Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our Real Story: 2017 Review

As 2017 by man's figuring ends, it's time to add up our poker score. The year began with time to play in live tournaments on Fridays, then with occasional time on Sundays - and ended to our surprise with all the time we wanted.

LIVE TOURNAMENTS: Our number went down from 33 to 29. Yet our final table count matched 2016, as we made eight of them (27.6%).

What makes this more impressive is that we only went one-for-seven playing in "free" tournaments at Wichita night spots. That makes the casino final table percentage a rather stunning 31.8% (7 for 22) - including two out of four in Oklahoma. We only earned money in three tournaments, but the total take increased from 2016 to more than $800.

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER: Five "top-ten percent" finishes in 13 tournaments. Grand total: 290 point wins (top 10%) in 1451 games, 93 final tables, 10 wins, 13 cashes.

NLOP was sold to new ownership during 2017, and opportunities to play in freerolls dropped after that. We wound up with no final tables there, with a best result of 17th place out of 1,237 entries in February.

We also gained 108 "tokens" for tournament entry in NLOP cash games. But NLOP now bars us from using a desktop app for immediate entry; we can only play through the website, and connection problems have been very frustrating for us recently. We're looking for good alternatives.

POKER STARS: 938,206 play money chips - up 142,335 at the table.

Our pretend "chip stack" acted like the stock market, and went up by more than 500,000. Admittedly, 375,000 of them came by clicking a "free chips" every time we showed up. But we still increased our table gains by 69 percent!

In all, we spent $1,435 to enter live tournaments in 2017. We wound up losing $605 (not to mention about $58 lost in other casino games). But in our "experiment" with serious money-making which started November 1, we've made three final tables in eight casino tournaments - making money twice, and only missing the semifinal tables once.

As the cliché says, you have to spend money to make money - and right now, casino games are our best chance to earn money each week. But we remember some wise words....
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. - Matthew 10:16
Some poker players are skilled at setting traps. We admittedly have set a few ourselves. The keys are to be "shrewd" - which our old dictionary says can mean "having keen insight; discerning", but also "artful; cunning; tricky."

Can you spot the moments when other players might fall for the story you're telling? Can you be "harmless" (as the King James Version says in our verse) enough to know when others might have set a trap for you? If you can discern these things, we think you'll be well on your way to poker success.

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life to you, an ornament to grace your neck. - Proverbs 3:21-22
We hope you pray for godly judgment and discernment in the days and years ahead - not only in the poker room, but in every aspect of your life.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fake News

For perhaps the first time, we took a lugnut for a car tire to a poker room this past Sunday. It was our "card protector" and conversation starter - and on December 24, we had an extra line ready.

"I'm just nutty enough to think Jesus was not born on December 25."

Does that surprise you? The Christmas holiday has built layer upon layer of tradition and celebration onto the presumed birth date of Jesus. But if we make the Bible our guide, we find a lot of that is what Heartland Poker Tour announcers call "running without the ball."

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keep watch over their flocks at night. - Luke 2:6-8

The key issue here is the timing of the shepherds' watch. The NIV Study Bible claims, "Flocks reserved for temple sacrifice were kept in the fields near Bethlehem throughout the year." But other ministers realize late December was the cold, rainy season in that area - so shepherds who really cared about their sheep would not be out then.

Those ministers also note the birth date of Jesus was borrowed from pagan Roman tradition. And did Jesus or His disciples tell the early church to keep that day, or command them to say "Merry Christmas?" The Bible shows no sign of it. Instead....

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. - John 10:22

Some Bible commentaries (and even a few translations) note this was the Hanukkah festival - an event some Jews mark to this day.

If this also surprises you, consider this: Jesus was not born a "Christian." That term developed after the church was founded (Acts 11:26). But Jesus had a Jewish heritage....

Now Jesus himself was about 30 years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli.... the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah.... - Luke 3:23, 33

It's sad to admit, but a lot of Christians have mixed what we call "fake news" with the story of Jesus Christ. It's thus no wonder that some people dismiss Christianity and the Bible completely.

But instead of doing that, we challenge you to read the Bible "without spin." See what it says about Jesus, His life and actions without the "peer pressure" of ministries and preachers. Then act on what you read. Hopefully it will be much closer to "the truth" - which is what Jesus claims to be (John 14:6).

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Poker Day 522: One Wild Trip

December 24 is a day when the hard-core players show up in a poker room. They probably have no family members nearby to entertain, or ignore Christmas completely. That applies to us on both counts, so we went to Kansas Star Casino's Sunday afternoon game. The turnout was low, which gave us hope. And we won a tournament on this date two years ago. Does that mean momentum?

BLINDS: 50/100


This "deep stack" tournament allowed us to start with 12,000 chips and very low early blinds. We won one pot with hidden Aces which we never showed, but ups and downs have occurred. We start with about 14,000 and the Dealer button. A young man across from us raises to 400, and we politely call. As we remember it, four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 9-3-4

Nothing seems noteworthy here. But the young man puts out 1,050 - a large continuation bet. Is he slow-rolling Aces? We're not sure, but our pair is too big to surrender. We call; we recall a third player doing the same.


We still have the overpair, and we internally predict the young man will check out of concern for us. Wrong. After thinking for a moment, he bets 2,500.

"Do I want this to be a short game or a long game?" we say aloud as we stare at our cards. The thought of someone having "trip Queens" (three of a kind) is in our mind - but we also have the feeling he's trying to bluff us away.

"I'll call," we decide. The third player folds.


We think this card is meaningless. But what will our opponent think? After a moment, he says, "I'll check to you."

We check as well - and he shows Q-Q! Sure enough, he had trips.

"I wanted you to bet there," he says. If he had bet, our response would have depended on how much he bet. As it is, we lost about 5,000 chips - but careful play prevented a complete wipeout, which probably would have happened on a Wednesday.

We stumbled to the first break at 8,575 chips. But late in the second term, a big comeback happened - as J-10 split a big pot, and pocket Aces (again not shown) won us another won. We recovered to 15,300 chips at the second break.

A big win came in the third term, bringing us to a high of 24,500 and allowing us to reach the semifinal table. But rising blinds and missed flops cost us from there. We finally pushed with K-Q of spades when a woman went all-in with much more. But she had Q-Q, and no King came to save us. (See what we did there?) Our final result was 16th out of 44 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: There were several, but we're taking this tournament off from those. To find out why, read this article. We'll explain further in our next post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 189 final tables in 522 games (36.2%) - 39 cashes. Experiment cost: Up $75. This probably concludes our tournament play for 2017, so a summary of the year is upcoming as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Poker Day 521: A-Plus?

