Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Senior Championship: Pairs Competition

We came home from an out-of-town trip in the nick of time for tonight's National League of Poker monthly Senior Championship. And it's a good thing we weren't late....

:03 IN: We have 5-A of hearts in the big blind, and call a doubled bet. The flop is Q-Q-4 with one Queen a heart. Someone bets 30, and we call. The turn is 5, and we bet 30 with two pair. Two players call. The river is 3h. Someone bets 30. We ponder it, reluctantly call -- and win the pot! A quick gain of $465.

:10 IN: We have 10-Q, with the 10 a diamond. The flop is all-diamonds, 3-4-Q. Someone bets 120, and we call with top pair and a flush draw. The turn is Jh, bringing checks. The river is Ah. Our opponent bets 80, we call in hope -- but he has A-K.

:19 IN: We have 10-5 of hearts in the big blind. The flop is 3-9-2, with the 9 a heart. The turn is Kh, with mass checking underway. The river is 5d. We call a bet of 60 -- and are pleasantly surprised to find a pair of 5's wins us $380.

Cautious play (which tends to dominate a senior tournament) brought us to the half-hour break at 1,125 -- tied for 247th, out of 442 still in the running.

:39 IN: We have A-3. The flop is 6-3-6, and we bet 250. Someone calls. The turn is A, and the opponent bets 150. We call, with an improved two pair. The river is 6, and we go all-in for 400. The opponent calls -- with a mere 8-Q! Our full house jumps us to 1,975.

:43 IN: We have 10-J. The flop is 6-3-10, and we bet 300. Someone calls. The turn is 9, and we slow down to 200. The call is made. The river is A -- and when the opponent bets 200 after we check, we fear the worst. We call, and he has A-Q. That's a serious setback.

:50 IN: We have Q-Q with 925 left. The player ahead of us goes all-in for 835. We're skeptical about it, and call. Then another player goes all-in for even more! Since we're committed, we push in our last 90.

Then comes the shocker: the first player to push has K-K, while the other has A-A! We need a Queen -- but the flop is 9-K-5, followed by A-J. Three Aces win it all, knocking two players with big pairs out of the game.

Final score: 253rd out of 1,029 players. Painfully bad timing probably cost us an even better finish.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Poker Night 253: Love Those Nuts

You know it's a slow night at a sports bar when one of the screens is showing the Cartoon Network. Yet we joined three tables' worth of poker players at The Sports Page tonight, trying to end Memorial Day on a strong note. Not that it would be easy....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-2 of hearts

We're still waiting to win a hand, and start with about 3,800 chips. With the bottom rung of suited connectors, we try to get in small -- but the woman who's dealing raises to 500. We dare to call; only one other player does.

ON THE FLOP: Jh-10h-5c (not sure about the last suit, except it wasn't a heart)

No pair, but a big flush draw. We check -- and the dealer does us a big favor by making a small continuation bet of 200. We call it; the other player folds.


The "nut flush" is ours -- but we "check to the bettor," hoping she'll be overconfident and give us a big payday. She stares at us for a moment as if she's looking for hints. Then she checks.


Now we're ready to bet -- and when we offer 2,000 (more than half our stack), she shakes her head no and folds.

We won a pot and gained close to 1,000 chips. But we're left to wonder if we played this wrong. Did our expression on the turn steer her away from betting? Should we have bet a "c'mon in" small amount on the river? Should we have gone all-in, since this was a "bounty" tournament, with 5,000 chips for eliminating a player? It's easy to second-guess.

We won and split a few modest pots, but never hit the "big one" to give us a substantial chip stack. In the second hour we pushed with 7's and 5's on the board and an Ace in our hand -- but the man to our left had a 7 to make a full house. He surprised us, and left us out in 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Two people at the table noticed our "Lord's Supper" card protector tonight -- the one with a portrait of a long-haired Jesus on the side we keep face-down.

"I don't think Jesus really looked like that," we said to a man to our left.

The man seemed to agree, but suggested people should think of Jesus as "looking like you". What do you think of that idea? We'll share our thoughts in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 97 final tables in 253 nights (38.3%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 17: Race Day

Today is "Race Day" in the U.S., with the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600. So why not get in some races, to win the Sunday night weekly championship at National League of Poker? The challenges began early....

:00 IN: We open with K-A, and raise 100. The flop is 5-J-J, and a cheap continuation bet of 30 makes the table fold. We win $335.

:07 IN: We have 6-A of diamonds under the gun, and call a raise of 110. The flop is A-Q-2 -- and a player goes all-in for 670. We dare to call, and find ourselves staring at A-9. BUT the turn and river are 6-6! Runners for a full house win us $2,195.

:11 IN: We have Q-K of hearts in the small blind, and triple the blind. The flop is 9-9h-7, and we make a continuation bet of 40 which is called. The turn is 4, and we play a pressure game by betting 80. It's called as well. The river is K, and we bet 200 with two pair. Our opponent doubles to 400 -- and loses, because he only has 2-2. We gain $1,600.

:17 IN: We have 6-6. The board is a blase 10-7-5-3-9. We bet 125 in button position on the river, and scare opponents away to win $305.

:20 IN: We have 8-8, and call when an opponent pushes with 360. Another player calls as well. The flop is a dreamy K-8-K, and we put our opponent all-in for 505. He calls with K-9, and our full house leads. The turn is 7 -- but the river is K, giving that second pusher quads! Ouch, that hurt.

We had a high of 3,080 chips, but wind up with only 1,640 at the half-hour break. The good news is that we're in 279th place, out of 765 in the running (1,364 players qualified).

:35 IN: We have 8-7 offsuit. The flop is 8-J-4, and we call a minimum bet of 100. The turn is J, and we call a bet of 200. The river is J, giving us a full house -- but we smell a trap when our opponent checks. We check as well. But he only has 10 high, and we gain $950.

But we didn't win another hand the rest of the night. Our best chance with 9-9 fell to someone with pocket Jacks, who picked up a third on the turn.

:56 IN: We have 6-5 in the big blind with a very short stack. The flop is A-6-3, and we feel forced to go all-in with 185 left and rising blinds. A player called with A-6, and his two pair hold on to win the pot and send us packing.

Final result: 396th place. In the top half, but not much more.

