Sunday, June 29, 2014

Breaking Badness

"The Pope is a bad person, isn't he?"

Talk about an unexpected question at a poker table.  We had already brought up our faith in Jesus.  Now a player was going "all in" about religion in a different way.

We stammered a bit, in trying to answer with a bit of humor. "I've never met the guy."

The other player went on to explain why he said that.  "This Pope believes in abortion.  He believes in homosexuality.  Things I don't agree with."

We were aware of some of Pope Francis's remarks about "not judging" homosexuals.  But we didn't know what the man meant about abortion - and a quick online search we did for this post indicates the player's statement was in fact an overstatement.

But let's go back to the player's original question.  Is Pope Francis a "bad person?"  There's a better answer to that, which we admit we didn't give at the time: Is anyone not a bad person?

We've met people at poker rooms and other places insist they're "a good person."  Yet the Bible says....
For all have sinned, and short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23
All humans sin.  Even the Pope has gone to a confessional -- although you don't have to do that to admit your sin.  Jesus made an amazing statement along these lines:
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered.  "No one is good - except God alone." - Mark 10:18
Was Jesus saying even He was bad?  We don't think so.  Jesus was God in the flesh, after all (John 1:1, 14).  But since only God is good, what do the rest of us need to do?
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
Confess the sins to God, as opposed to a minister.  After all, a minister can't purify you.  Only God can do that, through the blood of Jesus (verse 7).  And then....
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. - Isaiah 55:7
Forsake (as in give up) ways that are wicked and bad -- even thoughts that are evil.  Ask God to help you walk in a good and better way.  You'll be starting on the road to goodness -- a road that can lead to eternal life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quick In, Quick Out?

The first hand of the day brought us 7-7.  By the river, two more 7's had shown up - giving us quads!

It could have been a big jackpot hand -- and in a way, it was.  We were playing a computer in heads-up poker, on our last trip to a Kansas City casino.  We inserted $40 to start, and that first hand brought our total to $88.

We were trying to win back money we lost in a casino tournament, and pay for our trip across the state.  We could have cashed out immediately, taking only a small loss.  But we decided to play another hand.  And lost.  Then another.  And lost.  And then....

Well, we had a small winning streak recovering to about $50.  But we pressed our luck too much against a computer programmed to be wily -- and in a few minutes, our $88 was down to zero.

"Why don't we ever get out?" we recall a man asking with a bit of a sigh during a poker room discussion months ago.  That's a great question not only in cash games, but other aspects of our lives.
But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death  - James 1:14-15


A small first step which looks successful can lead down a slippery-slope into big trouble.  That's why it's important in poker to sense the tide is turning -- and have the wisdom to get out when it does.  Even famous characters in the Bible had to learn that lesson the hard way:
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a woman bathing.  The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her.... Then David sent messengers to get her.  She came to him, and he slept with her. - II Samuel 11:2-4


The look alone was not enough.  Being told the woman was married (verse 3) was not enough.  King David had to "go all the way" with Bathsheba.  Read the rest of the chapter and you'll discover that lustful and covetous act led to an unexpected pregnancy, and a plot to have Bathsheba's husband killed.
But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. - II Samuel 11:27


We've heard ministers on Christian radio put it this way: Sin will take you farther than you want to go, and make you pay more than you wanted to pay. 

We think the same is true in poker.  Don't simply play with emotions or "gut" feelings.  Play with your brain active and functioning.  It might save you money, and even some heartbreak.  Believe us - because we've been there.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Poker Day 426: Bright Ideas

"You know it's going to be serious poker," we said at Winners Cardroom today, "when the dealer is wearing sunglasses."

No kidding - the female dealer had shades covering her eyes.  She took them off once the tournament began.  We have a pair of sunglasses, but find we have trouble reading the cards when we wear them.  So instead of looking "poker cool," we focused on trying to win....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-9 offsuit

The first few minutes of this game haven't been the greatest for us.  We lost one pot when our two pair were outkicked.  This likes a good hand for attempting a comeback -- and with no one raising pre-flop, we can play rather inexpensively.

