Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Senior Championship: Too Many Hiccups

Poker can be a game of spurts -- with several idle hands, followed by a couple with big gains.  But in the November National League of Poker Senior Championship Tuesday night, the spurts came in other ways....


:01 IN: We have J-J, and a player ahead of us raises 160.  We call, of course.  The flop is 10-5-6.  We call a bet of 30.  The turn is 4.  We call a bet of 130, fearing someone has three of a kind.  The river is 6, and we call yet another bet of 30.  After all that, our main opponent has K-5!  The overpair gives us a big gain of $1,255.
 
:12 IN: After folding cards which would have given us a winning flush and a winning straight, we have Ax-Ks.  We raise the blind 100, to 140.  The flop is 3s-6x-2s.  A player bets 200 -- enough to baffle us, and also enough to fold.
 
:16 IN: We have 3-4 in the big blind -- and then the trouble starts.  Our connection to the game freezes.  After waiting five minutes for things to resolve themselves, we "panic" -- getting out of NLOP completely and logging back in.  The process keeps us away for 12 minutes, so we escape being disqualified.  But we miss a round of blinds -- and who knows what else.

We're functioning at the 30-minute break, with $1,490 thanks to our big win.  We're #207 out of 506 players still alive.

:34 IN: Right after the break, we have 9-4.  We fold -- and then freeze #2 begins.  We get out and in faster this time, but still lose eight more minutes of playing time and another round of blinds.  We're down to $1,265.

:43 IN: We have 3-J, and feel compelled to play to avoid disqualification.  The flop is 6-K-5, and we fold to a bet.

:48 IN: We have A-3 of diamonds.  The flop is 6d-Kd-2h, providing us a great flush draw.  The table checks.  The turn is Qh, and we call a bet of 200.  But the turn is Ks, and we must fold to another bet.  (The winning player had a Q for two pair.)  It's a serious loss.

:59 IN: We have J-5 of spades in the small blind with a small stack.  We click on "fold" -- and then freeze #3 starts, with our chip stack down to a lowly 265.

"And we slow play the fold," we see a player named Wirestringer write while our connection is hopelessly sluggish.  We can't explain, because we have to get out and into NLOP again.  Another nine minutes is lost, and we return at the end of the second break.

"Apologies to Wire and all -- disconnects beyond my control," we write on our return.  Wirestringer understands and accepts that explanation.

"You could update to IE9," another player suggests.

"But we don't use that here, do we?" we ask.  We don't even have any browsers open.  (Open question: does that really make a difference?)

1:11 IN: We antes whittling away, we push all-in with A-5 and 115 chips left.  The flop is K-7-7.  The turn is K, and we feel doomed.  The river is J -- and a player shows 7-Q.  His full house knocks us out.

Believe it or not, we finished 176th out of 1,063 players -- in spite of everything, including 29 lost minutes out of 71.  It's a pretty good finish.  But it obviously left us frustrated.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting Room

The smallest gesture or briefest word can cause attention at the poker table, especially when you're in the middle of a hand.  Players are looking for "tells" of any kind, or doing "reads" to determine what you really have and how they should respond.

We wonder if that made a difference in the hand we mentioned in our last post.  A pause of about two seconds  before checking with quad Kings resulted in an opponent going all-in --then we "insta-called" to make a big gain.

The Bible offers many examples where moments of waiting led to amazing results.  We'll offer one; perhaps you can think of others....

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick".... Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. - John 11:3, 6

Jesus was healing people all over the "Holy Land" region.  So why didn't He rush to the aid of Lazarus?  The Lord gave a hint to His disciples....

So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him." - John 11:14-15

Jesus suggests He wanted to drive home a point to the disciples.  And a few days later, He made that point before a large crowd of witnesses.

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"  The dead man came out.... Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. - John 11:43-45

By waiting until Lazarus was dead and entombed, Jesus displayed His miraculous powers.  In the arts, that sort of wait is called a "dramatic pause."  God seems to have more in store, before Jesus comes again....

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  They cried in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" - Revelation 6:9-10

It occurred to us this week that today's living believers should put themselves under that altar.  Many of them want Jesus to return with judgment and vengeance, too.  But read on....

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. - Revelation 8:1

God's timeline seems unaffected by human pleading.  But Revelation goes on to show Jesus will come again. Soon.  We don't know how soon, but soon.  In the meantime, follow the advice of a psalmist:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. - Psalm 130:5

(P.S.  We faced our own 15-minute wait as we wrote this entry, due to Internet connection problems.  Waiting isn't easy there, either -- but wait we did.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

He Who Hesitates....


Sometimes you can be a poker "alter ego" in an online cash game, especially when no one knows who you are.  Look what we did the other night at PokerStars.net....

BLINDS: 5/10

IN THE POCKET: K-K

About five players are at this pretend table.  We make a modest raise in early position to 25.  Come on in -- and most players do.

