Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Best Read of All

A player named Watership was eliminated from an online poker tournament early Sunday.  That led to this chat, which has been edited a bit:

Me:  Watership down
ronrhoades55:  55 left
kman:  lol
ronrhoades55:  watershop down 
kman:  down know until two left
ronrhoades55:  hmmmm aint that about rabbits or some s****
Me:  Never read it
ronrhoades55:  I did
Dealer:  Vangor wins Main Pot ($1,300)
ronrhoades55:  its about rabbits
Dealer:  Mendocinobud wins Main Pot ($2,800)
ronrhoades55:  if you actually know how to read flop you should read it***....its quite good
ronrhoades55:  like a peter rabbit animal farm kinda thing

Yes, we know how to read books.  And attitudes -- especially when a player such as Ron tries to be an "insult comic."  But we know how to respond to such slaps....
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. - Luke 6:29
So instead of writing a verbal slap in response, we stuck to the facts:

Me:  Oh OK.
ronrhoades55:  no sex but still intriguing
Me:  Too busy to read such things.
Dealer:  MoNeYmAkEr77 wins Side Pot 1 ($540) with Two pair, jacks and eights
Dealer:  Pinebro52 wins Main Pot ($11,405) with Three of a kind, eights
ronrhoades55:  well just stick to your porn then
Me:  I don't do that.
Me:  I read the Bible.

If you want to improve your skill at playing poker, you might buy and read a book by a pro.  (We have a couple.)  If you want to improve the life you live, there's one book that's better than any other -- the one God wrote.
All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. - II Timothy 3:16-17
There's no better time than now (even before 2013 begins) to start reading God's Bible.  Read it with an open mind -- and as much as you're able, without the "spin" church groups and preachers try to put on certain verses.  You may be surprised by what you read.  You may be convicted, and see a need to repent to God.  But the training will do you good -- and hopefully will benefit  many people around you.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Poker Night 375: Present Perfect Tens

When poker night comes around at a bar, the machismo in some players comes out.  They want to talk big and play bigger.  But sometimes you can make a lot of noise simply by being present.  That worked for us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 100/200


Our seven-player table has several "type-A" personalities, fond of one-upping each other and talking in tones barely this side of a bar fight.  So we've been waiting for the right moment to get serious with a hand.  Holding about 10,775 chips, this nice pocket pair looks like the right time.  We call; no one raises pre-flop.


Would all those letters scare you away?  It might as well be a caution light for the table.  Everyone checks; we do it because other players are behind us and we want to see if anyone gives a hint at making a big hand.


Feeling better now?  A man across from us hopes we don't; he opens the bidding for 800.  The Tournament Director sits to our right, and raises to 2,000.  Yet something tells us these guys are simply being as blustery as the winter weather.  Since we have two pair, we call.  No one else does, as even the original bettor gets out of the way.

"Now I'm concerned; you called," says our only opponent.


Now our reputation at local tournaments comes into play.  The Tournament Director checks.  We're admittedly wary that he might have a face card, so we check as well.

"He's got a King, man," the original bettor predicts about our cards.

"Nope - a pair of 10's," we say as we show.

"That beat me," the Tournament Director admits.  He shows 6-6.  A little toughness and a good read pays off, as we gain several thousand chips.

We won a couple more nice-sized pots in the first hour, taking advantage of opponents making speculative chases -- including one win with J-A, when a Jack came on the flop.  We reached the one-hour break with 28,775 chips.  Then when we were moved to another table in Hour 2, K-J resulted in a straight on the flop.  A check-push move on our part brought a gain of about 20,000 more.

We stood at 45,000 chips after two hours, and endured with 30,000 to reach the final table.  Winning the draw for dealer allowed us to hang around even longer.  But with the blinds approaching, we tried going all-in with K-3 of spades in response to another player's push.  It failed to bring even a pair, and a young man eliminated us in seventh place.  At least it wasn't tenth again!

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that some Chap-Stick?" a man across from us asked about our card protector.  Nope.  Instead, we brought a little travel-sized bottle of shampoo from a hotel similar to our photo.

"I brought that to remind me," we explained, "that Jesus can cleanse me of all my sins."

We asked a man at another table if he believed Jesus can do that.  "I sure need it," he answered.

"So do it," we admitted.  "We all need it."  The early apostles would agree with that....
But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.... - Galatians 3:22a
But you'll notice the man's "answer" to our question wasn't really an answer.  We come back to that word "belief," which we mentioned in our last post -- and which the apostle Paul goes on to mention: that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. - Galatians 3:22b
Put simply: God's promises are for God's believers.  And that belief is shown through godly action.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. - I John 1:7
Are you walking in a way which shows Jesus has purified you -- cleansed better than any shampoo can do?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 130 final tables in 375 nights (34.7%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 275 point wins in 1,293 games (21.3%), 86 final tables, 10 wins, 11 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 21 point wins in 81 games (25.9%), 16 final tables, 1 cash win.

Our two strong finishes in NLOP championship tournaments this week again brought no points.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $89,523, down $2,855.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Believe? You? Me?

We mentioned "believing" in a post earlier this week.  It's a word which can come up in poker, every bit as much as it does at church.

Let's say you have pocket Kings, and are looking at a flop of 5-6-7.  You might be in the lead  - or your opponent in the Big Blind might have been dealt 4-8, and is sitting on a well-hidden straight.

If you believe your Kings are best, what should you do?  Do you merely say, "I've got you beat" - then throw in your cards?  Of course not.  You stay in the hand, and perhaps bet for the pot.  By doing that, your belief is backed by action.  The Bible puts it this way:
But someone will say: "You have faith; I have deeds."  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. - James 2:18
Bragging about your poker skills might scare a table for a hand or two -- but sooner or later, someone with strong cards will rise up and challenge you.  Your faith in your skills will have to be put into action.  And in life as well as poker, our actions should speak louder than our words.
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. - Romans 2:13
God wants not only action - but obedient action.  And every little act helps:
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  He replied: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." - Luke 17:5-6
You say you don't know much about the Bible and walking with Jesus?  That's OK.  Act on what you know.  Then study the Bible daily and learn more.  Then apply what you learn.  And keep repeating the process.  That's how faith in God can build - not by merely saying you're a Christian, but by putting belief into action.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December Senior Championship: Need a Lift

Poker playing seems to take no holidays.  Ask anyone who's ever watched a WSOP marathon on ESPN on December 24.  Or us -- as "Christmas 2012" found us playing in the National League of Poker monthly Senior Championship.  One month ago we finished 35th.  We'd need to make the Top 10 tonight to win money....

:00 IN: The second hand of the night brings us 3-A under the gun.  The flop is 3-A-A.  We offer a wimpy bet of 30 with a full house, a man across from us raises to 60, we re-raise to 360 and get called.  The turn is 5.  We bet 300 and get called.  The river is 5.  Now we bet 1,000 (everyone starts with 2,500 chips).  Another call comes.  Our opponent has A-8!  The running 5's save him, as we split the pot with matching full houses.  Net gain: $30.

:02 IN: We have 10-K in the Small Blind.  The flop is K-3-10.  We bet 70 with two pair, and get callers.  The turn is 2.  We bet 150 and get called.  The river is 5.  We bet 200 and the table surrenders.  We win $730.

We wind up winning nine more pots in the first half-hour, helped by the fact that only four of the ten players at our table showed up to play.  But we had a couple of setbacks, so we reach the break at $3,960 (our high was around $4,500) - 113th place out of 740 still playing.

:38 IN: We have 6-A of diamonds.  The flop is 8x-8x-3d.  The table checks.  The turn is J.  The table checks.  The river is a third 8.  We dare to call a bet of 180 -- and apparently it was a bluff, because our Ace is high enough to win the $1,090 pot.

:56 IN: We have J-2 of spades in the Big Blind.  The flop is As-Ax-Jx.  We bet 200 with two pair, and get called.  The turn is 6 (not a spade).  Everyone checks.  The river is 5.  We bet 200, get called -- but our opponent has 10-Q.  We win $1,400.

