Sunday, February 27, 2011

If You Have a Queen (or a King)

We won our first match Saturday night in the heads-up poker tournament at The Red Barn. Then we lost two in a row -- the second stolen from us when an all-in opponent caught a flush on the river. But even before the games began, we saw something disturbing.

"It's your f***ing cards or your f***ing wife! Your cards or your f***ing old lady!"

The woman didn't look that old at all -- but she was angrily in a man's face, claiming he'd promised to stop coming to The Red Barn for poker nights. After a prolonged chewing-out, a bouncer stepped between them and persuaded the woman to leave.

"Would you want to go home to that?" the mostly-silent man then asked the room. Most of the men seemed to take his side.

"Did you promise her you wouldn't come here?" we asked the man.

"Yeah," he admitted. "But that was before she went out on her own all day long, doing her thing.... I stayed at home, spent nine hours cooking a Boston Butt, got drunk.... And then she comes home and says I have to spend all night with her?!"

We've never been married, so we don't claim any personal expertise in marital relations. But we know a good source of advice for couples, so we'll quote from it:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.... In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. -- Ephesians 5:25, 28

The love Jesus showed was truly an "all-in" sort of love. And He did it despite the fact that we're far from perfect people.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -- Romans 5:7-8

The love Jesus showed was sacrificial (a word worthy of another post). He put our need for salvation ahead of Himself -- being self-less as opposed to self-ish.

Card-playing actually might be one sign of a troubled marriage. We've known of husbands who play cards "with the boys" late into the night, while wives wait at home and internally churn over what's happening to their relationship. The men practice avoidance; the women seek loving attention.

In this case, we personally think the husband made the wrong choice. If he made a promise, he should stick to it -- even if it made him look like the official club wimp. After all....

The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. -- Psalm 145:13b

A happy "Queen" in the home is better than two Queens in the pocket anytime.

(If you dismissed all this after reading we've never been married, we encourage you to read this article by a man who's had a happy marriage for decades.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poker Night 233: Down By the Riverside

Our evening started well at Lil Kim's Cove, as we won a nice pot with a pair of Aces. But then the fireworks started -- with players making huge speculative bets while holding marginal hands. We laid low through all of that, then had timely pocket Aces in the small blind during the second hour. Our stack jumped from 5,000 to 26,000 -- and then came another tempting moment:

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We're in the middle of the betting order at the semifinal table. Applying our personal motto "Limp early, bet late," we call this potentially big hand. No one raises, and four players are in.


That's a nice flop, and we're tempted to risk it all right now. But when the play checks to us, we decide to make an alluring bet to keep people in. We toss out 7,000. A man to our left calls; the others bail out. We conclude from the call our opponent might have an Ace, but does not have a better kicker card.


We're first to act, and we're thinking as we count our chips aloud. Do we push now, against a man with a much bigger stack? We conclude we should. "I'm all-in -- 15,000."

Our opponent calls, and confirms our read. He has A-8. "You have me outkicked," he admits....


"Not anymore!" he adds. Our opponent makes two pair on the river -- and for the second week in a row, a fatal river card eliminates us. We finish 14th, at the semifinal table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I'm a little drunk," a man admitted as he sat down to our left at the semifinal table. We should stop right there and get your thoughts on that statement. Is a little drunk like saying a woman is "a little pregnant?"

We didn't show the man our can of diet soda, but we replied minutes later: "I choose to do things in moderation."

Admittedly, some critics could say we really don't -- because we don't drink alcohol during poker tournaments at all. They'd say that's abstinence, not moderation. But at least we were following the Bible's advice....

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. -- Philippians 4:5 (KJV)

How do you do that? And do you do it merely in the way you drink? Ponder that (and comment if you'd like); we'll offer our thoughts in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 233 nights (40.3%) - 15 cashes. It's now been seven months since we won any money at local tournaments.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments -- 121 point wins in 609 games (19.9%), 46 final tables, four cashes.

If the two big championship games we played this week had awarded NLOP points along with money, we would have gone four-for-four in point wins -- and our point percentage would have moved above 20 percent.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $41,822, unchanged (no play).

Feburary Senior Championship: Closer and Closer

Our first championship bid of the week was a strong one, with a top-70 finish. Tuesday night’s monthly Senior Championship at National League of Poker was a little less competitive – only 881 players. Only.

