Thursday, February 28, 2013

Poker Night 393: Hook Me Up

Readers with long memories might remember when we played poker at a downtown lounge called Hookahmeup.  The play there didn't last long, due in part to a dispute about the prize money.  But "hooks" can happen at any poker table, anytime.  At a place named Lil Kim's Cove tonight, they seemed a bit appropriate....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: J-J

The game is young, we're under the gun (first to act) -- and a high pocket pair shows up.  Would you attack right away with them?  Before you answer, we'd note this is a "bounty tournament."  The man across the table from us is the bounty.  Eliminate him, reach the final table and you'll get a 20,000-chip bonus.

Only a couple of players at our table of six have raised pre-flop so far.  So we limp in to see if any will jump with a big bet.  But no one does.

ON THE FLOP: J-6-4

A third "hook" comes for tripping opponents -- and even better, it's the top card showing.  When the play checks to us, we offer 400.  That runs off several players, but a young man to our immediate right calls.

ON THE TURN: 8

That man now tests our mettle by betting 500.  Somehow we doubt he has 5-7 for a straight.  But we choose to play along, and simply call.

ON THE RIVER: 2

Now our opponent checks.  But we simply cannot, and bet 1,000.  That's too much for him; he folds, and we win the pot.

"I was chasing a straight," we recall him saying.  We don't say what we had -- well, until here and now.

We won a couple more pots in the first hour -- but then took a big loss when a man made bets in the 5,000 range with every card.  We had A-Q and a Queen came on the flop, but we decided at the river he had us topped.  Sure enough -- another player called him, and he showed pocket Kings.

We never recovered from that loss, and finally went all-in with K-J of clubs.  But not enough clubs showed up for us, nor did a pair.  A man who made a pair of 9's eliminated us in 14th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "That thing's worth about 20 dollars," the young man at our right said when he saw our card protector -- the gold coin with a depiction of the Lord's Supper on one side, and an artist's rendering of Jesus on the other.

"Do you believe in Jesus?  Is He your Savior?" we asked.  We might as well have put the man all-in pre-flop.

"Is Jesus my Savior?  Is He not my Savior?" he pondered aloud in a quiet ramble which was tough to hear.  "I believe He was a person.  He was a good person.  But I don't accept about half of the things He said."

The game moved along, and we never asked the man which half of Jesus's sayings he didn't accept.  So we'll turn the question in your direction.  Do you accept everything Jesus said?  Everything?  Here are a couple of quotes which might test your answer....
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.... Do not commit adultery.... - Matthew 19:9, 18


Jesus upheld the Ten Commandments given to Moses.  (In fact, some ministers teach Jesus actually was the "God" who gave them to Moses, as "Lord of the Old Testament.")  That includes the command against adultery, which upholds the marriage vows.  If you're thinking about divorcing your spouse, ask yourself: is it right in Jesus's eyes?  And related to that....
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?" - Matthew 19:4-5


In spite of what modern society may support and politicians may contend, this is how Jesus defined a marriage.  A man is united with a woman.  Call Christ judgmental if you wish -- but keep in mind, He'll be exactly that way when He comes again:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. - II Corinthians 5:10


If you're resisting any of Jesus's commands and instructions, what do you expect His ruling on you will be?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 136 final tables in 393 games (34.6%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,381 games (20.5%), 92 final tables, 10 wins, 12 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 27 point wins in 105 games (25.7%), 23 final tables, 1 win, 2 cashes.

Since we tend to play only cash freerolls where no points are awarded, it's probably time to change our standard in regular tournaments; watch for details about that.

But NLOP still awards points in most No-River Hold 'em games, and we had a strong week there: seventh place on Saturday night, second out of 93 players on Monday afternoon (sadly, only the winner earned money), then ninth in Wednesday's Bi-Weekly Championship (only six winning money, with no points).

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $86,396, up $577.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Poker Night 392: A-One and a-Two

Because of the NLOP Senior Championship Monday night, our live poker activity for this week has been adjusted.  Wednesday night found us at Soho Bar and Grill, where a young man at our table declared poker is all about lying.  Is it?  Really?  Let's see what this hand brought....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-2 offsuit

"It's my big blind," the young man to our right says as the cards are dealt.  He's the man who said poker is about lying.  In this case, that's what he's doing -- because he's second in line to act.

"You're bluffing even before the cards are dealt," we say with a joking scold.

But we're in need of some good cards.  A few early entries have fallen flat, at a table where one woman already has admitted she's drunk and a man says he's had "seven beers."  Since all we're drinking is a bottle of cola, you might think we have the advantage against them.  But we realize tipsy players sometimes still can have brain power to win a hand.  So we limp in, and no one raises.  (The "Joker" to our right folds.)

ON THE FLOP: A-K-7

The top pair comes -- but we realize something else: our "kicker" card is dreadful.  The seven-beer man leads off the betting, by tossing out 300.  A man across from us calls.  We do the same, thankful that no one is going bigger.

ON THE TURN: 2

The second pair comes!  And now we want that beer-filled man to make another bet.  But after a moment, he checks.  So does the player between us.  Now it's time to move.

"Pat Robertson bet," we say; "700 Club."

That's 100 for each beer, for the man to our left.  He calls.  The man across from us thinks about it a while, then calls as well.

"I'm all in," chimes in the liar to our right.  No - he folded pre-flop.

"You're out of the hand, yet you're still bluffing," we say in pretend shock.  But enough of the comedy relief....

ON THE RIVER: 9

At this point we're privately puzzled about what the other players have.  Is someone holding an Ace, with a higher second pair?  The players ahead of us check, and we decide we've been daring enough.  We check as well.

"Acey-ducey," we say as we show our cards.  And that's good enough to win the pot!  One man shows Q-J, which means he missed a straight draw.  The man with seven beers never shows his hand.