May Poker Studs Championship: Twos Beat Nines

It's not easy to become "Stud of the Month." Especially when 875 other guys (well, at least one had a woman icon) want the title along with you. But we qualified for the monthly contest at National League of Poker for the first time since January -- and it was a fight:

:11 IN: We have A-J of clubs under the gun. We try to limp in, but a huge bet leads us to fold. Good thing: that player had K-K, and would up with a third King.

:20 IN: We have 2-2, and call a doubling of the blind. The flop is a lovely J-2-10! We push in our remaining 370, and get called by players with 8-10 and a Queen high. The turn and river are 3-K, earning us a fast $1,400.

:25 IN: We have A-7 under the gun, and call a doubling of the blind. The flop is 7-2-5. A player bets 220, and we call with top pair. The turn is 5, and the opponent bets 320. We call again. The river is 10, and the opponent goes all-in. We smell a higher two pair or three of a kind, and fold -- thus taking a big loss.

We reach the half-hour break at 460 -- only 19 from the bottom, with 385 players left. It's time to be extra-careful.

:44 IN: We have 10-A of diamonds in the big blind. It's time to move -- but the table folds, and we get a walk to pick up only $100 in blinds. How did they know?

1:01 IN: We have 4-4 with blinds climbing, and decide to push all-in with only 175 left. The flop is J-7-A, the last two diamonds. The turn is 8d. The river is Qd. Hey - did we mention one of our 4's was a diamond?!? We're the only player to have one, and we escape with $1,220 and a "2GTBG."

1:08 IN: Right after the second break, we have 9-9 and limp in. The flop is 6-8-8. We dare to push with an overpair, and 395 left. Trouble is, a caller has J-J. The turn and river are 4-3, and we're eliminated at #145. Nope -- not a stud yet.

So You Want to Win?

Our last post quoted a man who said God provides his needs -- which can be different from his "wants."

It's easy to blur the line between those two areas. For instance, you might want to win a poker tournament and gain a lot of money -- but God might decide you really need a dose of personal humility instead. Jesus spoke about that....

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. - Matthew 20:26-28

There can be other reasons why God doesn't provide the things we think we need:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. -- Psalm 84:11

Is your walk with God "blameless" -- or as the King James Version puts it, do you "walk uprightly?" Ask God to show you where you might be stumbling in a spiritual ditch, without realizing it.

On the other hand, God may decide the thing we want isn't really good for us. We might abuse it, misuse it or let it ruin our lives.

There's nothing wrong with desiring to be successful at the poker table. But keep yourself open to the possibility that on any given day, God could have other things in mind to give you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poker Night 252: Fit for a Queen

"Get your tape recorder out," a woman ordered at our Lil Kim's Cove table tonight. She knows we bring one (though actually it's digital) to note the key hands of the tournament. We eventually folded the hand where she called for it -- but it was ready to grab for this, a few hands later....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 10 of spades - K of clubs

We've won a few pots in the first, to stand above 10,000 chips. As best we recall, no one raised before the flop and we simply called.

ON THE FLOP: 9-K-J, all spades

The least we have is top pair. The best potential hand we could have is a straight flush, with a "gut-shot." When the play checks to us, we bet 1,000. Several players have been commenting about our reputation for only playing quality cards, so they fold. One man to our immediate left calls.


This card is a bit concerning, because our opponent might have been waiting for an Ace. So we check -- and he checks, too.


JACKPOT! We hit a straight flush -- yet we sense this man was on a straight or flush draw. If he hit it, we want him to go for it. So we check -- but he doesn't fall into the trap, and checks again.

"Five-thousand," we say turning over our straight flush for a bonus prize of that many chips. He only had a pair of Kings.

"He should have gone all-in," a woman comments.

"But I wanted him to go first," we explain -- as we're recording, of course. Looking back, he probably would have folded any big bet we made.

That pushed our total over 17,000 -- and we took another couple of pots to hit 23,000 at the one-hour break. But in the second hour, the man to our left got even in a big way. We held an Ace and A-6-8 came on the flop. We went all-in with 15,000 remaining, and again our reputation chased everyone away but that man. He dared to risk his 14,000 remaining chips on 7-9 and an open-ended straight draw -- and caught a 10 on the river!

The failed big move left us with a measly 1,000 -- but we escaped one all-in time with A-9. Then forced to go all-in with A-2 in the small blind, the flop was J-J-J. That man to our left struck again -- with pocket Aces, which gave him a better full house even when the turn was A. We finished 14th, knowing a big chance got away.

MINISTRY MOMENT: That man to our left also was interested in the "Lord's Supper" card protector we brought tonight.

"Do you believe in Jesus? Is He your Savior?" we asked. Yes, the man said -- so this time we probed a little deeper. "What's God been doing in your life?"

"He's supplied all my needs," our opponent said -- which actually is a promise from the New Testament.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

"He doesn't supply all my wants," the man added. Oooo - he makes a very good point there. We'll expand on it in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 97 final tables in 252 nights (38.5%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 150 point wins in 676 games (22.2%), 51 final tables, six cashes.

We made the money in an afternoon tournament on Monday, for the second time this month! We finished fourth out of 608 players.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $48,143, up $1,379.

Shorthand, Big Message

Did you figure out our assignment, about what we wrote at an online poker chat this week -- "2GBTG"?

We came across that abbreviation on a license plate in our town recently. And amazingly, it was the final sentence uttered by Oprah Winfrey on her last talk show Wednesday -- "To God be the glory."

To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. - Jude 25

While we didn't watch all of Oprah's "last lecture," the quotes we've read indicate she sent her audience mixed messages. She gave God glory at the end -- but also said, "You, alone, are enough." Can you really have that both ways? Consider the verse right before this....

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.... - Jude 24

Seek God's help in the things you do -- whether it be a TV talk show or a poker tournament. We know all too well it's not a guarantee of victory. But by putting faith in God and expressing it whatever the outcome, you'll have the comfort of knowing that outcome will be for your ultimate benefit.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Poker Night 251: Take the Hint

Sometimes poker players can make statements without saying a single word. It's up to you to figure out what the message is. We faced a challenge like that at The Sports Page tonight....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We won a modest early pot, but haven't had much to play since. Now we sense a chance to make a move -- and after a couple of players call, we raise to 1,000. Three players follow along.