ON THE FLOP: Q-7-8

We have an overpair and early position, so we fire a continuation bet of 50.  A couple of players call.

ON THE TURN: K

That's even better -- three of a kind.  Now we raise the temperature to 75.  Only one player calls.

ON THE RIVER: K

Whoa!!  We hit runners for quads!  So we pause a moment to plan our strategy -- then we check.

Our opponent ponders -- and takes the bait.  He goes all-in, for about 380.  Of course, we call.

:-) is what we type as we show the case Kings.  Our opponent dared to bet with a mere 3-8 for two pair.  Did that momentary wait on our part make a difference?  We'll reflect on that in our next post.

Friday, November 25, 2011

If It Was Real: 280-Game Report

An old phrase says familiarity breeds contempt.  At the poker table, we think it also makes you an easy target. We're starting to think the players in our local poker circuit have figured out our strategy -- or else they're reading this blog carefully, and not telling us.

In our last 20 live tournaments, we've made the final table only four times (barely missing two other times).  Compared with a couple of years ago, this is a serious slide for us.  And only two tournaments brought top-five finishes.  We were fourth in October at a Florida poker room (where we're clearly an outsider), then fourth two weeks later at The Red Barn (where we don't play often these days).

Plug those 20 games into our running scoreboard, based on a Kansas City area casino.  Our record now looks like this:

BUY-INS: 280 nights x $50 = $14,000

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

Second - 8 ($3,200)

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

Fourth - 12 ($2,400)
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 -- 60 for $13,784


Yes, it's finally happened -- we've fallen below the break-even point on a pretend investment.  After 100 games, we were 45.3% ahead.  After 200 games, it was 24.7%.

So clearly some changes are in order.  But what should they be?  Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks for Nothing?

How disappointed we were Wednesday night, when a man told us he didn't have much to be thankful for.  But then again, maybe that describes you on this U.S. Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe you've lost a lot of money playing poker this year -- or lost something (or someone) even more valuable to you.

Yet the book of Psalms encourages us to thank God, anyway.  And it gives all sorts of reasons:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.... who made the great lights.... the sun to govern the day.... the moon and stars to govern the night.... to the One who remembered us in our low estate.... and freed us from our enemies.... and who gives food to every creature.... Give thanks to the God of heaven.  His lover endures forever. - Psalm 136:1, 7-9, 23-26

God provides huge things every day, if we simply take a moment to look for His hands in them.  And another huge thing is yet to come....

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him... For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. - I Corinthians 15:22-26
With that promise of an end to death someday, the ultimate song of thanksgiving can be sung -- and if you believe in God, you can sing it even now:

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Poker Night 280: Good Things Come in Pairs?

"I'm getting a divorce," the man to our left said tonight at Soho Bar and Grill.  That admission was unusual enough -- but he said it in response to our question about what he's thankful for.  Now there's a new way to slam the door on a conversation.

But that man may have been more focused on winning at the poker table.  A big crowd showed up to do that, perhaps because it was Thanksgiving Eve.  For us, it was a change because our usual Thursday night room will be closed for the holiday.  And we hoped to change our trend line, because our last trip to Soho in May ended with a tie for fifth place.  Let's see if it happened....

BLINDS: 500/1000

IN THE POCKET: 8h-8c

We won a modest early pot by making bottom pair and betting people away.  But otherwise, nice cards have fallen short for us -- such as K-K losing to two pair.  We're down to 2,500 chips, and this pocket pair may be our last good hope.  We go all in, and two other people at the table of six call.

ON THE FLOP: 9h-10s-6h

This gives us a straight draw and a longshot chance for a flush.  But when one of the other players bets 2,000, we don't feel good about this.  (The fact that the third player calls didn't change things much.)

ON THE TURN: 4d

So much for a flush.  The other players check.

ON THE RIVER: As

We miss the straight -- and the player who bet earlier now goes all-in for 13,000.  His opponent folds, and we fear the worst.  He shows 9-J!  That's not much, but his pair is enough to top our pair.  We head home as the second player eliminated at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took a small card saying "Thank You" to the table, and tried to ask the players around us what made them thankful this holiday season.

"For life," the man to our right said.  "I don't have much to be thankful for."  At least that topped the man to our left.

"I'm thankful for life," we told that man after some thought.  "And I'm thankful for eternal life, through Jesus Christ."  We don't think either neighbor really heard us mention this.  But even if you're a pauper, the offer of eternal life is one you can claim.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23

It's a "gift," yet an unusual one -- because Jesus indicated it depends on things you do while you're alive.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.... [Others] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. - Matthew 25:35-36, 40, 46

So if you have to do some things to receive this gift, is it really a gift?  That's a deep Biblical topic - a classic clash between the grace of God and the works of humans.

