Saturday, December 31, 2016

Poker Day 493: If I Only Had a Heart

Christmas ends, and the Valentine's Day stuff goes on sale right away - right? It seemed that way to us Friday, during a tournament at Kansas Star Casino. Follow the cards, and you'll see....

BLINDS: 75/150

IN THE POCKET: 7 of hearts - 7 of clubs

We were only fourth on the waiting list for this tournament, and it had 70 seats. But we still had to wait about 45 minutes before finding a seat. After losing a hand with Q-J and having lousy blinds, we now have about 2,975 chips and sit first to act. We limp in with a pocket pair, and see some hope when no one raises. About five players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 10h-3c-8h

Not the best-looking flop for us. But after we check, so does everyone else. Perhaps they all missed?!

ON THE TURN: 9h

Aha - things now become a whole lot more interesting. We have an open-ended straight flush draw! An opponent bets 225, but we simply have to chase this. We call, and we're heads-up with about a one-in-three chance of hitting something big....

ON THE RIVER: 10d

....which means, of course, we also have a two-thirds chance of missing. But after this card, we still have two pair - and we have a hunch our opponent missed as well.

So we take a chance: "300," we bet. Our opponent gives it a good deal of thought - then calls. He could have raised.

"I missed the straight flush," we admit, "but I have two pair."

Thankfully, our hunch is right! The opponent shows A-K (or something similar). He missed it all. We gain a nice pot.

One or two other small pot wins put us at 3,925 chips at the first break, then hit some big cards in the second period such as A-A to take out an opponent. We hit a high of 8,400. But setbacks pushed us back to 5,000 - but at least we reached the second break.

As the blinds climbed, we stayed alive thanks to a couple of walks. Then when we were forced to go all-in for 2,000  the Big Blind, we "checked in the dark" all the way through - then turned over 4-4, which was the only pair anyone had! That started a "miracle" comeback, which included K-K beating A-Q, which pushed us back above 15,000!

But with 13 players left and the final table in view, we made a slip. With a player all-in for 7,000 and with K-J of spades in our pocket, we dared to go all-in for 8,000. One of three players in the race had 7-7, and it prevailed when the board didn't pair for the other two. We finished 12th out of 83 - pretty good, but short of the final table and the top eight for money.

MINISTRY MOMENT will be posted Sunday, as we wrap up 2016.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 181 final tables in 493 games (36.7%) - 36 cashes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gimme Some Kind of Sign

If poker was like a TV game show (and some TV game shows have been poker-based), the atmosphere would be much different. The players would look to the audience for advice. The crowd would shout "CALL!" or "FOLD!" And peppy band music would play when someone takes a big pot - or maybe buzzers sounding when someone acts out of turn.

But most poker rooms don't work that way. In fact, we can't think of any. Not even online. So players are on their own to make big decisions - and many look for every tiny bit of help they can find.

As we suggested in a recent post, let's consider how to get "messages from above" - in poker or elsewhere. At the table, veteran players try to "read" their opponent. They might ask questions, while looking for gestures from the face or body to give away what they're facing.

A former boss advised us when it came to making decisions on the job, our "gut" would tell us the right thing to do. We admittedly disagreed with that approach:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? - Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)


Yet we also must admit we heard from that same boss many times about wrong decisions we made - even when we prayed for God's wisdom to guide us in the course of a work day. How could that happen? Perhaps the answer is in another part of the Bible:

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:9


The boss usually was thinking on an "earthy" level. God wants us to think higher - and look to Him.

So how do we do that in poker? Our years at the table have shown we don't always get reads right. (Then again, does anybody?) But in key moments, we've tried to listen for a prompting - one that no one may be able to hear.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." - Isaiah 30:21


Some say this verse really applies to the coming Kingdom of God which Jesus Christ will bring to Earth. But sometimes we think God has prompted us to make certain moves which have turned out for our good. And yes, we have Scripture to back up such an idea:

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. - I Kings 19:12


This chapter is about how God encouraged Elijah when he was fearful and on the run. God spoke with "a still small voice," as one Bible translation puts it. That's what we try to hear when we're playing poker.

Sometimes that voice comes through. Sometimes it doesn't. And if we hear it wrong, we do not blame God. We know better than that. We simply ask Him for wisdom to better understand the message next time.

So we end by asking: Are you listening for God's voice in your life - at all? He might have something important to tell you.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Poker Day 492: Worth the Wait?

"Did you take it all?" a complete stranger asked as he passed us in the parking lot this afternoon. We were leaving Kansas Star Casino, heading for our car. We'll reveal our response in a moment, but first let's see how things went today in our first poker tournament there in six weeks:

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: J-J

We arrived at the casino 20 minutes early, but almost didn't play at all. We were 14th on the tournament waiting list, and entered 75 minutes into the event. After folding in the blinds, we start this hand with 3,200 chips late in the order. When other players merely call, we go for it with our high pocket pair.

"Raise - 500," we say. We get three takers.

ON THE FLOP: 7-3-K

Uh-oh. A bigger face card is not what we wanted to see. And if that's not enough, a player ahead of us bets 500. We're not sure what he has, but we fear what it might be. Still, we call in hopes of improvement. So does a third player.

ON THE TURN: 9

There's no flush threat. But the players in front of us check. We're rather happy to check as well.

ON THE RIVER: 3

Now we have two pair - but one of our opponents might have the same thing, only better. He bets 1,500. That's more than half our stack. And with that King looking fierce, we decide not to risk it. We fold, and the bettor takes the pot without showing what he has.

Looking back, we wonder if we should have bet more pre-flop. We've seen other players push with pocket Jacks, to scare everyone away. But we tried to maximize our profits, and wound up losing 1,000 chips.

With 1,700 chips left, we tried again with A-K of spades. This time we raised to 700, and a player to our right called. The flop was something like 8-2-9, and his bet of 200 was answered by our going all-in for the last 1,000. The man called, and showed 8-6. "Big Slick" was dominated by a relatively junk hand. And when the board didn't pair for it, we were knocked out in 44th place out of 64 players. Late in, early out.

Oh yes - about the man in the parking lot. We showed him a brownie we bought from the casino deli. "This is my consolation prize," we said, "and at two dollars, it's a pretty good deal." We both laughed at that. It beats crying about our losses.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our second dealer has come to "know our works," to borrow from a Bible verse (Revelation 3:8). So when he saw our small bottle on the table, he asked.

"What does the bottle of hand sanitizer signify?"

"It's to remind me," we answered, "that I need Jesus to clean me up. Clean up all my sins. That's why He came."

We personally don't keep Christmas, as we've discussed in other posts. But we do believe Jesus was born - and born with a purpose:

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Sovereign Lord.... my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people...." - Luke 2:28-31


We can't recall a December where we've heard more messages on radio about Simeon. This "righteous and devout" man (verse 25) somehow was given a special promise:

It had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. - Luke 2:26


"Christ" is not really Jesus's last name. It's the Greek word for "anointed" or "Messiah." The baby Simeon held about a week after Jesus was born was (and is) the Messiah, who came to bring salvation.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. - Matthew 1:21


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's Power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. - I Peter 1:3-5

The "coming salvation" ultimately will occur when Jesus comes back to Earth. Believers will have now "spirit bodies," and not need to be cleansed of sin any more. That's good news at any time of year. But are you asking God to clean up your life now, to get the process started?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 181 final tables in 492 games (36.8%) - 36 cashes.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The patience is in

So, you may be asking, what was our secret to success when we won money at a recent poker tournament in Tulsa? Believe it or not, it all started with a grocery trip.

