Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poker Night 259: Extra Credit?

Classic country music abounded from the Lil Kim's Cove jukebox tonight, with the notable exception of Kenny Rogers's song with a poker theme. You know, The Gambler -- with the chorus, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." One key hand tested how much we knew....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 8-7 offsuit

We hear players in live tournaments rave about playing these connected mid-range cards. So we do, and no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: 6-9-10

This actually is the second time in three hands that we've flopped a straight! The first time was with 5-4 -- and we split a big pot with a woman who also had 5-4. In that case, we raised to 1,000 on the flop. This time when a player to our right bets 200, we raise to 1,000 again.

"You have 8-7?!" a man across the table correctly concludes based on our pattern. But we say nothing, as the table folds. The man next to us calls.


There's no flush threat here, but our opponent leads for 1,000 again. We don't want to run him off if he's betting that much, so we call.


With a pair now on the board, our opponent goes all-in for about 2,100 -- and we sense big trouble. If he has 10-K or even 10-6, he tops us with a full house. We started this hand with about 8,100, so a call would be a substantial loss. After pondering for a moment, we decide to be safe.

"I'm going to give you credit for a big hand, and I'll fold." We show our straight. He shows a 10, all right -- but NOT a full house. Our read was wrong, and he ran us off a huge pot.

That mistake left us wounded for a while, and we crawled to the one-hour break at 3,750. But immediately after the break, we won from both the big and small blinds to improve to 11,500. Good cards ran out after that, though; a desperation all-in bet from the small blind with Q-J didn't bring a pair, and a man who paired an 8 knocked us out. Another final table missed -- as we finish in 12th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A man sitting at the bar with crutches motioned us over during the one-hour break. "You gonna play the jukebox?" he asked.

"I never have here," we admitted.

The man offered us two dollars for the jukebox, which admittedly made us uncomfortable. "I don't know what songs you want," we said after an awkward moment.

"Play something country," he said. So with that guidance, we took the two dollars to the jukebox and.... well, let's stop right there.

If you wanted to send a Christian message with country music at a jukebox, what songs would you select? We'll tell you what we chose in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 98 final tables in 259 nights (37.8%) - 15 cashes. Four missed final tables in a row have dropped us to our lowest percentage since we started this blog.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 155 point wins in 703 games (22.0%), 54 final tables, 7 cashes. We owe you a monthly championship report; it's coming Friday.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $50,643, up $800. We stayed above "50-K" at last, with some action last weekend.

Ace of Heart

When was the last time a poker story put an emotional lump in your throat? A story from this week's World Series of Poker action did for us -- and we think it deserves attention far outside Las Vegas.

A veteran of the conflict in Iraq and a rank-amateur poker player bought a $1,000 seat at a WSOP tournament. Then Ken Griffin proceeded to win it all, taking home more than $450,000.

If that's not enough, Griffin plans to use at least some of the prize money to help his aging mother pay for chemotherapy.

But don't stop there. The tournament update shows Griffin won the final hand in a dream-come-true way -- when his opponent pushed all-in pre-flop, before he looked at pocket Aces.

If Disney Productions ever wanted to write a poker movie script, they've found it. It's a touching tale all around. And may God bless Ken Griffin, along with his mom.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June Senior Championship: The Runner Stumbles

It's a busy week for us, and not only in terms of a 40-hour-per-week project. Before the project started, we qualified for two monthly championships at National League of Poker. Tuesday night was Senior Night, with 858 players on the guest list.

:03 IN: We have 6-6 in the Big Blind. The flop is Q-5-9. The turn is K -- and since no one's betting, we offer the minimum 30. The table folds, and we win $105.

In fact, that started a run of four pots in a row which nearly doubled our starting chip count.

:09 IN: After that run, we have 10-Q. The flop is 10-J-J, and we call a minimum bet of 40. The turn is J, giving us a full house. When our opponent bets 40 again, we raise to 150 and get called. The river is 4, and we bet 200. The opponent calls -- and has a 10 like we do. We split a $1,170 pot.

:21 IN: We have 9-10. The flop is 2-A-9. We try a bet of 150 and get called. The turn is 3. Everyone checks. The river is another 3. We bet 150 - and win at the showdown with two pair, gaining $810.

