Monday, April 30, 2012

Poker Night 310: K-9 Corpse

We now have two choices for live poker on Monday nights.  For now, we're opting for The Red Barn in Phenix City over The Suite in Columbus.  The Suite is a more attractive place, but The Red Barn is a little closer, the soft drinks are less expensive ($1.50 vs. $2.25) and our income is limited at the moment.

The Red Barn also has one quirky "house rule," which can turn a game upside-down.  It came into play for us tonight....

BLINDS: 500/1000


We have been dealt "The Rodney," named after the Tournament Director.  If you win a pot with this hand, you earn a 5,000-chip bonus -- and if the cards are suited, the bonus doubles to 10,000.  Our K-9 is not, but it certainly has our attention at a semifinal table of six.  We start with 11,500 chips and are ready to call.  Then another player raises to 3,000, and we still join in.


Top pair increases our hopes for a big hand.  We're in lead position, but decide to check and let the raiser to our left do the work.  That man bets 2,000; a woman across the table raises to 5,000.  We call, making a huge commitment to this pot.

ON THE TURN: 4 (as best we recall)

We have 3,500 left, and are ready to push if need be.  But we check again -- and are a bit relieved when the two other players in the hand check.


This gives us two pair, and we decide it's time to be forceful.  "I'm all-in," we announce -- dropping down our last 3,500, in the hope our opponents will surrender and fold.  Trouble is, they both have bigger chip stacks.

The man to our left didn't want to see that move.  "I've got to pay to see it," he decides.  He calls.  The woman across from us agrees, and calls as well.

"I have The Rodney," we say as we turn over our cards.  We feel confident, as the man to our left shows a 10 as if he missed a draw.

"King-Queen."  Noooooo!  The woman has a bigger kicker, wins the pot and eliminates us.  No wonder she raised on the flop (a detail we'd forgotten).

We leave the table in 12th place -- then walk over to Rodney the Tournament Director.  We explain what happened, and pretend to cry on his shoulder.

"I'm thinking about adding a 'bad beat' prize for The Rodney," he admits.  But we didn't have that tonight.  And come to think of it, we should have suggested making K-9 "wild" to trump everything else.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Today is National Honesty Day," we said to both tables where we played tonight.  We're not being dishonest and making that up.  We spotted it as a trending topic on Twitter during the day; it's the idea of an author in Maryland.

"It's a day all poker players can appreciate," we said both in person and online.  That made a couple of people smile, seeing the irony in our comment.  After all, bluffing is part of the game in poker -- and even a little misleading "trash talk" at times.  But in life....
Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.  Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. - Leviticus 19:35-36
The margin of our Bible indicates the "ephah" and "hin" were dry and liquid measures in Old Testament times.  In modern terms, wouldn't you be upset if a gallon jug of milk only contained three-fourths of a gallon?  God would be upset as well -- and that also applies to the things we say.
A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.... Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. - Proverbs 12:17, 19
You might be tempted to challenge the last part of that Scripture.  History is filled with famous false statements -- such as U.S. President Richard Nixon declaring, "I am not a crook," or President Bill Clinton emphasizing, "I did not sexual relations with that woman."

We like the way the Moffatt paraphrase puts verse 19: "Truth told endures; a lie lasts only for a little while."  And think of it another way: Jesus Christ who called Himself "the truth" (John 14:6) is ruling alongside God the Father eternally, while Revelation 22:15 warns someone who "loves and practices falsehood" eventually will be outside God's Kingdom.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 109 final tables in 310 games (35.2%) - 17 cashes.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quest for Gold

Former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Jamie Gold now has his own free poker website.  But today Gold did something unusual -- making himself a "bounty" in tournaments both live and online.

The in-person bounty was at a World Poker Tour event in Jacksonville, Florida.  The online version was a "Gold N Bounty" big-prizes tournament tonight at National League of Poker (and perhaps at other websites; Gold's site and NLOP are part of the same entertainment network).  We stayed home and joined about 2,400 other players in searching for money, wherever it was hiding....

:02 IN: We have 6-4 in the Big Blind.  The flop is Q-9-J.  The table checks.  The turn is 2.  Everyone checks.  The river is 3 -- and since everyone started with a "deep stack" of 2,500 chips, we offer a flat-out bluff of 100. It works!  The table folds, and we win $190.

:07 IN: We have 10-J.  The flop is 2-3-8.  The table is playing tight, and everyone checks.  The turn is 4.  Everyone checks again.  The river is 7.  We offer a bluff bet again of 125 -- and it works again!  Massive folding wins us $210.

:10 IN: We have 10-K.  The flop is 5-9-5.  The tight table checks.  The turn is 6.  Everyone checks again.  The river is 3.  We throw out 120 -- and we're now three-for-three in bluffs!  The table folds; we gain $320.

:11 IN: The next hand brings J-J -- and this time we don't wait, raising 200 pre-flop.  A few people call.  The flop is 5-A-6.  We check, as does everyone else.  The turn is J, and we bet 300.  The table runs off; we gain $1,120 -- and we win four of the first eight pots, while someone named "Horseco" claims the other four.

:14 IN: We have 6-A.  The flop is 8-5-9, all diamonds (we don't have one).  The table checks.  The turn is Jh.  More checking.  The river is 8c.  We offer a semi-bluff 100 (since we do have Ace high) -- and our run ends when a player calls with a winning 9-7.

:18 IN: We have 9-8 in the Big Blind.  The flop is 10-9-7.  We bet the minimum 60 with middle pair, and get callers.  The turn is K.  We offer 60 again, and get doubled by another player.  We call it.  The river is J to give us a straight.  We bet 250, an opponent doubles to 500, we call with a third player -- and we all have 8's!  It's a three-way pot split; we win $900.

Nothing works for us after that until the half-hour break.  We arrive with $1,980 - tied for 947th place, with 1,229 players to go.

:47 IN: We have 10-Q of diamonds.  The flop is K-K-3, with the 3 a diamond.  The table checks.  The turn is As, leaving us hope of a straight.  An opponent bets 200, and we dare to call.  The river is 8d.  We figure we're sunk, but the opponent merely checks.  We check with resignation -- but he has a lowly 2-7!  It's a surprise win of $1,200.

