Thursday, January 31, 2013

Poker Night 385: Middle of the Road

An old phrase says familiarity can breed contempt.  In a poker circuit, familiarity can breed predictions -- as other players think they can figure out what you have.  So every now and then, changing your playing habits can pay dividends.  Watch what happened tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-8 offsuit

The game has been underway only a few minutes, so most of the players seem to be in a "warm-up" mode.  No one raises pre-flop, and we're comfortable calling with this.

ON THE FLOP: 8-3-Q

To borrow from some poker regulars, we "got a piece of that."  It's not the best piece -- or is it?  When the play checks to us, we try to find out.  We bet 200 with middle pair.  That's apparently enough of a message to most of the table, which folds.  But a man to our immediate right calls.  We're heads-up.

ON THE TURN: 10

Our opponent is first in line to play -- and he thinks long and hard about what he should do.  We're not sure what he's thinking.  He finally checks.  That was our plan all along, so we check as well.

ON THE RIVER: 2

Our opponent doesn't spend as much time on this card.  He checks, and we respond by betting 300.

"He must have the 10," someone to our left says.

"Naw -- he's got the Queen, man," guesses a man across the table.

How nice of them to put more doubt in our opponent's mind -- not to mention throwing him off the track.  He folds.

"I was chasing a flush," the man to our right admits.  He also had a 3, but presumed we had that beat.  After a moment of hemming and hawing, we finally admit we did have something better.  But we don't say exactly what it was -- well, until now.

We won a few more pots in the first hour, but then tried for a big gain with J-J and lost to a straight.  Yet we reached the one-hour break with 16,000 chips (after starting with 12,000).  Another win in the second hour helped us reach our third live final table in a row.

But the cards didn't turn in our favor after that.  Facing decisive blinds at the end of Hour 2, we went all-in with A-J under the gun.  An Ace came for us on the river -- but a man to our right made a full house well before then.  He eliminated us in eighth place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We joined a semifinal table as a couple of men talked about borrowing cigarettes.  We think someone was turned down, because he mentioned how the other man wouldn't "be his brother's keeper."

"Maybe by not giving him a cigarette," we said, "he is being his brother's keeper by not giving him cancer."

The other man understood our point of view.  He actually brought up a concept that's rooted in the first book of the Bible:
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"  "I don't know," he replied.  "Am I my brother's keeper?" - Genesis 4:9
The first part of Cain's answer almost certainly was a lie.  Instead of "keeping" Abel, Cain killed him in a field -- and did it despite a personal warning from God about controlling his anger (verses 5-7).

If you're hot-tempered at a poker table, you risk going "on tilt" and making disastrous decisions.  You also might say things which needlessly offend and upset other players.  It's best to follow the apostle Paul's advice....
"In your anger do not sin."  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. - Ephesians 4:26-27
Paul goes on to recommend getting all "rage and anger" out of your life -- replacing those emotions with Christ-like virtues of kindness and compassion (verses 31-32).

But let's ask you about our original point.  Would you give a cigarette to someone who asked for one?  And what does it mean to be "your brother's keeper", anyway?  Leave a comment with your thoughts, and we'll explore this further in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 134 final tables in 385 nights (34.8%), 20 cashes.  We've made three final tables in a row for the first time since December 2011, when we only played one night a week.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 282 point wins in 1,346 games (21.0%), 92 final tables, 12 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 24 point wins in 92 games (26.1%), 19 final tables, 1 cash win.

We didn't take notes on the action, but we had a long successful night in the "Wild Wednesday" tournament.  After nearly five hours online, we finished fourth out of 778 players to win some nice prize money!  We also finished fourth out of 39 players in a Monday qualifying game.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $85,970, down $1,048.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are You Cleaning Up?

The Wednesday night poker tournament is still on in our city, even though some local colleges canceled evening classes.  It was the result of a day of rough weather, which had a couple of tornado warnings.  A strong cold front brought us high winds and hard rain.

The storm could bring flooding and erode land.  But there's one thing rain cannot wash away -- the stains caused by sins in our lives.

In a post earlier this week, we noted some of the definitions of "sin" in the Bible.  If you lie to other players at the table about your hand, that's a sin under the Ten Commandments.  If you even become fixated on your opponent's big chip stack, that can be sin as well....
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.  You shall not set your desire on your neighbors house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. - Deuteronomy 5:21


There actually was a time in human history when God used rain against sin -- not really washing it away, but drowning it:
I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it.  Everything on earth will perish. - Genesis 6:17


God did this because our planet had become violent and corrupt (verses 12-13).  Yet Earth still has life and breath, because God made a big exception.  He spared Noah, his family and animals taken aboard an ark (verses 18-21).

Trouble is, our planet probably has more violence and corruption today -- if only because Earth has more than seven billion people.  So sin remains in our lives.  How can we get rid of it these days?  By something better than rainwater....
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. - I John 1:7 (KJV)


The atheist we met at the final table last week probably doesn't think she needs that blood, and might not even think she needs to be cleansed of anything.  But if the Bible is right, we'll all come before Jesus Christ for judgment someday.  Will you accept His blood sacrifice in your behalf now, by repenting of your sins and seeking forgiveness from God?  Will you "come clean" with God -- and by God?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Poker Night 384: Twos-Third

Monday was the end of a three-day weekend -- not in the U.S., but Australia.  It was their version of Independence Day.  And the current champions of Australian Rules Football came to mind, in one particular hand at The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 2-2

We've been waiting most of the first hour for a "breakthrough hand" to come.  We started with 7,000 chips, but haven't won a pot so far.  We begin this hand with 5,325 chips, and the smallest of pocket pairs.  No one raises to scare us off, so we call.  Most of the table of seven is in.

ON THE FLOP: 2-7-5

The sight of the 2 coming out first makes us want to give thanks out loud.  But this is poker, of course.  So we wait on a player across from us to bet 200.  When our turn comes, we raise to 1,000 with our three of a kind.