:58 IN: We have J-A of diamonds, and face a player going all-in for 1,025.  We call, and face A-6!  The board brings Q-8-K-9-Q, so we win $2,350.

The second break finds us up to $5,055 - 134th place, with 585 players left.

1:12 IN: We have A-9 in the Small Blind.  The flop is 5-6-9.  We bet the minimum 300, and get called.  The turn is Q.  An opponent bets 300, and we call.  The river is J.  The table checks - and we're relieved to see our opponent has A-K.  A pair of 9's wins us $3,300.

1:34 IN: After a four-way split of a pot and a nut flush chase which falls short, we have 4-A in the Big Blind.  The flop is K-9-A.  We bet the minimum 400, saying to ourselves, "We need this."  We get called.  The turn is 5.  We call a bet of 400.  The river is K.  When a bet of 400 comes, we feel compelled to stop a possible bluff and call -- but the opponent has 6-K.

A disastrous third term drops us to $1,855.  We're down to 193rd place, with 341 remaining - but the blinds are getting steep.

1:47 IN: We have K-A.  The flop is 3-6-2, and an opponent puts us all-in for our last 1,065.  The turn is 5.  The river is 9.  But our opponent only has 7-A!  It's a $4,960 comeback blessing.

1:52 IN: We have Q-A on the button.  The flop is 10-6-A.  We bet 1,000.  Other players with bigger stacks take the hint.  They fold; we win $4,150.

1:57 IN: We have pocket Aces!  Another player doubles the blind, and we tag along by calling.  The flop is 2-3-9.  We go all-in for 3,735, get a caller -- but the caller has only 4-4!  The turn is 8.  The river is 10.  We knock an opponent out, and jump to a nightly high of $15,670.

2:02 IN: We have A-6 in the Big Blind.  The flop is 2-5-J.  The table checks.  The turn is K.  More checking occurs.  The river is 3.  An opponent bets the minimum 800.  We dare to call -- and he has 8-Q!  Ace high survives, and we win $4,000.

A walk in the Big Blind wraps up a huge half-hour - as we end at $15,470, or a gain of 834 percent!  With 110 players still in the running, we're now "mid-list" at 55th.

2:22 IN: We have pocket Jacks.  The flop is 8-K-A.  An opponent bets the minimum 1,600, and we dare to call.  The turn is 2, and we stubbornly call another bet of 1,600.  The river is Q.  The same bet comes.  We think it's a bluff, so we call -- and we were partially right.  He has no big cards.  But he has pocket 2's.  A sneakily-played three of a kind costs us a lot.

2:28 IN: We have Q-J of hearts in the Big Blind.  The flop is 6-4-J, all spades.  An opponent bets 1,600, and we call.  The turn is 4.  We dare to go all-in for 4,695 with our two pair -- but give the appearance we could have much more.  The opponent ponders, then folds.  Good timing wins us $14,045!

2:47 IN: After missing with 6-A and 4-A, we're blessed with pocket Aces again!  Our notes don't show it, but we believe we went all-in again.  A player called - with K-K!  The board brings J-Q-6-10-7.  It's another escape, winning $7,785.

A lost $600 ante in the next hand ends the fifth period, leaving us with $7,185.  That's not worth much now, as we're in 46th place with only 50 players left.

2:59 IN: We have 9-2 in the Big Blind.  The flop is 3-7-4, and we're forced to fold to a minimum bet of $4,000.

3:00 IN: Now we're in the Small Blind, and can't afford to post it.  After the ante, we're all in for our last $1,285.  We're dealt a piddling 5-3.  The flop is 9-J-6.  The turn is A.  The river is 9 - and we know we're sunk. a player with Q-J wins the pot, and ends our night.

We actually dropped a few spots from the November Senior Championship, finishing 46th out of 867 players.  That still would have won us money in a live tournament - and done so for the second time this week.  In the Sunday night weekly championship, we finished 68th out of 1,024 players.  Only 52 players are paid there, and we were eliminated with A-K when a pesky player who pushed with Q-8 and a bigger stack caught a Queen on the turn.

MINISTRY MOMENT: An online tournament earlier in the day brought this exchange....

DonkeyEater:  Happy birthday JESUS
Me:  Was He born on Dec 25?
DonkeyEater:  no
Dealer:  DonkeyEater wins Main Pot ($270) with Two pair, queens and fours

Me:  I agree with you.

Why do we say that?  In part because the Bible nowhere says Jesus was "born on Christmas Day" (to borrow from a Caribbean spiritual song you might hear on radio).  And also because of some Biblical clues....
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. - Luke 2:8
Would shepherds be outside late at night in late December in the Middle East?  We actually checked a forecast for Jerusalem (located not far from Bethlehem), and found overnight lows in the 40's F.  That's about average -- and at almost the lowest point of the year.  We think that would be a bit chilly for shepherds, so....

Me:  I think it was closer to Sep-Oct.
DonkeyEater:  It is as good of a day as any other to honor our king
Me:  But if it's not the right day....?
DonkeyEater:  Doesn't matter
DonkeyEater:  he loves us anyway

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:12-13
Jesus displayed His love for us by giving His perfect, sin-free life to be the ransom payment for our sins -- to cover our death penalty (Romans 6:23).  But the Lord went on to say:
You are my friends, if you do what I command. - John 15:14
Search the Bible from beginning to end, and you'll find no verse where Christians are commanded to keep Christmas - or even say "Merry Christmas" (contrary to what some defenders might pressure you to believe).  Instead, Jesus warns:
...."These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught my men."  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." - Mark 7:6-8
Do your practices of worship come for the Bible?  Have you checked to make sure?  If you want to consider the issue of Christmas in detail, we're prepared a Bible study on it (actually a response to a defender of the holiday).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Poker Night 374: Two Wild and Crazy Guys

Twas the night before.... oh wait.  We don't celebrate Christmas, and trying to make rhymes about poker hands probably would be too difficult.  But you might be surprised how many poker players in our area consider December 24 a day when the words "deck" and "cards" refer to 52 in a box.

"This is my third Christmas here," one man said during tonight's tournament at The Red Barn.  Enough players gathered to fill three tables.  And we happened to sit between two men who acted like they had "holiday cheer" from a beer bottle before the game began.  If the right cards came, a big payday could come....

BLINDS: 50/100


After an early miss, we start this hand with 6,550 chips.  The man around us have been in an "I dare you" raising mode before the flop all evening.  But on this hand, they back off.  We call, no one raises, and about five players are in.


It never crosses our mind to sing that "We Three Kings" song.  We're focused on maximizing this golden opportunity.  A man across the table from us offers 200.  The man to our immediate right raises 200 more.  Thank you.  We call in the hope of more raising -- but the table stops there.  Four players are still in.


This secures us a full house -- but we might have to share it.

"I'm all-in," a man across from us declares first.  He has 6,150 chips -- and we suspect he has the missing King.  The man who raised before has a large stack of chips, and calls.

"I'm 100 short of that," we say after a count.  There's no choice but to call, for our last 6,050.  No one else calls.


Seemingly inconsequential.

"I've got a 9," shows the man who pushed first.

"I have a King," we say.  Our full house tops his.  The man at our right shows Q-10.  He made a straight on the river, but that's not enough.  We hit the jackpot, and jump to more than 20,000 chips.

The man around us returned to their big betting ways after that, and tempted us in with promising hands.  But we fell short a couple of times, and had to whisper under our breath, "Discipline!" to calm things down.  We still reached the one-hour break with 15,500 chips.

But we went incredibly "card dead" after that, with very few quality hands to play.  Hopes went up with Q-6 when a Queen came on the flop, but we lost to a man with Q-9.  We finally were forced to push in the Small Blind, but were dealt a lowly 3-6 which missed everything.  Amazingly, two players were eliminated at another table as we went out -- and we wound up tenth.  Again!  For the third live night in a row.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You brought a rusty nail," a man across the table noticed tonight.  But he kept talking about things in general, so we couldn't really explain the reason why to him.  That came near the end of the evening, to a man sitting at our right.

"This is why He came," we said - referring to the focus on this night about the birth of Jesus.

That man understood, and went us one better.  "You should have four of them."