ON THE FLOP: K-9-3

It's middle pair and top kicker, but nothing to make us overconfident.  A man to our right tosses out 500 nonchalantly.  We're led to think he's chasing something, so we call.  A young woman across the table who's rather new at the game calls as well; everyone else folds.

ON THE TURN: 5

A card which probably didn't help anyone.  That man to the right tosses out 500 again.  Now we're even more convinced he's chasing; we call again, as does that young woman.

ON THE RIVER: 3

This pairs the board, and gives us two pair.  The man to the right makes another 500-chip toss.  Enough of that, we say to ourselves.

"Raise - 1,500," we say.

This is a "bully bet" on our part, trying to seize the pot by indicating we have something big.  The young woman ponders this for a moment -- then calls.  Uh-oh; that's probably trouble.

The man calls as well.  He shows 9-4 - much as we suspected.  Our Ace has his two pair outkicked.  But the young woman turns over A-K.  She had the high card, but let everyone else bet in front of her.  A good move on her part, to take the part.

That loss plus a continual dearth of quality cards put us in a deep hole.  We limped to the break at 5,000 chips.  But then things changed.  A desperation all-in with A-10 led to two more 10's on the board, and we stayed alive with 10,000 chips.  Then A-K brought a winning King on the flop, and we escaped again.  Then we pushed with 10-10, gained a third 10 on the river, and suddenly had 40,000 chips!

But with the final table nearing, the odds finally turned against us.  We went all in with A-9 and received an Ace on the flop (as best we remember), but lost to a man with A-10.  We're thankful for a great rally, even though we fell short by finishing 11th/

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that a candle?!" the dealer asked about our card protector.  Yes, it was - a small green one that we haven't used in years.

"I brought it to remind me," we said, "that I should be a light for Christ."

This led to a discussion about whether God wants people to play poker.  We'd looked at that topic before, and we probably will again.  But what we found most noteworthy about the candle came later, when a man to our left looked closely at it.

"Do you plan to use that again?  It doesn't have much of a wick."

We admitted we haven't been able to use it in recent years for that very reason.  And that leads us to an important point about candles.
For you will light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. - Psalm 18:28 (KJV)
A church or dining table can have the nicest-looking candlestick known to man.  But something has to light it, or it has no real value.  King David in this psalm refers to the Lord as the one who lights his candle (see verses 1-2).  But you have to be the wick - willing to let God enlighten you.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick: and it gives light to all that are in the house. - Matthew 5:15 (KJV)
A covered-up candle loses oxygen and expires in a short time.  Are you willing to let God light your candle - perhaps ignited by His Holy Spirit through a study of the Bible?  Then are you willing to openly display that light, by letting the Spirit work in your mind and life?

If you're willing, God is able - and you might find you can burn brightly for Him for a long time.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 151 final tables in 426 games (35.4%) - 25 cashes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Family That Plays

True confession: we've felt personally convicted for the last several days.  Not because we broke that rule at the poker table in Kansas City -- but because of a little message we heard at church about a big word:
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.... Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. - Romans 12:10, 13 (KJV)
Hospitality in the Bible often seems to refer to inviting people into your home - especially fellow believers.

When it comes to inviting fellow poker players, this can be a bit complicated.  Some people might only drop by for a cash game, where they can win money (and risk breaking local laws).  And to be honest, not that many poker players seem to be firm believers in God and Jesus Christ - firm as in word and action.

But before we heard that message at church, we did something else which might encourage to give a "home poker night" a try.  We went to a "Bonding Through Board Games" event in our city - designed to promote family togetherness by everyone playing together.

Some think board games are a dying tradition, in the era of computer games and "Words With Friends" apps.  This event was designed to bring it back.  There were no card games to play on this night, but we joined a man in a few rounds of "Mexican Train" dominoes.  We won two of the three rounds, but that's really not the point.