We went to a large famous-name store at mid-morning, and came across several moms trying to keep young children in line. We told ourselves to be a good example, by staying patient with them.

Then we loaded our groceries in the car - and lo and behold, we heard a radio preacher talking about patience. Already we sensed a theme for the day.

As we drove to Tulsa that afternoon, we heard a radio host bring up the very same subject - patience! Now we knew we were getting a message from God. It became the key word on our mind during the evening tournament - and in the end, we had a top-five finish in the money.

The idea of receiving "messages from heaven" is a topic for another day. But right now let's ask: how patient are you at the poker table? Are you impulsive, looking for a quick advantage? Or do you wait for the right moment to make a move?

We think God wants us to lean on the side of waiting. Here's why....

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. - Proverbs 16:32


The impulsive player might go "on tilt" and lose composure after a bad beat or a tough loss on the river. There could be a comeback - but more often than not, that player makes a quick exit.

A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. - Proverbs 19:11


You can't win every single hand in a poker tournament. "Perfect games" are for baseball, and they don't happen very often there. If a loss comes, try to minimize the setback - both in chips and in your mindset.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. - Ecclesiastes 7:8


That's what happened with us on a Thursday night in Tulsa. The payoff of patience came at the end, although we admittedly nearly lost it while fighting to eliminate a short-stacked man at the final table. The theme of the day helped us to humbly thank God for our ultimate success.

To quote from the radio preacher we mentioned earlier, and the broadcast in our link: "When we are patient, we put ourselves in position with God to receive God's best." Are you willing to have that patience - at the table, and in all your endeavors in life?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

One Game or Another

The bet on the river was substantial - 600 or more, as we recall. And we missed our shot at the best hand.

"As they say on that show," we said pointing at the giant TV screen across the table, "'That's too much!'"

A man to our left knew what we meant right away. We were in a mid-morning poker game where for a change, the casino did not show talking heads discussing sports. They put The Price is Right on the big screen - a game show we admitted in advance would make things awfully distracting for us. (Although, come to think of it, some of the sound effects on The Price is Right would make poker games more entertaining to watch.)

For many big-time poker players, the key to success is staying focused - getting locked in on every hand, including your cards and your opponent's tendencies. An event nearby with people jumping up and down over winning "A new!!!! CAR!!!!!!" certainly doesn't help.

But if you think about it, our lives are full of distractions. Sometimes players even bring them to the tables, in the form of smartphones (even if they have their favorite music loaded for their earbuds). We need to follow some timeless advice along these lines....
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. - Joshua 1:7


A new leader named Joshua was receiving guidance from the Lord (verse 1). While the focus of this "pep talk" was about having courage, Joshua was advised against going off-course in his life. The key to that was in obeying the "law of Moses" - a law really given by God years before.
Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. - Joshua 23:6


 Joshua clearly remembered the lesson, because he repeated God's guidance in his farewell address. The world is filled with things that can take you off-course, away from a focus on God (I John 2:15-16). That's why, even today....
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2


Jesus stayed focused as well - on His purpose for coming to Earth, and for eventually rejoining His Father in heaven.

We hope you focus well - on the cards and conditions as you play poker, and on God's ways as you walk throughout the week. But before you do that, please comment for us. What's the worst distraction you've ever faced at a poker tournament - and how did you deal with it?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Option Play

Is it something we've said? Maybe the wrong anti-perspirant?

Whatever the reason, 2016 is ending with yet another closure at a place where we've played poker. We mentioned last week that Osage Casino near Tulsa has "temporarily closed" its poker room - a place where we made a final table on our only visit during the summer.

This adds to a 2016 dropout list which included three independent poker rooms in Wichita, Prairie Band Casino north of Topeka and Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City (at least for tournament play).

It feels like we're not playing in person as much - but maybe that's misleading. As of this post, we've entered 31 live tournaments this year. That's better than one every couple of weeks. But work and other projects have cut into our poker time - not to mention a rather high buy-in at the main casino which has become our most convenient place to play.

What do you do when you run short of options.... not in terms of poker rooms, but big decisions in life? We can think of one man who faced that sort of challenge:
...A messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off".... another messenger came and said, "The fire of God came from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants".... another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" - Job 1:14-17


Talk about a bad day! And things got worse for Job from there. He lost all his children in the next two verses. Yet God allowed Satan the devil to do all these things to Job (verse 12). It was a test to see how a "blameless and upright... man who fears God" (verse 8) would respond to the loss of valuable things.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. then he fell to the ground in worship and said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." - Job  1:20-21


You may be in a place on this planet where you can't go out and play poker every week - or even every month. In the internet age, at least you have online options for having some fun and keeping your game sharp. But even if you didn't, could you still be thankful to God for not having anyplace to play poker?
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.... - Ecclesiastes 7:14


God may have removed the poker options to get you focused on other things. Better things. More important things - like straightening out your life and repenting of your sins.

So give God praise for whatever he gives you, whether it's a little or a lot. Then ask Him prayerfully to show where you should go from here - and have faith that He will open the best options of all in your life.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Poker Day 491: Hard Rock and a Hard Place

Remember the cheaper choice we selected for Thursday night poker in Tulsa? Because we had an open Friday morning, we went to the more expensive place - where the poker costs less by day.

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is located northeast of Tulsa. The casino security was almost nonexistent on a Friday morning; with no one at the doors, any toddler could walk in with Mom or Dad to play slots. But the poker room is nice and secluded - in fact, the first one we've visited with doors that automatically open.

It costs $35 plus a $5 dealer fee to play the 10:00 a.m. "no-juice" tournament. Sure enough, we didn't see any fruit juice - but with a cup of diet cola in our hand from outside, we joined in what started as a one-table game but turned into two:

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: 8-9 of spades

We won a modest pot early in the first hour. But then we lost a bunch with pocket Jacks, when we missed a straight draw. Now we've dropped from a starting 5,000 chips to a lowly 2,050.

"Looks like it's your time to win," an older man to our left says before we see our cards.

"I hope so," we told him. With suited connectors, we hope this is the moment. We call, and four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 8h-7d-2d

Two of these cards are diamonds. So we have top pair, but a flush threat. We check to get a pulse of the table, and a man to our left bets 300. We call; the other players fold.

ON THE TURN: 8d

A third diamond - but a third 8. Given our small stack, we see little choice.

"All of it," we say - pushing out last 1,550. "Since he said it was my time," we add tongue-in-cheek. When in doubt, shift the blame.

We hope our opponent has no flush, and will fold. Instead, he calls - and shows 8-K. His kicker is far better than ours. We ask for an Ace - but really, that won't work. We need a 9 for a second pair.

ON THE RIVER: 6c

The King tops our 9, and takes us out of the game. We split the Oklahoma weekend, finishing about 14th out of 17 players - but at least by registering for a Hard Rock player's card with "free slot play," we won back eight dollars playing video blackjack.

MINISTRY MOMENT: The man who gave us that fateful word of encouragement wanted a good look at our "Lord's Supper" card protector before play began. We explained it, then asked: "What do you think of Jesus?"

"Good guy."

"Is He your Savior?"

"I think so. I hope so."

Are any of those answers good enough? The Bible indicates they're not. Let's start from the top....

And, behold, one came and said to him, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why call you me good? There is none good but one, that is, God...." - Matthew 19:16-17 (KJV)


A young man came to Jesus Christ with what comes across as words of flattery. The Lord responded with a pre-flop rise of sorts in the conversation, since a writer long before declared in prayer:

You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. - Psalm 119:68


God is the original source of goodness. And Jesus was God, walking on Earth (John 1:1, 14). So was the young man ready to acknowledge Jesus as God? The section in Matthew doesn't indicate he did. But Jesus went farther:

"If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." - Matthew 19:17b


He clearly was talking about eternal life here. Jesus said that depends on several things....