We could liken it to fund-raising raffle tickets which are sold at some of the poker nights we attend.  Someone will have their name drawn at random to win a big prize -- let's say a TV set or a car.  But if you don't buy a ticket, you can't receive that gift.  In the same way, God's gift of eternal life appears to be offered based on our participation in acts of kindness toward others.  Do you agree, or have a different view?  Either way, please leave a comment with your thoughts.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 102 final tables in 280 nights (36.4%) - 16 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 175 point wins in 769 games (22.8%), 60 final tables, seven cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $68,252, down $315.

Monday, November 21, 2011

This. And That. And the Other Thing.

So there we were Sunday night, in an online weekly poker championship we didn't plan to attend.  And another project was underway simultaneously, which had been on the schedule for weeks.  In the end, we "sacrificed" a good poker result for that other project.

This situation reminded us of advice written nearly 2,000 years ago - long before "multitasking" became part of the vocabulary:

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. - James 1:8 (KJV)

We played chess in our youth, and marveled at how grandmasters staged exhibitions walking around a room and playing 30 or 40 games simultaneously.  Thanks to the Internet, some poker players pull a similar stunt today -- playing three or four games at once, even at different websites.

Perhaps those people have the brains to accommodate such things -- but we think many people work at their best when they focus on one thing at a time.  That's what we do, when it comes to poker.  And we think Jesus supports that idea....

No man can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.... - Matthew 6:24

We've heard ministers say Jesus's disciple Peter went against this principle when he attempted to walk on water toward the Lord, and "saw the wind" instead of Christ (Matthew 14:25-31).  So let's....

Oh, wait a second.  We got distracted for a moment (giggle), and didn't finish that verse with some more important words of Jesus:

You cannot serve God and Money. - Matthew 6:24b

Now this deepens the issue -- especially for poker players.  Are you so fixed on winning cash games and tournaments that you've pushed God aside?  What is your top priority in life?  We recommend learning from Peter's sinking feeling....

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2

While poker can be fun, challenging and even a career, life has a "final table" -- and you can't drag chips from this life to the next.  Jesus offers something more valuable than money: the opportunity for eternal life in His Kingdom.  Isn't that worth putting God first?


Sunday, November 20, 2011

NLOP Weekly Championship 22: How Bad Do You Want It?

What a busy Sunday!  A NASCAR title on the line, a music awards show on TV, the MLS Cup, WWE Survivor Series night -- and if all that wasn't enough, we qualified for the National League of Poker's weekly championship because of top-five and top-50 finishes at mid-week.

To be honest, we didn't plan on getting into this week's "big game" because another project was a higher priority.  But we decided to try a little multitasking, and play online while working on that other thing.  Did it work?

:04 IN: We have 4-5 offsuit, and call a doubling of the blind.  The flop is Q-A-5.  We call a minimum bet with bottom pair.  The turn is 7.  Everyone checks.  The river is K.  Someone bets 490, and we know well enough to fold -- especially when the winner shows J-10 for a top straight.

:10 IN: We have 8-8. The flop is Q-7-9, and we call a minimum bet of 40.  The turn is 6; we call another minimum bet with an open-ended straight draw.  But the river is 4, and we fold another bet.  Good thing; the winner shows a Queen.

:13 IN: We have 10-8 of hearts.  The flop is 7-5-10 (7 is a heart).  Another player in the hand goes all-in for thousands.  With top pair and that other project going on, we dare to call -- putting us all-in with 650 left.  A third player calls.  The big bettor had 7-7 for three of a kind -- and wins the main pot when the turn and river are J-8.  But that river card saves us for the moment; we win a consolation prize sidepot of 180.

:14 IN: We're under the gun on the very next hand with J-A.  With little to lose, we push again.  Several players call.  But the flop is 7-8-Q, followed by 5 and 10.  We missed; a player with 10-K did not.

Oh well -- back to that other project.  We settle for 1,233rd place out of 1,458 players.  But we think there's a deeper lesson in tonight's game; we'll share that Monday.

Nothing Up Your Sleeve?


When we're in the dealer position at a live poker table, we like to think we're in control of the action.  But the other night, we missed something other players did not.
 
With a 2-3-4 showing on the board, one player turned over two pair at showdown.  As we recall, another man still in the hand declared he'd won the pot.  Then as the next dealer started collecting the cards, that other man turned over A-5 of hearts.
 
"That's a straight," someone else pointed out.  We frankly didn't notice it -- but it suddenly occurred to player #2 that yes, he hit a winning straight.
 
"It's too late.  He started shuffling the cards," a player to our left said.
 
But maybe not; the player with two pair counted out 6,000 chips, and tossed them to the straight-holder.
 
What's this?  A display of good sportsmanship in a poker room?!?!  Yes - and it happens more often than you might think.  In a free tournament like the ones we usually play, the prizes aren't that pricey.  So fair play and a good time tend to prevail.  In fact, it should be that way all the time....

