Sunday, March 31, 2013

Your Turn: Job Force

Long before we started playing poker and created this blog, we posted an Bible-based article online which asked the question: Is God a Gambler?  Someone who read that article sent a comment on it the other day....

Didn't God gamble with the Devil over the "Godliness & faith" of Job. God sits back and allows Satan to utterly destroy everything that Job has, his home, his wealth, his family, his heath, everything. Just to prove a point.

Our understanding of this comes down to two conversations between Satan and the Lord:
"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied.... "But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."  The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." - Job 1:9, 11-12

God praised Job in verse 8 as "blameless and upright," indicating no one on Earth was like him.  But the exchange strikes us more as an "I dare you" challenge than what we would consider a gamble.  The lives of Job and his family were the "chips" in the middle -- and Satan indeed played aggressively, not once but twice:
"Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."  The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life." - Job 2:4-6

The devil caused a lot of collateral damage, with ten children and an unknown number of servants killed.

But note God put limits on this "game" - first ordering the protection of Job's body, then his life.  And did Job really do what Satan predicted?  If the devil expected Job to curse God and switch sides, we've found no verse indicating he did.  Instead....
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. - Job 42:5-6

The rest of Job 42 shows God blessed Job even more at the end, than at the beginning.  And Satan can't really claim the dead children and servants as its own, because....
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

 For many Christians, this time of year is a reminder of God's power to resurrect the dead.  It started with people healed by Jesus, then in a more glorious way with Jesus Himself -- and eventually will include the rest of mankind.

We're welcome to your thoughts on the story of Job.  What lessons has that book taught you?  Leave a comment, and we may go deeper in a future post.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Drawing Dead or Alive?

Some poker tournaments have "re-buy" rules.  If you lose all your chips early in the game, you can get more chips and get back in for an extra charge.  But what happened to a woman sitting next to us recently was different - and amazing.

After playing carefully for about an hour, she went for it all in a hand and lost.  Except the Tournament Director put her out -- and he decided against putting her out, mainly because she was relatively new.  The woman received a "rebate" of chips.  Within minutes, she won several big pots -- and as we recall, she wound up at the final table.

This woman told us early in the evening she's a Bible reader.  After watching her comeback, we had a suggestion: "You should read the verses on new life."

The Tournament Director provided that to the woman -- and Jesus Christ offers it to you....
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! - II Corinthians 5:17

New life comes from being "in Christ."  For that to occur, Christ actually needs to be in you:
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. - Romans 8:10

Poker players know "drawing dead" is no fun.  It means you've lost the hand, even if the river card is the best one possible for you.  But in the eyes of God, death can lead to new life....
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. - Romans 6:4

Baptism performed the Biblical way pictures death - being buried under water. Coming out of that watery grave and having hands prayerfully laid upon you can bring Christ into you, through the Holy Spirit.

Have you repented of the sins which have your life drawing dead?  Have you taken those other steps, to ensure a new life in Jesus -- which can lead to life everlasting?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why We Do What We Do

Regular readers probably have guessed we keep a lot of statistics about our poker playing.  One such stat sparked a conversation Sunday during a National League of Poker tournament....

Me:  Attendance today 969
Me:  up 88 from last Sunday
rmwats:  I thought u meant at church
Dealer:  PrimeMatador wins Main Pot ($1,050) with One pair, threes
Me:  No. Here
Me:  I normally go to church on Saturday

The "attendance" was the number of players in the field.  The day we worship might be surprising -- but it's the day Jesus kept when He was on Earth....
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues.... - Luke 13:10

Jesus met with Jews on the seventh-day Sabbath, since that was His lineage.  He declared the launch of a "church" (Matthew 16:18), but that didn't get going until after the Lord ascended to heaven (Acts 2).  But the chat continues....

