Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Senior Championship: Plan A, All the Way?

We had a "Plan A" and "Plan B" for playing poker tonight.  Lil Kim's Cove had a live tournament on Tuesday again -- but that was plan B.  The monthly National League of Poker Senior Championship began 30 minutes earlier.  An early bust at our computer meant we could walk to the live game.  A big night online would mean a live postponement until Wednesday night.  Which would it be?

:01 IN: We have 6-7 of diamonds.  The flop is 3-4-3 (no diamonds).  The table checks.  The turn is 10.  We call a minimum bet of 30, with a straight draw.  The river is Q.  We miss.  Our opponent checks.  So do we - and he has A-10.  A modest loss.

:05 IN: We have A-10 of spades in the Big Blind, and call a doubling of the blind.  The flop is 5s-Ax-7x.  We bet 60; our opponent raises to 400.  We dare to call.  The turn is 6 (not a spade) - and we've never felt more trapped at a poker table.  We know our opponent is going to go all-in, but there's nothing we can do about it and we don't consider this an "all-in" hand.  We check.  He pushes.  We fold, concluding he has something like A-K or two pair.

:20 IN: We've waited 15 minutes to play a hand since that ugly moment.  Now we have J-8 under the gun, fold it -- and J-J-8 appears on the board.  We miss a full house.

:24 IN: We're moved to a different table, and have A-Q of spades under the gun.  We choose to limp in; no one raises.  The flop is 8x-7x-4s.  Everyone checks.  The turn is 9s.  We call a minimum bet of 100, hoping for the best.  The river is Qh -- but that's still top pair.  So when other players check, we go all-in for 265.  They thankfully fold, and we recover to 1,065.

:29 IN: Right before the break, we have 8-8 with the button.  The flop is 3-5-6; everyone checks.  The turn is K.  Everyone checks again.  The river is 7.  Everyone checks again -- and the 8's are good enough!  We win $550.

That gives us $1,265 at the first break -- good for 202nd out of 357 remaining players.  We're thankful for a timely rally.

:35 IN: We have Q-Q, double the blind -- and a player goes all-in for 640 more.  We call, and face A-K of clubs.  But the board brings 6-7-7-9-8 with few clubs!  It's a $1,780 win.

:38 IN: We give 10-4 of clubs a whirl.  The flop is 10s-6s-Ac.  We bet the minimum 150, and get a caller.  The turn is 5s.  Everyone checks.  The river is 10d, giving us three of a kind.  We make a massive (for us) 1,000 bet.  Our opponent folds, and have a total gain of $1,750.

:45 IN: We have 7-10 in the Small Blind, and decide to try it.  The Big Blind goes all-in, with only 75 more chips, and we call.  The flop is 7-4-8.  We bet the minimum 200 with middle pair, and call when an opponent doubles it.  The turn is 9, and that opponent goes all-in for about 105 more.  We quickly call -- which honestly was a mistake, since he showed 9-K.  But the river is J, giving us a winning straight!  Two players get tossed, as we win $2,045.

Not much comes after that, so we reach the one-hour break at $2,890.  We're 86th, with 146 players left -- and Lil Kim's Cove looks very unlikely.

1:08 IN: We return from the break with A-8 of diamonds.  A player goes all-in; we fold -- and that player steals the pot with K-K, because a winning Ace (for us) appears on the flop.

1:17 IN: We have 8-A of spades in the Big Blind.  The flop is a dream-come-true: A-A-8!  Other players in the hand have been quick to bet, so we check.  They don't.  The turn is J.  Now someone bets the minimum 400; we raise to 800 and two players call.  The river is 6.  We go all-in for 1,115  -- and a bit to our disappointment, the opponents fold.  We gain $3,165, never show the full house we hit, and forget about Lil Kim's for the night.

1:24 IN: After a failed straight draw chase with K-10, we have 10-10.  The flop is 3-8-K -- and with the advantage of button position, we respond to checks by betting the minimum 600.  The table runs away, and we win $3,375.

We win two pots in the third period, but rising blinds and antes eat away at them.  The break finds us exactly where we were before: $2,890.  With only 60 players left, we're 51st.  What happens next?  The answer's ahead, but first....


MINISTRY MOMENT: We were moved during the third period to a table where someone had been eliminated moments before by "JudisChips."  We join the chat in progress:


Inda:  lucky judas, read the Book of Judas

We didn't realize Inda was out, so we typed a response....


Me:  Psst Inda - there's
Me:  no book of Judas
Dealer:  johns1938 wins Side Pot 1 ($8020) with Two pair, queens and jacks
Me:  in the Bible



No one responded to our comment, so we don't know if we gave anyone a quick Scripture lesson or not.  But assuming Inda meant what she wrote, it's an example of how many people think things are in the Bible when they're really not.  Let's look at one example, which many poker players can appreciate....
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. - I Timothy 6:10
Read that verse carefully, and note the wording.  It does not say "money is the root of all evil."  For one thing, Paul wrote "the love of money."  After all, he also wrote....
Commend those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. - I Timothy 6:17
God provides the blessing of wealth in the first place -- so Paul's point is to put God first in planning for the future, especially beyond this life.

Note also Paul did not say "the love of money is the root of all evil."  It's a root, but not the only one.  For instance....
But no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. - James 3:8
Regular Bible study will help you learn what God considers good and evil.  You might also learn what are the real 66 books of Scripture.

Now back to the tournament drama, with seven tables left:

1:42 IN: We have 8-A of hearts with the blinds at 600/1,200.  After pondering it, we get in -- but the flop is 4-9-J with no hearts.  When a player bets 3,540, we have no choice but to fold.

1:44 IN: The next hand brings 3-A -- and we decide with blinds approaching, we have little choice.  We go all-in for 1,315.  The flop is 3-5-8.  The turn is 9.  The river is Q.  Another player who pushed with Q-4 wins the main pot, and our great adventure is over.

Out of 1,067 entries in the Senior Championship, we finished 53th -- our best finish in this event in more than a year.  We would have made money in both big NLOP monthly tournaments this month, had we been in a real poker room or casino.  Now if we can carry that over to the live games we really play....

Monday, July 30, 2012

Poker Night 335: Unsynchronized Diving

"Nickelodeon?!?!" a man asked the Tournament Director at The Red Barn tonight.

Yes, sure enough -- one of the big-screen TV's was showing "Nick at Nite" programs, instead of the Olympics.  We tried to explain it was good family programming for a "family game" of poker.  But the channel was changed to MMA bouts on Fox Sports Net.  That's just as well -- we were there to be Victorious at the table, no matter how attractively distracting its star might be.

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

The first couple of hands ended with small losses for us, so we're "under the gun" at about 6,200 chips.  We decide to limp in with face cards, and no one raises; most of the table is in.

ON THE FLOP: Q-4-4

Two pair on the flop?  That looks nice to us - and would anyone really be playing a 4?  So when the play checks to us, we bet 250.  Trouble is, a man across the table raises by adding 1,000.  A couple of players call before our turn comes around again.  This smells like a bluff to us, so we call.

ON THE TURN: 9

That card doesn't seem too harmful, but we decide to "check to the raiser."  That man shows he means business, by tossing out 2,000.

"Get out of my pot, man," he says as a player folds.  But we're still not persuaded.  If he has a Queen, our King kicker is pretty strong.  Our best guess has him holding something like A-K -- so we dare to call.  Three players stay in for....

ON THE RIVER: 10

A Queen would have made us feel a lot better.  But this card is still lower than ours.  We check again.

"Five-thousand," the big bettor announces.  Ouch -- we only have 2,100 chips left.

"Do you have trips?" the player between us asks.