It is God's will that you should be sanctified.... and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.  The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. - I Thessalonians 4:3-7

The context here involves sexual conduct, but shouldn't it apply in everything else we do?

Do not steal.  Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another. - Leviticus 19:11

These concepts come straight out of God's Ten Commandments.  And if they've been "done away," as some believers claim, why are there laws against such actions in most countries on Earth today?

We should note the player who had the straight seemed prepared to accept his loss.  That might be an even harder thing to do at a poker table, especially when big money is involved -- but it's the godly approach as well.

Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. - I Corinthians 6:7-8
There's an element of "getting even" built into all sorts of human activities -- from poker to competitive sports.  But we need to be willing to accept losses, even if they hurt.  After all, everyone "loses" in the game of human life -- because we're all eventually doomed to die.  May our focus be toward God, because....

The sting of death is sin.... But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - I Corinthians 15:56-57

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Poker Night 279: The King of Nothing

"Buzzed driving is drunk driving," warns messages on radio in our city.  But is a "buzzed" poker player a bad poker player -- or simply more dangerous?  We gained an answer to that question tonight at Lil Kim's Cove, and we were in the middle of it:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

It's only the second hand of the night -- but a big bust occurred on the first hand, so we realize anything could happen at this table of five.  A man next to us raises to 250.  But waking up with these cards this early, we decide to wait and see if this man will do something rash.  We simply call, as does most of the table.

ON THE FLOP: 2-K-7

Top pair plus top kicker equals a good bit of confidence.  But the man to our right makes a continuation bet of 250.  We choose to keep following the leader, and call.  Three players remain in the hand.

ON THE TURN: 8

The bettor to our right now checks -- and we decide to step forward, with a bet of 200.  But a woman across the table raises to 700.  She says she's been at Lil Kim's Cove since 12:00 noon, building a huge chip stack by purchasing drinks.  In fact, she tells other players a few minutes after this hand she's "buzzed."  So we're leaning toward concluding she's bluffing.

The bettor next to us thinks it over, and folds.  That surprises us, but we're committed to that King -- so we call.

ON THE RIVER: 3

There's no threat of a flush on the board, so we still feel confident and say, "500 more."  The woman across from us calls.

"I have two pair," she announces.  Ouch -- she shows 7-8, proving she knew what she was doing.  We wind up losing about 1,900 chips.

That woman topped us again only minutes later, when we both had three 7's; her Ace kicker topped ours.  We rallied a bit to win one pot and split two more in the first hour, then "triple up" early in the second hour when 4-4 brought a 4 on the flop.  But higher blinds and missed flops did us in -- and finally we went all-in with 9-2 in the big blind and a 9 showing on the flop.  But two 4's eventually appeared, and a chip leader had a third to knock us out.  We improved to 12th place, but missed the final table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Don't tell a lie, or God will strike you dead," a man across from us said during the first hour.  This man knows about this ministry, and may have said those words to provoke a response from us.

"I've never seen it happen," the scoffer added.  To be honest, neither have we.

"I've read about it, but I've never seen it," we said.  We didn't cite the chapter and verse, but we could have done so.  It's in the New Testament....

Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money that you received for the land?.... You have not lied to men but to God."  When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. - Acts 5:3-5

Could this simply be a coincidental heart attack?  The scoffer probably would claim that -- but read the entire chapter and you'll find three hours later, Ananias's wife Sapphira suddenly fell dead as well after making a similar misstatement (verses 8, 10).  Is that a double coincidence?

Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. - Acts 5:11

These members seemed to conclude God was behind the sudden end of this couple.  While those were physical deaths, the New Testament adds an even graver warning about lying:

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death. - Revelation 21:7

 You may consider the Bible a giant religious bluff -- but these words serve as a warning to all of us.  Do you want to take a risk, which could leave you disqualified from eternal life?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 102 final tables in 279 nights (36.6%) - 16 cashes.  Lil Kim's Cove tends to be closed on Thanksgiving, which is next Thursday.  Stay tuned to see how we adjust to that.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 175 point wins in 767 games (22.8%), 60 final tables, 7 cashes.  We finished fifth in a 71-player tournament Wednesday night, to qualify for the November Seniors Championship.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $68,567, up $985.  We briefly topped $70,000 Monday night, after several big gains.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Original True Blood

Our last local poker night brought up the TV series True Blood -- and when we heard title, we thought of Jesus the Savior.

Sound strange?  We don't mean Jesus Christ was a vampire.  What we mean begins with this verse....

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

If Jesus is the truth, it logically follows that His words are true.  And since John 1:1, 14 indicates Jesus was (and still is) God, we can apply these words....

See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your love.  All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. - Psalm 119:159-160

And the blood of "the truth" is filled with importance for humans, even today....

