Friday, September 30, 2011

September Monthly Championship: One Chance Too Many

National League of Poker recently added a monthly championship, to go with the weekly championships on Sunday nights.  There's a $2,000 prize pool, with a lovely $850 payday for first.  All we had to do to qualify was make a final table, which we did with relative ease.  It could have led to a long late night online....

:10 IN: We have 9-A in the Big Blind -- and someone ahead of us goes all-in for 800.  We folded 9-A a few minutes earlier after missing a flop, but this time we smell a "pusher's bluff" and call.  We face 6-6, and the flop 3-Q-J.  But the turn is 9, and the river 3! We eliminate the pusher, and gain $1,700.

:15 IN: We have K-Q.  The flop is 6-10-7.  No one bets. The turn is 9. Ditto. The river is 4 - and in early position, we bet 150.  The semi-bluff works as the table folds; we gain $350.

:25 IN: We gave 4s-3s a try, with suited connectors.  The blind is 6s-Ad-5h, giving us an open-ended straight draw; we call a bet of 100. The turn is 6h, and we call another 100.  But the river is 9h, and we fold to a bet of 400 after missing completely.

:29 IN: We head to the 30-minute break with A-6 in the Big Blind. The flop is Q-Q-Q, and we call a bet of 100.  The turn is 10, and everyone checks. The river is 4, and all check again.  Our Ace winds up winning the $500 pot; the opponent who bet only had 6 high.

We have $1,750 at the half-hour break, putting us in 218th place out of 616 still in the running.

:34 IN: We come out of the break in the Small Blind with K-Q, and call a doubling of the blind to 300.  The flop is K-3-2, and we bet 200.  A player calls.  The turn is 2, and another bet of 200 chases the opponent away.  A good round in the blinds for us ends with a $1,400 pot.

:38 IN: We have 10d-Jd, for suited connectors again.  The flop is J-6-9 (6 a diamond), and we call a bet of 150 with top pair.  The turn is K (not a diamond), and we call another 150 bet now holding a straight draw. The river is A, and we dare to call another 150 bet. Good move -- as our opponent also has J-10, so we split a side pot of $1,160. (Someone who went all in with a King wins the main pot.)

:56 IN: We have 8-A, and a player goes all in for 500.  The flop is 10-J-Q, for a two-way straight draw.  The table checks.  The turn is 8, giving us a pair.  But when a player bets 500, we fear the worst and fold. The river is 6 - and we regret the fold when we see the bettor also has A-8, thus winning the pot.

(To be honest, we were concentrating so much on catching a King that we never noticed the bottom pair we made.  But would you have had the gumption to call that bet, anyway?)

:59 IN: We have 3-2 of clubs in the Big Blind - and the table folds! We get a walk, to pick up $150 in blinds.

We always show our cards in these situations, as there's really no penalty to do it. "Nice," someone writes.

"Bless you all," we respond.

1:01 IN: We have 9-9 and the button. The flop is K-7-5 - and when the play checks to us, we decide to gamble. We go all-in for 690, hoping the table will fold with blinds at 150/300/25.  But two players call, and one of them has 8-6.  The turn is 4, giving him a straight and giving us the exit ramp. (The river is a meaningless 3 for us.)

The big risk worked early, but not late.  Out of 1,293 players in the tournament, we finish #270.  Good, but not good enough -- as only the top 11 win money.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September Senior Championship: Heart of Courage?

We qualified for two monthly championship games at National League of Poker.  On this senior night, our goal was to do better than last time -- which wouldn't be hard:

:04 IN: We have A-K of clubs, and raise the minimum bet from 30 to 100.  Two players call.  The flop is K-Q-5, with the Queen a club.  We bet 100 again, and everyone folds. It's a quick gain of $515.

:14 IN: We have K-A offsuit and limp.  The flop is Q-3-9, and everyone checks.  The turn is 7, and everyone checks.  The river is 3, and we dare to bet 125.  Someone calls, but with A-Q.  We win $430.