The Bible doesn't specifically say how many nails were used to crucify Jesus.  But we read....
So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"  But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." - John 20:25
These are the words of "doubting Thomas," who had not seen what the other disciples saw earlier in the week (verse 20).  Jesus appeared before him at another "group meeting" days later.
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." - John 20:28-29
The man who mentioned four nails told us he believes Jesus came.  If you take Jesus at His word, you can have the blessing He mentioned as well.

Hey -- that reminds us of a question we posed from a poker night a couple of weeks ago.  We think it's more important to believe the blood of Jesus can wash away your sins.  It goes beyond simply knowing He can do it.
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in hall he does. - James 1:6-8
Asking for things from God in prayer (James's example involves wisdom) is good.  Believing He'll answer your prayer requires faith.  Sometimes that can be challenging.... but that's a topic for another post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 129 final tables in 374 nights (34.5%) - 20 cashes.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Taking His Time

When we tried Yahoo poker several years ago to get our feet wet in the game, there was a player with the notorious name "IPlayRealSlow."  He lived up to that name -- as he was somehow able to frustrate other players and shut down tables by taking extra time to make decisions.

In real poker tournaments, "slow play" can be an effective strategy.  For example, if you're dealt pocket Aces, you might limp along and let other people become overconfident by betting against you.

Along the same lines, sometimes God's ways can seem terribly slow to us.  We noted in our last post the mocking of scoffers waiting for Jesus to come again.  The apostle Peter responded to such talk:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. - II Peter 3:8
Some scientists have estimated the universe may be 13 billion years old.  Some "creation science" supporters contend life on Earth is no more than 6,000 years old.  Whichever view you believe, the planet has been around far longer than we have.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some men understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - II Peter 3:9
God may seem slow.  But then again, maybe our lives simply are going by so fast.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?   You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. - James 4:14
Since our physical time on Earth is short, we should take advantage of God's amazing offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Accept His offer, and then....
....You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.... So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. - II Peter 3:11-12, 15
Many have guessed at the time of "the end of the world," and been wrong.  But we need to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ, whenever it happens.  And since most of us don't know when we'll cross "the river" of life, it's best to turn to Him as soon as possible.

Friday, December 21, 2012

In Case Nothing Happens....

"Is everyone ready for tomorrow?" we asked the poker table as we dealt Thursday night.

A couple of people seemed unsure about what we meant.  A couple of others knew -- the alleged end of the  Mayan calendar.  (We say "alleged" because some Mayan experts have been saying in news interviews the entire concept is false.)

It's also been a topic at times in online poker rooms.  Here's a recent National League of Poker chat:

724pokerking:  happy december21st doomsday!
Me:  Well, that's next week.
724pokerking:  yes prepare

And indeed, people prepared -- in a variety of ways.  Some "New Age" fanciers have treated this day as if the "age of Aquarius" is dawning all over again.  Others bought guns -- as if they'll be able to shoot down strange invaders from outer space.

We came up with a response to this "12/21" craze more than a year ago.  We used it in person at a Thursday night tournament, as well as online:

Me:  How could the Mayans figure
Me:  it out if Harold Camping couldn't?

You'll recall Harold Camping warned of "Judgment Day" in May 2011, with the world being destroyed five months later.  You'll also notice we're still here.  Camping hasn't even been on the air in recent days, as his Family Radio network has played almost non-stop Christmas music.

We know people who are treating the Mayan "deadline" with far more sarcasm and skepticism than they did Harold Camping.  Perhaps it's because there aren't any Mayans alive to take offense.  Without realizing it, those skeptics actually are verifying a prediction - not of an ancient people, but the Bible:
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. - II Peter 3:3
It's one thing to scoff at people who seek refuge from "doomsday" in the French Alps.  But Peter goes on....
They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." - II Peter 3:4
He's actually talking about people who scoff at the notion of Jesus coming back to Earth.  If you're one of those people, we have an assignment for you.  Find a Bible, and read all of II Peter 3.  Read his answer to the scoffers with an open mind.  Will it persuade you to rethink things?  Our next post will have more on that.

P.S.  Before our chatting partner online could answer our question about the Mayans, he was eliminated from the tournament....

Dealer:  shazamboly wins Main Pot ($2,270) with Full house, kings full of tens
Me:  Back to work on that for you
Me:  :-/
724pokerking:  i wonder how they are at poker

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Poker Night 373: Welcome Wagon

"I've never seen you play before," the man with the big stack said to an opponent across the table.  That opponent had made a big bet in the second hour of action at Lil Kim's Cove.  But it wasn't his first one of the night.  There's a story to tell about that one....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Ace-Jack of diamonds

We sit in the Big Blind with a relatively big stack of chips -- as an "on-time bonus" plus a soda ballooned our starting total to 13,000.  We've made only a couple of small entries, and lost those to drop to 12,275.  Now no one at our full table has raised (a bit unusual for this group tonight), so we're tempted to do it.  But our instinct says check, and we do.

ON THE FLOP: 6d-8d-5c (not exactly sure about last card's suit)

We have a nice flush draw, so we check.  But the man we were talking about sits two seats to our left, and he's not waiting.  He bets 2,000.  Several players call.  And since we have a lot of chips at our disposal, we call as well.


This gives us top pair, but we're still a bit wary.  We check again -- and the man at our left increases the bet to 3,000.  That runs a few players away.  But strange as it may sound, we're growing in confidence about this.  And with a big stack for support, we dare to call again.  A woman sitting between us calls as well.


This pairs the board, and admittedly opens the door for a full house.  But we think this flush card is the perfect fit -- and perfect for a trap play.  We check once more.  The woman checks.  And indeed, the big bettor offers 5,000.

"I'm all-in," we say as we pick up our chips and count them.  It's a raise to 7,225.

The woman at our immediate left now thinks out loud.  "You might have two pair.  You might have a flush."

We agree.  "I might have a lot of things."

The woman ponders it so long that other players have to provoke her to make a decision.  She folds.  She wasn't our target, anyway.

"I know he's got me beat," the big bettor mutters.  He's all set to limit his losses and fold.  But finally he decides, "I've got to see it."  He calls, and our punch line is ready.

"You can call me Planters, because I've got the nuts."

That draws a laugh from several players.  Our opponent turns over 8-6.  He had two pair on the flop, so it's no wonder he bet so much.  But a little stubbornness on our part paid off, and we claim a huge early pot in the 40,000-chip range.  With a smaller stack, it admittedly would have been a tougher decision.

We rode that big win for a long time, while quality cards became rare for us.  Deep in the second hour of play, only ten players remained -- and then it happened.  We had Q-J in the Big Blind.  No one raised pre-flop.  The flop showed Queen high -- and we went for it, going all-in with 16,000.  A man with an enormous stack called with J-10.  And (of course), 9-8 came to give him a winning straight on the river.

For the second live tournament in a row, we missed the final table by one skinny hand.  It's another tenth-place finish.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "A rusty nail is bad luck," a man said as he joined our table and noticed our card protector.

"It is?" we asked.  That was a new one to us.  (Curiously, an online check found a list suggesting exactly the opposite.)  But that's not why we brought it.

"A lot of people are talking about Jesus at this time of year," we explained.  "But this is why He came."  The man agreed with that, and affirmed his belief in Jesus.

We personally don't keep Christmas, and we've heard some people in our congregation claim religious "Christmas stories" usually leave Jesus in a manger without going farther.  That seems like an exaggeration.  But we need to remember at all times of year why Jesus was born....
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.... Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  'Father, save me from this hour'?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." - John 12:23, 27
The Lord is talking here about His upcoming death, which followed God the Father's master plan for saving humanity.
"I know that his command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." - John 12:50
A few "songs of the season" actually address the purpose for Christ's coming.  This one with a contemporary beat actually makes the message seems timeless.  Consider the words -- and the full story about God coming to Earth.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 129 final tables in 373 nights (34.6%) - 20 cashes.  Turn this week's "tenths" into "ninths," and the percentage would be back above 35.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 275 point wins in 1,281 games (21.5%), 86 final tables, 10 wins, 11 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 21 point wins in 79 games (26.6%), 16 final tables, 1 cash/win.