"Yup, I've got trips," is the answer.  But this is poker, so is he giving the correct answer?  The player in the middle doesn't think so; he calls.  But we're now having regrets.

"I've committed a lot to this hand," we say while thinking out loud.  "But you called," we say to the other player, "so I'll fold."

Good decision -- as the big bettor turns over a Jack, and then the third 4.  Yes, he had three of a kind.  He wins a huge pot, and we take a huge loss.

We recovered several minutes when we had 5-5, and a third 5 came on the flop.  We pushed all-in and improved to 4,800.  But other hands went badly after that, as chases in hopes of something big failed.  Forced to go all-in with A-4 in the Small Blind, another man made a full house to eliminate us.  No big comebacks came tonight, as we finished sixth at a table of eight.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The first woman to drop out at our table actually dropped out twice.  She apparently was playing in her first tournament, and she ignored that big bettor's warning to fold when he made a flush with hearts on the flop.  Her K-7 with the wrong suit was dominated -- but the winner did her a favor, and refunded about 2,500 chips so she could keep playing.

This is another example of some poker players having "hearts of gold."  In some casino tournaments, "second chance" buy-ins are allowed for a short period of time.  If you go bust early, you can enter again.  But is life really like that?  It's truly an eternal question....
If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. - Job 14:14
The man who said this received an amazing second chance.  With God's permission, Satan stripped Job of practically everything he had (Job 1:6-2:7).  By the end of the book, God gave him even more blessings (42:12-13) -- but we don't think that's the "renewal" Job is describing here.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. - Hebrews 9:27-28
The Bible shows death is not the end.  For believers in Jesus, salvation will occur at His second coming.  As for the rest....
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
We don't know exactly how, but God is keeping score of everything everyone does.  Jesus will pass judgment on that score at a resurrection of the dead.
If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:15
That "book of life" sounds very valuable.  If your name is there, you can escape the "second death" described in verse 14.  So how can your name get there?  That's a topic for a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 119 final tables in 335 nights (35.5%) - 19 cashes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

For Bettors, For Best

We've been so busy with local poker topics that we haven't mentioned the World Series of Poker Main Event.  The field is down to a final nine -- but this year it will be an October Nine.  The final table drama has been moved up, to avoid a conflict with the U.S. Presidential election.

How curious, considering President Obama made a couple of campaign stops this month with signs saying he's "Betting on America."  How many customers of online poker sites laughed out loud when they saw that -- considering the U.S. Justice Department shut down several sites on "Black Friday" 2011?!

We were not the only ones who were curious about this.  One public radio program called in a language expert, who said the President is trying to show he has confidence in U.S. workers to succeed.

This led us to ponder -- isn't a vote for a Presidential candidate (or for any other political office) a "bet" of sorts?  Voters hope candidate A will do better than candidate B, when it comes to any number of issues.  If he or she does, you might stick with that strategy when the next "bet" comes in two or four years.  If he or she doesn't, you might move the chips around or try a different approach.

We're not endorsing any candidates for office here.  Not any human candidate, that is.  Instead, we recommend a sure bet offered by the Bible....
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants like flies.  But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. - Isaiah 51:6
This verse has both scary words and comforting words.  The things around us are going to disappear?!  Yes - and it's not simply an Old Testament warning:
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. - I John 2:17
Doing God's will leads to salvation -- and eternal life in what Revelation 21 calls a "new heaven and new earth."  And the Bible further claims....
The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. - Psalm 145:13b
Campaign promises made by humans tend to fall short.  God says His promises won't.  Which candidate would you rather trust?


P.S.  Considering eight of the nine Main Event players are U.S. residents, do you think any will wear campaign buttons to the final table?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lessons From a Frog


It's a rare day when a fellow poker player offers a suggestion for this blog.  So we thank a woman named Laura for telling us about a meditation she did recently -- not on poker, but on frogs.

"Frogs are small and pretty helpless," she explained.  They also spend a lot of time each day sitting on lily pads.  So she concluded the letters in "frog" can teach us all a lesson - to "Fully Rely On God."


Frogs actually are mentioned in the Bible a few times, and not in the nicest ways....


The the Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs.  The Nile will teem with frogs....'" - Exodus 8:1-3
Frogs?!  Why a plague of frogs?  Some Bible scholars say Egyptians worshiped a "frog god," believing it helped women during childbirth.  So the real God was making a point here....
He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen.  They performed his miraculous signs among them.... Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers. - Psalm 105:26-30
The Israelites' God showed He was true, by controlling the "frog god" which was false.  But believe it or not, that false god could make a comeback.
Then I saw three evil spirits which looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.  They are spirits of demons, performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. - Revelation 16:13-14
These "frogs" (or whatever they really are) apparently will be far from small and helpless.  They'll organize world leaders to gather at Armageddon (verse 16) -- but chapters 17-19 indicate Jesus will return to Earth and smite many of them.


Bottom line: yes, we recommend Laura's advice.  Fully rely on God - even when you're playing poker.  And have nothing to do with green hopping lookalikes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Poker Studs Championship: Three-Quarter Time

Lil Kim's Cove still is in a Tuesday night poker mood, instead of Thursday.  So in other weeks, we would have traveled to Soho Bar and Grill for Wednesday night action -- but not this week.  We qualified weeks ago for the National League of Poker's monthly "Poker Studs" tournament.  We saved on gas and didn't have to pay for soda -- but could we turn a profit?

:01 IN: We have 8-9 offsuit, but we notice a lot of "instant folding" at our table.  So with a flop of 6-3-3, we bet the minimum 30 -- and apparently due to absences, the table folds!  We win $105, and wind up taking three more small pots that way in the next three minutes.

:05 IN: We have K-10 on the button, and our main rival at the table doubles the blind.  We call.  The flop is 6-5-K.  We bet 100, and he calls.  The flop is Q.  We both check.  The river is 3, and our bet of 100 brings a fold.  We win $435.

:10 IN: We have 7-6 of diamonds.  The flop is 5x-7x-Qd.  We bet the minimum 40, and call a doubling by an opponent.  The turn is 9 (not a diamond).  We both check.  The river is 3.  We both check - and our 7's beat A-5!  It's a $380 gain.

:20 IN: After splitting a pot with K-A, we have K-Q of spades "under the gun."  A player goes all-in for 655, and we dare to call along with another player.  The flop is Jx-3x-4s.  Our opponent bets 180, and we reluctantly fold.  Too bad; the turn is Q, and our pair of Queens would have topped the 9-9 and 4-5 the others have.  That costs us about half our stack.

:25 IN: We have 3-4 of spades, realizing we need a comeback.  Playing them gets rewarded with a flop of 3-4-7.  We go all-in for 400, and the table folds!

That brings us to the half-hour break at 1,100 chips -- above the starting 1,000, and putting us in 206th place.  There are 306 players still in the running.

:39 IN: We have 3-5 of diamonds in the Small Blind, and choose to try them.  The flop is 6-K-4.  The table checks, to our joy.  The turn is 5 -- and with our pair, we bet the minimum 150.  The table folds, for a $900 win.

Not much else happens for us in the second period, so we reach the one-hour break with only 700 chips.  We're still in the tournament, but barely -- 118th out of 126 players.  But then....

1:08 IN: We come out of the break with A-Q, and decide to push immediately for 675 (subtracting an ante of 25).  A caller shows A-3!  The flop is 8-Q-10.  The turn is 2.  The river is 8.  We practically "triple up" again, to $2,050.

