Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Good, the Bad (and Maybe Even the Ugly)

At a recent local poker night, we told a man we were trying to do good -- but it wasn't easy. Sometimes the bad side wants to come out, and get in the way.

We asked if you knew what Bible passage we were referencing. It's located near the end of Romans 7.

For I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing. - Romans 7:18b-19

Can you relate to the apostle Paul? We certainly can. Some bad habits and sins simply refuse to go away, and can take years or decades to overcome. It seemed to frustrate Paul so much that he continued to write....

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? - Romans 7:24

In other words: if you're plagued by bad habits at the poker table until your dying day, are you doomed? Thankfully, Paul answers that question:

Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:25

Jesus can deliver us from this sin-plagued body, and give us a new everlasting spiritual body. (Paul explains this in I Corinthians 15:42-52). But it starts with the realization that we need God's help in turning from bad to good.

Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? - Romans 2:4 (KJV)

Whatever your "bad thing" is that keeps you from doing "good things," be humble enough to admit it to God in prayer. Seek the help of His Holy Spirit in turning your life into something better -- something which will glorify God, and not be an insult to Him. That's a "turn" which can make all the difference in your life.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poker Night 263: Perfect Position

It's not always what cards you're dealt in a poker tournament - it's when you're dealt them. Timing and position in the betting order can make a big difference. It did for us at Lil Kim's Cove tonight....

BLINDS: 50/100


We dealt ourselves a nice hand, at what a few people have dubbed a "nice table" -- as in no one making big raises. So when the play calls around to us, we make things modest. We raise to 300. About half the table calls. "Thank you for your generosity," we say with a smile.


Uh-oh -- we didn't want to see that big a card show up. But because we're dealing, everyone else in the hand has to make a move first. When all of them check, we do not -- offering a continuation bet/position bet of 500. That chases every player except one away; he calls.


There's no straight or flush threat here -- but we're concerned the man to our right might be sandbagging an Ace. He checks. So do we.

"You have a pocket pair," the man to our immediate left says at this point. No comment....


Our opponent checks again. If he had an Ace, we think he would have bet by now. So we offer 500 more, and he calls it.

"How did you know?" we ask the man to our left. "Yes, I have a pocket pair." We show it -- and our opponent shows no better than a 2. His bottom pair loses. Playing last pays off for us, and we jump to more than 8,000 chips.

We reached the one-hour break at 8,300 -- then had a big round in the blinds early in the second hour, including three Aces to move us up to 25,000. But we went virtually "card dead" after that, with little quality to play and a big bettor entering the game to our immediate left.

The stack drained away with rising blinds until we had to push with Q-J in the third hour -- but they didn't pair, and a woman across from us made one. We reached the semifinal table on a busy night, but finished 14th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We usually settle for one purchase per night to gain extra poker chips -- but tonight was an exception.

"We're collecting money for Elaine," the tournament director said during the one-hour break. "For every dollar you give, you get a black chip" -- as in 1,000 chips more.

Elaine (shown at right) is arguably the best female poker player in our city. She plays a lot, and has won at least six local tournaments so far this year. But a medical condition has left her with weakening kidneys. She's shown up for games in a wheelchair for months, and has been in and out of the hospital lately.

The donations from other players were designed to help pay Elaine's bills beyond the hospital, such as rent and utilities. The players have responded by offering nearly $300. We joined in tonight -- but realized the "money for chips" approach isn't really the best:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. - Luke 6:35

We certainly don't consider Elaine an enemy -- but we hope you see the point of this verse. Some preachers make it sound like a "seed offering" to their ministry will bring a financial payday. But Jesus taught real giving (or lending) should be done with an even purer motive -- even though such giving will be remembered in God's kingdom with eternal life as His sons.

There's another more private "gift" we plan to offer -- and you can join in this. Will you pray for Elaine's healing and full recovery, that God might receive the glory from it?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final table in 263 nights (38.0%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 157 point wins in 712 games (22.1%), 54 final tables, seven cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $49,996, down $125.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Remember As You Play....

All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. - Proverbs 16:2

Be honest now -- how many times have you heard a poker player make a big move which loses, then blame himself for making a big mistake?

We've seen plenty of online games where the loser finds fault with the winner, declaring him a "donkey" for making the call. In religious circles, this behavior is known as "self-justification." We find a way to justify our own actions, even if they fail. It's an old custom, really....