A miss with 7-A follows, along with some low-quality cards.  We survive to the one-hour break with 1,455 chips.  With 702 players remaining, we're well down the list at #625.

1:08 IN: We return from the break with K-10 offsuit.  We call, knowing it's about time to make a move.


This could be the moment -- and an opponent bets 560 to provoke a response.  We have 1,130 left, and go all-in.  The big bettor calls -- but he shows K-7, so we're in the lead!


"Noooooooooooo" we say aloud -- and write moments later.  Our foe hit a second pair!


He won the race.  We're shown the door in 651st place, out of 2,404 entries.  If someone claimed the bouty on Jamie Gold along the way, we couldn't find it in the long list of standings.  He never even stopped by our table to say hello.

God and Cybergod II

Let's continue our post about an online poker conversation which one player didn't seemingly want to have.  First we reminded "Cybergodsig" he wasn't god.  Now let's pick up the chat in progress....

Pokerpiz eliminated from the tournament (he/she has lost all his/her chips)
Me: very good
Cybergodsig: *** talker
Me: So this game
Me: should have no chat?
Cybergodsig: awwww
Cybergodsig: feelings hurt

How interesting -- he says our feelings are hurt, when he is the one who made a fuss about talking at the table in the first place.  That's the sort of blame-shifting a real God does not accept.  And God saw it as early as the garden of Eden:
And he said, "Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"  The man said, "The woman you put here with me -- she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." - Genesis 3:11-12
We've heard several ministers point out recently Adam not only blamed Eve for his disobedience -- he even blamed God, for putting Eve with him at all.  God wound up kicking Adam out of the garden, and cursing the tempting serpent as well (verses 14-15, 23-24).

So were our feelings hurt?  No....

Me: No asking
supertjc won Main pot 65,216 with One pair, aces
Me: Have you suggested
Me: that to NLOP?

Every online poker game we've ever played has some kind of "chat" function.  At least it gives play-by-play of the game -- who wins pots and who's been eliminated from the table.  We've noticed not many players use it, but few make a big issue about our comments.

If Cybergodsig had been polite in his request to tone down the chat (or at least given a reason why he wanted it), we probably would have done so.  We're reminded of this Biblical guidance:
There is a time for everything.... a time to be silent and a time to speak. - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7
But instead of answering our question, this was the response which pretty much ended the discussion:

Cybergodsig: thin skin dies
Cybergodsig: same in life

Well, let's be more accurate.  Sooner or later, all skin dies.  We're all facing an appointment with death someday (Hebrews 9:27).  The big question is: what will happen to you after that?
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.  After I shall awake, though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh shall I see God. - Job 19:25-26 (KJV text and margin)
Job's skin had "painful sores" all over it, from Satan's persecution (Job 2:7) -- yet he maintained hope of seeing a "Redeemer" in a resurrection!  How much did he understand Jesus Christ?  The book of Job doesn't offer a direct answer.  But we encourage you to understand Jesus better, and have hope the true God will redeem you from death to eternal life.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poker Night 309: Better Read Than Dead

You may have heard the line about "guys who can't commit."  In poker, commitment sometimes gets rewarded handsomely -- and sometimes blows up in your face.  Look at what happened tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: J-10 offsuit

We started the evening with 7,000 chips, and have slowly dwindled from there.  We actually had J-10 on the last hand, and we made top pair on the flop.  But we lost to a man who stuck around with 2-3, and made two pair on the river.  Hopefully that won't happen again, so we're ready to call with 4,400 chips left.  But a man to our right with a huge stack raises to 400.  With insistence, we call -- and four players from a table of six are in.


Aha - top pair again!  The man who raised before makes a continuation bet (we suspect) of 1,000, and we're perfectly happy to tag along.  In fact, everyone calls.


Ugh.  We didn't really want to see that.  And to make things worse, the bettor now tosses out 2,000.  We have 3,000 left, so we think about this a moment.  Has be been betting all along because he has something - or because he has nothing?

"I'll call," we decide somewhat reluctantly.  We conclude the man is making a "go away" bluff bet to claim the pot.  The other two players don't seem to agree; they fold.


Our opponent looks at our "stack" -- in quotes, because we have one chip worth 1,000 left.  That's it.  He tosses a black chip out to match it.

"I've committed this far," we say, "so I'll call.  I'm all in.  I've got a pair of Jacks."

Too bad.  Our opponent shows A-K.

Our reasoning was right when it came to the flop, as we were leading then.  But he caught a winning card on the turn, which changed everything.  Our reading skills (assuming we have any) went bad, and we were out first at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: That man with a big stack also fell short in the prior hand, losing to the 2's and 3's.  "The river giveth, and the river taketh away," he said.

Hey - that sounds familiar.  "Blessed be the name of the Lord," we say in response.  We don't think he expected that.  So we decided to follow up with it a bit.  "Who said that quote?"

"The Bible," a woman said with a who-cares tone to her voice.

"Yes - but who in the Bible?"

"Jesus," a man guessed.  No....

"John?" the woman guessed.

"You're close, in a way," we said.  Then we offered the answer.  "It was Job." (Job 1:21)

A man at one end of the table recognized that name.  "Yeah, because God took everything from him -- then gave it back to him later."

Welllll.... is it really fair to say God took everything from Job?  Let's check the record:
"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied.... "But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."  The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." - Job 1:9, 11-12
Notice God did not instruct Satan to take everything away from Job!  The statement in verse 12 is open-ended.  Satan might say God granted permission to do it, but Satan didn't have to do it.  The devil made that choice - a mean-spirited and deadly choice, as the rest of Job 1 shows.

