Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Two-Way

It had been a long time since we took a little plastic sword to poker night -- the sort of thing restaurants used to stick in steaks.  So we did this past week, and a woman at our table asked about it right away.

"I brought this to remind me that the word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword."  If you need proof of that statement....

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

"Do you read the word of God?" we asked the woman.  "Did you read the Bible today?"

"No," she admitted.  "But I prayed a lot."

Regular readers probably realize we have absolutely nothing against prayer.  That's something believers should do every day....

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.... - Ephesians 6:18a
(We could break down the various kinds of prayers, but that's not our purpose here.)

So prayer is good.  But we think prayer to God without a look inside God's word could be lacking something.

We've heard ministers put it this way: when you pray, you talk to God.  When you read the Bible, God talks to you.  You never know when the answer to your prayer might be hidden in a chapter of Scripture  So....

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.... - Colossians 3:16a
We heard over the weekend about an emperor of Ethiopia who reportedly ate pages of a Bible from time to time.  We do NOT recommend that - but reading from Scripture can provide a feast of wisdom and knowledge for the daily walk of life.  Even for the times when you walk into a poker room.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poker Night 289: Sons of Anarchy

Our night at Lil Kim's Cove was nothing to write home about -- much less write a blog about.  We lost a big early pot to someone we thought was bluffing, but really had two pair.  We won an all-in race with A-9 when two pair arrived at the river.  But another push minutes later with A-3 fell short, as we missed the board while another man made two pair.  Even though we lasted well into the second hour, we wound up seventh out of eight players at our table.

But the hand we'll remember most from this night was one we simply watched.  It spoke volumes about the play, as well as some of the players....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-7 of clubs

After losing that big early pot, we're limping along at about 3,200 chips.  The player to our immediate right raises to 2,000.  That's too high-priced even for our suited cards, so we fold.  So does most of the table -- except for a woman across from us.  Sitting in the Big Blind, she raises to 6,000.

"I'm all-in," the man to our right declares -- and he has a huge stack of more than 30,000.

The woman holds her cards up near eye-level, looking as stunned as a grieving widow.  She says nothing for about a minute, except perhaps one or two expletives.

"I'll tell you what," the man finally says.  "I'll take back the all-in bet and let you see a flop.  But if I make the flop, I'm all-in again."

The woman still stares at her cards, saying little.  Another player at the table points out the man can't make an offer like that.  After a moment, he admits that's true.  Finally the woman touches some of the chips already in the middle.

"I had to do it," declares the man -- and he throws J-J at her!  Trouble is....

"I haven't decided yet!" she points out.

The man misread her gesture.  He apologizes, but the Jacks stay face-up.  That didn't help the woman decide a thing.  She still stares and ponders, then shows her cards to a woman next to her who's out of the hand.

Apparently because of that, a man to our immediate left reaches across the table, grabs the deck and flips over cards....


Trouble is, he's not the dealer!  A woman two seats to her left is.  She let him grab the cards and go -- and that brings the woman still holding her hand at eye-level out of her shock.

"I hadn't mucked my cards!  I fold!"  She tosses her cards in face-down.

So the man who went all-in wins the pot -- but he shows a bit of guilt about it.  He stacks some chips, and gives them to the woman in a show of apology.

We're still not sure what cards the woman had; the talk afterward indicated she would have been on a flush draw.  It also indicated the woman may have frozen due to some kind of disorder; she mentioned something about "bipolar" as the cards were shuffled for the next hand.

So what have we learned here?  Several thoughts come to mind.  The main lesson for us was how impatient some poker players can be.  For instance, the man who reached for the deck bet "out of turn" ahead of us several times during the game.  (And he wasn't the only person at the table who did this.)  We politely offer some advice for these players....

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. - Proverbs 14:29

Is it possible that online poker is prompting some people to be too impatient at live tournaments?  After all, Internet hands come up a lot faster.

This hand also showed how misunderstandings can occur when people's actions and motions are taken the wrong way.  It's always better to ask for confirmation first, before jumping to a conclusion which could be totally wrong.  Consider the most extreme example of this:

Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  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 2:22-23

An emotion-driven crowd demanded the release of a robber named Barabbas, instead of an innocent and holy Savior (Mark 15:6-15).  But it was all part of God's "Master plan" to bring salvation to all of us.