Me:  but tonight is a special Lord's Supper
Me:  service.
rmwats:  i see  
Me:  New Testament Passover
rmwats:  7 day adventis
Me:  No. United Church of God

Several small Christian groups held their annual "communion" services Sunday night -- following the traditional Jewish calendar, as opposed to "Holy Week" of mainstream Christianity.  That's not all they do:
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast -- as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. - I Corinthians 5:7-8

What sort of "Festival" is this?  The answer is found in several scattered parts of the Old Testament.
Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you.... - Exodus 23:15

Long before the Atkins Diet and "gluten-free" menus, worshipers of God went one week a year without leavened bread.  The rest of verse 15 shows it originally was a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt (as in the movie The Ten Commandments).  But in New Testament times, Paul revealed it indicates a switch from sinful behavior (malice and wickedness) to "truth" -- as in....
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6

Would you like to know more -- and perhaps try this "one-week diet" for yourself?  This article goes into the Spring Festival in more detail.  We're away from the poker tables in part because of that festival.  But anytime is a good time to put sin out of your life, and draw close to God's truth -- even if your poker style is bluffing.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Poker Night 399: If You're H-AA-ppy and You Know It

Did you know Wednesday was the first-ever International Day of Happiness?  But sadly, we're not happy with the alleged misconduct by a manager at Lil Kim's Cove.  So we chose to stay away this week, and instead went to Soho Bar and Grill.  When poker night comes, some hands make players happier than others....

BLINDS: 50/100


Why yes, we are happy to see these "pocket rockets."  But we're sitting "under the gun" -- first to act at this table of seven.  So we play by our usual approach: limp early, bet late.  We simply call the blind, and wait for big bettors.  Only problem: no one raises.

ON THE FLOP: A-9-6 (third card may not be precise)

A third Ace suggests our patience may be rewarded.  A quiet young woman to our right starts things off, with a modest bet of 100.

"Looks like she wants to play," a man across the table says.

"We're going to find out," we respond -- and raise to 600.  This convinces several players to fold.  A man across from us calls, as does that young woman.


Now we have a full house.  We're sure a reward is coming -- but how much?  The young woman checks.  We really don't want to scare our opponents off, so we settle on a bet of 1,000.

"I'm all-in," the man opposite us says.  He has about 9,000 chips.  Then the young woman goes all-in as well, for 325 more!

"I have to go all-in," we say with a bit of resignation in our voice.  We have about 11,000 chips after winning a couple of earlier pots, so we have the other players covered.

"So it's 325 over here?" we ask about a sidepot.  "And I think I'm going to get a lot more."

We flip over our Aces, and the table is stunned.  The only hand which could top ours is 9-9, to make quads.


The young woman shows A-8 -- only two pair.  We're not sure exactly what the man had, but it fell short.  We eliminate two players, capture a massive pot in the range of 30,000 chips -- but never even think of doing a "happy dance."  That would show up the losers, you know.

The first hour brought more success, and we reached the one-hour break at 37,500 chips.  But then things looked weak, as strong hands such as A-Q and Q-Q lost to two pair.  With the blinds rising, we dealt ourselves another pair of pocket Aces.  Going all-in with 10,500 worked for us, for a "triple-up" rebuilding -- and after two hours, we were back to the 37,500 we had before.

Patient play after that brought us to the final table -- but then we called a bet of 25,000 with A-J, only to see things escalate from there.  We dared to put in our last 15,000, only to see other players with A-9 and A-Q.  A man with K-K had the lead, and won it all when the board didn't pair for anyone.  We finished tied for eighth (eighth in points) -- a satisfying night, at a room with more than 30 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: One man at the final table was puzzled about our long nail, which we used as a card protector.  We wound up explaining to three people how it reminded us of the price Jesus paid for our sins.

"Do you believe in Jesus?  Is He your Savior?" we asked one man to our immediate right.  His answer was yes, so we asked what the Lord has been doing for him.

"Keeping my head above water," the man answered.

That's been the case for us in recent months as well.  The days have not been easy, when it comes to finances.  But the Bible promises....
He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.  He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. - Psalm 111:4-5

The key words in this promise are "those who fear him."  If you fear God, blessings such as food will follow.  Jesus reinforced this point:
So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?".... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:31, 33

Don't give in to the temptation to take "short cuts," when tough times come.  Walk honorably and morally before God, and have faith He will honor you in return.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 138 final tables in 399 nights (34.6%) - 21 cashes.

As of now, it appears next week will be a "spring break" for us from live poker.  A busy schedule may not allow any trips to tournaments.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,399 games (20.2%), 92 final tables, 10 wins, 12 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 30 point wins in 116 games (25.9%), 25 final tables, 1 win, 2 cashes.

Sunday night was very good for us in a tournament with 1,180 players.  We finished 38th - easily in the money at a poker room, but awarded no points or money at NLOP (only the top seven won cash).

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $85,160, down $617 (total corrected).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fossilman's Folly

It turns out last weekend was a troublesome one for poker, even outside our area.