:15 IN: In the very next hand, we have J-9. The flop is 4-Q-9, and we bet 80 (double the blind). A player calls. The turn is 6; everyone checks.  The river is 3, and everyone checks with three hearts showing. But our opponent has K-10, and missed a straight draw. Our pair wins $300.

:26 IN: We have Ah-2d under the gun, and try to get in small -- but another player raises from 100 to 480.  With a pretty good stack, we call. The flop is 7-5-6, all hearts.  Our opponent bets 480 - and sitting on a nut flush draw, we call.  The turn is 6d. The opponent now bets 1,200, and we only have about 980 left. It's a significant gamble, and we choose to fold. (No, you can't "see the last card" in this game.)

That hand cost about half our stack.  We reach the half-hour break with $835, good for 296th place with 404 players left.

:34 IN: We have 7-4 of clubs in the firsthand after the break, and fold it.  Bad decision: clubs come for a flush we would have won.  Our stack drops from there, due to a couple of tries and missed flops.

:54 IN: We have Q-Q in the small blind, starting the hand with 235 left and the blinds at 150/300.  We have little choice but to push, and a few players call.  But the flop is K-10-A, and one player has 10-A for two pair. the turn is 10, giving him a clinching full house. (The river is K, so we couldn't even make a straight.)

We played a lot longer, at least -- but still finished 227th, out of 886 players.  Next big chance: Thursday night.

He's Three of a Kind?

We asked you to find the place in the Bible which came up in last Thursday night's poker game -- where a player claimed he was "the truth," and was corrected for it.

The correct answer: the gospel of John:

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

Why did Jesus call Himself these things?  For starters, He's the "way" to a relationship with God the Father.  In fact, it's a two-way street:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. - John 6:44

Jesus called Himself "the truth" because He spoke words of truth, given by His Father in heaven....

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. - John 12:49 (see also Ephesians 4:21)

And Jesus declared Himself "the life" because He is the key to a life that never ends, beyond our physical bodies:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. - John 3:36

A special Holy Day on the Biblical calendar this week looks ahead to when Jesus will return, and give eternal life to those who believe in Him.  Jews call it "Rosh Hashanah;" observant Christians call it the Feast of Trumpets.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Poker Night #272: You Keep Me Hanging On

A change in schedule this week moved up our local poker tournament to Monday. That meant a trip to The Red Barn in Phenix City, and a table where bigger was not always better. A flop of 2-2-2 gave one man quads. And then there was this hand....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Q-J offsuit

We're in the small blind, and no one is in a raising mood early in the game. So we call in hope, and almost the entire table gets in.


Sitting in the leadoff position, we make a modest "come on in" bet of 150 with top pair. "Your Jack is no good," a man to our right says in response.

"It isn't?" we ask. (Was that a tell?)

"'Cause I've got a 6," he answers. We'll see if he's joking; he joins about three other players in calling.


Now we have top two pair, so we turn up the heat and bet 450.

"Uh-oh. He must have something," a player across from us says. But she's already folded; two players call; the man who talked about his 6 folds.


This card opens up a lot of possibilities, but we don't feel threatened by it. Instead, we increase the bet in hopes of running everyone else away -- a bet of 600.

"Raise," a man to our immediate left says. Oops -- he doubles to 1,200, and we fear the worst. A man across the table calls.

"I think I know what you have," we say after a moment. "But I have to see if you have it."

We call and hope for a bluff.-- except it's not. He shows a third 10; the river card paid off for him.

"I couldn't run away from the pot," he notes; "I had a straight draw." His other card was a 9.

While we hit a river of our own minutes later to make a winning spade flush, that's how our night went. We endured with cautious play to the semifinal table, but folded 8-10 when it turned into a potential two-pair winner. Forced to go all-in with 9-10 in the Big Blind, we missed the board and were sent packing in 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I see you brought something for people to cry on," a man joked before the game. Our card protector tonight was a small travel-size package of facial tissues. He made a good guess -- but that's not why we brought it.