(There was a Ministry Moment during this game, but we'll hold that for another post.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 105 final tables in 289 nights (36.3%) - 17 cashes.  Tonight was our worst showing in a local tournament since Thanksgiving.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 188 point wins in 809 games (23.2%), 64 final tables, 7 cashes.

The time of the Sunday weekly championship at NLOP has moved from evening to late afternoon.  It's too early for us to play, due to other commitments -- but we're still trying to win money when we can.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $65,799, down $1,440.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Real Tongue-Leashing

The flop seemed nondescript, and downright ordinary - 8-7-4 with different suits.  But when one woman at our table saw that the other night, she couldn't believe her eyes.  She'd folded her hand before the flop, and clearly now regretted it.

"Son of a...."

"Check," we said - not only because we were first to act, but to help finish her sentence in a nice way.

To her credit, the woman stopped short and realized what she was at the brink of doing.  "Please forgive me, God.  Please forgive me, God," she said quietly.

This was one of those rare moments when a fellow poker player responded to our "prompt" in a positive way.  To borrow a cliche, the woman bit her tongue.  It's something we wish more people did -- in general, not simply at a poker table.

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one.... Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.  The poison of vipers is on their lips.  Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." - Romans 3:10, 13-14

You can probably guess how an unrighteous person would have finished that exclamation about the 8-7-4 flop.  We can remember when that was considered cursing; sadly, it's now practically a standard part of the vocabulary.  The apostle Paul goes on to explain why this trend is happening....

There is no fear of God before their eyes. - Romans 3:18

A right and proper fear of God should change not only the way we walk, but the way we talk.  Instead of "talking trash" around the poker table, it's possible to do the exact opposite:

A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. - Proverbs 16:23-24

Not even U.S. presidential candidates are immune from making regrettable comments and misstatements.  But you can be different.  Ask for God's help in choosing your words as carefully as you play your poker hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If It Was Real: NLOP 2011

When it comes to tax returns, we don't plan to go as far as Mitt Romney - but we're thankful to report we made a little money playing poker this past year.

In live tournaments, we won $295.  In live cash games, we lost $32.  And National League of Poker play earned us $135: $55 in Sunday night video poker championships (which have been taken down in the transition to a browser-based format), and $80 from Texas Hold 'em tournaments.

But it's tempting to consider what would have happened if NLOP action was all money, from start to finish.  We did the math, and computed we spent 137,000 points to enter tournaments in 2011.  The final "bank account" would have been 281,647 - a gain of 105.6 percent.  In other words, our money would have doubled.

Of course, real-money online play evaporated to a great extent in the U.S. in April 2011.  If states can organize their own poker rooms in 2012 (which the Justice Department now seems to allow), we'll be paying close attention.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poker Night 288: From Rags to Riches

Poker tournaments sometimes can be roller coaster rides.  In fact, even individual hands can be that way.  We jumped into the middle of one tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: K-8 offsuit

We won a big pot in the first hour with.... well.... let's just say our opponent is sure we hit a "Broadway straight" on the river.  But after reaching the one-hour break with 12,500 chips, we've lost a couple of heartbreaker hands (losing with 10-10 at one point).  We start this hand with 4,000 -- and we're in the big blind to boot.  Thankfully, no one raises ahead of us (we would have folded if someone had), so we can check.

ON THE FLOP: 8-7-4

Top pair and a nice kicker give us a little hope.  "I'm all-in for 2,000," we say.  Two players generously call.


The callers now are fighting over a sidepot -- except as we recall, they both check.  We're not sure what to make of that.


We could make something very nice from that!  A player across from us bets big enough (4,000, we think) to make the other player fold.  So there's no real sidepot after all.

"I've got two pair," the opponent tells us.  "Queens and Eights."

"I've got Kings and Eights," we say as we show.

"You hit the river!" he says -- giving us credit for a nice escape.  Our stack triples to 12,000.

But sad to say, it didn't advance from there.  A lack of good cards drained us, even though we reached the semifinal table again.  Forced to go all-in in the small blind with 6-9, we missed a straight draw and lost to a man with a pair.  So it's another fairly good finish in 12th -- but not really good.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Are you doing good?" a woman asked as she sat down at our table to begin the evening.