Our current point in life requires us to report wages every week to a state agency. We count money made in poker as wages - and in tournaments like the one today at Kansas Star Casino, the rate per-hour can be impressive. The problem is that dozens of other people were trying to earn "wages" as well....

BLINDS: 75/150

IN THE POCKET: King-Queen of clubs

We won a big pot in the middle of the first hour with a King, which led to two pair. Then we lost a good bit to a man with three 9's. We start this hand a bit below the 3,500-chip starting point. These cards are good - and when someone raises to 300, we naturally call. As we remember it, three players are in.


A high-powered flop in any game - and an uneasy one for us. We have two pair, but anyone who holds an Ace is in the lead. An older woman across the table bets 250. Call us stubborn, but we call. We're now heads-up.


We doubt that helped anyone. Our opponent didn't jump on it, because she checked. So do we.


Now we have the best possible full house - but still some uneasiness. The woman brings out another 250. If she has the missing Ace for quads, she isn't saying it very loudly - but maybe she's trying to test us.

We decide to test her back, with a raise to 500. If she has quads, now is the moment to scream. But instead, she calls.

"I hope you don't have quads," we say as we show. She turns over.... J-J! We're relieved that our full house is better, and our chip count grows to 5,000.

We reached the first break at 4,850. Then we hit a couple of big hands in Hour 2, including a big decision to call a 2,000 bet on the turn with Ad-4d and a flush draw. The river brought a diamond. The bettor went all-in, and we put him out of the game with the nuts. Our stack at the second break stood at 17,000.

Rising blinds caused some tense moments - but we reached the final table with 15,500 chips. Then while we folded with weak cards, other players dared to push with much more. One by one they were picked off, until we made the money for the top seven out of 68! Then more players conked out, until we were in the final four at the third break!

The other three players were in no mood to split the remaining prize money, so we pressed on. But an all-in bet with Kc-Qc proved to be our demise. A man called with A-J, and he won the race when the board paired with something lower.

We left satisfied, with our third cash in a tournament this year. And if breaks are not included, $170 comes to about $57.33 per hour.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I wanted a spade there," a woman two seats to our left said to the dealer after losing a hand.

"You didn't ask for one," the dealer properly noted.

"You have not because you ask not," we responded.

"You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss," added a man sitting between that woman and us.

That man has become a friend of ours, because we can talk about faith matters with him. And in this case, he knew exactly what we meant:

You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. - James 4:2-3 (KJV)

Poker tables can seem like war zones at times. TV commentators talk about players "firing a third barrel" to win a hand. We've played long enough to know games can have tense moments. Yet how many players ask for God's help in doing well when they play? We do....

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. - Philippians 4:6

You can request anything - but you should not assume God will always give you everything you want. After all, He turned down His own Son at one point:

"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." - Mark 14:36

That should be our attitude as well, whether or not we're in a poker room. God the Father allowed Jesus Christ to endure an arrest, humiliating abuse and a death on the cross - all so our sins could be covered in His blood. His battle was to avoid sinning, and He succeeded. Whether or not you win in a tournament, trust God that His will for you ultimately is best.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 189 final tables in 521 games (36.3%) - 39 cashes. Experiment cost: Up $170 - a new high! Our schedule may allow for only one more tournament before 2017 concludes.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Poker Night 520: Ladies' Night

They were playing Omaha Hi-Lo at Five-Star Billiards tonight. Well, sort of. The Kansas Jayhawks did - and it wasn't poker. College basketball was on one of the TV screens. It wasn't much of a game. We wanted ours to be every bit as successful, but we knew it would be more competitive....

BLINDS: 100/200


We started the night with a 1,000-chip disadvantage. Everyone in WPT League receives 10,000, but "platinum" members (including everyone else at our table) get an extra 1,000 before the first hand. But we made up for that on the first hand - dealing ourselves A-J which won a nice pot when the Ace paired. That also earned us a "bounty chip," worth 5,000 only if we reach the final table.

Now it's hand two, and we have potentially better cards. No one raises at the table of eight, so we do - to 700. Three men across from us call.


"Where's your Ace-Jack now?" a scoffer out of the hand asks us. Admittedly, that would look brilliant. But as it stands, this flop is quite discomforting. Our opponents could have an Ace for a higher two pair, or a Jack for three of a kind.

The Big Blind doesn't wait on us, betting 500.  The other two men call. "I can bet 500," we say - and do.


Ahhhh - now that's better! We have a full house. And for unknown reasons, the men across from us slow down and check. No thank you - we bet 1,000. The Big Blind folds, while a man in a wheelchair calls. We're now heads-up, and feeling very good.


A non-essential. Our opponent checks. We look for the right amount to bet for a maximum payoff.

"1,300," we decide. "Nice round number." Good decision, as he calls.

"I've got the ladies," we declare. The opponent folds showing a bit of disgust, but not his cards. We gain more than 5,000 chips, plus a 5,000-chip on-the-spot bonus for the highest hand so far.

That was a big two-hand start - but wins were hard to come by after that. Pocket Jacks gained a pot when we raised pre-flop, and no one called. Then we hit it big with A-J, which topped three players with two pair on the board and took a man out of the game.

Our chip stack at one point reaches about 27,000, and stood at 20,900 at the one-hour break. Then promising cards, as the blinds kept climbing. We survived to the semifinal table, winning an all-in bet with A-9 when a 9 came on the river.

But with nine players left, we felt compelled to push in our last 8,000 with A-8. A man to our left called.... and this time, he had the pocket Queens. They turned into quad Queens on the river, and we were through. Our best showing in WPT League in more than a month still missed the final table by one - and the bounty went elsewhere.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "You've got to put some faith in the dealer," the man who eliminated us said at one point. He was dealing the cards, of course.

But no, we couldn't agree. "I put my faith in God," we said.

We think he acknowledged that with a gesture, but said nothing more. We'd ask you: where is your faith these days - as in where you put it?

....If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. - Isaiah 7:9b

God offered these words through the prophet Isaiah when two kings (including the king of Israel) threatened to conquer Judah's capital, Jerusalem (verse 1). The Lord dared Judah's king to ask for a sign. King Ahaz declined to do so (verses 10-12) - and that led to this famous verse:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:14

Many churches cite that verse at this time of year, as a prediction of Jesus's birth to Mary. The New Testament shows that prediction came true. But have you considered the story behind that sign?

Our NIV Study Bible notes Jesus may have been the second fulfillment of that prophecy. The first one may have occurred during Isaiah's time....

Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, "Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz." - Isaiah 8:3
Perhaps this is why some Jews do not consider Jesus the Messiah. That long name means, "Quick to the plunder; swift to the spoil." Jesus was anything but that when He walked on Earth. But Isaiah later adds....

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.... Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. - Isaiah 53:11-12
These verses indicate because Jesus sacrificed His life to redeem us from our sins, He will be rewarded greatly. We think that will happen in the ultimate sense when Jesus returns. If you've been thinking about the Lord's first coming, do you have faith to believe there will be a second?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 520 games (36.2%) - 38 cashes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Noallah for You?

Players in online poker sites have all kinds of unusual names. A few days ago at Poker Stars, we were joined by someone named "Noallah." With a name like that, we eventually had to ask in the chat....

flopblogger: Noallah, can't resist asking.... are you a Chrjstian?
flopblogger: (based on your name)
Dealer: babycakes317, it's your turn. You have 8 seconds to act
Dealer: tenslover210 has a pair of Threes
Dealer: babycakes317 has a pair of Threes - Ace+Queen kicker
Dealer: Hand #179390821428: babycakes317 wins pot (1,701)with a pair of Threes - Ace+Queen kicker
tenslover210: I thought same thing....

We mistyped "Christian" - but do you see why we asked? That name can be divided into "No Allah" - as in someone who opposes Islam.

Noallah said nothing in response. But someone at the table dug deeper - someone with Poker Stars features we don't have:

tenslover210: flopblogger: based on picture maybe just apolitical statement
tenslover210: Christians can like chimps and smoke but scarypic.

A lot of people in the U.S. have turned against Islam since the September 11, 2001 attacks. But we think it's too broad a brush to conclude all Muslims are terrorists. That's like saying all poker players are smokers and drinkers, based on a Poker Stars icon.

Do (or should) Muslims play poker? We'd never considered that question, so we went to a website which answers such issues about Islam:

If this game is played for money, then it is gambling which is haraam [highly prohibited sin]....

If it is not played for money, it is still haraam according to a number of scholars, because it is akin to dice in its dependence on conjecture and guesswork.... 
So devout Muslims and many devout Christians have at least one thing in common: gambling is wrong.
But based on the website's answer, we'd ask: Is not anything in our lives gambling? Consider....
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, do you not even know what will happen tomorrow? What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." - James 2:13-14

Based on these verses, people who announce their long-range plans should be equally guilty of "conjecture." They're making guesses about what the future holds for them. But they may be leaving Someone out of the planning:
Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." - James 2:15

God can change our plans in many ways. It could be through sickness or a nature-related disaster. We don't think these verses mean planning is wrong. But we should take our plans before God in prayer - because He might have something better in mind.
"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

By the way, the Bible's long-range plan shows Christianity will be proven right....
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:9-11

So to answer the question in our title: Others can have Allah if they choose - but Jesus someday will claim everyone's chips. And attention. And worship.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Poker Day 519: Chips and Ladders

The AK-47 assault rifle gets its name from "automat Kalashnikova" - an automatic weapon developed by Soviet General Mikhail Kalashnikov. In a poker room, 4-7 usually doesn't amount to much. And one hand from today's tournament at Kansas Star Casino shows an A-K is no sure thing, either.

BLINDS: 75/150

IN THE POCKET: Ace-King offsuit

The day has not gone well for us at all. Lead-outs with promising hands have turned to setbacks, as our table is a bit aggressive. We start this hand with 1,875 chips from a starting 3,500.

Seeing these big cards in the leadoff position, we realize this could be the moment. We limp in, hoping for raisers. A woman at the opposite end of the table obliges, with a raise to 250. A couple of players call. So do we. But then, the man to our immediate left creates confusion.

"Floor," calls the dealer. That man had put out a purple 500 chip to cover the original call of 150. Now he's put out two lime-green 25 chips, explaining his intent was to call the 250. The Tournament Director rules by adding those two chips, the man made his total bet 550 and thus has made a re-raise.

On with the bidding, then. The woman across the table calls 550. But a young man to her left decides enough is enough - and goes all-in! His total is 1,325. That's a steep price for us. But who folds A-K pre-flop?

"I might as well," we conclude. We call. The man to our left calls as well. The woman across the way goes all-in for less than 1,325. This hand suddenly is huge.

ON THE FLOP: Ks-10c-6c

"I have 550 left," we say after seeing a marvelous flop. "I'm all-in." We do this out of concern for two clubs showing, in case the man to our left is dreaming of a flush. Apparently not; he folds. That means we keep the 550. Now what about the others?

As best we remember, the young man has Q-Q and the woman has Q-10. The odds are in our favor.


So far, so good....


No straight. No flush. No more poker for two players. We knock them out, and practically triple our stack to about 5,750.

That was the start of an amazing run, where we won four hands in a row and five out of six! We topped out in the first hour at 7,550, reaching the break at 5.575. Then in Hour 2, A-K came a couple more times - and we reached that break at 11,400.

Hour 3 brought another nice win with pocket Aces. But then we let ourselves get suckered into a "chasing" hand with A-6 where our opponent made small feeder bets until we missed the river and had to fold to a push.

That was crippling for our stack, and we finally went all-in with A-10 and 5,000 left. The board didn't pair for us, while an older woman paired her Jack to eliminate another woman along with us. But we finished close to the final table again, in a tie for 13rd place out of 58 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: One poker room regular (not us) showed up for the first time in several weeks. He explained to a dealer who recognized him that he attends "about once a month."

"He's using moderation," we pointed out. "Moderation in all things."

At least one person seemed to recognize where we learned that concept. You probably can guess where....
Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. - Philippians 4:5 (KJV)
We've heard some ministers take this verse to mean you shouldn't go to extremes. But the original Greek word for "moderation" is "appropriate.... mild." That's why other Bible translations use words such as "gentleness" here.

Whichever way you look at the wording, the advice is good. If you play poker in moderation, it can be fun and potentially profitable. If you play for hours every day and you're not a poker pro, that's probably not moderation. Some might even call it an addiction.
It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes. - Ecclesiastes 7:18
Looking at it the other way: playing poker with a "gentle spirit" (NASB) is simply a courteous thing to do. We heard during the tournament about one man who was barred from the casino for calling a male dealer an expletive-filled "girl." In contrast, consider Jesus....

