

:48 IN: We have A-K of diamonds under the gun, and double the bet to 400. An opponent goes all-in, making our total bet 595. The flop is 7-8-K, and we go all-in with 630 chips remaining. Two people call, and a chip leader shows a measly Q-4! But amazingly the turn is a 6. The river is a 5. That measly hand becomes a winning straight!

Final score: 515th place out of 1,441 players. We ached early about the hands not played, then wound up getting burned by someone making a donkey-looking call simply because he could afford to do it. It worked for him; usually it winds up burning us.

(But the good news is that we've qualified for NLOP monthly championships both Tuesday and Wednesday night. Maybe things will improve?!)

Knocking On the Door

We did a little better this weekend in the Saturday night "Heads-Up" tournament at The Red Barn -- in the winners' bracket for awhile, before ending the evening 2-2.

But we were struck by one moment when the Tournament Director turned to us for a comment. The jukebox at the club was playing the Bob Dylan rock classic, "Knocking on Heaven's Door."

"I don't just want to knock on heaven's door when I die," the director said. (He's the man trying to walk a Christian path, and having mixed results so far.)

There are several ways to look at that line. The song's context shows it's said by someone about to die. That's a traditional view of entering heaven -- but you may be surprised to discover it's not the Biblical view.

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man. -- John 3:13

Jesus said these words -- and since He came from heaven to walk the Earth (Philippians 2:5-8), He should know this topic pretty well.

We answered the Tournament Director by changing the subject a bit. "When you pray, you're knocking on Heaven's door." In fact, it's like a phone line to the throne of God. But we need to pray in the name of Jesus.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. -- John 14:13-14

Talk about a great offer! But why pray in Jesus's name? Because He also said....

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. -- John 10:9 (KJV)

Here's hoping you're "knocking on the door" of final tables and poker wins soon. But more importantly, we hope you'll approach the heavenly "door" -- to find help with the spiritual things which matter most.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Poker Night 226: Double (and a half) Trouble

Question for male readers: Do you think you have women figured out? When a woman comes to your poker table, is it more or less of a challenge? We faced a wily woman tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, and had a decision to make....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: K-10 of diamonds

We have about 6,600 chips early in the game. We're first in the betting order, and call this promising hand. Several players join in.

ON THE FLOP: Qd-6c-4d

We have a flush draw, and would have "the nuts" if an Ace of diamonds comes. We check, but a young woman across the table bets 300. We call; everyone else folds.


This gives us a pair, but we're not necessarily confident about it. So we check -- and so does she.


We miss the flush, but have two pair -- and suddenly we feel better about betting. We offer 400.

"Raise to 1,000," our opponent says. Is she laying low with a third Queen? We've played enough poker with this woman to know she sometimes makes impulsive bets, whether she's "got the goods" or not.

"I'll call," we decide -- and the woman makes a noise as if she didn't want us to do that. "Do you have a Queen?"

She doesn't -- admitting she was on a flush draw, too. We hit two pair while she didn't, and use good reading to take a nice pot.

Several more pots came our way after that in the first hour, thanks to good cards and some moderately aggressive betting. We reached the break at 24,950 chips, then made a "nut flush" in the second hour.

That led us to the final table -- but then we probably lost a big opportunity, by going all-in pre-flop with pocket Aces. We had no takers, and merely gained blinds. Nothing big came after that, and we were forced to go all-in with A-5. The board didn't pair for us, and we lost to a man who made a pair of Kings. We walked away ninth -- but thinking about what might have been.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Lord's supper" card protector to a man at our main table tonight. He recognized the scene without any explanation, and told us he believes in Jesus.

If you're one of those who say you believe, may we offer a challenge to you? Don't simply settle for belief. Here's what we mean....

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. -- James 2:19

The demons shudder because they seem to know about an upcoming punishment they'll face (see Matthew 8:28-29). How can you avoid the same sort of fate? James offers an answer....

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. -- James 2:18, 26

Put your faith (or belief) into action, by doing good deeds that please God. We think in the process, you'll also please other people.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 92 final tables in 226 nights (40.7%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 110 point wins in 577 games (19.1%), 42 final tables, 2 cashes.

Lil Kim's Cove actually was our second final table of the day! We were fifth in an afternoon online game with 248 players (but only first place won money).

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - four "point wins" in 16 games (25%). Pretend cash games - $36,537, down $1,325.

