Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Went Wrong Here?

 Our last post brought up a sensitive subject for many people.  But homosexuality came up during our Thursday  night poker game (by others, not us), and it somewhat fits our mission here.

It's easy to crack a poker joke about this subject -- and point out the game sometimes pays you off for being "straight."  But let's go back to a section of Scripture we quoted before, where the apostle Paul explains how homosexuality develops:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.... Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. - Romans 1:21, 24

These are words which could make people on both sides of the debate a moment to pause.  Paul says God "gave them over" to this kind of behavior -- and to a lot of other things as well.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness.... - Romans 1:28-29

You can read through the end of the chapter to see what Paul put on his full list of "wickedness."  Homosexuality is only one of many things on that list.  But review those verses carefully, and you'll see Paul also mentions the way to avoid that list -- by glorifying God, giving Him thanks and retaining God's knowledge. It takes more than simply saying the proper words to Him....

For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. - I Corinthians 6:20, KJV

This is talking about our physical bodies; why else would Paul advise earlier in verse 18 to "flee fornication"?

We realize, of course, that poker tends to be a game which does not discriminate.  Anyone can play in free tournaments, or can pay a buy-in fee to enter bigger games - no matter what ethnic background, sexual history or nationality.  (If you know of an exception to this, we'd be interested in hearing about it.)  So for us,  homosexuality is a non-issue when we play.  We don't bring up the topic, but we'll respond if others do.

But if you see a need to answer Paul's words of correction and get away from that list of wicked behavior -- whether it's homosexuality or anything else -- there are online resources to help you.  Here's one of them for starters.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poker Night 275: Diamond Dog

"Looks like it's about time to make a move," the man to our right said during the one-hour break tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  He was absolutely correct.  He had an enormous stack of chips, after knocking out several players.  We had only 2,500, even though we won a small early pot.

The move came when our big blind came around -- as we pushed with A-Q, and a pair of Queens led to a "sextuple-up" to 15,500.  But as this semifinal table dwindled, another drama was yet to come....

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: King of diamonds - 10 of clubs

We're in the big blind at a table of five; ten players remain overall.  Three players fold, and we're heads-up with a leadoff man whose stack isn't much bigger than ours.

ON THE FLOP: 5h-10s-4d (Not exactly sure about the first two suits)

Top pair in heads-up play is worth a bet to us.  So we toss out 5,000.

"How much do you have left?" our opponent asks.  Uh-oh.  Before we start counting, he goes all-in with about 12,500.

"That would put you all-in," another man says to us as we count.

"All I have is 11,500," we confirm.  But we decide to call.

Our opponent advises against it (after the fact).  "I have two pair," he says.

"Oh really," we say modestly - fearing he played 5-4.  But our opponent then turns over Q-5 of diamonds.

"That's not two pair," we note in semi-surprise.  "That's not even top pair" -- and we turn over our 10.  "He needs diamonds."  For a flush, that is.


Uh-oh again.  "I don't want to see another diamond," we declare.  I don't want to see...."


"OHHHHHHH!" we say along with the majority of the table.  On this night of Game 6 of the World Series, runners came around to score on the diamond!  We're stunningly eliminated -- and the final table forms after that, so we miss it by one hand with a ninth-place finish.  Ouch.

MINISTRY MOMENT: For reasons we can't recall, the talk of an early all-male table turned to homosexuality.  Let's put the discussion this way: the words came quickly - and while no profanity was used, the talk was more negative than positive.

We sat quietly through it all, then told the men on either side of us: "I'm choosing to wait until marriage."  To have any sort of sex at all, that is -- and we'd have it with women, instead of men.  We realize how controversial this subject can be, so we'll simply quote what a Biblical apostle wrote about it:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the man also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. - Romans 1:26-27

Why did God "give them over" to this kind of behavior?  Back up a few verses for Paul's answer....

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.... Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator -- who is forever praised. Amen. - Romans 1:21, 24-25

We'll leave room here for you to comment if you'd like -- and we'll go deeper into this subject in our next post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 101 final tables in 275 nights (36.7%) - 16 cashes.  On a night when there were barely enough players for three tables, this miss (especially the way it happened) hurt a little harder.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 171 point wins in 755 games (22.5%), 58 final tables, 7 cashes.

We finished fourth in a 71-player Senior qualifier Sunday afternoon.  And we're NOT counting the "top ten percent" finish in the Tuesday night Senior championship (tempting though it is), because no points were awarded there.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $63,252, up $830.

