Friday, April 29, 2011

Bad Dawg?

Closed-circuit for Columbus, GA poker players:

The talk of the tables Thursday night was that The Dawg House had stopped four-night-a-week poker tournaments.

We called The Dawg House today, and an employee made it sound like a temporary thing -- with games to resume next week.

We also called the Columbus Vice Squad, to see if any action was taken there this week. An officer said we'd have to contact the Captain "who can release a statement" - but he won't be in until Monday.

Make of all this what you will.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poker Night 244: King Me

It was a fairly good day in online poker -- a top-100 finish in a tournament with 641, then an $1,820 pretend cash game gain. So did that mean our final table slump would end at Lil Kim's Cove tonight? A key moment came early....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: K-Q of clubs

We won a small early pot, so our chip stack stands at about 5,300. A player ahead of us raises to 350, and we call with our suited connectors. Several players at the full table join in.

ON THE FLOP: J-2-7 (Jack is a club)

Not quite a direct hit, but we have 60 percent of a royal flush. The other players at the table do us a favor by checking.


The board pairs -- but now we have a real flush draw. A man to our immediate right makes a really serious bet of 600. It's about a tenth of our stack, but something tells us he doesn't have a 2. We decide to take the chance and call. No one else does.


We miss the flush, but gain two pair. Yet our opponent doesn't slow down, betting 1,800. Now we stop to think for a moment. Could he have three of a kind after all? We're not really sure -- but cautious play hasn't worked for us lately, so we go for it.

"I'll call. Do you have a 2?"

"You win." Our opponent mucks his cards - clearly a sign he was bluffing! We show our K-Q to claim a big pot.

"He sucked out on the river," another player says. OK by us.

That put our stack above 9,000 -- and then we ordered a tasty cheeseburger for 6,000 more. But alas, two big bettors started dominating the table. We should have stayed out of the way, but we lost a couple of big pots trying to challenge them.

Eventually we put 1,000 chips in with A-10, then watched a big spender bet 5,000 on a flop of A-5-6. We called -- then went all-in when the turn was 6. Trouble was, the big spender had 6-5 for a full house. The river was 4 and we were no more -- tied for fifth at our table. Our slump of misses in local tournaments grows to a record 13.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The man who took us out led us into a fascinating discussion of God tonight, before the cards were even dealt. We carried a small candle, to note Jesus's instruction to be "a light to the world" (Matthew 5:14). "Do you believe in Jesus?" we asked.

"Yes and no," the man answered. "I have my doubts." Why? Because even though the man was dragged to church by his parents every weekend, he says he's become a logical thinker.

"If God has all power and can do anything," he asked, "why can't he make a rock he cannot lift?"

How would you answer this skeptic's question? We'll tell you what we said in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 244 nights (38.5%) - 15 cashes. We checked the records, and we've had "one in 13" streaks a couple of times. Maybe we're due for a comeback?!

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 130 point wins in 633 games (20.5%), 47 final tables, 4 cashes. We've earned points four days in a row, and finished sixth in a Senior Championship qualifying game Wednesday.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL CORRECTED: Pretend cash games - $44,797, up $1,070. (Updated, as the website shows we haven't topped $45,000 after all.)

UPDATE 1/1:45am 4.29.11

Five for Five

More than 500 players regularly enter the National League of Poker's weekly video poker championships on Sunday evenings. The top seven win money, so the odds of cashing are steep. Yet we've now done it three times in seven months!

After making second place in October and first place in early January, we finished fifth this past Sunday to earn five dollars. We actually tied in points, but apparently won a tiebreaker with a bigger single hand. (Sixth place also won five dollars, so there's no real disappointment either way.)

So how are we doing this -- especially since a computer deals the cards to every player, presumably at random? This big hand offers a clue. We were dealt three Aces, and held them over. Four Aces earns you 2,000 points if the "kicker card" is a 2, 3 or 4. (Higher cards mean a smaller payoff, such as 800.)