Police in North Carolina arrested former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Greg Raymer on prostitution charges.  A statement from his attorney seems to admit "Fossilman" did it.

While other poker players are mocking Raymer online, our mood is more disappointment.  Raymer is married and a father -- so stepping outside to "look for action" (putting it in poker lingo) risks damaging his own family.
For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. - Proverbs 6:26
Many big-time poker tournaments admittedly are played in places where sin is known to abound, such as Las Vegas.  But North Carolina isn't really known as a "sin zone."  Sin lurks everywhere in this world -- probably even in your neighborhood.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. - Proverbs 1:10
Whether their goal is prostitution, drunkenness or something violent, we should play a clean game - in poker and in living.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. - Matthew 10:16 (KJV)
Praying for God's wisdom is important -- whether you're dealing with "hooks" (Jacks) or hookers.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Poker Night 398: The Prince of Darkness

There are times when a poker player's commitment level is tested -- even before the tournament begins.

Look at what was happening outside our front door, less than an hour before tonight's game at The Red Barn.  A severe thunderstorm nearby covered our courtyard with hail, not to mention heavy rain.

But we truly "braved the elements," as the journalism cliché says, and drove to the poker tournament.  The lights never went out in our bar - but there was darkness of a different kind:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-6 offsuit

We grabbed an early pot with pocket 5's, but have missed with a couple of chances since.  On a three-table night, we're dealing at a full semifinal table.  No one raises ahead of us, and we decide to limp in.


Top pair looks like a good start -- and when the table checks, it looks especially nice.  We use the "button" position to bet 600.  Yet hardly anyone is scared away; most players in the hand call.  Most of them have massive stacks, so they can afford to chase big hands.


We doubt that card helped anybody -- but we're a bit concerned someone else has an Ace with a higher kicker.  So we join the table in checking this time.

Somewhere around this moment, we're told the man sitting to our right starts giggling.  We didn't even notice, since we're dealing.


There's no flush threat, but we remain skeptical about this.  The table starts checking again -- but that man to our right then jumps into action with a bet of 1,250.  Has our fear come true?  Or is he trying to steal the pot?

"I'll call," we say with a touch of reluctance.  A couple of other players do as well.

"I flopped two pair - 9's and 5's," that man says.  "In the dark."

By that, he means he didn't look at his cards for awhile during the hand.  No wonder he laughed when he saw what he had.

"You can giggle all the way to the bank," we say with disappointment.

That was a big blow, from which we never recovered.  We had 2,850 chips at the one-hour break -- so when we saw A-K in the first hand of the second hour, we went for it all.  But the board didn't pair for us, and another man's Jack did.  At least the rain stopped when we walked to our car, after finishing 15th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Everything I've got, I have here," a man to our right said at the first table of the evening.  A couple of pins were on his cowboy hat.

"All I have is a nail," we said humorously.  But a few minutes later, we explained to him the reason for that card protector.

"I brought that to remind me that Jesus Christ gave his life for my sins."

"You need two more of them," the man to our right answered -- an answer which admittedly left us speechless.

It's Christian tradition that Jesus was crucified with three nails driven into His body -- one in each hand and a third for His feet.  Some denominations disagree with the modern stereotype of exactly how it was done.  Yet only one verse in the New Testament mentions those nails at all:
So the other disciples said, "We have seen the Lord!"  But he said to them. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." - John 20:25

These were the skeptical words of "doubting Thomas" the apostle.  He came "heads-up" before the resurrected Christ about a week later:
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe."  Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" - John 20:27-28

Jesus showed what He had, much as that poker player with 9-5 did -- and that settled everything for Thomas.

Many Christian church groups will remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus over the next few days.  We do it by attending a "New Testament Passover" service, known by others as the Lord's Supper.  Will you be a believer, by participating?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD:  137 final tables in 398 nights (34.4%) - 21 cashes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Whose Luck Is It, Anyway?

Today is a day when many people think about Ireland.  Poker rooms could have green far beyond the felt on the tables -- and players might talk about having the "luck of the Irish."

But if you think about it, how lucky are the Irish?  Consider some examples:
  • The Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" men's basketball team lost in the Big East Conference semifinals Friday night.  The football team went undefeated last season, but was trampled in the title tilt.
  • Basketball's Boston Celtics (with the little man and the shamrock on their logo) won a lot of titles years ago - but only one since 1986.
  • The country of Ireland had devastating and deadly famines during the 18th and 19th centuries.
We don't cite all this to demean Ireland or people of Irish ancestry.  Our point is that "luck" really has nothing to do with where you live, or who your ancestors were.