We're counting our "in-the-money" finish in Sunday's weekly championship as a point win, even though no NLOP points were awarded.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $92,378, up $2,620.  We topped $90,000 to stay (hopefully) Tuesday night, and currently sit at a record high!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Called and Those-n

We mention below our success Sunday night in the National League of Poker Weekly Championship.  It began with a generic simple greeting we usually write in the chat box at the start of play: "Happy Sunday to all."  It led down this road....

Rembones:  not if live in Newtown !
Me:  Indeed. Praying for Newtown.
Dealer:  roadglide wins Main Pot ($2,960)
Rembones:  That won't help***

We sensed a resistance right away to anything related to God.  But in light of the bloodbath at a Newtown, Connecticut grade school, we realize some people want to talk through the issues involved.  So we continued:

Me:  What do you recommend?
Rembones:  Try our best to identify people like that BEFORE it's to late, and have mental health facilities ava
Rembones:  ilable for the mentally sick***

We have no objection to that.  And as an aside, we realize some readers of this poker blog might have a different kind of "sickness" without realizing it.  If you're addicted to gambling to the point where it's affecting your relationships and life, help is available.  But back to the table....

Me:  Sound ideas.
Me:  But in the meantime,
Me:  praying for God's comfort
Me:  on survivors can't hurt.
Rembones:  You also need to accept the FACT that you can never design the laws around the extreme exceptions in
Rembones:   society !
Me:  True. Cain killed Abel.
Me:  Long before there were guns
Me:  and bombs.

Our last post offered the thought that Satan affected Cain's thinking in Genesis 4....
But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. - James 1:14-15
So Rembones's ideas seem to have a proper direction.  Until....

Rembones:  hey will ALL be ***ll of dog *** !
Dealer:  roadglide wins Main Pot ($17,920) with Flush, ace high
Me:  Part of that was
Me:  censored.
Me:  But judgment is coming
Me:  for all of us.
Rembones:  Oh boy, we have one of THOSE people at the table !

Yes, a believer's words can give himself away.  But come to think of it, that will be part of the basis for God's ultimate judgment:
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. - Matthew 12:36-37
Jesus said these words, which should make us all think about ours.  What are you saying?  What are you writing online, for that matter?  Are they words of good, or of evil (verse 35)?

Clearly Rembones didn't think too "good" (pardon our English) of us, or "those people"....

Me:  Those? :-)
Rembones:  The goof***ball bible beaters !!  What a goof !!
Me:  I don't beat it.
Me:  I simply believe it.
Rembones:  Like I said***........ GOOF !...

Admittedly, some fired-up preachers do pound on the Bible to make their points.  For best results, we recommend opening the Bible.  Read what it says.  Then live by what it tells you to do.
Then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.... Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. - Psalm 119:42, 105
We were facing a bit of taunting at this moment for our beliefs.  But instead of responding with more name-calling, we wrote this....

Me:  So what is your hope
Me:  beyond this life?
Rembones:  We DON'T need any of the goofy superstitions, just common sense !

That didn't really answer our question.  Here's the answer we find in Scripture:
....A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.... - Titus 1:2
Me:  What's your common sense
Me:  explanation of what's
Me:  beyond this life?

After asking the question again, Rembones may have had enough of us.  He went all-in with K-A, as mentioned in the earlier post.  We had pocket Queens, and eliminated him from the tournament.

Dealer:  flopblogger wins Main Pot ($18,740) with One pair, queens
Me:  Do think it over, friend.

We encourage you to do the same thing.  If God's promise of eternal life is "superstition" or somehow not good enough for you, what's your alternative?  Is it really better?

Rembones left the table with no further comment.  But another player observing all this brought the discussion to a close:

petebiz:  I guess we will never know
Me:  Maybe not in this life. :-/

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Poker Night 372: Life on the Edge

Sometimes good poker advice comes from very unexpected places.  We try to keep in mind a warning given by veteran pastor Chuck Swindall, during one of his daily broadcasts on Christian radio.  Watch how we applied it Monday night at The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 50/100


This hand immediately follows one where we played K-2 in the Small Blind, saw a second King land on the flop, then caught a third on the river.  "We three Kings" captured a huge pot.  We're not sure exactly how many chips we have, because we're dealing now and haven't added them up from the last hand.  But we're guessing the total is around 20,000 (helped by a 10,000-chip bonus given simply for showing up).

We'd be glad to raise at this table of seven with this high pocket pair.  But a man to our immediate right does it first.  He raises to 350.  We choose to "tag along" and call.  But a man across from us raises 250 more.  The man at our right then elects to go all-in!  He has 5,950 extra to offer.  We can't resist calling him.

While his chips are being counted, a man at our left decides it's time to start debriefing us.  "You want to see that flop, don't you?"

"Welllllll," we say in a Bugs Bunny cartoon voice, "could be."

The man opposite us then calls the all-in bet as well.

"Would you have called, if he had gone all-in there?" the man at our left asks.

This question seems out of line for this moment.  "We're still playing the hand," we answer - then borrow words from former President George H.W. Bush.  "I won't respond to hypotheticals."

Besides, why say anything which might give away our intentions when another active player can hear it?  In any case, we smell a potential big haul for us here....


....until we deal the last thing we want to see: an Ace.  The man across from us reaches into his much larger chip stack and bets 20,000.  This would put us all-in.

"That settles it.  I fold."  We toss away our Kings, certain that we're topped.

Sure enough: the man across from us turns over not one Ace, but two.  His three of a kind tops the other player's 10-10 as well.  The remaining two cards don't change the outcome.  The "triple-A" prevail, and the low pocket pair is knocked out.

"Good fold," the man at our left says.  It's thanks to that Chuck Swindoll tip - you're most vulnerable right after you score a major triumph or victory.  You risk becoming overconfident, and having everything crumble around you.

(Homework assignment: Swindall offered Biblical evidence to support his point.  Can you find a case in the Bible which might illustrate it?  Offer a comment, and we'll offer our answer in a future post.)

That big decision kept us in the tournament through the first hour.  Then an all-in bet in the second hour with A-9 and an Ace on the flop improved us to 39,000 chips.  The total was 35,000 at the two-hour break.  Then with ten players remaining, we were dealt A-A.  We naturally went all-in for 20,000.  The flop brought a harmless-looking J-5-7.  Another 7 came on the river.

"I made trips!" declared a player who had called us.  Ouch!!  He had a third 7, and our Aces had crashed.  But for one card, we might have made the final table -- but instead we finished in tenth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A couple of players were willing to talk about the grade school killings in Newtown, Connecticut.  One young man admitted he couldn't help crying at the news of young children being gunned down.

"This is not God's world," we told him.  "Not right now."

"Yet so many people want to give Him the blame," the young man said, "when God gave people the freedom of choice, and they made a bad choice."

He describes the dilemma fairly well.  Moses put it this way in his farewell address, before Israel entered the promised land:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.... - Deuteronomy 30:19
Sadly, humans have chosen the way of death too often -- and it started long before there was a Newtown.
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field."  And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. - Genesis 4:8
Where did Cain get such a murderous idea?  We think he was influenced by a fallen angel, who seemed to hang around the Garden of Eden one chapter earlier....
You followed the ways of this world and obeyed the devil.  He rules the world, and his spirit has power over  everyone who doesn't obey God. - Ephesians 2:2 (CEV)
It might seem hard to believe, but the Bible says Satan is in charge of this world -- at least for now.  The good news is that Jesus Christ will come back someday, overthrow Satan and make Earth a peaceful and happy place again.  If you're wondering how that might happen, this article may help you understand.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 129 final tables in 372 nights (34.7%) - 20 cashes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

NLOP Weekly Championship: Payday Sunday

"A lot of grinding ahead," someone wrote as the final tables approached at Sunday night's National League of Poker championship tournament.  We knew all about that; we've tried to win money in the weekly "big game" off and on for years without success.  But this Sunday, the work finally paid off!  Here are the highlights....