Going Through the Motions

The man checked his cards -- then looked up and down the table, as if he was counting everyone's stacks of chips.  He seemed to stare into space for a moment, as if he was calculating a bet.  He counted out several big chips, as if he was about to raise.  Then he adjusted them again -- and merely called before the flop.

Have you seen poker players do this sort of thing?  We sat next to one for awhile last week, during the tournament we entered in Florida.

"He's crazy," a man sitting near us said of the gesture-maker.  But that man admitted later, "He may be crazy, but he's not dumb" -- a comment made when the gesture-maker walked away for awhile, letting others fight to get to the final table.

Several other thoughts crossed our mind, as we saw the man make his machinations.  Our main thought borrowed from baseball -- that he was trying to "draw a throw," as a runner on third base might fake a start toward home plate on a fly ball.  The gestures might be designed to get other players to react, that they might reveal a "tell" about their hands.

If that was the goal, we're not really sure how well it worked for him.  But the Bible reminds us that nice gestures by themselves do NOT impress God.  Take this example from the days Jesus walked the earth:

The Pharisees and all the Jews decline to eat, till they wash their hands up to the elbow, in obedience to the tradition of the elders. - Mark 7:3, Moffatt translation

It wasn't a matter of being obsessive about cleanness -- some Bible commentaries explain this was a ceremonial show.  In other cultures (baseball comes to mind again), such acts might be called superstition.  But Jesus (the Son of God) didn't swoon at the sight of such things.

He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites.... 'They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by man.'" - Mark 7:6-7 (NIV unless noted)

Jesus went on to say such attachment to tradition caused the Pharisees to "let go of the commands of God...." (verse 8)  In fact, if we're not careful this kind of "showmanship" can become self-aggrandizing -- calling attention to self, instead of acting in a humble manner.

But in saying all this, we have to be careful.  You see, Jesus also said....

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. - John 7:24

While top-level poker players are good at "reading" what opponents have, we really cannot fully read another player's mind - especially if we've never met him before.  So the gesture-maker really might be counting stacks and planning a grand strategy before making a pre-flop bet.  But we know who will have the final say about such things....

For the word of God is living and active.... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. - Hebrews 4:12-13

God will prove to be a better "psychic" than anyone along the rural roadside, or offering services in late-night infomercials.  He'll see right through any faking and bluffing you do, when it comes to worshiping Him.  So consider yourself and your actions - asking if you're simply a "man in motion," or fully engaged in living a life which pleases God and Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Senior Championship: Out, Then In

The frustrating thing about online poker is that you can be physically "at the table," yet be unable to play because of network or connection problems.  We faced that a bit Tuesday night, during the monthly Senior Championship at National League of Poker.  Let's see if it affected us....

:00 IN: We have 2-A, but a connection glitch makes us fold it when our turn comes.  That's good; it wouldn't have won the pot, anyway.

:15 IN: After folding several promising hands which missed the flop, we have 5-4 of spades in the big blind. We choose to defend when a player doubles the bet.  The flop is J-5-10, and we call an "insta-bet" of the minimum 40 with bottom pair.  The turn is 10, and we call a similar bet.  The river is 2, we do it again -- and our stubbornness pays off, as our 10's and 5's win the $540 pot! (Our opponent had K-2.)

:22 IN: We lose the connection again, not regaining it until the half-hour break.  (That'll teach us to try to check Facebook during hands we don't play.)  We don't lose any money in the meantime, and hit the break with $1,110 -- in 221st place out of 405 still in the field.

:38 IN: We have 9-9 in the big blind.  The flop is 5-4-3.  A player goes all-in, and we fold.  Good thing; a 3-7 straight winds up taking the pot.

:39 IN: Now comes K-A in the small blind.  We double the bet, and it leads a player to go all-in for 278.  We call with another player.  The flop is A-4-2, and we dare to push ourselves -- 532 more with top pair and top kicker.  The opponent calls -- but our foes have merely Q-5 and 3-3!  The turn is K; the river is 10, and we claim a huge $2,398 pot.

:41 IN: We have 8-A in the next hand as dealer.  The flop is A-K-Q, and we call a minimum bet of 150.  The turn is 8 -- and when someone "min-bets" again, we raise to 450 with two pair.  Two players call. The river is 4, and a player goes all-in for 295.  We dare to call it -- and get rewarded, as the opponents have A-J and A-9.  Our two pair gains $3,295 more!