You can watch the "leader board" on the screen, and see what the target numbers are as the 100-hand tournament moves along. If someone makes a royal flush (and it happened very early Sunday), it's time to "go for broke." We only save cards which can bring us maximum scores. After all, eighth place earns the same as 508th -- nothing.

But we'd add this: we also pray for God's will to be done before a weekly championship....

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. - I Peter 5:6-7 (KJV)

Does it always lead to a payday? Nooooo -- remember, we've missed the money 90 percent of the time since last October. But ten percent is well ahead of the overall odds. And as some preachers would say, we're glad about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heads-Up Championship Week 2: Mellower Mouth

Apologies again for posting so late about the Sunday NBC Heads-Up Poker telecast. We had another busy weekend -- but hopefully that will change in coming weeks.

Mike "The Mouth" Matusow didn't do well in Sunday's match, losing in the opening round. NBC's Ali Nejad read him well, saying he didn't seem ready. In fact, Matusow seemed downright quiet while on camera -- not sounding boastful, except for one small moment when he won a pot.

Perhaps age is mellowing "The Mouth" a bit. But you're never too young to learn this lesson from the apostle Paul....

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. -- Galatians 6:14

You could win a massive pot at the World Series of Poker, but still wind up losing the tournament. And ultimately, you can't take poker winnings with you beyond this life. The only hope for an eternal win is through a relationship with Christ Jesus....

....who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." -- I Corinthians 1:30-31

So what has Christ done for you lately? The comments are open.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poker Night 243: A Time to Panic

We changed our poker schedule this week due to a special Holy Day, and made a Tuesday night visit to The Red Barn. We won two early pots to jump above 9,000 chips. And then....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 7-8 of diamonds

We sit in the Small Blind, and have lost a couple of mid-sized pots to drop to about 6,400. We limp in with suited connectors, but the Big Blind raises to 500. We join about three other players in calling.

ON THE FLOP: 6s-9h-10h

Now that's a nice order of cards -- a straight on the flop! We decide to slow-play to maximize our gains, and the Big Blind bets 300. After other players call, we're tempted for a moment to go all-in. After all, two hearts are showing and someone could be on a flush draw. But instead, we make a modest raise of 1,000. Only the Big Blind calls.


Uh-oh -- not the suit we want to see. We cautiously check, and the Big Blind bets 2,000.

"Can you beat a flush?" he asks us. "If you can't beat a flush, don't bother calling."

We've heard trash talk like this before, and we conclude he's trying to chase us off the pot. We call 2,000, leaving 2,250 in our stack.


Oh no!!! Now four hearts are showing, and our straight looks like a dead-end street. We check again. Our opponent bets 2,000 again.

"OK, I'll fold my straight," we say showing our cards.

"I had the flush," the pot-winner says. But he never shows the cards to prove it, and he asks moments later why we called his pre-flop raise in the first place. (Our "suited connectors" explanation seemed to satisfy him.)

So did we completely misplay this hand? We're not really sure. Other players at The Red Barn tend to buy more bar items than we do, giving them an automatic chip advantage due to bonuses. So our opponent had more chips to play with than we did.

But if we had pushed for 5,250 more chips after seeing the straight on the flop, the table probably would have presumed we had a huge hand and folded on the spot -- or someone like Mr. Big Blind with a huge stack might have decided to take us on, and in the process potentially take us out. What would you do?

We never recovered from that big loss -- eventually going all-in with A-9 after the one-hour break. A woman called with 3-2. So what happened? The flop was 3-3-2, of course. She made a full house, and sent us home shaking our head -- sixth place out of six at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "That looks nice," the Tournament Director said after looking at our "Lord's Supper" card protector. He hadn't seen it before. Here's a quote from that famous supper which you may have overlooked....

They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. - John 16:2

When we lost that big straight to the presumed flush, the pot winner and another man exchanged a "knuckled bump" across the table -- right in front of our nose. No one ever seems to offer that to us. The paranoid/persecuted thinker might conclude from that the other players are out to get us. It's not "killing," but a targeted elimination.