We blogged about this incident last week, and said we wouldn't give away the ending.  But since that other player mentioned it....
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.... The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. - Job 42:10, 12
So yes, God brought Job back to prosperity.  But did you notice what happened first?  It came after Job prayed for others - in this case, three friends who kept giving him lousy advice about his predicament.  Is there someone in your life who needs your prayers?  Maybe even someone who's made your life a little miserable?
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. - Matthew 5:44-45
We have to confess - we don't follow this instruction of Jesus anywhere close to enough.  We don't pray for the poker players who make fun of our efforts.  We plan to do that more.  Who knows what blessings might come from it - for everyone?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 109 final tables in 309 nights (35.3%) - 17 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 216 point wins in 910 games (22.6%), 71 final tables, 7 cashes plus one non-cash win. No-River Hold 'em - 5 point wins in 20 games (25%), 4 final tables, 1 cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - CORRECTED: $71,007, down $6,060.  Suffice to say: not a good week all around.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

God and Cybergod

When we play poker, we want to win -- but we also want to have some fun, and perhaps start a conversation which leads to ministry.  In one online game the other day, that latter part clearly rubbed another player the wrong way.

Cybergodsig won Main pot 24,749 with Full house, nines full of tens
Me: very good
Me: But you're not God

Calling out a false "god" may seem harsh.  But it's what followers of the true God have done for thousands of years -- even in New Testament times.
And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia.  He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. - Acts 19:26
These were the words of a man who created silver shrines for another god (verse 24).  His business was at risk from Paul's preaching - and the man we played responded as if we'd threatened him the same way.

Cybergodsig: *** off
Me: Not my God, at least....

Really now -- would a true God answer a critic by using censored language?
And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. - Psalm 12:6
In contrast, our opponent moved toward pure trash talk:

Cybergodsig: you going bye bye
Cybergodsig: chump

"Chump?"  Both of us were sitting at a semifinal online table - out of a tournament with 577 players.  But then came a fun-sounding showdown between two other players....

Pokerpiz won Main pot 6,928 with Two pair, kings and sixes
THEWIZ is returned 6,152 extra chips from Side pot 1
Me: Wiz v. Piz
THEWIZ won Main pot 22,856 with Full house, tens full of sixes
Cybergodsig: shut it
Pokerpiz eliminated from the tournament (he/she has lost all his/her chips)
Me: very good
Cybergodsig: *** talker

What do you think of this?  Is it wrong or impolite to talk at a poker table at all -- even online?  Your comments are welcome; this topic will continue in a future post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Senior Championship: Flush With Excitement

After missing the March event because of a road trip, we returned to the National League of Poker monthly Senior Championship tonight.  Unlike February, this time the McAfee update was announced before the tournament began.  That meant we could delay it.  Maybe that would be a good sign....

:02 IN: We have 3-J and fold it - only to see a flop of J-2-3.  (The hand is settled without a showdown.)

:13 IN: We have 3-K, both spades.  The flop is Jx-Qs-3x.  But someone bets 240 -- too steep for us to play bottom pair.  (There's no showdown again.)

:18 IN: We have A-K offsuit.  The flop is 8-10-5.  Everyone checks.  The turn is 7.  Everyone checks again.  The turn is J -- and when our turn comes, we bet 120 with two high cards even though "four to a straight" is showing.  Our 80-percent bluff works!  The table folds, and we win $450.

A failed round in the blinds follows, and we reach the half-hour break at $810.  That's tied for 275th place, with 373 players still competing.

:34 IN: We return from the break to J-J.  We double the blind to 200 and get about four callers.  The flop is a somewhat concerning K-10-10.  But the table checks.  The turn is 2.  The lead player bets 100 (minimum), and we call.  The river is 10, giving us a full house.  But we're still wary, and when the lead player bets 100 again we call.  Good decision -- he has K-2, and his full house is better.

:36 IN: The next hand brings us Kh-Jd.  The flop is Q-10-5 - all hearts!  We have big draws, and the table checks.  The turn is 5s.  Everyone checks again. The river is 9s, providing us a straight.  We bet all our remaining 260, get called by two players -- and one of them also has K-J!  We split the pot to win $802, while the third player in the mix is eliminated.

:44 IN: We have 10d-5h.  The flop is Q-9-4 - all diamonds!  The table checks.  The turn is 8s, giving us an added straight draw.  The table checks once more.  But the river is Ks.  We missed it all, and Ace high wins the pot.

:47 IN: We have 8d-8c with 502 chips left.  We're not tempted to push with a mid-range pair, so we simply call the blind of 200.

ON THE FLOP: 2-8-4 - all spades.

It's not a flush draw for us, but with 302 chips left the decision is obvious.  When a player across from us bets 380, we go all-in again.  Another player calls, setting up a sidepot for the remaining two players.


We don't think that helped anyone.  Or at least we hope not.


A fourth spade is absolutely the last thing we want to see -- especially since it didn't pair the board to give us a full house.

The player who bet 360 earlier now goes all in -- and shows the King of spades.  His chase to the river pays off, and our night is finished.

Final result: 226th place out of 935 players.  Our February finish (disrupted by McAfee) actually was more than 100 places higher.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Poker Night 308: A Suite Result

The Tournament Director who predicted poker at The Sports Page would die after its rules change seems to be right.  But as of tonight, there's a new place in our city to play Texas Hold 'em on Monday nights.  "The Suite" is a new bar and grill in a nice strip mall -- and the managers have not changed the location's history of being a nice Mediterranean restaurant.  (At least one player was annoyed by the fact a burger and fries cost $10; the Director promised to work on developing specials.)

Opening night drew enough players to fill four tables -- and a relative lack of special items for gaining massive amounts of poker chips gave us hope of having an even chance of success....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Jack of diamonds - Jack of spades

We won a pot a couple of hands before this one, by making three of a kind.  Now we're second in line to play, at a table with a couple of devil-may-care bettors.  So we limp to see if anyone jumps.  Sorry, no one does.  Most of the table is in.

(We actually knew without looking we had Jd.  It had a tattered corner before the game began, making it a "marked card" -- but the Director wanted players to use that deck as long as they could.)

ON THE FLOP: 9c-7s-6c

We missed -- or did we?!  We have a hidden "overpair."  When the play checks to us, we try to exploit it by betting 400.  About half the table calls.


Now we have two pair, with only one showing.  The play checks to us again, and we turn up the heat a little with a bet of 500.  As best we recall, no one folds.  Is someone hiding a big hand here?