:43 IN: We come right back with A-Q of spades.  Our doubling of the blind leads to a player going all-in for 1,055, which we call.  The flop is 4-3-4.  We bet 200 in continuation, which makes the remaining player in the hand fold.  The pusher has A-10!  The turn and river are J-9, all around his kicker card -- and we win $3,395 more.

:45 IN: Next hand brings 4-A (with no raising this time).  The flop is 8-A-J, and we offer 330.  A player raises all-in for only 77 more, so we take the offer.  He only has K-7.  The turn-river are J-10, and we knock someone else out to the tune of $974.

That makes four pots won in five hands (we folded the other early), winning close to $10,000!  A quick check of the scoreboard shows we're up to fifth place, at 8,005.

1:01 IN: After trying a few promising hands which missed the flop, we have A-9 on the button.  The flop is 2-A-4, and we lead out 500 which gets called.  The turn is 2; everyone checks.  The river is a potentially dangerous 5, but everyone checks again.  Our opponent has 7-7, so our Ace prevails for a gain of $2,575.

At the second break, we have 6,555 -- down to 24th place, but still well up the ladder.  Only 112 players remain.

1:20 IN: After more promising hands fall short, we have Q-A of hearts on the button.  A man with a huge stack doubles the blind and we're tempted to push in response -- but instead we play it safe and call.  The flop is Jx-4h-4x.  Players check.  The turn is 5 and not a heart -- and we fell forced to fold when a player bets.  (Their cards were never shown; maybe we should have pushed in the first place?!)

1:31 IN: With rising blinds and antes, we have 8-A on the button and go for it.  We push all-in with 1,555 left.  Two players call -- one with J-J, the other an overriding A-9.  The flop is 5-A-4, followed by 2-6.  Our kicker isn't strong enough, and we're eliminated.

Final result: 78th place, out of 859 players.  It's our best showing in one of these NLOP tournaments in several months, and would have made us money in a live poker room (only the top ten won money i
n this game).  Had we handled a few hands a bit better, who knows how close we would have come?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Walking, Talking Suited Connectors

"Do you agree with that message?" we asked a man who saw our "Jesus as your Savior" coin during last week's tournament in northwest Florida.

The man said he did.  Then he told us about a change one of his sons has experienced since attending church.  "He was 100 percent improved.  But since a new pastor came in, he's 300 percent improved."  The father explained the change came because the new minister shared a lot of common interests with his son.  (We didn't ask if poker was one of them.)

We agreed there are times when the right minister can make all the difference in turning around someone's life.  In poker terms, it's like being dealt two strong cards with something in common.  Ace-King of spades is considered a far better potential hand than Ace-4 offsuit.

But a good relationship with a pastor is really "small potatoes," in the big picture of life.  The most important thing is developing a right relationship with God.  The Bible indicates there are good and bad ways to do that....

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God.... You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? - Romans 2:17, 23

Paul goes on to point out we've all broken God's law at some point.  That's known in the Christian world as "sin" (3:23).  But thankfully, God provided a new way to build a relationship with Him - through a "God" who became human:

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.... Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. - Hebrews 7:18-19, 22

God will let you come close if you accept Jesus as your Savior, and repent of your sinful past:

Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:8

Has a minister helped you draw near to God, at some point in your life?  If so, this is a perfect time to say thanks - as October is Clergy (or Pastor) Appreciation Month.  Even a simple card or e-mail certainly would be welcome.  And don't forget to thank God for those who help build closer relationships, both with Him and with Christ.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poker Night #274: Miracles Near the Strip

"Have you ever played poker?" a man asked us Monday night at the Ebro poker room near Panama City Beach, Florida.  Then he shook his head no -- as if we never had.

Yet in this 42-player tournament with a $40 buy-in, the critic was eliminated in seventh place.  But we stuck around all the way to the top four, which put us "in the money!"

So how did this happen?  We took a few early pots with nice cards, to gain some leverage.  Then we resisted the temptation to play during a period of weak cards -- and we folded a pair of Kings after the river, when another player made a huge bet with an Ace and three hearts showing on the board.  (That was the decision which openly frustrated the other player.  He didn't know what we had, but he was absolutely sure the big bettor was bluffing.)

