Sunday, April 28, 2013

Down to Earth

Because we're still in the moving process, we have little time to play poker right now -- much less blog about it.  But we're prepared for such things.  This online chat could have occurred in a poker room this past week, but actually happened last April:

Me:  Happy Earth Day to you.
BigDan5B:  earth day r u a worm
Me:  I am a worm. I am dust.
screamin113:   no he is a mole
Me:  My Bible tells me so.

Without painting too broad a brush, we think many big-time poker players have egos.  They need to be confident to keep playing successfully and winning money.  Yet God tells us we're really not as "big" as we might like to think.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. - Psalm 22:6
Who would stoop so low as to call himself a worm?  Most Bibles show King David wrote this psalm.  Yet some of his words were restated hundreds of years later....
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthami?" - which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - Mark 15:34
As Christ faced death at Calvary, he quoted Psalm 22.  We invite you to look over that psalm and consider how much applied to His situation.

Jesus showed remarkable humility as He was crucified -- crucified for our sins, to be more precise.  The hopeful news is that God appreciates it when we humble ourselves before Him as well.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.... from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. - Psalm 103:13-14, 17-18
The Bible offers eternal life in God's Kingdom to those who will think of themselves in a worm-like, dust-filled way:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8
Our claim to be "a worm" and "dust" brought this response during the poker game....

BigDan5B:  kool happy birthday

It really wasn't.  But when it comes to our lives, maybe radio host Casey Kasem had it right all along.  We should keep our feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars - or better up, Jesus the "morning star."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Poker Night 403: Breaking New's

A new job has led us back to our home state of Kansas.  (And as part of that job, we must note right away our posts reflect our personal viewpoints - not necessarily those of our new employer.)  And while we're waiting for all the furniture and other stuff to arrive, that led us to our first live poker tournament in our new home.

The World Poker Tour Amateur Poker League is where people play in Wichita, if they don't have money to burn at local poker rooms or the nice new casino down the highway.  In other words, it's free poker.  Sadly, there's no prize money for daily winners -- simply points for advancing up the WPT ladder to potential paydays online.

We walked into a small corner bar called Betty's Runway Sunday afternoon for the second game of their weekly doubleheader.  After taking a few moments to be registered, we went to a table of seven and got down to business....

BLINDS: 100/200 (the starter level here)


Everyone starts on level ground in this league -- 10,000 chips, with no bonuses for buying drinks. We won an early pot by making a flush on the turn.  Now we hope to add some more, starting this hand with about 11,000.  We call with a small pocket pair; about half the players at this rather tight table are in.


Three times four equals bet some more!  The play checks to us, and we offer 600.  That runs some people off - but a man to our right decides to double to 1,200.  We call, and we're wondering.


Our opponent checks.  We want to get a sense for what he has, so we bet 1,000 more.  This time he simply calls.  Our concern is that he might have something like K-K.


Now we've advanced to a full house -- but if our opponent has a King, he could have a "bigger boat" than ours.  He thinks it over for a moment, then sets out 1,600.  An all-out push might have run us off, but we can afford this test.

"I'll call," we say.  "Do you have a full house?"

We show our cards -- and he does not!  He has K-J.  We win a big pot, and become the "high hand" of the moment in the tournament with potential bonus points at stake.  (We were topped later, though.)

We made several big hands in the first hour of play, doubling our holdings to more than 23,000 at the break.  Then Q-Q paid off big in the second hour, and we advanced to the final table.  Others faded from there -- and by the end of Hour 2 we were heads-up with the Tournament Director for first place!

Trouble was, the Director had a much larger stack than ours.  We escaped two all-in moments, but not a third; 6-3 of clubs wound up losing to an eight-high straight.

"Beginner's luck!" one bystander said of our afternoon.

"He's no beginner," the Director concluded.  Right he was.  We drove home second out of 22 players, feeling satisfied -- but wondering if a strictly-amateur poker league is the right level of play for us.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took a "Praise Jesus" lapel pin for our card protector, and showed it to a young woman at the final table.  She told us Jesus is her Savior, but admitted she and her lover (we'll assume her husband) are having "a hard time going back to church."