An article we found online analyzes the idea of luck, as it relates to Saint Patrick's Day.  It's a concept we've mentioned here several times, in considering the factors involved in winning at poker.  But that article includes a Bible passage we hadn't noticed before:
What will I, the Lord, do if any of you reject me and my holy mountain?  What will happen to you for offering food and wine to the gods you call "Good Luck" and "Fate"? - Isaiah 65:11 (CEV)

Luck isn't simply a Western concept, you know.  Perhaps you've eaten at restaurants with names such as "Lucky Buddha" -- as Chinese culture includes a god of luck.  But what does the Bible say will happen, if you present offerings to such things?
Your luck will end!  I will see to it that you are slaughtered with swords.... you did what I hated, knowing it was wrong. - Isaiah 65:12 (CEV)

God wants the people He created to look to Him for their needs, not false gods.
I, the Lord God, will give food and drink to my servants, and they will celebrate.... My servants will laugh and sing, but you will be sad and cry out in pain. - Isaiah 65:13-14 (CEV)

The last part of this chapter indicates these words will be fulfilled when Jesus comes back, to create "new heavens and a new earth" (verse 17).  Put your trust in the real God and follow the Bible's instructions, and you'll be there.  The alternative sounds more blood red than "emerald isle" green.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Would You Do?

Our longtime neighborhood poker spot made the front page of the local newspaper today -- for a bad reason.

The manager of Lil Kim's Cove was arrested by police.  From what we can tell, it had nothing to do with the Thursday night poker tournaments.  The bar has a modified slot machine tucked away near the back door.  Police claim the manager paid cash and gift card rewards to players.

We never touched that "gaming machine."  We've gone to Lil Kim's Cove to play in free tournaments, and nothing more.  But after reading of this arrest, we're wondering.... should we keep going there?  Even though it's only a short walk from where we live?

Which leads to our title -- what would you do?  Discuss.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Poker Night 397: No Respect at All

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield had a famous line: "I don't get no respect."  In poker, respect has to be earned -- either by becoming a tournament-winning pro, or by doing well on a local circuit.

At Lil Kim's Cove tonight, one man muttered his bet on the flop of 500 received no respect when several people called it.  But could our reputation at the table turn into a big win, when it mattered?

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Ace of clubs - King of spades

We've been playing a bit on the loose side, which has brought ups and downs in our chip stack.  But we won a pot prior to this with modest pressure bets from start to finish.  Now we've dealt ourselves "big slick," but no one has raised at the table.  We decide to lay low and simply call.  The blinds don't raise.

ON THE FLOP: 6s-8s-2c

So much for having big cards.  They're in the lead only if no one has a pair - and a player across from us bets 300 as if he does.  We choose to hang tough for at least one card, and call.  One other player does as well.


Not big, but still helpful.  We now have a flush draw, and get help when the bettor cautiously checks.  The entire table checks.

ON THE RIVER: 7d (suit may not be precise, but not a spade)

We missed it all -- but the table checks again.  So we try to use "the button" of the dealer playing last to our advantage.  We bet 800, hoping to run off the competition.  It's what we call a "semi-bluff," because we do have high card -- but we're hinting at much more.

"I have to call," the man across from us says.  Uh-oh.  The third player folds.

"I have the 9," he then reveals.  Ouch.  We were so focused on a possible flush that we missed the possible straight on the board.

"You caught me," we admit as we show our cards.  Our stab at the pot leaves us with a big loss.

But the good news is that we recovered from that loss, with some timely cards.  With 5,600 chips after the one-hour break, A-Q brought us a couple of big gains -- first to 10,000, then 15,000.  We held on from there to make the final table, as the two-hour break came.

The fun didn't stop there, as we went all-in with A-Q again at the start of the final table and found a Queen on the flop.  That improved us to 50,000, while other players pushed and failed.  With four players left, everyone agreed to a settlement: a 20-10-10-10 split of the $50 prize money.  The chip leader received $20; we were a weak third at the time.

With play continuing for a "bucket of beers" (the usual second-place prize), another player pushed and failed.  That left three players, and we made a gain after that with pocket Aces.  A few hands later, a second and final settlement was made when the chip leader decided he didn't want Big Dog Poker points.  The man to our right claimed first in points, giving us second.