"I brought it to remind me," we explained, "that when Jesus comes back, there will be no more tears and no more crying." (Revelation 21:3-4)

The man seemed to understand what we meant. "Do you believe Jesus is coming back?" we probed further.

"Eventually," he said. That's actually a better answer than some radio preachers offered earlier this year. We'll have a link in our next post to a big event this week, which celebrates Jesus's second coming.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 272 nights (36.8%) - 15 cashes. This is getting ridiculous; 11 final tables missed in a row, and only two in the last 17.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 166 point wins in 738 games (22.5%), 57 final tables, 7 cashes. UFC 3-card knockout - 2 final tables in 13 games, 1 win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $59,718, up $1,885.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Defense of "Jesus"

The big poker headline of this past week was the U.S. government's contention that Full Tilt Poker was operated as a "Ponzi" scheme by owners including world-famous poker pro Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.

Since then, Ferguson's attorney has issued a denial of the charge. Well, at least a denial that the arrangement fits the U.S. government's definition of "Ponzi."

Far be it from us to "judge Jesus." We'll leave the legal points to attorneys and scholars. But we'd like to make a couple of points related to this case. For one thing, the much better-known Jesus was put on trial and sentenced to death -- on charges which were far-fetched at best.

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'" Yet even then their testimony did not agree. - Mark 14:57-59
What Jesus actually said was quite different....

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days".... But the temple he had spoken of was his body. - John 2:19, 21
Yet Jesus allowed Himself to be put to death on those charges, to pay the penalty of our sins. And Christ was resurrected three days later, that we might have eternal life in Him.

Here's one more verse, which is much more down-to-earth in terms of this case:

Abstain from all appearance of evil. - I Thessalonians 5:22, KJV
Trying to run a casino-style online poker operation in the U.S. was playing fast and loose with federal laws in the first place. The Justice Department cracked down on several such sites in April, and none of them have resurfaced.

How do you run your life, though? Are you living within the laws of man - or more importantly, the laws of God? Check the list of commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 (for starters), and examine where your life stands.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Poker Night #271: Slick 500

"This is the time of the game when the betting starts to get crazy," a man to our right said as the second hour of play began at Lil Kim's Cove tonight.  With higher blinds, he explained, "Someone will say: 'I've got an Ace, I'll go all-in.'"  Hmmm -- thanks for giving us an idea.

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

We won a modest pot early, but reached the break with 5,500 chips from a starting 7,000.  We're in the small blind with "big slick," and a small table of five players.  The big blind to our left has a monster stack and isn't afraid of raising pre-flop.  So when players merely call to us, we make a somewhat-hesitating call and wait to see what happens.

"I'll check," the big blind says.  Well, OK....

ON THE FLOP: 6-7-8 (suits don't matter)

Three in a row is potential trouble.  So we check -- and don't mind when the entire table checks.


This isn't turning out as we hoped at all.  We check again -- but everyone else does, too.


Aha, that's more like it!  Now we can play like that man recommended during the break.  "I'm all-in," we declare as we plunk down the last 4,500.  The big blind folds.  The man to his left thinks about it.

"I'll be friendly to you," he says as he plays with his stack of chips.

"That would be really, really wonderful if you did," we answer with encouragement.

"You either have an Ace with a big kicker, or a pocket pair," he speculates.  We offer no more guidance, only more encouraging words to call.  He finally suspects we have a big pair, but he calls anyway.

"You were right the first time," we say as we show our hand.  Nope, we weren't bluffing -- nor was he; he had A-2.  Our King kicker means a big gain, to 12,000.  And yes, we politely thanked our opponent for helping us out.

Then followed a speculative bet with 6-6 which went nowhere, along with rising blinds.  We finally were forced to go all-in again at the semifinal table with A-8 in the big blind.  But two pair on the table left us second-best to a man with a full house, sending us out the door in 15th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I am the truth," a young man said as he took a seat at our table during the second hour.