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.... In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.... - Ephesians 1:3, 7

Have you accepted the blood of Jesus as your redemption price, to have your sins forgiven?  Any attempt to use someone else will be.... well, false blood.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

What (or Who) Counts Most


We started this poker ministry blog in 2008 with big dreams, but admittedly small expectations.  Little did we know there are other Christians with similar ideas, seemingly accomplishing much more.
 
We learned this weekend about a documentary called Holy Rollers, featuring a team of "card-counting Christians."  The group of young men includes at least one church pastor, and their mission appears to be entering casinos and winning massive sums of money at blackjack tables (they succeed often because they can count the cards in the shoe).
 
All we've seen of this film is the trailer -- and just as you can't judge a book by its cover, we realize you can't judge a movie by a three-minute promotional clip.  But based on the trailer and a couple of online reviews, we'll take a stab at "judging righteous judgment" (John 7:24) and making a few tentative conclusions.
 
1.  One review says the "Church Team" tithes on its casino winnings.  That's a proper Biblical thing to do.
 
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." - Malachi 3:10
 
The concept of tithing goes all the way back to Abram in Genesis 14 -- giving a tenth of your "spoil" or winnings to God.  If it's considered income, we count it.
 
2. The Church Team gets giddy at times about the massive amounts of money it "liberates" from casinos.  But is that the team's top priority -- and should it be?

Paul warned ministers should have their priorities in order:
 
It is true that anyone who desires to be a church official wants to be something worthwhile.  That's why officials must have a good reputation.... They must be self-controlled, sensible, well-behaved.... kind and gentle and not love money. - I Timothy 3:1-3, CEV
 
We might make hundreds of dollars in a poker room -- but when the game is over, we personally feel guilty if we haven't done the "ministry" part.  And connected to that....
 
3. The documentary shows a baptism (of whom we're not sure) -- but is this "Church Team" doing any witnessing to people inside the casinos?

It's one thing to take thousands of dollars out the door.  But it's another to leave something behind -- at least some kind of gospel message for the casino staff or players to consider.
 
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead.... I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction. - II Timothy 4:1-2
 
Perhaps the Church Team does this when it's confronted by casino security workers.  But talking too much about Jesus at a blackjack table probably would "blow their cover," and perhaps distract them from the card count.
 
What thoughts come to your mind, when it comes to this topic and this documentary?  Leave them in our comments section, and we may address them in upcoming posts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poker Night 278: The Gun Clubs

There was an old-fashioned "stick-up" on the avenue near our home the other day -- as a man was robbed of his wallet, and apparently slugged in the process.  At the other side of the avenue tonight, we carried some weapons of our own from time to time.  It was poker night at Lil Kim's Cove -- and sometimes cards are referred to as "rockets" or "bullets."  But that wasn't what we had....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: J-9 of clubs

We're "under the gun" -- which in poker slang means we're first to act pre-flop, sitting to the left of the big blind.  We haven't won a hand yet, and hold about 4,000 chips.  But something tells us to give this suited medium-high combination a try, so we call.  Several players get in, with no one raising.

ON THE FLOP: Qs-9s-8c

We have middle pair and a draw, so we're not in a mood to stick our neck out yet.  We check; so does the entire table.

ON THE TURN: 10c

That's the right draw for a straight -- and it sets up a potential perfect river card, as we've developed an open-ended shot at a straight flush.  But we're more concerned about taking this pot than hitting that long shot.  When the play checks to us, we bet 1,000.  Several players do the math and fold; one person across from us calls.

ON THE RIVER: Kc

We didn't hit the jackpot, and three clubs are now showing.  But we don't really consider that chance of someone having the Ace of clubs for a "nut flush."  With our straight becoming a flush, we bet 1,000 again -- and our opponent fold, realizing we have something.

But all in all, the night was shaky for us.  We reached a high of 6,000 chips, then lost 3,100 of them in one hand when our pocket Jacks lost to a woman who turned a 3 in her hand into three of a kind on the turn.  Then we folded two low clubs which would have made another winning flush.

We finally pushed in the big blind with A-Q, but the board didn't pair for us and another woman made pocket jacks.  Final standing: a lowly 22nd.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The talk of the table turned to television tonight.  One woman asked an admitted fan of the Twilight movie series, "Do you watch True Blood?"

"No," the fan answered.  "I don't like scary stuff."

The title led us to turn to a man on our left and quietly say, "That title brings me back to this."  We tapped the "Jesus as your Savior" coin we'd shown him earlier in the evening.  The man smiled, and nodded a bit as if he understood.

That's nice -- but do you understand?  Why would True Blood make us think of Jesus the Savior?  Offer a comment if you'd like; we'll explain in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 102 final tables in 278 nights (36.7%), 16 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 172 point wins in 761 games (22.6%), 59 final tables, 7 cashes.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $67,582, up $5,925.  We scored gains in seven of eight sessions in the last seven days, including two with jumps of $2,000 or more.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

King Pius Won


It took about six hours of heads-up play lasting until after midnight in Las Vegas, but Pius Heinz of Germany won the World Series of Poker Main Event early today.
 