But as so often happens in poker, sometimes we need help from "Above."  We give God the glory for the entire night, and especially what happened here....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Ace of hearts - 10 of spades (not exactly sure about the suit)

We have 1,425 chips, sitting "under the gun" at the semifinal table.  In this position with these cards, we decide it's time to take a stand -- so we go all in.  One player calls.  One big problem: he shows A-A.

ON THE FLOP: 7h-8h-9d

We need help -- and we have some!  It's an open-ended straight draw.


That's not it -- but now we're one heart away from a flush, so our chances actually are better.


We were more focused on the straight -- so someone had to tell us we hit the nut flush!

That hand brought us back to nearly 3,000 chips.  We caught a couple more big hands from there, and reached the final table at 35,700.  Then we were helped by the fact that rival "regulars" at Ebro were intent on knocking each other out.  We bided our time until good hands came, and eventually reached the "final four" which split a cash payout of more than $1,100.

Then came another timely moment.  The man with the biggest stack proposed a settlement -- he'd reduce his potential first-place payoff of about $670, so the others in the money could take home more.  We happily agreed, as did the other two finalists.  And it happened just in time, as we were ready to go all-in with K-K -- and in a pretend playout, we would have been eliminated by the big stack's Q-7 making two pair!

The settlement allowed us to win $270 (reduced a bit by our tip to the dealers).  Two years ago on a similar October Monday night at Ebro, we won $186.  So our buy-in record at Florida poker rooms now stands at  two-for-two -- with $80 invested and $456 won!

MINISTRY MOMENT: There were many in this tournament, and we'll share them all in coming days.  But the skeptic of our play offered one, when we saw our "Jesus as your Savior" coin.

"So you needed help?" he asked.

"Well, we all need help," we answered.  "Some of us simply haven't realized it yet."

We think we caught a smile of understanding from the poker room dealer.  Believers of long ago knew they needed help from God, and they weren't ashamed to write about it:

Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake. - Psalm 79:9

This was a prayer for help, to stop national oppression.  But even if you live a life of peace and perfection (like any of us really has done that?), you still need help having anything beyond the grave.  A man who was as good as dead (swallowed by a giant fish) put it this way:

In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. - Jonah 2:2

Only God can give us the ultimate help, in terms of a resurrection to eternal life.  Are you ready to accept that help?  (Along with the stray heart on the river, which might come as a bonus?)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 101 final tables in 274 nights (36.9%) - 16 cashes.  This marked our first cash win in a live tournament since July 2010.  (No online tournaments were played during our road trip.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The final table slump is over.

The MONEY-WINNING slump is over.

And our record in buy-in tournaments now stands at two entered, two nice paydays.

The inspiring details are coming soon (since it's after midnight as we post this).  But suffice to say, we came back to our lodging from a Florida poker room tonight very, VERY thankful to God. PTL!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When It's Going Bad....

As promised, here's an example of how things went the other day when we walked into a lunch hour cash game at a Florida poker room.

BLINDS: $3/$6 Limit Hold 'em


We're in the big blind ($3 until the turn card), and have taken a couple of bad losses on the river with promising hands.  After posting the blind, we have all of $5 left from a starting $50.  With no one raising at this table of five, we can check without penalty or shame.


Bottom pair admittedly doesn't thrill us, especially with face cards showing.  We check; two other players in the hand do as well.


Everyone checks again.  We still don't feel comfortable about having the sub-basement of pairs.


Ahhhh -- but this is better!  With two pair and no one betting so far, we sense a chance to make a comeback.

"All I have is five," we admit -- one short of the blind.  But we go all in.  A man to our left calls.

"Two pair," we say with hopeful optimism.

Too bad -- as our opponent has 2-2!  He had three of a kind all along, and we never had a chance.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Before that big bust, we showed that winner our "Jesus as your Savior" coin we use as a card protector.  He agreed with the message, saying Jesus was the only Savior.  We'll see if others agree the next time we play, which will be.... well, stay tuned.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Limited On the Road

Did we mention playing a little poker while on vacation?  Well, we already have.  During the lunch hour Wednesday, we stopped at Ebro Greyhound Park near Panama City Beach, Florida and joined a $3/$6 Limit Hold' em cash game.

We didn't stay long -- and that's really not a good thing.  We won the first pot, then caught some bad breaks on the river to lose pots.  We were "limit down" in about 30 minutes.  You'll see an example of what we mean in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, the vacation isn't over yet....

