Monday, December 30, 2013

Poker Day 417: Super-Sloppy Double Dare

Maybe it was the result of our weekend tournament win online.  Maybe it was because we had an unusual Monday off from work.  Maybe it was because our final table record in Kansas for 2013 stood at exactly 50 percent, and we wanted to settle the year as a winner or loser.

Whatever the reason, "something" told us to head for River City Poker Room for midday poker today.  They have cash-prize tournaments seven days a week (except for New Year's Day, when they'll be closed).  So we offered $20, had a seat -- and found plenty of "regulars" to beat at our full table.

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-Q of diamonds

Pre-flop raises are happening often at this table, so it's been difficult to limp in.  But after some early erosion, we won the last pot with A-9 when we bet 1,000 on a flop with an Ace.  So we start this hand with 18,300 chips (out of a starting 21,000).  These good starting cards allow us to sneakily limp in again -- but this time, no one raises.  About half the table is in action.

ON THE FLOP: Qc-6c-2c

We have top pair and top kicker, but a potential problem.  What can we do about all those clubs?  We're in early betting position, so we try to throw a block by betting 1,000.  A couple of players fold -- but a man across the table calls.


Uh-oh.  A fourth club is the last thing we want to see.  Now we have to check -- and our opponent seizes on that by betting 2,200.  We ponder this a moment, conclude he's making a "go away" bet and somewhat reluctantly call.


Now there's a straight threat in addition to the flush draw.  We check again, but our opponent refuses to slow down.  He bets 6,000.  After a moment of meditation.... well, OK, we felt stunned and may have been sulking.... we presume the worst and fold.

Our opponent never shows his cards, so he may have been testing our will with nothing.  But any club had us beat -- and on reflection, we should have bailed out at the turn.  Why spend 2,200 to see a river, when there's no chance to beat the hand you fear your opponent has?

On the other hand we thought our opponent might think we were serious -- checking the river, then proving he only had a low pair.  But alas, we thought wrong.

We did the same thing a few hands later, when we were dealt J-J.  A man to our left raised from 1,000 to 3,500 pre-flop, and we called it.  When three mid-range cards (7-6-6, we think) came on the flop, we went all-in for 9,000.  But the raiser called -- then showed A-A.  An Ace on the turn settled the issue, and we wound up crashing out early: 19th place our of 20 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Maybe the "something" which led us to the table was the short chat we had with the first eliminated player, who had sat directly to our left.  We showed him a salt packet we used for a pocket protector, and said, "Jesus wants us to be the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).

The man said nothing in response to that.  But salt can be useful in all sorts of things -- at least for awhile:
Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear. - Luke 14:34

We've heard some preachers say old tired salt was used in constructing Roman roads.  We couldn't find any online sources to verify that -- so let's take "the Word" at His word here.

If you're a believer in Jesus, how "salty" are you these days?  To borrow a few first-century uses we found in a study Bible, are you adding a nice flavor to an otherwise bland and boring world?  Are you helping to preserve lives, by bringing the things of God before others?  And are you "killing weeds" by challenging ideas and actions which harm people?

Keep looking for ways to share some salt -- before God decides it's time to cast you aside.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 145 final tables in 417 games (34.8%) - 24 cashes.

We close 2013 with a losing record in Kansas, but not by much: 7 final tables in 15 games, with three cash wins (and it could have been four, but the one Sunday we played in an WPT Amateur tournament had no payouts at all). Overall: 15 final tables in 41 games with four cash wins -- a healthy 36.6%.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Full tournaments - 284 point wins in 1,421 games (20.0%), 93 final tables, 10 wins, 13 cashes.  No-River Hold 'em - 37 point wins in 127 games (29.1%), 30 final tables, 3 wins, 4 cashes.

We end 2013 by making the points in our last 6 out of 7 No-River games!

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: Pretend cash games - $86,131, up $1,631 since we moved to Kansas in April.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Flopping to Victory

We're currently able to play in online poker tournaments one or two times each week.  And Saturday night it paid off -- as we won a National League of Poker "No-River Hold 'em" tournament for the second time this year!

The tournament had 165 players, and we were "low man on the pole" with 23 players left.  But then big cards came several times, and we roared to the top in the middle of the final table.