It's the nature of a poker game, of course. The only way you win is by eliminating everyone else. But why might we be on a "hit list" of sorts?

They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. - John 16:3

By comparison, a much more Christ-like attitude was displayed by the woman who hit that unlikely full house to eliminate us. "I still love you," she said as she shook our hand -- even though she offered it a touch early on the turn, when running Aces didn't come.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 243 nights (38.7%) - 15 cashes. The slump stands at 12....

Sunday, April 24, 2011


For the third time in seven months, we won money tonight at the weekly video poker championship of National League of Poker. In fact, it was our third "top five" finish -- fifth place out of 523 players!

How did we do it? We'll show you and reveal some of our strategy.... later this week in another post. We'll also share our thoughts on today's second week of the Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC. But not now -- we're under time restrictions for the seventh Day of Unleavened Bread.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Next Shoe Drops

First came the shutdown of several online poker sites. Now ESPN executives are talking like they might stop showing poker on its networks, after this year's World Series main event.

Of course, the poker sites are big advertisers. But don't people eat enough beef jerky to justify keeping those games on cable?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Poker Night 242: A Mucky Break

"Come here, 50! Jump into my purse!" a woman said tonight at our table at Lil Kim's Cove. That first-place prize would be welcomed by anyone -- and especially by us, since we've gone about nine months without a local live tournament win.

It was a roller-coaster ride for us tonight. First we made a big raise with a straight on the river, only to lose to a woman who made a flush. Then we made a top flush to climb back in. We had 3,150 at the one-hour break, but split a big pot with A-6 to improve to 6,000. Then came our wildest hand in quite some time....

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: Ace of hearts - 3 of diamonds

We're dealing, and facing a big decision. We have only 2,000 chips left. Do we hope for something better? We decide not, and go all-in with the Ace. Five players get in the hand, so 10,000 is all we can win while a sidepot is at stake for the rest.

ON THE FLOP: Ad-Jd-9s (unsure about last card, but it was NOT a diamond)

We make top pair, but our kicker card doesn't thrill us. And we quickly realize if a "diamond war" breaks out, we have very little hope. As we recall, the other players checked (this part admittedly is a blur).


Uh-oh -- now three diamonds are showing. As we recall, a young man to our right bet 5,000. One player folded; the others called.


Oh no -- we probably dealt ourselves right out of the game. The young man to our right bets 20,000. The Tournament Director is to our immediate left, and now he faces a big decision.

"I've got a diamond," he admits -- and he holds his cards so we can see it's the 9. "The question is whether it's high enough." If he calls, we're sunk. He thinks it over -- then decides to fold! A woman across the table folds as well.

"Top pair, but low diamond," we say as we turn over our cards.

The young man laughs a little, and tosses his cards face-down into the center of the table. Does this mean he made a big bluff with nothing?

"You've got to show your cards to win the pot," the woman who folded says. The young man seemingly forgot we were all-in. Now he turns over his cards: Jh-4d. His low diamond barely topped ours -- but wait a second.

"You know, I could argue he mucked his cards," we point out. With other players at other tables, a shouting match would have erupted here -- but we speak in a moderate voice.

The Tournament Director sees our point. "Since you mucked your cards," he says to the sidepot winner, "all you can have is that. He gets this" -- as in us taking the 10,000-chip main pot. An inattentive moment keeps us in the tournament!

With that, we were moved to the other semifinal table. We survived to the two-hour break, but had to go all-in again immediately afterward in the big blind. Our 6-8 almost made a straight, but ended up with nothing. A man took two players out with two pair, leaving us tied for 11th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I like your card holder," a woman said to us as that big hand unfolded. Again we took a piece of matzo, and we explained how Jesus is "the bread of life" during the Passover/Unleavened Bread season. (One man figured out that Biblical message even before the tournament began.) Which reminds us of this comment which was said to Jesus....