:06 IN: We have 10-A, and another player goes all-in for 350 over the blinds. We hold our nose and call. The flop is 9-J-J. But the turn is an Ace, and the river a 10. It leads to a split pot, and we win $600.

:10 IN: We have 4-6 in the Big Blind. The flop is 8-4-K, and our probing bet of 40 (the minimum) gets callers. The turn is 6, so we double the bet with two pair and get a caller. The river is a 9, and we offer 150. Our opponent folds, and we win $570.

:23 IN: We have Q-A of clubs in the small blind, and a player ahead of us doubles. Of course, we call. The flop is 6-Q-4, and our bet of 200 brings a caller. The turn is A, and our opponent bets 1,000. We gulp a little and call. The river is J, and we wind up splitting another pot. Our share is $925.

:27 IN: We have J-J, and call a doubled bet by an opponent. The flop is 8-J-5 – and when a player bets 100, we raise to 500 and get callers. The turn is 2, and we go all-in for about 950. An opponent calls, but only has 8-10! The river is 7, and we strike it rich.

That puts us to $2,960 at the first break – 53rd place, with 407 players left.

:35 IN: We have 9-9, and call a doubled bet. The flop is 6-8-6, and call a bet of 320. The turn is J, and the big bettor pushes with his last 126. That’s small enough for us to call. Then we bet 200 against another player on the river 3. A $400 sidepot is all we win, as the pusher had a third 6.

:45 IN: We have J-10 for the second hand in a row. The flop is 8-10-5. We had top pair in the prior hand as well, but folded after an opponent made an unorthodox-looking push on the turn. (We guessed it was a two-pair bet.) This time the bet is 200, and we call. The turn is a friendly J, and we call when an opponent goes all-in for 350. Then we bet a sidepot 400 on a river 5. The main opponent has J-Q – so our two pair win $3,400.

But then Q-A and 8-8 didn’t work – and we limped to the one-hour break at $2,239. We’re down to 104th, with 162 left.

1:10 IN: We have K-K in the small blind. A player ahead of us doubles the bet, but we respond by going all-in for a remaining 1,794. Two players call, but our kings wind up best – and we jump from the cliff to a comfortable $5,810. But in the process, we knock an opponent out -- and that brings this moment:

Samba:  u dirty flopblogger beetin up on her
Me:  what?!?!!?
Samba:  other tbl
ShortStack:  lol
Samba:  lol
Me:  Just playin' my cards :-)
Samba:  n1
Samba:  i like it

1:16 IN: We have 5-Q. The flop is 9-Q-6, and our bet of 700 chases the table away. With antes now required on every hand, we gain $2,800.

1:25 IN: We have Q-7 of clubs in the small blind. The flop is 8-2c-7, and we call a bet of 500. The turn is 2, and we call another bet of 500. The river is 6, both of us check – and our opponent has J-7. The Queen takes almost $2,000.

We reach the 90-minute break at $7,650. We’re down to 58 players, and we’re 35th. The top ten win money. But then 10-Q and A-8 fall short in the blinds, costing us a lot of money.

1:53 IN: We have 10-7 of spades in the big blind. That’s not much, and our chip stack isn't much, either – but the table folds! The walk wins us $3,600 in antes and blinds.

1:57 IN: We have Q-A with $3,625 left and blinds at 1,000/2,000. Translation: it’s time to go for it. We push – but the board comes small: 9-3-5-4-5. A player with A-2 of diamonds actually makes a straight flush on the river, to knock us out.

We finished the night in 33rd place – even closer to victory than Sunday night! Put the two tournaments together at a real casino, and a buy-in of $1,000 per game would have ended with about $6,000 in our wallet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Be Fruitful and Multiply

A recent post mentioned the false gods some people can create. The game of poker can bring some of them out -- such as money (especially if you're playing a cash game), success or even trees.

We noted from Galatians 6 the importance of developing the spiritual things, as opposed to things which are sinful. What kinds of things are we talking about? The apostle Paul answers that question one chapter back....

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23

Is it really possible to display these traits at a poker table? After thinking it over, we'd say yes. We've seen other players do it. And we've tried to do it.

