The poker room had paid dealers on the staff, and our dealer agreed to this idea for a Sunday change-up. Except each player could call the rules for a hand, as the dealer button came to them. This forced us to play all sorts of poker variations we'd never tried before -- and even one round of blackjack! They included this one....
IN THE POCKET: A-K-3-3
We've been dealt four cards instead of two, because the player with the button has called "Billabong." It's like Omaha poker, except you must use at least three pocket cards (perhaps all four) to make your best possible five-card hand.
We're under the gun with two high cards and a pair. That seems good enough to start after a few admittedly hesitant hands on our part with other variations. We call; as best we remember, a player to our left raises to 600 and we call it.
ON THE FLOP: Ah-4d-Kd
Top two pair looks nice -- unless someone has three diamonds, which already would give him a flush. The blinds check, and we offer a "statement bet" of 1,000. The raiser to our left isn't scared; he bumps it up to 2,000. A player behind him calls, and so do we.
ON THE TURN: Qh
Our cards don't offer flush potential, so now we're content to check. The man to our left refuses to slow down, betting 3,000. The man between us calls, and we face a challenging decision. We choose to call, hoping for an Ace or King on the river....
ON THE RIVER: 3c
....but instead, we make a full house in the most unexpected way! Now we offer a modest-looking bet of 2,000. The big bettor responds by going all-in for 7,500 more. The man in the middle calls. If we were more familiar with this version, we probably would have pushed at this point -- but instead we settle for a call.
"I've got a flush," the big bettor confirms.
"The 3 was my friend," we say -- displaying a threes-over-tens full house. It knocks the big bettor out, and we hit the jackpot to jump above 51,000 chips.
Only after we get home do we look up the word "billabong." We knew it's Australian, but thought it was either an animal or a musical instrument. It's actually a "dead end" tributary of a river. Considering the river card which came for us, this version of poker is very well-named. Only one other Billabong hand was played all day -- and we called it, only to fold our cards pre-flop.
But that big haul helped us last for a while -- and on a day with only enough players for two tables, we reached the final table. (The game returned to regular Texas Hold 'em at that point.) Then we won a couple of timely pots, including an all-in moment with 6-6 and a push with A-9 which brought a fold. With careful play and timely cards, we lasted long enough to reach the final two!
Our opponent had a big advantage in chips at that point, and our attempt to go all-in with K-6 and King-high at the turn did us in. He made a pair of 4's on the turn, and survived the river to win the tournament. But we finished very thankful - as second place paid three times our buy-in, or $60. (Third place had a payout as well.)
MINISTRY MOMENT: We told you during an earlier Arrowhead tournament about a man who served time in prison, and now is going straight with his life.
"Thirteen months," he told the table, "and I haven't touched a drop."
"Praise the Lord," we said in response.
"And I do," the man confirmed -- giving God the credit.
If you have success, whether at a poker tournament or in battling life's trials, do you give credit where it's due?
Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. - Psalm 115:1
It's tempting to be like Little Jack Horner, of nursery rhyme fame -- and declare, "What a good boy am I!" But we heard a sermon on Christian radio as we drove to the tournament which reminded us we're not good.
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one.... All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." - Romans 3:10, 12
These are humbling words -- and as we heard during a sermon in our own congregation over the weekend, we should be humble in our daily walk.
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." - I Peter 5:5b
We couldn't even drive or walk to a poker room without God providing the life and strength to do it. Be sure to thank God for those seemingly small daily blessings -- as well as the bigger ones when they come along.
UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 141 final tables in 407 tournaments (34.6%) - 23 cashes. We've played in five live tournaments since moving to Wichita, and finished first or second in three of them!