1:11 IN: We have Q-K of clubs in the Big Blind.  The flop is 10-2-K.  We bet 500, and get two callers.  The turn is 3.  The table checks.  The river is 7.  An opponent goes all-in; we dare to call -- and the opponents can't beat our Kings!  (They have 10-J and A-J.)  We eliminate one player, and seize a pot of $5,255.

1:15 IN: We have A-8 on the button.  The flop is 2-5-A, and our minimum bet of 400 brings a caller.  The turn is K.  Everyone checks.  The river is 3.  We bet 600 - and our opponent folds!  It's a pot of $3,850, putting our stack above 7,400.

1:27 IN: We have A-K in the Small Blind, and decide to limp in.  The flop is 3-J-8.  An opponent bets the minimum 600, and we call.  The turn is 5; everyone checks.  The river is 9.  We dare to bet 600 with two top "overcards," and our opponent folds!  It's a win of $4,875; now our stack is above 8,100.

1:29 IN: The next hand brings us K-K on the button!  An opponent goes all-in for 1,670; we call along with one other player.  The flop is 4-6-7.  Our bet of 1,600 chases the other player off.  The pusher then shows K-10 - and he's gone, after the turn and river are 3-6.  The pot is worth $6,410.

1:30 IN: The very next hand brings us A-K again!  An opponent bets 2,100; of course we call - but he shows 7-7.  The flop is 9-9-Q.  The turn is Q.  The river is J -- and the two pair on the board plus our Ace wins us the $6,300 pot!  We score a "three-hand slam," improving our stack to $16,870.

1:37 IN: We have 9-9 in the Big Blind.  An opponent goes all-in for 406 more.  Sure we call -- and lead his 3-K.  The flop is 2-2-A.  The turn is 10.  The river is.... K.  Ouch, so close to another one!

But that electrifying third period brings us to another break with $12,410 - a gain of 1,773 percent from 30 minutes earlier!  With only 51 players left, we sit in 16th.

1:42 IN: We return from the break with K-7 in the Small Blind.  The flop is 2-4-J, all spades -- and our King is a spade.  The table checks.  The turn is 9c.  The table checks again.  The river is 5c.  We try a minimum bet of 1,200, and wind up with a sidepot of $2,612.  (A player who pushed pre-flop takes the main pot with 9-K.)

1:48 IN: We have J-10 offsuit, and decide to "play it safe" by folding.  Bad move -- as the flop and turn bring 10-K-10-K.  The players still in the hand had nothing close to our potential full house.

1:52 IN: We have K-K on the button, as our stack drops from rising blinds and antes.  When our turn comes, we go all-in for $6,872.  A player calls with A-K.  The flop is J-5-2.  The turn is J.  The river is.... Ace!  Ouch, does that hurt.  Our opponent claims a $12,904 pot -- and suddenly we're down to $1,670.

1:55 IN: We have Q-Q, and realize we have little choice.  We go all-in for 1,520, and a second player pushes with us.  The flop is 9-J-5.  The turn is 7.  The river is 6 -- but that other pusher has 9-5!  He claims the main pot.  We take a side pot worth a grand total of $24.  "Nice consolation prize," we write on the chat line.

1:56 IN: The antes force us to put those $24 in with the very next hand.  We have A-J, so there's hope -- and our only opponent has K-6.  But the flop is 6-7-3.  The turn is 6.  "Of course," we write as the river is 7.  We're finally eliminated to an unlikely full house.

We're convinced we played the last four hands exactly right; the cards simply didn't come out right for us.  Yet 31st is our best finish ever in the "Stud of the Month" contest.  And with 861 entries in this tournament, we would have been rewarded with a nice check at a casino.  sadly, the NLOP tournament only paid off the final table of 10.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 253 point wins in 1,064 games (23.8%), 78 final tables, 7 cashes plus 3 other wins. No-River Hold 'em- 7 point wins in 40 games (17.5%), 6 final tables, 1 cash win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $79,880 (corrected)down $2,047. (We missed $200 somewhere.)

After the Storm

Professional poker players are known for keeping their cool during a game.  But of course, the ones who don't make for "great television" -- in the same way outlandish actions are more likely to appear on the evening news than ordinary trips to dinner.

The shouting match at our poker table this week over a misdealt card didn't have to happen.  Several people could have handled things much better. For instance....


1. The woman who lost the big hand vented all the way across the table at the dealer.  Jesus taught a better approach:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. - Matthew 18:15
Jesus went on to add a second step you should take, before getting everyone else (in His example "the church") involved -- getting "one or two others" to hear the dispute (verses 16-17).


2. The dealer verbally apologized.  That's good.  But he did it on the loudness level of the complainer, almost trying to shout her down.  That's not so good.
A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. - Proverbs 15:1 (KJV)
In this case, the upset woman probably never would have heard a quiet apology which interrupted her.  So our approach probably would have been to let the woman speak her piece -- and apologize quietly once she was finished.


3.  The Tournament Director heard the argument -- but when he walked over, he told everyone involved to settle it among themselves.  We're not sure if he had anything better to do, but he missed an opportunity:
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. - Romans 14:19
Or as Jesus put it: "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9).  Many approaches could have been used to bring peace to this argument.  Perhaps he could have let each party speak their piece uninterrupted, then offering guidance.  (If you have a better idea, please leave a comment.)


Someone noted to us during a break this shouting match occurred in a "free poker" game.  Yes, first-place prize money was at stake -- but nowhere close to the millions of dollars at the World Series of Poker Main Event.  So was the loud argument really worth it?  The Bible offers a much better idea:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. - Ephesians 4:31-32
P.S. Neither party in the argument made it to the final table.  We did -- along with a woman who admitted she intentionally walked away from the table during the spat so she wouldn't have her "blood boil."  Is there a lesson there for all of us?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Poker Night 334: The Ways of Escape

"I need a second-hour rally," we said to ourselves after the first hour of play Monday night at The Red Barn. Nothing seemed to be working for us.  Pocket 8's in the Big Blind were overpowered on the flop.  A-3 looked promising when the flop brought an Ace, but a woman stayed in with 6-9 and made two pair at the river.  The hour ended with us holding a meager 1,850 chips.

We didn't think of our self-talk as a prayer -- but maybe it was, because things started happening for us in the second hour.  First we dealt ourselves A-Q, and a successful push advanced us to 5,000.  Then we moved to a different table, and this happened....

BLINDS: 1,000/2,000

IN THE POCKET: 5-8 of spades

Ugh -- this isn't the sort of hand you want for a desperation all-in bet.  But we're in the Big Blind, and we have no choice.  We're forced to go all-in for our last 2,000, sight unseen with these cards.  Several players around us call.

ON THE FLOP: 8-4-2 (suits don't matter)

Hmmm -- maybe there's hope for us yet.  The table checks to the dealer.  But then he makes a massive bet in the 10,000 range.  Everyone else folds, a couple expressing frustration as they do.  No complaints from us, though....

"Well, you gave me top pair," we say as we show our cards.

The dealer almost ashamedly turns over K-7!  He made a massive bluff, and may have done us a big favor.

ON THE TURN: 5

Wow - a second pair!  If we can avoid a straight....

ON THE RIVER: Q (as best we recall)

A couple of men gripe at the dealer, about running them off winning hands.  "We were trying to take him out," complains one man -- and he does not mean a late-night dinner after the tournament.

"Thank you very much," we say as we drag in a 12,000-chip blessing.

Several hands later, A-9 brought a 9 on the turn -- good enough to advance us to 24,000.  Then in the third hour, A-3 looked beaten when a man had a pocket pair and two Queens were on the board.  But an Ace landed on the river, to keep us alive again!