"No.  You are not the truth," we responded.

Another newcomer seemed to pick up on our answer.  "You're not the way OR the life."

"Amen!" we said -- giving that man to our left a high-five.  "Amen to that."

Your assignment: where in the Bible will you find the verse everyone was mentioning -- even if they didn't quote it directly?  We'll have the answer and more about it in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 271 nights (36.9%) - 15 cashes.  Our final table slump hits ten, our percentage hits an all-time blog low -- and we're now at 14 months without winning any money in local tournaments.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 164 point wins in 736 games (22.3%), 57 final tables, 7 cashes.  We placed seventh in a 124-player qualifying game Sunday afternoon.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $57,833, down $2,100.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Panel of Judges

We've mentioned our last live poker tournament had an interesting discussion of religious topics during a break. We don't recall now exactly how it happened, but the conversation at one point turned to judgment.

"Jesus will judge everyone someday," we pointed out.

A woman across the table didn't quite hear what we said -- but she heard enough. "I'm hearing you talk about judgment, and I'm not comfortable with that."

"We shouldn't judge," a woman to our right added.

Welllll -- hold on a second. Isn't that what top poker players do? All the time? The game is loaded with personal "judgment calls." For instance: should you fold pocket threes before the flop? Is your opponent bluffing by going all-in with three diamonds on the table, or does he really have a flush? How much should you bet,to keep an opponent in a hand you've already clinched and maximize your gains? You get the idea.

Consider what Jesus said about this concept....

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. - Matthew 7:1

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. - John 7:24
Many people have heard the first verse, and perhaps have memorized. But Jesus also said the second verse -- which tells us there's a time and place to make judgments, but also a time and place NOT to do so.

This was a big issue in our area tonight, as a convicted murderer faced the death penalty (it's still unsettled as we post this). Some people say the evidence was compelling that he killed a police officer; others say the evidence was flimsy and someone else committed the crime.

Under the U.S. system of government, someone indeed has to judge whether the suspect did it or not. Otherwise, criminals of all kinds would roam the streets freely and no one would be safe. And under God's way of doing things, Jesus will have the ultimate say in the future about whether we're ALL guilty -- guilty of sin, whether large or small.

It is appointed to all men once to die, and after this the judgment. - Hebrews 9:27, KJV
This judgment will truly be "all-in" -- into God's Kingdom, or away to face a "second death" described in Revelation 20. The good news is that (to borrow from blackjack) you can have "insurance." You can put your sins under the blood of Christ, by repenting of them and asking God for forgiveness in His name.

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
So judge the relatively small matters of poker carefully. And remember the final Judge is coming - to determine whether you used sound judgment in everything else you did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And you thought he was "Jesus"?

Now Chris "Jesus" Ferguson stands accused by the feds of running a "Ponzi scheme."

We're open for your thoughts. Ours will come soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Something extra?

We mentioned Thursday night's poker table touched on a wide range of religious topics. At one point, a man brought up the Church of Jesus Christ-Latter Day Saints (known by many as Mormonism).

"This man says he finds a plate with an alphabet only he can read," the man said skeptically. "And that's supposed to be the word of God?"

Many Christian believer would agree with that skepticism. They might quote from the Old Testament to support that view....

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. - Deuteronomy 12:32
....except that verse refers to rules for worshiping God. It doesn't really address what book is "the holy book." (Remember there was no New Testament at that time, not to mention most of the Old.)

This year marks 400 years since the King James Bible was published. The Book of Mormon was published long after that. Yet if you put the two books side-by-side, you'll discover some chapters are repeated word-for-word. The ones that are not are the ones which makes LDS controversial.