Top two pair looks very nice -- until a woman across the table from us firmly plunks down a gold chip.

"Five-thousand," she declares. Gulp -- that would put us all-in. This woman isn't prone to making large-scale bluffs, so we quickly figure out the message she's sending.

"Only one card would make you do that," we say. "And I'm not going to go there." Yes, we fold top two pair! The other players in the hand don't; they call.


Uh-oh -- could we be missing out on a straight here?


Yes, we did -- and the woman confirmed our suspicion about her hand, by turning over a Jack for three of a kind. Trouble is, the Tournament Director to our left turns over pocket Kings! Even if we had made the hard-way straight, his full house would have sent us packing. So our fold was the right decision.

We had little choice but to push in the second hour, with 1,000 chips left and K-Q in our possession at the semifinal table. The flop was a gift J-10-9, giving us a straight and a septuple-up (is that a word?!) to 7,000. But another push with A-K was fatal, as the board didn't pair for us and someone else made a pair. We went home in 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The news was better earlier in the day, as we finished FOURTH in a National League of Poker online tournament with 608 players! It was our second top-six finish in a big-numbers game in six days -- this time earning us money. And after one big pot win, we wrote: "2GBTG".

Your assignment: figure out that chat shorthand. Keep in mind this is a "ministry moment." We'll have the answer in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 97 final tables in 251 nights (38.6%) - 15 cashes.

NLOP Weekly Championship 16: Leaps and Out of Bounds

Our last two Sunday night weekly championship runs at National League of Poker were very good -- top 70 finishes out of more than 1,390 players. Could we move up from a "fabulous 50" this week? We tried -- and had a fascinating chat with a player along the way:

:01 IN: We have A-8 of hearts, and double the blind. Two players call. The flop is 4-A-9. We bet 100. They fold. We quickly win $295.

We lost a hand with A-9 a few minutes later to someone with J-J. Then our timing went bad....

:13 IN: We have A-5. The flop is 7-Q-9, and we fold to a small bet. Sure enough - the turn is A, and it would have won.

:17 IN: We have 9-6, and fold pre-flop. Sure enough - the flop is 6-6-4.

One or two more pot losses left us with 525 chips at the half-hour break. We needed to look for a turnaround moment.

:36 IN: We have K-K under the gun. There it is! We go all-in for 525, and someone calls with 10-Q. The flop is 8-Q-3, followed by 5-4. We escape and jump to $1,275.

:40 IN: We have Qc-Qh, and choose to limp in. The flop is 10-4-8, all hearts. We call a blind-sized bet of 150. The turn is 8d, and a couple of players push. We call a bet of 620 with an overpair, leaving only 130. The river is a 10, and we're challenged to call for our last 130. A player across from us has K-10, to make a full house.

We're gone in 626th place -- but don't leave yet. Before we were ousted, a curious chat occurred with someone with a curious handle.

Hornydevil: i hope all american commit suicide
Me: Something you'd expect someone named Devil to say.
Me: Should I ask why?

Satan the devil is the antithesis of Jesus Christ -- or if that's too big a word, the polar opposite:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - I Peter 5:8

The devil wants you dead, just as it wanted Adam and Eve to die long ago. Jesus wants you to have life -- a joy-filled life, which leads to eternal life. The chat continues, as we go all-in with pocket Kings....

Hornydevil: im horny for your wife
RiverRatRich: gl flop
Me: Too bad. Not married.
Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($1275) with One pair, kings
Me: (whew)

A moment of praising God (whether "Horn" realized it or not), following instruction from the apostle Paul.

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

Then the chat became personal, and a little extreme:

Hornydevil: flopblogger u r gay u r not married
Me: Thanks for leaping to conclusions.
Me: That's not true, either.
Dealer: aceatanc wins Main Pot ($525)
Me: True love waits.
Hornydevil: u r bisexual
Me: No.

If he's as bad with poker "reads" as he was with our lifestyle, he won't win many poker tournaments. Not everyone who is single is homosexual. For instance, what about the widow (which we're not, either)?

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. - I Corinthians 7:8-9

As we were eliminated, the chat became downright silly:

Hornydevil: all american are gay because of obama
Me: .... who's married and a father of 2?!?!
jimwolf666: well then big fella hello
jimwolf666: 666
jimwolf666: 666
jimwolf666: 666

....as in Revelation 13:18!

You truly meet all kinds of people at the poker table - especially online. May you be "prepared to give an answer" (as I Peter 3:15 says), no matter who and what you face.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

National Heads-Up Week 6: Meeting of the Minds

The outcome actually was settled in March, but NBC showed the finals of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship today. Erik Seidel swept Chris Moneymaker for the title -- and in the process had to overcome Moneymaker's coach. Not simply any coach, but a "Mindset Coach."

Sam Chauhan explained he helps Moneymaker remain focused at the table. "There are things in life you can control and things you can't control," he said. "I help him to focus on the things you can control."

Chauhan's correct in describing not only poker, but what we face in life every day. But do you need to hire a Mindset Coach to help you focus? Moneymaker did, and we suppose a lot of athletes do. But rank-and-file poker players don't have that privilege. Thankfully, there's a valuable book available to help the rest of us. And it says....

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 2:5 (KJV)

For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. - I Corinthians 2:16 (KJV)

Yes, we know - some of you may be scoffing, and think Christians are out of their minds. You may point to the "Bible guarantee" a radio preacher made about this weekend, which turned out to be as empty as going all-in with 5-2. But many believers are thinking, rational people -- and they try to talk some sense into people prone to going out of a limb (even in the body of Christ).

Christ's mind was filled with the things of His Father. You can develop that mind by seeking God to provide His Holy Spirit.

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. - II Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

To be fair, there are plenty of people who can help you develop a godly mind. They're called ministers, pastors or elders, serving at congregations large and small. Listen carefully to their words -- but always verify what they say by studying the Bible for yourself. Focusing on God can help you control the temptations to sin.