Every night Poker Stars has a "$500 freeroll" with 10,000 players. Wednesday night our finish was #442 -- and had we held on for the top 380, we would have gained a ticket into a tournament for the big money.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Poker Night 225: King Day Special?

Blame the end of Monday night football games. Or Martin Luther King Day. Or a cold rainy night. Whatever the reason, barely enough players showed up at The Red Barn tonight to fill two poker tables. That should have worked to our advantage - but when a poker game starts, you never know....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

We've barely played any hands so far, because the cards have simply been lousy. The sight of familiar faces gives us hope, so we call. Several players at the full table do.

ON THE FLOP: K-7-10 (rainbow suits)

We're third in line to bet. When the man to our right checks, we put 400 on our top pair. Two players call - the big blind and that man to the right.

"What do you think the next two cards will be?" asks a woman out of the hand.

"I'll say a 6 and a 3," someone else predicts. OK....


Pretty good for the predictor -- and for us. The big blind checks. The man to our right offers 200. We still have top pair, but we modestly call. So does the big blind.


A little groaning occurs around the table - close, but not quite. But the big blind is betting, not groaning. He puts out 800. The player between us folds, and we're left to wonder. Our first guess is one of two things. Our opponent could be "stabbing" - trying to steal the pot while holding nothing. Or....

"That looks like a two-pair bet," we say. The big blind says nothing. But we lean on the side of a stab, and we call.

"I do have two pair," our opponent says -- showing K-6. He bided his time on the turn, and struck on the river. By the way, the pot-winner noted he was getting "eight to one on my money" since he had top pair on the flop.

We won a small pot a few hands later, but we never recovered completely. After the one-hour break, we went all-in with Q-Q in the big blind. A third Queen came on the river -- but the board also had J-10-9, and the man who beat us before had a King for a winning straight. We drove home frustrated, with only 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We don't remember what cards came out, but one flop tonight prompted a woman to say "Holy...."

Then she stopped. So we tried to fill the gap: "Holy is the Lord God Almighty."

We're not sure if anyone heard us complete the sentence, but we borrowed it from Scripture....

And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." -- Isaiah 6:3

Who's calling here? Verse 2 says they're "seraphs.... with six wings." They were stationed above "the Lord" (verse 1), in what seems to be a vision experienced by Isaiah. But holiness isn't merely for God:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." -- I Peter 1:15-16

If you're not sure how to be holy, read verses 13-14. If they still leave you puzzled, leave a comment -- we might be able to help.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 91 final tables in 225 nights (40.4%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thoughts About One King

It's better to have a pair of Kings at the poker table, of course. But the "one King" we're thinking about is Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior -- whose birthday is a U.S. national holiday Monday.

King labored for racial equality. And in the world of poker, that seems to be a reality. Think about the diversity of names and faces in major tournaments -- from Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson to Scotty Nguyen and Humberto Brenes. If you have the buy-in money, you can play. The only "color" that matters is the value of your chips.

Free poker games in our area work the same way. Although we've noted a recent incident where a bystander upset a player with racial slurs, we've never heard any racist language at the tables we play. The people around the table want to play poker, not start barroom brawls. And with no entry fee, anyone can join in.

The Bible indicates Jesus Christ will come back -- and when He does, the color of someone's skin or the place of someone's birth won't matter. Here's what will....

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. -- Galatians 3:26-27

It won't come down to who you are, but Whom you believe. Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and being baptized into His Church (Acts 2:38) makes you one of His sons. And although many churches today may not look this way, you'll be on the way to an equal opportunity destiny:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. -- Galatians 3:28-29

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Poker Night 224: Rock the Boat

"Are you putting this on your blog?" When a poker player asks us this in the middle of the hand, it's a sign he's confident he can beat us. Trouble us, we felt confident about the hand we had at Lil Kim's Cove tonight as well. A big clash was destined to happen....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-3 offsuit

We're dealing the last hand before the one-hour break. We won an early pot, and have about 6,000 chips. No one raises, so we call with our Ace. Several players join in the hand.


A man across the table from us jumps back at this, excited for a moment. Then he calms down and checks. When our turn comes, we bet 600.

"Only 600?" someone asks. Yup -- because we don't have a King, so we're exploring a bit. Two players call, and then the excited man asks that question about blogging it. To prove we might, we turn our pocket recorder on as we deal.

"Are we ready to do this.... and see, there's the turn card...."


"And what do you say to that?" The excited man puts out 600.

"Y'all play with each other," the other man in the hand says -- but he calls.