"Look out," a woman to our left warns the table.  She's a Red Barn regular, and knows our tendencies well.  But we say nothing, and watch three players call.  Perhaps that's because the 7 and 5 are hearts.

ON THE TURN: Q (not a heart)

This time the play checks to us, and we show our seriousness by increasing the bet to 1,500.  One man calls.  But then the second man in line raises 1,500 more.  If he has two pair, he's still trailing us -- so with no flush threat showing, we happily call.  So does that first man.

ON THE RIVER: 5

Now we have a full house -- yet something tells us to remain cautious.  Perhaps someone with two pair built a better boat?!

"Here's your chance," the warning woman tells the man who raised on the turn.  "An all-in moment."  But instead, that man checks.

"It's going to be my all-in moment, really," we tell the woman.  We nearly knock over our can of soda as we set out the last 1,125 we have.

The first man in line thinks it over for several seconds, then somewhat reluctantly tosses out chips to call.  The raiser doesn't hesitate, and calls in suit.

"On Australia Day, I have the Sydney Swans," we say as we show.  "A full house."

The best anyone can offer in response is a Queen, for two pair!  Swans a-swimming bring us a massive pot, in the 18,000 range.

We won a couple more pots in the next few minutes -- enough to advance us to 29,500 at the one-hour break.  A couple more came our way in Hour 2, including one with pocket Queens.  We reached a semifinal table high of about 53,000 -- but then lost about 16,000 when our pocket Aces were cracked by a woman with three of a kind.

We hit the brakes after that, primarily due to poor cards.  But we hung around long enough to reach the final table with 19,000 chips.  To our left sat a woman who went on an amazing streak, taking out three opponents in a row with unlikely straights and flushes.  We wound up stopping that streak, going all-in with A-J and getting a Jack on the board to win.

Other players bet big in vain from there, while we remained patient and hung around.  But with five players remaining and a decisive Big Blind approaching, we went all-in again with A-9.  It fell short to a man who made an unlikely pair of 3's, while admittedly trying to quit the game and go home!  He took out another player along with us, leaving us tied for fourth (fifth in Red Barn points).

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our bottle of shampoo to a man sitting to our left, and asked if he believed in Jesus.  He said he did.

"What's He done for you lately?" we asked.

The man gave an all-purpose answer about how his life is going -- saying, "I can't complain."

We agreed he shouldn't.  But we noted how difficult that can be.  Yet the Bible reminds us:
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.... - Philippians 2:14-15


It's easy to find reasons to complain during a poker game.  The cards you're dealt might be unplayable.  The player on your right may be in the middle of a cell phone call, and distracted from the game.  At one of our tables Monday night, a dealer actually walked away from the table after the flop to get a beer -- leaving it up to others to handle the turn card!

So if you're not supposed to complain about things, what do you do?  Do you simply bite your tongue?  Do you try to find "common ground" with the annoying player, looking for areas where you can agree?  We heard a preacher on Christian radio Monday suggest a potentially better approach....
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. - Ephesians 4:15


We think the apostle Paul actually was discussing the job of ministers, based on the preceding verses.  But you can apply the key phrase in other ways -- "speaking the truth in love."  It's one thing to speak words of truth to someone.  But doing it in love is more challenging.  It goes above insults and shameful correction, to showing concern for the other person.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. - James 2:8


So give thanks to God, even when the day goes terribly and the "bad beat" comes.  And if someone annoys or offends you at the poker table, let that person know in a loving way.  It should make games go much more peacefully.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 133 final tables in 384 nights (34.6%) - 20 cashes.  This marks our first "back-to-back" top-five showing in live tournaments since mid-November.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Three-Letter Word

When we moved to the final table at Thursday night's poker tournament, it was an amazing contrast.  Our seat had women on either side of us.  To our right sat the woman holding a John 3:36 medallion, who recently lost a close relative.  To our left sat a woman with a very different perspective.

We showed the woman at our left a small bottle of shampoo, serving as our card protector.  "I brought this to remind me that Jesus can wash away my sins."

"Is gambling your sin?" she asked.

(Some ministers probably would jump to her side right there.  But we'd note we play in free or entry-fee poker tournaments almost all of the time, instead of cash games where "gambling" occurs with real money changing hands.)

"We all have sins," is how we responded to the woman.  We know this from the Bible:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.... - Romans 3:23
 "How would you define sin?  What does sin mean to you?" we asked the woman at our left.

Her answer was a bit philosophical - involving actions that are not virtuous or proper.  But then came the punch line: "But since I'm an atheist, it doesn't make any difference."

Wow - without realizing it, we'd already mentioned Jesus to an atheist.  And we learned what an atheist thinks about a word which religious people are likely to use, but the world at large tends to avoid.

But back to our question - how would you define sin?  In the church groups we attend, ministers tend to have a cut-and-dried answer:
Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. - I John 3:4 (KJV)


Those ministers go on to define "law" as the breaking of God's Ten Commandments.  And yes, that's a definition of sin.  But if you search around the Scriptures, you'll discover it's not the definition of sin -- as there are many others.  Consider a couple of examples.
Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: 'The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing.  He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. - Deuteronomy 15:9


Review the Ten Commandments list in Deuteronomy 5, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anything about giving to needy people.  Yet God says failing to give is a sin.  Here's one more....
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.  And I will teach you the way that is good and right. - I Samuel 12:23


Our understanding of "sin" goes beyond not killing other people or coveting their property.  As the earlier verse hinted, we're supposed to think in an outgoing way toward other people.  If we don't show concern for them (such as in prayer), that's sin as well.

We encourage you to find a Bible with a concordance (a list of words in the back, with verses showing were those words appear).  Look up the verses about "sin," and consider whether you've been lax in any of the ways it's described.