:21 IN: We have pocket Queens and double the blinds.  A player to our right who's been chatting with us about how to respond to the Newtown, Connecticut grade school killings apparently is tired of us mentioning prayer and the Bible.  He goes all-in.  We dare to call.  He shows K-A!

The flop is J-6-4.  The turn is 3. The river is J.  Our discussion abruptly ends, as we eliminate him and double our stack which started at $10,000 to $18,740.  (Watch for details on that chat in an upcoming post.)

:24 IN: We have A-K under the gun.  The flop is 6-2-8; we call a minimum bet of 100.  The turn is 4.  We stubbornly call a bet of 900.  The river is a rewarding Ace!  We bet 1,900, our opponent folds, and we win $4,450.

We win another pot in the first half-hour, and reach the break at $20,970.  We're in 69th place, with 848 players still in.

:59 IN: After missing the flop in a few tries, we have 8-6 of diamonds under the gun.  The flop is 7-8-7.  We bet the minimum 300 and get callers.  The flop is 8, giving us a full house!  We bet 600 and get called.  The river is a meaningless 2.  We bet 3,600, get called, and wind up winning $11,850.  (NLOP's "hand history" section is down at this time, so some opponents' hands are not available.)

That one win in the second period improves us by the break to $26,570.  Now we're 94th, with 562 still playing.

1:11 IN: We have A-7.  The flop is 2s-Js-Ah.  We call a bet of 1,480 with top pair.  The turn is 5h.  Everyone checks.  The turn is 7s.  We bet about 1,780 with two pair, only to see our opponent go all-in for 5,550.  We call -- and he shows two spades for a winning flush.  Uh-oh - that could be a bad sign.

Failed attempts dominate the third period, and we lose half our stack.  The next break finds us at $13,235, dropping to 252nd place out of 399 remaining players.

1:52 IN: After falling short with 10-9 suited, we have 10-10.  A player goes all-in for 10,635 - almost everything we have.  We dare to call, as does someone to our left.  The flop is A-J-3.  Both players with chips (including us) check.  The turn is 10, and we can't "check it down" now.  We bet our last 525, get called -- and find we're topping J-K and J-Q!  The river is 2, and we jump back to life with $35,055.

2:04 IN: After winning a "Big Blind" special pot with K-J, we now have K-A.  We accept a doubling of the blind.  The flop is Q-3-6.  With a substantial stack and "overcards", we call a minimum bet of 1,200.  The turn rewards us with an Ace!  Now we double back when a player bets the minimum.  The river is 4.  We bet 4,000, get callers - but they can't beat our top pair.  We win $38,090.

Our stack has climbed after four periods to $57,067.  We're in 50th place, with 247 remaining.  The top 52 players will win money; players between spots 53-60 win an "invitation" to next Sunday night's tournament.

2:28 IN: We have 6-6.  The flop is 8-5-7.  We call a minimum bet of 2,000.  The turn is 4, giving us a straight!  Our opponent bets 9,640; we double in reply.  The betting leads to us going all-in -- and we're facing 6-2.  (Thankfully not 6-9.)  The river is A, and we split the pot to take $55,917.

2:35 IN: We have A-8 and the dealer's button.  The flop is 6-J-A.  A player bets 8,760, and we dare to call.  The turn is 8.  That leads to us going all-in -- and our opponent also has A-8.  The river is Q, and it's another split pot.  This one nets us $51,267.

2:47 IN: We're under the gun, with pocket Aces!  We limp in, but no one jumps out to raise.  The flop is Jh-4h-7x, and we go all-in for our last 28,667.  One player calls, but shows Q-J.  The board brings 6 and 10, and we praise God as we claim $76.534.

After a Big Blind miss, we finish the fifth period at $72,134.  We're hanging around in 52nd place, with 134 to go.

3:15 IN: We have Q-J of spades.  The flop is 8x-7s-Qx, and we go all-in with top pair and 28,334.  A player calls - but only has 7-6!  The board brings K and 10, and we're in six-figure joy with a win of $103,468!

3:19 IN: We have 10x-5s in the Big Blind, and wind up heads-up against the Small Blind.  The flop is As-10s-6x.  We bet the minimum 12,000 with middle pair, and get called.  The turn is 8s.  The Small Blind bets 12,000 back at us; we call.  The river is A, and our opponent goes all-in!

We have top two pair, but 62 players remain (remember, the top 52 win money).  What would you do facing this challenge?  Call us wimpy, but we fold.  Our opponent never shows his cards.

At least we're still in the game after six periods, at $54,268.  We're in 50th place, two spots from a prize with 62 players remaining.

3:39 IN: The field has dropped below 60 players, as we have A-Q in the Big Blind.  An "invitation" for next Sunday night is secure.  A player ahead of us raises.  Under any under circumstances, we'd call with this hand.  But this close to winning money, we fold.  The flop is 5-3-5.  The turn is 4.  The river is 8 -- and a player who also has A-Q wins the pot, eliminating a woman in the process.

We miss a big split pot - but during this hand, the field drops to 51 players.  We're in the money!

3:49 IN: With blinds and antes eating our stack away, we go all-in with Q-8 of spades for our last 5,068 chips.  The flop is 3-9-7.  The turn is 4.  The river is K - and a player with A-K claims the pot, knocking out another player along with us.

We battled hard for close to four hours, and wound up in 36th place out of 1,036 contestants.  In a real poker room, the payoff would have been substantial.  In the world of NLOP, a four-hour shift wins us -- brace yourself -- six dollars.

But in our current situation, winning any money beats having no money at all.  And the satisfaction of finally having a payday in the big Sunday night game is sweet as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Not to Settle

We left a puzzle for you in a post this past week.  We asked where you'd find the following dramatic confrontation in the Bible.  We've added the answer now....
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." - Matthew 4:1-3
If you think poker players with big stacks know how to apply pressure, consider this case.  The devil dared Jesus to perform a miracle, to prove He was God's Son.  Would you have taken such a dare?  It may surprise you to learn Jesus did not:
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" - Matthew 4:4
The Lord could have taken Satan up on that offer -- but that would have meant obeying Satan.  Jesus quoted an Old Testament verse (Deuteronomy 8:3) to show we should depend on God.  And no one else.

The account in Matthew 4 goes on to show two more dares from the devil (verses 5-10) -- dares Jesus again resisted, by pointing to God.  "Serve him only," Jesus says at the end.

One way to serve God is by reading and following His word in print, the Bible.  Jesus showed the Scriptures provide wisdom for us to resist the devil's temptations.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  To him belongs eternal praise. - Psalm 111:10
So bargaining for a "final table" settlement with Satan is downright dangerous.  But can a human reach a settlement with God?  A passage in Genesis indicates it's possible....
The Lord said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."  Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty?  Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" - Genesis 18:24-25
Long before Donald Trump was born, Abraham knew "the art of the deal."  God was ready to wipe out Sodom completely -- but if you read the entire chapter, you'll find Abraham convinced God to lower the threshold for mercy to only ten people.  (Sadly, chapter 19 reveals there weren't even that many.)

If you dare to negotiate with God about something in your life, we'd note a couple of things.  God's laws are set and always should be respected:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse -- the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God.... - Deuteronomy 11:26-28
Be careful as well to negotiate with God in prayer-filled humility.  Don't make demands (God is bigger than you, after all).  And be open for God's answers by searching the Bible on issues in your life.

A settlement on prize money at a poker table can end with several people satisfied -- perhaps even players who weren't expecting to make the money in the first place.  Negotiate with God in a spirit of giving, and leave room for Him to spread His riches around.

P.S. We discovered in the last few days our settings for blog comments were set so high that many readers may not be able to respond.  We've adjusted that now; please use our comments section respectfully.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Poker Night 371: Lost in the Darkness

"This is Big Dog Poker.  It's not Puppy Girl Poker."  So said the Tournament Director at the one-hour break tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  A few of us took that as a slap at some female players.  But he may have made a different kind of point.  Sometimes it takes a bit of boldness to win pots - but how much is enough?

BLINDS: 25/50


It's early in the game, and a can of soda combined with an "on-time bonus" gave us 13,000 chips at the start.  We see a high pocket pair and decide to get right to work.  We raise 300 when our turn comes.