P.S. If you watched carefully, did you notice Chauhan's shirt? It had the Full Tilt Poker logo Seidel wore -- NOT the Poker Stars logo of Moneymaker! Who wants to explain that one?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poker Night 250: More Power to You

Tonight marked our 250th live poker tournament, over a span of almost four years. We returned to where it all began for us, Lil Kim's Cove -- and it didn't start well, as a man to our immediate left played what they like to call on TV "power poker." Aggressive pre-flop raises led to a couple of early losses. Eventually it was time to return the favor....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Ace of clubs - 4 of spades

Those losses knocked us from a starting stack of 8,000 chips to the 6,000 range. So we'd like to enter cautiously for a while, and we merely call this. The power player simply checks, and most of the players at the table are in.

ON THE FLOP: 6-8-9 of clubs

We're on a draw for the "nut flush" -- and we're first to act. We know the power player well enough to think a bet on our part will slow him down. So we bet 300. He calls instead of raising; a couple of others do as well.


It's not a flush yet, but at least it's top pair. We seize on that by betting 600. The power player isn't scared, and calls. Everyone else at the table folds.


Uh-oh - now four cards are on the table for a straight. We really don't think our opponent is after that. But we also don't want to be cautious and check; that would give the impression we missed completely and open the door for a big-bucks stab at the pot. So we make a mid-range bet of 500 with top pair -- and are happy to see our opponent fold. We gain back about 1,000 chips.

"I had a really good club," our opponent says. Aha - he was flush-hunting, too. Too bad a club didn't come for him, eh?

While we missed there, flushes came our way two or three times after that in the first hour. They allowed us to win big pots, and jump above 30,000 chips. We went to the one-hour break at 24,500, and won one more pot after that. But then we went "card-dead," with little of quality to play.

A couple of wise folds with semi-quality hands (such as A-8 and K-J) allowed us to hang around to the final table, entering with 10,000. But the draw for dealer at that point forced us into the big blind immediately for all 10,000 -- and while we were dealt A-10 and a 10 came on the board, a man to our right made triple-8's. At least we touched the final table, before finishing eighth.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "How are you, Mr. Jesus?" That was the power player's greeting to us tonight -- pronouncing Jesus in the Spanish way. He knows about our poker ministry well.

Later in the game we whispered between hands, "I'm not Jesus. I just try to be like Him."

"I knew that," our opponent answered. "I was just f***ing with you."

With us, perhaps he can. With the name of Jesus, he'd better be careful....

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. - Exodus 20:7

God gave that commandment to Moses -- but some Christians say "God" in this case refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus. Even if you don't accept that, consider this....

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. - Hebrews 4:14

If Jesus is God's Son, shouldn't His name receive the same respect and honor of God the Father? The apostle Paul thought so....

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. - Philippians 2:10

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 97 final tables in 250 nights (38.8%) - 15 cashes. Our "streak" has turned from cold to hot, with three final tables in the last four.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 144 point wins in 666 games (21.6%), 50 final tables, 5 cashes. UFC Knockout Hold 'em - one win in five games (20%).

We came very close to winning money Wednesday afternoon, taking a chip lead to the final table in a game with 628 players. But we finished sixth, one slot from the cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $46,764, down $280.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Testing Time

We mentioned before Monday evening's poker tournament, we faced a test at a discount store near The Sports Page. It consisted of standing in line behind a woman who had bought a cart filled with canned goods, and wasn't able to load them onto the checkout counter very quickly.

What was the test we told a cashier at another aisle we would have flunked? It was the patience test -- and it certainly came in handy later at the poker table. We waited for the right cards and moments to make a move, and in most cases it paid off.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. - Ecclesiastes 7:8

A "race" occurs in Texas Hold 'em when one player is all-in, and at least two players show assorted cards (as in no pair) before the flop. But in most tournaments, you don't have to race to build up a big stack of chips. The rules are structured to allow for a certain amount of patient play -- although, of course, rising blinds can increase the pressure.

Phil Hellmuth writes in one of his poker books that if you try to play almost every hand, you are destined to lose. The "pride" of a big stack in the first hour can be broken by someone hiding a big pair in the second hour. So we take our time -- and lately we've been pleased with the results, both in person and online.

Hebrews 12:1 advises, "....let us run with patience the race that is set before us." That's good advice not only for a poker tournament, but the spiritual race which leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poker Night 249: A Real Page-Turner

The good news about The Sports Page is that it's considered a restaurant, so under Georgia law smoking isn't allowed. The bad news is that you need to spend at least five dollars to get bonus poker chips. Our two-dollar cup of diet soda wasn't enough tonight, so we walked into our first poker night there since the end of October with a basic 5,000 chips. That meant careful play, until the right moment came....

BLINDS: 100/200


We haven't won a pot so far, yet cautious betting has brought us to the Big Blind with 4,375 chips. The table calls around to us, and we think about making a big raise -- but instead we check and wait.


We didn't want to see that Jack show up. So we check, and a man across the table bets 700. It smells to us like an attempt to buy the pot, so we call. A woman to our left with a huge stack does as well.


Hmmmm - suddenly we've stumbled into an open-ended straight draw. We check again, and the man across from us tries 1,200. Ooh boy, this smells like trouble -- but we're taking a stand, so we call. So does the woman. Now we quietly hope a third 10 does NOT show.


Thank you, Lord! With the straight made and no risk of a flush, we go all-in with our remaining 2,475.

"I've gotta call," the woman says. It's a bounty tournament, after all -- and eliminating us earns 5,000 bonus chips. The man across from us apparently had a lower pair, so he now folds.

"Do you have a 10?" we ask the woman.

"I've got two pair."

"I have a 10." Running cards for a surprise straight jumps us above 12,100 chips.

We reached the one-hour break with 11,000 -- then lost a big hand when A-10 fell to the woman's straight. But we rallied back by winning a pot with pocket Aces, then advanced to 33,000 by using K-J to make a "Broadway straight!"

That allowed us to coast to the final table, where bigger stacks collided to improve our standing. With five players left, we pushed in the Big Blind with 7-7 -- but a woman across from us with 8-8 eliminated us. Yet we went home satisfied. With no bonus chips to cushion us at all, we finished fifth -- our best result in a live tournament since late January.

MINISTRY MOMENT: It actually happened for us on the way to the game, as we stood in line at a discount store. We wound up behind a woman who had a cart full of groceries, and a body which only allowed her to unload dozens of cans very slowly.