An evening of family poker (only using pretend chips, to keep it safe) can promote family togetherness.  And you might be able to use the occasion to provide teachable moments to children:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)
Train them not only in the difference between a straight and a flush - but in the difference between good ethical conduct and bad unethical ways.  In other words, teach what's godly behavior and what is not.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. - II Peter 1:5-7 (KJV)
We admit we haven't done enough to be hospitable toward other people, in terms of opening our home to them.  In fact, we've concluded our living circumstances are so restricted that we might have to a place that's more open to outsiders.

If you pull out a card table or a dining table, you might find better relationships are built -- and opportunities to talk about the ways of God will open.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Poker Day 425: Grade A-Plus

"King-anything" was one man's announced strategy today at Winners Cardroom.  Any King pre-flop would get him in a hand,  On the other hand, we played a little bit tighter.-- which sometimes worked, and sometimes didn't....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: A-10 offsuit

We had a slight early loss, and start this hand with the Dealer button and about 10,500 chips.  These are nice high starter cards, but we don't want to rush into anything.  So we call, and about half of the full table is in.

ON THE FLOP: A-K-5

It's top pair and good "button" position.  A man to our immediate right bets 1,100.  We see no harm in calling that.  Everyone else vacates.

ON THE TURN: 10

Two pair make things even better.  Now our opponent bets 1,500.  If he's trying to scare us away, this won't do it.  We call again.

ON THE RIVER: 6

Probably a harmless card.  Yet our opponent fires a third barrel, with a bet of 2,000.  This is a case of what poker players call being "pot-committed."  We can't run now after betting so much, so we call in hope.

"Kings and 5's," our opponent says.  Whew -- no A-K!

Our two pair beat his.  He led at the flop, but we won the race at the turn and jump to more than 20,000 chips.

We stayed comfortable with chips most of the day -- especially helped when Q-J of hearts turned into a winning flush when we went all-in.  We made the final table on a day with about 22 players, then mostly watched as others fell away.

With four players remaining, we were dealt 9-9.  This worked for us last Monday at Hollywood Casino - and with blinds of 20,000/40,000 and only 60,000 left, we had little choice but to go all-in.  A man to our left called with K-9.  He gained a helpful Q-J on the flop -- and then a 10 on the river to make a winning straight.  A good run for us ended with a fourth-place finish, and only first paying in the Sunday freeroll.

MINISTRY MOMENT: An oldies radio station played in the background during our tournament - and at one point, we noticed the George Harrison tune My Sweet Lord playing.

"That's such a mixed-up song," we said to the man next to us.  "It starts out singing about God, but then turns into Hare Krishna.  God isn't supposed to be combined with Hare Krishna.  He's supposed to be combined with Jesus Christ."

The man nodded, hopefully understanding what we said.  But he would ask: have you ever stopped to listen carefully to songs like that?

Not every song which sounds "godly" really is.  It's something we think Jesus recognized:
To what can I compare this generation?  They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn." - Matthew 11:16-17
Does this mean God and Jesus are against dancing?  We don't think so, since other Bible verses show there's "a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4).  We suspect Jesus realized the people claiming to do things in His name really were not doing that.
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 7:7-8
Have you "let go" of God's commands, thinking that's what modern-day Christians are supposed to do? The Bible actually shows there are still commands to be followed and rules to be kept.
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. - I John 2:3-4
If you haven't opened a Bible in a while, we suggest going through the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and noting what Jesus actually says and teaches.  Don't believe what preachers say, or even what popular songs say.  They could equally be wrong.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 151 final tables in 425 games (35.5%) - 25 cashes.  We've now entered eight live tournaments this year, with six final table finishes and three "top fives."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Doing Your Time

We mentioned in our last post how we were penalized one "blind turn" in a poker tournament for calling a bet out of turn.  It was about a ten-minute penalty, which left us with mixed emotions.