"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" - Matthew 19:18-19


We can sit all day, in a poker room or a church sanctuary, pondering about whether or not we have salvation. But Jesus indicated we should take definite actions to move toward eternal life. We answered the poker player's second statement with words along this line:

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall... - II Peter 1:10


Is the list Jesus gave the way you live?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 181 final tables in 491 games (36.9%) - 36 cashes.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Poker Night 490: Up the Creek

The church association we attend is having a big "regional family weekend" in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The events begin Friday evening - but we made the three-hour drive to Tulsa Thursday, to see if we could pay for the trip at the poker table.

To our surprise, Osage Casino where we played in the summer has closed its poker room. It's "temporary," one website says. (We'll get into that another time.) But that meant playing in a pricey Thursday night tournament. We chose the less expensive choice, "River Spirit Casino" operated by the Creek Nation - $75 buy-in plus $10 dealer appreciation.

The casino's poker room ranks among the nicest we've visited. Big-screen TV's abounded for watching Thursday night football, and a good variety of snacks and soda was available for free. But we didn't want that to distract us, because we came to play well....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

 IN THE POCKET: Q-J of diamonds

We started with 8,000 chips, plus a "bounty chip" worth $25 to whomever might eliminate us. We won some nice early pots to reach the one-hour break at 13,500. But now we have a challenge. A man at our table of six (or so) followed our early call with a raise to 3,500. That's a substantial investment, but after thinking it over we decide to call. No one else does.

ON THE FLOP: J-10-4 (third card may not be precise; it won't matter)

No diamonds came, but top pair did. We check to the raiser, and he goes all-in! He has 11,000. We have 10,500 left. What would you do at this moment?

We wonder if our opponent has pocket Aces or Kings. Something tells us he doesn't, and he's trying to steal the pot with a big scare. So we call - and he shows A-Q. Our hunch was right, but we have to dodge a lot of trouble.

"He needs a King," another player properly points out.

ON THE TURN: Q

"There's the King," that man says. Uhhhh - not from what we see. We now lead the race, two pair to one. We'd prefer the next card be low.

ON THE RIVER: 9

Just low enough! We stay alive and double-up, leaving our opponent at the brink of elimination.

More nice pots came after that in Hour 2, and we eliminated one player to win a $25 bounty chip. Yet due to some losses, at the second break we still were stuck at 13,600. But then came Hour 3, and some huge pot wins. We hit a high chip count of 89,500, and were able to coast to the final table. Once there, we scored a huge win with A-J when two Jacks showed up and a man pushed with J-Q. We earned a second bounty

But our efforts to eliminate a short-stacked player with seven to go started draining our chips. We still had 54,000 at the third break, but more misses left us in limbo at 15,000 chips and rising blinds. But then an even shorter stack pushed with 9,000, and lost to an unfortunate river card which gave someone else a full house.

The top five in this 43-player tournament made the money - and that means we did! After that, we pushed for our life with 9-9. But a man to our left made a straight on the river, to knock us out. Final score: fifth place for $138, plus $50 in bounties - although by agreement, all the players at the final table donated $20 to the "bubble" man who came in sixth.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We took our "Lord's Supper" card protector on the trip, and the man who eventually knocked us out didn't grasp it at first.

"I don't think he looked like that," we said to him as he turned the protector over to see a depiction of Jesus Christ. "I don't think He had long hair."

The man agreed. "It says He had no special appearance," the man noted. The "it" in this case is the Bible....

My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. - Isaiah 53:2 (NLT)

This is an Old Testament prophecy about the coming of Jesus. Does it seem surprising? Ancient artistic depictions of Jesus constantly walking around with a halo or standout appearance really aren't accurate. Consider, for example....

Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way. - Luke 4:29-30 (NLT)

A crowd wanted Jesus dead, but they apparently couldn't pick Him out of the crowd when the climactic moment came. He was that.... well, ordinary-looking. Not "ordinary" in any other way, but in appearance. Yet someday soon....

And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man.... His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire.... And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. - Revelation 1:13-16 (NLT)

This "man" calls himself "the  First and the Last" (verse 17; Revelation 22:13) - leaving little doubt it's Jesus Christ. The Bible says every eye will see Him when He returns (verse 7). Are you prepared to face Jesus at His judgment seat, no matter how He looks?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 181 final tables in 490 games (36.9%) - 36 cashes. We've won money in five out of 30 tournaments we've entered this year!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

One False Step

The Thursday night National League of Poker online tournament was our best in months. We were hitting big cards, making big hands and winning large pots. At the one-hour break, we had 24,560 chips -  good for tenth place out of 1,170 total entries!

Then came the second hour, and this critical moment....

BLINDS: 400/800/100

IN THE POCKET: 2-6 of clubs

The NLOP format for this tournament has a maximum six players per table. Trouble is, we've been placed to the right of the chip leader. His stack is huge compared to ours - well above 40,000. But we start this hand with about 25,000 chips. With about 30 big blinds, we can be a bit "creative" with these cards. We call, and about three players are in with no one raising.

ON THE FLOP: 10-5-4 (order may not be precise)

An ordinary flop with a hopeful straight draw. We check. As best we recall, the table checks.

ON THE TURN: 7

Our chances of hitting a straight now have doubled, but we sense a chance to win the pot right here. We bet 800. Mr. Big Stack calls, to our disappointment. The third player folds.

ON THE RIVER: 8

Yes! The straight comes through again! With no flush threat, we bid again for the pot. This time we bet 2,800. But our chip-leading opponent isn't scared. He goes all-in!

We have 22,800. Only a couple of combinations could beat ours - but this opponent has shown during the night he can bluff with very little. After several seconds of agonizing thought, we take the dare. We call. "If he has 9-6," we say to ourselves....

Then comes the computerized showdown.... and he has 9-6! He wasn't bluffing, and hit a higher straight on the river!

"Wow. Very good," is all we have time to write as he takes our big stack away. He writes "LOL" and some kind of scoffing insult in response. After a big 90-minute run, we finish in a lowly 165th place.

We offer this as proof that few hands in a poker tournament are "safe" hands. Other players can put you at risk at any moment, so you have to be careful at all times. Out lives work the same way....

They moved the ark of God from Abinadab's house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. - I Chronicles 13:7


What does "a la cart" transport in the Bible have to do with this? Keep reading....

When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. - I Chronicles 13:9-10


At first reading, this may seem awfully unfair. Touch an ark, and God strikes you dead on the spot?! Well, yes - because there were rules for such things:

After Aaron and his son have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die.... - Numbers 4:15


The ark was considered holy to God. Uzzah touched it. He died. Right then and there.

"But I thought God was love," you might say. "What about grace and mercy?" God indeed has those traits - but he's also a God with rules. In the same way, we made a bad decision Thursday night on the river - and under the rules, our tournament dream died. (The re-buy deadline had passed.)

Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. - Ephesians  5:15-16


One wrong action can be costly in a poker room. And in driving to and from it. Ask God for wisdom to help you make the right moves at all times.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Slots of Luck?

One of our recent posts mentioned a surprising development in the city where our poker-playing (and this "poker blog") began. The City Council in Columbus, Georgia is now on record supporting a public vote on legalizing casino gambling.

It's far too early to say if Georgia voters will approve a casino, or whether that casino will have any kind of poker room. But supporters say it will create hundreds of jobs. To which we would respond: what else will it create?