And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. -- Luke 14:15, KJV

What do you think that statement means? Offer a comment here, and we'll compare notes in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 242 nights (38.8%) - 15 cashes. (The final table slump reaches 11.)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 125 point wins in 624 games (20.0%), 46 final tables, 4 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $43,727, down $795. still works for us, apparently because it's the "play for free" site. is the one the U.S. government shut down -- and two "tickets" we've earned to play in big-money games there may now be worthless.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poker Night 241: Best Dramatic Performance

That "catching-up work" began tonight at Soho Bar and Grill -- where we finished fourth in our last Wednesday night trip on Thanksgiving Eve. The night started well, as we took two pots holding two pair. But a big loss left us with 5,375 chips at the one-hour break, and then a big decision....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We tried and failed one hand earlier with Q-J. Now we have a hand that's even better, with 4,500 chips left. Ali Nejad on NBC's poker shows says when your chip stack drops below ten blinds, it's time to go all-in or fold. We try instead to "straddle" our way in, raising to 2,000.

"Seven-thousand," announces a man to our left. He showed up 40 minutes late for the game, but hit a big hand right away to gain a big stack.

"I'm trying to single you out," the raiser tells us. Sure enough -- the table folds, and we have little choice. We accomplished our purpose of the halfway bet, anyway.

"I'm all-in -- 2,500 more," we say. Our opponent turns over a King -- but not the other card. We turn over our A-Q and feel good about things.

ON THE FLOP: 3-4-6

Nothing thrilling here. "I need a King," our opponent says. As if he has no small cards to go with it?!?!


We still feel good.


"There's an Ace," we point out calmly.

"THERE'S an Ace!" our opponent exclaims -- as he turns over the Ace of spades! He had A-K, and had the lead all along.

The man pumped us up to let us down -- and all we could do was pretend to slap his face with our hat. He wins a bonus prize for "style points," and we're left to laugh heading out the door. We were sixth at our table of eight.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that a bone?" the man who eliminated us asked a few minutes earlier.

"It's a saltine cracker," a woman at the table suggested.

Actually we took a small piece of matzo for a "card protector." We explained it's the Passover/Unleavened Bread season.

"Are you Jewish?" the man asked. No, we're actually Christian -- so we explained (recalling a sermon we heard Tuesday) how Jesus is "the bread of life" (John 6:35).

The man didn't say anything about our explanation -- but he offered a "God bless you" as he shook hands after eliminating us.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 241 nights (39.0%) - 15 cashes. The missed final table run has reached ten.

If It Was Real: 240-Game Report

Ugh; slumps aren't much fun. And we've been in one lately at live tournaments -- missing the final table our last nine times in a row. Admittedly that could be due to our usual decision to buy only one soda for "bonus chips," while others buy shot after shot for 5,000 chips each. But we like to think it adds to the challenge.

We've played in 20 live tournaments since 2011 began. They've led us to only four final tables, and only one top-five finish; a tie for third at The Red Barn 24 January. Using our formula borrowed from a Kansas City casino, that leaves our overall record this way if we plunked down real money:

BUY-INS: 240 nights x $50 = $12,000

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

Second - 8 ($3,200)

Third -- 9 ($2,700)
TIE for third: 1 ($250)

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 -- 55 for $13,217

We once had a return on our pretend investment of more than 50 percent. It's shrunk dramatically in the last year, and now is only 10.1 percent.

But on the bright side, we still finish in the top five almost 23 percent of the time. So if you'll excuse us, we have some catching-up work to do....

Monday, April 18, 2011

If It Was Real: NLOP Edition

We mentioned a few posts down that we were tempted (before the U.S. government stepped in) to plunk down some real money in online poker again. The reason for that temptation was a review of how we've fared in free tournaments at National League of Poker.

We kept track of how many "points" we earned in full tournaments since the start of October 2010. (You have to spend points to buy into almost all the tournaments; NLOP provides 1,500 per day to help you.) Here's how we've done....

