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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.