Consider how some of these traits work together. If you control your human self's temptation to bet at a lot of pots, you'll automatically develop a patience approach to the game. You'll have peace and comfort in knowing some of the impulsive bets you might have made would have been big losers. And when a big hand comes, you'll have the joy of maximizing your chip stack!

The church group we attend is in a season of self-examination. We'd invite you to do the same thing. Consider the fruit Paul mentioned, and whether they're growing in your life -- including the time you spend in poker.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you -- unless of course, you fail the test? - II Corinthians 13:5

Monday, February 21, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 14: The Jackpot, and Beyond

It doesn't seem to take much to qualify for the National League of Poker Weekly Championship these days. We simply logged on every day, picked up two new "continuation bonuses" -- and a top ten finish Saturday qualified us for our fourth big Sunday night game in five weeks.

:02 IN: We have K-Q of clubs in the small blind. The flop is 6-10-5. Everyone checks. The turn is a J. Checks continue. The river is a Q, and the table folds to our $100 bet. We make a modest $60 gain.

:08 IN: We have Q-A, and call a raise of 215. The flop is Q-8-K, are are forced to call a bet of 225. The turn is a third Q, and we go all-in when an opponent bets. That opponent has Q-9, and we top him for $2,100.

:16 IN: We have K-Q. The flop is 8-K-2, and we call a raise to 120. The turn is another 8, and a player goes all-in. We dare to call - and our opponent has K-10! The river is a 9, and we gain $2,495.

:22 IN: We have A-4 of clubs. The flop is 2c-6c-6. Everyone checks. The turn is Jc, and we offer a wimpy-looking minimum bet of 60 to keep players in. After one call, the river is a 9. We bet 200, get a fold in response and gain $560.

:27 IN: We have 8-8. The flop is 8-9-4. We bet 100, and get callers. The turn is a 3, and we bet 200. An opponent with 9-7 goes all-in, and pays for it. The river is an 8, giving us QUADS worth $1,790!

At the half-hour break we have $3,337 - a comfortable 79th place, with 808 players still in. But then the well of cards ran dry for awhile, and several promising hands fell short.

:57 IN: We have 2-9 in the Big Blind with 997 left. The flop is Q-A-2, and we dare to bet 200 at it. One or two players call. The turn is a 9, and we go all-in with it! We win the comeback hand, for 1,982.

1:01 IN: We have 8-8. The flop is Q-8-10! We bet 1,000, and another player puts us all-in. But he has Q-J, and 7-4 follow. Suddenly we're up to $6,471.

1:02 IN: The very next hand brings us K-K. We raise to 700, and get callers. The flop is 5-2-2. An opponent goes all-in - and through complicated raising, so does someone else. But they have 5-Q and A-9! The turn and river are 6-J, and we hit the jackpot - jumping to $14,897 at the one-hour break!

A three-hand surge moved us from the brink of elimination to fourth place, with 314 players left.

1:21 IN: We have A-5. The flop is 3-K-4. Players check. The turn is a 9, and our bet of 600 gets a caller. The river is a 2, giving us a straight! Our bet of 2,000 is declined, but we gain $3,450.

Then a long dry spell came for us -- and by the third break, we were down to $8,966. We're 59th, with 120 left. The decline continued from there, helped by rising blinds, until....

1:54 IN: We have A-10 on the button. We go all-in, with 1,762 left. The flop is A-4-3 - and our pair of Aces winds up being best! We're suddenly back to $8,310.

1:58 IN: A-10 comes again, and we realize right away it's not likely to win twice in a row. But the flop is 5-6-10, and we dare to go all-in with top pair and 5,560 left. Sure enough -- a player calls with 6-5. J-8 follow up on the board, and we're finally beaten.

But our final place out of 1,497 contestants is #66. It's our best finish in the Sunday night "big game" yet. And if this had been a casino event, we probably would have won three times our buy-in.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Heads You Win

The National Heads-Up Poker Championship is next weekend in Las Vegas.

Our record in local heads-up games since last October: 14-23. (We were "two-and-out" in double elimination tonight.)

Now you know why we're not going to Vegas. Do you have any advice for improving our record?