"I'm open over here, if you don't have a return," a cashier a few aisles over said. But we couldn't move -- explaining we would have "flunked the test."

What test did we mean, and how could it apply to poker? Offer a comment with your answer; we'll compare notes in a couple of days.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 96 final tables in 249 nights (38.6%), 15 cashes.

Honestly Now....

We mentioned a discussion at our last live tournament about honesty. That word and poker admittedly don't always go hand-in-hand, so we wondered how far the concept of honesty should go during a game. Should it go this far?

A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies. - Proverbs 12:17

We've noted here many times that bluffing is a part of poker strategy -- whether that means slow-playing pocket Aces or going all-in while holding a mere 7 high. But we personally draw a line between the bet you make and what you say about that bet. The bet is a test....

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. - John 7:24 (KJV)

But saying false words about that test is something we refuse to do. We might give evasive answers to questions (think about politicians being asked where they stand about a country they've never heard about before) -- but we won't display a lying tongue. The Bible doesn't permit us to do that. Really.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

National Heads-Up Week 5: How Many Outs?

We had a different topic in mind for today's National Heads-Up Poker Championship quarterfinal telecast. But then Andrew Robl said something familiar at the end of his match with David Benyamine - familiar, yet provocative.

"It's in the hands of the poker gods," he said Robl A-10 of hearts (which turned into a winning flush). Uhhhhh -- no.

For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. - I Chronicles 16:26

If that offends you -- well, we can't really apologize. That statement comes from the Bible, which is inspired by God. The One true God (II Timothy 3:16).

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. - Deuteronomy 6:4

Yet Jesus came as the Son of God and declared:

I and my Father are one. - John 10:30 (KJV)

Don't simply appeal to generic "poker gods," which aren't really gods at all. Develop a close relationship with the real God and the real Jesus Christ, through prayer and exploring the Bible. That's the only real way out of this life, to a life that never ends.

Do the Hustle? 2

In an earlier post, we talked about playing in a qualifying tournament to win a seat at the World Series of Poker Main Event - a seat sponsored by Larry Flynt's Hustler Casino. As we kept playing, a thought came to our mind....

Me: If we win the seat, do we have to wear his casino logo?
Taek1: as long as hes giving away free money hes good in my books
ChipSmugler: right I think you will
Dealer: Taek1 wins Main Pot ($11220) with Two pair, jacks and sevens
ChipSmugler: family be real proud winning the Main Event with Hustler all over yalol
Me: Yeah I know.

Professional poker players wear website sponsored all over their shirts and hats. The thought of promoting something involving Larry Flynt isn't very appealing to us -- even though the Bible says:

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - I Samuel 16:7b

Not everyone you see walking into a bar is an alcoholic. We could be walking inside to win money at poker, and do some ministry in the process. But there's another argument from Scripture which could be made here....

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. - I Thessalonians 5:21-22 (KJV)

We've understood this for decades to mean you shouldn't do anything which might give the impression to others that you're sinning. But after checking other translations and the Greek meaning of "appearance" as we write this, we're coming to a different conclusion. It's our eyes being discussed in this verse -- we shouldn't be looking on evil, as it might tempt us.

When we reached the final tables at Soho Bar and Grill the other night, we happened to sit with our back to a computer screen where people were looking at "soft porn" photos. We thank God for sitting where we did! This leads to one more comment from the chat....

Taek1: gambling is just as bad as pornso who cares

When it comes to sin, that player has a good point.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. - James 2:10

As some "church folks" like to put it: sin is sin is sin. You're equally guilty before God if you're a mass murderer or a neighborhood gossip.

We wound up 23rd in this tournament out of 243 players; the top ten qualified for the final tournament to win a Main Event seat. Yet as we consider all this, we're admittedly not comfortable trying to win this seat if it means being connected with Larry Flynt. Other contests may have less "baggage"; then again, they might actually have more.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Poker Night 248: Works of Art

There's nothing like a final table appearance at a five-plus table tournament to rebuild a little confidence. So we were optimistic heading to Lil Kim's Cove Thursday night. Of course, that optimism would be tested early....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-J offsuit

We won an early pot, so we stand at around 8,000 chips. This "King James" version (or "artwork" as described at the NBC Heads-Up Championship) gets a call from us, and most of the table jumps in with no one raising.


A young man to our left who's been playing a lot of hands bets 200. We think he's speculating, and raise to 500 with our two pair. He calls; the rest of the table folds.


As long as an Ace doesn't show up, we're feeling comfortable about this - but our opponent bets 1,000. We still don't think he has a 2, so we call again.


Now our opponent checks, as if he thinks WE have the 2. Yet that move makes us wary of a trap, so we check as well. We show K-J. He has K-4. Our kicker gains us a nice pot.

We kept things tight after that, which let us advance to the semifinal table. But we didn't win any more pots, and had to push with Q-J. The turn card was a Queen -- but the river was a K, and a man with K-9 made two pair to eliminate us in 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When the chip stacks were distributed at our table, one had a green chip missing - so someone was 500 chips short. When a man sat down to our left, we noted his stack was one short.

"Thank you very much. I appreciate your honesty," the man said. "Honesty is the best policy."

Well, yes - until the game begins and the bluffing starts. To borrow a phrase, "all bets are off" when the bets are on the table. So how honest should you be during a game? Leave a comment with your thoughts; we'll offer ours in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 95 final tables in 248 nights (38.3%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL (as of 12 May): Full tournaments - 139 point wins in 656 games (21.2%), 49 final tables, 5 cashes. UFC three-card knockout: 1 win in 4 games (25%).

Full disclosure: we received a nice NLOP hat in the mail today - a "thank-you gift" from Zen Entertainment for mentioning its tournaments so often here.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $47,044, up $2,128.

Poker Night 247: Regrets for a Moment

(Our apologies for not posting complete details Thursday. Our blogging partner had the longest maintenance problem we've ever seen it have.)

First the good news - our long streak of missing the final table is over! We made it all the way Wednesday night at a very competitive place, Soho Bar and Grill. To get there, we had to dodge some potentially dangerous hands....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 4-8 offsuit

We're trying to play with discipline - and outside the blinds, who really would play this? Before anyone mentions Gus Hansen, we're folding. Several players get in, though.