"I'll call 600," we say.


"There is a third King!" we say to the recorder in our play-by-play. "Now what's he gonna do?"

"I'm in the hand. I want y'all to know that," says the second man in line. The excited man is first to act, and he thinks for a while. "If you're gonna get 'em all, you bet."

"You ain't gonna bet," player #1 says. "You ain't got the guts to put it out there."

"Ooooo," a woman out of the hand responds. "He called you a coward."

"No no, I didn't say those words."

"Not exactly, no," we semi-agree. Then the excited man bets 2,500.

"What the h**l do you have?" the alleged coward asks as he folds. Now we have a big decision to make.

"Well, either you have quads," we say examining our full house, "or we're going to split this pot. So I will call. And you can show me your quads and embarrass me."

Our opponent shows A-K. Sure enough, he had reason to be excited -- quads to beat our full house! He takes not only a huge pot, but a 5,000-chip bonus.

That slashed our chip stack to 1,975 -- and after the break, we were eliminated quickly. We pushed all-in with A-4 and saw a 4 on the turn, but a man next to us with a 9 made a higher pair.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "When I deal, I never give myself good cards," the man who knocked us out said earlier.

"That shows you're a giving person," we replied. "Giving is a good quality to have." Then we threw in a punchline. "It won't win you a lot of poker tournaments, but it's a good quality to have."

We've heard it said that hearts is a better card game than poker for practicing the "way of give." The fewer hearts you collect, the better your score. But as we read the Bible, we find God is both a giver and a taker....

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -- John 3:16

The greatest gift God could offer was Jesus Christ, by whom we can enjoy salvation from sin. But what's the taking side?

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. -- Psalm 73:24

God plans to take His believers into a beautiful new place....

And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. -- II Peter 1:11

A life built around giving will reflect God, and lead to the greatest takeaway of all.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 91 final tables in 224 nights (40.6%) - 15 cashes. Heads-up record: 9-17.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 106 point wins in 567 games (18.7%), 40 final tables, 2 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Full tournaments - three "top ten-percent" finishes in 15 games (20%). Pretend cash games - $37,862, up $3,280.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dust and Divinity

We've noted before how online poker players can have unusual names. A recent tournament at National League of Poker had an "all-in" clash between Samba and Sawdust. The chat went this way....

Dealer: Samba wins Main Pot ($3220) with Two pair, aces and deuces
Me: Samba dances past Sawdust
Samba: earth 2 earth sawdust 2
Me: well, dust
Samba: ty
Me: That's a Bible quote (sort of)
Samba: yep i thnk
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($735)
Samba: or superman said it lol

After checking a Bible concordance today, the quote we both had in mind is not scriptural after all. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" actually comes from an Anglican Church prayer book. But during the game, we quickly consulted a Bible and recalled something else:

Me: Found it : "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
Me: Genesis 3:19
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($395)
Samba: yep near da front
Me: Yes it is

That quote was said by the Lord because Adam disobeyed His command not to eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17, 3:17). Sadly, humans have been disobeying God's commands ever since -- in a variety of ways, from murder and stealing to having images of false gods.

Of course, this discussion led to a question....

Me: Do you believe in the Bible?
Samba: yes ....
Samba: do u no y god can say with truth He new u be4 u were born
Me: He was around before I was. :-)

That statement by Samba isn't exactly in the Bible, either. But you'll find amazing statements by the apostle Paul:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.... -- Ephesians 1:4

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. -- II Thessalonians 2:13

Samba went on to write something about Albert Einstein proving all this -- but our table was split before we could learn more details. We're simply happy that Paul wrote all this. God has a plan for believers -- and apparently had it before time began!

So we ask: are you hindering God's plan for you? Accepting God's offer of salvation and walking in holiness can lead to something much greater than dust -- a gift of eternal life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Poker Night 223: A Little Too Low?

Is any pair better than no pair at all? In poker, the answer can depend on a lot of different factors. Consider what we faced tonight at The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 500/1000


We've won one modest pot during the first hour, and only have 4,000 chips after the break. Now we have a tempting hand for limping -- except an aggressive player has joined the table to our right. He raises to 3,500, which practically would put us all in.

"I'll fold," we say after thinking it over for a moment. "I'm tempted, but I'll fold." Was that the right decision?

ON THE FLOP: A-J-7 (Last two cards may not be precise)

The players still in the hand check.


Ouch!!!! Three times three could have been the jackpot hand for us. As it is, the man who raised took the pot with Aces and 7's.