We won an even bigger pot in the first hour with A-Q, when the beer-filled man tried to run us off a Queen on the flop with big bets despite only having King high.  That led us to the one-hour break at 12,000 chips.  Then in Hour 2, he lured us down an expensive path with K-J.  We went all-in on the turn with no pair, but were saved by a Jack on the river.

After another save when running cards came to bring us a straight, we had 7,000 chips left at the two-hour mark.  That was barely enough for a 10,000-chip Big Blind, after a "color up" of low-value chips.  And of course, our turn for that came seconds before the Tournament Director made the "final table" call.

We were forced in with K-4, and the board didn't pair.  A man with a 9 hit the flop, eliminating the beer-filled man along with us.  Despite finishing in a tie for eighth place (ninth in points), we missed the final table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: As we walked to the bar to leave a tip for our soda, we passed a man who told us, "It's all good."

"What is all good?" we asked him.

The man named John proceeded to give an inspirational testimony unlike any we've heard at local churches recently.  John says he's been homeless five months, and thought about committing suicide after losing several relatives to death in a six-month span.  But now he tries to think on the positive side.

"I wake up every day.  I have food to eat."  (He didn't say how, and we didn't ask.)  "No one took my stuff.  And every night before I go to bed, I thank the Lord for helping me through another day."

John pulled out of his rear pocket a booklet written by TV preacher Kenneth Copeland.  John says he reads it every day, and is growing to believe God more and more -- including taking time to attend church each weekend.

But one of John's motives for living sounded curious.  "I still have people I want to p**s off," he told us -- as in people who apparently wish "I wasn't around anymore."

We suggested an ever better way for John to make people upset -- to do kind acts toward them.  That's actually the Biblical approach:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. - Proverbs 25:21-22


We've heard people scoff at such an approach -- and sadly, the scoffers have included a Christian minister or two.  But Jesus stated clearly....
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.... - Matthew 5:44


Or as the apostle Paul put it later....
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:21 


John says even though he's homeless, he doesn't ask people for money.  Yet he told us God provides his needs, and he hopes to get out of his homeless situation soon.

We promised John we'd pray for him, and we ask you to join us in that.  There's nothing better in easing the pain of a missed final table than meeting a man who looks on the bright side -- even if you might not see a reason for him to do it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 136 final tables in 392 games (34.7%) - 20 cashes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February Senior Championship: The Long Goodbye

For several years, National League of Poker has held a monthly Senior Championship.  We had to miss the January tournament because it was played on a Friday night, and we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.  Monday night's February tournament may have been the last one, due to NLOP's bankruptcy filing.  So did we go out a big winner?

:15 IN: After a few small-scale entries missed flops, we have A-9 of spades.  The flop is 10s-5s-3c.  We call a bet of 80.  The turn is 3d, and we call a bet of 60.  The river is 8s - exactly what we wanted.  We bet 400 with a nut flush, and our opponent folds.  We win $980.

:17 IN: We have K-Q of spades.  A player goes all-in pre-flop.  We choose to be cautious and fold -- which is too bad, because a Queen comes on the turn which would have given us a winning pair.

Misses with Q-A and A-10 follow, wiping out our early gain.  We reach the first break with $1,930 from a starting $2,500 - putting us 718th, with 792 players still in the running.

:39 IN: We have K-J.  The flop is 10-8-J.  Our probing bet of 100 brings a fold, and we win $350.

:40 IN: We have Q-J.  The flop is K-10-2, giving us a two-way straight draw.  The table checks.  The turn is 6.  The table checks again.  The river is 2.  The table checks once more -- and our Queen-high is good enough to top someone with 7-4!  We win a modest $250.

:41 IN: The next hand brings us A-4.  The flop is 5-8-K.  The table checks.  The turn is 3.  The table checks again.  The river is A.  We bet 220 with top pair, and the table folds for a $570 win.

:45 IN: We're moved to a table where only three of the ten players seem to actually be present.  The other two players are hungry with huge stacks, so we still play carefully against them.  But we claim five small pots against empty chairs in a 12-minute span.

:59 IN: We have A-J, against one of those big stacks.  The flop is 5-4-Q.  We both check.  The turn is 2.  More checking occurs.  The river is 4.  Our opponent bets around 300.  We dare to call -- and get rewarded, because he has K-8!  It's a gain of $1,100.

1:03 IN: We have K-Q of diamonds.  The flop is 7-K-7.  We bet 500 with two pair, and the opponents fold for a $1,200 win.

This finally puts us above the "starting line," with $2,680 at the second break.  Now we're 272nd, with 616 players left.

1:20 IN: After a large loss to a player who made a flush on the river, we have 8-9 in the Big Blind.  The flop is 3-6-9.  We bet the minimum 300, and that's enough.  We win $1,300.

1:33 IN: After waiting for a breakthrough hand, we try K-10.  The flop is 7-K-2.  We go all-in for 955, and get called.  The turn is J.  The river is 8.  Our opponent has only a pair of 7's, so we score a big win of $2,715.

1:36 IN: We have 10-10.  The flop is K-3-8.  We feel the table's mood with a bet of 400, and get called.  The turn is 8.  Everyone checks.  The river is 6.  Everyone checks -- and no one has a King!  Our 10's take it, to the tune of $2,895.

We feel more confident at break 3, with two big pots lifting us to $4,110.  We're in 182nd place, with 375 to go.

1:57 IN: After a long wait for good cards, we have K-Q of hearts.  The flop is Jh-K-8, and we go all-in for our remaining 1,635.  The table thankfully folds, and we're up to $4,635.

2:11 IN: With rising blinds and antes eroding every stack, we have 6-A with 1,010 to go.  We decide to push, and get called by a player with 9-10.  The flop is 6-J-10 -- good for us, but better for him.  The turn is 8.  The river is Q.  Our pair is topped, and our night is finished.