 The win came in a surprising way -- as we were dealt three suited cards for the 11th time in the night.  They failed to convert to a flush nine previous times (we folded one hand which ended early).  But here diamonds turned into a flush on the flop -- and our opponents went all-in with a mere pair of 10's.

Notice who our final opponent was -- someone named "ontheflop64."  We joked in a comment that he might have stolen our blog name.  But he assured us: "I do not steal."

If that's true, good for him.  We're not supposed to do that at any time....
You shall not steal. - Exodus 20:15
Some people (even some Christians) argue that commandment of God and the rest of the Old Testament law were "done away" by Jesus.  Yet the New Testament reinforces several of those commandments:
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," or whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." - Romans 13:9
Do you steal at the poker table?  Do you wait for a moment when everyone's stepped away on a break, then do a "chip adjustment" in your favor?  Most players in tournaments are smart enough to know their chip count and catch any changes -- but away from there, you could be asking for trouble.

And by the way: you also can "steal" in poker by playing when you shouldn't.  Are you sneaking in online cash games on the job, stealing time away from your bosses?
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. - Ephesians 4:28
It's one thing to "steal a pot" with a misleading bet.  (We did it at least once in Saturday night's tournament.)  That's part of the game.  Beyond that, stealing is unethical at least -- and could put you in jail at worst.  Resist the temptation to do it.  And do something useful with the hands you're dealt -- even if it means you occasionally have to fold for a while.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Casino Christmas?

We mentioned Tuesday night's poker outing at our workplace, and one person admitted it sounded strange.  Why would someone visit a casino on Christmas Eve -- especially someone who claims to believe in Christ?

The answer is simple, yet may offend some people.  We don't believe Jesus Christ was born on December 25 -- and we find no command in the Bible to keep that day as a holiday, or even say "Merry Christmas."

We were surprised this year at how many radio ministries accepted the first part of that answer.  Yet they held "Christmas services," anyway -- noting that day was traditionally set aside by the early church.  But what did Jesus say about traditions?
....As it is written.... "They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. - Mark 7:6-8

If we hold on too tightly to our traditions, we'll wind up dropping God's commands.  Yes, even by celebrating Christmas.

There are certain days of the year when we do not play poker.  We believe God commanded us to do other things on those days.  For example....
There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly.  You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord. - Leviticus 23:3

The state poker championship where we live is coming up in late January -- but it will begin at 10:00 on a Saturday morning.  That's the seventh-day Sabbath.  So we will stay away, and we won't feel hurt by that.  After all, we're the one doing things as God instructs.

Leviticus 23 goes on to list several annual "holy days" which occur during the year.  You won't find Christmas among them.-- but if you keep them with prayers to God for a proper understanding, you can find celebrations of Jesus in them.  (We can help provide that understanding if you're interested; please let us know.)

So we didn't celebrate Christmas -- but instead, we went to a place where people were even less likely to celebrate Christmas, and we talked about the things of Christ with them.  At least one person was thrown off-guard by what we said, and didn't really have a response.  But the day is coming when he'll have to say something....
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:10-11

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Poker Night 416: Behold the Star

"Christmas Eve is the casino's slowest night of the year," a poker dealer told us at Kansas Star Casino Tuesday night.

Good -- that's in a way what we wanted.  With a Tuesday night off from work, we were able to drive to the casino (despite its ice-coated parking lot), to play in the weekly Deep Stack Tournament.  We're told it normally fills up with 70 players.  On this night, only 37 showed up -- but still leaving a first-place prize of more than $1,100.

People at our local poker room describe the casino players as top-level.  So we wanted to see how we'd measure up:

BLINDS: 25/25

IN THE POCKET: 4-Q of clubs

It's the first few minutes of play, and our table seems to be playing on the tight side.  A man to our left raises modestly to 75, and we decide to call with suited cards.  About four players out of nine are in.

ON THE FLOP: 5c-7c-7s

Close to a flush, but not quite.  The man to our left makes a continuation bet of 75, and we see no reason to be scared of it.  We call; as we remember it, three players remain in.


No flush yet -- but now a straight draw has emerged.  Yet that man to the left turns up the heat, by betting 175.  We have too many chances to hit it big (12, to be precise), so we stand committed to this pot.  We call, as does the player between us.