Saturday seemed to be a good day for them -- and we noted a couple of congregations in the city which have Saturday services.  Actually, we think more of them should:
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. - Deuteronomy 5:12
When God gave Moses these instructions, the nation of Israel was not keeping Sunday.  It was taught to figure the calendar differently....
....The seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. - Deuteronomy 5:14
So we'll dare to ask: if you're worshiping God on a different day of the week - which one and why?  We'll dig deeper into this topic in a future post.  (We're still waiting on the mover to bring our computer from Georgia, so it might be a few days.)

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 139 final tables in 403 nights (34.5%) - 21 cashes.

Back in Georgia and Alabama, second place probably would have brought us a prize of some sort.  Not here - so we may have to recompute how we define a "cash."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Making a Move

We're in the middle of moving, and have been too busy to play live poker in recent days.  That might change this coming week.  We'll see.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

If It Was Real: End of an Era

Trying to make a living by playing poker certainly isn't easy.  Even top players can have slumps for a year.  And we've found out how challenging it can be, merely playing free tournaments in our home area.

The "Georgia-Alabama era" for our live poker games ended this week, after more than 400 trips to tables.  Before we explain our next chapter, let's wrap up our scoreboard here.

Since the 380-game mark in early January, we've scored three top-five finishes: a third (which won us money in a settlement), a tie for fourth and a fifth.  Plugging those into our pretend buy-in/payout formula for real tournaments, the grand total looks like this:

BUY-INS: 402 nights x $50 = $20,100

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

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

Third -- 10 x 300 ($3,000)
TIE for third: 1 ($250)

Fourth - 16 x 200 ($3,200)
TIES for fourth:
7 two-way ($1,050)
1 three-way ($67)

Fifth -- 17 x 100 ($1,700)
TIES for fifth:
7 two-way ($350)
1 three-way ($33)

TOTAL -- 77 for $17,050

We should note a few of those 402 games took place on road trips outside the local area -- including two nights in Florida where we made the top five and won hundreds of dollars in prize money.  But all in all, we would have lost 15.2 percent on our "investment."

So after a strong start, we've found we can't make steady income in local tournaments.  And that leads us to the big news: we've moving in the coming days to our home state for full-time employment.  The job is in our chosen field of journalism -- and based on the Bible's advice, we plan to make good work our top priority:
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work -- this is a gift of God. -- Ecclesiastes 5:19

We've been blessed with some small degree of wealth, which has helped us through more than a year of unemployment.  We also have a lot of possessions (which has become very obvious as moving boxes pile up around us).  But it's hard to be "happy in your work" when there's no paying work to do, and efforts to make a living on your own wind up continually unsuccessful.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." - II Thessalonians 3:10

We're convinced God wants His followers to do "work" for Him -- whether it's a 40-hour-per-week job on an assembly line, or spreading the good news of the gospel in some way.
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing. - Luke 12:42-43 (KJV)

Some people have asked us if this blog will continue.  As of now, it will -- but we don't have any idea at this point how much poker we'll be able to play, and when.  We're going to an area which seems to have a strong local amateur poker circuit, and casinos with poker tables will be only a short drive away.

So while we move, this blog will be on hiatus.  Keep checking here from time to time for when our posts resume.  In the meantime, thanks for your interest - and keep looking for signs of the "King of Kings," even when you're playing Aces.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Poker Night 402: How Grand a Finale?

Boxes are our focus right now -- finding big usable boxes, then filling them.  That's what happens when you move to another place, hundreds of miles away.  But tonight we took a break from packing, because we had one more local stop to make.  The Red Barn marked our last scheduled tournament in the Columbus area.  And it started with a lot of lousy cards -- until....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-8 offsuit

A-7 worked well for us a few hands ago; both cards paired on the flop, and we won with a 2,000-chip bet.  Now we've recovered to about 7,200 chips, and we join several players in calling.


Looking familiar -- and good.  We bet 700 with top two pair.  A woman sitting to our immediate left who's marking her birthday calls.  Two players across the table call as well.


We still feel confident about things, so turn up the pressure with a bet of 1,400.  But we're not running off anyone: the woman calls.  A man next in line goes all-in, with only 1,125 left.  The other man calls as well.