We finished 148th, out of 924 entries.  So the unofficial final score for us in NLOP Senior Championships is zero wins in 31 tries.  Our best finish was 25th place in July 2010 -- but a few deep runs didn't pay off, as only the final table received money.  Now some senior players may have to stretch their pensions a little farther.

Embrace the Change

As we mentioned recently, National League of Poker has made several major tournament adjustments in the last couple of weeks -- clearly due to its bankruptcy filing.  The weekly $1,000 championship on Sunday night is gone.  So are many daily games with cash prizes, unless you pay a monthly fee for VIP membership like Club WPT.

In addition, tournaments for NLOP points are hard to find now.  Players can win "fast cash" in one-table sit-n-goes -- but getting there is a slow process, dependent on success up a nine-level ladder and gaining "tokens" along the way.  That's why we're showing sit-n-go statistics again (and admittedly not doing well at them so far).

But the good news for us is that an NLOP check came in the mail the other day, for money we won in December.  This gives us hope for payment on our two cash wins so far in 2013.  It reminds us of a Bible verse....
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. - Job 1:21b
Job said this after losing more than a few daily online poker tournaments -- a whole lot more.  God allowed the devil to take Job's servants, livestock, work animals and children.  Yet somehow, Job didn't waver in his faith toward God.  Instead he realized....
Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. - Job 1:21a
In our day, the custom is a bit different.  People are buried in nice suits and dresses, or perhaps with their favorite sports team's logo on display.  But that's all they physically can take.  As some ministers like to joke, you don't see hearses pulling U-Hauls behind them.

Yet Job looked forward to an even bigger change -- a change that's beyond this physical life:
If a man dies, shall he live again?  All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.  You shall call, and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands.  - Job 14:14-15 (KJV)
To borrow from the Nation of Islam, this will be the "final call" -- to be changed from a dead body to eternal life, rising to meet Jesus in the air when He returns to Earth.

I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 explain that moment in detail.  Please take time to read those chapters.  They describe a change which leads to ultimate victory -- not "fast cash," but a quickened (as in made-alive) new body.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Book on You

Top poker players write books all the time, offering everything from introductory instruction to advanced ways of spotting an opponent's bluff.  A search on Amazon.com this morning brought 5,155 titles of poker books.

But in a post this past week, we asked for your thoughts about getting in something called "the book of life."  This is a book we all need to enter, whether we play poker or not.  It first came up in a conversation between Moses and God....
"But now, please forgive their sin -- but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."  The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book." - Exodus 32:32-33


So there's no confusion: the Bible itself is a "book of life."  It contains the "word of life," about how to gain eternal life (Philippians 2:16).  But the book described in Exodus is different.  Apparently it's a book with lots of names, which God can adjust when He chooses.
You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you.... May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous. - Psalm 69:19, 28


So the book of life contains names of righteous people.  But the problem is that we all sin (Romans 3:23) - and when we do that, God can remove our names from it.  And that's potentially bad news....
If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:15


This verse describes a vision of the final judgment, when everyone will come before Jesus.  The lake of fire is called "the second death" in verse 14.  To avoid that, we need our name back in that book -- badly.  How can we get there?
Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel.... whose names are in the book of life. - Philippians 4:3


How did these women get in the book?  Apparently by helping the apostle Paul spread Jesus's gospel message.  We think that requires actually believing that message -- and something else:
He who overcomes.... I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. - Revelation 3:5


Overcome sin, in your own life and this world.  Then help spread the news about Jesus coming to put an "end" to sin (Hebrews 9:26-28).  You'll be well on your way to appearing in the book that matters most.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Poker Night 391: Leading Ladies

The news of this week includes the resignation (forced, some say) of a New York television news anchor.  Police say he strangled his wife (also a news anchor) in a rage, attempting to kill her -- except he wound up with an arrest and a bloody nose.  We bring this up here because ladies also can be lethal in poker at times.    Check what happened tonight at Lil Kim's Cove....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: Q-Q

Our table has been a bit like the TV series The Office -- a place with a lot of characters.  A quiet young woman across the table is playing like a newcomer, but winning large pots.  The Tournament Director next to her is having trouble remembering who's dealing -- even when it's her turn.  And a man to our immediate right is being what one player calls controlling, with provoking pre-flop and post-flop raises.

Because of him, we've folded a couple of promising hands which would have wound up winners. This time he's at it again, raising pre-flop to 1,400.  Then we see our big pocket pair and decide it's time to fight back.  Starting this hand with 5,250 chips, we re-raise to 3,000 -- a move which clearly surprises him.  He calls; the rest of the table folds.

ON THE FLOP: 10-2-2

This is where it helps to pay attention to what other players are saying.  They've hinted our opponent likes to bet big with any Ace.  There's none showing here.  He checks.  So the next step seems only logical.

"I'm all-in for 2,250," we say -- and we feel confident about it.  But after a moment, the man quietly calls.  Then we show our Queens.  He keeps a poker face, and says nothing.

ON THE TURN: 5

Good.  One more....

ON THE RIVER: 8

Now our opponent shows his cards -- A-10.  Our read was correct, and we double our holdings to 11,000.

History repeated itself a few hands later, when we were dealt Q-Q again.  A King came on the flop, and we played it cautiously.  But the Queens combined with 7-7 on the board to give up a winning two pair, and a gain to about 30,000.

Like Monday night, those two big wins were enough to get us to the final table -- only on this night, there were only enough players for two tables.  Probing bets failed us there, and we wound up going all-in after the two-hour break with 9-9.  That "Ace-anything" player caught an Ace on the flop, and wound up eliminating three players in all.  We finished tied for seventh (eighth in points).

MINISTRY MOMENT: An Ace on the flop in one early hand was not what one player wanted to see.  He folded before the flop, and cried: "Lord, have mercy!  JESUS!!"