:22 IN: The next hand brings us A-3. The flop is 10-7-4. The turn is J; the river is 9. No one's betting, so we toss out 160 - and the table folds. A gain of $310.

We reach the half-hour break at $1,795 -- good enough for 125th place, with 388 still in the running.

:34 IN: Right after the break, we have Q-9 of spades on the button. The flop is 8x-5s-9x. An opponent bets 375, and we call with top pair. The turn is 2 (not a spade). The opponent bets 750, and we call sensing a bluff. The river is 6. He checks. So do we. But it's no bluff - he shows 9-8, and we lose $1,080 in one hand.

:51 IN: With our stack dropping, we go all-in under the gun with A-Q. The flop is 9-10-3 - but the turn is Q! The river is 9, and we "quadruple up" to $1,080.

:52 IN: The next hand finds us in the big blind with a lowly 3-2 of clubs -- but the table folds! "Bless you," we write as we pick up $75.

:58 IN: With blinds rising, we go all in with Q-A and 930 left. We top opponents with A-J and K-J! The board is nice and low: 2-7-7-8-6, giving us a big boost to $3,240.

1:03 IN: We have 9-A in the big blind, ready to defend - but a second walk comes, gaining us $400 in blinds and antes.

That brings us to the second break with $3,240. We're right in the middle of the pack - #71, with 142 left.

1:08 IN: Right after this break, we have Q-3 in the small blind. The flop is 8-2-6. The turn is 5. The river is Q -- and with no one betting, our 300 bet with top pair takes the pot to gain $1,750.

But we lost the next hand with A-Q, when an opponent with pocket Jacks caught a third on the river. A couple more modest losses hurt as well, until....

1:14 IN: We have 7-A with rising blinds and antes. We're forced to call with 805 left. But the flop brings 9-9-5, and an opponent with a 9 winds up with a winning full house.

Final outcome: 83rd place -- a "top ten percent" finish which would earn us a small profit in a casino. That big loss at :34 was the big lesson for us. Calling big bets against our mid-range top pair simply asks for trouble.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reconciling Things

Sometimes even a neighborhood poker game can have its tense moments -- for instance, when a big pot or first place is at stake. In children's games, the result can be everything from yelling to hurt feelings and bruised relationships. (Yes, we know this; ask some of our relatives.) But adults ought to be able to put those moments behind them -- "burying the hatchet" and letting bygones be bygones.

The dictionary defines such a grown-up approach as being reconciled to each other. And in a recent post, we noted how believers need to be reconciled to God. Why is that necessary?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -- Romans 3:23

God wants to develop a glorious relationship with us. But God is perfect (Matthew 5:48) -- and while humans are told to be perfect, we all fall far short. So we need that reconciliation. And thankfully, God provided a way for that....

That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. -- II Corinthians 5:19

When you accept Jesus as your Savior, your sins are applied to Him. They're covered in Christ's shed blood, as our perfect sacrifice (Romans 4:7-8). And after that happens....

....And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. -- 5:19b

That's the message we're bringing here. Be reconciled to your fellow poker players, even if they bluff you out of a small fortune. And even more importantly, become reconciled to God -- to build a glorious relationship which can last for eternity.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Going for Dough in Ocala

We took a two-day job-related road trip to Florida this week. And of course, any road trip there includes checking maps for ways to save money -- and even make money along the way at poker rooms.

Ocala Poker was practically right on the way to our destination. It's only three miles off Interstate 75, between Gainesville and Ocala. Even on a Tuesday afternoon, it was a busy place with several tables full and a waiting list for a few players.

The woman at the counter suggested the least expensive buy-ins would be for $1/$1 no-limit and $1/$2 limit. We chose the latter, and after a few minutes walked to the table with the minimum $20 to play.

Things didn't go well at first. Flush chases didn't work -- and even a 7-7 pocket pair with a 2-7-2 flop turned into a "bad beat" loser, as our full house was topped by a man with 9-9 who saw 2 on the turn for a "better boat."

We lost $20 in less than 30 minutes -- but we budgeted to spend $40. With that second $20 bill, things started happening....

BLINDS: $1 (only one blind)


A fairly good start for us. But the peril of small-stakes pot limit is that it's cheap and easy for anyone to play, even with wimpy hands. So most of the table jumps in.