The man across the table from us checks.  We aim at him, with a bet of 1,000 more.  The man who went all-in holds out his cards, like he's already lost and ready to surrender.

"I raise - 10,000."  HUH!?!?!   This surprise comes from the woman to our left - a woman we forgot was still in the hand.  What led her to do this?

"I don't have 10,000," we admit as we ponder.  Did she hit three of a kind, and let us bet into her all this time?  Does she have a smaller two pair?  After a moment, we decide on another explanation.  She's won a lot of hands, built a big stack of chips -- and now she's bluffing to claim a huge pot.  At least we hope so.

"I'll call," we decide with our last 3,800 or so.

"I've got a straight," she says quietly -- and shows 5-7!  We're left flabbergasted.  We never saw that coming -- and now we're going.  The birthday girl takes out two players, and we finish our final trip to The Red Barn tied for 12th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The other man eliminated by that birthday girl has the name Diallo.  At least that's how she said it.  But then she made a twist.

"'Diablo' means devil, you know," she pointed out.

"I wouldn't want to be called a devil," we tried to tell her -- although we're not sure she heard us.

Would any right-thinking person want to be called a devil?  Yet believe it or not, Jesus at one point almost was accused of that....
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.... But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." - Matthew 12:22, 24

Why did the Pharisees reach this conclusion?  We're led to think it was really a verbal slap out of jealousy -- a bit like a losing poker player declaring, "I had you beat on the flop."  Jesus was eroding their following, through His miracles and teaching.  The Lord's response was based on logic:
"If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.  How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out?.... But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." - Matthew 12:26-28

Demons fled from Jesus's presence on several occasions -- because they knew who Jesus was, far better than the Pharisees did.
"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted.  "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" - Matthew 8:29

Demons recognized 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  Do you recognize Him that way today -- and move toward Him in acceptance and worship, instead of running away in fright?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 138 final tables in 402 nights (34.3%) - 21 cashes.  Our next post will finalize our record in the "Columbus era," and explain where we're going from here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shall We Gather at No-River?

Some poker pros are described on TV as "cash game specialists" -- which apparently means their record in tournaments isn't very good.  In the last couple of years, we've found one particular form of online tournament which could be our "specialty."

We won with it Friday afternoon at National League of Poker!  A huge comeback from about 320 chips (helped by quad 5's and some timely Ace pairs) brought us victory in a 97-player "No-River Hold 'em" tournament (formerly called Knockout Hold 'em, when UFC was a sponsor).  The winning hand was pocket Jacks -- not usually much in this format, but good enough heads-up.  It's our second win with this format since we started it in February 2011.

No-River Hold 'em deals each player three cards, instead of two.  There's a flop and a turn card -- but no river card (thus the name).  Yet in a way, we think it removes some Biblical symbolism from poker.  Consider what we mean....
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun Moses' aide: "Moses my servant is dead.  Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them -- to the Israelites." - Joshua 1:1-2
After decades of wandering, the "promised land" awaited Israel on the other side of that river.  When the people crossed it, they saw miraculous help:
Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest.  Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.  It piled up in a heap a great distance away.... So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. - Joshua 3:15-16
It was a "dry ground" crossing (verse 17) without any makeshift bridges -- and not unlike what occurred decades before when leaving Egypt.
Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan, that you turned back.... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.... Psalm 114:5, 7
Many songs have been written comparing that journey to our own lives.  For instance, believers walk with God until death, then trust Him to lead them across "the river" to eternal life.  You may be able to think of other comparisons.

The river card in poker is decisive.  It can determine winners and losers - who thrives and survives, and whose hopes will end in heartbreak and disappointment.  Are you seeking God's help in dealing with the "rivers" of your life?  Even the greatest one of all, waiting at the end?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Poker Night 401: The Man Who Wouldn't Leave

It's a short two-minute walk from our home -- and the place where we first played live poker in June 2007.  But tonight, we played our final scheduled Thursday night tournament at Lil Kim's Cove.  Not because of the club's recent legal problems -- but because a life-changing event is approaching for us (details coming soon).

We didn't tell anyone at the table that this was our finale.  In fact, we didn't have a lot to say -- as we still feel sickly, and the hands didn't always thrill us.  For instance....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 10-3 offsuit

The one-hour break is almost here, and our cards have been almost as lethargic as our body.  A hopeful A-9 led to an Ace on the flop -- but a man with a big stack bet 3,000, and we misread his intentions by folding.  (He only had A-2.)