"Jesus truly is merciful," we told him from across the table.

We suspect he was more focused on the Ace he folded than the advice we gave -- but we meant what we said about Jesus....
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. - Hebrews 2:17


Who is this "he"?  Someone who became flesh and blood as we are, yet was a minister serving God -- and somehow was able to be our atoning sacrifice through His shed blood.  This chapter of the Bible leaves no doubt who this is:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. - Hebrews 2:9


Jesus's death opened the ways for "bringing many sons to glory" (verse 10) - as in eternal life.  Believers no longer are in bondage to "their fear of death" (verse 15).  Have you accepted the offer of freedom which Christ provides?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 136 final tables in 391 nights (34.8%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,375 games (20.6%), 92 final tables, 10 wins, 12 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 25 point wins in 100 games (25.0%), 20 final tables, 1 win, 2 cashes.   One-table Sit-N-Go's - 8-13-10-4-4.

A lot has changed at NLOP in the last week or so, and we need a separate post to explain it all.  But the big news is that Wednesday afternoon, we won money in a biweekly No-River Hold 'em Championship tournament!  We finished fourth out of 141 players (the top six win money) -- and had big gains along the way when we hit quads on the flop, not once but twice!

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $85,819, down $1,019.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's Only a Game?

"Who got shot @ the poker game???"

When a Facebook post has those words, the news clearly isn't good.  Yet it happened in our city this past weekend -- a shooting not on the organized poker circuit, but in a home game at the east edge of town.

Police say two soldiers got into an argument about a poker game at a party.  It led to fisticuffs and weapons -- and before it was over, one person was shot and a couple of homes had damage from bullets.

We admittedly don't have all the facts about what happened.  But we're led to guess the soldiers were playing a cash game -- and alcohol may have fueled this incident, as much as the playing cards and firearms.  The Bible warns too much alcohol can lead to all sorts of problems....
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. - Proverbs 20:1


Yet let's face it: arguments can develop over poker games -- everything from whose turn it is to how many chips a sidepot should have.  We've heard them many times.  But they never reach the point of a fistfight, much less weapons.

The games we play thankfully have a Tournament Director to settle disputes.  And some players actually apply some advice the apostle Paul had to give feuding Christians....
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. - I Corinthians 6:7-8


In other words, take a loss -- and try to get it back the right way, by winning a future hand.  We think that's what Jesus would do.
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. - Matthew 5:39


A veteran of the U.S. civil rights movement spoke in our city the other day, and put it very well: If you are in a fight and lose your temper, you have lost the fight.  However the fight at the poker game started, it ended with one person shot, another person arrested and plenty of collateral damage.

If you stay under control -- in what you drink, what you say and how you act -- fighting and arguing at poker games probably will happen a lot less often.  You might not win and go home completely happy, but at least you'll go home in one piece.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poker Night 390: The 5-K Race

It was the night of Presidents' Day, and The Red Barn was packed with poker players.  But strangely, most of the people we met didn't seem to realize it was Presidents' Day.

"I'm not a President," one man said skeptically when we mentioned the holiday.  He went on to dismiss all U.S. Presidents as "crooked," because they lie to people.  We're led to think some poker players would fit in well with them.  But would they pull a fast one when a lot of chips were on the line?

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: J-10 of hearts (suit may not be precise)

The evening was a disappointment until only a few hands before this.  We had K-9, looked at K-Q-9 on the flop, went all-in and scored a double-up plus a 5,000-chip "Rodney hand" bonus.  Now we're feeling better with around 14,000 chips.  No one raises before the flop, so we're happy to call with suited connectors.

ON THE FLOP: 10-10-3

Now we're even happier -- but only for about five seconds.  A woman down the counter from us (we're playing on a counter top again) bets 5,000.  She did this on the K-9 hand, which put us all-in.  She had Q-9 then.  We're puzzled by what she has now -- perhaps a second high pair?!  But there's little question about the right move: we call with three of a kind.  Everyone else gets out of the way.

ON THE TURN: 5

The respect level seems to be mutual at this point.  The woman checks.  So do we.

ON THE RIVER: J

Wow -- now we want our opponent to make another bet.  But instead, she checks.  We will not.

"Five-thousand," we say as we bet.  The woman calls.

"I've got a 10," she tells us -- and then she sees our 10-J.  It gives us a winning full house, as her kicker card is a 6.

"You got it on the f**king river," she says in frustration.  "You did it to me twice!"

"No way either of you were going anywhere, with a 10," a man between us comments.  He's right.  We're happy.  We simply smile, as our stack of chips jumps to around 29,000.

Those two hands were the only ones we won all night, as we became very "card dead" after the one-hour break.  Pocket 8's and pocket 5's were trumped by big cards on the flop and big bets which followed.  But our two big wins were enough to reach the final table, then hang around through some drama involving other players.

With seven players remaining, we were forced to go all in for our remaining 10,000 chips with J-8.  The flop brought an 8.  The river brought a Jack.  Trouble was, that Jack put four spades on the board.  We didn't have one, while a man on our right did (Qs).  He sent us home in seventh place.  But on a night with about 30 players and lots of huge stacks, we were pleased.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "There's the man with that little pencil again," a man said at the semifinal table.  We've recorded hands for this blog with a small pencil and paper for a long time.  But in the last couple of weeks, that pencil has become a card protector as well.

"I bring it to remind me," we said across the table, "that my name is written in the Lamb's book of life."