October 28,750 89,111* + 60,361

November 23,000 21,713 - 1,287

December 25,500 26,743 + 1,743

January 26,500 20,883 - 5,617

February 8,250 47,081** + 38,831

March 2,000 500 - 1,500

TOTAL 114,000 206,031 + 92,031

* One point win was not recorded; we estimated.
** One second-place finish awarded us $25 cash, but no points; we estimated a 20,000 point win based on the NLOP prize matrix.

A few final tables brought big point rewards, which could make up for comparatively slow months.

In this six-month span, we won $30 in real money from strong NLOP finishes (and $80 more from video poker tournaments). At one dollar per point, we would have made a very nice living. So what should we do now -- move to Canada?

National Heads-Up Week 1: In Several Languages

A new season of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship began on NBC Sunday. (No, we didn't forget -- we simply were very busy.) We noticed several of the usual poker site advertisers were missing. Hmmm -- we wonder why?!

But admittedly, we were surprised by one moment when confessed Christian Daniel Negreanu was surprised by a hand he lost to Phil Laak. "What the h**l?" Negreanu asked aloud.

We're old enough to remember when the "H-word" was considered profanity. Times have changed so much that it's considered nothing now -- and we even hear church pastors toss the word around loosely during sermons. But a believer still has to watch his words, whether at the poker table or a worship service.

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

When Harry Truman was U.S. President, he said he simply told the truth -- and others considered it, uh, not very heavenly. Such was the Laak-Negreanu hand, as Laak disguised three of a kind very well. (He went on to win the match.)

This moment actually ties together with a recent comment a player made at one of our local tournaments, about words and symbols. The symbol of Christ's crucifixion which we brought (a long nail) can have an impact. But unless we use words to explain the nail's purpose, the meaning can be missed. Which reminds us....

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. -- John 1:1, 14

Jesus is described in the New Testament in many symbolic ways. We'll let you think about those ways, and make a list of them -- but one of them simply is "The Word." The Lord spoke the words of His Father, and so should we.

Many words are being said about Jesus by ministers this week. May they be words of truth about "the Word" who called Himself "the truth" (John 14:6).

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Just in time for today's season premiere of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship on TV, this crackdown happens.

PokerStars.Net (the free version) worked for us early this morning. We've avoided the others -- and just when we're tempted to give one of those money-depositing sites a try (as we were a year or two ago - explanation coming shortly), the U.S. government has stepped in. Our savings are secure again. :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poker Night 240: What Do You Know?

"Do you ever win?" a man across the table at Lil Kim's Cove asked during tonight's tournament.

"Yes. A few times," we answered. But it's admittedly been a while -- and from the tone of that player during the evening, we think he asked the question as a semi-insult. To prevail at this table tonight, the big guns needed to come out early.

BLINDS: 25/50


The first round of blinds is about to end, and an early loss has knocked us down from a 7,000-chip start to 6,325. Here's a chance to make a comeback, so we raise in mid-position to 250.

"I know what you've got," the skeptic across from us says -- then he folds.

But this is a table where players are tossing 1,000-chip pieces around like frisbees in the park, and a man to our right raises to 1,500. We feel compelled to call. A second man calls as well.


A marvelous flop for us -- but the raiser plows on like nothing ever happened. He bets 2,000. After pondering for a moment, we see no need to wait.

"I'm all-in," we announce with 2,825 left. The raiser calls; the third player folds. As usually happens at Lil Kim's Cove, no one turns over cards yet.


Jackpot! But we still wait.


"I've got a boat," we say as finally show and tell. Our opponent simply mucks his cards without showing them, and our stack jumps to nearly 17,000 in one fell swoop.

"I knew he had Ace-Queen," the skeptic adds. From a wimpy-looking pre-flop raise of 200?! Well, OK....

Now we had enough hips to toss around with the big spenders. But we lost a couple of big hands, and fell by the one-hour break to 4,375. A-Q came our way again in the second hour, and we pushed with 3,000 left. The flop brought a Queen and a pair of 7's -- but also a 10 and a King on the river. The man we beat earlier had K-10, and his river break beat our two pair to eliminate us in a tie for 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "The man with the nail," said a man who sat down to our left tonight. Again a long nail was our card protector.