A third seven gives us a full house.  It also could give someone else quads, but we don't really think of that.  We've set the tempo to this point and see no reason to change.  The play checks to us again, and we bet 1,500 -- a move which frustrates several opponents.

"There's no way I can call, with three sevens out there!" a man says as he folds.  Everyone else folds as well, so we make a nice gain of several thousand chips.

"I had a straight on the flop," the man's girlfriend across the table admits.  She was letting us do all the dirty work, but she inadvertently let us top her.

"I was gonna get you on the river," the man reveals afterward.  He had two clubs, but a third one on the river forced him to freeze.  It was the perfect club for us.

We walked a tightrope after winning that pot, as our stack dwindled and the blinds rose.  An all-in bet in the second hour with A-10 brought an Ace on the flop, which kept us in.  Then at a semifinal table, an all-in move with two diamonds brought a winning flush on the river.  Then after the two-hour break, when we were about to be forced all-in again for the Big Blind, we heard two very comforting words: "Final table!"

There was another successful push at the final table as well.  With the Big Blind near again, we went all-in with A-3 of diamonds.  A man called with A-4 -- but we hit a 3 on the turn to jump from 10,000 to 35,000!  Other players' pushes didn't work so well, and the field dwindled to six.  When we dealt ourselves 7-7, we felt good about pushing again.  Low cards kept showing, which helped -- but a 9 on the river gave another player a winning hand.

He knocked out another man along with us.  But we went home thankful and satisfied.  Our 11-night drought of making final tables ended.  And we finished tied for fifth place, giving us our highest place on the ladder since the end of December.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Word is you're going to win tonight," a man said to us in a joking manner at the one-hour break.

"I don't know who that word is, so I don't believe him," we answered.  But then a thought came to us: "In the beginning was the Word.... that's the One I believe."

The man seemed to know what we meant.  But perhaps you might not....
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1
"Wait a minute," you may be saying.  "Wasn't there only God in the beginning?"  Well, let's check the Bible record....
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.... Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." - Genesis 1:1, 26
Yes, God was creating at the beginning -- but who or what is this "us" later in creation week?  Is it connected with the Word?  And who or what is that Word, anyway?  Offer a comment here if you have an explanation; we'll offer our own answers in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 109 final tables in 308 nights (35.4%) - 17 cashes.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Buy the Numbers?

Poker is a game where numbers can matter.  For instance, having two Aces before the flop is good.  A hand with three Aces is better.  And four Aces are awfully hard to beat.

But "trip 6's" come with a bit of a notorious reputation.  We asked in a recent post for your thoughts about 6-6-6.  Revelation 13 calls it "the number of the beast."  And at the end of this age, beasts will be dangerous characters.
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth.  He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.... Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.  He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. - Revelation 13:11, 14
First of all, did you realize the Bible talks about two beasts - not merely one?  The first beast is described in the first part of the chapter.  Many religious groups believe this refers to an end-time superpower on Earth, especially in Europe.  The second one will order everyone to pay tribute to the first one....
He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. - Revelation 13:15
The link speculates the second beast is the United States -- but really now.  When has a President ordered U.S. citizens to worship statues of the Pope, or some other European leader?  That certainly didn't happen in World War II.  And the current U.S. Presidential campaign seems to be boiling down to a non-denominational Christian against an L.D.S. member (what some call a Mormon).

We think it's better to look at 6-6-6 in terms of yet another European government.  And we agree that the number's meaning isn't as clear as some "prophetic experts" make it out to be.  We don't know who has the winning numbers in poker until the end of a hand -- and so we have to wait until the end of man's reign on Earth to know what "trip 6's" means.

So what should we do in the meantime?  We recommend the guidance given elsewhere in the New Testament:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5
That applies to wisdom about playing poker well, or living life in general.  Ask God, and trust Him to provide.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Poker Night 307: Don't Push Me

A poker game can be a bit like "day trading" in the stock market.  As one player at our Lil Kim's Cove table pointed out tonight, a big bet can bring a big reward -- or it could leave you with no chips at all.  We faced that fact not once, but several times....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: J-9 of diamonds

We won the first hand of the night, but then a lost couple with modest betting.  Now we're in the big blind, with no raising ahead of us.  We check and hope.

ON THE FLOP: 3s-7d-3d

It's a flush draw, and we check when our turn comes.  A man to the left offers 100 at the pot.  A man to the right raises to 300.  We're willing to try a moderate chase, so we call.  Four players are still in the hand.


Thank you very much!  We have a flush -- but are those other men betting because they have better cards?  We check again and let them go at it first.  The player to the left throws in 200.  The player to the right raises to 500.  It's tempting to jump over both of them with a big bet, but we decide to be sneaky and call.  Four players remain in.


Welllll.... that wasn't exactly what we wanted to see.  Four diamonds showing could mean someone with only one high diamond could top us.  So we decide to come out of hiding, betting 500 right off the bat.  A man to our immediate left, who's been doing the same thing we're doing, calls.

But the bettor to the left is next in line, and doesn't slow down: "800 more."  That brings a fold from the raiser to our right -- and a big decision from us.  Only two cards can beat ours.

"I'm going to assume you hit it," we finally say -- and we fold.  The man who called earlier does so again.  Sure enough, they both have diamonds -- but they have the 8 and 10!!  The man at the immediate left takes the pot, and we wind up folding a big winner.

Looking back, we showed the table another example of why some players consider us a pushover.  Given a critical moment, we tend to play it safe.  But we didn't a few minutes later, when A-8 of clubs brought a "nut flush" on the flop.  A man with two pair confidently bet 2,500, only to see us go all in for 3,900 more.  He called suspecting what we had -- but his hopes for a full house missed.

A couple of pushes worked for us in the second hour, but other chances fell short.  We reached the third hour of play and went all-in with K-J and 15,000 chips left -- but the board didn't pair for us, while a man with a huge stack caught a 3 to make a pair.