So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu.... became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. - Job 32:1-2

The more humble approach is to admit we blew it. That's true if we try an all-in bluff with 7-4 offsuit -- and it's true in everyday life as well.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - I John 1:9

To borrow an old poem: take your pride and cast it aside. Admit it when you're wrong. Admit you're human. You may be surprised to find the players around you will respect you a lot more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poker Night 262: True Confessions

The "three-bet" is used by a lot of professional poker players pre-flop to make a statement about their hands, and sometimes steal a pot. If an opponent raises, your re-raise is the three-bet. We had an opportunity to try it out tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 100/200


That's a nice way to start -- and having won a couple of early pots, we have room to maneuver with about 12,000 chips. A man ahead of us raises to 1,500. He's also won a few pots, most recently with a couple of pocket pairs. The man to our immediate right calls.

"Pocket pairs again?!?" we ask before looking at our cards.

"Again," he claims.

We look, and decide it's time to play hardball. "I'll raise," we announce. It's to 3,500, and it chases most of the table away. The original raiser calls, as does the man between us.

ON THE FLOP: 5-5-7

The man who started all this goes all in with little hesitation, for about 4,600. He's won a few nice pots himself, including a couple with pocket pairs -- one a few hands ago with pocket Aces.

"I'm down," the somewhat-stunned man between us says. We think out loud for a moment as we pull up our stack.

"I can't believe he has pocket Aces again...."

"I don't," our opponent says.

"No pocket Aces?"

"No pocket Aces."

Thank you very much. "Well then, I'll call."

"....which means he must have pocket Kings?!" someone else at the table guesses. Yup, we do -- and show our Kings. Our opponent is scorched, as he shows 10-10.


No flush is in play to burn us back.


Our opponent is out, and we're suddenly above 22,000 chips.

We appreciate an honest poker player -- but this case was like a local driver we read about online earlier in the day. Police pulled him over, and he openly admitted using marijuana minutes earlier. A puff of smoke from the window gave him away, as much as the odor. Tells like our opponent made don't happen often, but it made our decision much easier.

An even tougher decision came in the second hour, when we had A-8 and two 8's appeared by the turn. The river was 7, and our bet of 4,000 was met by an opponent raising 20,000. It left us with 1,000 extra -- and after pondering a moment, we concluded she was "bluffing big" and we called.

"I have a full house," she declared -- showing 7-7. What a river, and what a blow.

But we rallied with A-8 in the big blind for a "Broadway straight" to make a comeback to 6,000, and almost reached the final table from there. Forced to go all-in with 7-4 of spades in the small blind, we came up one spade short and lost. We now have "trip nines" in July -- ninth place three Thursdays in a row. But this one eliminated us one hand short of the final table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "How are you tonight?" we asked a man who sat down next to us.

"I'm good," he said. "How about you?"

"I'm trying to be good," we answered. "But sometimes, that isn't easy. We want to do good, but the bad side wants to slap me in the face."

This exchange paraphrased a section of the New Testament. Open question: can you name the book and chapter we were mentioning? Leave a comment with your answer; the correct one is coming soon.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 262 nights (38.2%) - 15 cashes. We've now officially gone one year without winning money in local tournaments.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 156 point wins in 709 games (22.0%), 54 final tables, 7 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $50,121, up $425.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Watch the Lamb

World Series of Poker, indeed -- as players from seven different countries will gather around the ultimate final table in November. The Main Event finalists were settled early today in Las Vegas. And one U.S. player has a lot of attention.

Ben Lamb of Oklahoma has won one WSOP event this year. Counting the Main Event, he's reached four final tables out of 58 total games. For that level of competition (not to mention the number of entries), that's an impressive record.

But there's one "Lamb" who impresses us even more. Who might that be, you ask?

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" - John 1:29 (NASB)

These words were spoken by "John the Baptizer." But why would Jesus be called a lamb?

"He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He does not open His mouth...." - Acts 8:32 (NASB)

This is actually a quote from Isaiah 53 -- a prophecy about the Messiah who became a "sacrificial lamb." Jesus was "unblemished and spotless" (I Peter 1:19), led He gave His life and shed His blood to redeem us from our sins.

If this idea puzzles you, this rather graphic music video may help explain it. (We can help if it doesn't; leave a comment.) Have you accepted the "all-in" offer of this even more perfect Lamb?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Your Open Account

In a recent post, we mentioned the advice of Jesus to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...." (Matthew 6:20)

Store money with an online poker site for future tournaments, and you could get a big painful surprise. Events of recent months involving the U.S. Justice Department have proven that. But building an account in heaven with God is another matter.

Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, were no thief comes near and no moth destroys. - Luke 12:33

Sounds great. But how do we do that? One answer is in the first part of this verse, which we didn't quote. Jesus expands on it elsewhere....