"Good fold," he said after we explained what we had. "All about perspective." Good for him, yeah....

A few hands later, our perspective on the play was forced to the rail. We had to go all-in with 4-9 in the small blind, and the board didn't pair for us. We drove home with an uninspiring 19th-place finish.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Lord's Supper" card protector to a man shortly before we were eliminated. "Do you think that happened?" we asked him.

"Yes," the man answered. "I believe everything in the Bible is true." Good for him! But do you agree?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 91 final tables in 223 nights (40.8%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heads-Up: One and Done?

It happened again Saturday night. For the second time in three weeks, we played a heads-up poker match at The Red Barn which was over in a single hand.

We had Q-8 of spades. The flop brought three spades, including the King! We slow-played our flush, betting small and calling a raise. The turn was 10s, and we checked -- then called a bet. The river was 6s, putting a flush on the board.

"I'm all-in," our opponent said. Since only one card could beat us, we....

Well, we actually did pause a moment to think about this. What if he had that one card? Why else would he push? After that pause, an alternative explanation came to mind: he was making a big bluff to scare us off the pot.

"I'll do it. I'll call," we said. After sorting out the chips, we showed our Queen of spades -- and he showed an Ace of spades, to top us.

"Now we're even," our opponent said. In fact, this was the very same man we'd eliminated two weeks before with quads! Now he had knocked us out of this double-elimination event.

Have you made a big mistake in your life -- even bigger than the one we made? The good news is that God is willing to help you through a "loser's bracket" of sorts, to gain ultimate success.

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.... -- Proverbs 24:16

How can he rise? By repenting and turning back to God. Pray the sort of prayer King David did, after he made a big mistake:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. -- Psalm 51:1-2

In some poker tournaments, you can "re-buy" your way back into the action. God's gift of forgiveness is free, but you must humble yourself and ask for it. Once you do, learn from your mistakes -- and try not to repeat them.

Are You All In?

We heard this song for the first time a few days ago, and thought of two things. Poker was one. Can you figure out the other?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Poker Night 222: At the Controls

We've learned from watching poker on TV that the first player to bet in a hand usually "controls the pot." The earlier in line you are, the easier you can do that. We think it worked to our advantage tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: J-8 of spades

We're in the big blind, and lost a big early pot. So we have about 5,000 chips. The woman to our immediate left raises to 200. A couple of players call, and we decide 100 more isn't too much to ask.

ON THE FLOP: 4-J-2 (suits inconsequential)

We make top pair, and are first to play. We bet 200 -- in part to send a message, in part to probe for what everyone else has. The woman who doubled simply calls; everyone else folds.


This seems like a meaningless card to us. We have a hunch our top pair is best, but we're wary of something bigger -- so we bet 200 again. The woman calls again.


Still acting cautiously, we bet 200 again.

"I was chasing," the woman admits as she folds. She shows "big slick" A-K.

If we had checked our top pair, our opponent could have followed with a big scary bet which might have run us off. But small betting (perhaps combined with our reputation at the table) worked to our advantage.

We gained a larger pot after that when 3-3 brought a third 3 on the turn. But after reaching a high of 11,075 chips, the hands went dry for us. We advanced to the semifinal table, then was forced to go all-in with A-6 of diamonds with blinds approaching -- but we fell one diamond short of a flush, and lost to a man with two pair. We matched last Thursday night's outcome, finishing 14th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Lord, have mercy," that woman to our left said at one point in the evening. We forget exactly why she said it, but we remember our response.

"May the Lord have mercy on us all. I hope He does." But stunning as it may sound, the Bible indicates God might not have mercy on everyone.

For he says to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." -- Romans 9:15

This quote by the apostle Paul goes all the way back to Exodus 33:19. Events in life show us God sometimes shows mercy on people in distress -- but at other times, He seems very distant. It's the stuff that can make some people angry at God. But at those times, we need to examine where we stand compared with God.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -- Hebrews 4:16

We think it's vital to approach that throne in prayer early and often -- even before the trials come which call for God's mercy and compassion.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 91 final tables in 222 nights (41.0%) - 15 cashes. (We're approaching six months since the last time we won money in a local tournament.) Heads-Up: 8-15.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 104 point wins in 554 games (18.8%), 40 final tables, 2 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $33,952, down $557.