Yes, we deserved the penalty.  We broke a rule, even though it wasn't completely spelled out before the tournament began.  We were inattentive to the other players, and we paid for that mistake.  In fact, the Bible would call it a mistake:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. - Philippians 2:3-4
Poker normally doesn't have "tag teams."  And even when several pros are under the same sponsor's umbrella, they're on their own at the table.  So it's easy to start thinking about yourself during a hand - what I need to do, how I should respond, and countless other I's.

But to borrow from a song, poker isn't "Population: Me."  Unless you're playing heads-up against a computer, other players are around you.  It's only polite and proper to be courteous toward them.  And had we been paying close attention, our plans might have changed based on how the player before us acted.

There wasn't much to do while we waited for permission to finish the penalty and return to the poker table.  We filled a cup with soda, watched Australian rugby on TV and chatted a little at the poker room desk.  We should have brought something with us -- perhaps something good to read:
So he started out, and on is way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.... The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth." - Acts 8:27, 32
This "eunuch" was heading home from a road trip - worshiping God in Jerusalem (verse 28).  He had a scroll of the Old Testament with him (the quote is from Isaiah 53).  So while riding in a chariot, he was filling his thoughts with the things of God - and as a result, he wound up encountering one of the top ministers in the early church..

There are many ways to do that during "down time" in a poker tournament - or even during the tournament, if the officials allow it.  You could play Christian music, messages or Scripture on an mp3 device or a "smartphone."  We think that's far better than playing other kinds of music - probably much more inspiring and encouraging.

So our first penalty in a big-money poker tournament taught us several lessons.  We'd ask you: have penalties in poker taught you anything of value - and if so, what?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Poker Day 424: 99, In the Box

The Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers tonight in Game 3 of hockey's Stanley Cup Finals.  Wayne Gretzky played for both the Kings and Rangers, but never won a cup in either place.  Yet Gretzky crossed our minds earlier in the day, during an unusual Monday afternoon match at  Hollywood Casino.

We went to Kansas City for a delayed Memorial Day trip to the grave sites of relatives.  But we wanted to at least cover the cost of the trip, so we took advantage of the casino's Monday noon tournament -- even if it cost $70 for full entry:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 9-9

See why we thought of Gretzky?  That was his number.  But we haven't been as successful during the day.  We've won a couple of pots, but lost a bad beat or two.  We start this hand with about 6,500 chips (from a starting 10,000), and hope to make a gain here.

The play checks to us at this table of nine -- but even though we're in late position, we don't feel comfortable raising because of those earlier beats.  We call, and about four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 2-5-6

Now we're feeling better, and wait to see what happens.  A player across from us bets 800.

"I'll call 800," we say -- but only then realize the man to our immediate right has cards.  We apologize and wait on him.

"I'll call," he says.

"I'll still call."  Three players remain.

ON THE TURN: 10

Two hearts and two diamonds are now showing.  Our opponents check, and we offer our own 800 on the theory no one has a 10.  The player across from us calls, while the man to the right folds.

ON THE RIVER: 8

As best we recall, this is a third diamond.  Our opponent checks, and we check out of caution.

"Gretzkys," we say as we show.

Our opponent looks at the cards, mutters something and throws his cards in face down.  It's a big pot for us -- but at a price.

"You're going to have to leave the table," a man in a suit standing over us says.  "You bet out of turn."

Ouch.  It's a "one-lap" penalty, in racing speak.  We can't come back until a round of blinds pass -- and the blinds go up to 300/600 while we're away.

Poker tournaments don't have penalty boxes -- like Wane Gretzky hardly ever visited in his career.  So we step out to get a soda, while watching Australian rugby league action on a giant screen over the gaming room.  Never have we been penalized at a tournament like this.

We count our chips on our return, and find we have 9,000.  How ironic - we had 9,900 before the penalty.

We won a couple more pots after that, but rising blinds and lousy cards worked against us.  We finally were forced to go all-in with 9-8 of diamonds.  The board brought 10-Q, but not a saving Jack for a straight.  The man we beat earlier with 9-9 eliminated us - and on a day with an overflow turnout of 86 players, we finished about 33rd.  (The top nine won money, with more than $1,200 for first place.)