Like some gifts in December, that's not what we really wanted -- but it might be OK, anyway.  We check, and are a bit reassured when the other players check as well.

"I caught two pair on the river," we announce.  No one else caught anything!  We win the wild goose chase, and pick up several hundred chips.

We won several pots along the way, including a semi-bluff bet on the river with an Ace in our hand and nothing more.  Our stack went up and down, but we never had the breakthrough hand for a big gain -- not even when we were dealt pocket Aces.

We hung around more than three hours, as the blinds increased slowly.  But at the semifinal table, we were forced to push our last 3,500 chips with A-10.  The board didn't pair for us, and a man to our right paired an 8 to get us eliminated.  We shook his hand as we left -- and come to think of it, we don't recall anyone else doing that as they left the table.

Our final result: 14th place -- a finish in the top half.  That's good, but not great.  A final table was our real goal -- not to mention the money, with the payoff positions shrunk from 7 to 4.

MINISTRY MOMENT: During breaks, we showed our reflector card protector to players around us -- explaining it reminds us to reflect the light of Jesus Christ.

"What do you think of Jesus?" we asked the man at our immediate left with several other players listening.  "Is He your savior?"

"Well, I don't know," he answered.  "There have been so many bad things going on in the world.... so many catastrophes."

We certainly can't dispute that.  This year has brought everything from bombings at marathons to school shootings and devastating typhoons.  Yet Jesus knew such things would happen....
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now -- and never to be equaled again. - Matthew 24:21

Many churches use the King James Version of this verse, and refer to a "great tribulation."
If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. - Matthew 24:22

Jesus promises a potential "end of the world" will be avoided -- and for the sake of "elect" people, which many understand to mean believers in God.  And here's the even better news:
Immediately after the distress of those days.... At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. - Matthew 24:29-30

Jesus (the "Son of Man") will be returning -- but the nation will be mourning.  Why?  Perhaps because they'll finally realize the Bible was right all along.  Jesus will show He meant what He said.
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. - Matthew 24:31

Perhaps you're celebrating the birth of Jesus on this day.  These verses remind us Jesus plans to come again - to save the world from destruction, and gather His followers together.  You can be among those who mourn that moment.  Or you can begin to believe and practice what Jesus and the Bible say -- becoming "elect" who reign with Him forever.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 145 final tables in 416 games (34.9%) - 24 cashes.  It appears our final total for Kansas tournaments in 2013 will be 7 final tables in 14 games with three cashes.  A 50-percent success rate is truly a blessing!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Laaking In Something?

Top poker players are ethical, right?  They don't take shortcuts or cheat, right?

Wellll.... tell that to the state of California.  One website reports Phil "Unabomber" Laak owes two years of back taxes there, for almost $25,000.

We don't know from that short story whether the state is right, or Laak has some explanation for this. (His Twitter feed seems to be as much about dining as poker these days.) But we know the ultimate right answer....
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.... "Tell us, then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" - Matthew 22:15, 17

This was a potential trap for Jesus, since He claimed to be the Son of God.  Would such a Son of God consider Himself higher than laws of the land?

Jesus responded to this by asking for a Roman coin....
....And he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"  "Caesar's," they replied.  Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." - Matthew 22:20-21

Jesus advised us to pay taxes to the government -- whether you like the rulers or not.  Sadly, some Christians spread ideas from time to time about ways to get out of paying them.  If they read their Bibles carefully, they shouldn't.
Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. - Romans 13:7

As the end of 2013 approaches, consider this a friendly reminder to get your "poker math" in order.  Money you've won probably is taxable, at least at the U.S. federal level.

But oh yes -- did you notice what else Jesus said?  About giving "to God what is God's?"  There's something God expects as well.  Do you know what that is?  Comment if you'd like, and we'll discuss that in a future post.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Improving the Odds

There are all kinds of "poker games" for people who don't want to play, well, real poker.  We've mentioned in recent months our occasional interest in "Ultimate Texas Hold 'em," played at a table similar to blackjack.