That name inspired a little poker humor for us -- about the other players trying to play "Heinz catch-up."  But it also inspired a surprising article on a poker website, reviewing the history of the champion's first name.  "Pius" has been the name of 12 Roman Catholic popes, and it comes from a Latin word meaning "dutiful to gods, state and family."
 
This leads us to a few thoughts and questions.  The first one happened to come up the other day, as we chatted during a Poker Stars.Net cash game....
 
craigdonna: poker gods suck
Dealer: Game #70206673923: cdm125 wins pot (775) with two pair, Eights and Fives
flopblogger: There's only one True God.
Dealer: flopblogger, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
craigdonna: chill
Dealer: Game #70206690526: flopblogger wins pot (640)
craigdonna: get that
Dealer: cdm125, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
Dealer: Regular time for player cdm125 has expired, TIME BANK has been activated
flopblogger: Well, that's why the others.... well, as you said....
craigdonna: ?
 
The Bible leaves no doubt on this topic:
 
Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods.  Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies. - II Kings 17:38-39
 
The God of the Bible says He's the only real one.  If you have proof of others (especially poker gods), we'd be interested in seeing it.
 
So how can we be "dutiful to" God?  What should our duty be?  The Bible helps answer that as well....
 
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. - Ecclesiastes 12:13
 
If you don't know what those commandments are, read the list in Deuteronomy 5.

You only have to change one letter in Pius Heinz's first name to get a word often used to describe believers in God.  They're described as "pious."  You won't find that word in many leading Bible translations -- but when we found in one modern version is quite revealing:
 
Jesus also taught: "Beware of these teachers of religious law!.... they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.  Because of this, they will be more severely punished." - Mark 12:38, 40, New Living Translation
 
Jesus didn't think much of religious bluffing -- as in charades and "shows" (as the NIV puts it).  If that's your approach to matters of God, it may be time to deepen your commitment -- and look more deeply at your life:
 
Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you -- unless, of course, you fail the test? - II Corinthians 13:5
 
Don't be "Pius" in name only.  Do your proper duty to God -- and you can win eternal life in the end.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It Only Takes One


At a worship service the other day, we heard a sermon which reminded us of a familiar poker phrase.  It revolved around this verse....

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. - Jude 3

The pastor said the phrase "once for all" can be understood as being given "one time."

"One time!"  How many times have you heard poker players say that -- especially desperate ones, needing something like running diamonds for a stay-alive flush?  (That happened Sunday evening at the WSOP Main Event Final Table, by the way.)  We presume that means the underdog player wants to defy the odds one time, to stay in the game.

We've heard this verse in Jude explained many different ways.  But we connect it with the next verse....

For certain man whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.  They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. - Jude 4

Jesus came "one time" in the flesh, about 2,000 years ago.  But oh, what that one time accomplished.

....It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.... Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. - Acts 4:10, 12

We're saved from the penalty of eternal death for our sins.  But it would be irresponsible for us to respond to that gift of salvation by living in an immoral way.  What sort of thanks does that show to a holy God?

We should add that "one time" is not the only time Jesus plans to appear on the earth....

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. - Hebrews 9:28

Many people say they only have "one time" physically to live.  But the Bible shows we face a resurrection someday to judgment (Revelation 20).  And if you're looking to Jesus and following Him, you can be saved to receive eternal life.  Good things ultimately do come to those who wait.



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Good Sign? Bad Sign?

As the November Nine drama unfolds, we learned tonight from the World Series of Poker website that DearFoams is the "official footwear provider" of WSOP.

Huh?!?!

Really now - when was the last time you walked into a poker room and noticed people's shoes?  (Unless perhaps someone flings a bet off the table, and chips land on the floor.)  Aren't you far more likely to notice a player's hat?  Or a shirt?

Open question: is this sponsorship a sign of growing popularity for poker?  Or is it a sign of desperation, in terms of looking for endorsement deals?

NLOP Weekly Championship 21: The November 15

Our final table appearance online Thursday provided enough points to qualify for the National League of Poker weekly championship tonight.  While the "November Nine" battled in Las Vegas, we took on 1,409 others in cyberspace.  And we wound up with a "personality" at the table we normally don't have....

:00 IN: We open in the small blind with 6-J offsuit; we call when someone doubles the blind to 60.  The flop is 10-6-7, and the big blind bets 30.  We call with a pair.  The turn is Q.  We call a bet of 30 again, suspecting the big blind is trying to run us off.  The river is 9, and we make the same assumption when our opponent bets 30 more.  Trouble is, he has Q-J; the turn gives him a winning higher pair, and we lose 150.