ON THE FLOP: 5d-6c-7c

Ouch! Now we wish we'd been more loosy-goosy, as we would have had a straight on the flop. About three players make bets on it to stay in the hand.


A six-card straight still would have been a straight. Maybe others have an 8, because two players keep betting.


Well, the deck has a 8 - so there's a straight on the table. One player makes a big "I dare you" bet, which we probably would have rejected It's called -- and a man to our left shows 8-10 of clubs! He made a straight flush on the turn -- and since he had an open-ended straight draw on the flop, it's doubtful any big bet we made would have turned him away.

The first hour did not go well for us, as we limped to the break at 2,250. But then things started changing. A man had to leave, so he shared his chips with the rest of the table. We grew to 4,000 from his generosity. Then we started getting good cards for all-in bets, including high suited-connector clubs which led to a big comeback. We jumped to 19,000, then jumped again to more than 53,000!

After a couple of attempts to play promising hands in the third hour missed the flop, we held on tightly with 30,000 chips to make our first final table since February. But the dream ended there, as a push with K-Q led to a miss and a woman with 8-9 made a full house. We finished in a three-way tie for fifth, and drove home with our best feeling from a poker night in a long time.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We pulled a fake key out of the car (a ploy to frustrate burglars) to use as a card protector. "This man has the key to success," the Tournament Director announced when he saw it.

"I actually had something else in mind," we answered -- which didn't surprise the Director, who's read this blog from time to time. "I brought it to remind me that Jesus holds the keys to death and the grave."

Where did we get that one? From the mouth of Jesus....

Don't be afraid! I am the first, the last and the Living One. I died, but now I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to death and the world of the dead. - Revelation 1:18, CEV

"Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe He was resurrected?" we asked a man to our immediate right. He said he did. We could have gone farther, and asked if HE expected to be resurrected.

I also saw all the dead people standing in front of the throne. Every one of them was there, no matter who they had once been. Several books were opened, and then the book of life was opened. The dead were judged by what those books said they had done. - Revelation 20:12, CEV

We don't buy the "all-in" claim from one Christian radio network that "Judgment Day" is only a few days away. But the Bible leaves no doubt a judgment is coming - for us as well as you. Are you ready to stand before the throne of Christ? And what will you say when that judgment comes on your life?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 95 final tables in 247 nights (38.5%) - 15 cashes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do the Hustle?

It's an awfully tempting offer at National League of Poker -- the opportunity to play for a seat at the World Series of Poker Main Event in July, plus $750 travel expenses. So we entered a qualifying tournament this week and found these words highlighted when we clicked: "Sponsored by Hustler Casino."

Once we entered, we learned from ads that it's Larry Flynt's Hustler Casino in southern California. That admittedly made us a bit uncomfortable. So we couldn't resist bringing him up at the table....

Dealer: flopblogger wins Main Pot ($930) with Straight, ace to five
Me: :-)
ChipSmugler: gh
Me: (whew) Thanks
ChipSmugler: lol
Me: (Larry Flynt notwithstanding)

Larry Flynt historically hasn't thought very highly of religion. That's really no surprise, since his career has been built on selling pornographic magazines. So a "Praise the Lord" might offend Flynt, but we're exercising our first amendment freedom to say it.

....The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.... "I tell you," [Jesus] replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." - Luke 19:37, 40

Moral of the story: don't be afraid to praise God in any situation. That chat continues....

ChipSmugler: you know I met his last summer hes a real nice guy
Me: Maybe so - but I can't agree with what he does....
ChipSmugler: Hes very smart and made a Casino more for fun and now it makes him over 20 mill a year
Me: he might need the $$ with online p*rn eclipsing magazines.
ChipSmugler: Doesnt mean I agree with his m***s but he is what he is He wasnt what I thought he would bevery much a gentleman paralyzed and keeps a great attitude....

Being nice and having a good attitude amid adversity are worthy virtues. In fact, in the right context they're Christian virtues. But we should watch people (including ourselves) carefully....

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. - Matthew 7:18-20

We can all be a "fruit cocktail" at times, if we're not staying close to the "fruit tree." A relationship with God through the Holy Spirit should produce consistently good fruit. Check Galatians 5:22-23 for a list of ingredients.

More on this topic in a future post....

Monday, May 9, 2011

Closing the Barn Door

An e-mail we received the other day indicates our usual Monday night poker spot no longer has tournaments - The Red Barn in Phenix City. We don't know the reason behind it. But we appreciated the fact that sodas (for bonus poker chips) cost $1.50 - 50 cents less than other locations.

So where do we go now? Don't worry, we have ideas. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 15: McAfee and Miracles

We qualified for the National League of Poker Sunday night weekly championship a couple of weeks ago, but had to skip it due to religious commitments. Earning points in games six day in a row this past week earned us another opportunity tonight -- and you had to sit in our seat to see the amazing things that happened.

We won a couple of small pots in the first half-hour, but lost a few and stood at 800. Then we went all-in with 10-10 in the small blind, caught a third 10 on the turn and recovered to 1,465. A few minutes later, 10-Q of clubs turned into a club flush on the river, and we were back to 2,300!

But then trouble came -- because our McAfee computer security decided it was time for an automatic update. We have high-speed Internet, but at the low end of the scale. So the update took 44 minutes and disconnected us from the game several times -- and for several minutes at a time.

With the update in progress at the second break, we could see we were in 226th place out of 297 players remaining. Then the frustration mounted:
+ We see A-6 in the Big Blind. We want to push with 675 in - but the connection problems prevents it.
+ We see A-10 with 225 left, and want to push - but the connection problem stops it again. (We eventually see an Ace on the river would have given us the pot.)

1:26 IN: With the antes at 75 and only 75 left, we're automatically all-in with 10-7. Yet the turn and river are running 10's! We win the pot despite it all, and return to 600.

1:31 IN: With connection problems still occurring, we somehow push all-in in the big blind with 2-K of hearts. It's clearly desperation from frustration, and we're ready to give it up -- yet King high is good enough!! We're back up to 1,375.

1:35 IN: We have A-7 and make another desperation push. Our Ace is a heart. The flop is 6-2h-9h. The turn is Jh -- and we smell it coming. The river is Kh! The nut flush jumps us up to 6,025, even with the hiccups!