"I'm trying to do good," we answered.  "But that's not always easy.  I want to do good, but then bad things happen.  And sometimes I do bad things, when I really want to do good."

We're not sure if the woman realized it, but we were paraphrasing the words of the apostle Paul....

For I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing.... So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. - Romans 7:18-21

Have you ever faced moments like this?  We probably all have at some point, to some degree.  Note this admission came from a church apostle - and Paul noted one chapter earlier that our sins lead to death (Romans 6:23).  But in his frustration, he found hope....

What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:24-25

Look to Jesus for rescue, by repenting of your sins (Acts 2:38) and praying to God for salvation through His Son (Acts 4:12).  Then try to do the good things -- seeking God's help through the Holy Spirit to succeed in them.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 105 final tables in 288 nights (36.5%) - 17 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 187 point wins in 805 games (23.2%), 64 final tables, seven cashes.  We made a final table online earlier in the day, finishing ninth out of 99 players in a Senior qualifying tournament.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $67,239, down $515.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Safest Play

When we had a very successful night last October at a poker room in the Florida panhandle, one thing admittedly concerned us.  When we walked to our car with a full wallet around 12:00 midnight, we saw absolutely no security guards in the parking lot - and no law officers were in sight, either.

Admittedly the Ebro poker room is in a rural area, a 20-minute drive from Panama City Beach.  And it was a Monday night, when the crowd probably is smaller compared with weekends.  But we presumed a place where cash money changes hands (sometimes in large amounts) would have someone watching over the customers.

This came back to our mind in the wake of a crime story in our area.  A customer leaving The Red Barn in Phenix City, Alabama was shot and killed early Saturday morning.  The Red Barn is a small bar where we've played free poker often over the years -- but Friday night is NOT a poker night there.

The victim apparently parked across the street, next to a car dealership.  We can understand why, because that area is lit at night.  The Red Barn's gravel parking lot behind the business has no lighting at all.  That's been a concern for us as well -- because anyone might be lurking between cars or in the vegetation late at night.

Dangerous moments can occur anywhere, of course.  At the mall, in your workplace -- and even in your own living room (as in home invasions).
It would be easy and self-promoting to say Christians have angelic protection in dangerous places.  We certainly pray for that, as did believers long ago....
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. - Psalm 5:11-12
We've actually seen evidence of God's protection from time to time.  But to be honest, it doesn't always happen.  Consider the number of cases in recent years where worshipers were gunned down during church services,  For us to conclude the victims somehow "had it coming" would be a foolish rush to judgment -- and ultimately, only Jesus Christ will judge us all perfectly.
We think one key to self-protection is having a "safety first" mentality....
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. - Proverbs 28:26
Be wise not only while you play poker, but as you walk in and out.  Look around for potential trouble-makers.  And if you have a lot of money, don't be a show-off about it.  One TV report indicated the shooting victim did exactly that inside The Red Barn.  Instead....
He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8 (emphasis added)
If you want to be a big spender, that's up to you.  But don't be too big in how you do it, making yourself a potential target.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Win, Lose or Hang

Let's play a little pretend poker.  You're in a 100-person tournament.  Only the top ten earn money.  There are 12 players remaining at two tables.  A player ahead of you raises enough pre-flop to put you all in.  You check your cards and see  10-10.  What do you do?
Your response to this situation may say a lot about you and your intentions.  If you're trying simply to "make the money," you might fold this rather promising hand.  But if your goal is to win first place and the top prize, would you call?  Would you go all-in -- even if it means risking everything, and perhaps winning no money at all?
The sports world has a phrase which might apply to the people who fold - they're "playing not to lose," instead of playing to win.
We heard a thought-provoking church message this weekend about that very concept.  The speaker said some people can take that approach to their lives -- and by doing so, they allow the devil to get to them.  Instead, he said we should focus on winning because....
....In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. - Romans 8:37
The "things" Paul mentions here are much more stark than an all-in moment at a poker tournament -- everything from tribulation to famine to a deadly sword (v. 35).
Perhaps you're saying you've "gone for it" at the table many times, only to wind up at the rail over and over?  Well, the speaker went on to say we should NOT focus on our past failures.
How much more, then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God? - Hebrews 9:14
Shift your focus, the speaker said -- away from earlier stumbles, to follow the One who already has overcome all trials.  That makes us think of these words of Jesus:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
How do we do that, to overcome the world?  It takes the infusion of God's Holy Spirit....
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. - II Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