ON THE FLOP: 5-7-8 (all diamonds, as we recall)

"Trips" on our trip give us hope -- but note there's flush and straight potential here. "River chasers" are more likely to get rewarded in this format, as you can't scare them off with huge bets. But we plunk down the minimum $1 bet, and a few players fold.


That seems harmless for us. The minimum bet is now $2, and we bet it. One man calls; the rest of the table gets out of the way.


Wow!!!! Now we quietly try to remember the rules at the Ocala Poker website. Is this a bonus that could pay for our entire trip? We confidently bet $2. A man across the table doesn't hesitate, raising to $4. But any full house he has is worthless, so we raise to $6. He raises to $8.

"I'll raise to ten," we say.

"You can't do that," veterans of this table say to Mr. Newby. Too bad - we have to settle for a call. (Of all the times to long for NO-limit play.)

"How much do quads pay here?" we ask.

"Nothing," someone grumbles.

"Because I have quads," we announce. We'll gain at least $14 for winning the pot, though -- as well as compliments for a nice hand.

"He had a straight flush draw," someone points out. Our opponent had a mid-range diamond (didn't see exactly which one). Had his straight flush come along with our 5 -- and it wouldn't have been the first time for us -- we would have split the room's building "Bad Beat Jackpot" which stood at more than $33,000. Now THAT would have paid for the trip, and a whole lot more!

Several pots came our way after that -- and we left Ocala Poker to go back on the road with $78. We gained 95 percent on our $40 investment, and whistled the hymn "Thank You, Lord" as we walked out the door.

If only we had quit there. We decided to squeeze in one more "lightning round" stop the next day, as we drove home from our destination.

We had to wait longer at dinnertime, and would up at a $1/$1 no-limit table. We didn't grasp that difference, and bet small right away with K-K. The board brought a pair of 5's, and two other players pushed us all in for our small $20 investment. They both had 5's, and a man looking like the twin brother of CNBC's Jim Cramer on the big screen in front of us took a big pot with an Ace kicker.

We lost $20 in one hand -- but quit then and there, settling for an $18 gain (45 percent) over two days. It didn't cover the entire cost of the trip (not even one tank of gas), but it was relatively satisfying.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We made sure to bring the "Jesus as Your Savior" coin for this moment. We showed it to the man who topped our full house on Day 1.

"Absolutely true. Absolutely true," he said of the message. He's a retired schoolteacher, who hopefully spends time being taught by the true Master.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poker Night 258: Eight It All Up

We did fairly well playing cash game poker for real money this week (watch this space for details) -- but cash winnings in our home area have been very hand to find. It's now 11 months since we made money in local tournaments. And the play at Lil Kim's Cove tonight left us wondering when that streak will end....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: K-10 of clubs

We're under the gun early in the evening, and have lost a couple of promising hands because we missed the flop (including A-K). We get in small, and no one at the full table raises.

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

A flush draw with "overcards" looks promising to us again. Except the woman in the small blind bets 400. We call in hope. One or two other players call as well.


Close, but not quite. The small blind bets 400 more. Feeling committed, we call in hope again. One other player call.


The flush is missed, but there's still a little hope. With three 8's showing, our King would win the pot if no one paired. The small blind bets 200, suggesting to us she missed something -- perhaps a flush draw of her own.

"I've got to see," we say -- since 200 is a relatively cheap amount. The other player folds.

"I've got quads." Ouch!!! Our opponent shows the fourth 8 - and explains to other players she bet small "to keep everybody in." She certainly did in our case. We lose 1,000 chips, and she gains a 5,000-chip bonus.

That's a microcosm of how the night went for us, as opportunities kept falling short. We survived to the one-hour break at 1,750 chips -- but then we went all-in with 9-9 and won a pot to "triple up" to 6,000.

A second push minutes later with K-10 and a King showing on the flop didn't work, though. A man made two pair to knock us out. We were thankful simply to walk home with 13th place, making the semifinal table despite only winning one hand.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We jumped on an exclamatory moment at the one-hour break, when a man said (we assume in disbelief over something), "Jesus!"

We had to give our answer loudly three times before the man understand it: "He's my hope of salvation." Why do we say that?