The McAfee update ends during the third break, and we have 5,800 chips. We're in 74th, with 113 players left -- and we can't help sharing in chat form:

Me: Miracles happen. McAfee update has prevented me from playing almost anything for 42 minutes....
Me: Yet from 225 to this!! PTL!

(Oops, we actually understated that -- we were at 75.)

1:47 IN: We have A-J of diamonds - but even though McAfee is finished, yet another disconnection occurs! The computer folds us.

1:48 IN: We have 7-7 and feel desperate again. We push with 3,725 left. One person calls -- but with only 7-5! The flop has a 5, but nothing else comes of interest. We're somehow now at 9,550!

1:52 IN: With the computer seemingly calming down, we have 6-6 and call a "min-raise" to 3,200. The flop is 6-A-2, and we go all-in for 5,900 and get a caller with A-J. The turn and river are 10-2 - and we balloon to 25,300!!!! With 81 players left, we're suddenly in 12th (top 12 win money).

1:56 IN: We have A-Q, and it's another player's turn to push. We call a 16,112-chip bet -- only to see K-K. The flop is J-2-3, followed by 3-9. We finally lose a race, and it hurts -- as we drop to about 4,400.

1:59 IN: We have 7-K in the big blind. It's nothing special - until the flop comes 7-K-5! We push with 2,788 left, and 5-7 follow to give us a two-way full house! We're back to 14,776.

2:06 IN: We have A-4 with the blinds at 1,500/3,000/300. A player goes all-in for only 25 more, so we call. That player's 8-10 of spades turns into a flush on the river. Ouch.

2:07 IN: We have K-A, and decide not to wait again. We're all-in again for 9,851, and get a caller. The caller has A-Q! The flop is J-7-3! BUT the turn is Q and the river J. The Queen tops our King, to finally eliminate us.

Out of 1,398 players which began the night, we finished in 50th place. That's up from 66th in our last weekly championship in February -- and we absolutely did NOT deserve to finish that high. Based on the cash matrix of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event, we would have earned more than three times our buy-in. We probably should have placed around #250, out of "the money." But we're persuaded God did amazing things for us, to move us up -- and give you this amazing story to share. Praise God for it!

National Heads-Up Week 4: The Family That Plays

It's Mother's Day in the U.S. -- so how timely of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship to feature a comment about mothers from Michael Mizrachi. All four Mizrachi brothers finished in the money last year at the World Series of Poker Main Event. But "The Grinder" declared his mother plays poker more than anyone else, by doing so online.

It's good for a family to do things together. But poker?! We can imagine some hard-line ministers scolding mothers, by turning to verses such as....

But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. - I Timothy 5:6

But hold on. We have nice memories of family game nights from our youth (although it was Rack-O and Chinese Checkers instead of poker). That same section of Scripture speaks well of such things, when it comes to mothers who have lost their mates:

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. - I Timothy 5:4

In other words: your ancestors cared for you, so pass it on.

Care for the family should take many forms. See the last half of Proverbs 31 for some examples of how women can do this. But it doesn't have to be 100-percent drudgery and chores. Sometimes lessons learned in fun and games can stick with a young person for life. It can be a "time to build," as Ecclesiastes 3:4 puts it -- building strong moral values and character.

So if you're a "poker-playin' Mama," have a Happy Mother's Day. Be sure you take time to care well for your children. The queen of the house might even find ways to care while holding a pair of Kings.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Poker Night 246: Cincos de Mayo

We noted this is the National Day of Prayer. But at Lil Kim's Cove tonight, the talk was more about Cinco de Mayo -- even though the music from the jukebox was country and rap. Our evening was doing a slow "sink-o," until this happened....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 5-6 of diamonds

It's the last hand before the one-hour break, and things don't look too good for us. Despite a "go-slow" approach in hopes of breaking our long final table slump, we begin the hand at 2,850 -- and we're in the big blind, so take 400 away from that. We're comforted when the table simply calls, so we can check.

ON THE FLOP: 5-5-9

"Cinco de Mayo!" the dealer points out. For one night only, a winning hand with 5-5 would earn a 5,000-chip bonus. We don't have that, but we have an obvious move to make. The small blind folded pre-flop, so we push.

"I'm all in -- 2,450."

A couple of players fold, but a young man across the table calls. So does "The Sheriff," as we call him from the badges on his hat. We're not sure what to make of these calls, since the table has been betting big most of the night.


The board is practically a rainbow, so we're not really concerned about this. The two players who still can bet build a sidepot.


Even with this big card, we're feeling pretty good -- unless one of these men has a 5. The young man makes us wonder, by spending a long time in the tank before making the first action. He finally bets about 3,000. The Sheriff calls.

"I've got two pair," the Sheriff says -- showing 9-7.

"I've got a five," we declare.

The young man says nothing, but turns over A-9.

"You win it all," the Sheriff concludes. Huh?

"How can he win it all, if I have a 5?" we ask. That man spent so much time thinking that the Sheriff forgot we were still in the hand. Indeed, we do take the main pot - and take a Mexican jump (without any beans) to 9,550, increased to 10,000 by the "color-up" of chips which follows.

That big win allowed us to play for awhile after the break -- but then big bets came around us as we held A-K. We went all-in, as did two other players. But the board didn't pair for us, and a man holding 10-10 eliminated two people. We finished tied for 20th -- but not completely unhappy about the day. (Keep reading to learn why.)

MINISTRY MOMENT: A young man wearing an old-school uniform of basketball legend Dominique Wilkins sat to our left, and couldn't believe some of the play he saw.

"Oh my freaking God," he exclaimed at one point.

"He's my hope for salvation," we quietly responded. And we're not the only ones....

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.... Say to my soul, "I am your salvation." -- Psalm 35:1, 3

King David apparently wrote this during a time when he was under some sort of attack. The salvation we seek today is different -- and eternal, which God promises believers ultimately will receive when Jesus comes back.

By the way, the faux "Human Highlight Reel" didn't respond to our one-line answer. What would your answer be?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 246 nights (38.2%) - 15 cashes. The slump reaches 15!

