Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sharing the Wealth

The World Series of Poker is a standard-setter for tournaments around the U.S.  And this past week it announced some changes which could make players a lot happier.

The biggest change to us for the 2016 WSOP is that many events will have payouts for the top 15 percent of players, as opposed to the usual ten percent. "The minimum payout is expected to be one-and-a-half times the buy-in," a news release.says. The 2015 Main Event worked that way; the minimum prize money was $15000 for a $10,000 standard buy-in, going up from the top ten percent on.

More "winners" should mean more happy customers, bringing more interest to the WSOP. That sounds like good business logic.  And some people expect God to work the same way - that He'll be a "good, good Father" (to borrow from a current hit Christian song) and let almost everyone into His Kingdom.  But is that how God really works?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - II Peter 3:9

That's what God wants. But that may not be what ultimately happens.  After all....
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. - II Peter 3:7

The apostle Peter explains "ungodly men" will be destroyed in an upcoming "day of judgment." Who are these people?
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. - Revelation 21:8

That list has something for just about everyone. (If that's not enough, Revelation 22:15 has another one.) If you're not sure where you stand with God, this is a good place to start.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves... - II Corinthians 13:5

At the end of the Bible, God really hasn't lowered the "sin bar" that much. Is it time for you to "come to repentance," so you can share in God's ultimate "prize pool"?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bluff and Tumble

As the smoke seems to clear from the crackdown on poker rooms in our city, we're reminded of the woman who was told a business had declared itself a poker room on a liquor license application. She said: "They didn't have to be so honest."

Well, hold on here. If you want to stay in business and avoid a police raid, shouldn't you be honest?

Bluffing, of course, is a part of playing poker. That's a game, you know  But people who make that a way of life risk a lot of trouble.

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities.... who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? - Luke 18:10-11 (NLT)

Jesus said these words - and as the Son of God, we think He'll have a major "say" in who will be trusted with those true riches someday. Wouldn't it be a good idea to prove to Him how honest you are, with both large matters and small.
Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace. - Psalm 37:37 (NLT)

That future is eternal - as in eternal life, serving under God and Jesus Christ.

But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future. - Psalm 37:38 (NLT)

Gulp!  Read the last part of Revelation 20 for more details on that. Then ask yourself: which way are you walking? On the side of honesty - or potentially over a bluff, from which you can't return?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Two Down

Well, well - only days after we wondered here about possible favoritism in a local poker crackdown, the other shoe (well, OK, that's blackjack) officially has dropped.

The Facebook page for Nilla's Poker Room normally is updated several times a day. It's been idle since Friday night.  A couple of comments left on the page suggested why: police raided that room, as they did Nikki's a few weeks ago.

Nilla's planned to host a "memorial benefit tournament" for a deceased poker player Saturday - with money to help pay for his gravesite. But that apparently never happened; a comment asking about the anticipated turnout Saturday was answered with "0", as in zero.

We called Nilla's twice in the last 36 hours to ask if the online claims are true - but the phone simply rang, with no one answering.  Then came the confirmation on the late-afternoon TV news: a raid Friday night not only closed the room, but led to seven arrests.

So Nilla's is closed - for how long, we don't know. Given what a woman said on the night we went there in January, that only seems fair. And to expand on what we said last week regarding Nikki's....
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.... But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted of the law as lawbreakers. - James 2:1, 9
If police are going to cite one poker location for breaking laws, police should cite them all. Perhaps what happened here is a matter of personnel and timing; we have no idea. But this looks like a case where the proverbial "wheels of justice" moved slowly - but still moved.
For the Lord is righteous; he loves justice.... - Psalm 11:7
We'll comment more about this in upcoming posts - but in the meantime, we invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts about what's happened.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Silence

We mentioned our last poker day at Kansas Star Casino was different than our others.  That's because we did not try to preach the gospel - on purpose.

Does this mean we're losing our main mission, and putting the lust for money ahead of sharing the gospel and bringing up matters of faith?  Overall, no.  But for one day, we did.

Why?  Because last Sunday was Valentine's Day - and the way our church association has put it in recent years, any act of love on February 14 is considered "keeping" Valentine's Day. And in our association, keeping that day is considered "pagan" and wrong.

Regular blog readers will recall we did the same sort of thing the last two years on February 14 - and to be honest, it feels uncomfortable for us. Should we run over pedestrians who cross our path on that day?  Cuss out the poker dealer?  Besides....
Whosoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. - I John 4:8

Does God stop loving us one day a year - the way the Khmer Rouge once had an annual "day of hate" when it ruled Cambodia?  We don't think so. The sun thankfully still rose and fell on February 14 this year.

Our church association toned down its online and "public" comments about Valentine's Day this year - still against it, but not demanding a one-day ban on acts of love. We wonder how a passage of Romans ties in with this:
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. - Romans 14:5

We personally realize the pagan origin of Valentine's Day (check out link above), so we don't keep it. That's why for the second year in a row, we entered a poker tournament on February 14. Few places are less merciful and loving than that.... right?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Tender Middle

When a message begins with 10 minutes of comments against an issue and nothing said for it, you can probably guess what the speaker's conclusion will be.  But sometimes, those messages can have some hidden embedded surprises.

That's the case in a video we reviewed from a church service in Texas. We think it's actually one of the more balanced religious presentations on the subject we've heard.

We invite you to watch it, and tell us what you think. And if you wonder what we think about gambling in general, do a search for that keyword on our blog; we examined the topic in-depth recently, based on a different sermon.

Monday, February 15, 2016

One Down

The big poker crackdown in our city may be over. But there's still an aftershock, as one of the more familiar poker rooms in town indicated this past week it's closing for good.