It was a good run, but we barely missed the final table again.  We finished tenth -- only one spot better than earlier in the day, when we were 11th in an online tournament.  Except the online game had 577 players; Lil Kim's Cove may have had 30-35.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The man who eventually took us out wore a small metal sword on his shirt.  It reminded us of a cable TV commercial, where a man wields a large sword and boasts about watching Season 1 of the series Game of Thrones.

"Do you watch Game of Thrones?" we asked him.

"No," he answered, "but I play God of War.  Do you play God of War?"

Online poker is about as far as we wade, when it comes to video games.  "No," we said.  "I know a God of war, but I don't play it."

Then we turned to the man at our left and added quietly: "When Jesus comes back, He's going to be a God of war."

That man seemed to nod in agreement.  But if you're used to Jesus being called the "Prince of Peace," you might find that surprising.  Let's check the Bible on this:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6
This prophecy about Jesus Christ is associated normally with December, thanks to a section of Handel's Messiah.  But Jesus doesn't really control a "government" now.  That's still ahead, when He comes again -- and look at what will happen then....
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.... On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. - Revelation 19:11-16
Read that entire section of Revelation, and you'll find Someone named "the Word of God" is coming down with "armies of heaven."  Yes, the "Prince of Peace" will come as a tough guy - a conquering King who will "strike down the nations," then "rule them with an iron scepter."

Would you want to face such an onslaught when Jesus returns, whenever that is?  Or do you think it's better to make peace with the Prince of Peace now, and stand on the Lord's side?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 108 final tables in 307 nights (35.2%) - 17 cashes.

We've now missed 11 in a row.  But in that stretch, we've finished in tenth place twice and 11th place three times - only one or two spots away.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 215 point wins in 895 games (24.0%), 71 final tables, 7 cashes plus 1 other win.  No-River Hold 'em - 5 point wins in 19 games (26.3%), 4 final tables, 1 win.

The Senior Qualifier we won earlier this week didn't pay any money; only the monthly championship does.  So we've had an "other win" to our scoreboard, awkward though it seems.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $77,067, up $2,278.

Climb Every Mountain

"If you have a three-to-one, four-to-one chip lead," a man said at our live tournament the other night, "you'd better win."

We responded by telling him about what we'd accomplished only hours earlier -- winning an online poker tournament, after going to heads-up play with a substantial deficit.  The margin was in the neighborhood of 48,000 to 10,000, yet we came back to win.

Seemingly ridiculous comebacks can happen in poker.  They even can happen in life.  One of the greatest examples of that occurred in the Bible -- to one of Jesus's loyal disciples.
Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."  "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." - Matthew 26:33-34
This disciple vowed to be loyal to the bitter end.  But by the end of this chapter of the Bible, Peter was the one in bitter tears.
Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"  Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."  And he went outside and wept bitterly. - Matthew 26:74-75
Yet to his credit, Peter did not do what another disciple did on that fateful night.  Judas Iscariot admitted he sinned by turning Jesus over to be arrested -- then "went away and hanged himself" (27:4-5).  Peter instead lived to see the resurrected Christ, receive compassion from the Savior (John 21:15-19) and go on to do great things for God.
Then Peter said, "Silver of gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. - Acts 3:6-7
Before his life ended, Peter even wrote two books of the New Testament.  All hope might have seemed lost for him.  But he didn't simply throw it "all in" in emotional frustration -- and that proved to be a big difference between Peter and Judas.  It could be a difference in how your poker games (and other things) go as well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Poker Night 306: Step By Step

Something happened to us in a poker tournament today which hasn't happened in 14 months.  See if you can figure it out, as this hand unfolds at The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Ace of clubs - 9 of spades

It's early in the game, and we're in the big blind.  We have about 4,300 chips, after a couple of modest early losses.  We'd be content to limp in with a potentially powerful hand, but a player across from us raises to 400.  It's time to play defense, so we call.  A couple of other players do as well.


We're given bottom pair, and 60 percent of a royal flush.  But we check, to see what others will do.  The man who raised pre-flop makes a continuation bet of 400.  OK, we'll take that on.  We call, putting us heads-up.


Now we're up to two pair, and we feel good about it.  But we check again, since our opponent has done all the work so far.  Sure enough -- he bets 1,000.  OK, we'll call again.

ON THE RIVER: 7 (suit doesn't matter; we don't recall it)

We still feel confident about our two pair, and decide it's time to take control of the betting.  We offer 1,000.  Our opponent doesn't hesitate to call.

"I have two pair," we announce as we show.  We were right!  Our opponent has K-4, and we jump to around 8,000 chips.

"I only lost 2,400," our opponent tells another man at the table moments later.  That's easy for him to say -- since he probably is buying round upon round to rebuild his chip stack.  We settle for only one diet soda, for a 2,000-chip recharge.

We lost that 2,000 minutes later, when continuous betting (apparently with nothing) chased us off a potentially winning two pair.  And we didn't win a hand the rest of the night, partly due to failed chases.  Our final 2,000 went in with the big blind in the second hour, and our 9-7 lost to K-Q when a Queen came on the turn.  Final result: 17th place.

So what happened, for the first time in 14 months?  That Red Barn stuff was simply a bluff, because....

We won a tournament outright!  As in first place, with no split settlements -- and not a one-table sit-n-go.  This was a 62-player qualifier for the National League of Poker monthly Senior championship.  We reached the final table in ninth, and gained ground with all-in pushes.  But we had to climb out of a four-to-one "chip hole" to win heads up.

No money was on the line in this tournament, and that admittedly played a factor in how people played at the final table.  The top ten qualified automatically, so the only thing at stake was additional points.  But once the heads-up game was level, we decided we wanted to drive for the win -- and a Jack paired for us on the decisive winning hand.  The way things have been going for us recently, a win is still a win!

MINISTRY MOMENT: At another online tournament, a woman slow-played pocket 6's against us.  It cost us some money, but led to this exchange....