We've admittedly followed the "hang in there" approach many times in poker tournaments -- as our standard has been based on making final tables, as opposed to going all the way and winning prize money.  The thinking has been: "Just get me there, and give me a chance."  But come to think of it, we don't often reach the final table in a dominant chip position that way.
So tell us -- what's your strategy at a tournament?  And do we need to make some adjustments?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Poker Night 287:Scare You, Scare Me

"It's OK.  It's all right./ I'm gonna take your chips tonight."  That was the song a player tried to sing tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  (We hereby claim the words, since we doubt he plans to go to Nashville and become a country songwriter.)  If we wanted to sing along with him, we'd have to make some big and accurate decisions.  Take this example....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: Q-3 of clubs

We've made it to a six-player semifinal table, thanks largely to a big blind double-up in the first hour with K-K.  We've hung on from there, beginning this hand with 6,500 chips.  The bad news is we're Small Blind - but the good news is that no one raised ahead of us.  In fact, only one player called.  These cards are marginal, but we decide to follow the classic poker reasoning: "They were suited."  We call.  The Big Blind mysteriously folds, so we're heads-up.

ON THE FLOP: 2c-2s-4s

An uglier flop than this is hard to find.  We need a lot of help, so we check prepared to fold.  Our opponent checks, too.


"Any bet wins, any bet wins," suggests the Big Blind.  Hmmm -- we now have two pair and a fairly good kicker.  So let's see if his advice is right.  We bet the minimum 2,000 -- but we get called.


That's not exactly the card we wanted to see.  What if our opponent is sitting on Ace-high?  This time we check.

"I'm all-in," he announces -- with far more chips than the 2,500 we have left.  Uh-oh.

We stare at our opponent for a moment.  Then we laugh a bit, to break up any tension.  The man offers no help, as we think this move over.  We decide he pushed simply to make us chicken out.

"I'll call," we say with a smile -- ready to accept things either way.  "I have a 3."

But our opponent shows 6-6.  He has a better top pair, and he has us packing the tent.  We're eliminated in 14th place -- and another reminder that hunches don't always work.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that a piece of trash?" the Big Blind said as we arrived at the semifinal table.

"Actually, it's a bandage," we explained.  It was our card protector for the evening -- and of course, it had a purpose.

"I brought this to remind me that Jesus is a healer," we told the man a couple of minutes later.  "Do you believe God can heal?"

The man said he did.  "He can raise the dead," he noted -- which reminded us of a miracle which was pointed out to us in a Bible study group earlier in the week.

....Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." - John 11:43-44

An old church story says Jesus specified Lazarus - or else every dead person would have come out.  As the Son of God, Jesus had that power.  But He only used it on rare occasions - not even to restore John the Baptizer after his beheading.  So why here, and why now?  Lazarus was a friend of Jesus, who had been dead four days (verse 39).  But more importantly....

So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." - John 11:41-42
Jesus the Son was sent to Earth by God the Father.  He was sent with many purposes.  In this case....

....Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." - John 11:4

Many Jews believed in that glory, and put their faith in Christ after seeing this miracle (verse 45) - but others had seen more than enough, and plotted His execution (verse 53).  Which side would you have been on?

We know of several people fighting seemingly losing battles against cancer right now.  We pray that God might heal them, but realize the answer might be no.  That's why we put faith in another statement Jesus made in this chapter:

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never died.  Do you believe this?" - John 11:35-36

Our exact question to you.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 105 final tables in 287 nights (36.6%) - 17 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 185 point wins in 801 games (23.1%), 63 final tables, 7 cashes.  One-table sit-n-goes - 8-13-10-3-3.