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 273 nights (36.6%) - 15 cashes.  No tournaments have been played on the road so far.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 168 point wins in 744 games (22.6%), 57 final tables, 7 cashes.  UFC three-card knockout: 2 point wins in 14 games (14.3%), 2 final tables, 1 win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $62,422, up $2,787.  We gained a quick $162 in two "practice" 2/4 limit hold 'em rounds, preparing for Ebro -- then had a big and fast $3,000 gain in no limit.  Did we mention recently we don't think very much of momentum?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Did You Do That?

We've been preparing for months for a vacation -- and preparing to play a little poker on the road along the way.  But we received a spiritual slap in the face the other day, when this came up in our Bible study:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.... Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. - Colossians 3:2, 5

We hope to play poker well on the road.  We even dream of making some money (especially since our only financial gain from live poker in 2011 occurred on another road trip).  But if that's the main reason why we're entering a poker room, is that the right reason?  Really?

This passage and others brought us back to a question our high school drama teacher liked to ask during acting scenes: "What's your motive?"  If you're walking across the stage, why are you doing it?  Along the same lines, why are you going into a poker room?  (And even further, why make some of the betting decisions you make during a game?)

The reasons for going can be countless, of course.  But we were reminded that we should go to do poker ministry first -- thus putting God first in all we do.  As Jesus put it:

You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters.  You cannot come to me unless you love me more than you love your own life. - Luke 14:26, CEV

Regardless of polls and rankings, chip stacks and travel itineraries, God should be the number-one priority every day -- and everywhere. Where does He place in your life?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Passing the Blessings

Our last post mentioned a poker tournament director's use of the phrase, "Have a blessed evening."  He then said blessings can come from "leaders" of many faiths -- including Buddha and Satan.

In one way, the man has a point.  Blessings can come from all kinds of sources.  In fact, they can come from you and me.

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be. - James 3:10, KJV

Which thing out of your mouth is better?  For most hearers, the answer should be obvious....

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. - Romans 12:14

But think carefully for a moment.  Would you really want someone to pronounce a "blessing of Satan" on your head?  Considering the reputation Satan has?

You belong to your father, the devil.... He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.... he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44

A "blessing" from a murderer and liar probably isn't much of a blessing at all.  Especially compared to the blessings God wants to offer you....

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. - Psalm 29:11

Are you successful at the poker table -- or in any other aspect of your life?  If so, we think the blessings came from God.  Take time to thank Him for those blessings (this is a perfect weekend for Canadians to do it) -- then use your tongue to be a blessing to others.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Poker Night 273: What's My Line?

Maybe we've been in a "final table slump" for so long because our poker strategy has become too predictable. How predictable?  Consider what our table did tonight, during one hand at Lil Kim's Cove -- and we'll even let you play along:

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: ?-? (Not saying yet)

We split a pot with a full house in the early going, and now have about 6,000 chips (where we started).  A woman to our right calls to start the bidding. We check our cards and are -- well, let's say inspired -- to raise to 600.

"That tells me he's got something good," a man to the right says.  "Pocket pair -- maybe jacks or better."  In fact, he folds out of turn at the sight of our bet.  But a few players call, and a couple of people at the table join in the guessing game.

"He could have pocket 10's," speculates one.

"You want to bet on it?" another says.  "Whether he has jacks or better?  I'll bet 100."  A couple of players take up the challenge -- and just like that, there's a "sidepot" on the table about our cards!  We say nothing through it all, and turn away from the players doing the talking.

ON THE FLOP: 6-Q-4 (suits won't matter)

We're first to act, and offer what some might call a continuation bet of 500.  A man to our left calls; a couple  of others keep guessing.  "Your Jacks are good," one says -- apparently in our direction.


Seeing a second face card, we check.  The other player checks.  The guessers think that was not the card we wanted to see.

"You realize if he mucks the cards, you lose," one man points out.  We still say nothing about all this.


OK, let's bet once more.  We offer 500.  Our opponent thinks about it for a moment.

"Here," a guesser across from our opponent says -- and tosses a green chip worth 500 toward him!  "I want to see what he has."  Given this unusual "free play," our opponent leaves it out to call.

"Whoever said pocket 10's had it right," we say as we turn our cards over.  Our opponent is left frustrated.

"I was hoping for a flush."  He folds without showing.

"So you get the sidepot...." we say to a man across the table.