SONDRA won Main pot 2,100 with Three of a kind, sixes
Me: very good
Me: sneaky beast (666)
STURGEONKNG: u got blogged lol
SONDRA: abitsinful yes a beas

It's been a while since we mentioned this subject.  The Bible does warn against that set of three numbers....
Here is wisdom.  Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. - Revelation 13:18, KJV
Many explanations have been offered through the centuries concerning for what that number means.  So let's open the table for discussion: what do you think 666 means?  We'll compare notes in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 108 final tables in 306 nights (35.3%) - 17 cashes.  Our long wait online may be over, but we've now missed ten final tables in a row at live tournaments.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rise and Fall

We can't help thinking back to our last two hands at Soho Bar & Grill Wednesday night.  We went all-in and won a huge pot -- then called an all-in bet with an arguably better hand, and lost it all.

How do you handle moments like that?  First of all, we're grateful it's free poker.  No money was lost.  (If that had been a real cash game, the sting probably would have been tougher.)  Secondly, we're reminded of some advice from an Old Testament success story.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." - Job 1:21
Read the entire first chapter of Job, and you'll see this man lost a lot more than 15,000 poker chips.  With God's permission, Satan was allowed to plunder and destroy his livestock, servants and even his children.  Yet what was Job's response?
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.  Then he fell to the ground in worship.... - Job 1:20
To borrow from our opponent Wednesday night, pressure didn't bust his pipes.  Job kept on worshiping God.  He seemed to realize the blessings we receive in life (even family blessings) are merely temporary.  Job was tested again on this a bit later....
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.... His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity?  Curse God and die!"  He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. - Job 2:7-10
Read on in this book (we won't give away the details), and you'll find Job eventually wonders deeply about what had happened to him.  But at the end, Job finds peace with God and receives a marvelous ending.

You may be wondering deeply about sudden losses in your life -- whether it's a big lead at the poker table, a job, a marriage or something else.  Keep in mind that somewhere in the midst of those clouds, God is at work.  He may have lessons for you to learn, which you don't understand right now.  We may not even understand them until the day of our resurrection.  But if we "keep the faith," God will bring blessings from them.
Praise the Lord.  Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.... He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. - Psalm 112:1, 7-8

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poker Night 305: Two-Hand Slam

Thursday night will be the start of a special Sabbath for us, beginning the seventh day of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:4-8). So instead of walking to Lil Kim's Cove, tonight we drove across town to Soho Bar & Grill for the first time since Thanksgiving Eve.  We were set at table #1, which one player recalled used to be reserved for "older, decrepit players."  We offered to fit that description -- but then tried to play up to our presumed years of wisdom.

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: Ace of spades - King of hearts

To fully appreciate this hand, we need to explain the previous one.  We held A-J, and called a pre-flop raise of 1,500.  The flop was Q-J-x, and we called another bet of 1,500.  When the turn brought an Ace, we went all in with 2,875 left.  A man to our left called (the bettor folded), and our two pair had his Q-9 topped.  The river missed for him, and we jumped to around 15,000 chips.

So we're dealing this hand at a six-player table, with a messy pile of unstacked chips in front of us.  No one raises pre-flop -- and when we see these two big cards, we raise 1,000.  The small blind folds.  The big blind (who challenged us in the previous hand) wants to get even.

"Pressure busts pipes," he says.  "I'm all in."  Interesting words from a man who's been dropping 2,000-chip raises pre-flop from time to time tonight.

A woman to his left thinks about this situation for a long time -- so long that we're able to stack our chips, and the re-raiser asks a passer-by for a clock.  At last she folds.  So do two other players, leaving it up to us.

"So you decided to go all-in...."

"Is that a rhetorical question?" the pusher asks.

"Well, we could mean it both ways," we admit.  We're simply being talkative, because this decision strikes us as easy.  We think he's pushing with any two cards he sees, to scare us out of investing our new-found riches.  But our two cards are too good.

"I call," we finally say -- and show the A-K.

"Good call," the man quietly responds.  But he doesn't show what he has.

ON THE FLOP: Jc-4c-3c

Uh-oh -- all clubs?!?  We don't have one.  Now our opponent reveals he pushed with 7-7.  Poker pros call this a "coin flip," and he's leading.


Ugh.  We're down to one card and six outs.


Talk about easy come, easy go!  Our opponent has more than 18,000 chips, so he wins all of ours and takes us out of the game.  Right after a huge win, we're busted -- sixth place out of the original table of eight.

The sudden turnabout had us pondering all the way home.  Would we have done anything differently?  Probably not.  One of Gus Hansen's poker books reveals he actually has folded A-K a few times, after whiffing on the flop.  But pre-flop?!  One ranking puts A-K as the fourth-best hand to have -- while 7-7 is a deceptively-high #10.

MINISTRY MOMENT:  For some reason, the table talk turned to abbreviations tonight.

"P-2-P.  Pay to play," a man said.  "P-2-L - pay to learn."

"Then there's P-T-L," we noted.  "Praise the Lord.  Something we should do all the time."

The man who brought up the subject agreed with that.  But sadly, he somewhat admitted at the start of the tournament he was drunk -- drinking at Soho all day because of something involving a woman..  The Bible is clear on this matter:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral.... nor drunkards.... will inherit the kingdom of God. - I Corinthians 6:9-10
There's much more to that list of vices, and we encourage you to review it with an open mind and heart.  We're focusing on the drinking part -- and the good news is that people who hit the bottle too much are not without hope.  Paul goes on to write....
And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. - I Corinthians 6:11
Let the living waters of the Holy Spirit replace alcohol in your life.  You'll be far less likely to have any regrets later.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 108 final tables in 305 nights (35.4%) - 17 cashes.  We've missed nine final tables in a row.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 212 point wins in 883 games (24.0%), 70 final tables (7.9%), 7 cashes.

We've reached the points nine times in 19 tries in the last two weeks, and last week had two "top five" finishes -- the best one a third-place finish out of 320 players (but with only first place winning money).

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $74,789, up $3,455.

Good Bread, Bad Bread

"My bread of life is a marijuana leaf."

This declaration came from a man at our poker table Monday night, well after we brought up the piece of matzo we used for a card protector.  We had said Jesus was the bread of life, based on John 6.  This man's somewhat flippant follow-up came as a surprise -- but he had a different point to make.

"If God created the universe and He made marijuana, then there must be a reason for it....?!"