You may wind up feeling guilty and convicted - but in the process, you'll hopefully also discover the antidote for sin.  We'll get into that in a future post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Poker Night 383: Alphabet Soup

You can learn the most amazing things online.  For instance, this day is "National Beer Can Appreciation Day."  But that was hard to celebrate at Lil Kim's Cove tonight, since all the beer we saw at the poker tables was inside glass bottles.  We didn't even buy a soda can for extra chips....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-7 offsuit

We began the evening with a healthy 15,000 chips thanks to an "on-time bonus" and the purchase of a grilled cheese sandwich for $2.14, including tax.  (Since food is rewarded more than drink in bonus poker chips, we may keep doing that.)  After winning a modest early pot, we're now in the Big Blind.  No one has raised and most of the table is in, so we're comfortable checking.

ON THE FLOP: K-A-Q

A potentially not-too-comfortable flop for many players.  People with all sorts of combinations could smell victory from this.  But we do have top pair - so when the Small Blind checks, we offer 500 to see who's serious.  As we recall, two players call; the rest fold.

ON THE TURN: 4

We doubt that card matters at this point.  But could our opponents be sitting on something large, such as two pair?  We try to find out by checking.  Our opponents also check.

ON THE RIVER: K

Uh-oh.  Now someone holding a King has us topped.  But we don't want to look fearful in lead position.  So we make a "middle of the road" bet of 700.  When both opponents call, we're concerned.

"I have an Ace," we say as we show.  And we're thankful to find that's good enough!  A man across from us shows a Queen, explaining he was actually on a flush draw.  But it missed, and our stack jumped to nearly 19,000.

Some small setbacks followed, leaving us with 14,200 at the one-hour break.  But we won the first two pots of the second hour, including a "Big Blind Special" when 5-6 turned into a straight.  We even scored a surprising pot win with A-2, when a 2 came on the flop.

We built a large enough stack to make the semifinal table, then the final one.  Once there, 7-10 in the blinds turned into another straight, and a split pot with another man.

But higher blinds put weak stacks out, and eventually we were forced to go all-in with 7-8.  An opponent had K-Q, and found a King on the flop along with an 8 for us.  He won the race, but we won back a bit of confidence about our poker skills -- finishing fifth, for our best live poker outcome since early December.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We're not the only ones who bring religious messages to the poker table.  At the semifinal table, we sat next to a woman with a silver medallion for a card protector.

"It says, 'Where will you spend eternity?'" the woman told us.  It also referred to this Bible verse:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. - John 3:36
The woman told us an uncle who lived practically next door to her died this week.  She admitted she's not taking the loss easily, and is using poker trips to get her mind off the grief.  But she expressed faith her uncle will be resurrected someday -- and even indicated he's not merely resting in his grave right now.

We realized this was no time to get into a religious dispute.  So we let her express her thoughts, and offered our hope for a future resurrection.  In fact, Jesus also mentioned that in the book of John....
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out -- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. - John 5:28-29
But with all due respect to this woman in mourning, we'd note the phrase "a time is coming."  It hasn't happened yet.  Even though some people arose from their graves and walked around the "holy land" when Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:52-53), the gospels tell us:
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. - Luke 24:50-51
Jesus went to heaven on what some church groups call "Ascension Day."  But we know of no Bible verse indicating anyone went with Him.  Instead we're told....
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. - I Thessalonians 4:16
Despite her grief, that woman named Celina joined us at the final table tonight.  She was eliminated in ninth place - and as she left, we promised to pray for her.  Will you join us in doing that?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 132 final tables in 383 nights (34.5%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 281 point wins in 1,333 games (21.1%), 90 final tables, 11 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 22 point wins in 89 games (24.7%), 17 final tables, 1 cash win.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $87,018, up $614.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Strait Draw

In a post last week, we asked for your thoughts about two familiar Bible verses, quoting Jesus:
Enter you in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it. - Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)


A "straight" in poker is spelled differently from these verses -- five cards numerically in a row, such as 5-6-7-8-9.  But achieving that straight sometimes requires a "strait" card to fall.

For instance, you may have 8-9 and see 5-6 on the flop.  The missing 7 you're seeking can have many slang names in poker, such as a "gutshot" or a "belly-buster."  But a "strait" shot is fitting, because that spelling of the word can mean "narrow or constricted."  A 6 or an 8 will not do to complete the straight; you must have a 7.

Plenty of players pursue that kind of straight, even though the chances of hitting it even on the river are only 8.7%.  Yet how many take a "strait gate" approach to their living?  Jesus is indicating that pursuit will pay off in eternal life -- and He's indicating the payoff is guaranteed.

So how do you "go strait?"  Our American Heritage Dictionary notes another definition of that word: "Strict, rigid or righteous."  The first two words in quotes go against the thinking and desires of many people.  But thankfully, God provided help with the last one....
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. - I Corinthians 1:30


See what He did there?  Jesus becomes the righteousness for people who believe in Him.  While some ministers define "righteousness" simply as commandment-keeping (Psalm 119:172), the apostle Paul dares to say Jesus can fill that role as well.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. - Ephesians 5:1-2


Read and study the Bible each day to see how God functions and Jesus lived (still living in heaven, in fact).  Following what you read will help you squeeze out the greatest of narrow victories.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Poker Night 382: Target Dog

At least one African-American man at The Red Barn didn't realize what holiday it was tonight -- the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.  But plenty of poker players showed up, perhaps because of the holiday.  After all, you're not likely to find poker tables around the dance floor at an inaugural ball.

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: J-J

We won an early pot with three 4's, then split another with Q-9.  So we come to this hand in fairly good shape, with 6,400 chips.  We're first to act and limp in -- but at this table of six, the man to our immediate right has been joking a bit about making us a target.  When the play calls to him, he raises 1,500 from the Big Blind.  At other times we've folded, but not now.

"I'll take you on this time," we say as we plunk down our chips.

"Oh oh," our opponent responds as one other player calls.

"Sometimes you've got to take a stand," we tell him.  He seems to accept that.

ON THE FLOP: Q-7-5 (last two cards might not be exact)

A card above our pair concerns us.  But the Big Blind checks.  So do we, along with the third player.