Take me yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. - Matthew 11:29
Jesus talked tough when the moment required it - but never in an extremely blasphemous way. May people in all walks of life try to follow His perfect example.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 519 games (36.2%) - 38 cashes. Experiment cost: Up $50.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Poker Night 518: The Ol' Auction Barn

People who sell items on eBay hope for a bidding war to break out. People trying to buy a bargain probably hope for the exact opposite. We faced something like that tonight in the tournament at Five-Star Billiards....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: K-Q offsuit

We're in the Small Blind early in the game. No one has raised at a full table of eight. These cards might tempt you to do it, but we decide to sandbag and simply call. Five players are in.


We're one street off "Broadway" (a top straight), but the Ace has us wary. Sitting first in line, we check. So does everyone else.


The board pairs, but we're still more concerned about that Ace. We check again. So does everyone else.


If no one else is going to take a stab at this pot, we might as well with King high. We bet 500 in a semi-bluff, and two players to our left fold.

"One-thousand," says a man across the table. The fifth man to his left folds.

"I wanted you to do what they did," we say to our opponent as a joke. It appears to us that someone else was sandbagging - and since we lack a second pair, we assume the worst and fold.

"Bought the pot," a man to our left guesses. He certainly outbid us.

"Had a Jack," we hear the winner say quietly. If that's true, his tactic worked perfectly.

We won a few good-sized pots to reach the first break at 11,900 chips. But things didn't go well from there, and we finally had to go all-in with a lowly 4-2 of hearts in the Big Blind. The dealer flipped over two Aces, and the Small Blind had a third Ace to top us. We finished 11th, which was our best showing there in a month.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Our biggest win of the night was a 7c-3c hand that made a flush and cracked pocket Aces. But then other players made expensive pre-flop raises in the next couple of hands, while we had better cards.

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away," we said to the table as we called. "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Those words seemed to go over the heads of the entire table. If you know where they originated, you may be a real Bible scholar....

...Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked will I return.... the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. - Job 1:21 (KJV)

These are the words of Job. If you read the entire first chapter of his story, you might be amazed at how he was able to say them.

God allowed Satan to take Job's farm animals, camels, several groups of servants and at least his seven sons (Job 1:14-19; some translations indicate his three daughters died as well). Many people would have responded by blaming God for it all. But Job did not.

Then he fell to the ground in worship.... In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. - Job 1:20, 22

We don't think Job was tipped off to what Satan did. He simply realized God is the ultimate provider of everything in our lives. Job was reminded of that by God later....

Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me. - Job 41:11

If you've had big losses in poker lately, think about these words. Can you see a God who's bigger than your chip stack? Bigger than all your physical possessions? Can you worship Him, whether you have a lot or a little? If you faithfully can, God promises the ultimate prize in eternal life after this one.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 518 games (36.3%) - 38 cashes.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Can We Tempt You? II

We focused recently on a column about temptation in the poker room. We noted temptation can take place anywhere - and even Jesus Christ faced it while on Earth.

Yet Jesus successfully resisted three rounds of temptation from the devil. (You can draw your own comparisons to a flop, turn and river.) Note the words Jesus used to push the tempter away:

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" - Matthew 4:4

The Son of God may have been walking in the flesh, but He knew the Scriptures very well. He quoted from Deuteronomy, to put the "word of God" above physical food (Deuteronomy 8:3). In the same way, there are times when we need to put the Bible ahead of a non-stop poker life.

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" - Matthew 4:7

There actually are verses in the Bible where God allows you to test Him (see Malachi 3:10-11 for an example). But Jesus was responding to a challenge to jump off the top of the temple. As poker players need to discern the right time to take a big risk with a hand, Jesus realized this was not the proper moment for a "leap of faith."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" - Matthew 4:10

The Son of God refused to worship the devil. Are you doing that - even in hidden ways that might surprise you?

In all of this, Jesus defeated the tempter by referring to Scripture; the other two quotes also come from Deuteronomy (6:13, 16). That can help us when we face temptation in life - even in a big poker hand.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.... - James 4:7-8

From time to time we've offered Bible verses to keep in mind as you play poker. Search for them on this blog, then make them part of you. We don't guarantee final tables or big wins. But by resisting the tempting moments, your outcome may be better than you expected.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Going Strait

In a recent post, we asked for your thoughts about a statement of Jesus. If you read it in some Bible translations, it almost sounds like a poker tip....

Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat. But strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it. - Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)

Right off the bat, let's make it clear: Jesus is not talking about betting to make a "belly-buster" straight draw. Admittedly, those chances can be "narrow" - but no.

We think Jesus was talking about receiving eternal life. It's a step beyond the physical one you have now. This life will end in death (Romans 6:23). So how do you advance to the next level? Jesus provides an answer:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6

If you think there's a "highway to heaven" for lots of people living any way they please, this should make you think again. Jesus is "the way." And He coined the cliche, by saying the way to eternal life is on the "strait and narrow." So it starts by knowing Jesus. Then beyond that....

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. - Romans 2:7-8

To make another thing clear: We do not think poker is evil, of and by itself. These verses lead to a deeper question: why do you play? Purely for "self-seeking" reasons? Or is there some "doing good" involved?

May you consider your actions carefully - and yes, even think narrowly. Eternal life certainly is better than facing an angry God.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Poker Night 517: This Is the Big One, Elizabeth

If you follow NASCAR, you know fans at some race tracks wait for "the big one" to happen - a crash that takes out about a dozen drivers at once. That happens once in a while in a poker tournament, too. Check what occurred tonight at Five-Star Billiards....

BLINDS: 300/600


After a slow start, we split a pot with A-4 and won one with pocket Kings. But then our pocket Queens lost to a man with A-K who hit a King on the flop. That was costly to our stack, and now we have 5,300 chips from a starting 10,000.

"Thousand more," we say after no one else at the table of eight raises. We make it 1,600 to go.

"Thirty-six," says the man sitting next to us. Uh-oh. This could be big.... or big trouble.

A woman sitting across the table from us in the Small Blind calls the 3,600. Another woman to our right, who's been hitting big hands all night, also calls! Now it's our turn again - and while we've never read "The Book" poker players talk about a lot, we know it says we should press on.

"I have to go all-in," we say to ooo's from other players. "I've come this far by faith. I might as well."
The man to our left calls, of course.

"I have 54," the Small Blind says. She goes all-in as well, for 100 more!

The woman to the right decides to make it a huge party, by calling. "I have 1,100 left," she reports. The Small Blind adds his missing 100, and we have a monster pot of more than 21,000.

ON THE FLOP: 6d-4d-2h (best memory)

Not to our liking - and we doubt it is for anyone else. Two players can still bet. The woman to the right checks.