:01 IN: We have K-A offsuit and the button in the next hand.  We raise to 90 and gain callers.  The flop is 3-K-9, all clubs.  We don't have a club, and make our own continuation "go-away" bet of 120.  A player calls.  The turn is 7h.  We both check.  The river is 2d, making us say: "He missed his flush."  Trouble is, our opponent bets 350.  We smell a bluff again, and call with top pair.  He shows 4-A of clubs!  He hit the nuts on the flop, and drops our starting stack of 1,000 down to 290.

:03 IN: Next hand, J-J!  Undaunted, we raise to 90 and get two callers.  The flop is Kx-7c-3c.  Everyone checks.  The turn is 6c; more checking, even with three clubs showing.  The river is 4.  Play checks to us -- but this time we hold our fire and check.  Shame on us; the Jacks win the $480 pot!  We recover to 610.

:05 IN: We have 2-7, and quickly fold.  Too bad -- two 7's show on the flop.

:06 IN: We have 9-9 and limp in middle position.  The flop is 3-8-A.  We make a probing bet of 50, and three players fold to give us $170 pot.  We've now recovered to 710.

:12 IN: We have 4-5 in the big blind, with no one raising.  The flop is 3-4-5, providing two pair!  We bet 100, and are stunned to see an opponent go all-in with much more.  We dare to call our remaining 530 -- and face an opposing hand of 2-5, for an open-ended straight draw.  The turn is an Ace!  The river is 3 -- and his straight sends us packing in only 15 minutes.

We don't know our exact final position as we write this (that's a flaw with the NLOP leader pages right now).  Suffice to say it was well down the ladder -- and it was an evening amazingly similar to our last  Sunday night championship a month ago.  We had strong hands, and tried to play them strongly in response. But when you're outgunned by a foolish-looking pusher holding 2-5, all you can do is shake your hand and hope the "law of averages" eventually turns around.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Disconnectors

The 1:00 p.m. ET online poker tournament was going well for us.  We won several big pots, survived a couple of all-in moments, reached the semifinal table in 13th place, noticed make-or-break blinds were approaching for us....

And then it happened.  Our Internet connection went dead.  We were still online -- simply not connected to the server at National League of Poker, to keep playing the game.  We were frozen.  Helpless.  And we knew we barely had enough chips to play the upcoming big and small blinds.

In short, we were frustrated.  And it wasn't the first time we've faced this problem with NLOP.  It seldom seems to happen with Poker Stars -- but with our main site for online tournament play, hiccups and outright outages are a common occurrence.  Sometimes it's due to automatic McAfee updates taking over our computer.  Sometimes it's due to calling up the wrong website in the background (we've concluded NLOP and Facebook don't mix well).  But Thursday, there was no good reason at all -- a sunny day where we should have had no interruptions.

In this frustration, we did some meditating.  Plenty of people probably feel disconnected from God at times.  The reasons could range from the death of a loved one to unemployment to unethical ministers.  Yet through it all, the Bible tells us....

Come near to God and he will come near to you. - James 4:8
The leader of a church denomination we once attended liked to say: "If God seems far away, who moved?"  While a few exceptions come to mind from the "exodus story," we don't think in most cases it's God....

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. - Isaiah 26:4
....Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. - Ephesians 2:20b
God's ways can seem confusing at times.  In fact, some people intentionally try to bring out the confusing parts to draw believers away from their faith.  But in moments like that, we have to trust God "the Rock" to make it all clear -- on His timetable, when the time is right.  After all, what other hope beyond this life do we really have?  And in the meantime....

Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:8b

This is how we draw near to a holy God - by repenting of our sins, and accepting Jesus's sacrifice to pay the penalty of those sins.

P.S.  When we finally regained a connection with NLOP, we were stunned to discover we were at the final table!  Somehow we must have won a pot in one of the blinds (perhaps a "walk" in the big blind) to stay alive.  But the long disconnection triggered a "forfeit" by NLOP.  Through no fault of our own, we were eliminated.

We wound up eighth out of 611 players, three spots away from "top five" prize money.  A close connection with God can lead to an ultimately greater prize - the crown of eternal life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Poker Night 277: That Was Then

"It's hard to beat... lucky."  An ellipse was added to that sentence to replace a couple of expletives -- expletives uttered by a frustrated player tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  One man at our table was hotter than Death Valley in July, turning all kinds of pocket cards into winning hands.  But as that man said at one point, "Any two cards are good before the flop."  The key is in waiting for the right cards to come....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: 10-10

We've played patiently for more than an hour, and have absolutely no pots to show for it.  The chip stack has dropped slowly, and now we're dealing at a table of five with 3,500 chips left.  Mr. Small Blind already is all-in for his last 500.  So when players call to us, our decision is easy.