It's a rare state that has poker rooms with nothing else supporting them. Most of the rooms we've visited in Florida also have greyhound racing. In Kansas, the rooms are part of casinos - with lots and lots of slots. We tend to walk past those machines. But we realize many people don't - and the odds are that those people will lose money.

Casinos make money to some extent from restaurants, bars and an occasional concert. But most of the time, they "win" from gamblers losing - primarily from slot machines. It's enough for us to raise a question found in the Bible:
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?.... - Isaiah 55:2


We brought this verse up a few weeks ago, in the wake of the WSOP Main Event. But if you have money to burn, we think there are better "investments" than throwing quarters into a slot machine. For instance....
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - II Corinthians 9:7


We're posting this a bit late for "Giving Tuesday." But money you might toss down a slot could be used for good causes by non-profit groups and charities. Faith-based groups can use the money to help needy people, whether they're down the street or halfway around the world. Those people might even hear life-changing news about salvation through Jesus Christ.

But, you might say, you have no chance of getting back any money at all? Keep reading....
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. - II Corinthians 9:10-11


No, we are not asking for your donations to keep this blog going. But we're suggesting you consider giving some of your "gambling money" to faith-based groups - since the Bible promises you'll "be made rich" in return. It's worked for us, despite some hard times. Yes, a church or fellowship can be a better long-term investment than any casino..

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyber-Poker-Monday

For some shoppers, this day has become known as "Cyber Monday." So we might as well join in, by updating the online poker sites we visit.

PokerStars has raised the stakes in recent months. It's still for "play money" in the U.S., to stay legal. But the days of 1/2 tables are over. Now they start at 50/100, but the site hands out free chips every so often to keep you interested. Look at what happened to us there recently, in a "cash game" format:

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: 4-2 offsuit

We have small cards in the Big Blind, at a table with 4-5 players. No one raises, so we get in cheap.

ON THE FLOP: 4-4-4

Are you kidding me?!?! The computer hands us the ultimate jackpot of quads! But of course, we want to maximize our winnings, so we check. A player to our left offers a modest bet of about 200. We smooth-call (as best you can do that online); other players bail out.

ON THE TURN: 2

Whoa - now we have a full house! But wait; quads beat a full house!! Things are still ridiculously perfect for us, so we check again. Now our opponent bets around 500. Of course, we call.

ON THE RIVER: 9 (may not be precise)

A card which doesn't matter to us at all. If our opponent had 9-9, he still only has a full house. We rub it in by checking again - and this time, he goes all-in for about 1,300. Of course, we call. Then we stay silent during the showdown, while he has 10-10. We make a big gain, of about 2,000 chips.

In November alone, our total from playing cash games at PokerStars has jumped by more than 22,000 chips - and the website awarded 25,000 bonus chips on top of that.

National League of Poker has become our place for Thursday night play. There are several free weekly tournaments, with a $250 prize pool on Thursday nights. We have yet to crack the top 100 this year in any of them - but now NLOP has a ring game option, and we doubled our "token" count one night playing No-Limit Omaha.

If you want good clean poker fun without the worry of losing money or getting noticed inside a casino, online sites like these are perfect for you. But be advised: not everyone's chat language is good and clean. They're still "worldly" places - but we're reminded:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. - John 17:15


If you try hard enough, you really can come "out of the world". In 2016, that would mean turning off the TV, radio, internet and mobile devices. So much for online poker.

But Jesus did NOT ask God the Father to "rapture" His disciples out at this point. Instead, He prayed for the Father to provide them protection from the devil. He continues:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. - John 17:16


Jesus was "out of this world" in part because He didn't indulge in the sinful ways of this world. For the rest of us, that's a daily battle - but it's one we need to fight:

Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will receive not of her plagues.... She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." - Revelation 18:4, 8


This world is in for destruction. But those who come out of it and follow the example of Jesus can have protection from that final judgment. We hope you'll make the right decision.

If you've read to the end of this, we thank you - and invite your comments: What's your favorite place to play poker online? And why?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Finding Your Table

If you have the right connections, you can play poker these days almost anywhere. You can play in bed, on a laptop computer. You can play hands while walking down the street or in a subway car, thanks to smartphone apps. You can even play a game in the middle of an important meeting. (Remember John McCain?)

But when it comes to playing poker in person, things are old-fashioned and traditional. You take a seat at a table - and hope you'll eventually reach the final table.

This crossed our mind because today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Our question is simple: what table will be your focus today?

Will it be a poker table? Some casinos apparently don't expect that, because they're calling off regular Thursday tournaments for the holiday.

Will it be a restaurant table? Some casinos are offering Thanksgiving Day buffet specials - probably at a marked-up price, and with no children allowed.

Will it be a family table? Now that's more along the lines of a traditional Thanksgiving, and it's usually good to share a holiday with close relatives.

But have you thought about spending some quality time today at a very different table - the "table of the Lord?" We think there's no better table to visit, and here's why....
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. - I Corinthians 10:21


The Bible often puts things in cold hard terms. While a poker table could have ten players with different agendas, the spiritual life has only two sides - the Lord's side and the devil's side. God's preference for you should be obvious:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.... - Psalm 23:5


This classic psalm ends as a prayer to God. He can give you spiritual nourishment and comfort during challenging moments - whether in poker or some other place.

Perhaps your holiday schedule includes all the tables we've mentioned. Whatever you're doing, we hope you'll take some time at the "Lord's table" thinking about God on this Thanksgiving Day - and even thank God, because that's what the day really is all about.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. - Psalm 100:4


 In terms of poker, we're thankful for four tournament cash wins this year - especially two at Kansas Star Casino, where the competition is be stiff. So please comment and tell us: what are you thankful for this year? In poker or otherwise?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

From Am- to Pro?

Longtime readers know we learned to play poker in Columbus, Georgia. The city had a "free poker" circuit in bars (we always bought a soft drink as a courtesy), which was vibrant for a city its size.

But now, our old stomping ground may be ready for the "big time." In a surprise to us, the Columbus Council is asking the Georgia Legislature to approve a casino gambling bill. It would have to be approved by voters at the polls.

A few community leaders want to put a casino in a part of town which historically hasn't done well economically. Yet since we left, "Columbus South" (at least they used to try calling it that) has been improving. A Walmart SuperCenter opened at a busy intersection, and new motels have sprung up to support an Army post next door with an impressive museum.

The biggest surprise in the story we read about this proposal is that a Baptist pastor, who leads a local ministerial alliance, endorsed a casino vote. He explained people should have a right to vote on such things  "That's the only horse I have in this race," he said. (Your jokes about a horse racing analogy go here.)

We're sure other pastors would take issue with that view. They could reach for their Bibles to do it....

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." But the man who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." - Numbers 13:30-31


Here was a "referendum" on Israel entering the promised land. Two views were offered by people who had scouted the land. What did the people decide?

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.... And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." - Numbers  14:1, 4


Their "vote" not only was no - it was for rejecting God's leadership of their wandering in the wilderness, and going back to a land where they were slaves to Pharaoh! The supporters of entering saw this reaction for what it really was:

If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord.... - Numbers 14:8-9


The Lord had set the agenda to this point - leading Israel to the brink of Canaan. God wanted to give it to the people (Numbers 13:1). But the people in effect voted no, rebelling against God. What was His reaction?

The Lord replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth.... , not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to these forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." - Numbers 14:20-22


Our point is this: put God's will up for a public vote, and the people will vote against it more often than not. That was true with ancient Israel (we could cite other examples), and many ministers would say that's true today with opening casinos.