We told the skeptic about our stay at a hotel years ago which had a Book of Mormon in the dresser drawer, alongside a Gideon Bible. One Saturday afternoon we compared the two -- and within one hour, we concluded the Book of Mormon was a "bluff' in poker terms. In other words, it's a work of heresy. Read our online study to find out why we say that. And if you have questions, leave a comment for us to address.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Open 24/6

It's one thing to be a "river rat" -- staying in a hand until the river card, whatever the cost. It's another thing to be such a "poker rat" that you play seven nights a week, whether in tournaments or online. Consider this advice:

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. - Proverbs 23:4
You're staying in practice, you say? There's nothing wrong with that. But our verse reminds us overpracticing can wear you out. And it might take your attention away from focusing on something (or Someone) more important.

After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. - Judges 2:10-11
In other words, their minds and time became preoccupied with other things. We don't think they played poker that long ago, but we think the point still applies.

It's good to stop your routine from time to time, to think on things that really matter - things beyond the poker table, and even beyond this physical life. In fact, God realized that from creation. That's part of the reason why He ordained a weekly Sabbath.

Then he [Jesus] said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." -- Mark 2:27
We've kept a seventh-day Sabbath for decades, and found it's a wonderful time for resting, relaxing and enjoying quality time with God. If you're used to racing after riches at the poker table on a constant basis, the change may seem boring and strange at first. But give it a try for a few weeks, and you might discover how wise an "off day" can be.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poker Night 270: Squeeze In Somewhere

A verse early in the book of Proverbs offers some helpful poker advice:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. - Proverbs 1:10
Romans 3:23 reminds us we're all sinners, so we're not pointing fingers. But we thought of this verse tonight after playing at Lil Kim's Cove with one of those big raisers -- a man throwing out a lot of chips pre-flop, and daring you to see if his cards are serious or a bluff. It pays to be patient, and wait for the right moment to make a move. One of those moments fell in our lap fairly early....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 8-4 offsuit

"Nobody raised?!" we say with mock surprise before looking at our cards. We're in the big blind by ourselves, after Mr. Big Bettor knocked out a player -- and that man does us a favor by "taking a hand off," folding under the gun. So with nothing to lose, we happily check instead of folding.


We make second pair, but realize other players could be limping in with face cards. We check, and about four others in the hand check as well.


Based on what we learned from the flop, we feel better about second pair after seeing this lower card. So we bet 500 to see where our opponents really stand. Two players call.


Now we have top two pair -- but we're still reluctant to be overzealous. Yet we're first to act, so we offer 700 in hope. A woman across from us folds. A man to our right calls.

"I was chasing," he admits -- and shows A-5. We think he was on a flush draw. But his miss is our gain, and we win about 2,000 chips.

A second "big blind special" came our way in the second hour with pocket 7's, bringing us up to 15,000 chips. We played tightly after that to reach the semifinal table. Then with ten players left (two tables of five) and the blinds at 2,000/4,000, Mr. Big Bettor announced: "If anyone calls, I'm raising."

We happened to look at A-10 of clubs, and dared to take him on -- going all-in with 12,000 left. He called, of course. Then he showed 8-8. The flop had K-9 and the turn was J. But we missed everything when the river was 9. He won the race, and we narrowly missed the final table with a tenth-place finish -- but it was still our best live tournament result in two months.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A fascinating discussion about religion and habits developed during the one-hour break at our table. It started with talk about drinking wine during pregnancy.

"The Bible says Jesus turned water into wine," a woman across from us said.

"That's true," we agreed. "It doesn't say grape juice." If you need proof of that....

Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.... and the master fo the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. - John 2:7, 9
The master of the wedding feast went on to tell Jesus in verse 10: "You have saved the best till now." If that drink wasn't wine, why would the master have said that?