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 135 point wins in 645 games (20.9%), 49 final tables, five cashes. UFC Knockout: 1 win in three games (33.3%).

Our latest money win came earlier in the day -- as we finished third in a tournament with 579 players, and at one point led the field by more than 80,000 chips! Third place earns us $10, while first and second would have gained us $50 and $20.

POKER STARS.NET: Pretend cash games - $44,916, up $119.

Ask Early and Often

Wednesday night was a big night for us in online poker -- with a top 30 finish out of more than 750 players. One opponent late in the match was someone with the handle "PUSHINANPRAY."

"Happy National Day of Prayer," we said to that person.

It brought no response -- but we meant it. Today is the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. And we believe prayer is for far more than all-in moments.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. -- I Thessalonians 5:16-18

As one radio minister likes to put it: pray your way through the day. Not only for wisdom and spiritual help to be a light at the poker table -- but in dealings with people from morning to night, whether in person or online.

We hope you take special time today to ask for God's help in matters far beyond yourself -- from needy people in your community to our national leaders. All of them (and all of us) probably would appreciate it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Poker Night 245: Don't King Me

We pondered for a long time what approach to take at The Red Barn tonight, to break our long final table slump. We leaned toward playing very tight, and pouncing when the moment was right. It wouldn't take long to see if that worked....

BLINDS: 25/50


We're only about five hands in, and we haven't lost much from our starting stack of 6,000 chips. Sitting fourth in the betting order, we choose to hold on tight and limp. Most of the table plays this hand, with no one raising.


An overpair has us thinking happy thoughts -- so when someone across the table bets 200, we're pleased to call. Only a couple of players fold.


"We three Kings" is a very out-of-season song. But that's what we have, and we're ready move on it -- but hold on. A woman across from us bets 2,000. The board is an absolute "rainbow," so we think this is a classic "two pair versus trips" bet. So we don't hesitate to call. Another player calls, to go all-in with less than the bet.


The woman across from us doesn't slow down, betting 2,000 more. With "top trips," why should we worry? We call again.

"I've got a straight."

NOOOOOOOO! The woman shows A-J! The King which gave us confidence gave her something even better. Our dream of a big gain turns into a huge loss - down to 1,625 chips.

We never recovered from that moment -- as attempts to limp with A-8 and A-7 brought no pair on the flop and forced us to fold. A final desperation move with 9-8 of spades brought a pair of 9's, but other players made two pair to eliminate us. We miss the final table for the 14th live tournament in a row -- finishing sixth at a table of eight.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our card protector tonight had several messages combined in one. The American Red Cross sent us this lapel pin several years ago, for giving two gallons of blood. It was a reminder that the Red Cross is accepting donations to help survivors of last week's devastating tornadoes in the Southern U.S.

But one man who noticed the pin thought of something more. "Blood - the gift of life." And it's a gift Jesus offered long ago for you. Do you know why? Offer a comment if you'd like to answer; we'll explain in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 94 final tables in 245 nights (38.4%) - 15 cashes. Our last final table appearance was way back on February 10.

When Things Don't Make Sense

We mentioned a poker night last week which included a lengthy discussion about what God can and cannot do. One man asked if God is all-powerful, "why can't He make a rock He cannot lift?"

"How do you know He hasn't?" we answered. The man admitted he didn't know. Other people around the table noted some of the things which seemed like absurd "science fiction" 100 years ago now are reality. (No one brought up online poker as an example, but we could have.)

"I think logically," the man insisted -- and this raises an interesting question: is God a logical God? Does He do things in a sensible way, or doesn't He?

Some people point to the creation account in Genesis 1 as evidence that the Creator worked in a logical way. Other ministers note a long list of parallels between the life of Joseph in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.

But what about the moments which defy scientific explanation? Our logical thinker cited this case....

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. - Matthew 14:25-26

"Low tide" was how the man at the table explained this. Jesus waited until the tide was low, to merely give the appearance He was walking on water.

The water in this case was the Sea of Galilee, which can be 141 feet deep in spots. A parallel passage in John 6:16-19 indicates Jesus took His famous walk while the disciples' boat was at least three miles from shore!

Would low tide really reduce the water level in the middle of a lake that much? The largest recorded tidal swing is only 52 feet. So the logic of physics says no -- thus showing how God (even in the person of Jesus) can defy logic to accomplish what He wishes.

We should note logic doesn't always work in poker, either. How many players (including us one night last week) have lost winning hands, when someone hit running clubs or hearts to make a flush?

We noted to this man that some things mentioned in Scripture ultimately are a matter of faith. As an Old Testament prophet put it:

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:9

On this day marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, we'd note God expresses some of His ways clearly in Scripture. If you follow those ways faithfully, maybe some things which seem illogical will start to make sense.

OK Then - Good Dawg

We talked to a police vice squad captain a few minutes ago. No, officers did NOT stage an intervention at The Dawg House last week, to stop the regular poker games.

Maybe the managers simply had to buy some new decks of cards?!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Heads-Up Championship Week 3: Timing Patterns

Four "words of wisdom" were uttered during today's NBC Heads-Up Poker telecast. So said the opponent of poker legend Doyle Brunson. Brunson's statement: "Poker's all about timing."

Time your big bluff with 4-7 just right, and you might steal a pot with it. Push with J-J, and you might lose to an opponent with Q-Q (which Vanessa Selbst had in another match today).

But let's think bigger here -- isn't life all about timing? Whether it's buying a home, selling stock or waiting at an intersection as a drunk driver comes by? The Bible has plenty to say about it....

Since a king's word is supreme.... Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him. - Ecclesiastes 8:4-6

This comes from a book which shows "time" relates to choices we make (3:1-8). The ultimate "king" for a believer is Jesus. We should pray for the wisdom to know the right time and way to act. That's as true about a major investment or career change as it is a pocket pair.

We write this only days after devastating tornadoes killed hundreds of people in the U.S. South, and left damage not far from our home. Survivors understandably might wonder if they were in the right (or wrong) place at the wrong time. We can take comfort in the promise that when the time is right, God will intervene -- for good.

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and the all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. -- Matthew 24:29-30

Ministers like to say God's always on time, and never late. If you're reading this, it's not too late for you to turn to God and seek His wisdom to have perfect timing in your life.