"That means he has something," the Director sitting across the table says.  "He's Richard 'Big Dog' Burkard."

That seems a bit of a stretch -- and a player to the Director's right doesn't seem to buy it, either.  He raises 300 more.  We respond with a "four bet," adding 600 on top.  A man to our immediate left calls, as does the raiser.

ON THE FLOP: Qs-6s-5s

There are three spades showing.  But we have three of a kind, and see no reason to slow down.  Acting first, we try to "throw a block" by betting 1,500.  The man to our left isn't scared, and calls.  The man across the table folds.


Aw, c'mon -- a fourth spade?!  Now we have to slow down.  We check, as does our opponent.  If the board will kindly pair for us....


Of course not.  Instead of a full house, there's a spade flush on the table!  We check again.  The man to our left does as well.

"I had Queens," we admit as we show.  But our opponent has his own surprise -- turning over a 9 of spades.  That gives him a better flush, and a big early pot.

As best we recall, the pot winner's other card was a Jack of hearts.  A couple of players talk with amazement about how he stayed in the hand with relatively nothing.  The lesson for us may be that "boldness"  may need to be expressed a little tougher -- especially when you have thousands of extra chips at your disposal.

That hand set the tone for our night, as the only hand we won came with a pair of Kings at the one-hour break.  We hung around as long as we could, but finally felt compelled to go all-in with Q-10 in the Big Blind.  The board didn't come through for us, and a woman with a 3 made a winning pair.  One day late for 12/12/12, we walked home in 12th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The bottle of Liquid Paper came out from a long absence for our card protector.  "Are you going to whitewash the cards?" a woman to our right joked.

"I brought this to remind me," we answered, "Jesus can wash my sins whiter than snow."

The woman was a bit skeptical about this.  "I believe Jesus can wash away my sins, but I don't think He can make them whiter than snow.  For one thing, snow isn't really that white."

That condition may depend on where you live.  But even if that's true, it makes what God can do even more amazing....
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.... Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. - Psalm 51:4, 7
These words were written by King David after a pair of very sinful acts.  He committed adultery with a military commander's wife (II Samuel 11:1-4).  Then he ordered the commander sent into the heat of a battle  to die, to disguise making wife Bathsheba pregnant (verses 14-15).  If God can cleanse sins of this nature from a king, he can do the same for you if you pray in repentance:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. - Psalm 51:1
A man overhearing our conversation about snow then asked: "Is it more important that Jesus washes away your sins -- or that you believe Jesus washes away your sins?"

Very good question.  How would you answer it?  Leave a comment, and we'll compare notes in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 129 final tables in 371 nights (34.8%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 274 point wins in 1,270 games (21.6%), 86 final tables, 10 wins, 10 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 21 point wins in 75 games (28.0%), 16 final tables, 1 cash win.

We technically made two NLOP final tables today.  In a game which began at 12:00 midnight ET, we finished 6th out of 300.  And an afternoon No-River Hold 'em tournament found us finishing tenth out of 95 players.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $89,758, up $2,361.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Old Numbers Game

Do you have a favorite poker hand?  We vaguely recall a tournament on TV where poker pros were polled -- and the most common answer was A-A.  That's no surprise; having two top cards before the flop makes you more likely to win hands and control the bidding.

Read through the Bible, and you might conclude God has some "favorites" as well.  For instance, consider today's date.  It's 12/12/12 -- and that number comes up often in Scripture:

  • The patriarch Jacob (also called Israel) blessed 12 sons - which became "the 12 tribes of Israel" (Genesis 49).
  • Jesus had 12 main apostles (Matthew 10:1) - a tradition continued after His resurrection (Acts 1:26).
  • The "New Jerusalem" which is promised to come down from heaven to earth will have 12 gates, with 12 angels at the gates (Revelation 21:2, 12).
  • Even the traditional Biblical calendar has 12 months more often than not (I Chronicles 27:1-15).
Some ministers search for deep meaning in frequently-mentioned Biblical numbers, and even prophetic signs.  For instance, they might describe 7 as "the number of completeness" or 40 as a number of "testing."  But does that make them "lucky numbers" which you should play to win?

Well, not so fast.  First of all, "12" isn't likely to help you in a poker room today.  Unless you interpret the Queen as a "12" - two steps above a 10 - or intentionally make a bet of 1,200 chips, that number probably won't come up at the table.  (Or are there variations of poker, using an Uno deck?)

In addition, we should note the calendar declaring today 12/12/12 is not based on God's schedule from the Old Testament.  It was created by a Pope in the 16th century.  And a proper relationship with God should be based on other things....
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 1:25
God can make things work out, however the numbers come up.  (Come to think of it, how many hands have we won with a "demonic" 6-6-6?)  Instead, try this approach....
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)
Let Jesus Christ rule your life.  Anything else, even if it's Bible-based, can be superstition -- and can be about as successful as using your favorite golf ball as a card protector.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Poker Night 370: A Pair Too Small?

It might as well be "off-season" on the local poker circuit.  Attendance is down at the places we visit, perhaps due to the year-end rush of things.

Even though an afternoon storm was long past, only 13 players showed up at The Red Barn for Monday night poker.  With nine reaching the final table, it seems almost as easy as qualifying for a football bowl game.  But we'd still have to earn our way there, against much bigger starting stacks....

BLINDS: 100/200


We've lost a couple of early tries, and have about 5,250 chips.  This is the kind of small pocket pair we've seen poker pros fold on TV.  But the blinds are small, and the play at our table of six has yet to become too aggressive.  So we get in for the minimum, and no one raises to cause discomfort.

ON THE FLOP: 4-6-5

People who thrive on high cards wince at flops like this.  But we've been handed an open-ended straight draw.

"Bet the pot," declares a man across the table from us.  After counting the chips in the middle, he bets 600.  We decide to be optimistic and call.  Everyone else bails out.


"Continuation," our opponent says.  That means he bets 600 more.

"Call me stubborn," we answer halfway under our breath, daring to call again.


Thank you, Lord!  The straight has come.  Now will the bettor become overconfident?  Maybe not; he bets 500.

"Raise -- one-thousand more," we say.  That brings a quick call.

"I hit trips," our opponent says as he shows a 6.  Too bad for him - yet we fumble our cards a moment while making the announcement.

"Abdul-Jabbars for a straight."  We name 3-3 after the Hall of Fame basketball player who wore that number.

"Nice catch on the river."  Indeed he's right, it was.  Our chip count jumps back above 8,000.

Few good cards came after that, and we were in the middle of a do-or-die hand with 5-5 in the second hour when the "final table" call came from the other side of the room.  Another small pocket pair turned into a big payoff, as a third 5 fell on the flop.  We "quadrupled up" to make the last table with 8,000.

Moments after arriving there, we were dealt A-J -- and when a Jack became a top card on the flop, we went all-in again for our last 6,000.  It held up (thanks to the Ace kicker, topping an opponent's 10) and suddenly we had 34,000 chips.  Then we watched other players knock each other out, until we were in the final four.

At that point A-Q came, and we pushed again.  A man to our right called with J-9 -- but a Jack came up for him, while we missed.  We survived enough close calls, however, to finish in fourth place at The Red Barn for the second time in four weeks.

MINISTRY MOMENT: During one hand, a woman at our table admitted she felt like she was "dealing with the devil."

"I'd rather deal with God than the devil," we told her -- adding the outcome would be "much better."

Yet if we think about it, aren't there moments in all of our lives when we deal with Satan to some extent?  Jesus certainly did while on Earth --and the Lord even gave the devil a physical advantage of sorts:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." - ???
For a change, we are not mentioning where in the Bible these verses are located.  We invite you to track them down.  Please leave a comment telling us where you found them, and how Jesus proved victorious in this dramatic moment.  We'll compare notes in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 129 final tables in 370 nights (34.9%) - 20 cashes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Animals at the Table

In one of his books, Phil Hellmuth describes the traits of poker players as one of five "animal types."  But none of them include the animal most often mentioned during a tournament.  Take this recent online chat, where we tried to bet a player out of a hand....