"I'm not checking," the man to our left says. He bets 1,600. The other woman calls with her last 1,100. Now it's time to show and tell:

Man to the left: K-K
Small Blind: K-J
Woman to the right: 7-7

Instant analysis: We need an Ace.


But hold on. Now three diamonds are showing. If one more shows up....


We get a pair - but it's the wrong one. The man with Kings wins it all, in an unusual triple takeout.

At a casino, we probably would have simply called the 3,600 pre-flop. But we probably would have been put all-in on the flop, with little choice but to push. It's another explosive "free poker" bust.

MINISTRY MOMENT: Did you spot the Christian song we mentioned during that hand? "We've Come This Far By Faith" has been sung by many people. When we hear it, we think of an Old Testament drama....

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again." - Exodus 14:13

Moses had led Israel out of Egypt. Now the nation stood at the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's army closing in (verses 9-10). Was Moses corrected by God, when he said to "stand firm"?

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." - Exodus 14:15-16

Moses did as he was told, and the water split in two so Israel could pass through (verses 21-22).

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. - Hebrews 11:29

Sometimes that sort of thing happens to us at a poker room. Several people have been eliminated at once while we were in peril, leading us to a final table or a cash payoff. It doesn't always happen, as we saw tonight - but then, poker isn't a life-or-death matter. Yet it's still inspiring to us when it does.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 517 games (36.4%) - 38 cashes.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Can We Tempt You?

No, our title does not come from a poker tournament or cash game. It comes from Pizza Hut, which asks that question every time we place an online order.

But it easily could come from poker. A column this weekend by a long-time poker writer in Texas notes temptation at a casino can come in many forms. You could be anxious to win a hand, after being dealt poor starting cards for hours. You could be at a table with new players betting wildly, and think you can join in with a "puncher's chance" of hitting it big.

"Temptation" is the stuff of old game shows and steamy reality television. But its origin goes back much farther than that....

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and are in. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.... - Genesis 3:6-7

Many people consider this the first temptation in history - Eve being lured by a serpent (compared by many to the devil), to eat from a tree that God said was off-limits (verses 1-5). God cursed the first family for breaking His command. As a result of this, many people have prayed....

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.... - Matthew 6:13

That's a proper way to pray, as Jesus suggested it (verse 9). But did you know Jesus at one point walked head-on into a temptation minefield?

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. - Matthew 4:1

Read the first half of this chapter, and you'll see Satan tempted Jesus three times. Yet the Lord resisted three times and prevailed, despite a 40-day fast! How did He do it? And if He can do it in a desert, can you do it as well in a poker room?

As they might say on reality TV, stay tuned....

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Poker Day 516: Beginner's Luck?

Newcomers in a poker room tend to give themselves away. They ask questions when their turn comes, or puzzle over how to match someone's bet. That could make them easy marks for veterans. Unless.... well, check what happened today at Kansas Star Casino:

BLINDS: 25/25


That's a nice sight to see in the early minutes of a tournament. We've only lost 25 of our original 3,500 chips. Sitting early in the order at a table of eight, we limp in and hope for pre-flop raises. As usual for us, there are none. About five players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 10-9-7

Two diamonds are showing, so that's a caution flag for us. Players to our right offer 50. They're nibbling. We want a big bite.

"That's not enough," we say - and we raise to 350. Several players take the hint and fold. But a young man who acts like a "newby" calls. We're heads-up.


The board pairs, which makes us a bit more uneasy - especially when our opponent bets 200. We suspect he has a 9 for two pair. But our two pair are better, and we want to make sure he knows that.

"400," we say. He calls our raise. Hmmm.


Gulp - a third 10. We now have the best full house. But the newcomer now bets 500. Did the longshot come through for him? We decide not to risk a raise.

"If he has quads, he's got me," we say (stating the obvious). "But I'll call."

Our opponent then turns over.... Q-J! He missed his straight draw, and tried to bluff us away. Our full house means a gain to 4,975.

"Good play," a woman at the table says.

"Be careful - don't inflate his ego," a man in between us jokes. We smile, and offer the opportunity for players to pat our back. No one does.

The newcomer was the first to go bust at our table, while we almost doubled our chip stack to 6,950 at the first break. But then came some explosive hands where several players bet big and topped our A-J and similar hands. We were happy to make it to the second break with 3,600, with 17 players left.

We made six all-in bets from the second hour on. Only one was called - and that was the problem. We forced our way in with Q-10 of clubs and rising blinds. A man to our left called with A-4, and caught an Ace on the flop. While it was another good tournament day, this time we missed the final table by placing 12th out of 50 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "For a moment, I thought you had the world's largest orange chip." A man to our right was commenting on one of our new card protectors - a small tape measure we picked up for attending a college soccer match in Oklahoma.

"I brought it to remind me of something," we said as we extended the tape a bit. "Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few people find it. But wide is the way that leads to destruction."

The man knew right away what we meant. We didn't write down his exact response, but it was along the lines of this verse....

Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. - Psalm 118:19 (2011 NIV)

Thanksgiving Day may be over in the U.S., but we're not sure there's ever a wrong time to give thanks to God for His blessings. And the righteousness described there should not be something we create:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known.... This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference.... - Romans 3:21-22

Our righteousness is worthless (Isaiah 64:6). God's righteousness, through faith in Jesus, is priceless.

But let's back up a second. Did our statement about the tape measure seem familiar? It should....

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. - Matthew 7:13-14

These are words of Jesus Christ. What do you think He meant by them? Offer a comment with your thoughts, and we'll compare notes in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 516 games (36.4%) - 38 cashes. Experiment cost: up $100.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Poker Night 515: Dealer's Choice

A "Million Dollar Cash Game" was on tonight at Five-Star Billiards. Not at our poker tables, but on the TV screens. "Fury TV" was showing a contest with some of poker's most famous names. We are certainly not famous - but there was one hand which became very expensive....

BLINDS: 500/1,000

IN THE POCKET: A-K offsuit

We've won a few pots, including one with pocket Aces we never showed. Two hands before this one, K-3 led to three Kings at the turn and a Big Blind win. Now we've dealt ourselves more nice cards at a table of seven. A couple of people have called, but no one has raised.

"I'll raise to 3,000," we announce. We're hopeful of a big gain before the one-hour break. But there's trouble across the table - the man who is disabled and confined to a wheelchair.

"I'm all-in," he says in his mumbling voice. His re-raise is for more than 11,000. Our decision is obvious.

"You've got me covered," we say after a count. "I have 10,200.... and I have the lead." Our opponent shows A-J of clubs.

"Jack," the man says quietly.


Aaargh! We gave him exactly what he wanted! An Ace doesn't help us now.