ON THE TURN: K

Now we could turn the "oh oh" around.  Things look even worse for our hand -- and the Big Blind decides it's time to bet, offering 1,000.  Yet something tells us this is a bluff to run us off, so we call.  The third man folds.

ON THE RIVER: 9

The Big Blind responds to this with a bigger bet, tossing out 2,000.  Calling this would leave us with a measly 1,500 chips.  The more we ponder it, the more we become convinced he means what he says.

"I'll fold," we say.  Sure enough -- the pot winner turns over K-9.  He made running cards for two pair, and claims a Red Barn "Rodney" bonus of 5,000.

We never recovered from that loss, although we made it to the second hour of play.  An all-in bet with 9-9 led to a King on the flop and an Ace on the turn.  A man with a King took the pot, and sent us home in a lowly 22nd place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: That man in the Big Blind asked a curious question before we were eliminated.  "Are you a Tasmanian devil?"

He didn't seem to be drunk.  But his screwball question opened a door of witness for us.  "No, I'm not a Tasmanian devil.  I try to live like an angel.  Live like an angel, and you'll keep the devil away."

The man seemed to agree with our answer.  But perhaps you're asking: how can we live like angels?  We certainly can't make ourselves invisible, and fly between the heaven of God's throne and Earth.  But consider what a New Testament writer asked....
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? - Hebrews 1:14


Angels are servants -- and they're not simply serving God.  They're serving people who will inherit salvation.  That can mean angels are serving you!  And by extension, we should be serving other people.
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. - I Corinthians 12:5-6


Martin Luther King Day has become a "day of service" for many people and organizations in the U.S.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But we'd ask what sort of service you've been doing for God lately.
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. - Joshua 24:15


We think the best way to serve God is to follow His commands.  Start with the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20, then review how Jesus explained them early in the book of Matthew.  Consider yourself and your ways carefully.  Are you serving God like an angel -- or perhaps inadvertently serving someone else?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 131 final tables in 382 nights (34.3%) - 20 cashes.  That makes five missed final tables in a row.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In the Long Run

It's a historic weekend for us - not at the poker table (well, not yet at least), but in another part of life.  We stepped outside for a Saturday night run.  And we ran.  And we ran.  And without planning to do it, we finally stopped about 58 minutes later.  By our figuring, we'd made it 6.2 miles non-stop.  It was a 10-kilometer run - our first in 16 years!

Admittedly our pace was slow.  As we told a man at church earlier in the day, he could beat us in a race by a mile.  But our running is based on a trait we also try to practice at the poker table -- a trait we've mentioned here several times, and Jesus Christ encouraged.  It's called endurance.
And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. - Mark 13:13 (KJV)
Have you ever played poker with someone who acts (to borrow a phrase from our Dad) like they have a train to catch?  We frequently face online players who go all-in on every hand.  They can be bullies, and perhaps get on a hot streak to build a big stack.  But in our experience, we don't remember anyone winning a tournament by taking that approach from start to finish.

A classic children's story should have taught us all "slow and steady wins the race."  It's a proven strategy in investing for retirement.  And it's Biblical -- only expressed in a different way:
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.... but time and chance happen to them all. - Ecclesiastes 9:11


The longer you hang around in a poker game, the better the odds that a good "time and chance" will happen for you.

We're convinced that's why we make the points on a regular basis at an online "Midnight Special" poker game we play.  Some players are ready to go to bed, because they have to work the next morning.  Because we're currently out of work (an endurance contest in itself), we have the flexibility to play all night -- and waiting for good hands pays off.

The first couple of times we won money in live local tournaments, it worked the same way.  We played a "grinding" style, which took more than four hours to finish the game.  But the outcome was a payoff.  No wonder a New Testament writer concluded....
Behold, we count them happy which endure.  You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. - James 5:11 (KJV)


Review the book of Job and all he experienced in the beginning.  Then review the last chapter and see his holdings at the end.  We won't give away the outcome here - but enduring with faith in God worked for him.  It's working for us, in everything from poker to jogging.  It might work for you, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Poker Night 381: Te'o-ing?

"So the question of the night is this," we said as we shuffled the cards for dealing at Lil Kim's Cove tonight.  "Who would make a better bluffer at a poker table - Lance Armstrong or Manti Te'o?"

The Tournament Director standing over our table was the only one who offered a comment.  He chose Armstrong, because the cyclist lied about using performance-enhancing drugs for years.

In local poker games, we've never seen any drugs passed or received offers of any.  In fact, the only "illicit substances" we face are tobacco and alcohol -- and we don't think the latter really enhances your play at all.  But bluffing?  That can happen anytime, from anybody....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

We won one early pot and split another, bringing us to this hand at about 12,000 chips.  These are nice cards, but at this table of seven with occasional raising we don't see a need to hurry here.  We call, and no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: 8c-5c-5s

This "toll-free flop" doesn't seem to thrill anyone.  The play checks to us, so we try a "please get lost" bluff bet of 400.  It runs most of the table off, but two men call.

ON THE TURN: 8s

Two pair on the table makes things intriguing.  A man wearing lots of orange stares at us for a couple of seconds.  We stare back.  He checks.  We're not sure what's up here, but we realize he might have a full house.  We also realize if he doesn't, we have the top kicker.  We also check; so does the third man.

ON THE RIVER: 7c

A third club on the board complicates matters, especially a mid-range card.  The Orangeman (who says his trim is black, as opposed to Syracuse University's blue) pulls out 3,000.

"No one's going to call that, man," a player out of the hand says.  "You bet too much."

"Someone's going to call it," the bettor insists.

"Well, it's not going to be me," we say.  There are too many potential hands which top our Ace kicker, so we fold.

"It's not going to be me, either," the third man says.  He also folds.

The pot winner then shows his cards -- Q-6 offsuit!  His bigger bluff worked, where our modest bet on the flop did not.