This reference appeared to puzzle several people.  But it's mentioned near the very end of the Bible:
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. - Revelation 21:27


You may be listed in the telephone directory.  But this "book of life" is much more important -- because if your name is there, you're in the running for a reward which may sound like only a dream:
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming out of heaven from God. - Revelation 21:10


"But wait," you may be asking; "isn't Jerusalem on Earth now?"  Yes, there's a city in the Middle East with that name.  But this is a new one, which God will bring down from heaven to Earth after Jesus returns (verse 2) -- and the incredible scene described through Revelation 21 indicate it will be forever pure, for God and Jesus Christ will live there (verse 23).

But that leaves a big question: how can you get your name in this "book of life"?  What's your answer to that question?  Feel free to leave it in a comment, and we'll offer our thoughts in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 135 final tables in 390 nights (34.6%) - 20 cashes.  This was our first live final table since the end of January.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Your Turn: Playing Things Tight

Your comments are always welcome about our blog.  Here's one we received a few days ago about our delay in being paid by the bankrupt National League of Poker:

I too am owed winnings,but not to preach if the money is that necessary to you maybe you should not be gambling when money is this tight

One reason why we've played at NLOP is that it's not "gambling," in terms of betting money.  Anyone of legal age can play for free, simply by signing up.  (We've never had a VIP membership, which has a monthly fee and offered more cash prizes.)

There's been some hopeful news from NLOP's Facebook page in recent days -- that the site has been "authorized to pay outstanding prizes that were previously on hold."  It also claims the site will NOT go out of business.  But the recent bankruptcy filing reportedly called free poker a "failed business model."

There's a Biblical lesson there for the managers of Zen Entertainment -- as well as all poker players tempted to gamble money they can't afford to lose:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him.... - Luke 14:28-29

Hopefully the managers of NLOP followed this guidance of Jesus, and "counted the cost" (using the classic language of the King James Version) before launching the site.  Perhaps unexpected circumstances got in the way of profitability; our own experience with failed businesses has shown us that can happen.

Oh, by the way -- it's OK if you "preach" to us.  Countless visitors to our site probably think that's what we're doing....
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. - II Corinthians 4:5

Any wisdom we might have, about poker or otherwise, comes from the Lord.  May you come to realize that, too.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Poker Night 389: Turn and Twist

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day.  (Click here for a thought-provoking explanation why.)   So tonight was simply another Thursday night at the poker room for us.  For everyone who gathered at Lil Kim's Cove, the only "hearts" they might appreciate would be for making a flush.

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

We burned ourselves in one early hand when we tried a "bluff bet" with A-6 on the flop.  No Ace was showing, and a man who held a King made a winning pair on the river.  So now with about 6,500 chips, we want to rebuild.  But these nice high cards come early in the betting order.  We decide to limp in, and no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: A-Q-3

The right flop for playing some "class AA" hardball.  We lead the betting with 300.  A couple of players fold, but two others on the other side of the table call.

ON THE TURN: 5

We still have top pair, and probably could make a more aggressive bet at this point.  But the man next in line tends to play on the wily, scheming side.  So we set out another relatively modest bet of 300.  He responds with a few seconds of staring.

"I'm not sure if my two pair is better than your two pair," he says.  We stare back and say nothing.  (You'll notice we do not have two pair.)  Then he raises: "1,500."

A woman between us in the order calls the 1,500 bet, but she's not the focus of our attention.  We're wondering if the man really meant what he said.  After a few seconds of introspection, something tells us he's bluffing.  "I'll call," we decide.

ON THE RIVER: 8

We still have only one pair.  But then comes the best thing we could have seen -- as the man who raised on the turn folds.  He doesn't even check!  The woman checks, and so do we.  Our Ace tops her Queen for a better pair -- and our risky read turns out to be correct.  (The man never reveals what he had.)

That was our highlight of the night, as we didn't win any pots after that.  Potential victory seemed ours with 7-8 when the flop had a 7 and the river brought an 8.  But a man to our left made a big raise, and this time our read was wrong: the 8 gave him a straight.

We held on well into the second hour, but finally had to go all-in with 10-8 of clubs in the Big Blind.  The board didn't pair, and we missed the final table by finishing 11th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: At the one-hour break, we asked a man to our right if Jesus was His Savior.  He said yes, and told us he's been "blessed." Then a man next to him added a couple of examples.

"Wakes me up in the morning -- and lets me get to sleep at night.  That's a blessing, too, you know."

He's absolutely correct about that.  And that's a blessing you might not consider very often.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat -- for he grants sleep to those he loves. - Psalm 127:2
It's one thing to be sleepy because you're lazy.  The Bible has something to say about that, too....
I went past the field of the sluggard.... A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. - Proverbs 24:30, 33-34
But if you're productive and work hard six days a week (as the Ten Commandments advise), a time of rest each week on the Sabbath can become a welcome gift from God:
The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much.... - Ecclesiastes 5:12
Work hard, get your rest as the Bible advises -- and you'll thank God in the morning for a good night's sleep, too.


UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 134 final tables in 389 nights (34.4%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,366 games (20.7%), 92 final tables, 10 wins, 12 cash prizes.  No-River Hold 'em - 25 point wins in 97 games (25.8%), 19 final tables, 1 cash win.

We had a strong finish in a Sunday afternoon tournament, placing 24th out of 1,079 players.  Too bad only the top seven won money, and no points were awarded.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $86,838, up $1,118.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Game Change, Ultimate Edition

Why is poker considered a "sport" to some people?  Perhaps it's because a tournament can have turning points.  One big hand can make someone's evening, while turning hours of hope into disappointment and ruin for someone else.

Even a person can be a "game-changer" in poker.  Bring Mr. or Ms. Chip Leader to a table of tight-playing modest players, and the tone and action can change in a hurry.  Smart players learn how to adjust to the situation, and even the competition.