"As i lock the door , all i can think is how the city of wichita has failed me and my family," reads the latest Facebook post from Nikki's Poker Room (copied as written). "We gave you 13 years of are life and you couldn't give us a fair shake ?" 

The question of fairness surrounds the owner's decision. A Facebook post one day earlier added: "We gave it our best , but feel was set up for failure by the law not being enforced all at once on every place at the same time by the city."

This seems to be aimed at Nilla's Poker Room - which seems to be conducting business as usual, and is even adding midday games. How can they do it, while others receive tough scrutiny?

We haven't been to either Nikki's or Nilla's in several weeks, so we're left to guess what the reason might be. But we know what the city and local prosecutors should do - and that's be fair to all:

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." - Acts 10:34-35

You might pay tithes and offerings to God. But if you don't live in a righteous way, that will not "buy Him off" when it comes to judging you.

Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!... Your heart is not right before God." - Acts 8:20-21

Some may have wondered over the last several weeks if the operators of local poker rooms had their hearts right. But the going-away complaint from Nikki's leaves us asking: Do local law officers and prosecutors have their hearts right? Are they enforcing the rules in an evenhanded way?  Especially considering some of the things we've posted here about the crackdown?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Poker Day 464: Queen's Best Friend

Still hoping to make the money at the most prestigious poker room in our area, we went to Kansas Star Casino today for its "Sunday Deep Stack" tournament. An $85 buy-in gets you 10,000 chips with slowly rising blinds. Turning that into big gains would be the challenge....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

We've won some hands and lost some hands - and the wins haven't been big enough to secure us a high chip stack. Our high for the day was about 12,400.  We receive these cards about midway around, in a ten-player game. We choose to limp, and about four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: Q-6-3 (as best we recall)

Top pair and top kicker seem nice.  Other players betting ahead of us seem nicer. One man offers 250; we're happy to call, as does a young man between us.


We don't see much to fear with this - only now the play checks to us. It's our turn to bet 250, which chases one man away. But the young man calls; leaving us guessing about what he has. Does he have a Queen as well?


That complicates things a bit. What if he has a 10? We dare to bet 600 to find out, and he calls again.  Thankfully, he turns over Q-8. Our kicker takes a nice pot.

"They're similar," one person at the table points out. Well, yes - but Ace and 8 only go together if you're rhyming in a poker song.

We lasted more than two hours, but saw our stack slowly erode.  Pocket 8's gave us a nice comeback to more than 7,000 chips. But when we had K-K and a man raised to 3,300, we dared to go all-in - only to see him turn over pocket Aces! One of every poker player's worst nightmares came true for us. And while the flop was Q-10-9, we missed the Jack to escape with a straight.  We left the room in 44th place out of 64 players, with our goal still not met.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We went to the casino intentionally not to have one. But when someone came to the table with heart-shaped boxes of Valentine candy, we didn't take one, either.

What's that all about? Long-time blog readers should know the answer. For everyone else.... well, take a guess.. We'll explain in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 175 final tables in 464 games (37.7%) - 33 cashes. We're now two-for-four in making money from tournaments in 2016.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When the Master Walks In

One of the fun things about poker is that anyone can walk into a tournament, plunk down the buy-in fee (or even play for free) and become a winner.  Anyone.

Just ask Phil Hellmuth. He walked into an American Legion post in Michigan the other night, and joined the usual players for a cash game. Hellmuth clearly didn't take the night off, because he left with about $400.

A game manager says he doubts the other players went home upset, because "they lost to a master." But c'mon now - wouldn't you have a little extra incentive to win pots, if you know a WSOP bracelet winner was sitting across from you?

All our poker games should work that way.  In fact, our lives away from poker should work that way. Because whether you realize it or not, a "Master" is always watching:
From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth.... - Psalm 33:13-14

One old hymn adds these words to those verses: "He sees their sin, He sees their works...." In short, God sees it all. And Jesus someday will judge it all -- as "the Master" of all things will not simply walk the Earth again, but return with power.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. - Colossians 4:1

Jesus Christ will come soon to judge all of us (Revelation 20:11-13). We're all sinners, of course; we can't win a "righteousness race" with a perfect Savior.  But are you "playing" your best and living your best, with that time in mind - hoping to win a reward from Jesus when the time comes?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

All-Right-y, Then?

The man didn't want to talk about Jesus Christ at all, when we brought Him up at the poker table. But later on, the club's jukebox played a familiar song.

"I like that one," we recall him saying.

"See? You brought up Jesus after all," we pointed out.

The song the man heard was Jesus Is Just Alright, a "classic rock" tune by the Doobie Brothers you may have forgotten. A few "songs of faith" snuck their way onto album rock radio station playlists in the 1960s and 1970s, and that was one of them.

But of course, we'd ask a question. Is Jesus "just alright" with you?  That is, is that all He is? Or is Jesus Christ more than that?

The answer to that may show how deep your relationship with God is. For instance....
For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. - Psalm 33:4

That "word" can refer to the Bible. But that Bible goes on to say....
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us... - John 1:1, 14

The "Word made flesh" was Jesus Christ. His first appearance on earth didn't seem to end "alright" at all - as He was put on a stake and killed. But God resurrected Him after three days, and took the next step in a process to make a world filled with wrongs right after all.
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

Jesus wants to be more than "right" in your sight. He wants you to make Him your righteousness - and it's better Him than us:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. - Isaiah  64:6

Go beyond having a "just-alright" passing contact with God and Jesus Christ. Look to heaven for righteousness - and a relationship that can lead all the way to eternal life.

P.S. We did a Bible study on "being right and being righteous" several years ago. Click here to dig deeper into the topic.