We're finding the new browser version of NLOP is much easier to play than the downloadable program.  Hiccups and delays are down sharply.  But the format change has included tougher standards for winning points -- more in line with the "top ten percent" practiced by real poker rooms.  Yet earlier in the day, we had a top-40 finish in a 655-player tournament.  Our 3,000-point buy-in earned us 5,857.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $67,754, up $2,130.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Four Big Letters

Players at online poker tables can have all sorts of wild names. Recently at a National League of Poker tournament, we came across this:

Me:  PTL, Tetra!
Dealer:  Tetragramton wins Main Pot ($1260) with Straight, eight to queen
Me:  three pair on the flop isn't good enough here.
Tetragramton:  ptl play nto lose

Even if you're not a regular reader, you might know "PTL" is shorthand for "praise the Lord."  It's always a good idea....

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you.... I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. - Psalm 63:1, 4

But who or what is that "Tetragramton" - some monster from a Japanese movie, maybe?  No.  That name is a shortened form of "Tetragrammaton."  In Hebrew that word means "four letters."  And for believers, it means a lot more....

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. -- Deuteronomy 6:4

In this verse, "Lord" is the Hebrew name YHWH -- which is what Biblical scholars call the Tetragrammaton.  Some people consider it such a holy name that they don't dare say it aloud.  Yet they overlook the fact that famous people in the Bible said it....

Now Sarai, Abram's wife.... said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children...." -- Genesis 16:1-2

Leading Bible concordances show Sarai said YHWH (the first recorded human to do so).  God didn't punish her in this chapter for uttering that name; she got in trouble for other actions.  Yet we're reminded later:

You shall not take the name of the Lord [YHWH] your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. - Exodus 20:7, KJV

Other translations have this commandment as a warning against "misuse" of God's name, or using it "profanely."  Yet sadly, plenty of poker players do that on a regular basis -- perhaps out of habit, or from the frustration of losing a big hand. At those moments, we should be careful with our tongues.

With the tongue we praise our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. - James 3:9

It's far better to remain silent than to speak words you'll someday regret.  So give God praise in whatever name you wish - but keep in mind, God's last name is NOT a four-letter word beginning with D.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Caught in a Trap?

The talk around a poker table often centers on the game.  But sometimes it can be wide-ranging -- and as we mentioned in our last post, last Thursday night's discussion turned to marital infidelity.
We noted the Old Testament of the Bible declared adultery a capital crime, and Jesus expanded the definition of the term.  Yet there was a time when a group of people brought an adulterous woman before Jesus -- and His reaction was quite unexpected.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir," she said.  "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. - John 8:10-11
Why didn't Jesus condemn this woman?  Because he sensed what was behind the entire situation....
They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.... - John 8:6
Jesus sensed traps as well as any experienced poker player.  The accusers may have been right, but their motives were wrong.  They wanted to make that woman a "sacrifice" for finding fault with a perfect Savior - when Jesus had come to be the perfect sin sacrifice for them.
We can gain many lessons from this passage.  One is to be wary of potential traps -- not only from people slow-playing pocket pairs, but people trying to compromise your integrity.  (Going back to last week's discussion, that can include married people pretending to be single and flirting with others.)  There's another lesson in Jesus's response to the woman.
....Jesus declared.  "Go now and leave your life of sin." - John 8:11b
Jesus showed mercy -- but he wants the sinning to stop.  In other words, don't be like these guys....
For certain men 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

Whether you fall into sin or someone pushes you into it, seek God's mercy and forgiveness.  Then remember the classic advice of Dungeons and Dragons - and keep checking for traps.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Poker Night 286: The Last Resort

When the cards don't come and the players around you bet big, it cane make for a long quiet night at the poker table.  That can be depressing -- or it can be a test of your sense of timing.  Our test of the latter came tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: Ace of spades - 4 of clubs

We won a hand in the first hour, when we had an Ace which paired on the flop.  But that's all we've won, as small pocket pairs were overwhelmed by big bets by opponents and missed flops.  Now we're in the small blind, starting the hand with 2,500 left.  Our blind is 1,000, and no one at the table of five raises ahead of us.

"I'm all-in," we decide after checking our cards; "500 more." (Over the blind, that is.)