We'll say more about this casino debate in a future post. But for now, to borrow from our outgoing President: Don't vote - obey. That sounds awfully simplistic, but history probably will be on your side.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The First Trump - and the Last

As a new U.S. President prepares to take office, the speculation keeps swirling about what his policies might be - even when it comes to poker.

One website has been "fair and balanced" in recent days by offering two views of what Donald Trump might do to online poker. Optimists point out he wanted to invest in online gambling five years ago. Pessimists say Congressional leaders will block any effort to legalize it.

Overriding all that, however, is the outright fear many U.S. residents are expressing about a Trump administration. While they may not be loading moving trucks and buying Canadian road maps, they're concerned the next President will end a lot of what they consider "American values."

A few "religious" folks even think Trump will fulfill Bible prophecies (if he hasn't done it already). And maybe we're beating all the religious scholars with this discovery....

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.... - I Corinthians 15:51-52 (KJV)


Aha - a mention of "trump" in the Bible! But hold on. Let's be logical here, and keep reading to see who or what this "trump" is:

...for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. - I Corinthians 15:52b (KJV)


It's not a person, it's a noise-making instrument. (The Greek root word for "trump" and "trumpet" are the same.) And that "last trump" is going to bring something amazing.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. - I Thessalonians 4:16 (KJV)


We seriously doubt Donald Trump has ever "raised" a dead person. (If we're wrong, he'll probably let us know on Twitter.) But "the trump of God" will bring a resurrection of all those who have died in Christ!

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to met the Lord in the air.... - I Thessalonians 4:17


The apostle Paul wrote these words to believers in a church (I Thessalonians 1:1). So church members will join the "dead in Christ" in the first resurrection, when Jesus Christ comes down from heaven. Talk about a "raise!"

But you may be wondering why there's a "last trump" at all. Does that mean there's more than one? Yes, there will be....

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." - Revelation 11:15


You can read about those "trumps" beginning in Revelation 8. Some frightening things are forecast to happen on this earth - but in the end, God's kingdom will prevail.

So to be honest, Donald Trump is not the "trump" we've personally been waiting for. There's another one - and no, not Ivanka or Tiffany. It's "the trump of God." Is it your hope these days?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Poker Day 489: A Day at the Races

The Kansas Star Arena is attached to Kansas Star Casino - and this weekend hosted a steer roping championship. But on Friday, a different sport came to our mind. And no, it wasn't bull riding....

BLINDS: 75/150

IN THE POCKET: A-J offsuit

In more than one hour of play. we've won one pot. Not many quality cards have come our way. We start this hand with 2,700 chips, but here we have some hope. When someone across the full table raises to 300, we know we need to try. We call, with three players in the hand.

ON THE FLOP: J-10-6

In most cases, that's not a thrilling flop. But we have top pair and top kicker, so we're more hopeful. A young man across the table bets 500. A man next to him calls, putting himself all-in. If they have overpairs, we're in trouble - but we call, anyway.

ON THE TURN: A

Hope now seems like reality! The young man who bet on the flop now checks.

"Two can play at that game," we say in a reference to the third player. "I'm all-in." We push forward our last 1,900.

The young man smirks a little over this, as if we just outsmarted him. After a moment in the tank, he folds. That means we keep the 1,900. Now for that other pusher.

"Allmendingers," we say turning over our cards. We haven't referred to that NASCAR driver in a long time. When our opponent turns over 7-8. we know "A-J" has a big lead in the race.

"I need a 9," the opponent says. Will the "straightaway" come?

ON THE RIVER: A

No.... instead we make a full house, put a man out of the tournament and make a big gain of about 1,600 chips.

We hit a high for the day of 5,300 chips after the first break. But a couple of tough hands where we lost a lot instead of risking elimination hurt.

We finally went all-in for our last 800 in the Big Blind, and turned over a lowly 6-2 of clubs. The only player to take us on had a K-8 (as best we remember), so another race was on. Both of us missed the flop - but we hit a 6 on the turn! BUT then came the river. It was a King. Our hopes were dashed. But on a day with 82 players, we finished in a "top-half" 31st.

MINISTRY MOMENT: It took more than 90 minutes, but eventually the table talk turned to the inevitable subject of the U.S. presidential election. A dealer brought up a thought-provoking commentary about the vote - given, of all places, during Thursday night NBA basketball.

"I think we need to pray for him, that he'll succeed," the dealer said. He agreed with the commentary.

We had not seen it, but we agreed with the dealer. "We should pray for our leaders."

In fact, some people prayed long and hard for God's hand to be on the election - perhaps longer than they did for the current President. They may have realized something....

...Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. - Daniel 4:32


We mentioned during the campaign season that God is the one who ultimately grants power to people. The people protesting in the streets can "fight the powers that be" if they wish, but they need to remember God put those powers there in the first place. We think the better approach is this....

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.... - I Timothy  2:1-3


You say he's "not your President"? Pray for him, anyway - that he might repent of his sins and wrong thinking.

You say he is your President? Pray for him, still - that he might make wise decisions which keep our people at peace.

As a longtime radio broadcast says every day: "God is still on the throne, and prayer changes things."

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 180 final tables in 489 games (36.8%) - 35 cashes. After making the money twice in a row at Kansas Star during the summer, we've now missed five final tables in a row there.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The First Trump

We used to write jokes for a living (well, at least we tried). So we offer this riddle:

Q: Why are Democrats switching their card games from poker to bridge?

A: In bridge, you can bid "no-Trump!"

But seriously, a lot of people who made wrong predictions about Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidential election now are making predictions about what he'll do as President. And the guessing game even extends to poker.

One analysis posted Wednesday night says the President-elect may face competing ideas from Republicans. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who's leading the government transition team, supports online poker. But Nevada billionaire Sheldon Adelson does not.

Of course, Mr. Trump has a history when it comes to gambling. He owned the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City - except it shut down four weeks before the election. It led to one of the most famous questions of the 2016 campaigns, as opponent Hillary Clinton asked how a casino can go bankrupt.

In fact, one religious magazine cited Mr. Trump's bankruptcies as a sign that he "fall[s] short of biblical character standards...." The implication is that if you file for bankruptcy, you've committed some kind of sin. Since the article doesn't give any Bible verses to support that implication, we'll take a guess....

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. - Luke 14:28-30 (KJV)


These words of Jesus contain a classic Biblical principle - "counting the cost." But read on, and you'll find the principle extends to something far bigger than building a "Trump tower"....

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:33


Now hold on here. Jesus said to be His disciple, you have to "give up everything" you have. Doesn't that sound a bit like declaring bankruptcy? At least to the things of this world?  Jesus was consistent on that point....

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." - Luke 18:22


A ruler who heard this and had "great wealth" was saddened by this advice (verses 18, 23). Other Bible accounts indicate he went away from Jesus (Mark 10:22).

In poker, "going bust" is a bad thing. In a tournament, you're out of chips and out of the running. But in spiritual terms, giving away the "stack" can be a good thing:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way.... - II Corinthians 9:10-11


Be willing to give up your seat at the table - whether in a poker room or otherwise - and God may bless you with much more than you ever dreamed. We'll talk more about Donald Trump in a future post.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The End Is Near?

Our last live poker tournament included an unusual discussion about a Biblical character named Lot and his wife. We noted in a recent post how Mrs. Lot became a "pillar of salt" for violating God's instructions, and looking back toward the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

We asked if you think God still can wipe out cities today for their sins, the way Genesis 19 describes. We heard some ministers indicate the answer was yes 11 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina left parts of the "sin city" of New Orleans in ruins. Yet critics might rightly ask: Where is the disaster to destroy Las Vegas - where poker rooms can be considered one of many vices?