After a divided pot where we were forced to play 2-2 in the Big Blind and a third 2 arrived on the flop, we survived to the final table.  But our run ended there, as 10-4 in the Big Blind failed to bring a pair for us.  A double-takeout ended our evening with an eighth-place tie -- and also thanks to God for helping us escape defeat at least five times.

In fact, a song on Christian radio as we drove home expressed our mood very well: sometimes "miracles just happen."  (But for believers in God, should there really be any "just" about it?)

MINISTRY MOMENT: A fierce argument developed in the first hour, over a hand where the dealer turned over a card too soon and apparently cost a woman a big hand.  We had folded our cards and didn't really pay close attention.  But the woman went to the Tournament Director to say something, then returned with a loud voice to berate the dealer for his error.

"I apologize," the dealer said several times with equal loudness.  "Nobody is [insert expletives here] perfect!"

We bowed our head at our seat and let other players calm things down; one man stood and took charge right away to cool the tension.  Several players reminded the woman everyone can make mistakes when dealing cards.  They're correct, of course.  All of us are human.  For those who might disagree....
If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn't in our hearts. - I John 1:8 (CEV)
In fact, when the complaining woman's turn as Dealer came, she tried to send cards to an open seat for a moment.  A quiet word of correction resolved that.  No one "rubbed it in" (well, at least not to her face).  How easy it is to see the faults of others, instead of focusing and working on our own....

You're nothing but show-offs!  First, take the log out of your own eye.  Then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend's eye. - Matthew 7:5 (CEV)
There's much more that we can say about this situation -- but we're posting late at night, so we'll share more in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 119 final tables in 334 nights (35.6%) - 19 cashes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Empty Chair (or One Down)

Our starter table had an open seat at a tournament the other night -- so we brought up the Jewish Passover custom of leaving a chair empty for Elijah.  As we've thought about this, we've wondered if the Jewish symbolism might need some changing in a New Testament era.

Three disciples joined Jesus one day atop a mountain, and watched the Lord talk with Elijah and Moses.  Several Bible translations indicate this was a vision, and not real (Matthew 17:9 in KJV and NASB).  But it led the disciples to ask a question.
The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?"  Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.  But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished.  In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." - Matthew 17:10-12
Some preachers claim "Elijah" is a modern-day sect leader -- but after considering these verses, we don't think so.  We think the disciples figured out the correct answer....
Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. - Matthew 17:13
This symbolic "Elijah" named John died in prison from beheading (Matthew 14:3-11), preceding the crucifixion of Jesus -- something 20th-century sect leaders never experienced.

All four gospels mention the last Passover (Lord's Supper) before Jesus died.  None of them mention an "Elijah's chair."  But have you considered how a seat became open during the course of that meal?
As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.  "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him.... As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out.  And it was night. - John 13:27, 30
You may have played in poker tournaments where someone was eliminated and the dealer announced, "One down!"  When Judas Iscariot "went down" on this fateful night, he went into the depths of Satanic influence -- as he betrayed Jesus, leading to the Lord's arrest (verse 2).

This leads to a probing question for all of us.  Where are your loyalties?  Is your life closer to Satan's way or God's way?  Have you pushed "all in" with life to the point where you've abandoned God, leaving an empty chair at the Lord's table?  Or are you leaving a chair open in your heart and mind, for Jesus to fill?
Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. - Revelation 3:20-21
Let Jesus have a place in your life now, and you'll have a special place alongside Him when the Kingdom of God comes.  Look up, instead of being "one down."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Water Works II

Let's go back to a recent online poker game, where Jesus and "the river" came together in conversation.  We found ourselves simply tagging along, as others dominated the discussion....

CoolMedic:  PTL
Me:  Of course.
Studmaster8:  I love him too but
Dealer:  PokerGodx wins Main Pot ($1465) with One pair, sevens
Studmaster8:  this aint the proper
Studmaster8:  forum

There are some people who think the only proper forum for discussing religious matters is in a house of worship, such as a church building.  But that's not how the first-century church looked at it....
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distresses to see that the city was dull of idols.  So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. - Acts 17:16-17
You might say Paul was a "street preacher".  But open talk about the Christian walk is not for ministers only:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. - Hebrews 10:24
It's part of the commission Jesus gave....
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." - Mark 16:15
The poker chat moves on:

Studmaster8:  ice cool
CoolMedic:  lol
Studmaster8:  better than being
Studmaster8:  luke war
Studmaster8:  m

That's a Biblical reference as well, aimed at church members by Jesus....
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm - neither cold nor hot - I am about to spit you out of my mouth. - Revelation 3:15-16
Some poker games have "straddles," but Jesus doesn't want that in His children.  Either live an "all in" Christian walk or don't:
No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money. - Luke 16:13
As best we recall, we won a pot at that point by going all-in with King-high and making a pair.  That inspired more Christ-centered thinking and chatting....

Studmaster8:  That K came from
Studmaster8:  the river of living
Studmaster8:  waters
CoolMedic:  I hear theres a King there too
Studmaster8:  KofK

Jesus refers to this "river" in John 7, but its fulfillment will come at the end of the Biblical story:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the hearing of the nations. - Revelation 22:1-2
This is a vision of the "New Jerusalem" which will come down from heaven (Revelation 21:2), after Jesus returns to rule this present world for 1,000 years.  It's a city where God's people "will reign for ever and ever" (22:5).  We don't know for sure if poker will be played there -- but doesn't the offer of eternal life make you interested in drawing close to "the King of Kings" now?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Poker Night 333: Think and Grow Rich

The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. to start our Wednesday.  Then we were on a day-long road trip of almost 300 miles round-trip.  In classic Southern-speak, we were a bit "tuckered out."  But with Lil Kim's Cove calling off Thursday night poker again this week, we decided to give Soho Bar and Grill another try Wednesday night -- and hoped we wouldn't fall asleep in mid-hand, to our ruin.

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 8-7 of spades

We began the evening with 8,000 chips -- a 1,000-chip bonus for a stay-awake diet cola, and 2,000 more from the Tournament Director for reasons unknown.  (Well, it was Nelson Mandela's birthday.)  We've dropped a few hundred, but mid-range suited connectors look inviting to us.  We call; no one at the table raises.

ON THE FLOP: 2s-10s-4c (third card may not be exact)

We have a hopeful flush draw, but a man to our immediate left who's dead-serious about playing poker to win.  After we check, he bets 400.  That's actually relatively small for "chasing," so we call.  About four players are still in the hand.

ON THE TURN: 9d

That's not a spade -- but it's a card which opens even more possibilities.  Now we also have an open-ended straight draw.  We check, then try to count quickly in our head the "outs" for making a big hand.  But before we can figure out the answer (15), the man to our left throws an even larger number at us.

"Nineteen hundred," he announces -- nothing less than an "I dare you" bet.  The other players between us fold, leaving a huge decision.

"I have to think it over, the way he's been thinking," we tell the table -- a reference to a lengthy decision our opponent made earlier about calling 3,000.

"No one thinks the way I think," the bettor says dryly.

"I'm wondering whether or not that's a good thing," he respond in an attempt to lighten the mood.  It brings a laugh or two, and an extra moment of thinking time.  At least we decide to make the significant investment, and call.

ON THE RIVER: 6h

Close enough to perfection for us!  There's not much to think about now.

"So why not.... 1,500?" we say.

"I'll raise.  All in," answers the man to our left.  We're not sure why he'd make that sort of move, so we conclude he's attempting more scare tactics.

"All I have left," we say after a count," is 2,950."  We call, show our straight -- and our opponent seems stunned, then throws in his cards face-down.  We still don't know what he had.

"He made a gutshot," the loser mutters.  Well no, it was open-ended; we let a woman across the table point that out to him.