We scored a big pot at the one-hour break with two pair to jump to 10,500.  But the Orangeman outplayed us again after the break, not once but twice.  First we limped in "under the gun" with pocket Aces, hoping for a big score -- but two Queens came on the flop, and he held a third.  His betting and our calling dropped us to the minimum 500.

Then forced to go all-in at the Big Blind with 4-6, a 4 landed on the river.  But this time, the Orangeman held the pocket Aces.  Our best-laid plans might as well have been tossed in a juicer; we finished 20th, and became the first elimination at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We don't remember what cards came out, but one early flop made a young man to our right say, "Oh!  Lord!  Jesus!  Have mercy!"

"Jesus is a merciful Being, isn't He?" we said to the man -- and he sounded like he agreed with that.

Have you ever had the notion that God the Father is a mean "law enforcement officer", while Jesus the Son is loving and merciful?  That idea isn't really accurate.  Find a Bible, and check a few verses which show why....
For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. - Deuteronomy 4:31
 These are words from the "farewell address" of Moses to the nation of Israel.  Even though he saw God punish many people with death (read Exodus 32 for one example), he still called God merciful.  But Who was this God that communicated with Moses, anyway?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. - John 1:1-2
Verse 14 explains this "Word" walked the Earth as Jesus Christ, but was eternal in origin.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea... they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. - I Corinthians 10:1-4
Do you grasp what the apostle Paul is saying?  Jesus was with Moses and the nation of Israel during their wandering in the wilderness!  We can conclude from this that the "God" who interacted with Moses was God the Son, who became Jesus.

So if Jesus was merciful thousands of years before appearing in the flesh, why would He be any different in the New Testament?
On hearing this, Jesus said.... "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'...." - Matthew 9:12-13
If you have questions about this, read our complete Bible study about the subject of mercy.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 131 final tables in 381 nights (34.4%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 280 point wins in 1,321 games (21.2%), 90 final tables, 11 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 22 point wins in 87 games (25.3%), 17 final tables, 1 cash win.

A change of computers reduced our online action in the last week.  But we finished eighth in a 324-player late-night tournament early Wednesday, after placing ninth out of 111 in a No-River Hold 'em game last Friday.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $86,394, down $3,200.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

If It Was Real: 380-Game Report

Bo Derek may have been a "perfect ten" in the movies long ago, but 10 has been an imperfect number for us lately.  Looking back over our last 20 live poker tournaments for this review, we came in tenth place five times -- missing final tables by one hand.

We actually made seven final tables in that 20-night span.  They resulted in three fourth-place finishes, along with a tie for fifth.  We add those outcomes to our running hypothetical payout from a Kansas City -area casino, and our scoreboard would look like this....

BUY-INS: 380 nights x $50 = $19,000

First -- 6 x 500 ($3,000)
TIE for first: 1 ($450)

Second - 9 x 400 ($3,600)
TIE for second: 1 ($350)

Third -- 9 x 300 ($2,700)
TIE for third: 1 ($250)

Fourth - 16 x 200 ($3,200)
TIES for fourth:
6 two-way ($900)
1 three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 16 x 100 ($1,600)
TIES for fifth:
7 two-way ($350)
1 three-way ($33)

TOTAL -- 74 for $16,500

We were "in the black" in payoffs not that long ago.  Now we show an overall loss of 13.2%.  But at least in the last 20 games, we actually won money one night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Poker Night 380: Big or Little?

We took an unscheduled break from blogging over the last few days, because our computer required it.  Our late (as in dead) computer.  We plunked down a sizable amount for a new amount Monday night, then went to The Red Barn and hoped to win our money back.  Well, except computers cost a lot more than a free poker jackpot....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

We won a couple of pots in the first hour, but bet a bit too much on the turn and river to make a big profit from it.  Now we're at the semifinal table, watching our one-hour break stack of 9,000 chips drain away.  We start this hand with 4,000, and two big cards.  But regular readers know we've had trouble with A-K lately, so we play carefully and call.  No one raises.

ON THE FLOP: 2-3-4

One player talks about hitting a straight, but we don't really believe him.  We also don't believe anyone made a big hand with that.  We check in hope.  No one bets.

ON THE TURN: K

That's more like it!  And when the play checks to us, we strike -- going all-in for our last 3,000, since we have top pair and top kicker.  A couple of players call.  A wide range of cards could help us here.  An Ace, another King, even a 5 for a straight....

ON THE RIVER: Q

Since the King is still top pair, that card doesn't concern us.  The players who can still bet check, and we feel good.

"I have two pair," a woman to our left declares.  Huh?!  Does she have K-Q or something?

She shows the "something."  She went into the hand with 3-2!

So much for that wireless phone commercial about bigger being better.  In poker, one of the smallest starting hands sometimes can take down one of the biggest.  It happened to us.  All we could do is shake her hand, shake our head -- and after finishing in 15th place, we can stick around and watch our alma mater be a big winner on the basketball court.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Bars are not known for playing the most wholesome music.  We went to the counter for soda, and watched two women ham it up to the rock classic Highway to Hell.

"They shouldn't want to go there," we told the young woman behind the bar. "They should want to go in the other direction."  Then without mentioning its source, we recommended a better road -- the one Jesus mentioned:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. - Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB)
Open question: what does a "small gate" and a "narrow way" mean to you?  Leave a comment with your thoughts; we'll share ours in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 131 final tables in 380 nights (34.5%) - 20 cashes.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Poker Night 379: Two Your Request

It's a rare day when a player recommends we blog about a particular hand.  But it happened tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  Check what happened, and you might understand why....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 2-2

After winning a couple of nice early pots, we've been moved to a "back table" across the bar from the others.  Five players are here, jokingly moaning about being far from society.  But at least we have the blessing of about 17,000 chips.  So in the dealer's position, we're willing to call with the smallest of pocket pairs.  No one raises.

ON THE FLOP: Kc-7s-9s

We didn't gain much from this.  Or did we?  The table checks; so do we.