That chip leader has agreed to buy us a couple of sodas on our next Lil Kim's poker night, since we don't drink beer.  That along with a $10 win made our night successful.  It's our first local cash win since a six-way settlement there in mid-November!

MINISTRY MOMENT: A man to our left dealt with aching teeth during the game.  And for some reason, he started talking about other medical problems.

"If I get tapeworm, can I resist it in the name of Jesus?"

"Jesus can heal all our illnesses," we told him as the next hand was dealt.

He agreed with that, then added, "Can he heal my.... call."  His chips for the next hand were tossed in, as he spoke.

"Many are called," we suggested, "but few are chosen."

"I know," the man responded.  "I've read that."

Perhaps you have not.  They're the words of Jesus:
For many are called, but few are chosen. - Matthew 22:14 (KJV)
What does Jesus mean by this famous phrase?  It comes at the end of a parable about a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son.  Several people were invited, but....
But they paid no attention and went off -- one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. - Matthew 22:5-6 (NIV)
The following verses tell about the king sending out a marauding army, which took vengeance with murder and arson.  Then the king tries again, inviting anyone interested on the street -- but one person is found at the banquet without proper clothing, and is thrown out of the hall (verses 7-13).

So what do you make of this puzzle?  What's the ultimate point of Jesus in this parable -- especially that well-known verse 14?  Offer a comment with your thoughts, and we'll compare ideas in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 137 final tables in 397 nights (34.5%) - 21 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,394 games (20.3%), 92 final tables, 10 wins, 12 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 30 point wins in 113 games (26.5%), 25 final tables, 1 win, 2 cashes.

We actually made two final tables today.  An online No-River Hold 'em game during the afternoon brought us fourth place out of 78 players - but sadly, only first place received prize money.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $85,787, up $138.

The Man in Charge

After a break in an online poker tournament Wednesday afternoon, we had some big news to share.

"New Pope! New Pope!" we wrote.  As in the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Argentina being selected to replace Benedict XVI.

Only a couple of people at the table seemed interested enough to ask about it.  Perhaps it's a reflection of poker players in general not being very interested in religious matters.  Yet it's the Catholic Church which is most likely to host bingo nights -- and some people consider that a form of gambling.

You may have read or heard speculation about what the new Pope Francis might do -- and even whether he could be the last one before Jesus Christ returns.  But we think the focus should be on Someone even higher-ranking than a pope....
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. - Colossians 1:17-18

This can't be a pope, because (to our knowledge) no popes ever have been resurrected from the dead.  So who is this "supreme" leader?
....Giving thanks to the Father.... For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. - Colossians 1:12-14

Verse 3 makes clear the "Son" is Jesus Christ.  He's ultimately the head of the church, not any human beings.

You may be looking to a poker teacher for guidance in playing better -- and there's nothing really wrong with that.  But who's really the leader and overseer of your life?  If it isn't Jesus, who's really better?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Poker Night 396: Donuts for Dollars

A couple of weekends ago, we sat inside a McDonald's restaurant eating dinner when a surprise occurred.  Two children walked in, holding boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts -- and they proceeded to ask us to buy some.  We openly asked if that was allowed.  They said yes, but took our hint and moved on.

"Krispy Kremes" are welcome in a poker room -- but sometimes they can lead to a meltdown.  So here's what we did with them tonight at The Red Barn....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: King of clubs - King of spades

Good cards have been scarce for us so far, so we've only tested the water in a couple of hands.  We're already at a semifinal table on a three-table night, and start this hand with 4,975 chips.  Sitting one behind the dealer, no one raises ahead of us.  So it's time to move.

"Raise - 1,000."

At a table where players have bought food, drinks and jukebox songs worth tens of thousands, this is a modest inconvenience.  Several players call.


A third King comes -- but so does big trouble.  Three hearts open the door for a flush.  Thankfully, the players check ahead of us again.  So it's time to make a bigger move -- as in throwing a block.

"All in for 3,975."

The response isn't exactly what we want.  Not one, but three players call.  We're concerned.


Good.  The three players who still can bet all check.  But keep in mind, the chances of hitting a flush on the river card are slightly higher than on the turn (19.6 versus 19.1 percent).


So now we can relax?  The table checks again.

"Show me your Aces," a player across from us says.

"Nope, I have three Kings."

"I was chasing a flush," that man admits.  He shows the 10 of hearts, but he has nothing else!  We make a massive gain, to 22,900.