"I knew he had a straight," a man out of the hand says moments later -- suggesting our opponent should have realized that, too.  The only way he could have beaten us is with a higher straight (perhaps Q-J).  But he didn't, and we make a massive chip gain to the 14,000 range.


We split the next pot as well, then waited for the right moment to come.  That happened in the second hour, when A-A came in the Small Blind.  A third Ace on the flop allowed us to go all-in, which brought folds and a 12,000-chip gain.  Another pot came our way later in the hour -- then we held on valiantly from there, to scrape our way to the final table.


But with rising blinds, 20,000 chips at the final table was the small stack.  Forced to go all-in with K-10 in the Big Blind, 8-9-8 on the flop and 10 on the turn gave us two pair.  But 6 on the river gave an opponent with 9-7 a winning straight.  We drove home in ninth place -- but the satisfaction of knowing we made the final table despite tiredness, at the most competitive poker venue in our area (five tables played).


MINISTRY MOMENT: What do you do when a tournament begins with seven players at a "table for eight"?  At our table, chips were set up for all seats -- with cards dealt even to the empty chair, and blinds removed as they came around.


That led us to an idea.  "That's Elijah's chair," we told the table.  "In the Passover tradition."


A couple of players seemed puzzled by that reference, which probably shouldn't be surprising.  In Jewish tradition, a chair intentionally is left empty at the annual spring Passover "seder" dinner.  Some rabbis explain families long for Elijah to come, to report the Messiah has arrived.  Let's see how Biblical that custom is....
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.  And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." - Luke 22:14-15
Many churches have "Christianized" this meal through the centuries, turning it into "communion" or "the Lord's Supper."  Those titles appear in the New Testament and have merit, but Jesus called it a Passover.  And since Jesus was born through the lineage of Judah (Luke 3:23-30), He had no discomfort about calling it Passover.  So what about Elijah?
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fie and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father!  My father!  The chariots and horsemen of Israel!"  And Elisha saw him no more.... - II Kings 2:11-12
Many Christians and Jews take these verses to mean Elijah went to heaven without really dying, and he's living with God in heaven today.  But is there a verse they're overlooking?
Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet.... - II Chronicles 21:12
This note refers to a king also mentioned in II Kings 8 -- seemingly well after Elijah's whirlwind moment.  Some believers cite this as evidence Elijah simply disappeared from Elisha, landed somewhere else and eventually sent Jehoram the letter.


What do you think of this?  It's admittedly a complex topic, so we'll develop it farther in an upcoming post.


UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 118 final tables in 333 nights (35.4%) - 19 cashes.  We broke a run of six consecutive final table misses.


NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 249 point wins in 1,050 games (23.7%), 78 final tables, 7 cashes plus 3 other wins.  No-River Hold -em - 7 point wins in 38 games (18.4%), 6 final tables, 1 cash win.


POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $82,127, down $860.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Poker Night 332: The Pushy Teacher

With two options for Monday night live poker in our area, tonight we went to the less expensive place.  The Red Barn has soda for $1.50, beating Uptown Wings by 52 cents.  But once the game begins, low prices are not the objective for some poker players....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-5 offsuit

The night is young, we've missed on a hand or two, and we're in the Small Blind.  An Ace gets us dreaming big dreams - but that other card leads us simply to call.  No one at the table of six raises.

ON THE FLOP: A-J-10

Now we're in lead position with top pair.  What was that line about big dreams again?  We bet 250.  Two men call; other players fold.

ON THE TURN: K

Uh-oh -- a potential dream-killer.  Four cards are showing for a "Broadway" straight.  We check in caution, and a man to our left leaps into action.  He bets 1,175.  Another man across from us seems to be a newcomer; he has difficulty figuring out the chips, but he calls.  Now it's up to us.

"I was going to call this," we say satirically, "but you bet that extra 75."  We fear the worst, and fold.

ON THE RIVER: Q

Arrrrrgh!  Now a Broadway straight is on the table!  And there's no threat of a flush.  But don't go away -- the drama isn't over yet.

"I'm all-in," the man to our left declares.  The apparent novice is thrown by this.

"You have more than I do," he says hesitantly.

"I'm all-in," his opponent says again.

"But you don't have to fold," a player to our right advises.  He already mentioned in passing the "best hand" was on the board -- but he can't say anything more now, because that would be considered coaching another player.

The novice looks at the board, thinks it over for several seconds -- then throws in his cards!  He didn't realize the only way he could lose part of the pot was surrendering.

But the man who ran us off at the turn has a heart -- and we don't mean in his hand.  "I'm going to split it," he tells the novice.  "Learn a lesson."  As the chips are divided, he explains how the straight could not be beaten.

(It turns out both men held Queens, so they hit straights on the turn while we did not.)

That wasn't the only unusual hand of the night.  The Tournament Director came to our table, laid a hand over our chips and declared we'd win a pot within two hands.  Sure enough -- K-9 of hearts in the Small Blind turned into a winning flush on the second hand!  Then after the one-hour break, we hit a big hand on the river (no further details, please) to win a big pot -- then made it two in a row, when 10-5 became two pair on the flop.


But then came a lapse which proved fatal.  With A-J offsuit, we called a woman's doubling of the blind to 2,000.  She bet 2,000 more on the flop, which we called with mere "overcards."  The turn was J, giving us top pair -- but she bet 5,000.


"With pocket 9's?!" a man to our left asked.  She said nothing.  We smelled a bluff with something like A-K, so we called.


The river card was weak, but she bet 5,000 more.  We called for our last 3,500 with top pair -- but she displayed Q-Q.  We should've known better.  We left in 17th place -- but with an idea from that woman for a future blog post; we'll post it when our schedule permits.


MINISTRY MOMENT: We defer tonight and give credit to the man at our left.  He simply could not claim that entire pot from the novice player.  Instead, he turned the hand into a "teachable moment."  Whether he realized it or not, he showed a Christian virtue -- even if he did run us out of the hand in the process:
Rather, as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way.... in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love. - II Corinthians 6:4, 6
Some poker players can be downright merciless and ruthless.  They make big bets and raises in tournaments so often that they get labeled "bullies" of the table.  But we offer this case to show not all players are that way during games.  Kind, understanding moments sometimes happen.

In fact, the other Monday night poker option reflected that tonight as well.  The Tournament Director at Uptown Wings offered bonus chips to anyone bringing donations of school supplies.  The writer of II Corinthians might applaud this, too:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.... for God loves a cheerful giver. - II Corinthians 9:6-7
Some would say this wasn't pure giving -- and that's a valid point.  There was a reward in exchange for the donation, in terms of bonus chips.  But encouraging poker players to give instead of take sets a good example in the community.


UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 117 final tables in 332 nights (35.2%) - 19 cashes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Water Works

Sometimes we get into interesting discussions at online poker tables.  And once in a while, we don't even have to provoke them.  Here's one recent example from National League of Poker....

CoolMedic:  come down to the river
CoolMedic:  my favorite hymn
Studmaster8:  Too cold
Me:  But there's a Man\
Studmaster8:  I like when his
Me:  Walking on the water
Studmaster8:  warm love surronds me
CoolMedic:  amen
Me:  Amen for that!

We may have our hymn idea mixed up with CoolMedic's here.  But a popular Southern gospel song has the chorus, "Let's all go down to the river - there's a man walking on the water."  Only one problem: it's not quite Biblically accurate.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. - Matthew 14:25
The King James Version calls this body of water a "sea."  No Bible passage indicates Jesus walked on a river -- although based on this account mentioned in three gospels, we suspect that would have been no problem for Him. Instead, Jesus used a river for another purpose:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.... As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.... - Matthew 3:13, 16
(Mark 1:5 confirms this refers to the Jordan River.)