Friday, February 18, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 13: Quick and To the Point

We've been so busy lately that we haven't mentioned making the weekly championship at National League of Poker for the third time in four weeks. (The $25 win on Saturday night made it possible.) We actually had other things to do last Sunday night, but gave it a try....

:02 IN: We have 10-10, and double the blind to 60. The flop is 8-8-4. Everyone checks. The turn is a 9. We bet 90, and a player calls. The river is a J, and we confidently bet 150. But the caller has an 8. We lose nearly half our starting stack right there.

:16 IN: We have 5-9 and fold it. Too bad - the board comesd 6-3-8-7-4, and our straight would have won.

:20 IN: We have 2-2. A player goes all-in pre-flop and we fold. Too bad again -- Ace high takes the pot.

:28 IN: We have 4-K in the Big Blind. The flop is K-9-J, and we go all in for our remaining 170. But a caller has K-10 to outkick us. The turn and river are 9-10 -- and we're on to those other projects. Out of 1504 players, we're a lowly #870.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poker Night 232: A Tens Situation

"You've been playing every hand," someone said to a man across the table from us at Lil Kim's Cove tonight. Trouble was, that man was winning most of them -- building a big chip stack, then betting accordingly. We gave up great cards to him a couple of times. Then came our hope for a big comeback....

BLINDS: 200/400


We're dealing -- and dealing with a serious challenge. After winning the first hand of the night with three 10's, we struck out with hands such as A-K and A-10. We have 4,325 chips. The big winner raises to 1,500 ahead of us. But he's bluffed at times, so we can't back down here. We call -- and we end up heads-up with him.


Can a flop be both pretty and ugly at the same time? This one is. We have three of a kind again -- yet the straight chances are obvious. Mr. Big Stack bets 1,500 again, and we really have little choice.

"I'll go all-in," we say and count out 1,325 chips on top his bet. Our opponent doesn't hesitate to call.

"Do you have the straight right now?" we ask as we show. "Because I've got the three 10'ers singing." Our opponent makes a facial expression of exasperation -- as if we've got him.


Our opponent says nothing -- and he still hasn't shown his cards.


"Straight," says our opponent.

"Nooooooo" we say -- joined by several around the table, as the chip leader turns over pocket Kings. The river cards drowns us, as we're first out at our table. We pretend to cry on his shoulder, after shaking his hand.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We live a short drive from Auburn University, which is making national news because a supporter of rival Alabama allegedly poisoned two historic trees on the Auburn campus. That act and an arrest came up in table conversation tonight -- and someone asked why the suspect might have done it.

"He was upset because someone put a Cam Newton jersey on the Bear Bryant statue in Tuscaloosa," we said recalling one online report. "That's a case of 'God is not mocked' in Alabama."

Yes, we said that -- because some Alabama football fans seem to put the late coach Bear Bryant on a god-plane. (And by the same token, some Auburn fans are sounding like a sacrilege was committed by poisoning the Toomer's Corner trees.) But in reality, there's only one true God -- and we were quoting Him:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. -- Galatians 6:7 (KJV)

"I'm glad I don't do that," you might say. To which we would answer: are you sure you don't? If you flippantly use the name of God or Jesus in profane language, we'd suggest you're doing it. And keep reading in Galatians....

For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. -- Galatians 6:8

You're mocking God if you live only for selfish earthly pleasures, and not the spiritual things of God. We'll consider that more closely in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 232 nights (40.5%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 119 point wins in 605 games (19.7%), 45 final tables, 4 cashes.

These numbers include the "knockout hold 'em" tournament we won last Saturday night. (We're one-for-one playing that!)

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $41,822, down $300.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Over-All Success

Poker games can provide all sorts of challenges. We played an online game tonight which had a very annoying one -- as our computer protection service decided to do a 30-minute update in the middle of the game. It was more than our computer could handle, and we had to wait 20 minutes to play a hand. (No, we didn't win.)

Then there was the online tournament we did win last weekend -- rallying against two players with huge stacks, and a chip advantage over us of more than 12 to one. What happened for us was an example of a regular theme for our pastor: overcoming. The Bible speaks about it dozens of times. For instance....

To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. -- Revelation 3:21 (KJV)

These are words of Jesus to a first-century church. In fact, Jesus used a form of the word "overcome" to address seven churches in Revelation 2-3. In every case, overcoming is promised a spiritual reward. But how do we do that?