 The cards improved a bit after that, but our success with them came and went.  A-K brought us a gain in the second hour, when a King came on the flop.  But then we missed with A-K and A-Q, and had to fold to potentially bankrupting bets.  We finally did push with A-8 of clubs, but the board didn't pair and a man to our left made a flush.  Our hopes were dashed again, finishing in 13th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Thank GAWWW-D for a three!" a woman said next to us after a hand.  The 3 on the river secured her a higher straight and a nice pot -- and her response sounded exactly as exaggerated as we've spelled it.

"We should thank God for everything," we said quietly to her.  And with no exaggeration.

We've noted many times the importance of being thankful, for blessings great and small.  But we think it's also important to thank God with an attitude of respect:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.... - Hebrews 12:28

No one in the Bible has the ministerial title "Reverend."  But reverent is how we should be in our dealings with God.  Look at what could happen if we aren't....
To this day they have not humbled themselves or shown reverence, nor have they followed my law and the decrees I set before you and your fathers.  Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster on you and to destroy all Judah. - Jeremiah 44:10-11

Jeremiah spoke these words on God's behalf.  Biblical history shows that disaster eventually happened, with the nation of Judah taken captive and Jerusalem burned (Jeremiah 52:13, 27).  The lesson for all of us can be summed up simply....
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows. - Galatians 6:7

When you say you thank God, do you mean it?  Really mean it?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 136 final tables in 396 nights (34.3%) - 20 cashes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

They Saw It Coming

"Nine!" a man said firmly as we dealt a turn card at a poker tournament the other night.

Sure enough -- the card was a 9.  We suggested the man "tip the dealer" if he won the pot.  He never did; in fact, we don't recall now if he won the hand or not.

Some poker players have a sense/hunch/knack of knowing when "their cards" are coming.  It's what keeps them in a hand with a "belly-buster" straight draw, or chasing after a flush when they need running diamonds.

A previous post mentioned how the Bible warns against fortune-telling -- or using spiritism to predict the future.  Yet the Bible also has cases where people forecast the future, even predicting events at the end of the age.  They're known as prophets -- and there's a difference in what they did:
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. - II Peter 1:21
God's prophets speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  And during Old Testament times, several of them foretold the coming of Jesus Christ.  Even Jesus realized that....
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!:.... And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. - Luke 24:25, 27
If you have a "cross-reference" Bible which lists other verses in connection with one verse, we invite you to read the passages connected with verse 27.  A large number of Old Testament writings came true and were verified when Christ walked the earth.

But we need to add a disclaimer -- one Jesus warned, in a conversation with His disciples:
....And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. - Matthew 24:11

In fact, we've mentioned a couple of them here in recent years -- people who thought the world would end in 2011 or 2012.  It's important to verify what "prophets" say, in relation to the Bible.  If their words don't match God's "holy word," put God first.  Or as one apostle put it:
....Let God be true, and every man a liar.... - Romans 3:4

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Poker Night 395: Looking for Something?

Did you ever search and search around the house for an item -- only to discover it was sitting right in front of you all along?  That can happen at a poker table, too.  Look carefully at this hand from tonight's tournament at Lil Kim's Cove:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: Queen-7 of diamonds

As best we remember, we haven't won a pot yet -- but we haven't bet much, either.  From a starting 13,000 chips (3,000 extra for soda, 5,000 for arriving on time), this is a safe inexpensive hand to play.  We call, and no one at the table of six raises.

ON THE FLOP: 10x-Kd-6x

A third diamond offers hope of a flush.  We're helped by the fact that the table checks.

ON THE TURN: J (not a diamond)

There goes the flush -- and our interest in this hand.  We're ready to fold to anything.  But the table checks again.


As they say in hockey, now the gloves come off.  A woman who calls herself a "newby" player bets 3,000.  A man across from her raises to 10,000.

"I'd better get ready to fold this," we say -- but then with our cards above the table, we suddenly see it.  Hey, there are four cards for a straight on the board!  And we have the Queen for a "Broadway" straight!

The cards come back, and we're glad we didn't simply say "fold."  We call the bet of 10,000.  The new player next to us struggles to figure out her chips, but she calls as well.

"I've got a Queen," we say as we show.  And it turns out the other two big bettors did, too.  It's a three-way split of the pot, and only a modest gain for us.