Some Bible passages indicate God soon will tear down not only cities, but entire countries or kingdoms:

With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit.... Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." - Revelation 18:2, 8


That prophecy indicates more fire is coming, along the lines of what Sodom received. But then there are the words of Jesus....

Or those 18 who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? - Luke 13:4


Jesus's point seems to be that all cities are "sin cities." It may be due to poker and casinos, but it also may be due to other sins. You see, all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). But there's a remedy for that - and Jesus goes on to explain it:

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. - Luke 13:5


God offers an escape route for us, as He did long ago for Lot. It starts with repenting of our sins, turning to Jesus as our Savior and following His example every day. That can save us from the prophesied coming destruction:

If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. - Mark 13:20


As U.S. Election Day nears, are you one of the "elect"? If you are, you can survive the tough times ahead. To borrow from an old hymn, turn away from focusing on the sinful nature of this world - and "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Nguyen As In Win

The World Series of Poker's Main Event is not a "turbo" sprint. It's a marathon. And the final night proved it.

Qui Nguyen captured the title, the bracelet and about $8 million - but not before Gordon Vayo tested his will and endurance. The two played heads-up poker for eight hours, with Nguyen not prevailing until 3:20 this morning Las Vegas time - close to sunrise on the U.S. east coast.

Nguyen lives in the U.S., but immigrated from Vietnam in 2001. He admitted to ESPN while he won money in poker rooms in recent years, he lost a lot of money playing baccarat. "I decided myself to stop gambling," Nguyen said before the final table. "I will only play Baccarat for fun now ... small amounts and go home.”

That's a lesson many people who go to casinos should learn. Stay too long in a poker room or playing some other game, and odds are you'll lose a lot of money. There's a spiritual parallel to that....

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?... - Isaiah 55:2


We've heard preachers over the years turn this into a nutrition commentary - for whole wheat bread, and against "Wonder Bread." But we think there's a deeper point. There's more to life than the labors of work, or the indulgences of nice food:

...Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. - Isaiah 55:2b


What should we be eating for our souls? This may seem weird to some, but....

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.... Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. - John 6:51, 58


Jesus Christ said those words - and many people had trouble with them (verses 52, 60). While it can refer to a communion or "Lord's Supper" celebration, it also can refer to feasting on the things of God every day - through reading and studying the Bible, for example. After all, many people pray....

Give us each day our daily bread. - Luke 11:3


Jesus called Himself "the bread of life" (John 6:35). Living by His example can lead to eternal life - something far more fulfilling than games of baccarat, or even a WSOP bracelet. We hope Qui Nguyen comes to see his need for that bread of life - and that you will, too.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Poker Day 488: The Measure of a Man

While you may be analyzing the moves of the players at the World Series of Poker final table, some of us have been busy trying to figure out people much closer to us. Down the table, in fact. Here's some of what happened to us Friday, when we returned to Kansas Star Casino:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

We were the first alternate for the tournament, but only had to wait six minutes to take a seat. Now we're at a table where one man is in an aggressive mood, with a lot of pre-flop raises. In this case, he goes up to 250. These are nice cards and it's early, so we call. We don't recall anyone else staying in.

ON THE FLOP: A-Q-3

That's.... well.... kinda nice. We have a high pair and a big kicker, but that Ace is a bigger problem. On top of that, our opponent makes a continuation bet of 300. Our hunch is that he's trying to test our courage with a bet like that. We're game; we call.

ON THE TURN: 4

Our opponent now shows (we hope) a measure of respect, by checking. Yet we're still cautious; what if he's suddenly switched to trapping? So we check along.

ON THE RIVER: 10

Our opponent checks again. We're baffled by what he has - and when in doubt, we smell a rat. We check with him.

"Pocket 6's," the man announces.

"But I have a Queen," we say as we show. Thankfully, he did not have an Ace. So we gain about 600 chips.

Yet that man's aggressive nature rubbed off on us. We dared to call pre-flop raises with promising cards, only to see them fall flat. A misplay on our part, when we bet with middle pair into a different big raiser, hurt us as well. Finally it was "push or die," and it worked a couple of times. But a do-or-die Big Blind with A-9 lost to another man's straight, and we finished 36th out of 68 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Is that a little packet of salt you have?" a man asked us from across the table.

"Yes. Yes, it is," we admitted as some people laughed at our card protector. But then we explained, "I bring this to remind me that Jesus wants me to be the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).

Much later as our chip stack dwindled, a man dared to bring it up again. "You're starting to look like Lot's wife over there."

We had to agree - admitting our tournament life was on the verge of being dead. But what was that other man talking about?
But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. - Genesis 19:26

If we take this part of the Bible literally, God turned this woman into salt. Why would He do that? Read the entire chapter to understand....
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished".... One of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" - Genesis 19:15, 17

Lot and his family were told to get out of Sodom, because God was destroying it due to sin (verses 13-14).
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah - from the Lord out of the heavens. - Genesis 19:24

Lot's wife disobeyed the instruction, by looking back. As a result, God took her life as well.

This may sound like a fascinating fantasy story - but believers in the Bible say it shows how serious God is about obedience. He destroyed not only people, but entire cities who rebelled against His rule and government. Do you think God still works that way today? Leave a comment with your thoughts, and we'll return to this in a future post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 180 final tables in 488 games (36.9%) - 35 cashes.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Blabbermouth or Bully?

The World Series of Poker Main Event will have final table action in a few days. But right now, some players are talking about a hand earlier in the tournament which turned into major-league drama.

ESPN showed a hand from a semifinal table where Canada's Griffin Benger had his "poker face" tested to the extreme. Britain's William Kassouf talked to/at him for a couple of minutes, apparently trying to get a hint about what he had. But finally, Benger had enough - and declared Kassouf guilty of "verbal abuse."

Kassouf said moments later Benger "can't take it," and declared he "got under your skin." But eventually in poker, the cards speak louder than any human. Benger's pocket pair eliminated Kassouf, and propelled him to the "November Nine" (being played early this year because of the U.S. election).

So after watching the clip, what do we think? Well, it's one thing to talk to your opponents at a poker table - but another thing to say so much that you become ridiculous and annoying.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.... a time to be silent and a time to speak. - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7


Timing not only is important in when you check, raise or push - but also when you talk at the table. Our approach to the talk usually is to be conversational with other players, but not insulting or boastful. That wouldn't set a proper example - especially considering one of our poker goals:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered... - I Corinthians 13:4-6


Yes, we know - a "loving" approach to a poker game sounds weird. But it also can be weird in any kind other of competition, from a political campaign to a boxing ring. We think a loving approach can open the door for a discussion about matters of faith.

Watch the end of the clip carefully, and you'll see Benger accepts a handshake from the "abuser" Kassouf. Another man at the table who stayed out of the showdown did not shake Kassouf's hand. So give them both a few points for being good sports - and think about how you might top both of them, next time you play:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. - Philippians 2:3


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Still playing?

Yes, we still are playing poker. We're simply taking a few days away from it.

The main reason is that we're attending an annual church convention - one that's in the Bible, but may be new to you:

You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season.... This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters.... honor the Lord your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all. - Deuteronomy 16:13-15 (NLT)


There are church groups around the world which still obey this Biblical command. They're admittedly small, but they exist. And in many cases, they're looking forward to a time when Jesus Christ will return to set up the Kingdom of God on Earth:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: "This world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever." - Revelation 11:15 (NLT)


Regular readers of this blog know the "Festival of Shelters" (also called the Feast of Tabernacles) hasn't stopped us from playing poker before. In fact, we've done well in some "Feast games." But this year, we're in an area with no poker action for a long ways around - not even "friendly" games in bars. And a nearby state had a ballot question on casino gambling thrown off the ballot the other day.