ON THE TURN: 10s

Three spades now are showing, but the table keeps checking.  Since we're dealing, we take advantage of playing last and bet a modest 500.  A man to our left calls; the other players fold.

ON THE RIVER: 2

We forget exactly what this suit was - but it was NOT a spade.  That's good news for us, especially after our opponent checks.  We bet 2,000.  The other man seems puzzled by this for a moment, but he calls.

"Three deuces," we say as we show.

We might as well have announced Florida had fallen into the ocean.  Our opponent is stunned.

"You stayed in all the way to the f***ing river!" he says in frustration.  He finally turns over K-7, showing he had two pair on the flop.  But he admits he was hesitant to bet, because so many spades were showing.

"Write that one down, and put it in your blog," the runner-up recommends.  And so we have.

A couple more nice pots brought us to the 34,000 range at the one-hour break.  Then back at the main tables, we went all-in with pocket Queens and scored a big win over two players who missed draws.  That returned us to around 39,000.

But a stunning turn occurred at the semifinal table.  We called an all-in bet of 13,000 with pocket Kings, then another all-in bet of 17,000 more on a flop of 8-9-8.  But a man with J-10 made a straight, and the first player to push scored a full house.  They combined to knock us down to 5,000.  Then came A-10 in the Big Blind, and we went all-in again -- but an Ace on the turn couldn't top a man with another straight.

All in all, we had a good night at the table.  But the chips that came with relative ease left in a hurry, and we walked home shaking our head in 16th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We had pocket Jacks in the first hour, and was betting them despite a King appearing on the flop.  The river card was another King, so we checked.  Then a man across the table faced a big decision.

"Should I try to steal this?" he asked aloud as he held out a yellow chip worth 5,000.

"Don't do it," a player to our left recommended.  We said nothing, but quietly hoped that suggestion would be accepted.

After some long thought, the man across the table checked.  The entire table checked, and our Jacks were good enough to win.

"Thank you for following the rule, 'Thou shalt not steal,'" we told that man as we dragged away the chips.  "You went by the original rule book."

A couple of players laughed a little at our words.  We'd like to think they knew what "rule book" we meant:
Thou shalt not steal. - Exodus 20:15 (KJV)
A four-word command from God which seems simple and to-the-point.  But He expanded on it as the Bible unfolded....
Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him.... - Leviticus 19:13
Can robbery through fraud occur at a poker table?  Many players watch the action closely, to make sure no one tries to put in less than the required number of chips.  But it can happen in other ways - for instance, when a player claims to have a straight to run people away from a pot, then shows cards to the contrary.  No wonder the New Testament warns:
....And that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.  The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. - I Thessalonians 4:6
Have fun on your poker nights - but play fair.  "Stealing a pot" with a big bet (even if it's misleading) is part of the game, and we understand that.  But saying things which bear false witness (as another commandment puts it) is something else.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 131 final tables in 379 nights (34.6%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 279 point wins in 1,316 games (21.2%), 89 final tables, 11 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 21 point wins in 86 games (24.4%), 16 final tables, 1 cash win.

We had two strong showings in large evening tournaments again this week - finishing 20th out of 1,218 players Sunday night, then 27th out of 664 in a "Turbo Tuesday" tournament.  Casinos would have paid off; NLOP only rewarded players making the final table.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $89,594, down $1,577.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Poker Night 378: Gimme a Break

Who said gift-giving season was over?  We received several during the Wednesday night poker tournament at Soho Bar and Grill -- and we never asked for any of them.  First a bartender sprayed us a Diet Coke "on the house," and threw in a 1,000-chip piece to boot.  Then the Tournament Director handed us 5,000 chips, seemingly for no other reason than he likes us.  And then....

BLINDS: 2,000/4,000

IN THE POCKET: Q-9 of spades

We've survived to the semifinal table largely through folding.  We haven't won a pot outright all night, and split one with a woman in the first hour due to matching straights.  But after being moved here, a debate developed over who took out whom to gain "bounty" bonus chips.  The Tournament Director wasn't sure whom to believe, so he gave 5,000 chips to everyone - including us!

But after folding 2-2 pre-flop and missing a big win when a third 2 came on the turn, we're down to 6,000 chips.  And now we're in the Big Blind, committed to two-thirds of our stack before things even start.  We're thankful simply to see the table call ahead of us, with no one raising.  We're tempted to push right now, but check instead.

ON THE FLOP: A-2-9, all clubs

Wrong suit.  But it's middle pair, and we see little choice but to act on it.  The Small Blind to our right checks.

"I've got to do it.  I'm all-in," we say as we commit our last 2,000 chips.  "Now or never."

In an online tournament, a few players at this point would have written "now" and rooted against us.  And the way this table is playing, we fear callers with Aces.  But an amazing thing happens.  The big stack to our left folds.  Then another.  Then another.  That half-sized desperation push works!

But the dealer shows the remaining cards, anyway.  The chip leader holds out his King of clubs.  But no club appears for a flush on the turn or river.

"I couldn't do it," the chip leader says.  "He's got an Ace.  I know how he plays."

Another man reaches for our cards, trying to confirm that.  But they're lost in the discards, and we say nothing.  It brings to mind a word mentioned a few times in the Bible....
Here is a trustworthy saying: if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer.... He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. - I Timothy 3:1, 7
In this case, our reputation for "playing it safe" kept us in the game -- and we made it into the third hour of play.  But a night when good cards were scarce eventually did us in.  Forced to go all-in with K-6 in the Big Blind, the flop was A-K-Q.  A man with a King topped us, and took out another man with us.  We finished tied for tenth place -- tantalizingly close to the final table again.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We showed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin to a young man, and asked if he agreed with the message.

"No," he said.  He explained he grew up in a "quasi-Christian" home, but finds his spiritual thinking complicated now.  "Buddhism, atheism...." are some of the views he's considering.

We offered one of the reasons why we're not persuaded of atheism.  "I see too much evidence in creation that there's a designer.  The sun and moon and orbits being in precise timing...."