The lesson for us here: keep watching a hand carefully until you're completely out of it.  Surprising "runner" cards came to give us a straight -- and we almost missed it, by assuming the worst.

We won a couple of pots outright in the first hour, including an 8-9 which turned into two pair on the flop and took out an opponent.  Then a longtime Tournament Director quit the game with a huge stack of chips, and we gained about 5,000 more in a six-way split.  Our high was 23,500 -- but then good cards quit coming.

An attempt to make something happen with a pair of Jacks fell victim to a flush we didn't have.  Finally at the start of the third hour with only 10,000 chips left and the blinds at 5,000/10,000, we folded 7-10 -- only to watch cards come which would have given us a winning straight.

The next hand was a forced Big Blind with J-6.  The river brought a 6 -- but a man across from us had A-6, and his kicker topped us.  We again fell barely short of the final table, finishing 10th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I read a passage from the Bible every day," the new female player told us before the game began.  That led to a short discussion around the table about sin.

"Everyone sins," a man across from us said.  "There are little sins and big sins."

Big and little to us, maybe.  But in the eyes of God, we're still.... well, "all sin."
For whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. - James 2:10
The discussion reminded us of a Bible passage we'd read earlier in the day....
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. - I John 1:8

Are you claiming that?  If so, take another look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5.  Have you gone throughout your life without ever telling a lie -- even once?  Have you never longed to own something one of your friends has?  That can be coveting.  Yet here's the good news....
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - I John 1:9
After you seek God's forgiveness of your sins, ask for His help in coming out of sin.  His Holy Spirit can help you resist and win, if you let Him live within you.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 136 final tables in 395 nights (34.4%) - 20 cashes.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,388 games (20.4%), 92 final tables, 10 cashes, 12 wins.  No-River Hold 'em - 28 point wins in 108 games (25.9%), 23 final tables, 2 cashes, 1 win.

It appears we were wrong about NLOP ending the monthly Senior Championships.  Qualifying is underway for the March event -- but we'll have to miss it, due to another commitment.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games -  $85,649, down $747.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Remember As You Play....

Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity."  They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. - Jonah 1:7

Yes, we know -- this verse seems to refer to throwing dice, instead of playing poker.  But there's a lesson here in how God sometimes takes control of things you don't expect.  Consider what led up to this throw....
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.  He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.... - Jonah 1:3

God gave Jonah orders to preach in Nineveh.  Instead of heading east toward the Tigris River, Jonah went west to the Mediterranean Sea.  But he didn't run away from God at all:
Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. - Jonah 1:4

We heard a Baptist preacher on radio say recently God controlled the weather in this case -- and then God controlled the toss of the lot, as it accurately pointed to Jonah as the reason for the storm.  (He even provided that great fish, for which Jonah is most famous.)

If God can control a form of dice (and lots were used by Jesus's apostles in Acts 1 to determine a successor to Judas), we think He also can step into poker rooms at times.  We've had enough success at unexpected moments to reach that conclusion.  And we thank God for every blessing He brings - at the table, or away from it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Poker Night 394: Disarmament Deal

For a moment, we thought the schedule had changed.  A row of tables for two, at The Red Barn -- with flowers and candles on them?!  What sort of heads-up poker tournament was this?

Well, it really wasn't.  "Speed dating," one of the managers told us.  "Trying something new, once a month."

Yet the regular Monday night poker tournament went on at The Red Barn as well.  Dating and poker - together?!  They both could have "hearts" in common.  But we were in a poker fight for survival, starting with a table of nine.  And we faced some heart-pumping moments along the way....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Ace of diamonds - Ace of clubs

A couple of players at our table already have been in a big-betting mood.  That cost us some early chips, but we still start this hand with 6,100.  Sitting one behind the dealer, no one raises in front of us.  So with the biggest of pocket pairs, it's obviously our turn.  We raise 500, hoping for a re-raise from someone.  But several players merely call.

ON THE FLOP: 10h-Jh-7c

This doesn't seem too threatening.  But a player to our right acts like it is.  He bets 2,500.  Could he possibly have a straight -- or more likely three of a kind?  With a bit of skepticism, we call.  A couple of others do the same.


The presence of a third heart is exactly the last thing we want to see.  Now the man to our right throws out 7,500 -- more than enough to put us all in.  In a way, this bet doesn't make sense.  If he has a flush now, why did he bet so much on a flush draw one card before?  Is it all nothing but scare tactics?