The big blind throws in 500 to call.  But the dealer to our right decides that's not enough.  "I'll go 4,000 more."  Those are chips we can't win, but they put the big blind all-in with us.  That man calls, and a dealer who took two players out in the first hour by turning K-10 into a straight could take out two more.  He shows 9-9.

"An old-fashioned race here," the big blind notes.  And the cards are dealt quickly to match....

ON THE FLOP: Jc-7c-4s

We make a pair, but not the one we wanted.


Still in trouble....


"I've got a club!" we point out.  The dealer's nines don't include one.  The big blind shows K-8, with no club.  So runner-runner keeps us alive with the main pot of 7,500, while the dealer takes a side pot and eliminates only one player.

"Good game," we try to say to the big blind -- but we gets up and leaves without acknowledging us.  And he wore a big cross around his neck, too.

That advanced us to the semifinal table, but the cards weren't much better there.  The next big blind there gave us 6-9, and we were forced to go all-in with our last 1,500 when 7-8 appeared at the turn.  But the river was J, and we missed our straight draw while another man did not.  We did shake his hand -- walking home in 12th place, and with our three-week final table streak snapped.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "What could be more wrong than cheating on another man's wife?"  A player said that out of the blue during the one-hour break.  We're not sure why, but it led to a little "guy talk" around the table about married women (primarily) increasingly engaging in infidelity.

"People aren't being faithful," we said.  And that's sad -- for the sake of their families, and also because God takes a marriage covenant seriously.

If a man commits adultery with another man's wife -- with the wife of his neighbor -- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. - Leviticus 20:10

That punishment may sound straight out of Saudi Arabia or the Taliban -- but it was part of the broad Old Testament law called the "Torah."  Instead of loosening the rules, Jesus had this to say:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:28

But wait, you may be saying -- didn't Jesus forgive a woman who was caught in adultery?  Yes, He did.  We'll consider that in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 105 final tables in 286 nights (36.7%) - 17 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 184 point wins in 798 games (23.1%), 63 final tables, 7 cashes.  One-table sit-n-goes: 8-13-9-3-3.  We haven't played at NLOP much in recent days, due to a busy schedule and the site's transition to a new system.

POKER STARS,NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $65,624, up $2,980.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feelings and Felt

Poker Player B had made a bet Player A didn't anticipate.  And when Player A's turn came again, he needed to be told what happened.

"You disrupted my karma, man," Player A said.

We happened to sit next to Player A, so we couldn't resist asking: "You have karma?"

Of course he did.  "Everybody has karma," he told us.

Hmmmm -- then do we?  Do you?

The online dictionary notes karma is a Hindu and Buddhist concept.  While U.S. residents tend to throw that word around in many ways, we think Player A was using the word to refer to feelings we have about someone or something.  Others might talk about "having bad vibes" or a "premonition" about something.

Plenty of poker players have made choices this way -- only instead of karma, they talk about "going with your gut" or acting on "your first instinct."  Sometimes that works, but sometimes it can prove disastrous.

In all of this, it seems to us the emphasis is on feelings.  We've heard Christian ministers say that's the wrong way to base your life -- that you should focus on thinking: the head above the heart.  Why?

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9

Not even modern translations of the Bible contain the word "karma."  Those translations also don't talk about "feelings" very much.  But the most traditional translation reminds us of a Savior who can relate to them....

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.... For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. - Hebrews 4:14-15, KJV

Jesus was moved by the emotions of people He encountered on Earth 2,000 years ago -- and this section of Scripture indicates He still can be moved today, sitting at God the Father's side.  So it's worth pouring out words to heaven in prayer, even if they sometimes can be emotional.

But back to karma: the main definition of that word involves getting rewarded or punished based on your actions.  That's not simply Buddhist and Hindu - it's downright Biblical.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. - Revelation 20:12

A time of judgment is coming for everyone -- and this is a case of resurrection, not reincarnation.  Since no one is promised life beyond today, are you prepared for that time of judgment?  If not, search the Bible for words such as "saved" and "salvation."  They'll lead you to the right answer - the man Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moments of Decision

We often take a voice recorder to live poker tournaments, to note big hands for this blog.  On one recent night, another player demanded the mike to make an announcement for posting here:

"This guy beside me bet 5,000 with a pair of 6's, and there was three overs on the board.  He lost."