"The river" can be the most dramatic card in a poker hand.  You can make a winning flush, or watch an opponent eliminate you by completing a full house.  Jesus's river illustrates an even bigger life-changing moment - becoming baptized.
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." - Acts 2:38
Jesus was sinless, so He had no need to repent.  But He set an example for all of us to follow, by going into the river.  The entrance of the Holy Spirit into your life can transform you, moving you away from a worldly path onto a godly one.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. - Galatians 5:16-18
To "live by the Spirit" requires asking God to renew His Spirit in you -- day by day, and if necessary even hour by hour.  Read farther in Galatians 5 and you'll get two lists of standards to check yourself.  One list shows sinful acts, the other "fruit of the Spirit."  Which list do you think is better?


(NOTE: This online chat had other Biblical points; we'll get to those in a future post.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Five-Figure Decisions

If you followed the Twitter link we posted earlier this week, you know one of our relatives entered the World Series of Poker Main Event.  Sad to say, Ryan Von Bevern was out in less than a day -- but he seems satisfied to know he's now done that once in his life.

We mentioned his entry at a live tournament we played Monday night, and brought up the "bucket list" idea: make a list of things you want to do before you die, then do them.  To play in the Main Event requires a large investment -- a $10,000 buy-in (unless you qualify another way), plus paying for the trip to Las Vegas and everything related to that.

The husband of one of our nieces apparently can afford that.  At this point, we cannot.  Ryan chose to try top-level WSOP action (well, except for that million-dollar buy-in game).  We choose to skip it.  And that makes even entering a poker tournament a lot like playing the game itself -- a matter of choices, right or wrong.

If you play long enough, you'll have moments when your choices in a hand look brilliant -- and other moments when opponents are right to brand you a "donkey."  And in poker, there's no one to coach you when a hand is in progress; even in free tournaments, that's considered cheating.  When it comes to the biggest decisions of our lives, some guidance can be very helpful -- and God offers some:
Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. - Proverbs 8:10-11
We can be instructed by reading God's guidebook, the Bible.  You might even find nuggets of knowledge there which help you play better poker; we offer some of them here from time to time.  But there's a bigger issue at stake....
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.... - Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Choosing to walk God's way and do His will (John 7:17) is a path leading to eternal life....
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. - Revelation 3:21
And here's the thing about eternal life -- you'll be able to do everything you ever dreamed of putting on a "bucket list," as long as it's not sinful.  That's why we don't have a personal list at the moment.  We choose to follow God now, in the hope of receiving an incredible payoff later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Poker Night 331: Tilt Talk or Trash Talk?

That's funny -- the calendar doesn't show it's Thanksgiving week.  But for some reason, Lil Kim's Cove moved its weekly poker night to Tuesday this week.  With no game on Thursday, we drove to Soho Bar and Grill for Wednesday night action.  Well, such as it was....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: J-4

The good cards have been few and far between for us.  Pocket 8's on the opening hand cost us 1,500 chips, when four cards for a straight appeared and a man to our right bet 2,000.  (We were wise to fold, as he later admitted having a winning two pair.)  Now we're in the Big Blind, starting this hand with 4,200 chips.  We're prepared to fold this to a raise, but no one raises.  "I'm very happy to check," we tell the dealer.

ON THE FLOP: 2-5-2

Three cards which don't seem able to help anybody.  We check.  The entire table checks.

ON THE TURN: J

This card, however, is another matter.  We now have two pair.  The play checks to us, and we offer 500.  One player calls, others fold -- and then the man behind the dealer throws out three gold chips.  It's a raise to 15,000.

"He only did 500," a man to our left objects.

"I don't care," says the raiser.  "I'm on tilt.  He bet 5,000 pre-flop...." referring to another man at the table who won the previous hand.

Hmmmm -- if he's really on tilt, this could be nothing more than a "go-away" bet.  We decide he does not have three of a kind; he would have thrown in chips at that right away.  We conclude he has nothing, and is playing scare tactics.

"All I have is 3,300," we say after a quick count.  "I'm all-in."  Other players in the hand fold.

ON THE RIVER: 3

It doesn't help us, and we really doubt it helped him.

"You got a Jack?" our opponent asks.  Yes, we do.

"With an Ace?"  Well, no -- and that's the problem.  Our kicker card is the 5 on the board.  He shows J-8 -- good enough to win the pot and send us packing.  We're seventh at a table of eight, which is our worst finish in a live tournament since late April.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Earlier in the game, that same man made a big bet on the flop with a King on the board.

"I've gotta do it," he explained.  "I've got a King."

Our cards were something on the order of Q-8.  "Well, I have a king," we said when our turn came.  "But His name is Jesus.  He's not here (pointing to our cards), so I'll fold."

Is Jesus your King -- even if you live in a country with no royal family, like the U.S.?  There's a song about that title in an unlikely part of the Bible:
"Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the ages." - Revelation 15:3b
Some translations have the word "nations" instead of "ages."  But in any case, the Bible indicates God sits on a throne in heaven -- but a King appointed by God soon will descend from there to Earth.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.... On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. - Revelation 19:11, 16
Verse 15 of this chapter warns Jesus will "strike down the nations" when He comes back to Earth.  We think it's far better to make the Lord your King now, than to face that strike later.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 117 final tables in 331 nights (35.3%) - 19 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 248 point wins in 1,040 games (23.8%), 78 final tables, 7 cashes plus 3 other wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 7 point wins in 37 games (18.9%), 6 final tables, 1 win.

The No-River version has been kinder to us lately; we finished eighth out of 94 players in a tournament last Friday.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $82,987, up $2,265.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Poker Night 330: Of Flush and Flesh

While one of our relatives played for millions of dollars in Las Vegas tonight (still in as we write this), we played in the poker tournament we could afford.  In fact, we saved a couple of dollars at Uptown Wings -- because another player generously paid for our soda.  So this really was free poker, and blessings seemed to keep coming....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: J-10 of spades

We won a pot early in the game.  Now we have suited connectors at a table that's playing relatively on the quiet side.  We limp in, with no one raising.

ON THE FLOP: 4h-5s-8s

A flush draw looks nice to us.  The fact that everyone around the table checks is even better.  "That got all the way around?!" a surprised woman right before us in the order says.

ON THE TURN: 9s

Don't worry -- the checking wave won't get all the way around this time.  We not only make a flush, but we have an open-ended straight flush draw.  So when the checks come to us, we bet 500.  Several players fold in response, but a man across from us raises to 1,000.

The woman who was surprised says -- well, several of us thought she said "fold."  We call the raise to 1,000 and see....

ON THE RIVER: 8

But hold it -- the woman now objects.  She declares we called out of turn, and this card should not count.

"I thought you said fold," we explain.

"I said, 'Flushy flushy,'" the woman clarifies -- and she said a couple of other things as well, which we apparently never noticed.  But she still held her cards (something which happens often in local tournaments, even after folds).  Eventually she decides to call, and the 8 is placed back in the deck for a reshuffle.  That's OK, though; we have a second chance at that huge straight flush.

ON THE RIVER II: 5

Oh well -- when our turn comes, we'll bet anyway.  We offer 1,200.  A man to our left calls, while the woman folds.

"Flushy flushy," we repeat as we show our spades.

"That's good enough," the opponent says.  We wind up gaining several thousand chips -- but are reminded of how importance it is to double-check what other players say during a hand, especially when they're next to us in the order.