MINISTRY MOMENT: Three different dealers asked us about the reflector we used as a card protector.  The table heard the same sort of answer three times.

"I brought it to remind me that I should reflect the light of Jesus Christ in all I do."

The players never responded to that statement.  One dealer changed the subject after we said that, while another seemed to quietly agree.

"But hold on," you may be saying.  "You got penalized during the game.  What sort of example is that?"

Yes, we made a mistake.  Yes, we were penalized for it.  But to borrow an old church cliché, Christians aren't perfect -- simply forgiven.  Consider....
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. - Romans 7:18-19


These words were written by the apostle Paul, who wrote more New Testament books than anyone else.  Did he become perfect and sinless, once Jesus brought him to conversion?  Based on these words, we don't think so.
For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law in my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. - Romans 7:22-23


Paul wrote elsewhere he "fought the good fight" (II Timothy 4:7) - and we think that fight was in his mind and nature, as much as anything.  The same is true with anyone attempting to follow Jesus's example.  Some days we win the fight; some days the battle can overtake us.  Yet Jesus promises:
....But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. - Matthew 24:13


We'll have more to say about our table penalty in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 150 final tables in 424 games (35.4%) - 25 cashes.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Humbling Game

Forbes magazine has posted a thought-provoking interview with pro poker legend Annie Duke.  There are lessons from it for business leaders, as well as poker players.  But there's also this interesting section:

I asked Duke if great poker players were humble. “Yes and no,” she replied. “They’re very humble in the face of the game. They know poker is an unsolvable game that they can never master. But they’re not humble in the face of their opponents.”

We've said for years poker is a game that keeps people humble - and Duke verifies that here.  You can have the nicest-looking pocket Aces in the world, yet someone with 3-2 of hearts can make a straight or a flush on the flop and beat you.  It's a reminder of these wise words:
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. - Ecclesiastes 9:11


Duke goes on to quote Phil Hellmuth: "If it weren’t for luck, I’d win every time.”  But luck can happen in poker - both for and against you.

The same thing can happen in life; we saw a news story this week of a driver who lost a tire on his car on the freeway - and it bounced over a center wall, hitting another driver and injuring him.

We've heard some ministers say a right relationship with Jesus can eliminate the "time and chance" part.  And perhaps that's where the other side of Duke's words about being humble kick in.  God actually wants us to be humble, even when opposition is staring across the table at us.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. - Proverbs 11:2


For some people, June is a "Pride Month."  We could cite verses about the sinful nature of homosexual lifestyles - but God opposes pride of any sort.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. - James 4:6b


So when you face a challenge before the flop, how should you treat it?  Humbly.  Respectfully.  As you should when you're before God -- which, if you think about it, really is all the time.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. - James 4:10


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Heifers, Temples and Poker Players

A recent poker tournament which we mentioned here got into an unusual subject - heifers.  It happened not because we're in Kansas and play with cattle ranchers, but because someone at our table dared to call the female dealer a heifer.

Women have been called by that label far longer than you might think.  In fact, there's a case in the Bible where it happened:
Samson said to them, "If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle." - Judges 14:18b


Samson described his wife this way -- during their wedding feast!  But this is clearly a figure of speech.  Samson's wife had been threatened with death by some people at the feast, because they didn't want to pay up by losing a bet (verses 12-15).  The chapter ends with Samson giving up his bride, and 30 people killed (verses 19-20).

This case shows how unethical and mean-spirited some people can be when a big bet is involved.  Stories of the American "Old West" are filled with poker games leading to drawn guns and serious threats.  So it's no wonder poker still has a negative stigma with some people.

But our recent post also mentioned how red heifers are considered important by some religious for cleansing - such as removing sin from a temple.  You may be insulted by the thought of being called a heifer.  But have you ever been called a temple?