"I brought that to remind me that we're nearing the anniversary of the crucifixion," we explained. "The crucifixion of Christ."

This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge, and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. -- Acts 2:23

"Do you believe that happened?" we asked the man to our left. "The crucifixion and resurrection?"

The man smiled -- and then in poker lingo, he went deep "into the tank." This clearly was the last thing he expected someone to bring up at a poker table. We turned away for a few seconds to talk with someone else -- and when we turned back, the answer came: "Yes, I do."

We're not sure if the man hesitated because he was stunned by the weekend, or really wasn't certain of his beliefs. Perhaps he faced a faith challenge along the lines of what the apostle Thomas said after Jesus's resurrection....

But he said to them: "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." -- John 20:25

Thomas met Jesus face-to-face several days later, and had his doubts confirmed.

Then Jesus told him: "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." -- John 20:29

Some Christians will remember Christ's death this weekend, at the annual Passover or "Lord's Supper" service. However you remember Jesus in this special season, may you gain additional love and worship for God and his risen Son.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 240 nights (39.2%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 125 point wins in 618 games (20.2%), 46 final tables, four cashes. UFC Knockout - 1 tournament win in 2 games.

We've returned to NLOP in recent days after a busy period, and have reached the points three days in a row to push us about the 20-percent plateau!

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $44,522, up $2,785.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Game of Your Life

If you visit PokerStars sites, that title should look familiar; a current major tournament has that name. But those words can be examined in a couple of ways. For instance, what sort of a game are you playing with your life?

We promised to offer more details about a National League of Poker table where we deferred to a player who gets easily upset with "chatty" opponents. After we explained why we kept quiet, this exchange occurred....

Dealer: rocknelson wins Main Pot ($1260)
stanley: get a life
rocknelson: eat a d**k stan
Me: Thanks to God, I have one. :-)

It's not a plain old ordinary physical existence. This is something completely new.

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and that life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. -- I John 5:11-12

If you want that never-ending life, you need Jesus. The book of Romans explains how to obtain Him.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.... In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. -- Romans 6:4, 11

So baptism is needed -- and Acts 2:38 adds you should repent "for the forgiveness of your sins" as well. Those two steps will start a new game for you. And while physical death might be a temporary adjournment, Jesus promises eternal life "in the age to come" (Mark 10:30). To borrow from Charlie Sheen, now that's really "#winning".

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poker Night 239: First to "Act"

That big project which required us to change our poker schedule is in a break for several weeks. So we were able to play at The Red Barn tonight. Of course, the real question was how long could we play....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-5 offsuit

We stumbled out of the gate tonight, raising right away with K-Q of clubs and not even getting a pair. So we limp in here, hoping things will change. Most of the table jumps in.

ON THE FLOP: 2-8-4

It's the "belly-buster" straight draw. We try to lay low and check, but a man to our left bets 300. Then a man across from us raises to 600. We have a hunch a big card is coming for us, so we call. But the man to our left then re-raises to 1,400. The raiser calls.

"I'm probably going to regret this, but I'll call," we say.


Our straight chances just doubled -- as a 3 or a 6 will do it. We check again, and are quietly delighted when the other two players check.


So much for our hunch -- but we have a pair, and a tempting opportunity. Our only real hope for winning the pot is through bluffing. The cards are showing for a possible "back-door straight." But the other men may have missed a straight, as we did. The table is playing slowly, so we ponder this a moment -- then decide.

"One-thousand," we bet. Can we run the other two off?

"I'll call," says the player to the left.

"I can't even call," the other man admits as he folds.

"Pair of fives," we say as we show.

"Trip deuces," is the response. Ouch - he had 2-2, and held the lead from the flop on. The man admitted later his re-raise at the flop was a move to chase us away from a straight.

The young man who beat us looked familiar, and we wanted to say something -- but we weren't exactly sure how to do it without offending. Only after we returned home did we confirm the man had been on the weekend news. He survived what police described as a vicious late-night beating downtown, allegedly by Army soldiers. Tonight's TV news claimed he was "in a trauma unit," but he was out and playing poker -- still with a serious blackened right eye.