Too bad for that guy.  Now it's your turn to confess: what's the worst move or decision you've ever made at the poker table?  And why did you do it?  Yes, you can remain anonymous.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

NLOP Weekly Championship 25: Slowing to the Finish

The turn to 2012 apparently will bring big changes to National League of Poker.  It's going to a browser-based format this coming week, with a "lifetime points" system which doesn't reset every Sunday morning.  We don't know everything about it yet -- but tonight apparently was the last time we earned our way into a weekly Sunday night championship tournament.  How did it go?

:06 IN: We have A-2 of hearts -- and our Internet connection has a hiccup, preventing us from playing when it's our turn.  We can't blame McAfee for this; we intentionally kept our computer on all days to keep updates from getting backlogged.  So we find AT&T at fault for costing us a three-way split of a pot, after an Ace comes on the flop.

:23 IN: We have 6-6 -- and while the table is running slowly, at least we can play.  The flop is Q-9-5.  Everyone checks.  The flop is 10, and we call an opponent's bet of 140.  The river is 2, and we fold to another bet of 100.  The table folds and the winner doesn't show, but we doubt fourth-best pair was good enough.

:27 IN: We turn the cards around next hand, with 9-9.  We call a doubling of the blind to 200.  The flop is 7-4-K, and the raiser goes all-in.  This is far too risky for us, and we fold.  (The hand remains a mystery again.)

A desultory first half-hour brings us to the break at 460 chips.  Out of 830 players still alive, we're scraping by in 764th.

:34 IN: We have Q-A out of the break.  The flop is 6-6-5, and another player goes all in.  We fold, wondering if we should have raised pre-flop.  Perhaps not - the turn-river were 10-7.

:36 IN: We have 9-10 of clubs in the big blind.  The flop is 5-9-9, and we feel compelled to go all-in with 210 left.  A player calls -- with K-9!  We're seriously outkicked.  But the turn is 10, to give us a winning full house! (The river is 8.)  "PTL BBS" we write (the latter meaning big blind special), as we recover to 1,020.

:40 IN: Two hands later, we have A-J and the button.  A player raises ahead of us to 480, and we call -- but then a player behind us raises 340 more to go all-in.  The first bettor calls, and we dare to join him even though it leaves only 125 in our stack.


Our opponent bets the expected all-in amount for us -- and with a big pot commitment and a straight draw, we see little choice but to call.  That opponent shows a mere 8-9 of hearts!  The player who pushed before us has 9-9, and leads the race.


The board pairs, and we need a big card.


Not close enough.

The player who never pushed has 8's and 5's for a sidepot; the early pusher has 9's and 5's for the main pot.  We dared to dream and wound up with nothing -- except a lowly 657th place, out of 1,438 contestants.  We'll see what the new format holds (especially when it comes to having a good online connection).

This I Believe

"Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?" we asked a woman Thursday night after she noticed our battery "card protector" at the final table.

"I have my own beliefs," she answered.

We said nothing further at the time.  But now, the first response we're tempted to offer to this is - duh.  Everyone with a functioning brain has their own beliefs.  Even the devout skeptic does, even if he or she doesn't want to admit it -- a belief that he or she should be skeptical of everything.

Did you ever consider there's a "belief system" of sorts at poker tables?  Unless they're flat-out bluffing, players make decisions based on the belief they have the best (or potentially best) cards.  That's why players are far more likely to raise or push with pocket Aces before the flop, as opposed to 2-4 offsuit.

In poker, of course, sometimes your beliefs don't reap the reward you expect.  (Pocket Aces can lose to a flush, after all.)  And in life, things sometimes can turn out the same way.  So as 2012 begins, this might be a good time to reflect about what you believe -- and ask whether or not it matches what God wants you to believe.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9
You can know the ways of God by studying His word, the Bible.  Spending time in careful daily reading might bring some surprises -- because God could ask you to do something you're not doing, or stop doing something you've done for years.  If that's the case....
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. - Isaiah 55:6-7
So what does God want you to believe?  We'll leave that for you to discover from the Bible.  But we recommend this for starters:
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. - Romans 10:9
Would anyone like to add to this list?