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! - Romans 5:10

You may have heard some Christians say we're saved by the "blood of Christ" or "by His sacrifice." Well, not exactly. The apostle Paul explains here we're reconciled to God by the death -- but actually saved by Jesus's life, as in the resurrection. So what does it mean to be reconciled? Your comments are welcome; we'll offer an answer in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 98 final tables in 258 nights (38.0%) - 15 cashes. This is our lowest final table percentage in a long time.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 154 point wins in 699 games (22.0%), 54 final tables, seven cashes. We went one-for-two in making points over the past seven days.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $49,843, up $2,765. We actually topped the $50,000 mark Sunday, by gaining $340 in our first "pot limit" Poker Stars game before falling back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Words of a "LoSer" II

Our last post mentioned an online opponent named "LoSerUr2" who clearly brought an attitude with him to the poker table - an attitude challenging our faith. The chat about our Sabbath-keeping went on, as the play continued:

LoSerUr2: you go to church one day to ask for forgiveness of the sins ya do the other six days

This skeptic actually raises a very good point. Some people look at Chriatianity as simply "doing your duty" to God in a weekly worship service, then living any way they please the rest of the week. It becomes custom and tradition -- when God wants much more than that.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." - Matthew 15:7-9

These are tough words from Jesus -- and they should be thought-provoking words, even for long-time believers. Could you and I worship Jesus in vain? If rules are followed simply because they're the "rules of the house" like at a poker tournament, the Lord says yes. Instead....

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. - II Timothy 2:22

Ask God to purify your heart to fully please and serve Him. Then pursue a lifestyle that reflects a godly example -- toward other people as well as Him. Back at the chat....

Me: I seek God's forgiveness most every day.
LoSerUr2: i forgive my my fellow poker player

Why, thank you. That's the spirit we all should have:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. - Colossians 3:13

We've found poker players in live tournaments practice this far more than you might think. Not always. Not perfectly. But it happens on a regular basis. Can you say that, as you walk with God?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Words of a "LoSer"

"I am number 1," declared someone we met at a National League of Poker tournament the other day.

"At this table. At this moment," we wrote in response. When someone writes that comment out of the blue, you expect a lively discussion to follow -- and we quickly steered it in a moral direction.

LoSerUr2: i am king
LoSerUr2: bow to ur king
Me: No. Jesus is my King.
LoSerUr2: drop roses at me feet as i walk by
LoSerUr2: well im your king then

We live in the U.S., so we admittedly didn't even pay that much attention to the royal wedding in London earlier this year. (We learned while writing this the phrase "We have no king but Jesus" apparently was NOT a creation of the American Revolution.) But to be fair, it's not wrong to honor royalty in countries which have it....

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. - I Peter 2:17

But as you do, keep in mind who the Ultimate King really is.

....the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. - Revelation 15:3

Our opponent didn't stop there - firing back as some poker players naturally would, during this Sunday afternoon tournament.

LoSerUr2: if jesus is ur king
LoSerUr2: how come ur not at church
LoSerUr2: shame shame shame
Dealer: phasma wins Main Pot ($1525) with Two pair, tens and eights
LoSerUr2: you playing poker for money instead
LoSerUr2: your king will be so proud of u
LoSerUr2: muhahahaha
Me: I attend church on the Seventh-Day Sabbath.
Me: As in Saturday.

This has been our practice for many years - in part because the Bible indicates that's what Jesus practiced.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. - Luke 4:16

Why would this be Christ's custom? Because He was Jewish (John 4:9) -- and He went to a place where God traditionally was worshiped. (Jesus probably would say the people there didn't really worship God, or they would have accepted Him as Messiah.)

There's more to this discussion; you'll see it in our next post.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Poker Night 257: One-Hand Wonder

We mentioned earlier this week that our poker-playing is reduced for awhile. In fact, tonight's tournament at Lil Kim's Cove was our last trip to a table since last week at Lil Kim's Cove. And one man wanted to make sure we didn't stick around long.

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: J-10 offsuit

It's the very first hand of the night - and we didn't even time to buy a soda for extra chips in advance. But that's OK; the table treats it as a "warm-up hand." Most players get in, with no one raising. We join them, sitting one behind the dealer.


Top pair looks promising, and the table checks to us. So we bet 200. Several players fold, except for a young man wearing a Chicago White Sox cap. He calls.


Mr. ChiSox checks to us. It's still top pair, so we bet 200 again -- and are greeted with a raise of 1,000. Something tells us he's trying to run us off, so we call in hopes the river will settle all doubt.