But are those alternatives any better, when it comes to winning money?  We found a web page which offers revealing answers.  We were puzzled by the lack of Ultimate Texas Hold 'em on their list of table games, since those tables always seem to be the most crowded at casinos.  Yet surprisingly, you're more likely to beat the dealer at basic blackjack than at games such as "Caribbean Stud".

In every case, though, the odds are in favor of the house -- not you.  And if you think about it, this world works the same way.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you use to lived when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. - Ephesians 2:1-2

The "ways of this world" tend to follow a "ruler" -- but who is that ruler?
The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.... - II Corinthians 4:4

Is that the God of creation?  No -- because the rest of the verse says: that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. - II Corinthians 4:4b

Why would the God of creation blind people to seeing Jesus Christ?  We have to admit a few church groups say God does this, perhaps without realizing it.  But Jesus referred to someone else along this line....
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. - John 12:31

Back in Ephesians 2, some Bible translations say "prince" instead of "ruler."  So that prince is at work in disobedient people.  Would God work people toward sinning?  We don't think so.

The circumstantial evidence points to Satan the devil as that "ruler" and "god of this world" and "prince."  But did you notice something else about Ephesians 2 -- that people were dead?  Past tense?  That means they're not any longer.  How did that happen?  What turned their odds to a winning victorious life?
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.... We are from God.... - I John 4:4, 6

We need Someone in us to overpower Satan.  There's only One who can effectively do that....
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20

Is Jesus Christ in you, giving you a win at the table of life -- and hope for eternal life beyond this one?  We believe turning to Jesus turns the odds in your favor.  If you need help with that, please leave a comment and let us know.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sharks and Lions

The big story in the poker world right now is the arrival of "card sharks" -- and we don't mean that old TV game show.

People apparently are targeting top online poker players for snooping.  Criminals infect the players' computers with a bug, which lets them look at the players' hands -- and even steal their online winnings.

It should go without saying that stealing is wrong (Deuteronomy 5:19).  And we can understand why players would be concerned about that. But did you realize you could be targeted by a notorious "thief" -- even if you only play poker at a neighborhood hangout once a week?
Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - I Peter 5:8

It may sound wild at first, but the Bible warns Satan is after human beings.  Some people see Satan in this additional warning from Jesus....
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10

We realize this could refer to false ministers (verse 8) -- but Satan wants to turn people away from the "life" Jesus offers.  It's the offer of eternal life, to live with Jesus forever (John 4:13-14).  So how do you escape this "lion"?
Resist him, standing firm in the faith.... - I Peter 5:9

Of course, this requires having "faith" in the first place.  The Bible recommends putting your faith in God:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who believes in him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:6

Seek God by studying the Scriptures every day and asking for His help in all that you do. God will help your faith to grow, so you can be wise enough to outsmart the lion which is after your life -- and probably the "sharks" along the way as well.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Remember As You Play....

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. - I Corinthians 8:2

Just when you think you've seen it all....

That phrase is fitting in all walks of life.  It could be a straight flush topping quads.  It could be that last-second college football play, not far from where we used to live.  It sadly could also be a savage act of crime or violence.

If you've played poker for years, it's easy to think you know it all.  You may have played thousands of hands in person or online.  You may have won a bracelet or two.  But our verse is a reminder that we are not the sum of all knowledge.

Even classic cartoons illustrate the silliness of thinking we know everything.  We think there's a better approach to take when you head for the table....
Do not deceive yourselves.  If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. - I Corinthians 3:18-19

That doesn't mean you have to play dumb -- although we've tried it a time or two around people we've never met, and it can work.  But it does mean playing and conducting yourself in a way which indicates a humble approach:
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
May you "grow in grace and knowledge" (II Peter 3:18) - not only of Jesus Christ, but in how to play poker successfully and honorably.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Wise Course

In a recent post we asked how you know as a poker player (or elsewhere) you're following your heart, as opposed to good godly counsel.

We think the key lies in a word called wisdom.  The problem is that not all wisdom is good and godly:
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such "wisdom" does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. - James 3:14-15

These are words which cut to the core.  Why do you play poker?  For fun?  To make money?  To get even with another player, who did something to you in the past?  Your answer may determine the sort of wisdom you're trying to use.
Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility and that comes from wisdom. - James 3:13

In other words, a wise person doesn't seek self-promotion -- such as stories of how brilliantly you steamrolled the other players at the table.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. - James 3:17

It's not in the nature of a poker player to be submissive -- but sometimes it's the only logical course.