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." - Matthew 19:21

What is the Lord saying here? Give away every penny you win at a poker tournament, then bum strangers for buy-in fees next week? We don't think it's quite that extreme an approach....

Commend them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. - I Timothy 6:18-19

Paul's speaking here of eternal life. God wants to share that with us - so we should be willing to follow His example, and share our blessings with others as the opportunity develops. The idea is to be generous, not stingy. We've seen players do that even at poker tournaments.

Ecclesiastes 3:6 says there's a "time to keep, and a time to cast away...." Winning in poker can be a taking time. Casting away riches to those in need should be the rest of your life. Do you have the right balance?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Poker Night 261: The Big Bet Bug

The first hand brought us 7-7 -- but a man raised 1,000 before the flop. The second hand brought 5-5 -- but that same man raised 1,000 pre-flop, and bet 1,500 after that. This is what we faced tonight at Lil Kim's Cove. Our first table was something out of either a Poker After Dark cash game, or an online turbo tournament. People were raising in enormous amounts, trying to knock players out early and build a big lead.

That sort of betting dares you to join in, if only in hopes of beating "the bully". We chased one flush with A-8 of hearts, only to miss by one card. But then came a hand we figured would be do-or-die....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

We sit one behind the dealer, who's taken on the original Big Spender and won a series of all-in bets to rally from 450 chips to several thousand. We've been weakened by the bomb-dropping to 2,550 chips, and are helped by the fact that the early leader folds. We try to limp in -- but no. The dealer raises 2,000. Then two other players call.

"I'll do it," we say after thinking a moment. We call. It's simply too good a hand to fold.

"You should have put the rest in there," Mr. Big Spender says. But if we miss the flop, we have 450 left for a possible rally of our own.


The play checks to us, and this time we don't hesitate. "Now I'm all-in," we say as we offer the last 450. The three other players in the hand call; it's small potatoes to them, anyway.


Still top pair. And the sidepot players check, giving us hope.


Uh-oh -- that's potential trouble. A man to the right of us reaches for chips with a value of 1,000. But then he checks. In fact, the table checks.

"I have a Jack," we say as we show. And to our delight, it holds up! In fact, the dealer shows he made a big raise with 10-4. Thanks, "good buddy" -- top pair takes us soaring to more than 12,000.

That's the only hand we won all night, as we dodged more giant bets after that. But on a three-table summer night, that was enough to take us to our 100th final table in a live tournament. We didn't last long there, however -- daring to go all-in with 5,000 left against Mr. Big Spender's 10,000-chip raise. We had K-10. But he had A-Q, and both his cards paired by the turn to knock us out. We matched last Thursday night, by finishing ninth.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You don't smoke, do you?" a man asked at the one-hour break.

"No, I don't." So of course, our seat at the table was between two smokers who shared an ashtray.

"You ought to try it sometime," the man suggested.

"My mom smoked until practically the day she died," we answered. "And she died before age 60."

We admittedly didn't take the discussion any farther. But there are a couple of Biblical lessons to take from this. For one thing, you can learn a lot from your parents -- both what to do, and what not to do.

No longer will anyone go around saying, "Sour grapes eaten by parents leave a sour taste in the mouths of their children." When that day comes, only those who eat sour grapes will get the sour taste, and only those who sin will be put to death. - Jeremiah 31:29-30 (CEV)

Simply because your parents had bad habits doesn't mean you have to do them, too. You can break the cycle by repenting of family vices and sins, and walking in a different direction -- a godly direction.

Whoever would love life and see good days.... must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. - I Peter 3:10-11

Be honest now -- is there any good which comes from smoking? Especially after the decades of scientific research showing how harmful it can be?

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?.... - I Corinthians 6:19

Why pollute the body God gave you with something which can only harm it? If you're in a tobacco habit, pray for God to help you overcome -- and if necessary, seek help from other people.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 261 nights (38.3%) - 15 cashes. This computes to 11 tournaments short of a 40-percent record.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 155 point wins in 707 games (21.9%), 54 final tables, seven cashes. UFC Three-card - one win in 10 games.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $49,696, down $647.

Monday, July 11, 2011

From Hero to Zero

The Main Event of the World Series of Poker is in a two-part "Day Two" -- due to more than 6,000 entries. We're struck by how many former champions already are at the rail.

Doyle Brunson. Chris Moneymaker. Greg Raymer. Jerry Yang. All have won poker's biggest prize, yet all of them were eliminated on their first day of play in 2011.