We Are the (Weekly) Champion

Only 12 weeks after we finished second in the weekly video poker championship at National League of Poker, we made it all the way to the top -- finishing first last Sunday night! The October game had 229 players, and paid us $25. This week's event pays $50, and had far more contestants at 548.

This was the hand in the 100-hand game that made the difference. We were dealt A-J-10 of spades, held them -- and K-Q came up for a 4,000-point royal flush. We scored enough points in the other hands to win by 110.

So how do you win a video poker championship -- and finish first or second twice in a three-month span? Perhaps it's time we revealed some secrets:

1. Qualify. The top 1,000 players in points each week do, and it's not that difficult if you don't lose a lot during the week. We actually finished in the top two of a "qualifier" game, so points didn't matter.

2. Pray. We always do that before we play in a tournament like this. Our income is tight right now, so we need the money. But God's hand is strong, if it's His will for us to succeed.

You will shew me the path of life: in your presence is fulness of joy: at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore. -- Psalm 16:11, KJV

Monday, January 3, 2011

Poker Night 221: You Look Familiar

If you play poker on a regular basis, you know history can repeat itself. Pocket Aces can come in consecutive hands. And card patterns you saw weeks or months ago can come up again. That sort of thing happened for us tonight at The Red Barn -- and perhaps we should have known better:

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 10-K offsuit

We bought dinner to go with our soda tonight, which meant 6,000 bonus chips off the top. Then we won an early pot, so we have about 13,000 chips. That makes this hand easy to call -- and when a man to our left raises to 500, we're willing to call. About five players at the table give it a try.

ON THE FLOP: 10-9-9

We have two pair, but wonder what that man who raised has. We check. He bets 1,000. We call, as does one other player.


Now we have a full house -- but we also have a flashback to another night at The Red Barn. We won a big pot last June with "Jacks over tens," when two other players had "tens over Jacks." Could something like this be coming back around to bite us?

Given all this, we check. The man to the left bets another 1,000. Other players fold.

"You realize that quads are worth a 5,000 chip bonus," we say to the man. We hear one woman guess we have the quads, but we're actually saying this in hopes of "reading" a response from our opponent. We've never seen this man at The Red Barn before. He doesn't give any clues, leading us to think our hand is good. So we call.


We check once more. Now our opponent bets 2,000. Part of our brain is screaming "fold!", but we've committed a lot of chips to this pot. "I'll make him prove it," we say in calling.

"I've got a boat," the man says. And our flashback proves accurate -- as he has 10-10. His "tens over nines" beat our "nine over tens." We should have known better.

That cost us a lot, but we won a pot before the one-hour break to rebuild to 10,500. Then we escaped an all-in moment with Q-4 by making an A-10 straight! That lifted us to the final table -- but the good cards ended there. Forced to go all-in at the big blind with A-J, the board didn't pair while another player made a pair. We hopefully learned a lesson, while finishing sixth.

MINISTRY MOMENT: After a player won a huge pot in the first hand, the man who dealt the cards offered a plea: "Tip the dealer?!?!"

Those tips are commonplace in real poker rooms, but seldom happen in free games. Yet this gave us an opportunity to speak up. "I've got a tip for you. Love your neighbor as yourself."

The dealer agreed that was a good tip -- and it comes from a very good source:

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. -- Leviticus 19:18

You may be familiar with Jesus using that expression, in places such as Matthew 22:39. But the concept has its origin in the Old Testament, and God's instructions to Moses. That shows how timeless the idea of loving your neighbor is. May that continue with you in 2011 -- for instance, by not holding grudges against other players.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 91 final tables in 221 nights (41.2%) - 15 cashes.

If It Was Real: 220-Game Report

Before we check our live local tournament record, BREAKING NEWS from online video poker! We won the National League of Poker weekly championship Sunday night! Details are coming here shortly.

In our last 20 live tournaments, we reached eight final tables. That's about our overall average. But top-five finishes (how we compute money) weren't that frequent: twice we finished fourth, while one we were fifth. We add that to our pretend cost/return math and we have....

BUY-INS: 220 nights x $50 = $11,000

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

Second - 8 ($3,200)

Third -- 9 ($2,700)

Fourth - 10 ($2,000)
TIES for fourth:
4 two-way ($600)
1 three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 13 ($1,300)
TIE for fifth: 3 ($150)

TOTAL -- 54 for $12,967

We're in the top five almost one-fourth of the time! But our overall return keeps sliding -- now at 17.8%. Maybe we need to buy more food at these clubs, to have more bonus chips at the start?!