That settles absolutely nothing -- as Mr. ChiSox drops his stack of chips on the table to go all-in. If he was on a straight draw, he could have hit it there.

"You have two pair, don't you?" a man across the table asks us. We say nothing -- but he points out something else our opponent could have. Or he still could have nothing, and is banking on what he perceives as our tendency to play cautious poker.

As Doyle Brunson once said to big early bettors on Poker After Dark: "First hand, gentlemen." Based on that, we choose to err on the side of caution and fold top pair. Too many cards simply could have beaten us.

Our opponent then shows one of his cards. "Ace high," he says. Yeah -- but what was low? We think we heard him say something about a 2, but we're still not sure.

Another man pushed against us on the very next hand when we held A-K -- except our big cards didn't pair on the board, and that fold was easier. Then we tried to be a bit aggressive and creative, without success. Then we folded 10-5 of diamonds before the flop -- only to see three diamonds come on the flop, costing us a huge comeback hand.

Bottom line: it simply was not our night. Forced to push in the big blind after the first hour with K-10, we missed again -- and finished in 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We were so stunned by how the first two hands went that we never had one tonight. But we took a little comfort in knowing this blog was a witness to the late Stephen King, whom we mentioned in the previous post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 98 final tables in 257 nights (38.1%) - 15 cashes.

In Memoriam

A regular reader and occasional commenter at this blog has been Georgia fireworks show presenter and poker enthusiast Stephen King.

We were saddened to learn Wednesday King died last week. Read our tribute to him at our other blog, The Blog of Columbus.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remember As You Play....

I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. -- Psalm 119:113

Some chess masters put on exhibitions where they play 20 games at a time -- going to a board and making a move, then shuffling to the next board to make a move, and on around a room.

Could you imagine poker players doing that sort of thing? Believe it or not, Daniel Negreanu's schedule at the World Series of Poker was arranged that way earlier this week. From his Twitter feed....

Playing 3 events today: 1500 PLO noon, Day 2 10k Stud, 3pm, 2500 8 Game 5pm, then noon tmr is 5k NLH shootout. Hectic schedule coming.

The WSOP website indicates Negreanu made all three games -- by going bust early in two of them. His apparent strategy: build a big stack in a hurry to gain a chip lead worthy of cashing, or crash in a hurry and move on to the next event.

Negreanu has the star power to pull a stunt like that. But we think most players would do better to do what athletes often say -- take things one game at a time. Distractions can cost you focus, cost you hands and even cost you a winning tournament.

So if you need headphones to concentrate at the table, go ahead. If you need to throw them away because the music shakes you up, go ahead. Keep your mind on poker. But oh yes -- don't forget the second part of that verse in Psalms. Love God's law, and reflect it in godly words and actions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cutting the Cards

Remember when our schedule went to a "new normal" several months ago, with guaranteed income? Well, that schedule has returned beginning this week.

We're not sure how long it will last -- but for now, we're cutting back to one live tournament per week. Our online play will diminish as well. Don't worry, though; we suspect we'll still have plenty to blog about here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Master's in Math

Some poker players have become superstars by knowing the odds and "doing the math." But the odds of making a big hand can be hefty. For instance, we read in a magazine the odds of two suited cards making a flush are one in 15.

Life can have some long odds as well. But we've found a woman who teaches probability to high school students, and knows all about that. She says having God on your side is better than having "the numbers" in your favor. What do you think?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poker Night 256: Feeling Well?

"He's one of the best Texas Hold 'em players in Columbus," a man said about us over lunch today. Thank you for that -- but we haven't won money in a live local tournament in almost a year. Tonight brought another opportunity at Lil Kim's Cove, but also another challenge.

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Q-9 offsuit

This is normally a hand we would discard -- but something is telling us to give these cards a try. Since we've already won a couple of small pots, we can afford to do it. Most of the table calls, with no raising.

ON THE FLOP: 9-4-4

The play checks to us, and we feel pretty confident betting 350 with two pair. But three other players call.


Now the player to our immediate right takes charge by betting 2,000. But we have top two pair, and this smells like a scare tactic to us. So we call, as does one other player.