It only shows how fleeting fame can be. As a wise king once put it:

There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. - Ecclesiastes 1:11

A couple of WSOP events this year actually did honor bracelet winners of old, with a "parade of champions." But some Main Event winners from decades ago don't even have pictures on the WSOP website. So can humans do anything which will have long-term value -- long after we're "dead and gone?"

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. -- Matthew 6:20

Open question: what do you think Jesus meant by that verse? Leave a comment with your thoughts; we'll offer ours in a future post.

If It Was Real: 260-Game Report

The thing about the "law of averages" is that sooner or later, many people turn out to be average. We've learned this the hard way at local poker tournaments lately.

In our last 20 games (not counting the cash games in Florida), we've made the final table six times. That's not bad, but below our average which has hovered close to 40 percent. And in the last 20, we only cracked the top five three times -- never finishing above fifth, and tying for fifth on two of those occasions.

So using our longstanding formula, here's how a real plunk-down of money in casino tournaments would look now....

BUY-INS: 260 nights x $50 = $13,000

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

Second - 8 ($3,200)

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

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

Fifth -- 14 ($1,400)
TIES for fifth:
4 two-way ($200)
1 three-way ($17)

TOTAL -- 58 for $13,384

We've fallen from a "return on investment" in the 50-percent range to barely breaking even. Clearly we're feeling some personal pressure to turn this around -- but what should we do? Any advice??

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Master's Cards

Some poker players act like real know-it-alls -- perhaps to play "psych jobs" with their opponents. Take this player we met online recently....

Dealer: Ippy wins Main Pot ($10250) with Full house, aces full of sixes
Me: very good
Ippy: I am the true master
Me: Sorry. Jesus is my Master.
Brock777: Amen to that

"Master" is a title which can apply to everything from an overseer of funds to a golfing champion. Writing in another era, the apostle Paul noted some of the different meanings.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. -- Colossians 4:1

That "Master in heaven" refers to God. A true One, as opposed to some poker player we've never met.

Jesus Christ eventually will judge the decisions and actions of all earthly masters -- whether you're a parent, an office supervisor or even a poker coach. That judgement will be based on more than simply taking a title. It will be based on how that authority is used.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.... And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them.... -- Ephesians 6:5, 9

Don't talk a high-and-mighty talk. Walk a servant's walk. You'll probably gain more respect that way.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Poker Night 260: The Jackson Four

"This is not my favorite hand," a player at our table said at Lil Kim's Cove tonight -- as he played pocket Kings. As we recall, they lost that hand. But we may have found a new personal favorite....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

We're sitting "under the gun," first to act at a six-player table. The play has been tight (others like to say "friendly"), so we choose to limp. No one raises, and about four players are in.


Enough hooks for a deep-sea fishing trip -- and quads for us! But remember the house rules: no 5,000-chip bonus is paid for quads until the river. So we wait and watch the players in front of us check. No gain yet.


Now there's a little action, as the lead player in the small blind offers a modest 500. The big blind calls. Sure, we can call that. Everyone else is out.


A straight flush is not in play, so we hope someone gets daring. But the tight play continues, with two checks in front of us.

"How about 3,000?" we ask. Nope, too much -- as they fold.

"Plus 5,000," we announce. Showing the "case Jack" earns us the bonus -- and we're up to around 22,000 chips.

We had 21,000 at the one-hour break, and played carefully after that with one exception. When a man went all-in at the semifinal table for about 8,000, we called with 9-9. He had A-Q, so our read was right -- but he hit an Ace on the river to escape with a big pot.

We held on from there to make the final table on a three-table night -- but our own A-Q there didn't work so well. We pushed with 5,000, but the board didn't pair for us. A pair of 6's prevailed, and we left in ninth place. But it was still our best finish in more than a month.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Toss that one in there," a man said as he playfully threw our card protector into the middle of the table on the first hand of the night. It was our "Lord's Supper" protector -- the one with an artist's rendering of Jesus Christ on the back.

"I really don't think He looked like that," we said to the man. "I don't think He had long hair, based on what I read in the Bible."

"Maybe they didn't have scissors back then," the man speculated. Now there's an argument we'd never considered before. Trouble is, history indicates the Middle East probably did.

"We don't know the truth," the man went on to say. On that point, he may be right.

"That's why I choose to stick with the truth -- of Jesus," we answered. In fact....