For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. -- I John 5:4

As Jesus said in the gospels, you must be born again. That takes faith -- but not in your own "survival skills" or mental toughness....

Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? -- I John 5:5

That belief is more than saying words -- it's acting on your belief, to live obediently as though Jesus truly is your Lord and Master.

Overcoming can be a long process. In last weekend's tournament, we were at the last table for more than 180 hands before we won. But the payoff was nice. There's a check in the mail for us; there can be a crown of victory alongside Jesus for you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In or Out?

A previous post mentioned a poker table discussion which apparently (we're still not sure) dealt with beauty-related items and the Bible.

People wear all sorts of outfits to major poker tournaments -- from the "hoodie" of Phil Laak to the suit-and-tie business wear of Mike Sexton. But of course, outward appearance only gets you so far. How you play determines whether you're a winner or not.

We think the same thing is true, when it comes to the Christian walk. Some denominations and church groups are anti-jewelry or anti-makeup. We'll never forget a man we encountered aboard a rush-hour train, who started preaching: "Jesus Christ didn't have red lips. The apostle Paul didn't have red lips." (Perhaps because they were males?!) But we lean toward Jesus emphasized....

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.... If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? -- Matthew 6:28, 30

It comes down to what's more important in your mind. If it's merely about looking good at a poker table, you might not last long. If it's merely a right appearance at a worship service, Jesus says you're forgetting something:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. -- Matthew 6:33

The kingdom of God, He means. It's an endeavor which should work from the inside out, beginning with the Spirit of God dwelling in you.

If you want to study deeper into what the Bible says about fashion and beauty issues, check this article we posted several years ago largely for a Church of God audience.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Three For the Money

"Three cards???" we asked tonight when we tried the latest addition to National League of Poker. "UFC Knockout Hold 'em" is unlike any breed of poker we've seen. You're dealt and bet on three cards, not two. Then the flop comes as usual. Then a turn card. And that's it. No river.

So how did we do in our first try? All we did was ACE the exam! We finished first out of 106 players, to win $25 - our second NLOP cash win in two weeks!

After a slow start, we started winning good pots. (And we hit flushes on the turn to save us from elimination a couple of times.) We reached the final table in eighth place out of nine -- but as we hung around, two players who abandoned the game were forfeited. That left five. Then we were down to three - with only about 3,500 chips compared to two players in the 45,000 range.

Yet careful play allowed us to climb the mountain, despite a couple of stumbles. It took 163 hands for us from semifinal table on, but we grabbed the lead from "karatemonkey" with a run of several big hands while blinds were at 2,000/4,000.

Our camera batteries died at the crucial moment, but here's how the final hand looked. We played 5-Q-6 against our opponent's K-7-7, and made a straight on the flop while he made fatal "trips." His all-in bet was only natural. But so was our call - and an Ace on the river gave us victory!

There were plenty of PTL's on our part along the way. And this is a great example of how no deficit in poker is impossible to overcome. Hmmmm -- overcoming would be a great topic for another post.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Poker Night 231: A Soothing Quartet

We took tonight's tournament at Lil Kim's Cove somewhat seriously. We looked the part, after all -- still wearing a dress shirt and tie from a new workplace. And our chip stack looked the part, since a three-dollar cheeseburger earned us 6,000 bonus chips to add to our starting 5,000.

Then came the game -- and nice cards reached us several times. We were dealt pocket Aces twice, and the second pair took out a man who went all-in with 8,350 on a flop of 2-2-Q. (We never saw what he had.) But that wasn't the biggest thrill of the night....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 10-4 of clubs

We're trying to control feeling giddy, with a chip count in the 30,000. Having taken an opponent out minutes before with K-K, we can afford to "take a flier" on this one. We call, and no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: J-10-6 (no clubs)

We have middle pair and a good bit of momentum - so when the play checks to us, we put in a feeler bet of 2,000. A man to our left then goes all-in for about 7,500 more. The table folds, and it's up to us. We can afford to make the call, but this is chancy. A lot of things could top us. Yet for reasons we really can't explain....

"I'll call it. I've got a 10."

Lo and behold -- our opponent admits we have him topped, but he doesn't show his cards.