The man to our right bets 2,000 again. This table has been playing fairly tight, and we still don't think he has the goods. If he has a Queen, our 9 gives us a better two pair.

"I may regret this," we say, "but I'll call." A woman across the table does as well.

"I've got trips," the man announces. Ouch -- he has a 4, and he has a huge pot. Our "feelings" were wrong, and they got hurt.

That slashed our chip stack to about 2,600, and we never really recovered. We survived an all-in "big blind special" in the second hour when our 5-4 brought two pair, and that gain from 1,500 to 6,000 lasted until the semifinal table. But rising blinds forced another all-in bet with 9-10 of clubs, and the board didn't pair for us. We weren't good enough on this night, finishing 12th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Two men noticed our "Lord's Supper" card protector tonight. "I have the Lord's Supper on my wall," a soldier told us.

"What's God been doing in your life?" we asked.

"He guides me as I walk through the day," he answered. And as a military man, he probably knows one verse about walking very well....

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4

Even if you're not in the armed forces, not every road in life is easy. God can guide you "beside quiet waters.... in paths of righteousness" (verses 2-3). And in the tough times, believers in Jesus Christ have the hope of an eternal life beyond this one. Have you trusted your life to Jesus, so that hope can be in you?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 98 final tables in 256 nights (38.3%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 153 point wins in 697 games (22.0%), 54 final tables, 7 cashes. UFC three-card knockout - 2 final tables in 9 games (22.2%), 1 cash.

Money came our way Tuesday night, in NLOP's biggest daily all-comers tournament! We finished fourth out of 730 players, to earn $10 (first place pays $50).

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $47,078, up $80. (This is an accurate revised total; we apparently misfigured at some point in recent weeks.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Holy and the Ivey

We've let the dust settle for a few days from Phil Ivey's announcement that he's boycotting the World Series of Poker. Some professional poker players have supported his stand (such as Daniel Negreanu), while others have not (such as Andrew Robl).

Ivey's ire is aimed at Full Tilt Poker, claiming it's failed to repay many players who lost their accounts in the April federal crackdown on online poker. Without getting into the legal details and fine points, we'd ask a couple of different questions.

1. Why boycott the World Series of Poker over this? As far as we know, it's not run by any online poker business.

2. What is Ivey doing personally to help players who have their accounts frozen, and fear they'll lose a lot of money?

That second question admittedly cuts deeper. Ivey has made millions of dollars playing poker. Is he "sharing the wealth" with other players in need? Consider the advice Jesus once gave to a rich young ruler....

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. - Matthew 19:21-22

Giving to "poor" poker players goes contrary to the rules of a game, of course. But Ivey's stand should go far beyond strategy -- it should come down to a matter of how to show practical help and compassion to fellow Full Tilters.

If Ivey really cares about others facing big poker losses, he shouldn't simply walk away from a spotlight event. He should take steps to assist them. After all, Ivey is skilled enough to walk into a high-stakes cash game and win more money if he needs it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 18: Let's Make Some Noise

It was close early on Sunday, but we qualified again for the National League of Poker Weekly Championship -- probably our last one for a while (explanation coming soon). After a quiet start, the right moments started to come....

:15 IN: We have 10-9. The flop is 3-5-10, so we bet 75 with top pair. Someone calls. The turn is A. All parties check. The river is A. We dare to bet 100 -- and get paid off when out opponent shows Q-5. We gain $725.

:21 IN: We have 9-9 on the button. The flop is 5-7-3, and we call an opposing bet of 100. The turn is 9, right on time! We bet 100, and call a raise to 240. The river is Q, so we bet 125. The opponent calls, and shows 10-10. Good try - but we win $1,840.

That brought us to the half-hour break at a comfortable $2,395. Out of 1,434 players who started, we stand 153rd; 785 remain in the running.

:35 IN: We have Q-10 under the gun, and call when someone doubles the blind The flop is J-3-10, and we call a bet of 340 (which we believe put someone all-in). The turn is 9, and we call a bet of 120. The river is 9 - and we wind up with a $240 sidepot, while the player who pushed makes a straight.

:38 IN: We have Q-8 in the big blind. The flop is 7-9-6, and we call a bet of 250 with an open-ended straight draw. The turn is 5 -- and when someone bets 430, we go all-in. That opponent takes the hint and folds! We win $2,780.