If K-Q-J-10 are showing and you have a 9, what do you do if an opponent makes a confident big bet?  Realize you're beat, submit to it and fold -- or dare that opponent to prove he holds an Ace?

We realize some of this comes down to reading whether or not your opponent is bluffing.  If you're good at that, it's probably due to the "considerate" side of wisdom - under the definition of "careful thought."

If all of this has convinced you wisdom is running low in your life, remember one more statement from James:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5

But be sure you ask for God's wisdom -- not that other kind.  Wise words in prayer can matter every bit as much as wise play at a poker table.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Follow the Leader

"Changing out 100!" announced the dealer at our Ultimate Texas Hold 'em table. The dealer apparently wore a well-hidden microphone, because a "pit boss" came within moments to verify the transaction.

The dealer explained to us he had to get approval for any chip exchange of $75 or more.

"So in other words," we noted, "you're one under authority."

The phrase stumped him for a moment, so we explained.  "You're under his authority.  I read that in a book once."  Moments later, we explained that book was the Bible....
The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes.  I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." - Matthew 8:8-9

The phrase about being "under authority" actually was spoken to Jesus Christ, instead of by him.  Historical legend claims a Roman centurion was an officer over 100 soldiers (although the actual number may have been lower).

This man came to Jesus to have a servant healed of paralysis (verses 5-6).  And he was convinced the mere statement of healing by the Lord would do the job.
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." - Mathew 8:10

Faith in Christ paid off for that centurion and his servant, as the servant "was healed at that very hour" (verse 13).  So we would ask two questions from this:

1. Are you under authority in your life?

2.  If so, to whom?

Professional poker players may seem like free spirits.  But have you noticed how many of them wear sponsorship logos at the table?  Those endorsement deals provide a steady income, we suppose -- but players probably are obligated to do what the endorsers desire.  When they do, they're under the authority of those sponsors.

Even if you don't have a sponsor, you're "under authority" at a poker table.  A Tournament Director or dealer enforces the rules and settles disputes about hands -- whether you like the outcome or not.

In the classic words of a Bob Dylan song, we all "have to serve somebody."  Believe it or not, even Jesus Christ did while walking on Earth:
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will." - Matthew 26:39

Jesus offered this prayer at least twice, in the hours before He was crucified (verse 42) - and perhaps stunningly, God the Father told His perfect holy Son no.  It was God's will that Jesus suffer and die.  Jesus accepted that authority from His Father -- and was rewarded with a resurrection to the Father's right hand in heaven.

So what about you?  Are you under God's authority?  It's really for your good, because you can enjoy a future resurrection to eternal life as Jesus did.  Accept it by putting your faith in God and what Jesus has done on your behalf.  It will be change worth far more than $100 in chips.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Poker Day 415: One Card Too Many?

Even though the name has changed, the first Sunday of every month remains the "Big Sunday" at River City Poker Room -- with a $50 buy-in, and a shot at a $1,000 top prize.  Still stinging over our big casino loss, we wondered if this might be a "third chance" to refill our envelope.  Tests would come early, even though blinds were lengthy and small at first:

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: Q-5 of clubs (suit may not be precise)

The tables are full, but the action at ours has been relatively tight so far.  We've tried to be active and play sensible hands, but our starting start of 20,000 has dropped by about 3,000.  Our notes don't show the suit of these cards -- but we assume they were suited, because we'd like to get in for the minimum in the Dealer position.  Except a woman in the Big Blind raises to 700.

"You realize it's only 200," we jokingly suggest.

"She wants your 200," the man in the Small Blind answers in her behalf.  Clearly.  So we call, and about half the table is in.

"Now she wants your 700," Mr. Small Blind notes.


She may want it, but this flop could make it hard to get it.  We have top two pair.  The table checks, but we don't.

"All right, then, we say - and bet 1,000.  The woman folds -- but then comes a surprise from a man across the table.  He raises all the way to 5,000.  This gives us a pause.  But we conclude he only has one pair - certainly not something like 3-3.  We call.  Everyone else steps aside.