You may have a 2013 calendar with the phases of the moon noted on particular days.  Astronomers are able to compute the next new moon (Friday U.S. time) right down to the minute   All the way through December.  Not simply for this year, but for years to come.

Unless Jesus intervenes and returns, those times should be accurate -- proving of God....
The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon.  It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. - Psalm 74:16-17
We're not sure how supporters of evolution explain such precise time patterns in the heavens.  Believers in God don't try - they simply praise God for making it so.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 131 final tables in 378 nights (34.7%) - 20 cashes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting Ned-led

In years gone by, scoffers might have called a Christian a "holy Joe."  But in the 21st century, the name on the label has changed.

"Hey, it's Ned Flanders," a man said when he spotted us at a live poker tournament the other night.

Come to think of it, we look a little bit like that character from The Simpsons.  But we think that man called us by that name because of the character's attributes.  Ned Flanders is the "extremely religious next-door neighbor."  Perhaps that fits us, too -- as our longtime Pastor preached against The Simpsons within two weeks of its premiere, so we hardly ever watch it.

Considering a lot of local poker is played at bars and nightclubs, the thought of a Christian stepping inside and sitting at the table might seem odd to some people.  But we think part of the duty of a believer is to live your faith so that people can see it:
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:16
When Jesus said these words, He probably realized not everyone around Him would praise God for what He did.  In fact, the Lord wound up crucified -- and several early apostles were put to death for their faith as well.  (Review Acts 7 for one example.)  Yet the Bible advises....
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. - James 1:2-3
....But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. - Matthew 24:13
Compared to the torture some believers have faced over the last 2,000 years, we realize being called the name of a cartoon character is incredibly tame.  So we're dealing with it.  And we're ready to face even worse things, should they come.

But we'd close with this question: since the Bible warns even worse times are coming for the world as a whole, are you ready to face them?  Without God and Jesus Christ in your life, can you really count on clinging to anything?
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.... where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever.... - Hebrews 6:19-20

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Learning Right From Wrong

Today marks our tenth anniversary of blogging!  This poker blog started in 2008, after we wrote another one  about events in the city where we live.

Blogging and poker-playing have a few things in common.  You can make mistakes -- and discover people are ready to tell you so.  Take an online hand the other day, where we made a minimum bet of 200 on the river holding Ace high with a pair on the board.  Two players called, and we didn't win....


janitor3:  really
Dealer:  mommykim wins Main Pot ($3,480) with Two pair, fives and fours
janitor3:  why would u bet at
Me:  Trying to run people off
Me:  Clearly it failed. :-(

There are times when a strong well-timed bet can scare people out of pots and allow you to win.  In this case. Mommykim had a second pair.  But the chat goes on:

janitor3:  200 no 1 going any where
Me:  Well, one of three folded
janitor3:  so
Me:  So it still failed. 
janitor3:  horrible bet
Me:  Thank you.

How would you have responded to that sort of instant criticism?

We could have pointed out Janitor3 called our bet, also holding an Ace high (nearly the same hand we had) -- so he lost as well.  We could have told him to "shut up" and called him names.  Instead we decided to take our lumps, along with our loss.  By doing it, we applied Biblical advice.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. - Proverbs 12:1
Talk about blunt words!  But they're true -- because if we're honest with ourselves, no one is perfect.  We've yet to see a player win a poker tournament with a "clean sweep," capturing every hand.  So when mistakes happen, it's important to learn lessons from them.
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult.... Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. - Proverbs 9:7, 9
Which title applies to you when someone corrects your approach to a hand - the mocker or the wise man?  We think if you take the correction like a wise man, you're more likely to gain in the long run -- and that's true beyond the poker room.
Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.  For what son is not disciplined by his father? - Hebrews 12:6-7
Does it feel like God is correcting you in some aspect of your life?  Pay attention to clues you may be getting from other people or life's circumstances.  Review God's Bible with an open mind and heart, to see if the correction is justified.  Then make changes where they're necessary, to turn failures into success.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Poker Night 377: Yellow-Jackets

One fascinating thing about poker is that you can change your "personality" from night to night.  One of the regulars on the local poker circuit did that tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  Would we be able to adjust to match him?

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: J-J

The game's about 13 minutes old, and we've had a couple of small misses.  Now we've dealt ourselves a nice pocket pair. But that regular player we mentioned is sitting to our immediate right -- and while he played  cautiously early the night before at Soho Bar and Grill, he's being aggressive tonight.  He raises 2,000.

"I'll humor you," we say to him as we call.

He knows us well enough to assume something.  "If you call, you must have good cards, then."  A man to our left calls, anyway; everyone else at the table of six folds.

"Yellow chip," the bettor says to us as we pick up the deck.  He holds out one, worth 5,000 chips.  We are hereby warned.... apparently.

ON THE FLOP: A-2-3

Not the best-looking flop for us, especially with an Ace involved.  The player to our left checks.

"Check," Mr. Yellow Chip says while still holding it out a bit.  We check as well.

ON THE TURN: 2

We don't really think any of our opponents entered this hand with a 2.  The first player in line checks again.  So does Mr. Yellow Chip.  This makes us more confident.

"One-thousand," we say as we bet.  The man to our left folds.  Will our remaining foe toss out that yellow chip?  No - he simply calls with a black chip.  Um-hmm.

"That's still a yellow chip," we point out to him.  He concurs.

ON THE RIVER: A

Two pair now are showing -- but we suspect if our opponent held an Ace, he would have made a follow-up bet by now.  He seems to verify that by checking again.  But we remain wary, so we check as well.

"Pair of Jacks," we say as we turn the cards over.

"You win," our opponent says quietly.  He never tells us what he had, but we gain about 5,000 chips as a result.

Our chip stack eroded from there, as a couple of big chases failed (including one with two shots at a nut flush).  A pot win in the Big Blind helped us late in the first hour, followed by another at the semifinal table when A-K of spades brought an Ace on the flop.  Despite a big loss minutes later, we endured to the final table with a scant 1,000 chips.