:52 IN: We have K-6 of hearts on the button. The blind is 3-A-A. We make a position bet of 300, and it works! The table folds; we win $1,050.

:58 IN: We have 8-9 of clubs. The flop is 5-J-9, and we bet the minimum 300. Someone calls. The turn is 2. Everyone checks. The river is 9, and our opponent makes a "dare you" bet of 1,160. We don't like our kicker, but we call -- and the opponent was bluffing with 8-10! It's a big gain of $3,620.

1:01 IN: We have 10-5 in the big blind. The flop is 7-7-4. Everyone checks. The turn is 10 -- and our bet of 700 with two pair makes the table fold. Another win of $1,050.

At the one-hour break, we're at a healthy 4,940 chips -- 92nd place, with 314 to go.

1:08 IN: We have 8-8 in the big blind. Someone goes all-in for 620, and we call. The flop is 9-5-9, and bet 300. The turn and river are 2-Q -- and we win a sidepot of $1,796; the player who pushed had 4-Q to take the main pot.

But the good cards ran out after that, as the blinds and antes went up....

1:35 IN: We have K-10, and the big blind forces us to go all-in. The board is 8-2-9-J-8 -- and an opponent with J-A tops us.

Final score: 131st place, out of 1434. That's a "top ten percent" finish which would have earn us money in many casinos -- and we made it that high for the third time in the last ten Weekly Championships. Not a massive win, but still not bad.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When a big online pot is split, we respond with polite applause. For instance, one hand brought....

Me: (church clap)

Another split pot led to some discussion about that....

Me: (golf clap)
mjgtlc: is that louder then a church clap
mjgtlc: lol
Me: Probably depends on which church :-)
mjgtlc: good point

Different church denominations and associations have different moods to their worship. Some are loud like the "shoutin' crowd." Others are so quiet, you can hear a coin rattle in the offering plate during the service. We continued....

Me: Where I attend, clapping hands is not allowed - except when children sing.
Me: I don't think that's Biblical, but that's the policy.

Why do we say that? Because of several verses, including:

Clap your hands, all you nations, shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth. - Psalm 47:1-2

Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy. -- Psalm 98:8

If rivers are told to "clap their hands," and they don't have hands, then why can't we?

But don't misunderstand -- there are times when quietness in worship can be wonderful and powerful as well.

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. - Habakkuk 2:20

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.... - Psalm 37:7

Each side may try to persuade you its approach is correct, while the other is wrong. But we've put the Scriptures together, and decided there's a time and place for both forms of worship. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to know the "time to be silent and a time to speak...." (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Poker Night 255: Thou Shalt Not Steal

The Sports Page's "clock" for Texas Hold 'em allows a generous amount of time for each round of blinds -- giving patient players more time to wait for the right moment. We were in a position tonight where we needed that wait.

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

Some people say they can't stand to see these cards, because they frequently don't win. We learned why earlier tonight, losing a lot of chips to a woman who hit two small pair on the flop. Sitting second in line with only 2,625 chips, we choose to limp in with these big cards. But a woman in the big blind raises to 900, and we decide we can't hold back.

"I'm all-in," we announce -- for 1,725 more. The big blind calls. Everyone else scrams. The good news for us: she has K-J -- which means in a way, we was trying to steal the pot pre-flop. Now if the cards will kindly cooperate....

ON THE FLOP: 4-7-5

The cards are dealt very quickly -- with no TV drama.



"Thank you very much. I needed that," we say to the woman. We make up our earlier loss with a pair of Aces, returning to about 5,100.

We split a pot after that with a full house -- but otherwise, good cards were hard to find for us. We pushed all-in again with A-9 and 2,500 left, but another woman made a straight to top our pair of 9's. On a night when there was a waiting list to join a table, we exited in about 24th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Someone at our main table mentioned Jesus in an exclamatory way.

"He's my hope of salvation," we said. No one pursued the subject with us. Maybe next time?!

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 98 final tables in 255 nights (38.4%) - 15 cashes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just One Look

At a poker night last week, we mentioned a man's suggestion that we should envision Jesus as "looking like you."

At first thought, that sounds sensible -- since God made humans to look like Him.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness".... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:26-27

The Bible also shows Jesus came from heaven not as an animal or a bird, but as a human being.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2:11

Did Jesus look extraordinary while He walked the earth? Did He have a halo around His head, so everyone could recognize Him? Apparently not....