So we're content to relax for a few days, before returning to the poker room. In fact, we suggest you consider doing next year what we're doing now. The change might do you good - physically and spiritually.

And by the way - have you ever joined a church group for Mexican Train Dominoes?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Checking in the Dark

In our last poker tournament, we had 300 chips left when the Big Blind came around to us. But the blinds were 200/400 - so we were all-in from the "get-go."

"I'll check in the dark," we announced jokingly when the play came to us. Not only because no one raised, but because there was nothing else we could do. It didn't matter if we looked at them or not, so we didn't - only turning them over when we were down to a make-or-break showdown.

But remember the candle we took for a card protector, mentioned in our last post? Earlier in the tournament, we mentioned we were trying to be a light for Jesus Christ "in a dark world." That prompted some, well, enlightening thoughts from our dealer.

"A casino can be a dark place," he noted. "No windows. No clocks on the wall."

We understand that's by design. The casino managers would like you to stay all day and all night, so "distractions" like those are left out. The inside of the building may be well-lit. But except for sports events on big screens, you're "in the dark" when it comes to the world outside.

If we come out of that darkness on a sunny day, the light may be blinding. And there's a spiritual lesson there:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. - I Peter 2:9


God wants us to walk in light - the light of Jesus Christ, as we mentioned. But our last post also noted this stunning statement:

For you were once darkness.... - Ephesians 5:8


Not "you were in darkness." You were darkness - as dark as a chocolate Dove bar. How do we get out of that?

...Find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. - Ephesians 5:10-11


Walking in God's way can require you to walk away from darkness - whether it be sinful actions or harmful people. There's this warning about people who don't walk away:

These men are blemishes at your love feasts.... for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. - Jude 12-13


Satan the devil wants people to stay in darkness. But thankfully, God plans to send Satan eventually "to the rail." A Biblical festival beginning tonight pictures that - the Day of Atonement, known to Jews as Yom Kippur. We invite you to read more about it, and even start practicing it. Then head for the light that's much better for you.


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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Poker Day 487: Royals, Baseball

We should explain that title right away. The Kansas City Royals' baseball season is over. They missed the playoffs. But playoff baseball was on TV at the Kansas Star Casino poker room Friday. And the royals? Well, keep reading....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We split an early pot with a full house, but haven't done much else so far. Yet these are cards that could spark a comeback. We start the hand with about 3,000 chips from a starting 3,500. When a player across the full table raises to 250, we call. Four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: Kd-8h-Qd

We have a piece of the flop, but not the best piece. That man across the table makes a continuation bet of 250. We sense this is a "feeler" bet and he doesn't have a lot. Considering our kicker, we want to stay in - so we call. It's still a four-horse race.

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

Now we have two pair - and if that bettor is using the King as a "kicker" card, we have him topped. He offers 250 again.  Of course, he could have a King - but he's not betting big like he does. So we call in hope. It's still a four-horse race.

ON THE RIVER: 10d

A third diamond potentially complicates matters. That bettor tosses out another 250. We've committed this far, so we're prepared to go all the....

But wait a minute. A man wearing red ahead of us goes all-in - for 1,250. That extra 1,000 is too steep for us.

"We were doing fine, until you did that," we joke as we fold. The other three players fight on.... only to see the man in red turn over Ad-Jd!!! It's not merely a flush. He made a royal flush!

He wins big, of course - but because it's a tournament, he doesn't win a "high hand" or "bad beat" jackpot. He tells us later that was the first royal flush he's ever had.

That loss hurt, but we mounted a comeback near the first break. An all-in bet for 925 with two pair helped. Going all-in again with A-K and winning a race with J-10 thanks to three Aces helped even more. We reached the break back at the starting line of 3,500. But a third all-in try with J-7 and a Jack high on the flop lost to A-J. We wound up betting our last 300 on the Big Blind and failed, finishing about 37th on a day with 75 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Are we having a séance?" the first dealer asked when he saw our card protector. We brought an old, well-worn candle - but of course, the occult had nothing to do with it.

"I brought it to remind me," we explained, "that I need to be a light for Jesus Christ."

"Sounds like a plan," the dealer said.

"It's a very good plan," we assured him. We should have clarified that remark. Our candle may not have been a good plan - but God's plan involving being a light is.


For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. - II Corinthians 4:6


This verse speaks of a plan that goes all the way back to creation. The world was a dark place then....

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.... - Genesis 1:2


There's one school of thought based on the original Hebrew that the earth became that way, because Satan rebelled against God.

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." - Genesis 1:3-4


Much later, Jesus Christ came to Earth to be "the light of the world" (John 8:12). And until Jesus comes back, believers are to be "lights" in their own right. That means having "knowledge" of God's glory through Christ. And we think it means sharing that light with other people.

For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)... - Ephesians  5:8-9


Feel free to read on in that section of Ephesians; we plan to come back to it in future posts. But that little candle opened a way for us to share the light of God with others in a poker room on Friday. What can you do when you play poker, to be a positive light to others?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 180 final tables in 487 games (37.0%) - 35 cashes. Our next live tournament probably won't be for several weeks; we'll explain why in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Wize Guy

We've been playing more online poker lately, and coming across some interesting moments. Take this one the other night at National League of Poker, where two players named "Bizarro" and "Wize11" went all-in:

Dealer:  wize11 wins Main Pot ($19,180) with Two pair, queens and sixes
Me:  Wize beats Bizarro
Me:  Deep lesson there :-)


Which name describes your poker personality? Are you a "Wise" player (giving the winner of that hand the benefit of the doubt) - considering carefully your moves and actions? Or are you a "Bizarro" player, trying all sorts of styles and approaches to throw off opponents and get an edge?

We tend to take the "Wise" approach. That's more our nature, and we think it's more of a Biblical nature as well:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. - James 3:13


Proper wisdom should lead to humility. We think that means realizing there's a God who's much wiser than us - and seeking wisdom from God every day.

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


If we're honest with ourselves, we all lack wisdom in something. It could be how to handle a big poker hand, handling the money you win, or some other aspect of life. Don't be afraid to ask God in moments like that. If we do it in humility, He can provide wisdom when you least expect it.

But what is true wisdom, really? Is it knowing "the book" on playing any two particular cards? Ultimately, no....

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. - I Corinthians 1:30


That may not seem like a standard definition. But it's a Biblical definition. Wise people humbly seek to be righteous and holy - and Jesus Christ set the example for both those traits. Doing that will lead eventually to "redemption," being cleansed from sin to serve God forever (Hebrews 9:12-14).

Taking the "Bizarro" road can lead to all sorts of wild behavior and trouble. It's better to be a "Wize11" - and follow the wisest One of all.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Mouth, the Kid and the Finger

Let's say it upfront: We are not taking sides in the U.S. Presidential election. We'll explain why in a moment.

But of course, many other people are taking sides. And this week, there's been a curious combining of poker and politics.

A lawyer and "free speech activist" asked on Twitter if Hillary Clinton was giving signals to the moderator during this week's first debate, by pointing her finger toward her face. He specifically asked for comments from "poker pros like The Mouth Matusow." Mike Matusow has been tweeting against Ms. Clinton a lot, so he was happy to respond:

Wow ive watched the debates 3 times & never noticed!! I felt the whole time she had the questions but after watching that i she def signals

(We'll open the floor for your comments right here: Do you agree with Matusow? Why or why not?)