Now we must really have him topped. We have the "three 10'ers" for the second time tonight.


"Whoa!" we exclaim -- as the 10'ers came running, to give us quads! Our bankrupt opponent never shows his hand, as we rake in a big pot plus a 5,000 chip quad bonus.

That momentum easily put us at the final table -- but then we were joined by people with racks full of chips. We held on for awhile, then attempted an all-in push with 6-6 one hand after another player tried it. For him it worked. For us it didn't -- as a King on the board meant a higher pair for a woman, knocking us out in a respectable sixth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: With two tables left, two women at the table next to ours started talking about the Bible. We heard one say, "I haven't found that in the Bible anywhere." So with a foldable hand, we went over to hear what it was about.

"Black nail polish," one woman said.

"Nothing," said the other.

So we're not sure what really was going on here -- but would you believe some Christians make beauty items such as nail polish a big deal? They base it on verses such as these....

What are you doing, O devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why shade your eyes with paint? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life. -- Jeremiah 4:30

The Bible never speaks positively about makeup, the critics say -- so Christian women should not wear it. What do you think about this? We'll share our thoughts in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 231 nights (40.7%) - 15 cashes. Heads-up tournaments: 14-21.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 118 point wins in 601 games (19.6%), 44 final tables, 3 cashes.

A check from NLOP came in the mail today, for a video poker win in early December. (Talk about a long lag time.) But as we expected, online poker play has dropped substantially due to a new work commitment.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $42,122, down $535.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The New Normal

After months of free time for playing online and in-person local poker, our schedule changed today. We're involved with a new project that (at least for a few weeks) will keep us busy 40 hours a week -- making guaranteed money, as opposed to the hope and dream of winning poker money.

At this point, it appears the change will mean a lot less online poker for us. We've already decided to reduce our number of local poker nights from two to one per week. But On The Flop will keep going, as our schedule and topics permit.

You might say we're starting a new life. We'd encourage you to do the same. And come to think of it, a schedule change might be involved there as well....

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. -- II Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

"Creature" is translated "a new creation" in other translations. God wants to put a new life in you, through "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Then He wants you to get together with others who have enjoyed the same experience.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. -- Acts 2:46-47 (KJV)

You might not be able to attend a church service every day. But at least once a week, it's good to join others in praise and worship. The "pots" might have soup or chili instead of poker chips, but we think they can be every bit as satisfying.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 12: One Big Thing

It may have been Super Bowl XLV to many people, but the dream was A-A for 1,414 players in tonight's National League of Poker Weekly Championship. We qualified for this big-bucks game for the second time in three weeks -- but what could we do with it?

:04 IN: We have 6-K of spades. The flop is 4-A-6 (no spades), and we offer a probing bet of 60. Two players call. The turn is a 4, and everyone checks. The river is a 2, and we bet 60 again. A woman calls - and shows 7-7 to top our two pair.

"Couldn't run you off," we write her in chat.

"You could have," she answers. But with an Ace sitting out there, it really wouldn't have been wise.

:06 IN: We have 3-A. The flop is 8-5-3, and we call an initial bet of 30 - but an all-in raise runs us off. (A player making 9's and 8's would have had us topped.)

:24 IN: We have A-10 of diamonds, and choose to limp. The flop is 3-7-A (no diamonds) and we're ready for action - but a player across the table bets 1,340, which would put us all-in. We smell at least two pair and fold. The opponent shows 7-6! "Aaaargh," we write.

:25 IN: On the very next hand we have A-8. The flop is 3-8-7, and when a player bets the minimum 100 we double in a raise. The turn is a doctor-ordered A, and we go all-in with 290 left. A player calls with a mere K-7, and we wind up climbing to 1,680.

:29 IN: We have K-10 of clubs - and when a player raises to 520, we dare to call. A flop of Q-4-4 (no clubs) runs us off when the raiser bets big again. Too bad for us; Q-4 follow to give several players a full house.

At the half-hour break we have 1,260 -- in the middle of the pack, with 745 players left.

:34 IN: We have J-A in the big blind. Two players stair-step the bet from 100 to 400, and we call it. The flop is 2-Q-2, and we're forced to fold when an opponent goes all-in. A-9 follow, giving a player with A-9 a two-pair winner.