We ponder this quietly for about ten seconds, realize we only have 3,000 chips left and finally decide.  "I'll let his chips do the talking.  I'll fold."

Yes, we back down from "pocket rockets."  But a man across the table from us does not.  Instead, he raises to 20,000 -- and stacks built to overflowing from purchases of beers and jukebox music go to battle.  The man to our right calls.  At least we're likely to find out if we were right.


Now all parties check -- and the man to our right who scared us away shows Q-8.  He bet a small fortune with nothing but a straight draw, and he missed!

But the man across the table didn't miss.  He shows A-6 of hearts.  He made the nut flush on the turn, and gains more than 25,000 chips.

Call us chicken if you wish.  But we smelled trouble, and we were right -- even if the trouble came from a different direction than we expected.  We lived to play another hand.  And we wound up winning several after that, including two big pots with J-J in the first hour, then with A-K in the second hour when a King came on the flop.

We had 20,000 chips at the two-hour break -- then were dealt A-J, which has replaced K-9 as the "Rodney special" for a bonus.  We went all in, even though the woman before us pushed with much more.  She had A-K, and won a big pot because no one even gained a pair by the river.  It was another close call for us -- but another missed final table, as we finished in 11th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Before that woman eliminated us, we asked her about her relationship with Jesus.  She told us God has helped her in an unusual way.

"I'd probably be in prison by now," she said -- explaining she wanted to kill her ex-husband at one point years ago.

That woman believes God calmed her down, and gave her peace of mind.  Jesus offers to do the same thing for you....
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27

We've personally needed this sort of spiritual peace several times in recent months.  So how do we obtain it?  The Bible offers this answer:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Be thankful as you pray, for whatever blessings God has given you -- even if it doesn't seem like He's given you many.  Then ask (or sing) for His spirit of peace to dwell in your mind, heart and life.  If you have "Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27), that should mean the "Prince of Peace" is inside.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 136 final tables in 394 nights (34.5%) - 20 cashes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mediums Well?

Advertising is how many "free poker" sites generate income, to offer prizes to players.  But an ad we saw while playing at National League of Poker last week made us want to laugh out loud:

We couldn't resist commenting on it in the chat box:

Me:  So NLOP is showing me
Me:  a banner ad with a medium's
Me:  predictions for 2012
Me:  Really
Me:  LOL
Dealer:  moron wins Main Pot ($2,450) with Two pair, queens and deuces
JerMan:  wonder if they predicted their going bankrupt?***

Yes, you read that correctly -- the banner ad is offering free predictions for 2012, during a game in February 2013.  That's absurd, of course.  But then we added this:

Me:  I don't believe in mediums
Me:  I'm simply mild :-)

Have you ever been tempted to consult a "medium" -- or perhaps something similar, like a fortune-teller or psychic?  Perhaps you wanted to know in advance if you should enter a poker tournament, or whether you'd wind up wasting your money.

The Bible's answer is that consulting such people is a waste of time and money in itself.  Read what happened to two early apostles:
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.  She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.  The girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." - Acts 16:16-17
Was the girl shouting lies?  To be honest, no -- she was "preaching" the truth about the apostles' message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  But it still displeased the servants of God....
She kept this up for many days.  Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!"  At that moment the spirit left her. - Acts 16:18

That action started a chain of events which led to Paul and Silas being thrown in prison (verse 23) -- and that brought a jailhouse miracle, which resulted in a jailer becoming saved (verses 29-33).

But shouldn't the apostles have shown some tolerance to a girl promoting their evangelistic campaign?  They clearly didn't, and the passage gives a clue why:
When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas.... - Acts 16:19

We're led to conclude the slave girl was talking about more than the apostles.  She was telling fortunes on the side to earn a small fortune for her owners -- and God's apostles wanted nothing to do with that.  It's a "spirit" Scripture warns against:
Let no one be found among you who.... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. - Deuteronomy 18:10-11

"Divination" is defined by our dictionary as "the act of foretelling future events."  It also defines a "medium" as someone thought to have powers to communicate with dead people.
Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord....You must be blameless before the Lord your God. - Deuteronomy 18:12-13

God is Spirit (John 4:24) -- a Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 3:17-18).  The Bible shows all other spirits are unholy.  We're led to think they're rooted in Satan, the devil.

The Bible is filled with predictions about the future, of course -- and several mentioned by Old Testament prophets already have come true.  Can you name some of them?  Offer a comment with your thoughts, and we'll return to this topic in a future post.