Considering moderator Lester Holt was found to be a registered Republican and Donald Trump's campaign manager called him "brilliant" before the debate began, we're not sure why he would have suddenly switched sides. But anyway....

We move on to Daniel Negreanu - who declared on Twitter Ms. Clinton won the first debate, while admitting he's biased in her favor. Considering Negreanu is Canadian and can't vote in the U.S. election, his endorsement may hurt in U.S. voting as much as it helps.

Then there's Phil Hellmuth, who's apparently become a political analyst in his spare time. He gave both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump "A" grades for this week's debate - and in other commentaries has compared Mr. Trump to a "loose aggressive" poker player.

So the poker world is watching the election closely - and they're certainly free to comment about it. So why are we not taking sides? Because several months ago, we handed over our vote to a higher authority....

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. - Romans 13:1


These words were written when the Roman Empire was in charge, and voting for leaders was unheard of. The apostle Paul accepted the fact that, like them or not, God had put the Roman authorities in charge - or at least allowed them to be there.

Some people wanted Jesus Christ to overthrow the government during His time on Earth, and become "King of Kings" on the spot. But instead....

"Do you refuse to speak to me," Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above...." - John 19:10-11


The Lord could have called down angels and begun to "fight the powers that be" right then. But He didn't. Jesus came to Earth for a different purpose about 2,000 years ago. But someday soon....

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." - Acts 1:11


Jesus will come back to Earth in a powerful way, to establish the Kingdom of God upon this planet:

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. - Revelation 19:16


That's the leader we're waiting to see - and Jesus is the One who has our ultimate vote. Can you think of anyone who would do a better job?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Button of Irony

While we waited for a spot to open at our most recent Texas Hold 'em poker tournament, we wandered around the casino and came to a different kind of poker: Pai Gow.

If we understand it correctly (please correct us if we're wrong), players are dealt seven cards. Then they put forward their two best in an attempt to beat the dealer - while the five remaining have their own showdown with the dealer.

But what struck us most about Pai Gow was the "ENVY" button. Players can win a bonus if someone else at the top makes quads or better.

"From what I've read, envy is a bad thing," we said to the dealer. It was a quasi-joke. because....



A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. - Proverbs 14:30


No matter what kind of poker you play, envy can creep in. If someone gets on a hot streak and wins several pots in a row, you can envy his or her success and want to get your own big stack of chips. But that can be a dangerous thing. Consider....

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. - Genesis 4:4-5


Cain brought a "fruits of the soil" offering, which he probably presumed God would like. But God didn't. We think Cain's anger grew out of envy - and it led to a warning from God:

"If you do what it right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." - Genesis 4:7


Sadly, these were prophetic words - because verse 8 shows Cain eventually killed his brother in history's first recorded murder case.

So what is the right answer for fighting envy? It may sound incredibly simple - but it's the Bible's advice:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. - I Corinthians 13:4


To borrow from the U.S. political season, we should let love trump envy - and "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). I Corinthians 13 deserves a close look, when it comes to what true love is all about. May godly love show from you in whatever game you play - and leave the "envy" for somebody else's wager.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Double or.... Something

A "double-up" at the poker table, when a player goes all-in and wins, happens often. A double win is another matter - usually referring to the players who capture two or more bracelets at the World Series of Poker.

But consider what a nurse in France did last week. Iwan Roberts won two big online poker tournaments.... at the same time! He defeated nearly 19,000 opponents in a tournament that began at 11:00 a.m. And in a tournament that started at 12:30 p.m., he outlasted nearly 12,000 players. (No, we don't know how many of them were the same people.)

We've marveled over the years at the poker multi-taskers - players who can have four or six games going on computer screens at the same time. Wouldn't it be easy to get your hands confused, and make a bad play? How many hands would you lose by timing out, while staying occupied with another?

Yet if you think about it, practically all of us "multi-task" every day. We breathe in and out while walking down the street. We might watch TV or listen to radio while eating dinner. If one of those activities doesn't distract you away from the "main thing" you're doing, that's probably no problem. But consider these words:
No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. - Matthew 6:24


Jesus said this because ultimately, we all must have one goal - one overarching task in our lives. If you put your life's focus on money, you're probably going to end up disappointed. Even if you win enough WSOP bracelets to fill your arms, you won't be able to take the prize money with you when this life is over. That's why Jesus recommended:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33


"His" kingdom, as in the one our "heavenly Father" oversees (verse 32). It's a kingdom that's promised to come from heaven to earth, with Jesus Christ in charge (Revelation 11:15). And it's a kingdom that will never end.

Yet did you notice how verse 33 is worded? Seek God's Kingdom first - and you'll get the other things. The list between verses 24 and 33 includes food, drink and clothing. There's probably much more to go with those.
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. - Revelation 21:7


We think it all comes down to your focus. If you can focus in multi-game poker on one hand at a time, you're more likely to succeed. And if you focus your life on the goal of God's eternal Kingdom, the chances of being part of that Kingdom go way up.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Poker Day 486: Straight-Way

Does a rainy day keep the poker players away? We found out Friday at Kansas Star Casino it did not. In fact, we arrived ten minutes before the scheduled noon time and found ourselves #2 on a waiting list.

It took more than 30 minutes for two players to be knocked out from five full tables. That meant we had to make up for lost time....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: 10-J offsuit

These are the cards that greeted us as soon as we sat down. Sitting in the leadoff position, the fact that they were fairly high and connected persuades us to enter small. No one raises, and about six players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 7-8-9

Talk about a friendly dealer! We hit a straight right off the bat! But when our turn comes, we check to see if someone else will jump. Sure enough - a man down the table goes all-in for 1,125! AND....

"Might as well gamble a little," says the Big Blind as he calls. Of course we also call, trying not to smile.

ON THE TURN: 9

The board pairs, and we don't really mind that. The Big Blind checks, and we remember his words.

"If you want to gamble.... how about 1,000 more?"

Not for that much; he folds. Now the all-in man shows 9-A. He's made three of a kind, and he has a 25-percent chance of topping us.

ON THE RIVER: 3

Thankfully for us, the board doesn't pair. He's out, and we're right in right away with about 6,000 chips.

"Welcome to the table!" a man at the other end says. We give credit to the dealer, of course.

We won a few more pots after that, and approached the 7,000 chip mark. But amazingly, it all started draining away as small probes missed. We still had 5,500 at the first break, but we lost a big pot to a man we thought was bluffing three of a kind (he wasn't). Then when we went all-in for our 1,600 with K-Q, a woman with 9-9 turned it into a 9's-and-Aces full house. What could have been a big day ended for us with a lowly 36th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: One hand which cost us chips found us playing 2-2. Three 7's showed up on the board, yet the betting was small and cautious. We made a full house - but lost to a man with pocket 3's!

"Great minds think alike," we joked. "He thought a little bit bigger." Then we found a reason to go deeper. "But there's Someone whose thoughts are higher than all of our thoughts," we said to no one in particular.

That line got no takers. But as you might guess, it's a line from the Bible:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. - Isaiah 55:8


This can refer to far more than 3's vs. 2's. It can refer to thinking overall - and our thinking tends to focus on physically, earthly things.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:9


God wants us to think bigger. Bigger than the next hand, next round of blinds, or even next tournament. God thinks in an eternal way.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11


The real hope and future for us are beyond this life - as Jesus Christ is preparing a Kingdom which He will bring to this Earth. God wants you to be a part of that, receiving the gift of eternal life. Are you turning away from ungodly, sinful thoughts and ways so you can join in?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 180 final tables in 486 games (37.0%) - 35 cashes.