It was a night of big hands for us, but also big chances missed.  A lowly 2-5 in the Big Blind led to a winning straight.  A-J brought top two pair on the flop, which we converted into a gain of more than 4,000.  Yet we folded 10-10 after raising 500, when players around us decided to go all-in.  A man who did that with 7-4 was busted by a man who simply paid a pair of 3's.  And we folded K-K at the one-hour break with an Ace on the board and two players all-in -- only to find they both had pocket Queens.

We reached the second hour with 12,500 chips -- but the stack dropped from there.  The big push for us came at the semifinal table with A-Q.  It brought two pair on the flop -- but a man across from us wound up with a winning straight.  He took another player out along with us, and we finished tied for 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Uptown Wings has a full bar, but it's technically considered a restaurant.  That means no smoking is allowed under state law -- and the woman we misunderstood longed at one point for a smoke.

"It's better that way," we said.  "The air is clean."

"Who needs clean air?" she answered.  "It's just a bar."

"Wouldn't you rather have a clean bar than a dirty bar?"

"Naw -- I expect a dirty bar.  You obviously have never been to...." The woman then named a nightclub with a history of nude dancing.

"I never have been there," we admitted.  "And I never plan to."

Why do we draw this sort of boundary line?  Because the New Testament reminds us:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. - I John 2:16 (NASB)
Why do clubs offer women (or for that matter "Chippendale" men) dancing in the nude?  In our day and age, it's not because of hot and humid summer weather.  It's designed to appeal to desires.and longings which need to be contained to a marriage relationship.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. - II Corinthians 7:1 (NASB)
God made humans originally out of dust (Genesis 2:7).  But He wants a people which is clean in every way -- not muddied and defiled by sin.  People who spend all day sweating in the summer sun should be able to appreciate cleanliness.  Or do you really think "mud runs" are better?


UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 117 final tables in 330 nights (35.45%) - 19 cashes.

Our New Favorite

We've known for a few years that we have other poker players in our family.  But we didn't know it until this morning that one of them has entered the World Series of Poker Main Event!

Ryan, the husband of one of our nieces (Heather is on the left), plunked down the $10,000 entry fee today in Las Vegas.  And he plans to post updates about his performance, just like the famous poker names do. In fact, he already is doing pre-game "tweeting" before his first session.

Join us in following him at: twitter.com/cobbob . (And no, he hasn't asked us for any advice.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The 18-Million Dollar Man

The Main Event is starting this weekend at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.  But for a change, it is not the biggest tournament in the game -- at least not in terms of prize money.

Antonio Esfandiari won $18.3 million dollars this past week, in a new WSOP tournament called "The Big One for One Drop."  The buy-in was a whopping one million dollars.  (Which is why we're playing local free tournaments instead -- we do what we can afford.)

We were struck as much by the champion's interview as the grand prize.  Esfandiari comes across on television as one of the more mild-mannered, ego-condensed poker players.  Some of his quotes reflect that personality:

"You know, my style is to talk and have a good time at the poker table, I might as well enjoy my life, instead of sitting there and being bored. Because poker, as we all know, is boring sometimes. So, I was just trying to have a good time...."


We get picked on during online tournaments for being talkative, too (as in chat comments).  It's as if some players consider a poker room like an ancient cathedral, where you simply must be silent.  But if you don't enjoy what you're doing, will there really be joy in your moments of success?
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.  Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. - Ecclesiastes 8:15
These words come from the wealthiest man of his time, King Solomon of Israel. He encouraged joyful living -- but where do find real joy?  Listen to Esfandiari again:


 I did some self-awareness work, and just kind of took things into perspective; you know, what was and what wasn’t important. And going out and partying at the end of the day, it really didn’t make me that happy. I loved it, don’t get me wrong. I kind of grew out of it. I’m 33 now and so I just decided to live a better life....


The older people get, the more their priorities can change.  Seek pleasure night after night from alcohol or drugs, and you're likely to discover eventually how those things ultimately are unfulfilling.
Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.  Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. - Proverbs 23:19-21
But we hope Esfandiari realizes even an 18-million dollar payday can't buy real happiness....
For riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. - Proverbs 27:24
True joy comes from having God's Holy Spirit inside you (Galatians 5:22).  And that leads us to one more eyebrow-raising quote:

If you fade this flush draw, you win the biggest tournament in history of the world. And that’s it. This is the moment. It’s here, right now. I was like please Jesus, this one time. And I’m pretty sure I used up all my one-times on this tournament, but I’m okay with that. 

Did you notice?  Esfandiari looked to Jesus at the biggest moment in his poker career.  So many people do that -- looking to God for help only at the most critical times.  It's better to develop a right relationship with God and Jesus, and have that at all times.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. - II Peter 3:18
So congratulations to "The Magician" -- and may you learn lessons from him, about life as well as poker.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Biggest Slick

"Any two cards can win," poker players like to say.  But only a few combinations of cards allow you to make the biggest hand possible.  Take what happened to us at Poker Stars.Net earlier this week....

We were dealt A-K of spades.  The flop brought out the Queen and Jack of spades.  And the turn -- the turn -- produced the 10 of spades, giving us the ultimate in royal flushes.

And to make things more fun, "1SlyPiggy" across the table did all the lead betting.  We called a bet on the turn.  Our dramatic screenshot comes from the river, where the Piggy tempted us (he thought) with a bet of 110.  We responded by going all-in for our remaining 639.  He called.  And we wound up going "wee-wee-wee" all the way home.

(Well, except we play on our home computer -- so we were at home already.)

We left that pretend cash game session with a $612 gain.  Too bad it was only pretend; at some poker rooms, we would have won a bonus in the hundreds of dollars.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Poker Night 329: Get Lost, Will Ya?

Our city apparently had no live poker on Independence Day this year.  We joked online that having no Kings and Queens on that day seemed somewhat fitting.  But on the Fifth of July, big face cards should have been a welcome sight at Lil Kim's Cove -- right?

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-J offsuit

We've won a couple of modest pots, but nothing big and spectacular.  We start this hand in the Small Blind with about 6,300 chips.  We don't recall anyone raising, so we simply call and hope for the best.

ON THE FLOP: K-Q-9

We have top pair, a straight draw -- and we're first to act.  This seems like a nice combination for betting, so we lead for 700.  If we can "buy the pot" right now, that's fine.  And several players fold -- but a man across from us calls.  It happens to be the same man who pulled out a big pot against us last Thursday night with a straight.

ON THE TURN: 4 (as best we recall)

Ahhhh, nice and low.  That's what we want, so we bet 700 again.  Our opponent calls again.  Unlike last week, this time he's quiet.

ON THE RIVER: J

That's two pair for us -- but that's also potential trouble.  Four cards for a straight now are showing, and our opponent has confessed a couple of times already to failed "chases."  Yet this time, we sense he has even less -- perhaps simply a Queen high.  So we reach for our chips and say....

"One-thousa...."

"Don't do it!" our opponent says.  But the words are out of our mouth, and the best is official.  We expect his next words to involve folding.


"I hit a straight, man," he says instead.  He shows the 10, which has us beat.


"I tried to run you off," we respond while shaking our head.


"You didn't bet enough," the winner explains.  "I've got a big enough stack to chase with 700."  Indeed, he's right.  He started the hand with at least three times more chips than we did.  To borrow from the Occupy Movement, sometimes it can hurt to be the lower-income "99 percent."


That hand was a big blow, and we limped to the one-hour break with only 2,500 chips.  But then a second-hour, "nothing to lose" rally developed.  We went all-in with a King and won a pot when it paired.  Then we pushed 9-9, caught a third 9 on the flop and jumped back to 10,000.  But at the semifinal table, we played it safe by folding K-8 -- and missed what would have been a dominating full house.