"You couldn't win that, anyway!" another jokes.  Of course not.  But we're happy with the main pot, which comes to about 4,000 chips.

The post-hand "expert analysis" concluded we lowered our bets out of fear, as face cards came out.  Yes, we checked in caution on the turn -- but on the flop, we really offered 500 because we lacked a blue 100 chip to go with it.  Really.

More success came our way in the second hour, as we won back-to-back pots.  But rising blinds kept us on the edge, as the field whittled down.  Finally we saw 8-8 in the big blind with 8,000 left, and went all-in with it.  It turned into a full house, and topped an opponent with 6-6 -- but a man with a Queen paired the board with it, to knock both of us out.  We barely missed the final table, finishing tied for ninth (10th in points).

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Have a blessed evening," the Tournament Director said after writing down our name for tenth place in points.

"A blessed evening!" we answered in surprise.  "You don't hear that every day at a poker room."

"A multi-denominational blessing," the Director said.  "Even Satanists have blessings that they offer."

They do?  That was a new one to us -- but indeed, there are web pages asking Satan to bless weddings (and we assume other events as well).  Yet this weekend, observant Jews and Christians will mark a future time when Satan will be punished severely by God....

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. - Revelation 20:1-2

Verse 3 notes this is done to prevent Satan "from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended."  It's part of the deep spiritual meaning of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.  Click on our link to learn more about it; we'll have more to say about blessings in our next post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 100 final tables in 273 nights (36.6%) - 15 cashes.  Our live poker schedule will be different for the next couple of weeks; in fact, it might be exactly what we need.  (Keep checking here for details.)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 168 point wins in 743 games (22.6%), 57 final tables, 7 cashes.  One-table sit-n-goes: 8-13-8-3-2. (A second and a third last weekend gave us enough points to qualify for the weekly championship tournament.)

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $59,635, down $83.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 20: Bigger is Better?

It was a big Saturday night for us in online poker -- 42nd in a tournament with 1009 players, then point wins in two late-night sit-n-goes.  That qualified us for tonight's National League of Poker weekly championship.  And with all that momentum....

:01 IN: We have A-K offsuit, and limp in early position.  As so often happens in NLOP tourneys, a player goes all in -- on the second hand of the match.  We have 970 left, and see little choice but to call for 940 of it.  Trouble is, our opponent has 8-8.  It's a coin flip.


No, that doesn't do it.


Oh no....


"Rocket 88's" mean a higher two pair, and a massive kick in the shins for us.

:02 IN: We have Q-A in the very next hand -- and with 30 left, there's little choice but to go all-in for the blind. Two players call.  But again, someone has a pocket pair -- 9-9 this time.


The other player who called has Q-J, and takes the lead.


Oh no......


We folded a weak opening hand -- so in Sunday football talk, this night was a "three and out" for us.  We wind up #1,434 out of 1,467 players.  So much for momentum -- much less big starting hands.

Call His Bluff?

"God does not bluff, when it comes to change."  We heard a speaker say this during a worship service this weekend -- and of course, the poker side of our brain paid attention.

The speaker made that statement, while referring to a dramatic moment in the Old Testament - when a group rebelled against Moses and his leadership:

Then he said to Korah and all his followers: "In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him.  The man he chooses he will cause to come near him." - Numbers 16:5

Their version of "showdown" came the next day....

Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to me, then the Lord has not sent me.  But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these   men have treated the Lord with contempt." - Numbers 16:28-30

Verses 31-35 show events transpired exactly as Moses said.  The death toll was high for challenging God's set-up for doing things.

We can gain a couple of lessons from this.  For one thing, the Bible promises this same kind of judgment will happen again -- on a worldwide scale:

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do.... they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. - I Peter 4:3, 5

We didn't post the list of things "pagans choose to do" at the end of verse 3.  But look it over, and you might  find parallels with what people experience on poker nights in bars and nightclubs.  The Bible promises their "day of reckoning" is coming.

"But wait," you may be saying.  "This was promised a long, long time ago.  It hasn't happened yet!"  That's true.  And Peter even admits that fact.

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, "Where s this 'coming' he promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." - II Peter 3:3-4

But the apostle doesn't stop there.  He answers with a warning:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - II Peter 3:9

You can scoff now, and think God's words of warning are all a bluff.  But God holds a "king of kings" named Jesus, who will come to judge the world and claim final victory.  Whose side will you be on then -- and should be on now?