"A 10 would be good," we say as we keep dealing....


Close, but not quite a straight. Now a King or a 10 will save the day.


Ouch! We got all-in with the best hand, but the cards were against us - even though we dealt them. It's a lowly finish of about 23rd place. But if we're going to lose like that, it's better to do it on Monday night when the game is practically free.

MINISTRY MOMENT: We went to the bar after we went bust, and found Chris Ferguson was leading in "profit/loss" at the Million Dollar Cash Game.

"Jesus first," we said to a man next to us. We explained that's the nickname Ferguson has gained over the years, based on his appearance.

"I try to put Jesus first all the time - and I don't mean Ferguson," we added.

Before we could say more, a hand developed on TV where two players had pocket Aces. That changed the discussion. But we would ask you - is Jesus first in your life?

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." - Matthew 22:37-38

Some people say Jesus was talking strictly about His Father God at this point. We agree with that - but think a moment. Jesus is "God" as well....

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

Jesus Christ was that "Word." Thus He was, and is, God. And thus we should love Him, as we love the Father.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. - Revelation 22:13

If you have a "red-letter Bible," this should be in red - because the resurrected Jesus said it. He declared Himself "First." So we see no harm in putting Him first in our lives - certainly far above us. Where does He rank with you?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 515 games (36.5%) - 38 cashes.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Place of Your Own

We introduced you in a recent post to a poker player who called himself a "generic Christian." He doesn't go by a list of beliefs from denominations. Instead, he says he does what the Bible says.

Yet that same man admitted he had only attended a church occasionally in recent weeks. There's a big problem with that - as the Bible indicates you should:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25

Believers in Christ are expected to meet. They do that weekly, and sometimes more often, in groups large and small. It could happen in big buildings or in small homes. But the meetings are supposed to be for encouragement toward "love and good deeds."

If you attend a church group, does it do that? And if you don't attend one, how can you find a place that does?

We think it starts with determining which group really loves God and Jesus Christ. Many say they do, of course. But how many live up to the Bible standard?

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. - John 14:21

Jesus emphasized keeping his "commands." We recommend searching the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to learn what He commanded when He walked the earth. Among other things, you'll find this....

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. - John 13:34-35

Love indeed matters - toward God in obedience, then toward other people. If you need help in finding a church group truly doing that, leave a comment and we'll help you as we can.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Poker Day 514: Gladly For A's

"Casino Gambling >> You Personally: >> Times last 12 months." That's one of the questions in a large consumer survey we're completing as time permits. Our answer when we filled out the page Tuesday was 22. Today brought another trip to Kansas Star - and this poker tournament had some amazing moments:

BLINDS: 500/1,000


We're in the third hour of play, which means we've survived for a while. One small pot win in the first hour left us with 2,625 chips from a starting 3,500. But gains came in Hour 2, thanks to some big timely bets. We won a large pot at the break (we J-J, as best we remember), to climb to 6,100; the "chip-up" made the total 6,500.

Now we sense a chance for a big score, receiving these big cards early in the order at a table of seven. We limp in, waiting for raisers - but there are none. Yet about four players are in.


Two high cards look like potential trouble. But ours are higher, so we decide to try for maximum benefits. We go all-in for 5,500. Two men fold, but a man in the blinds dares to call us.

"I've got rockets in my pocket," we declare. Our opponent has K-9, and realizes he's been had.


"Yes!" we say. Our three Aces mean our opponent is drawing dead. But for the record....


"Woah!" we declare. Running Aces give us quads! It's a big gain, to around 14,000.

Patient play paid off, as we made more big hands later. An Ace of Spades turned into a nut flush, which advanced us about 20,000 more. We rolled to the final table at 39,000, then made only one small mistake which dropped us to 33,500 at the three-hour mark.

Seven players were left at that point - and a man to our right then hit a flush which knocked out two opponents. A top-five finish put us in the money! Then a Big Blind call with a lowly 7-4 when an opponent was forced to go all-in for less led to a cruel 4 on the river, giving us a winning two pair.

That cut the table to three players with fairly even chip stacks, and everyone agreed to chop the remaining prize money. We officially placed second out of 52 players, and were rewarded with $360 for a $50 buy-in - our second cash win of 2017, in 14 trips to Kansas Star.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "Tomorrow is Thanksgiving," a woman to our right suddenly realized before the tournament began.

"What are you thankful for this year?" we asked her.

"For my family." Relatives live close to her. "What about you?"

"I'm thankful that God has given me peace, as I've dealt with a recent trial," we answered. Then we corrected ourselves; we're officially calling it a "transition" between jobs, not a trial. But either way, that peace is important....
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. - Psalm 29:11

This psalm was written by King David, who faced all kinds of trials during his life. He went toe-to-toe with a giant named Goliath. Then King Saul tried to kill him, so he wouldn't take the throne of Israel. He even lost a child, due to his own sinful scheming. Yet David could write about the blessing of peace. A future "King" mentioned it as well....
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27

This Jesus, the "prince of peace," did not talk about it around Christmas. This statement came in the early spring, on the evening before He was executed. How can you have that peace? Here's one Biblical suggestion....
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. - Romans 2:9-10

We've actually heard some church members scoff at "do-gooders". Yet doing good has rewards. You may not get all of them now, but believers will when Jesus returns to set up the Kingdom of God on Earth.

In this Thanksgiving season, we're thankful for God's blessings - financial today, and spiritual in the future. What about you?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 188 final tables in 514 games (36.6%) - 38 cashes. (We've been forgetting to count our big day in June in the "cashes" column.) Experiment cost: Up $150!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Producers

We blog about poker. Other people "vlog" about it.

One of the newest players to post vlogs (video blogs) is someone we know well. Nicolas Wahl, who goes by "Nicname" on YouTube, worked with us at a TV station. We both produced newscasts. He left several months ago to pursue a poker career, and now grinds at cash game tables on a regular basis.

Wahl still is "producing", but in a different way. Not only is he making videos about his poker life, but he's making hundreds of dollars a day at the table. In fact, we ran into him at Kansas Star Casino once. But we went to the other side of the poker room, sticking to tournaments. Cash games are not our strong suit - and we don't to deprive Wahl of a living (especially at our expense).

Wahl has read our blog, so he knows what this is about. Yet what Wahl is doing is an example of why many preachers oppose gambling. We heard a radio message on this recently - with the minister pointing out gamblers who win take money from losers. He turned to this verse....