Meanwhile, back at the table: "I know some church folk who say they don't drink, but they stand outside the church smoking cigarettes," a woman said. She made a valid point. Some people don't seem to consider tobacco use a "sin" because the Bible doesn't mention it directly, as opposed to drinking alcohol. Yet the apostle Paul warns:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought a a price. Therefore honor God with your body. - I Corinthians 6:19-20
The context of these verses refers to physical conduct - whether it be sexual immorality (verse 18) or other activities. There's plenty of scientific evidence to show smoking can harm your lungs. So what's the difference between that and drunkenness from wine? We'll examine that (and other topics which came up during the break) in upcoming posts.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 270 nights (37.0%) - 15 cashes. We came close, but now have missed nine in a row.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 163 point wins in 734 games (22.2%), 56 final tables, seven cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $59,933, up $1,515. Our total was above $60,000 before a small loss Wednesday night.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 Plus 10

Today marks ten years since the Tuesday of terror now known to the world simply as 9/11. It's a time for reflection. For us, it's been a time for prayer. But we found out in the last hour for more than 740 people like ourselves, it's also a day to play poker.

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. - Psalm 119:45
Some would say there's not as much freedom in the U.S. now, compared with ten years ago. One example is as simple as a trip to the airport. U.S. poker players would say they've lost a significant amount of freedom twice, through federal crackdowns against online poker sites.

But "freedom" can be a matter of where you find it. Online poker isn't banned completely in the U.S. - only games which fit the definition of gambling. So a believer who follows the laws of God and man still can play, and even win money.

People also are still free to play poker for money in states where it is permitted by law. Did you realize that comes to 33 of the 50 states -- almost a two-thirds majority?

And in all those places, there's still plenty of freedom to speak your mind -- about everything from your opponent's "donkey" move to the things of Jesus Christ. Readers of this blog know we try to emphasize the latter.

So be thankful today for the freedoms we still enjoy -- from playing for $50 cash prizes (we fell far short - #294 out of 748) to worshiping the true King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. - II Corinthians 3:17

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Poker Night #269: The Tight Barn Door

A change in the schedule this week put us inside The Red Barn in Phenix City for poker Monday night. Yes, they still have games -- but they're not affiliated with the "big dog" in local tournaments anymore (more on that another time).

In an effort to snap our final table slump, we read part of a book by a famous poker player during the day. (No, we're not revealing which one.) It persuaded us to tighten up our game, and look for only high-quality hands before the flop. But what happens when something borderline shows up?

BLINDS: 500/1000

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit

We won a modest pot in the first quarter-hour, but a lack of those high-quality hands has left us biding our time ever since. Our stack has slowly drained through blinds and modest chases, reminding us during the game of a Christian song called "Slow Fade." We start with 4,000 "under the gun." We could take our chances and push here, but we choose to play modestly and call. No one at the table of seven raises.


Nothing threatening -- but nothing really helpful, either. The table checks.


Now we have a straight draw -- and we don't recall a flush threat showing. The table checks again.


Our big starting hand misses. We check again, and a man to our left bets 3,000 -- enough to put us all-in. We have no choice but to fold, and that man wins the pot without showing what he had.

So why didn't we go for it, by making a big bluff? Because our rationale was to stay in the game as long as possible -- and after waiting patiently for a long time, this still could have been too impulsive and wrong. Any pair beats our Ace high, and the presence of two "face cards" which opponents are more likely to play would have been disastrous.

We were so bummed from that pot that in the next hand with the big blind, we mistakenly folded it. Too bad -- because our J-7 would have turned into three sevens and given us a big comeback. The goof forced us all-in a few hands later with A-8, and it lost. An all-around quiet Labor Day ended with us seventh at an eight-player table, and wondering if we should keep reading that book.

MINISTRY MOMENT: For a change, we aim it directly toward you! This weekend dozens of church congregations in the U.S. and other countries will hold a special "Kingdom of God Bible seminar." There could be one near you, and the two-hour seminar is absolutely FREE. Click here for locations and times.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 269 nights (37.2%) - 15 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 162 point wins in 732 games (22.1%), 56 final tables, 7 cashes. At least we're having a little success online, finishing fifth in a 69-player qualifying tournament Sunday evening.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $58,418, up $1,855.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Meetings of the Minds

It's Labor Day in the U.S. and Canada -- and plenty of workers do their jobs in unions, shifts or teams. But as we've noted before, poker seldom works that way; it's a very individualistic game.