Dealer:  smokedawg70 wins Main Pot ($765) with Straight, seven to jack
Me:  very good
Me:  couldn't run you off
flvron1:  stubborn donkey
flvron1:  I said it 4 U

Donkey can be used to describe all kinds of players -- such as the ones who stay in through long-shot chases of cards, or the ones who go all-in with 3-6 offsuit trying to seize antes and blinds.  But did you know that label also is put on people in the Bible?
He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers. - Genesis 16:12
Wow -- does that sound like poker, or what?

Yet verse 11 shows this "wild donkey" label didn't come from a losing poker player -- but from "the angel of the Lord."  It describes Ishmael, the first child of Abraham.  The first part of chapter 16 explains how he was born to a servant maid, outside of God's plan.  After a son was born to Abraham's wife, Ishmael and his mother were sent away (Genesis 21:8-18).

So if God's angel can call babies "donkeys" even before they're born, does that mean we should throw around that label at a poker table?  The chat continues, showing what we did....

Me:  I wouldn't put it
Me:  that way.
flvron1:  diplomat
Me:  Of course. 
flvron1:  right on
Me:  "Word fitly spoken"
Me:  as I read in a book.
flvron1:  got 2 book
Me:  This is a Good Book.

As in a different Old Testament book....
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.  As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear. - Proverbs 25:11-12 (KJV)
God can talk tough when He wishes.  The Bible makes that clear.  But there are times when biting the tongue and being gracious can be a better example of the love Jesus Christ showed.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. - Colossians 4:6
An old phrase says you can make more friends with honey than with vinegar.  That's what we try to do in poker rooms -- to make a Christian walk appealing, not a turn-off.

So play like a donkey, if you think it will work.  Sometimes it will; sometimes it won't.  But we're leaving the "donkey" labels to God -- trying instead to be as "harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16, KJV).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poker Night 369: Offside Trap

Regular players know when the poker game is free, almost anything can happen.  When it's played in a bar, the chances increase.  But when most of the players around the table are drinking soft drinks, the risk should go down -- right?  Look at what happened to us tonight at Lil Kim's Cove:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 7-8 offsuit

The night is young, and our stack isn't too bad.  We started with 11,000 chips (more on that later), and have lost a couple of small pots.  So we try to "get in small" with connected mid-range cards.  A man across from us raises to 200, and we join most of the players in the hand.

ON THE FLOP: 7-9-5

We have a pair and an interesting straight draw.  The play checks to us (including the man who raised before), and we test the waters by betting 200.  A couple of players fold, one calls, and the dealer shows....


"Wait!" exclaims the dealer's wife, sitting two seats to his left.  She covers the card with her hand, because two players to our right have yet to act.  They both decide to call -- and our straight disappears, because the dealer moved too soon.  That card goes back in the deck under house rules, and the deck is reshuffled.  Maybe lightning will strike twice?!

ON THE TURN (revised): A

It didn't there.  In fact, that card may give someone else the best pair.  We check -- but the rest of the table does as well.


The table checks again -- and the player to our immediate right shows a 10.  He hit the river, to take the pot.  We lost it largely due to a dealer's mistake.  It's a reminder to us of how imperfect all humans are....
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one...." - Romans 3:10
We won a couple of nice pots later in the first hour to climb above 15,000 chips.  But a limp-in with pocket Aces crashed into another player's full house near the hour's end, and we never won a pot after that.  A forced Small Blind push with A-3 brought an Ace on the flop, but a woman across from us wound up with a straight.  On a night with only two tables, we wound up in 12th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You get 4,000," one of the tournament organizers said to us as we sat at the bar before the game.

But when the bartender brought us a can of diet cola, she gave us only 2,000 bonus chips.  That brought a shrug of the shoulders from the organizer.

"I think you should get more," he said.  "You fight the good fight, climbing uphill against everybody."  As in other players buying sandwiches or buckets of beer for even bigger bonuses.

We agreed with his assessment and noted his phrasing.  "I fight the good night," we replied.  "I finish the course.  I've kept the faith."

The organizer seemed to recognize those words, but we made sure he knew the source.  "I read that in a book once."  Which book?  If you're a regular reader, you should know....
I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith. - II Timothy 4:7
The apostle Paul wrote those words near the end of his life (verse 6).  But he went on to declare there's more, beyond this life:
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. - II Timothy 4:8
The Bible indicates "that day" will be a day after Paul is resurrected, with the second coming of Jesus Christ. But we recommend you don't wait until the end of your life to do what Paul did....
Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - I Timothy 6:12
Have you made that confession yet - putting your faith in Jesus as your Savior?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 128 final tables in 369 nights (34.7%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 273 point wins in 1,259 games (21.7%), 85 final tables, 10 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 20 point wins in 73 games (27.4%), 15 final tables, 1 cash/win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $87,397, up $3,137.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Nose Knows

Plenty of poker players wear sunglasses to disguise their eyes at the table.  "They make me invisible," one man declared the other night.

But maybe he's hiding the wrong thing.  New research indicates if you're lying, your nose is most likely to give you away.  It doesn't grow longer as in the story of Pinocchio, but it turns red when you stretch the truth.

Imagine the impact of this news on poker.  Will top players in Las Vegas intentionally develop sunburned noses, to avoid a tell?  Will fake "Rudolph" or clown noses start appearing on ESPN?

It doesn't have to be that way.  Offering a bluff to "stab" at a pot is one thing.  Saying you have a hand you really DON'T have is something else - something God opposes:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue.... a false witness who pours out lies.... - Proverbs 6:16-19
God detests lying so much that it makes his "hate list" not once, but twice!  The first time seems to have the implication of careless speech, while the "false witness" phrase refers to seeing one thing and saying another.

Why does God hate lying?  Because it reflects the exact opposite of His Son, our Savior....
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6
In contrast, Jesus said lying reflects a differing being:
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.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44
Which one would YOU rather emulate?  Jesus will judge us all someday - and he won't need a "nose check" to do it.

P.S.  How can you tell a "tell" at the poker table?  Care to share any tips - even anonymously?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Poker Night 368: Call Me Fiscal Cliff

The issue of the moment in Washington politics is how to avoid a so-called "fiscal cliff" at the turn of the year.  In the world of no-limit poker, dangerous cliffs and decisions can lurk around the very next turn.  We encountered a couple of them tonight at The Red Barn -- and to borrow from Abraham in Genesis 22, we hoped the Lord would provide.

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: J-K offsuit

We've barely taken a seat at the semifinal table.  And we're barely in the game, having won nothing since the opening hand.  More than an hour later, we have 2,000 chips - and now we're in the Big Blind, so we're forced to move all-in from the "get-go."  In fact, we don't even look at our cards until the flop is shown.  One man across from us raised 5,000 pre-flop and received callers.


Now we look - and now we have a ray of hope.  But the man across from us decides to go all-in himself.  The other player in the hand quietly folds.

"He's just acting like a tough guy," the dealer says.  As the dealer grumbles about a player bullying his way to a pot, he turns over the flop cards for the next hand.

"No, wait!" we quickly remind him.  "I'm all-in."  The dealer forgot about us!  The flop is flipped back to face-up, and the hand goes on:

ON THE TURN: 8 (may not be precise)

There's no reason to delay....

ON THE RIVER: 6 (may not be precise)

Now it's our turn to flip over cards.  "Jacks with a King," we say.

The big bettor shows a Jack of his own - but with a 3!  We escape with the main pot, and recover to 10,000 chips.

A similar break came our way at the end of the second hour.  Forced all-in again in the Small Blind, J-5 again wound up bringing a Jack on the flop.  Two other men couldn't top it, so we survived to Hour Three with the minimum 5,000 chips.

But the run ended there, as Jc-2d in the Big Blind (forced all-in once more) lost to a club flush another player made on the flop.  One more club would have saved us - but instead we barely missed the final table, finishing in tenth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A little bandage puzzled a couple of players at our table tonight.  They wondered what this card protector could be about.

"It reminds me God is a healer," we explained.  "He can heal our hurts."