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but through Me." -- John 14:6 (NASB)

If someone tells you the Bible is "the truth" -- well, there's truth to that. Jesus said "Thy word is truth" in John 17:17. But don't get so focused on the written word that you overlook the One who is "the Word.... made flesh," as in Jesus (1:1, 14). Worship a Savior and Lord, not a book about Him.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 99 final tables in 260 nights (38.1%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 155 point wins in 705 games (22.0%), 54 final tables, 7 cashes. We also played one late-night ten-player sit-n-go, hoping to qualify for the Sunday night weekly championship -- but we finished sixth.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $50,343, down $300.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Music With a Message

In a recent post we mentioned a surprising moment at a local bar -- when an injured man gave us two dollars for the jukebox and said, "Play something country."

So we walked over, did some quick searching (during a short break at the poker tournament) -- and decided to hunt by artists. While we don't listen to a lot of country music these days, we know several singers have hits which can be taken in religious ways.

First: Brooks and Dunn. We couldn't find the song with the refrain about believing "the words written in red" -- as in what Jesus is quoted as saying in the Bible. But we found a song called "Play Something Country." Ta-da -- our man's request was met immediately.

Second: Carrie Underwood. We wanted the most clear-cut "Christian country" song of recent years, "Jesus Take the Wheel." We sang along with it quietly when the poker tournament resumed -- and as it happened, we made a big rally in the blinds.

Our choices (six for two dollars) were more mainstream country after that, with no songs sticking out as "message songs." Only as we write this does Josh Turner's "Long Black Train" come to mind.

After we were eliminated and the musical "six-pack" was through, we went back to the man we served. He was impressed with the Brooks and Dunn song, meeting his request word-for-word.

"What did you think of that second song?" we asked. He noticed it, and said he agreed with the message behind it.

"Has Jesus ever come to your aid?"

"Yeah. Probably ten-thousand f***ing times."

Hopefully he didn't use that sort of language in thanking God and Jesus for assistance (assuming he offered thanks at all). But we all face moments in life where we should admit we need heavenly help.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. -- II Corinthians 12:9

The apostle Paul faced a lot; read verse 10 for a short list. Yet he looked in faith to Jesus when times were hard -- just as Jesus looked to God the Father:

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -- Hebrews 12:3

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Big Tenth

Do you play poker simply for fun? Are you a pro, playing to make a living? (And if you're reading this at the World Series of Poker, we'd love to hear from you - please leave a comment.)

Wherever you are in the poker spectrum, you could be tempted to covet your opponent's chips. Or success. Or bracelet. Or perhaps something else. If you face that temptation, this message from a church in Colorado may help you. If you succumb, we pray it turns your life around.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Poker Studs Championship: Gladly for-A's

The monthly championship games we play at National League of Poker tend to have different moods. The Senior Championship tables tend to be tight and cautious, but the Poker Studs Championship can be wide-open. Wednesday night we tried to adjust.

:00 IN: We start the tournament with A-A under the gun! We limp in, knowing how some online players love to push on the first hand -- but no one does. The flop is A-6-9, and we bet 200. One man calls. The turn is 4, and WE push all-in with two spades showing. The opponent calls, with a mere A-7. The river is 5, and he's out right away while we jump from a starting $1,000 to $2,090.

:01 IN: Next hand -- A-A again! This time we're in the Big Blind, and we raise 150. One man calls. The flop is 5-4-K. We bet 200, and the opponent folds. Another win of $505.

(Amazingly, on the third hand someone else has A-A! We fold pre-flop - but who's shuffling these cards?)

:09 IN: We try to limp in with 8-J of diamonds. The flop is 2-Q-4, and we bet 100. Someone with a big stack calls. The turn is 10. We bet 100 again, and get called. The river is 8 - and with two pair, we bet 400. The opponent calls, but only has a 4. Another $1,380 win!

:22 IN: After some misses, we have 8-6 in the small blind. The flop is Q-10-9. Players check. The turn is J, giving us a perilous "under-straight." We make a tentative bet of 60, and get called. The river is Q. Everyone checks, but our opponent only has A-4. We gain $860.

:29 IN: The next small blind brings 9-9. We raise to 300, three times the big blind. The flop is 2-5-4, and we bet 280. Players call. The turn is 6 -- and an opponent goes all-in. The threat of a straight seems too serious, and we fold. Big betting didn't work.

We reach the half-hour break at 1,865. We're #159, with 454 players remaining (1,118 started).

Then we started missing, or folding to big raises. A-7 was folded. Then 2-2 brought high cards on the flop. Then A-10 missed on the flop, and a big bettor chased us away. Those things drained our stack until....

:54 IN: We have 10-K with 225 left, and go all-in. But the board is no help -- showing 9-A-4-5-8, three of them clubs. A man with 7-5 of clubs makes a flush, and makes us leave. We finished in 234th place - still not a stud.