Now we're in the Big Blind with about 4,200 chips.  Thankfully, no one raises to make us fold.  We check with hope.

ON THE FLOP: 10s-6c-8s

At this point, any top pair will do for making a move.  We set out 600.  A couple of players fold; about three others call.

ON THE TURN: 8h (suit may not be precise)

The board pairs, but we decide we can't afford to back down.  Our bet increases to 1,000.  The response is split again, as two other players call.


"That 9 just f***ed somebody up," a player out of the hand declares.  Sure enough -- both straight and flush doors are open.  We respect that fact and check.  But Mr. Big Stack flings out 4,000.

"I think you're right," we tell the observer as we fold.

"You shouldn't have done that," he tells us.  He's skeptical of "bullying" tactics.

"Straight," the big stack announces seconds later.  No, we were absolutely right.  He has K-7 for a straight.

We wanted to maximize our profits in this hand, so tried the "turn up the heat" approach.  But players with big stacks aren't likely to be scared away by that approach; they can afford to chase something big.  Perhaps we should have pushed on the flop?!

A final push came for us in the second hour with K-Q.  The board didn't pair for us, while that wealthy man had pocket 5's to top us.  We finished 14th in our final night at the Cove -- and rewarded the winner with a coupon for a free local car wash which we've never used, and won't be able to use after next week.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We had J-J under the gun in an early hand, and tried limping in.  The Big Blind to our right checked -- and we held up his cards so loosely we could tell he had 9-9.  The flop was 7-A-9, so the man with three of a kind bet 1,000.

"I'm going to make a confession," we told him.  "I saw what you had, so I'll fold."  We said nothing more until the hand ended, and the Big Blind revealed his 9's.

"I didn't mean to show them," he told us. Certainly not.  But it was only fair for us to admit we had a sneak peek.  Of course, to us it's a matter of Biblical ethics....
You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, any one who deals dishonestly. - Deuteronomy 25:15-16
The phrase "honesty is the best policy" is not in the Bible.  But it's clearly the approach God prefers -- even if He sometimes seems to pull a "fast one" on people.  For instance....
The God said, "Take your son, your only son,  Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." - Genesis 22:2
Isaac was the promised son of Abraham's old age (21:2-3) -- and now God wanted him killed for a sacrifice?!  Surely this made no sense.  But Chapter 22 shows Abraham obeyed God, anyway.  An angel stopped the offering in the nick of time:
"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything on him.. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." - Genesis 22:12
In modern broadcasting talk, this was "only a test" for Abraham.  And perhaps God's doing some kind of test in your life right now, to see if you'll stay faithful and loyal to Him.  Abraham obeyed, and everything worked out fine.  Put God first in all your activities, and the same thing can happen for you.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 138 final tables in 401 nights (34.4%) - 21 cashes.  One more tournament remains before we update the detailed statistics of our play.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 283 point wins in 1,409 games (20.1%), 93 final tables, 10 wins, 13 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 31 point wins in 119 games (26.1%), 25 final tables, 1 win, 2 cashes.

We're only playing full tournaments where no points are awarded -- but last Friday, we made it all the way to paydirt!  A sixth-place finish out of 804 players earned us all of five dollars.  But it beats zero dollars -- and we hit quad Kings along the way.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $84,500, down $660.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Poker Night 400: Missile Defense

Our temperature has hovered around 100 degrees F. for a couple of days, and we've been persistently coughing for a couple more.  Yet we don't want to miss any live poker tournaments over the next few days (for reasons we'll explain later).

So our "spring break" from local tables ended Wednesday night, with a trip to Soho Bar and Grill.  Of course, several people there wanted us to cough up chips....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: Ace of clubs - King of spades

We're in the Big Blind, looking to win our first pot of the night.  An early player in the order tests the table, by raising to 800.  Since we started with 11,000 chips (thanks to an "on-time bonus" and a purchased soda), this is an affordable risk with big cards.  We call; about half the table is in.

ON THE FLOP: As-7s-4c

Top pair + top kicker = nice combination.  So we preempt the raiser by betting 500.