At the final table, we were dealt K-K right away.  Our all-in bet succeeded, and we improved to 4,000 -- but that was barely enough to match the blinds.  So when the next hand brought 6-6, we pushed again.  But this time no help came, and a man with a 9 paired the board to eliminate two players.  We finished tied for eighth, and seventh in a newly-revived Big Dog Poker points system.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A man at our left grabbed our "Jesus as your Savior" coin for a look.  But as an Army veteran, his perspective was different.  We can't recall the exact verb he used, but it was along the lines of hearts needing to be shattered.

"I'm more into love than fighting," we told him.

"But I'm a soldier," he pointed out -- adding during his time in the military, he developed a close friendship with the chaplain.

There's a time to "go to war" during a poker tournament and defend a strong hand.  But that's in a game.  Is that something Christians should do in everyday life?  The guidance of Jesus admittedly is difficult for some people to accept....
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place." - John 18:36
Someone actually did try to fight that arrest, on the night before the Lord's crucifixion:
With that, one of Jesus's companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will due by the sword." - Matthew 26:51-52
But Jesus answered, "No more of this!"  And he touched the man's ear and healed him. - Luke 22:51
A holy, sinless Jesus Christ accepted His arrest, then endured everything that followed over about 18 hours. He knew it had to happen, to fulfill His great purpose:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.... - Ephesians 1:7
Jesus endured the abuse of men so that we might have forgiveness from sin.  Are you willing to accept that incredible example of love in your life?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 131 final tables in 377 nights (34.7%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 279 point wins in 1,306 games (21.4%), 89 final tables, 10 wins, 11 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 21 point wins in 82 games (25.6%), 16 final tables, 1 cash win.

It was a big week at NLOP: third place out of 310 players late Sunday night, fifth out of 245 Monday afternoon, then sixth out of 302 players late Tuesday night.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $91,171, up $1,648.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Poker Night 376: Color Me AQ-A

Call us scared if you wish, but we try to avoid driving on the night of New Year's Eve.  We take the warnings about drunk drivers seriously.  And since our usual Monday night poker stop is a bar, we had even more reason to be wary.  So we delayed our first live poker game this week to Wednesday.  Soho Bar and Grill has live bands, but we "faced the music" much earlier....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We won an early pot with a pocket pair and good betting.  But after a few misses, we start this hand in the Big Blind with 6,300 chips.  Several players at this table of six have shown a tendency to raise pre-flop, but no one does it here.  So we do: "500 more."  Our raise attracts about three callers.

ON THE FLOP: 9-Q-A

"Big Blind specials" don't come much better than this!  But as we recall, two of the flop cards had matching suits.  So we get right to work, making a continuation bet of 1,000.  The remaining players call.

ON THE TURN: K

That's potential trouble, in terms of someone making a straight.  But we decide to keep our foot on the proverbial gas pedal, until someone indicates otherwise.  We bet 2,000.  That's too much for two players, who fold.  A man across from us calls.

ON THE RIVER: A

This gives us a full house, and an easy play to make.  "I'm all in," we announce -- for "1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue."  (Call it a White House?!)

"Here's your chance to take him out, and get a bounty," a man to our immediate left recommends.  Bounty tournament rules are in effect, with a 5,000-chip reward for eliminating a player.  In fact, the man who made the suggestion wound up taking an astonishing four bounties in the first hour of play.

But our opponent has some doubts about that suggestion.  "I know he's got an Ace," he says.  After pondering the decision for several seconds, he folds.  Our chip stack doubles to more than 11,000.

"I want to see what you had," the man at our left says.

"No, that's OK," we tell him politely.  Always looking for new blog readers, you know.

Our stack stayed firm until late in the first hour, when we had Ace of clubs and saw three clubs on the flop.  Chasing the flush cost us 4,000 chips -- but we missed.  That left us with 5,800 at the break.  Then in Hour 2, we saw A-J of hearts and decided to go all in again.  But the board didn't pair, and a man made a pair of 6's to knock us out.  We begin 2013 with an 18th-place finish.

MINISTRY MOMENT: For the first time in a long time, we brought our "Jesus as your Savior" coin for a card protector.  The young man to our immediate left said he agreed with the message.

"Is Jesus your Savior?" we asked.  The man said He was.  "What's He done for you lately?"

"I'm here," the man said.  "It's 2013, and I'm here."

That's a simple way to look at it -- but an accurate way:
The God who made the world and everything in it.... is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.... For in him we live and move and have our being. - Acts 17:24-25, 28
To borrow a quote from the last U.S. Presidential race: if you have eyes to read this blog, you didn't build that.  You might have the technical skill to build a computer for showing this screen, but human eyes are a testimony of God's amazing creation.  So is your life.
The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. - I Samuel 2:6
Even that far back in Old Testament times, some believers in God (in this case a woman named Hannah) seemed to have an understanding of a coming resurrection.  Revelation 20 provides details of how that process will work.  Read it carefully and ask yourself: have you secured a place in the "first resurrection," by giving your life totally to God?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 130 final tables in 376 nights (34.6%) - 20 cashes.

YIP 2012

YIP?  That stands for our "year in poker."  We don't think we've done the math this way before -- adding up our results over a one-year period.  We did that today, and in 2012....

LIVE TOURNAMENTS: 25 final tables in 90 nights, 3 cashes.

LIVE CASH GAMES: Down $54 in one trip.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER: Full Tournaments - 102 "money finishes" in 503 games, four actual cash wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 14 "money finishes" in 64 games.

We're defining this as a finish in the top ten percent, which is how casinos commonly determine payoffs.  NLOP's point system can vary, based on the game.

POKER STARS.NET: Pretend cash games - $90,522, up $27,773 (44.3%).

We dare to post our statistics.  So please tell us - do any poker pros do the same?  Are we better or worse than they are?  And is it worth searching for places to live in Mississippi or Nevada?