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.