"Aces leading," a man to our left says - yet he calls.  Another player says it is a test of intestinal fortitude (to use cleaned-up pro wrestling language); he calls as well.


This complicates things, because now three spades are showing.  But we have the nuts if another spade comes, so we decide not to slow down.  Instead, we increase the bet to 1,000.

"I've got the King of spades," says the man to our left as he calls.  He does?!  We check our cards again -- but it's an acting job, because we know better.  The player to our right calls as well.


This card seems harmless - but do we slow down now, to test whether an opponent has us beaten?  Our decision is no.  We bet 1,000 more.  The two opponents call again -- with one guessing we have an Ace.

"And you do not have the King of spades," we reveal, "because I do."  The pair of Aces top them, and we gain a big pot of about 6,000 chips.

We won a couple more pots in the first hour, to reach the break at 15,950 chips.  But we won nothing in the second hour; careful play allowed us to escape with only 2,500.  Forced to go all-in after the break with 8-9 in the Big Blind, an 8 on the flop was good enough to win.

But the next time around, 7-8 in the Big Blind was not enough; forced to go all-in again, another 8 fell on the flop.  But a 3 on the river gave a woman with 3-3 winning "trips."  She eliminated another player along with us -- and a long hard fight at a very competitive room ended with us barely missing the final table, tied for 11th.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Moments after walking inside Soho, a man walked up to us and started shadow-boxing us.  We covered up from several of his light blows.

"I'll turn the other cheek, if you want to keep doing that," we told him.

He stopped the punching -- but hopefully gained a Biblical lesson from our example:
You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth."  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 5:38-39

Yes, we know -- these words of Jesus go against the common mentality of a poker tournament.  The goal is to take all the chips at the table.  And a game of poker is a proper place for that.  But at other times and places, it's not godly at all.  The Lord's disciples had to learn that....
....The people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. - Luke 9:53-56

Jesus was (and is today) the Son of God.  We think He could have called on His Father in heaven personally to send fire.  The Lord didn't do it then.  Yet later He said this:
I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! - Luke 12:49-50

What sort of fire is this?  We think Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit appearing as fire and entering His disciples in Acts 2 -- which only happened after the Lord was crucified and resurrected.

As it happens, Thursday marks the start of a "50 days of nonviolence" campaign.  Can you go seven weeks without being violent toward someone?  We'd go beyond weapons and fisticuffs, and challenge you to avoid even violent words and writing.  Leave the "rough stuff" for a tame place -- such as defending A-K in the Big Blind.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 138 final tables in 400 nights (34.5%) - 21 cashes.  We'd normally post an updated statistics page on our live poker action at this point, but we're going to postpone that until next week.  When you see it, you'll understand why.

No Que Bueno

Poker is a worldwide game.  And some online poker sites have players from all sides of the earth.  The other night at PokerStars.Net, we noticed most of the player around us were from Argentina -- so after one hand, we wrote "bueno."  Moments later....

Moderator136 [Moderator]: Hello players, I'm Carlo.
Moderator136 [Moderator]: Please use English chat here.
Dealer: Eduardo_Chia, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
flopblogger: Hello.
Moderator136 [Moderator]: Thank you.
flopblogger: Trying to be cordial to Argentinians.
flopblogger: apologies.

"Bueno" is a common Spanish word for "good."  The capital of Argentina is Buenos Aires.  But that one solitary word from us brought a moderator's intervention.

Many U.S. poker rooms have "English-only" rules.  We think the reason is to prevent players from plotting strategy by speaking in other tongues, so that's understandable.  But our Poker Stars table wasn't a real cash game -- it was simply people playing for fun.

Yet rules are rules, and poker players should follow them.  In the same way....
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. - II Timothy 2:5

Why would the Biblical writer Paul bring this up?  Because each one of us is in a "competition" even bigger than a poker tournament -- an endurance contest to stay close to God, and enter His Kingdom.
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied.... "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." - Matthew 19:17

Jesus (who apparently spoke both Greek and Aramaic, by the way) lists six of the Ten Commandments in the next two verses.  Read them for yourself.  Then rate yourself.  Are you playing by the Lord's rules -- so you can capture eternal life?