This topic actually goes back to the beginning of the Bible account....
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground -- everything that has the breath of life in it -- I give every green plant for food."  And it was so. - Genesis 1:29-30
We admittedly haven't studied the chemical makeup of marijuana over the years; we accepted the warnings in our youth about how dangerous it could be, and avoided it.  But hemp is a seed-bearing plant -- and we admitted to the man the variant cannabis might have medicinal benefit in moderate amounts for some hurting people.  (We haven't studied that to be absolutely sure, however.)

But as we consider this discussion, two thoughts come to mind.  The first one obviously involves the man's idea that a psychoactive drug can be a "bread of life."
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. - Isaiah 55:2-3a
This is an invitation from God to those who are spiritually thirsty (verse 1).  Looking to fill who some have called a "hidden hunger" in your life with drugs or alcohol may bring temporary relief, or what Hebrews 11:25 calls "the pleasures of sin for a season" -- but not a long-term answer.  Jesus described a far better bread....
I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. - John 6:51
This leads to our second thought.  We accepted the warnings adults gave us about marijuana -- but other people obviously don't.  They choose to take a chance and experiment, a bit like poker players trying out different strategies in free tournaments.  By doing that, they repeat one of the Bible's earliest lessons:
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"  "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.  "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." - Genesis 3:2-5
Mother Eve in the garden of Eden had to weigh two conflicting sets of advice.  She chose to go against the guidance of her Creator -- and the rest of Genesis 3 shows the bad consequences which began to develop for humans from there.

When you're having fun at a poker table with nothing to lose, that's one thing.  But when it comes to an item which can affect your body and mind such as marijuana, that's very different.

Why take a chance with a bogus bread?  The true "bread of life" named Jesus may seem bland and boring, but it's the diet which leads to eternal life in God's kingdom.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Poker Night 304: Slaying the Thousands

After a week away from live poker, we returned to The Red Barn tonight.  Players around us were buying round after round to recharge failing chip stacks -- but that's not what we do.  We normally buy one soda for bonus chips, and try to make it last.  The right cards can help with that....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Ace of clubs - Ace of diamonds

Yes, indeed -- the right cards can help.  At a table of seven players with no early gains on our part from a 7,000-chip start, we're ready to roll.  Sitting about fourth in betting order, we raise to 600.  Two players call.

ON THE FLOP: 4h-Kh-7h

Top pair -- bad-looking suit.  But we sit in "button" position.  The first player in line checks.  The second (to our immediate right) tosses in 1,000.  We're willing to call; so is player 1.  But of course, we hope no more hearts show up.


That looks better for us -- yet the betting matches the prior round.  The man to our immediate right throws in another 1,000; we call along with player 1.


OK, the board paired -- but did someone hit the "love-ly" jackpot flush on the flop?  We're bound to find out now, with no more hearts showing.  Instead of checking as before, the first player now tries 1,000.  Player 2 folds, apparently missing some kind of draw.  But we still have an overpair, so we call.

"Pair of kings," our remaining opponent says.  He shows K-Q -- but we show our Aces, and gain several thousand chips.

A bigger challenge from Player 2 came later in the first hour.  He kept betting thousands with Q-J-J showing on the board, then put us all-in for 2,075 when an Ace appeared on the river.  We dared to call and asked if he had a third Jack.  Thankfully, he didn't -- showing K-9, while we had a Queen to score a big double-up to more than 21,000!

But sadly, that was the last hand we won tonight.  Few quality cards came, our stack was drained -- and when we finally pushed with 6-6 and 5,000 chips left, a Queen on the flop gave another man a higher pair.  We came awfully close to the final table, but finished in tenth place.

 MINISTRY MOMENT: "You brought a cracker?!?!?" a man asked when we pulled the evening's "card protector" out of our pocket.

"What are you trying to say, man?" said another stumped player.
"What I'm trying to say," we explained, "is that these are the Days of Unleavened Bread."  It actually was a broken-off piece of matzo (smaller than our illustration).  We told the table about a seven-day festival mentioned several times in the Old Testament, but also in the New....
Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. - I Corinthians 5:8 (NASB)
"So you're Jewish, then," a man across the table speculated.

"No, I'm Christian," we answered.  Then we had to explain our clinching point a couple of times, because one man didn't quite hear it.  "I believe that Jesus is the bread of life."  After all, He said so:
"I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." - John 6:51 (NASB)
"Do you believe Jesus is the bread of life?" we asked the man who had trouble hearing that phrase.

"No, not really," he responded.  "But I'm here to play poker."  So we didn't go on to ask who or what he thinks Jesus is.  We hope you reach the conclusion Jesus's disciples reached after the resurrection....
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." - John 20:28-29 (NASB)
UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD:  108 final tables in 304 nights (35.5%) - 17 cashes.  Our next live poker tournament is to be announced, but it will come before Thursday's usual night at Lil Kim's Cove.  We'll update our online action after that game.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

NLOP Weekly Championship 26: Bet Early and Often

The $1,000 Weekly Championship tournament at National League of Poker is now open to all comers, but with a steep buy-in: 50,000 points.  Since the NLOP rules changed in January, we've built a bankroll of more than 270,000 points -- more than 54,000 earned in the last week alone.  So tonight was a good time to plunk down some of our stash, and try to hit it big.  The Resurrection/Easter Sunday didn't stop a big crowd from showing up to stop us....

:00 IN: We open the evening with 4-7 in the Big Blind.  We fold to a bet on the flop -- and wind up regretting it, because cards appear for a winning A-5 straight.

:01 IN: We have A-7 in the small blind, on the next hand.  A player raises to 310 (blinds are at 15/30), and we dare to call.  The flop is 8-4-A.  Players check; we choose to lay low and do the same.

The turn is 6.  We bet 100, and get two callers.  The river is K.  We bet 100 -- but a player doubles to 200.  We hope it's a bluff and call.  It's not; the opponent has 6-K!  He hit running cards to win a big pot, which could have been ours with a nice bet on the flop.  Our starting stack of 1,000 sinks to 350.