He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment. - Proverbs 12:11

Another verse in Proverbs is similar, but note the different ending:

He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. - Proverbs 28:19

The radio preacher talked primarily about Powerball and similar lottery games. But we can see how this can apply to a cash game. Not everyone who sits down at the table leaves with a profit; the format simply doesn't work that way.

(We've made a distinction here from the beginning between tournament poker and cash games. Tournaments have a set entry fee, like golf or tennis. Our current experiment is reminding us even that can be a losing venture.)

If you know what you're doing and you're making money playing poker, good for you. Be thankful to God for whatever blessings He gives. But if you're losing money - often - it may be time to end that habit and start a new one. It starts by asking God to cleanse you of your sins (perhaps including covetousness for money). The minister went on to quote this:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36

....maybe even to play "free" poker.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Poker Day 513: From a Jack to a King?

Our title borrows from an old country music song. But it relates to a key hand we faced Wednesday at Kansas Star Casino - a decision that could have led to an early exit:

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-J of spades

We won an early pot with J-9. Now our Jack has a powerful partner, and we're first to play at a full table. We follow our usual approach and limp early, waiting for raisers. None come. As best we recall, four players get in.


The spades are not an issue here. But we have top pair and a pretty good kicker - yet someone else bets 150 before our turn comes. That's OK; we'll call.


Every extra card increases the chances of someone hitting a second pair. So when the player ahead of us bets 150 again, we try to close the deal with a raise to 300. A man across the table calls; the others fold.


We now have two pair and a pretty good kicker. We think another bet will clinch it, so we bet 300 again. But now, our opponent raises to 1,000.

This forces us to pause for a moment. We can't imagine the other man stuck around with a pair of 2's to make three of a kind on the river. On the other hand, our Jack isn't strong enough to top A-K or A-Q.

Finally we decide to take the big risk. We call.... and the opponent shows A-10! Our Jack indeed was better, and we take a big pot of more than 3,000 chips.

The first hour had a couple of setbacks, and we reached the first break with 2,675 from a starting 3,500 chips. But hour two brought some big gains. An all-in bet with Q-10 led to a winning Queen, and a jump to 4,200. Then A-J brought a jump to 8,000. Another A-J increased our stack to 9,500. Thanks to a couple more good wins, we wound up at the second break with 8,500.

But as the final table approached, our streak ran out. We went all-in with A-9, but lost to a King when a King came on the flop. On a day with 64 players, sixth place would have earned money - but this time, we slipped to 12th place.

MINISTRY MOMENT: When the second hour started, we were in the Big Blind for 200. Mr. Small Blind arrived a little late, so the dealer asked us to put out his 100. When Mr. Small Blind saw, he pretended to cause a fuss.

"I just did what the dealer told me to do," we confessed.

"You're not trying to start a fight...." a man to our left joked.

"I come in peace," we replied. "'Blessed are the peacemakers.' I read that in a book once."

We're not sure if that man knew which book we meant. But if you're a regular reader, you probably do....

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. - Matthew 5:9

Jesus put peacemaking on His famous list of Biblical "beatitudes" - a list of nine traits which are blessed by God. It isn't always easy to make peace; the news headlines are filled with people and groups in conflict (if not outright war) with each other. But here's one way to do it....

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath.... - Romans 12:17-19

In the poker room, "revenge" can happen naturally with the turn of cards. You might get a straight this hand, while we hit a full house in the next hand. But peacemaking can be done in other areas, both large and small. We think the primary way is with the mouth - not "raising" when someone taunts or teases you. Even better....

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. - Romans 12:14

But we need to learn to respond that way not simply because we have to do it - but because we want to do it:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. - Romans 12:9

As we said, this isn't easy. It starts with repenting before God of moments when you've chosen the side of conflict, instead of peace. Then ask for His Holy Spirit to help clean up your life - starting with the heart and mouth, then far beyond.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 187 final tables in 513 games (36.5%) - 36 cashes. Experiment cost: Down $160.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Poker Night 512: Brave Hearts

Some poker hands are considered better than others before the flop. But any two cards have a chance of succeeding, once the flop comes. If only some hands ended there. You'll see what we mean, in this review of tonight's freeroll tournament at Five Star Billiards.

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 6-3 of hearts

It's the very first hand of the night, at a table of six players. We're in the Small Blind, and no one has raised. Of course we'll play suited cards. About four players are in.

ON THE FLOP: 2h-Jh-8h

A perfect flop for us! But then the humility moment strikes. Our hearts to make the flush are small. Someone might be sitting on bigger ones. So in lead position, we bet 500 to take the temperature of the table. Several players fold, but the dealer does not. He calls.


A fourth heart makes our cards suddenly look a whole lot smaller. Is this what the dealer was waiting for? We check to see.

"I'll bet 1,000," he says. Yup, that's what we feared.

"I liked these cards for awhile," we respond - but we fold, expecting the worst. Sure enough, the dealer shows us the Ace of hearts. He had a draw for the "nut flush," and received it.

That loss was relatively small, but we won a few pots which were modestly big. From a starting 10,000, we reached 11,200 at the first break. We won a few more in the second hour, helped at one point by pocket Aces. Despite a  big loss with A-J at the end, we reached the final table at the two-hour break with 12,000.

A couple of wins and splits there lifted us to a high of 25,000 - but at that point, the blinds had reached 5,000/10,000. A desperation push with A-9 led to a 9 on the board, but a man to our left had Q-Q to eliminate us. We wound up matching Friday's tournament in Tulsa, with a sixth-place finish out of about 25 players.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "I'm a generic Christian," a man across the table told us before the night began. No, we didn't bring up religion; a talkative older man next to him did.

But what did he mean by generic? "I go by what Jesus did, not by what some religion says." That may sound strange, but it actually follows the Bible's advice....

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. - I Corinthians 11:1

The apostle Paul wrote this to a church group that was showing signs of division:

What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ". - I Corinthians 1:12

The Christian movement has had a lot of splits over the years. Protestants marked a major one a couple of weeks ago, with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's action sparking the Reformation. Yet what did the apostle say long ago about this?

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? - I Corinthians 1:13

His point in this letter and others was that every believer ultimately should follow Jesus Christ.

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. - Ephesians 5:23

So the man across the table was perceptive. But we had a question for him. "Didn't Jesus say He came to build a church?" Indeed He did....

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. - Matthew 16:18

The man admitted he'd only attended a church service a few times in recent months. Yet as divided as Christianity is, we're expected to attend one as we're able. We'll go deeper into that in an upcoming post.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 187 final tables in 512 games (36.5%) - 36 cashes. Since crossing the 500-game mark, we've made four final tables in 12 tries.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Poker Day 511: The Best Defense....

