Sunday, September 27, 2015

Remember As You Play....

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. - Ecclesiastes 4:12 (KJV)
An Ace in the pocket is OK -- until the flop comes. As one man told us years ago, eventually it becomes "just another card." Especially if someone else's hole cards connect.  "Ace high" can win pots.... but to be honest, not a lot of them.

A pocket pair is even better. You can use it to make pre-flop raises, scaring that speculating opponent with A-8 (for an example) out of a hand. Two matching cards certainly withstand a lone rocket.

But that "threefold cord" can be a sturdy thing. If your pocket pair turns into three of a kind on the flop, your options become quite wide-open.  You can check and trap, tempt someone into a betting contest, and even bet your bundle if your chip stack is low.

So cards in threes certainly can please -- and the Bible has a lot of powerful threes for you to consider.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - I Corinthians 13:13

Love is powerful by itself. After all, God is love (I John 4:8, 16). But faith in a loving God is what's necessary for salvation (Ephesians 2:8) - and hope in God's coming Kingdom and reward provide a reason to live out your love and faith every day.

Looking for "trips" at the poker table can be rewarding.  But here's a project for you: how many other "threefold" things can you find in the Bible?  Look through the Word of God, make a list - and you might be surprised how strong three can be.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Watching Out for You

Set up a game - whether it be poker, football or something else - and someone inevitably will try to cheat at that game to gain an advantage.

The latest case of poker cheating comes from an online security website.  "Odlanor" malware can take a look at your cards at a website such as PokerStars, and instantly let your opponents know what you have.  It can enter your computer through poker helps, such as calculators or player databases.

For those of us who play online primarily, this is irritating but no big deal.  But for those who play online for money, it's a very big deal -- as cheaters could take advantage and rob players of winnings.

You probably can delete the malware programs to solve the problem. But that doesn't solve the core issue: Why do some people cheat at poker? Why do they feel compelled to break the rules, be unethical and attempt to sneak their way to victory?

As odd as it may sound, we think the problem is spiritual. At the root of a malware infection is a sin infection....
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. - Romans 7:18

The man writing these words was the apostle Paul. Yes, one of Jesus's apostles admitted he had a sinful nature.  If he does, we suspect deep-down all of us do.
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. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. - Romans 7:19-20

The wording here can seem confusing.  But Paul is saying a sinful nature inside him can lead him to do bad things -- such as cheating.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:24-25

Jesus came in part to provide people a new nature - a nature that is holy, godly and righteous.  In other words, one that doesn't want to cheat.
To them God has chosen to make know among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. - Galatians 1:27

Once Jesus enters a person through the Holy Spirit, everything should start changing. But we need to focus on living a godly way, not the cheating way.  Look for ways to win that are clean and above reproach - not ways that can get you tracked down like a cyber-criminal and put in jail.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's the Good Word?

A man across the table said something about God (we don't recall now exactly what) - so we asked him if Jesus was his Savior.

His answer was yes, adding: "I read the good book every day."

Those words may reveal the man's age.  Not many younger people refer to the Bible as "the good book" nowadays -- and that phrase is not in the King James Version.  But we would note a few things about the Bible along these lines....

1. The Lord who gave it is good.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. - Psalm  86:5

2. God's creations are good.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. - I Timothy 4:4

3. The Bible offers good news.  That's what the word "gospel" means.
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." - Mark 16:15

4. The Bible helps define what is good.
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 humble with your God - Micah 6:8

What other good things can you find in the Bible?  Probably much more.  But you need to take time away from the poker table to open, read and study it. Only then can you learn how good a book it really is.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. - Psalm  40:8

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Direct Line

"Do you go to movies?" a man at our poker table asked a man on the other side.  "You should go to see War Room.  That's a good movie."  Others at the table had seen it and agreed.

"It's all about praying to Jesus," the man continued.

Uh-oh.  Do you see a problem with that comment?  Some Christian ministers do -- even ministers who believe strongly in Jesus Christ.  They say you should pray only to God the Father.  Sorting out this question can get a bit complex.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. - Luke 6:12

Jesus was sent by God the Father to be our Savior.  And the Bible shows Jesus indeed is God (John 1:1).  But when it came time to pray, Jesus did not engage in "self-talk" to pump Himself up -- the way some poker players might before a big tournament.
"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.  I and the Father are one." - John 10:29-30

We're led to conclude Jesus prayed to God the Father -- and to some extent, He still does today.
Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. - Romans 8:34

So does that mean we should direct our prayers toward Jesus the Son, not God the Father?
And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. - John 14:13-14 (KJV)

The New International Version says this in verse 14: "You may ask me for anything in my name...." - as in asking Jesus directly. Other translations we checked agree. But the King James hints at directing prayers toward the Father. And Jesus recommends this elsewhere:
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" - Luke 11:13  (NASB)

So prayers to God the Father are proper.  Prayers directly to Jesus may be proper at times.  If you have more Bible verses to share to help us sort this issue out, please leave some in a comment.