We hung on as long as we could, but the Big Blind came for our last 1,000 chips -- and 4-3 of spades didn't bring any matches on the board.  It was close, but no final table for us, as we finished tenth.


MINISTRY MOMENT: A woman at our first table was acting very giddy at times, and the humor became a bit sexual.  It prompted a man to our right to talk about being "a born-again virgin."


"That's really a good idea," we told him.  We didn't catch the entire conversation, but we were thinking along the lines of young people choosing to become chaste again after having sex.  The "secondary virginity" movement involves a commitment to self-discipline.  But we've heard some ministers say you can't achieve that on your own:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23
In other words, these ministers would claim, you can't really have self-control without the Holy Spirit inside you.  But we've known "born-again" believers who have slipped spiritually, and committed sins.  Even apostles of the Bible may have encountered moments like that....
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. - Romans 7:19
Paul went on to call himself "a prisoner of the law of sin" (verse 23).  What hope does he have?
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
Paul realized the blood of Christ could cover his sins, and remove them from God's sight.  Have you asked God to apply Jesus's blood to yours?  If you're not sure how, leave a comment and we'll be happy to help.


UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 117 final tables in 329 nights (35.6%) - 19 cashes.


NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 247 point wins in 1029 games (24.0%),   78 final tables, 7 cashes plus 3 other wins.

For the second time in a month, we won an NLOP qualifying tournament!  Here's the decisive hand from early Wednesday morning (the game started late Tuesday night).  We lured an opponent into going all-in on the flop, when we made two pair.

But the final table was quite a roller-coaster ride, with two big drops and comebacks.  We had a six-to-one chip lead with three players left, then fell to third as our opponents kept making big hands against the wall.  But in the end, we topped 60 other players -- yet alas, qualifiers still don't pay off in cash.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games -- $80,722 (corrected from prior weeks), up $2,088.  There was an amazing moment this week there as well, but we'll hold that for another post.

A Rake's Progress?

Poker Stars continues to pull surprises on us.  As of this week, the pots at play-money tables are a little smaller.

The reason: the unseen dealer is withdrawing a rake from every round of betting -- at least one chip, but sometimes more depending on the amount of the bet.

When we saw this, a clear question came to mind: Why?  If it's all just for fun, why hold back a "tip" or commission for a dealer?

"Practice for the live tables," another player explained when we brought it up in a chat.  And admittedly, rakes are customary at casinos or poker rooms.

So what do you think?  Is this make-believe rake a little over the top?  Discuss....

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Gift of Gold II

We've read speculation online that the world "gold bubble" is about to burst.  But at our local poker tournaments, a gold chip remains valuable; it's worth 5,000.  So let's go back to the Tournament Director's offer of a gold chip to everyone at the Director's table -- and only that table.

We mentioned in a previous post that deal didn't seem fair.  So the Director offered to give a gold chip to everyone in the tournament, to compensate for it.

"Since you're doing it as a gift...." we answered a bit reluctantly.

Call us selfish if you wish (or perhaps practicing "Roberts's Rules of Supreme Court Health Care Decisions"), but we accepted the 5,000-chip offer for our own table.  The key word in our answer was gift -- and it actually ties in with U.S. Independence Day, and the man who told us about bigotry earlier this week.


You see, the concept that "all men are created equal" is a nice concept -- but it's not reality.  Any mother who's given birth to a disabled child probably would confirm that.  So would anyone who worked as a slave for the writers of the Declaration of Independence.  The New Testament puts it in a spiritual perspective....
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.... - Romans 12:6
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. - I Corinthians 12:4-5
Paul goes on in those two chapters to list the various gifts God grants to believers -- everything from the interpretation of languages (or "tongues") to healing.  But he adds:
Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret? - I Corinthians 12:29-30
(To which we would dare to add: are all cut out for playing poker successfully?)


Paul leaves the answers to his questions open, but they seem obvious -- no.  Different people have different gifts.


That "gold chip gift" may have helped us reach the final table last week.  So be thankful for whatever gifts God has given you -- even a gift of playing poker well.  If you're not sure what your gifts are, ask God in prayer to reveal them to you.  Also consult some friends you trust, as they might have noticed them a long time ago.


And here's an important P.S.: Turn to God, and seek the greatest gift of all -- a gift He wants to give everyone:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23

Monday, July 2, 2012

Poker Night 328: Make Mine 89?

The Red Barn has less-expensive soda.  Uptown Wings is closer to our front door.  With that choice of Monday night poker action, one thing made the difference for us tonight.  We had a "title" to defend.  So we walked back to Uptown Wings, hoping for our third cash win in a row.  Hope is one thing, achievement another....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 8-9 of spades

We've heard players say mid-range cards are the best to play, because you have more flexibility in dealing with a flop.  We haven't been able to do much with any flop on this night, as weak cards have come our way over and over.  This shows promise, at least -- so it's one of the few hands we've actually played.  We call in the Small Blind; no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: 5-2-J (only the Jack is a spade)

We have dreams of a flush or straight -- but we need a lot of help.  A man across the table from us tests us with a bet of 600.

"I'm probably going to regret it, but I'll call," we say.  Two other players call as well.

ON THE TURN: 2s

There's one "runner," but we need one more.  The man across the table seems to sense that, because now his bet is 2,500.  A woman between us calls, and we're left to ponder.  That's really a card we wanted, but the price is awfully steep for seeing one more.

"I'll fold," we finally decide.

ON THE RIVER: 5s

Ouch!  Of course the flush comes after we fold -- but the hand is still going.  The bettor stares at the woman's stack, computes she has 1,800 chips and bets exactly that amount.

"Get out of my pot," he says as she ponders.  Then he does her a big favor -- and shows her a 5.  She folds. He wins.  And a big question mark is removed from our mind.  Yes, he ran us off a flush with that big bet on the turn -- but in this case, we're thankful he did.

But it was a night when nice cards simply didn't come for us.  Even A-10 in the Big Blind went nowhere, as we missed the flop and that opponent bet big again.  Our stack drained to the point where we were forced all-in with 10-4 in the Small Blind.  The turn brought a 4, but we had nothing more.  Two pair eliminated both blinds at the same time, and we wound up tied for 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: With Independence Day approaching, we took a small U.S. flag lapel pin for a card protector.  And we asked a couple of players a question our Pastor has mentioned in passing in recent weeks: what does it mean to be an American?

"My fathers were slaves," one man next to us said.  "What the f*** do you think it means to me?"

This African-American man proceeded to share his feelings about race relations and civil rights, past and present.  He believes there's still plenty of inequality and prejudice based on skin color, and he indicated he deals with it on a daily basis.  (We live in a city which officially has no "racial majority" at this time.)

"If you see a man down on his luck, sitting outside an IHOP," he said for an example, "that person's more likely to be offered a handout and get help if he's white."

We didn't tell the man this, but we personally don't offer anyone a handout unless they ask for it.  But when the request comes, we try to fill a beggar's need (the need itself, not simply a request for money) without concern for their skin color.  The Bible instructs us to do that....
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? - James 2:15-16
(If you're wondering who qualifies as a "brother or sister," check the results of a Bible study we did into that topic several years ago.)


"If we could get rid of the bigotry," the man went on to say, "we'd be the greatest country in the world."

"The only way you're going to get rid of bigotry," we told him, "is for Jesus Christ to come back."

The man agreed with that view.  And we pray Jesus returns soon -- not only to bring reality to the Declaration of Independence's phrase "all men are created equal," but to heal the hurt of racial prejudice that the man next to us clearly feels.
....For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:27-28
UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 117 final tables in 328 nights (35.7%) - 19 cashes.  We missed the final table in our "early-week" tournament for the first time since Memorial Day.