They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. - Luke 4:29-30

How could Jesus do this if He looked different than everyone else?

So the man's comment on poker night is well taken. Jesus probably looked like any rank-and-file Nazarene of His time. But there's something else to consider, when it comes to this topic....

All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols -- worship him, all you gods! - Psalm 97:7

Having a picture of Jesus (or some other god) in your home for worship purposes actually are violating one of God's Ten Commandments.

So how should we envision God the Father and Jesus -- for example, when we pray? The apostle Paul may have offered the best advice....

....God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lord, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light.... - I Timothy 6:15-16

Paul was blinded by a light when he first encountered Jesus (Acts 9:3, 8-9). May we all look to that "light of the world" for wisdom, guidance and help when we need it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Poker Night 254: Follow the Loser

Some winning poker hands require a measure of skill and a good bit of tension. But on rare occasions, the winner simply falls into your lap. Look at one example from Lil Kim's Cove tonight....

BLINDS: 100/200


We won an early pot, but our stack currently hovers around our starting 8,000 (3,000 extra for a diet cola). The play calls to us, but we decide to raise to 600.

"Thanks a lot," a man mutters to our right. He folds; two other players call.

ON THE FLOP: 10-10-K

Talk about a dream flop! We have quads -- but house rules state we cannot claim a 5,000-chip bonus for it until the river. So we play "follow the leader," and a man to our immediate right bets 1,000.

"One-thousand?!?" we ask in mock disbelief. We "Hollywood" it, as they say in big-time poker -- shaking our head as we call. The third player calls as well.


The man to our right is undaunted, and tosses in 1,000 more. We're faux-stunned again, and call with pretend reluctance. The third player calls as well.


The man to our right reaches for his chip stack, and puts it in two towers on the table like he's about to push. "No, I'll check to you," he then decides. "You've probably got me beat."

"Well, we'll see," we say. "I'll go all-in" -- with 5,150 chips left. You may recall a woman suggested that approach last Thursday night, when we hit a straight flush on the river. But this time, the player across from us curses and folds -- and the man to our right simply surrenders.

"Winner doesn't have to show," the dealer points out.

"Yes, I do," we quickly say, "because I have quads." The table is impressed, as we collect a big pot and that 5,000-chip bonus. The man to our right later admits he had K-J; his two pair were dominated.

We made an even bigger score minutes later, when three players went all-in after we limped in with K-K. The Kings topped everyone else, and he jumped to more than 40,000 chips! Careful play followed that, with one modest pot claimed at the semifinal table with A-8.

We reached the final table with 30,000 -- but with blinds at 5,000/10,000. That meant we had to push when good cards came, and we tried with A-9. While a 9 came on the flop, we lost to a woman with pocket Queens. She took another woman out along with us, so we wound up tied for fifth place -- our best night at Lil Kim's Cove since last December.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When someone brought a new deck of cards to the table in a move, a young man to our left declared, "Thank you, Jesus!"

"King of Kings and Lord of Lords," we noted to him (Revelation 19:16).

"He works," the man said. Did you ever think of Jesus as a worker?

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." - John 5:17

The Lord was known to people around Him as a carpenter. But the "work" He's describing here involved the healing of a 38-year invalid (verse 5). In another moment of healing, Jesus added:

As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. - John 9:4

The "night" came when Jesus was arrested and crucified. But for those who follow Christ, part of this statement still applies today.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10

Are you doing "good works" in your life? You can be a light for Jesus Christ on the job, in your neighborhood -- and even in a poker room.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 98 final tables in 254 nights (38.6%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 151 point wins in 688 games (21.9%), 52 final tables, 6 cashes. UFC 3-card knockout: 2 final tables in 7 games (28.6%), 1 win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $47,023, down $1,120.

A Hole to Phil

When a poker player is a top trending topic on Yahoo, that gets our attention. And Phil Ivey hit the top ten this morning, because he's boycotting the World Series of Poker.

Ivey's ire doesn't really seem directed at WSOP -- it's aimed at his biggest endorser. He's suing Full Tilt Poker, in the wake of the recent federal crackdown on online poker sites.

What do you think of this stand Ivey is taking? We'll share our thoughts in coming days.