Long before the phrase was popular, game-changing people were scattered throughout human history.  But there's One who ranks above all the rest for us....
....Because through Christ  Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. - Romans 8:2

In a post earlier this week, we mentioned Jesus's words from Matthew 5 that God's Law would not disappear until "everything is accomplished."  Jesus accomplished a lot for us while walking the earth.  Among them: a replacement of one "law" with another.  Some claim that means the Ten Commandments were revoked.  But consider this key verse:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23

Like it or not, we've all sinned (Romans 3:23).  The "pay window" for that is death, as promised by God to the first humans in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3).  But Jesus changed the "game of life" into one of eternal life:
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.... For the trumpet shall sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. - I Corinthians 15:22, 52

As a sinless Savior, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by His blood.  By repenting of your sins and accepting Jesus as your Savior, you can come under that "new law" -- with God's Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and the promise of eternal life when Jesus returns.

If you want to win the big poker tournaments, you'll probably need to make a lot of big decisions.  To win the "Ultimate Game," you need to make only one....
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. - Romans 10:9

Monday, February 11, 2013

Poker Night 388: To Your Boats

It was a dark and rainy night.  But that doesn't stop a die-hard poker player.  More than 30 of them joined us at The Red Barn -- and at our long counter-turned-table, the emphasis was on keeping things dry.  Coasters were put under our drinks, so the cards wouldn't get wet.  And the wet thinking didn't stop there....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 7-7

We split an early pot, and now sit with about 7,900 chips.  Sitting in the Small Blind, no one has raised.  We see no reason to get overzealous at this point, so we check.  So does the Big Blind.

ON THE FLOP: 7-K-J

Now we can fire things up, as we've made three of a kind.  So we lead off by betting 500.  Three other players don't consider that too expensive, as they call.

ON THE TURN: 10

Another higher card -- and now the table shows two hearts and two diamonds.  We again try to run off "flush chasers," by raising the bet to 800.  Two other players call, including the dealer.

ON THE RIVER: J

We're rewarded with a "boat," as they say in poker slang.  We want to make a bigger bet, but not too big to run people off.  A lack of 100 chips makes our decision a bit awkward, but we finally settle on 1,100.  It's too much for an older woman across from us, as she folds.  But the dealer calls.

"Do you have a full house?" we ask.

"No, I have Kings," the dealer says.

"I do," we say as we show.  The dealer curses, and accepts his loss.

Another "boat" came ashore for us minutes later, when 3-3 brought a 3 on the flop.  Those wins eventually inflated our chip stack to the 30,000 range.  But the success ran out after that, as we lost an expensive hand with A-Q when we missed the flop and a big bet forced us to fold.

At the two-hour mark we felt forced to go all-in with our last 5,000 chips and A-J.  But the board didn't pair again, and a man with a pair of 5's wound up topping us.  We stepped out into the rain with a disappointing 17th-place finish.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Two Harley-Davidson motorcycle fans were at our starter table.  One of them actually owns one - so we picked the perfect night to bring our "Jesus as your Savior" coin, with the logo of a Christian motorcycle club on the back.

"Do you believe in Jesus?" we asked the across the counter from us.  "Is He your Savior?"

"Please don't bring up that subject," the man said firmly.  "This is not the place to discuss that."

We said OK, and didn't bring up faith matters again.  But at least he read the message on the coin.  What might have made him so uncomfortable?  We can only guess.  But he's not the first to become discomforted by Christ:
But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. - I Corinthians 1:23-24


Jesus is a "stumbling block" to Jews because most of them think the Messiah has not yet come.  Yet Jesus fulfilled many prophecies of the Old Testament.  Belief in the Lord is considered foolish to other people -- yet the only hope we have for life beyond this one depends on believing in Him.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. - Acts 4:12


So what's making you uncomfortable, when it comes to belief in Christ?  Leave a comment anonymously if you wish, and we can address your concerns in upcoming posts.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 134 final tables in 388 nights (34.5%) - 20 cashes.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Odds Are....

We heard a thought-provoking radio commentary recently which can relate to poker, and many bigger things.  It started with a look at probability.

Flip a typical coin, call heads or tails, and you have a 50-50 chance of making the correct call.  If you flip the coin twice, the odds of it landing "heads" twice are one in four.  Flip it three times, and the odds of three "heads" are one in eight.  And on it goes.

If you play a thinking person's style of poker, you may compute your "outs" as you go.  An open-ended straight draw (let's say 3-4-5-6) gives you eight outs -- as four 2's or four 7's could come up on the turn or river, to complete the straight.  Four cards of the same suit provide nine outs for making a flush, as each suit has 13 cards (13 - 4 = 9).  That's a 9-in-46 chance for a flush on the river, or 19.6%.

So what's our point, you ask?  We'll answer with our own questions: have the odds for making a straight or flush changed over the last 20 years, since the online poker boom began?  Have they changed since the World Series of Poker began in 1970?  Have they changed at all from the days of "riverboat gambling" and the Wild West?

Unless there's cheating, the obvious answer is no.  Decks of standard playing cards still come in 52's, with four suits with an order of Ace-through-2.  The chances of completing big hands have not changed.  That's why they're called laws of probability -- they're constant, like the law of gravity.

If believers in evolution are right, shouldn't those laws have changed at some point?  The only way to improve your chances for a flush is to change the rules of the game.  But the creators of poker (we really don't think Jesus was among them) set "laws" in place, which apparently have been constant for more than 100 years.  God's Law works the same way, too:
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I gave you. - Deuteronomy 4:2


Moses was given a set of laws by God. including the Ten Commandments mentioned in chapter 5.  He said again for emphasis in his farewell address....
See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. - Deuteronomy 12:32


The U.S. Constitution can be amended; it's happened 27 times.  A world governing board over poker could change the rules of the game as well.  But we don't know of one, and "house rules" at each individual poker room deal more with details such as how you bet or claim a pot.  Yet despite what even some ministers claim, God's Law has not changed.
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. - Matthew 5:18


Those words came from the mouth of Jesus.  He was the Son of God -- but yes, He was a real "game-changer."  We'll explain what He changed in a future post.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Poker Night 387: Quads the Hard Way

When a big bettor comes to your table, he or she naturally invites someone to challenge them.  The dilemma comes in knowing when to make the challenge.  We thought we'd found the right moment tonight at Lil Kim's Cove.  We thought....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 7-10 offsuit

We won the first hand of the night, then got caught bluffing and gave back almost all our gains.  Now we're in the Big Blind with about 7,000 chips.  That big bettor is two seats to our left at a table of six.  He's gone all-in twice in the last three hands, and made huge gains.  But he simply calls here, and we're happy to call when no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: 8-9-10

This counts up to us as "top pair," not to mention a two-way straight draw.  The Small Blind checks, and we try to show some strength by betting 400.  Mr. Big Bet calls, as do two others.