We happened to be wearing a couple of bandages as we said that.  We tripped and fell on the sidewalk while jogging downtown in the last four days -- not once, but twice.  We have wounds on both elbows, both knees and both hands.  But the Old Testament offers these words:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. - Isaiah 53:5
This is a prophecy about the coming of Jesus, who was punished with everything from a beating and scourging to crucifixion.  The Lord accepted it all, to pay a penalty on our behalf.  Some believers take the "wounds" part to mean they can have physical healing from God.  But it seems safe to say the focus is on spiritual healing....
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that e might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. - I Peter 2:24
Whether we live a life of perfect health or endure decades of disease, all humans are destined to die.  The only way to be "healed" of that is to be resurrected by God.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.... The last enemy to be destroyed is death. - I Corinthians 15:22, 26
As some ministers like to put it: God is our only hope of getting out of this life alive.  Is He your hope?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 128 final tables in 368 nights (34.8%) - 20 cashes.  Had we reached the final table tonight, the percentage would have climbed back above 35.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Master of Disaster

One of our recent posts mentioned what one poker player suggested was "an act of God" - when a burst of air in a bar flipped his cards face-up on the table, as he tossed them in to fold a hand.  It led us to ask a question.  Does God bring about disasters - either resulting from weather, or otherwise?

Christian groups have different schools of thought on this.  Let's use the recent Hurricane Sandy for an example.  It struck Atlantic City, New Jersey - a place with several casinos and plenty of gambling.  Was God sending a message, by stopping the games for days?  Some believers might quote....
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Disaster!  An unheard-of disaster is coming.... I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.... Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. - Ezekiel 7:5-9
The phrase "wrath of God" is Biblical, occurring in some form in the book of Revelation seven times.  Why is it coming?
The wrath is God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.... - Romans 1:18
In reality, suppressing God's truth is only one of the reasons why God's wrath will be poured out.

But on the other hand, other believers turn to the words of Jesus when a disaster strikes:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish." - Luke 13:1-3
Consider the Lord's words with care.  He did not say the suffering people of Galileans were sinners, while everyone else was pure.  The truth is that we're all sinners (Romans 3:23) - and we all need to repent, turning to Jesus Christ as our hope of salvation and eternal life.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you - even Jesus. - Acts 3:19-20
After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, we heard a veteran minister describe New Orleans as a "very sinful city."  We pointed out to him many cities are sinful.  Jesus Christ has to return to clean up all of them, and create a righteous Kingdom of God.

The first two chapters of Job remind us Satan can bring mishaps and disaster, if God grants permission for the devil to do it.  So in the final analysis, we probably won't know for certain which side created any particular disaster until Jesus comes back.  That return will be the most magnificent "act of God," with incredible blessings for all who believe.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poker Night 367: Kicking for the Swans

We confess we're big fans of Australian Rules Football.  The current champion club is the Sydney Swans.  Some poker pros refer to 2's as "Swans".  With all of this as background, look at a hand we dealt tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 500/1,000


"Hey wait," you're saying, "these aren't swans."  Be patient with us here.  We've dealt ourselves two high cards in the second hour of play.  We won several pots in the first hour, to reach the break at 16,500 chips.  With 11 players remaining, we decide to limp in at this semifinal table of five.  No one raises.


There's a swan, but the two high cards look more important to us.  We have a draw for the top straight.  The Small Blind leads off by betting the minimum 1,000.  One man calls, then we decide to do the same.


Now we feel better, as we have top pair.  The Small Blind bets 1,000 again.  The man between us calls.  Cool -- we'll lay low and call again.


That pairs the board, but we have top two pair and top kicker.  Yet the Small Blind increases her bet to 3,000.  The man in the middle folds.  We think she has an Ace, but our kicker will win.  So we call.

"I have an Ace."

"QUADS!" the woman yells.  Yeow -- she turns over 2-2!  It's no wonder she kept betting, because she led us all the way.  The Swans win it all again - as the Small Blind seizes a big pot, plus a 5,000-chip bonus for quads.

"You never saw that coming," the winner's husband (sitting in Big Blind position) tell us.  He's absolutely right.  We wound up being overconfident to a fault.

That big win launched the woman on an amazing tear, as she won six hands in a row -- including one where we made a full house with "4's over Jacks," but she won with "Jacks over 4's."  But with only enough players for two tables (which we think happened because Lil Kim's Cove was unable to show an Atlanta Falcons football game on its TV screens), eliminations at the other side of the room brought us to the final table with 8,500 chips.

We had hopes of making a move at the final table with A-8, but a big raise forced us to fold.  We finally were forced to go all-in with J-9 in the Small Blind, and the board didn't pair for us.  We wound up in eighth place, which admittedly is only "mid-list" with 16 players on hand.  But it still counts as our fourth final table in the last five live nights.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A player across from us wore a T-shirt with President Barack Obama's picture (similar to this one).  We couldn't resist asking him about one of the biggest show business controversies of the week.

"So do you agree with what Jamie Foxx said about President Obama?" we asked him.  The man didn't know what we meant.  "He called President Obama his 'Lord and Savior.'"

"No, I don't believe that," he said.  But as we expected, we sparked a conversation.

"Did he mean that as a joke?" asked a man sitting to our right.  (He'd asked at the start of the evening to be mentioned in this blog - so there it is.)

"He said it was a joke," we answered.  But a large number of Christians haven't taken it that way; some have declared Foxx a "moron" for his comment, while others accuse him of blasphemy.

It's certainly not the sort of joke we would tell, because we believe what the Bible says....
"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord.... "Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.  I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior." - Isaiah 43:10-11
But here's what puzzles us.  Why are some Christians condemning Foxx for his remarks, when plenty of conservative talk show hosts and bloggers have sarcastically called President Obama "Messiah" (based on a statement by Louis Farakkhan of the Nation of Islam) without receiving similar criticism?

Perhaps the logic is that the Christian critics "know" the conservatives are joking, while they suspect deep-down Foxx is serious.  But after thinking it over, we've concluded there's a double standard here.  If such attempts at "holy humor" are wrong for one, they should be wrong for all.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. - Exodus 20:7
When we talk about the things of God, we should be careful with our words -- since God's Son will be the final judge over all of us:
....That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:10-11
UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 128 final tables in 367 nights (34.9%), 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 273 point wins in 1,248 games (21.9%), 85 final tables, 10 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 20 point wins in 71 games (28.2%), 15 final tables, 1 cash win.

Points remain hard to claim in full tournaments.  We had three "top ten percent" finishes in the last week, which would have earned money in casinos - but they also again occurred in money-only games.  And a final-table finish of seventh in a 39-player qualifier Tuesday night also missed, because only the top five earned points.  But earlier in the day, a No-River tournament earned us plenty of points; we finished fifth out of 85 players.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $84,260, down $1,778.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stealing More Than Blinds

The man to our right at the poker table already had told us Jesus is his Savior.  So we asked what Jesus had done for him lately.

"Well, my house got broken into.  My car got stolen...."

Ouch.  That's not the uplifting testimony you want to hear.  But sadly, crime is part of the world where we live.  Should God get the blame for that?

We've been challenged in recent days to read through the book of Job, where the main character complains:
And who else but God blindfolds the judges, then lets the wicked take over the earth? - Job 9:24 (CEV)
We need to remember Job was ranting with a measure of grief, after Satan took away his family, possessions and good health.  Satan did it all with God's consent (chapters 1-2).  And to some extent, the devil still does that today....
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.... - I John 3:8
And beginning with the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), Satan has worked in human minds and nature to spread sin throughout the world -- including the sin of stealing (Deuteronomy 5:19).

"It's a sin-filled world," we told the man who spilled out his difficulties on us.  And yes, even believers in Jesus can be affected by it.  After all, Jesus was....
This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. - Acts 2:23
But we reminded the man at the poker table, "That's why Jesus needs to come back."  When Christ returns to Earth to establish the Kingdom of God, everything will change.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. - Revelation 21:27
We pray police will find the people who burglarized this man's home and stole his car.  And we pray for Jesus to come back very soon -- so the only times stealing might occur is with pots in a friendly game of poker.