That's the way the night went for us -- as hopeful hands never materialized. When A-Q appeared under the gun right before the one-hour break, we went all-in with 1,725. But the Big Blind was dealt A-A, and a third Ace on the flop proved too strong. We were eliminated in 19th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: It's the time of year when we use a simple long nail for a card protector. When a man to our left mentioned it, we pointed out it's a reminder of the crucifixion of Christ.

"A great symbol," the man said as he agreed the crucifixion has great meaning. "Symbols can be even more powerful than words."

Hmmmm - do you agree with that thought-provoking statement? We'll offer our thoughts about it in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 239 nights (39.3%) - 15 cashes. We've missed the final table eight times in a row. And we're approaching nine months since the last time we won money at a local tournament.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's Hard to be Humble

Again this week, a busy personal schedule prevents us from playing live poker on Thursday nights. It appears that will change next week; we'll see. In the meantime, we offer a comment about poker players who prefer no comments at all.

Some online players act like they're playing inside a funeral home -- without chatting, even though the words simply are written. A player scolded us for being talkative awhile back at National League of Poker. So when we encountered him again, we adjusted accordingly -- and after a few hands....

rocknelson: no commentary flopdork
Me: You showed up. I shut up. I'm learning. :-0
Dealer: Gatortail wins Main Pot ($1530)
rocknelson: thats right u do what i tell ya to
Me: That's what humility is, a pastor told me once.

To quote that minister exactly from a sermon: true humility means letting other people tell you what to do. That may seem stifling and domineering; we realize that because we've faced such situations. Yet it's what Jesus expects of us:

If you love me, keep my commandments.... He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me.... -- John 14:15, 21

Which commandments does Jesus expect us to keep? Some church groups insist they're the Ten Commandments listed in the Old Testament, and we can understand that reasoning. But the entire discussion seems to center on something else....

A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. -- John 13:34

Doing what others say not only displays humility -- it can also show love. Of course, that really boils down to your attitude behind the action. A good "poker face" might prevent other players from seeing it, but God looks on the heart (see Ephesians 6:6, among other verses).

There's more to this discussion; check our next post.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Way Too Good

Sometimes it's not difficult at all to do poker ministry online. All it takes are three simple letters. Take this recent example from a "play money" cash game at

Dealer: Game #57407410106: flopblogger wins pot (340) with a full house, Jacks full of Aces
flopblogger: (whew)
Sierra Dream: VNH
flopblogger: Thanks - PTL
Sierra Dream: AMEN
flopblogger: There's one caller. :-)

We write PTL to stand for "praise the Lord" -- shorthand many people came to know from a controversial TV ministry of three decades ago. But Sierra Dream shouldn't be the only one "calling" on the Lord:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." -- Romans 10:12-13

The last part is in quotes because it borrows from Joel 2:32. When it comes to God, calling is good. The play continues....

Dealer: Sierra Dream has a straight, Seven to Jack
Dealer: Game #57407430793: Sierra Dream wins pot (2,425) with a straight, Seven to Jack
flopblogger: Straight is the way. :-)....
flopblogger: True....
Sierra Dream: .....He is the way, the truth & the life
flopblogger: The bright and morning star.

The "way" can refer to several things in the Bible. It can refer to the roads we travel in life....

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it. -- Matthew 7:14, KJV

Our "straight" was a deliberate play on words. The Biblical spelling appears as "small" in other translations. This verse means the road to eternal life isn't always easy. But thankfully, there's that other "way."

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." -- John 14:6

Jesus Christ opened access to the Father by living a perfect life, then sacrificing it for our sins. This may explain why the early Christian movement was known as "the Way" (see verses such as Acts 9:2 and 19:23).

So are you on that way? Or are you wandering off the path, and heading toward trouble? Chasing a straight in poker can be risky. Following the strait way Jesus offers has a strong payoff at the end -- an eternal one.