ON THE TURN: 6

Even better!  We've made our straight, so we'll turn up the heat.  Now we bet 1,400.

"I'm all-in," Mr. Big Bet says.  He counts out about 8,700 chips.  This doesn't scare us in the least.  Unless he has 7-J or Q-J for a higher straight, we're ahead -- and we really doubt he does.

"I'll call, man," a man across the table from us says.  The man to his left does the same thing!  Now this is a bit concerning.  It's a moment right out of an online tournament -- with three players all in early in the evening.

ON THE RIVER: 5

A card which really doesn't matter.

"I've got the straight," we're quick to say.  We show our 7.  Mr. Big Bet then turns over his cards -- and he has a 7.  The next man in line also has a 7.  And so does the fourth!

"No one had a Jack," the fourth man says.  Thankfully.  Our great minds thought alike, and the pot is split four ways.

The problem was that we couldn't even split a pot after that.  Potentially good hands lost to better ones, until we were down to 500 chips in the second hour....

MINISTRY MOMENT: We were forced to go all-in with that 500 for the Big Blind.  But the blinds were at 1,000/2,000, and the Tournament Director dipped into his huge stack to make up the difference for us.

"It's better to give than to receive," we told him with thanks.

"I don't believe that, man," a player to our left said half-jokingly.

"I read in a book," we told several players, "it's better to give than to receive."  Go down two posts from this one, and you'll see which book we mean -- the book of Acts.

"It depends who you're giving it to," the man to our left then explained.  Do you agree with that view?

The U.S. has more than one million different charitable organizations.  We've don't know of anyone who has given one dollar to each of them.  (If we tried to do that, we'd go broke -- and then we'd  need those charities to help us.)  So indeed, giving people make choices.  But consider these words of Jesus:
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. - Luke 6:30-31

Talk about a tough standard!  Give to everyone?!? Even to groups and people who do things exactly the opposite of what you believe?

Some Bible commentaries try to put boundaries on this, by claiming we should only give to those who are "proper" and are asking for "necessities."  One author puts it this way, agreeing to some degree with our earlier post: "Giving a person everything they ask for isn't necessarily love."  And "love" is an important word here....
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. - Luke 6:35
How far you show this love and take this principle expressed by Jesus is up to you.  (Your comments about it are welcome.)  We personally see a need to pray long and hard for God's guidance about it -- especially since we're in a tough financial situation at the moment.

Oh, we almost forgot: we had 5-8 in the Big Blind.  The board didn't pair for us.  We were eliminated in 12th place.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 134 final tables in 387 nights (34.6%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 282 point wins in 1,357 games (20.8%), 92 final tables, 12 cashes, 10 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 24 final tables in 94 games, (25.5%), 19 final tables, 1 cash win.

We came very close to winning money in a Sunday afternoon game - finishing 11th out of 1,086 players.  Only the top seven won money, and no points were awarded.  The next day we came close again, finishing 25th out of 930 players.

But with NLOP and related Zen Entertainment poker sites now in bankruptcy court, we're admittedly looking for a new online base.  What do you recommend, in terms of a "free poker" site that awards money to winners?

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $85,720, down $250.  Our trips there went down, of course, after a U.S. government crackdown barred us from playing even in freeroll tournaments for money.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Payday Someday?

National League of Poker has a "Wild Wednesday" tournament every Wednesday night.  We won $35 there last Wednesday night.

Well, at least we thought we did.

Our InBox had a notice late today that the company behind NLOP filed for bankruptcy protection two weeks ago.  The only article we can find online on this matter warns people who won money recently "are unlikely to be paid unless an investment knight in shining armor can be found."

But there's potential good news -- a notice we received today which was filed with Bankruptcy Court says, "The debtors intend to pay your claim in full."  A hearing on this plan is scheduled for March 20.

That's a potentially long wait for a little money.  And we need that money right now, because of our personal economic situation.  Please join us in praying all winners get the money they should have coming.

Give and Keep

No, we're not playing that longtime game from The Price is Right today.  We're going back to a post from last week, where we asked you to think about what it means to be "your brother's keeper."

Big-time poker establishments used to be "smoke-filled rooms."  But during the last decade, that changed in Las Vegas.  Now the World Series of Poker is smoke-free -- but when local bars host poker nights, smoke can rise almost as quickly as the beer levels go down.

So we asked about a poker player who asked another player if he could "borrow" a cigarette.  What would we have done?  We'll give this a two-part answer:

1. If we smoked and had cigarettes to spare, we'd probably hand one over.  After all....
....Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." - Acts 20:35b


It's interesting to note you won't find this quote from Jesus in the four gospels.  But it was uttered by Paul, who became an apostle after Christ's resurrection.  Perhaps other disciples passed along the statement, after Paul (then called Saul) became converted (Acts 9:19).