There's no flush threat showing.  But our opponent now fires again, betting 5,000 more.  Now we're concluding he has pocket Aces.  But if he does, we're still ahead.  It's a "lump in your throat" moment, but we call this big bet again.


This is absolutely the last thing we want to see.  If our opponent has an Ace, he just hit a straight -- and if he bets big again, we might face an early all-in moment of truth.

He thinks for a moment, then does something which happily surprises us.  He checks.  We check as well.

"Two pair," he says -- showing 2-4.  He made running pairs, but misses the open-ended straight draw.  We show our Q-5, and are thankful!  The lack of an Ace wins us a huge pot -- and we're well above the starting line, at 28,100 chips.

Our day went up and down that way -- a few good pot wins, a few losses.  The wins outnumbered the losses to the point that we reached a high of 52,000 chips.  But rising blinds and shrinking tables eventually did us in.  After a couple of all-in escapes, we tried again with A-10 -- but ran into Q-Q.  The board didn't save us, and we finished close to the semifinal table in 18th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A-K in the Big Blind brought us a "double-up" late in the tournament, which kept us around a few extra minutes.

"PTL!  I'd write if I was online right now," we said to the table.

"What does PTL mean?" the dealer asked.  We're glad she asked.

"Praise the Lord," we said.

Look through the Psalms of the Bible, and you'll find all sorts of reasons to praise God.  For instance:
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. - Psalm 16:7

Uh-oh -- we have to treat this verse with care.  God can provide counsel, if we study His Word and listen carefully to people who preach and teach it.  But what about David's heart in this case?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)

We think Jeremiah is speaking in general terms here about the human condition.  So should David have followed the instruction of his heart?  Not always -- because at times he committed serious sinful mistakes, such as lusting after another man's wife and having that man killed to claim her as his own (II Samuel 11).

So how do you know when your heart is talking, as opposed to the counsel of God?  This can matter at poker tables, as well as other places.  Offer a comment if you'd like; we'll look at this more deeply in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 145 final tables in 415 games (34.9%) - 24 cashes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Too Long at the Fair

We were due for a night like this.  We went to Kansas Star Casino hoping again to make quick money playing Ultimate Texas Hold 'em - but lousy cards came our way four hands in a row.  At a ten-dollar table, we lost $90 in no time.

We left and walked around the casino, pondering what to do.  Do we cash in our remaining $10 in chips and go home?  Do we dare risk that $10 on a cheap blackjack game?  (No, we concluded -- every time we passed a blackjack table, the dealer was getting heartbreaking wins.)  Do we reach into the "envelope of blessings" we carry for the remaining money inside?

After several minutes of sports-watching and pondering, we decided to reach.  We made change for the remaining $100, and only plunked down $50 at the table.  And what do you know -- the tide turned in our favor!  Several quick wins transformed our $60 into $160.  We had the money back, plus $10.

We knew that streak had to end eventually -- and it did on the next hand.  We could have packed up, left with a $10 loss and thanked God for a good comeback.  But we stuck around, hoping to get back on the "plus side."  Only we didn't.  The losses returned -- and we wound up going home with a $160 loss.

At that moment we were reminded of a man at a regular poker table who talked of losing $300 in a cash game.  "Why don't we ever get out?" he moaned.

That's a very good question.  Perhaps part of the answer can be found in a very familiar Bible verse:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. - I Timothy 6:10

Notice carefully: the love of money isn't the root of evil.... but it's certainly one of them.  We can be so eager after winning a little that we stick around, dreaming of winning a lot -- and the law of averages comes back to bite you.
You want something but don't get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God. - James 4:2

This may sound strange -- but looking back to the start of the night, we probably didn't pray enough about what was going to happen inside the casino.  We certainly didn't pray for God's wisdom in being a light to other people. (We tried to be in the second trip; that's an item for another post.)  Ignore God in prayer, and He well could ignore you....
Come near to God, and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:8

We take the blame for not following the advice of fictional TV anchorman Ron Burgundy: "Let me out at the top." That door was open.  We didn't take it.  We needed to keep a wise godly head at that moment -- instead of waiting until we drove home, confessing our faults to God and resolving not to go back to that casino for awhile.