:12 IN: After A-J and A-2 fail to connect for us, we have 8-8 with 160 chips left.  We see little alternative but to push all-in.  Two players call, and exchange bets for a side pot when the flop is 7-J-3. The turn is Q.  The river is 2.  But the Jack was enough to give a man with 9-J to send us packing.

Final outcome: 796th place out of 1,039 players.  So many points.... so little time....

One on One

It seemed a little different for us today -- "Resurrection Sunday" (others call it Easter) without any poker to watch (and blog about) on TV.

For several years, NBC started the annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship broadcasts in early April. But there was no weekend tournament in Las Vegas in March 2012.  The event was called off, apparently due to a lack of sponsorship -- another aftershock from the federal crackdown on online poker almost a year ago.

So we can't watch poker pros and amateur celebrities staring down each other across the table.  How about developing another kind of personal relationship instead?  We're talking about a relationship with God, through His Son Jesus Christ.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"... - John 21:15a
Jesus asked Peter this question not once, but three times -- matching the three times Peter denied knowing Jesus before the crucifixion.  Each time, the Lord's question cut a little bit deeper.
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"  He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." - John 21:17b
The Greek word for love is different in verse 17, than in the verses before.  Strong's Exhaustive Concordance indicates Jesus changes from a social or moral love to an "affection" or "personal attachment."  That's the kind of love Jesus wants us to have toward him -- a love from the heart, not simply the head.

So how many times does Jesus need to ask you this big question?  Are you simply "heads-up" with the Lord of the universe -- or are you going farther?
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. - Ephesians 3:17-18

Friday, April 6, 2012

Unneeded Clubs

A few weeks ago, we asked if you could find the four suits of a standard poker deck in the Bible.  We found one of them this week - ironically, as we prepared for the Passover/Lord's Supper service:
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived.  With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. - Mathew 26:47
Clubs?  Swords?!  We know Judas Iscariot betrayed his Lord (verses 14-16) - but what did Judas tell the officials, to bring this sort of armed response?  Perhaps it resulted from Jesus turning over the temple tables a few days before (21:12-13).  But even Jesus was struck by the scene in front of Him:
At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?  Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me." - Matthew 26:55
Unlike other times, Jesus didn't try to escape by blending in with the crowd.  The arresting officers had Him where they wanted.... well, wait a minute.  Jesus continued:
"But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled".... - Matthew 26:56
Jesus came to die for the sins of mankind, and provide salvation through His life.  So everyone was doing exactly what the plan of God required them to do -- even though Satan was inside the betraying Judas.

If clubs were used in the beating of Jesus before His crucifixion, the Bible does not specifically say so.  But the club-holders certainly didn't wind up with the ultimate victory.  An empty grave and the resurrection of Christ show God's way will succeed at the end.  Are you rejoicing in that promise, and looking forward to Jesus coming again?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What's Luck Got to Do With It?

Some online poker players attempt what we call "sumo poker."  They push all-in on the first hand.  And the next, if they win.  And the next.

They could have big cards.  They could have nothing, and are pulling a drop-dead bluff to scare everyone else away.  We don't recall seeing anyone ever win a tournament this way, but it's what some players do.

There's a strategy to this, we suppose -- but it doesn't strike us as much of one.  These players seem to put all their trust in the "luck of the draw," as the cards come out after the flop.

Some believers in God don't consider that a good or wise way to live.  The word "daredevil" has two parts, you know -- daring the devil to do you in.

Besides, the idea of "luck" may be a misnomer anyway.  We found this article online contending success in life is the result of many other factors.  Look it over and tell us: is "luck" simply an excuse word?

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Different Final Table

Our live poker schedule is different this week, for two very different reasons.

Tonight's Monday night trip to The Red Barn has been trumped, as our old college plays for the NCAA men's basketball championship.  We must focus on Kansas Jayhawks, as opposed to K-J's!

Thursday's walk to Lil Kim's Cove will be pre-empted by something much more important for us.  It's a Passover service, which on the Biblical calendar only comes once a year.
These are the Lord's appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The Lord's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. - Exodus 23:4-5
Under unusual circumstances, it could be taken one month later (see II Chronicles 30:1-3 for an example of that).  Jesus joined His disciples in taking it less than 24 hours before His death -- in what Christianity has come to call the "Last Supper."
And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." - Luke 22:15-16
Perhaps it's better to call this event the Lord's Supper -- because if you'll notice carefully, Jesus promises to drink "the fruit of the vine" again someday.
Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added: "These are the true words of God." - Revelation 19:9
This great supper occurs after Jesus comes again, to bring the Kingdom of God fully to Earth.  By joining with Jesus at one "final table" for supper now, you could eventually be part of the other supper later.

If you'd like to know about the Passover meal and what is involved, let us know and we'll attempt to assist you.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What a Fool Believes

Me: A pleasant Atheists' Day to all.

We wrote this at the start of an online poker tournament today.

"Huh?!?!?" regular readers may be asking.  "You're marking an Atheists' Day?"  Well, the next line we wrote explained....

Me: (My pastor calls it that, based on Psalm 14:1.)

The pastor mentioned it in passing during his weekend sermon.  Let's turn to that verse and fill in some details....
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God".... - Psalm 14:1a
Atheists tend to believe there is no God.  This psalm calls them "fools."  And this day is April 1 -- April Fool's Day.  But this stinging verse doesn't stop there....
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. - Psalm 14:1b
If you think of the Bible simply as a "good book" preaching nothing but love, think again.  It can talk tough at times.

But instead of turning up your nose, slamming the book shut or clicking on "next blog," consider those words carefully.  What sort of deeds have you performed lately?  Are they good, uplifting and godly?  Are they tearing people down -- perhaps including your own reputation?

This is a week when many Christians should consider these things, as they prepare for the "Lord's Supper" or "New Testament Passover" service.  But it's something we all need to do year-round....
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test? - II Corinthians 13:5
Those words were written to a Christian church group which had acted foolishly at times (review I Corinthians for the details on that).

Look at your life as if Jesus is in the mirror, looking back at you.  If you see a need for changes, repent before God and start moving in a new direction.  Build a spiritual "chip stack" that will last for eternity.