Yet we tried to be a good listener on one recent night, when several players at the table talked openly about their approach to hands. They seemed to agree a "chase" to the turn might be acceptable, but a dream of hitting a big river card for a flush or straight seldom is. The discussion reminded us of a passage in Proverbs:

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. - Proverbs 11:14, KJV

It's good to seek advice -- especially when you face a difficult decision. Of course, that's not really allowed in the middle of a poker hand. But outside the game, it can be helpful -- especially when you're in a slump.

We'd offer some "counseling" of our own here, though. Not all counsel is good counsel....

And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father [also] chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. -- I Kings 12:13-14, KJV

Read this entire chapter and you'll find King Rehoboam had a choice between two groups of people, with two different lines of reasoning. His choice led to personal sin, national division and a near-war. So as they might say in a court of law, we recommend your "counsel approach the bench."

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. - James 5:13

Hopefully step one here will lead to step two! Take the big decisions you face to God in prayer; seek His ultimate help in guiding you through the challenges of life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Poker Night 268: Broken-Hearted

The talk was about friendship at our Lil Kim's Cove table -- but as one woman put it: "There are no friends at the poker table." Would you consider what happened in this hand a case of friendship, or something else?

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 10-9 of hearts

We won a nice early pot with two pair and a top-kicking King, so we have about 9,800 chips. Now we have suited connectors, so we're afraid to try them. No one raises at our table of six.

ON THE FLOP: Ah-Jh-6h(?)

We're not exactly sure about the third card -- but we know we made a flush on the flop. One player ahead of us bets the minimum 200, and we're happy to raise 500 more. A man to our left calls. So does the first player.


That seems nice and harmless (possible full house notwithstanding), so we bet 700 more. The man to our left calls again; the man to our right folds.


"Be careful now," our remaining opponent says as we ponder our chips. Yeah, he has a point. A fourth heart is not exactly what we wanted to see there -- especially if our opponent was chasing with a single heart. But if a flush is the issue, only two cards beat us.

"OK - 1,000," we respond. Our opponent calls it - then says something we didn't want to hear.

"I've got the Queen." Sure enough, he hit a higher flush on the river! We're thankful we took his advice.

That hand turned the momentum of the evening against us, as we lost a few other promising hands after that to players striking it rich on the turn or river. We finally felt compelled to push with 7-9 of hearts in the big blind -- but they didn't pair, and two players with matching A-J for two pairs combined to knock us out. Sixth place at this table is a disappointment again.

MINISTRY MOMENT: There were several tonight, but we noted the return of Elaine -- the weakened woman in a wheelchair, who's now out of the hospital. She told us she spent about three weeks there, and slipped into a coma for three days.

"I've been praying for you," we told Elaine.

She appreciated that. "It helped," she declared, "because I'm here!"

We asked you to join us in praying for Elaine, and we thank you if you did. But we'd prefer to give the real praise to God -- because we simply followed Biblical instructions.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. - James 5:15

No, we didn't ask Elaine about her sins. But we now hope she considers her experience carefully, and chooses to travel in a godly way. (She's already resisting the urge to resume a smoking habit, which is a good start.) This as well is a gift from God....

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. - Psalm 103:2-3

"But wait," you may be saying. "I know someone who lived for God for years, and they suddenly died." Indeed, all humans will die someday (Hebrews 9:27). But the Bible promises....

All these people were living by faith when they died.... they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. - Hebrews 11:13-16

Without faith in God's coming "holy city" and kingdom, the future indeed is hopeless. With that faith, the present becomes much more meaningful. Will you accept God's promise, and look to Him for both physical and spiritual healing?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 268 nights (37.3%), 15 cashes. The slump has grown to no final tables in seven, and one in the last 13.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 161 point wins in 729 games (22.1%), 55 final tables, 7 cashes. Three-card UFC - 2 final tables in 12 games, one win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $56,563, down $174.