:35 IN: We have A-Q of hearts in the very next hand, as small blind. A player raises to 500, and we feel forced to push all-in with 860 left. A second player pushes all-in as well -- and we both wind up being eliminated when the board shows 2-K-6-7-7, with only one heart showing. The winner had pocket tens.

Final result: 687th place -- a Miami Dolphin-level finish in this past season.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Poker Night 230: My Weekly Reader

"The best liar wins at poker. The best player doesn't," someone declared at our table tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. Part of the strategy, uh, lies in figuring out when your opponent means business and when he doesn't. We were reminded of this right away....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-J of clubs

It's the first hand of the night and we have a chance to seize the lead, so we announce: "200 more."

"Already?" the player to our right asks. Why, sure - and about half the table calls.

ON THE FLOP: A-3-5 (3 is a club)

It looks good to us, so we make a continuation bet of 300. Two players call it.

"That's a good bet," says an opponent to our left. But then he adds, "Be careful. I've got two pair."


"Now I've got a boat," our big talker continues. But we've heard this kind of tune before from this man, and we're not buying it. So we bet 400 ahead of him. He calls; the other man in the hand folds.


We're feeling modestly confident. But just in case our opponent actually is telling the truth, we limit our bet to 500.

"I missed the boat," our opponent admits as he folds - and we gain more than 2,000 chips right away.

"If I had raised, would you have called?" the man then asks. "If I had gone all-in, would you have called?"

"Wellllll...." is all we say. Others at the table guess we would have folded. What would you have done?

We won another nice pot later, to reach the one-hour break at 13,500 chips. But the second hour was a roller-coaster ride. We lost several thousand chips with two pair to a man with a straight. Then we made a flush on the river, after going all-in. We guessed an opponent was bluffing with a big bet, but his two pair topped ours. Then we pushed with A-6 after seeing an Ace on the flop, and it topped a man with A-2.

But the wild ride finally stopped when we were dealt A-K and raised to 5,000 with it. An opponent went all-in, and we had to call with 10,000 left. He showed K-J - and a Jack on the flop was good enough for him to eliminate us in 22nd place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that a real dollar?" a man to our right asked before the game began. No, it wasn't - he'd spotted our "Lord's Supper" card protector.

"Do you believe in Jesus?" we asked the man. He said he did -- and we sincerely hope you do.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 93 final tables in 230 nights (40.4%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 117 point wins in 598 games (19.6%), 44 final tables, 3 cashes.

We mentioned in another post our second-place finish Tuesday night - but earlier today, we almost made the final table in a big tournament again! We finished 11th out of 622.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $42,657, up $3,850.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One vs. 1,000 (Almost)

Think about the odds of winning a major poker tournament. The field can have hundreds of players, or even thousands. It's why we sometimes tell people we don't have to watch the TV game Survivor -- we live it.

Tuesday night marked our most satisfying moment yet along those lines. We played the 10:30 p.m. ET tournament at National League of Poker, with 963 players entered -- and almost three hours later, we were playing heads-up for the top prize!

We don't normally keep track of our hands in these nightly games. But It started with an all-in bet we made with about 485 chips left. That win pushed us above 2,000. Then a couple more in the following minutes advanced us to 3,998. Despite a setback or two, we hit a winning river card or two. We kept winning big pots, besides -- and by the final table, we had more than 150,000 chips!

As contestants dropped at the final table, we hit a high of about 460,000 chips with only two opponents remaining. But then we lost a giant pot with two pair to "TxFlyBoy" who made a well-hidden straight. But the third player fell off before we did, putting us heads-up with a huge chip disadvantage of more than 20 to one.

After a few hands, TXFlyBoy prevailed. But we wound up with second place and a $25 prize (first won $50). At a casino, the payoff on our "1,000-point" investment would have been massive - we estimate more than $70,000.

"This has been one h**l of a tournament," someone wrote at the final table.

"It's been heavenly for me," we responded. And come to think of it, our lives can be like that....

"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. - Acts 14:22

A big payoff usually requires a good bit of effort. But when the reward comes, it's quite satisfying. The reward for believers of God's kingdom will come when Jesus returns. If you're in the middle of hardships right now, ask God to provide spiritual strength and wisdom through it all.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. - James 1:12