"I'm going all-in," we announce.  After all, remember all the pocket pairs which worked for us Monday night?  (But then again, 5-5 brought no help earlier at this table.)  Two of the remaining three players call -- a husband and wife, as it happens.  So we have three pots: a main one (1,500 for the small blind), Side Pot 1 (ours, worth 9,000 as best we figure) and Side Pot 2 between the couple.

ON THE FLOP: 2-2-Q

The wife checks.  "I'll check.  I have this pot won," the husband says.  Such big talk -- but he's the man who's been rolling.

ON THE TURN: 3

What happens when a married couple plays poker? Joint checking! (Tee hee.)

ON THE RIVER: 6

The couple checks again.

"I've got a boat," the big-talking husband says -- as he turns over Q-2!  He plays a marginal hand and hits the jackpot again.  He tops our tens to take us out.  And Mr. Small Blind never even bothers to show his cards -- then makes that quote about luck we mentioned above.

Final result: a tie for 17th place -- and a reminder that for all the talk by poker pros about the skill of the game, luck plays a big factor as well.

 MINISTRY MOMENT: "What's the battery for?" a man asked as we set an old nine-volt on the table to mark our spot before the game began tonight.  "Is it for good luck?!"

Nope.  "It's my card protector, and -- lucky battery!" we said with a laugh, knowing how silly that sounds; "It's a reminder to me that I receive power when the Holy Spirit comes."

We think this did as we should have expected -- throwing the questioner a real curve.  "Do you believe the Holy Spirit exists?" we asked to follow up.

"Yeah, I do," he said -- and then he explained the Holy Spirit connection to another man across the table.  He said he believed in that Spirit, too.  We'll have more to say about this moment in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 102 final tables in 277 nights (36.8%) - 16 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 172 point wins in 758 games (22.7%), 59 final tables, 7 cashes.  UFC 3-card knockout - 3 point wins in 16 games, 2 final tables, 1 win.

We reached the final table in a 611-player "turbo tournament" earlier in the day.  There was an amazing ending to that game; look for it here Friday.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $61,657, down $1,595.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Poker Night 276: Scary to be Alone

Since we don't keep Halloween, it's been our custom for years to get out of the house on that night and avoid the trick-or-treat pressure at the door.  This year, the path led us to The Red Barn in Phenix City -- where we're thankful to report the Monday night poker crowd had absolutely no one wearing costumes.  It was poker business as usual.  But could  we gain a profit at the end of the night?  A hopeful hand came early:

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 8-9 of hearts

We're in the small blind - and after starting with 7,000 chips (thanks to one soda buy), we've dropped to around 5,600.  With no one raising, we call our suited connectors and think optimistically.

ON THE FLOP: 4h-7s-5d (suits may not be completely precise)

There are signs of hope here: three hearts, and a belly-buster straight draw.  We check, but a player across from us bets 200.  We call, as do a couple of others.

ON THE TURN: Js

So much for a flush chance -- but the straight chances just doubled.  We check again, and call another 200 bet by the man across from us.  The optimism continues.  If a 6 or 10 comes, we're ready.

ON THE RIVER: 6s

Ready, OK!  With the straight made all the way up to 9, we offer 400.  It's admittedly a wimpy-looking bet, in hopes someone will overconfidently try to bluff us out.  Sure enough, the man who bet all along now raises 2,200!  With little hesitation, we call.  So does a man to our left.

"I've got a straight," that man says as he shows an 8.

"Make mine '89," we say with a semi-smile -- admittedly borrowing a phrase from a slogan for an alcoholic beverage of years gone by.

The man across from us then stuns us.  "Flush," he declares -- showing two spades!  (We think they were Q-10.)  We were so focused on the straight that we never noticed three spades on the board.  Shame on us; good move for him.

That knocked us down to about 2,700 chips, and made things look bleak.  But things changed from there, as several pocket pairs came our way.  K-K brought a push at the start of the second hour, and "Kardashians" (borrowing from the news of the day) held up to bring a jump to 24,500.  Then came K-K again, which lost this time -- but A-A and a push on the flop allowed another strong gain.  We held on from there to make the final table.

Once there, Q-Q came -- and that turned into another winner.  At one point, our meager 2,700 had improved to 105,000!  A few losses followed that, along with rising blinds.  A final push with 5-5 fell short of a flush by one heart, but we wound up in fourth place.  Believe it or not, that's our best local finish (not counting the trip to Florida) since late January.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Jesus as Your Savior" coin to a player, and he agreed with the message.  We didn't really get into our avoidance of Halloween; if you're curious about it and already planning for 2012, this article might be thought-provoking.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 102 final tables in 276 nights (37.0%) - 16 cashes.  Now this is more like it: two top-five finishes in the last three live tournaments, and coming within two hands of four final tables in a row.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's November....

There are nine.

So it's time to virtually place your bets.  Who do you think will win the final table at the WSOP Main Event?  And why?  Go.