Whatever you do, though, we do not recommend praying to "the poker gods."  The Bible shows those are not really gods at all:
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. - I Chronicles 16:26

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Poker Day 453: A Little Something Extra

As some people like to say at the table, "The price of poker has gone up."  Only we're talking about the entry fee at Arrowhead Poker -- now $35 instead of $30 for the Sunday tournament, even though the poker room website didn't say that today.

But we were able to start with 60,000 chips (62,000 with an "on-time bonus").  The challenge was holding on to them:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: K-9 of spades

All those chips and low blind levels have allowed us to take some early chances.  Trouble is, they've all fallen short so far.  We come to this hand with about 56,000 chips, looking for something to get us going.  We're in the Big Blind, and get help when no one raises at our table of seven.  As best we recall, four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 6s-10s-Kh

Top pair seems good to it.  When the Small Blind checks, we bet 1,000. A man to our left calls. So does a man across the table. The Small Blind folds.

ON THE TURN: 8c (guessing on the suit)

If this card helped anybody, we still possess top pair.  So we turn up the heat by betting 2,000.  The man to our left clearly isn't comfortable with this, but he calls.  So does the other player.


Uh-oh -- three spades now are showing.  We check cautiously.  The man to the left checks.  The man across the table ponders a moment, then checks as well.

"I've got nothing," the man across from us says.

"Kings," we say.

"Flush," the dealer points out.

"Oh yeah!" we say with surprise.  We admittedly overlooked the fact that we had two spades!  Our checking of the river looked like a great trap.  Too bad nobody bit -- but at least we gained several thousand chips.

We climbed back to the starting level, then scored a big gain when we called with K-K and topped a man who went all-in with Ace-high.  Another big gain with Q-Q fell short, when an all-in opponent with 10-9 hit two pair on the flop.  But we still reached the final table with about 70,000 chips.

Once there, climbing blinds took their toll.  We stayed alive with A-7, when we called a man with a matching hand. (Amazingly, the flop was 7-A-A.)  Then A-K brought us an all-in win.  But another try with K-J fell short, when a man with a 7 caught a pair on the flop and we missed.  End result: eighth place for the second tournament in a row.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "This man is using a salt packet for his car protector," a player at the final table said with a laugh.

It was our salt packet, of course.  "I brought it to remind me that Jesus said I'm supposed to be the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).

A man across the table actually was delighted to hear this. "I try to bring up Jesus at poker tables, but other people don't want to talk about Him," he said.  "They don't think it's the right place to talk about that, but I think we should talk about Jesus all the time."

Wow!  Regular readers know this sort of reaction is rare. And we think we know why....
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. - John 3:19

These words of Jesus seem as true today as they did long ago. People who don't want to embrace the "light of the world" (John 8:12) would rather not even talk about the things of God.  What they may not realize is that they can try to run from God.... but they can't hide:
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up against me." But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.... - Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah tried to run away from God's assignment. That led to a violent storm (1:4), Jonah being thrown off a ship (1:15), a giant fish swallowing Jonah for three days and nights (1:17), then a second command from God to go to Nineveh (3:1-2).  This time....
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.... - Jonah 3:3

Are you trying to be like Jonah -- running away from God?  Trust us: it won't work.  He's bigger than you.  He wants you to come to the light of His Son.  And the light won't hurt.  Honestly.  In fact, your life might be a lot better for it.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 167 final tables in 453 games (36.9%) - 29 cashes. A busy schedule will restrict us to online poker only for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Vision of Success, Part 2

Our last post introduced you to a man who plays poker even though he's vision-impaired. He can barely see the cards he's dealt, by holding them against his eyes.

Come to think of it, poker operates a lot on the concept of limited vision. You know what cards you have.  Then you learn what cards are available on the flop, turn and river.  But you normally can't see what anyone else has.  Your pocket Aces might look great by themselves, but if A-10-10 on the flop gives someone with pocket 10's quads, you're potentially in big trouble.

Our lives are very much like that.  Great plans for the future can be disrupted in a hurry -- perhaps by sickness, perhaps by a crash, perhaps by thieves or other factors.  It's no wonder the Bible says:
For now we see through a glass, darkly.... now I know in part.... - I Corinthians 13:12  (KJV)

But God's Word says a day is coming when we'll be able to borrow from an old song: "I can see clearly now/The rain is gone...."  Let's fill in some holes in that verse we quoted:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. - I Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

When is the "then"?  We think it refers to a time of resurrection, when we'll see Jesus "face to face."
My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek. - Psalm 25:8

Does that idea scare you - of coming face-to-face with God? The Bible indicates it's going to happen to everyone....
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.... - Hebrews 9:27

If your "vision" is on pleasing God and doing what He says, you won't have to fear this judgment nearly as much.
...God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. - I John 4:16-17

Here's hoping you play poker not only with a focus on the present hand and a long-term tournament goal, but with a vision toward eternity.  Setting a loving example in a poker room lets others say at least a little of God's nature - something which soon will become very clear.