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days".... the temple he had spoken of was his body. - John 2:19, 21

Jesus referred to Himself as a temple.  And that comparison clearly stuck in the brains of New Testament writers:
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? - I Corinthians 3:16


The ancient Jews relished worshiping God in a specially-built temple building.  Some churches and synagogues today have the word "temple" in their names.  But the apostle Paul makes it more personal than that.  You are supposed to be a temple - a place where the Holy Spirit of God dwells.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.... Therefore honor God with your body. - I Corinthians 6:19-20


Maybe we don't need to build a new temple in Jerusalem.  Maybe we all need to become the "temple" God desires us to be - people which honor God in our lives, whether we're at a poker table or other places.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Poker Day 423: Fake or Double Take

"If you're learning, this is a good place to do it," one of the managers at Winners Cardroom told a couple of players leaving the table this afternoon.

"Or if you're a cheapskate, like me," we said to him half-jokingly.

We were at Winners because "freeroll fever" has struck local poker rooms -- with several games being played with no chair rental every week.  It means we can play as we once did in Georgia: paying only the cost of food, drinks and tips.  And on Sunday, there's money to be won -- as Winners pays $150 to the tournament champ.

But with other players paying $10 extra for a "double stack" of chips, we'd have to play carefully to gain an edge.  So we tried to strike early....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-9 offsuit

It's the second hand of the day, and we have close to our starting amount at 11,400 chips (2,000 extra for arriving on time).  We have the dealer button.  No one at the full table is raising, so we dare to enter small.  Most of the table is in.

ON THE FLOP: 5-6-7

This 5-6-7 doesn't strike anyone as heaven.  Everyone checks -- and while we have a straight draw, we choose to do the same.

ON THE TURN: 3

That's a miss for us.  But the table checks again -- and since we're last to act, we can try what they call on TV a "stab at the pot."  We bet 700.

"Oh no, you might have a 4," a manager at the table declares as he folds.  Uh-huh.

A young man next to him says nothing - except to raise.  He goes up to 2,200.  The players between us get out of the way, leaving us with a tough decision.  Did he raise because he smelled (correctly) a bluff on our part?  Or is he trying to out-bluff us?  We think it's the latter.  And in a way, we have 10 outs (3 Kings, 3 9's, 4 8's) - so we dare to call.

ON THE RIVER: 8

Thank you very much!  We made the top straight.  Now we hope betting history repeats itself.  Our opponent checks.  We offer 700 again -- but this time, he simply calls.

"I didn't have the 4," we say as we slowly turn over the cards, "but I have a 9."

We never see what our opponent has - but we hit the river well, to take a pot of more than 5,000 chips.

We won a few other hands as well, including a timely deal of Q-Q which brought a third Queen on the flop.  But the cards went dry as blinds went up.  With 12 players left, we went all-in on the flop with A-K and a flop of K-3-J.  A man called us with J-9.  But of course.... a 9 came on the river.  His two pair prevailed, and we were eliminated in 12th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took a small reflector light for our "card protector."  We told a man sitting to our left during the one-hour break we brought it as a reminder to reflect the light of Jesus Christ.

"What do you think of Jesus?" we asked.  "Is he your Savior?"

We might as well have asked the man to turn over his cards before the flop.  He said nothing, simply staring with his best poker face.

"I hope everyone believes in Jesus as their Savior," we said.  He still said nothing.

Maybe he didn't expect our question.  Or maybe he was reacting to Jesus as other people did long ago....
Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?"  But they remained silent. - Mark 3:4


"They" were people in the synagogue -- probably Pharisees, who didn't respect what Jesus was doing (verses 1-2).  Jesus refused to back down:
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."  He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. - Mark 3:5


The "Lord of the Sabbath" did a healing act in a synagogue on God's Sabbath day.  Then the crowd started talking....
Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. - Mark 3:6


There's a time when we should be silent when it comes to Jesus.  That time is in worshiping Him and God the Father....
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. - Habakkuk 2:20


But if you're silent when it comes to the simple (well, seemingly simple) question of believing in Jesus, that can be another matter.  God can track our thoughts -- so what is your silence about Him really saying?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 150 final tables in 423 games (35.5%), 25 cashes.  This was our first final table miss of the year, in six tries.