2. But we don't smoke, and never have.  We don't even hand money over to beggars, if they tell us they're going to use the money to buy tobacco.  Another part of the Bible comes into play here:
So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.... - I Corinthians 10:32


The focus is on considering "the good of others" above your own interests (verse 24).  That's what being "your brother's keeper" is all about.  And science has proven "good" lungs are free of smoke from tobacco.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. - Romans 15:2


Giving is good, if you have something good to give -- for instance, tipping the dealer if you make a big winning hand.  But if someone asks for something that's not good, that's different.  Keep what's best for other people in mind -- especially if it keeps them out of danger.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Poker Night 386: Counsel Meeting

When poker players get together, what are they most likely to talk about?  At our first table at The Red Barn tonight, they talked about the most logical thing -- poker hands.  But should you believe everything they say?  And more importantly, should you do what they do?

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: K-K

We have yet to win a hand, and start this one in the Big Blind with about 6,150 chips.  People around us are analyzing the prior hand, where a woman to our left limped in with pocket Aces and saw them get cracked by a full house on the river.

"You should have raised -- something like 2,500," the man who's dealing tells her.  "No one would have called."

The Small Blind at our immediate right corrects him. "I would have called."

"So you would have one caller," the dealer says.  "But that's a lot better than four callers."

At about this point, we look at our cards.  No one has raised.  These aren't Aces, of course.  But we decide a big raise like the dealer's describing would be.... well, too obvious.  So we try something different.

"Raise - 300 more," we say.  Four players call.

ON THE FLOP: Q-A-5

Ugh.  That Ace was the last thing we wanted to see.  The Small Blind checks.  We make a continuation bet of 500.  The dealer and Small Blind call; everyone else folds.

ON THE TURN: 10

Now we want to see if anyone's ready to bet their Ace.  We check.  So do the other players.

ON THE RIVER: Q

This gives us two pair -- but still not a lot of comfort.  After the Small Blind checks, we bet 700.  The dealer has a big stack of chips and is ready to use it.  He raises 3,000.

"I fold," the Small Blind says.  That leaves us with a big decision -- and a small confession.

"After listening to this discussion, I should have done what you said.  I fold."

We conclude the dealer had an Ace, for a higher pair.  Instead, he stuns us -- and turns over K-6!  He made a big bluff to steal the pot.  Then we show our pair, which would have prevailed.

"You folded pocket Kings?!" the Small Blind asks.

"Too many hands beat me," we explain.  "An Ace beats me.  Another Queen beats me."

The winner then offers another moment of instant analysis.  "Your best guess was to assume I had a Queen, because I didn't bet when the Ace came out."

"Unless you were slow-playing Aces, after all that talk."

The dealer adds a straight also was possible, based on the board.  He doesn't fault us for folding.  We're left to kick ourselves.

That was our best shot at a pot all night, until we went all-in early in the second hour.  We had 8-8 in the Big Blind, and a third 8 came on the flop.  Trouble is, that 8 was a heart -- and the river brought a fourth heart.  A man across from us had the King of hearts for a flush.  Our final table run ends at three, as we were eliminated in 15th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Another topic at the table tonight was the music on The Red Barn's jukebox.  One song which sparked discussion was Pearl Jam's performance of Last Kiss.

"That was a hit 50 years ago," someone said.

"And who recorded it first?" we asked in a sudden round of trivia.  "J. Frank Wilson and the Playboys."

"It was J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers," a man across from us recalled.  A check of Wikipedia confirms he's correct; we forgot the Playboys was Gary Lewis's 1960s group.

But our main point about Last Kiss involved the song's refrain.  "It says 'She's gone to heaven,' and the Bible doesn't say you go to heaven when you die."

One man across the table wished people did go to heaven.  Yet Jesus said....
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven -- the Son of Man. - John 3:13


We realize that goes against what a lot of Christian ministers say.  But they're the words of Jesus, who should know what He was talking about.
 
Yet as we noted in a recent post, a resurrection day for the dead is coming.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed -- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. - I Corinthians 15:51-53


The Bible says this life is not all there is.  Are you making plans for another one -- one where you can live forever with Christ?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 134 final tables in 386 nights (34.7%) -- 20 cashes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Whose Side Are You On?

It's the biggest day of the year for U.S. football fans - the day of the "so-called Super Bowl" (as our Pastor called it during a sermon this weekend).

You may be rooting for one particular team.  But a new survey raises a provocative question: does God root for a team?  The survey found 27 percent of U.S. residents believing so -- to the point that they think God plays a role in determining which side wins.

This question can be extended to the poker table.  Does God care who wins your weekly tournament?  The World Series of Poker Main Event?  Even a televised contest, where a winner's profession of faith might be heard by large numbers of people?

We could turn to Bible verses on both sides of this issue.  Some indicate a good "work ethic" and training (which you'd think God would bless) doesn't always pay off in victory:
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. - Ecclesiastes 9:11


"Bad timing," one online player wrote when we escaped an all-in moment against him the other day.  We've had moments of good timing, too -- such as A-A being dealt to us at a decisive Big Blind.  But we're honest enough to admit that doesn't always happen.

Here's another verse we've heard ministers quote often, which relates to this topic:
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.... - Acts 10:34 (KJV)


So He doesn't care who wins the football game or poker tournament -- right?

Well, hold on.  The problem with that thinking is that many ministers stop quoting the Scripture there.  Keep reading....
But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. - Acts 10:35 (KJV)


Do you understand what Peter's saying?  If you fear God and live a righteous life, God will accept you -- no matter what your background, skin color or national origin.  And the Bible shows that "fear" has a payoff:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:6


Faithfully seeking God will be rewarded -- and that can take many forms.  In this life, it could be an unlikely victory in a poker room.  But the ultimate reward from God is far more important....
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. - Matthew 16:27


We've leave it to God to reveal someday if He intervened and took sides in a Super Bowl or a WSOP tournament.  What matters more is that we're on God's side - to receive blessings from Him, both now and in eternity.