When a poker player takes a seat at the table, he or she can take on a wide range of personalities. When someone from outside the area takes a seat, the options can leave even more people guessing. That's what happened when we traveled to Tulsa Friday for a morning game at River Spirit Casino, as we started a special church weekend....

BLINDS: 50/100

IN THE POCKET: A-K of hearts

The morning game costs $50, plus $10 "dealer appreciation" to double our chip stack from 4,000 to 8,000. That stack has eroded a little since the start, so it would be nice to win a hand. Holding the button with no one raising, we decide to go on the offensive. We raise to 350.

"I just won these chips," a man across the table who won the last hand says. "Be gentle with these."

"Get them nice and shiny," we answer - borrowing a line we've heard contending pro wrestlers say about title belts. As best we recall, three players out of ten are in.


No hearts come, but we remember two spades being here. The other players check, so we decide the heat must be turned up. Our continuation bet is 400. The man who joked about his chips calls, and we're now heads-up.

ON THE TURN: 3 (not a spade)

We wanted something higher than that, because any stray card could increase our opponent's chances of hitting a pair. He checks again, and we kick it up a notch to 500.

"That card didn't help me," he admits. "I'm one card away." (Hmmm - 6-9?! Something suited?!)

Then he folds. Exactly what we wanted. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Lord. We make a nice gain, without showing why we were being so aggressive.

A first hour of ups and downs left us 9,250 chips. We slowly gained in the second hour, reaching 10,100. Then a couple of all-in bets paid off in a big way, allowing us to reach the final table with 25,000. At one point, we knocked out an opponent with Q-10 after a Queen came on the flop.

We stood at 17,000 after three hours of play, with four players making money on a 39-player day. But weak cards and rising blinds did us in. We finally dared to roll the dice in the Small Blind with 4-3 of clubs for our last 4,000. But a Big Blind with higher cards won the race.

We played for a long time, but missed the money. Yet we finished sixth out of 39, for our second final table in three tournaments at River Spirit.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "If it wasn't for veterans, we probably wouldn't be here playing poker," a man at our table said. It was the Friday leading to Veterans Day - and you may have heard a form of that phrase over the weekend as well.

But after thinking about it a moment, we offered a response which might have surprised him. "I think a lot of those veterans had some help. They looked to God to guide them to success."

At least one person at the table seemed to agree with that statement. We hope you do as well - because while military veterans have fought a lot of battles over the years, the victory ultimately is not theirs.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with them. - II Chronicles 32:7

These are the words of King Hezekiah of Judah (29:1), when his territory was under siege (32:1). That "greater power" was not the United States or any allies....

"With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles." And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. - II Chronicles 32:8

But as they say at times in the poker room, talk is cheap. The king didn't stop simply with a motivational speech:

King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and the officers in the camp of the Assyrian king.... - II Chronicles 32:20-21

They humbly sought God's help - and God delivered. We can only guess how many U.S. and Allied veterans did the same thing during modern combat. But if God gave the victory, we think God should get at least some of the credit:

Who is this king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. - Psalm 24:8

It's noteworthy to us that Veterans Day in the U.S. falls within about two weeks of Thanksgiving Day. We recommend taking time to thank God for the battles he's helped you win, or at least endure - whether at a poker table or a real battlefield.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 186 final tables in 511 games (36.4%) - 36 cashes. Experiment cost: Down $110 (we failed to mention last time that Five Star Billiards is a freeroll).

Monday, November 6, 2017

Poker Night 510: Five-Star Service

Today was National Nachos Day - so, of course, we went looking for the chips.

Not simply in the family-size Walmart bag, but at a poker tournament. Our current situation gives us more time to play locally. So tonight we went to Five Star Billiards - a clean place with plenty of pool tables and $1.50 soda cups. It's replaced Yvie's on the WPT Poker League Monday night schedule, and sits only a few blocks away.

"Don't forget to tip your servers," the Tournament Director reminded four full tables. Then it was on with the show....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 6-10 offsuit

The WPT League circuit requires everyone to deal their own cards. We've dealt ourselves this ordinary hand. We haven't won a hand yet, and lost about 1,000 chips to a player with a pair of Jacks. So we'll fold this. About four players at the table of seven are in.

ON THE FLOP: 8-7-7

"Toll-free flop," we say. Either no one got the joke or it was really lousy. But those cards bring a bet of 600 from a woman sitting in the Small Blind to our immediate left. A man across the table calls.


"Jackpot!" we declare with three 7's side by side. The Small Blind now bets 1,200, and the opponent calls her.


Did this make anyone a better full house? The Small Blind now checks. So does her opponent.

"I've got quads," the woman says quietly. She flips over 7-10! That earns her a big pot, and a 5,000- chip bonus for the best hand of the night.

The woman explains she didn't bet on the river because she thought there was a house rule against that.

"You played 7-10?!" another player at the table asks.

"I like playing 7-10," she answers. And since this was the first round of blinds, she could afford to play them.

"You heard what he said about tipping," we say to the big winner to drop a hint. No, she didn't reward us for dealing so well. Nor did she do it when we dealt her two more winning hands.

We won one pot with a semi-bluff, but nothing more than that. (The woman even topped our A-5 straight with a 2-6 straight.) Finally we went all-in for 1,500 with K-J, but a man with 8-8 prevailed when the board didn't pair for us. We were one chair from glory, but wound up first out at our table.

MINISTRY MOMENT: A man to our right won a pot with Kings, then proceeded to declare himself the "King Master."

"At least he didn't call himself the King of Kings," we said in response. "There's only One with that title."

The man nodded and seemed to chuckle, as if he got our point. Do you get it?

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

Our New International Version Bible goes so far as to put those titles in all-caps. But who would have such impressive names?

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.... He is dressed in a robe dripped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. - Revelation 19:11, 13

Yet another impressive title! Who could these verses be describing?

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. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:1, 14

If there's still any doubt about the identity of "the Word," this should settle it....

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. - John 1:17

Now walk those verses back. Jesus brought "grace and truth" because He was full of them. Thus He was "the Word," and Revelation 19 indicates that Word is coming down from heaven again as "King of Kings."

But you don't have for that return to give Him that glorious title. God wants you to honor Jesus now, as disciples did long ago:

Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." - John 1:49

Jesus wants to be not merely a "King Master" - but King and Master. Will you acknowledge Him?

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 185 final tables in 510 games (36.3%) - 36 cashes.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Human Element

We've played a computer in heads-up Texas Hold 'em at a casino a few times. Sometimes we've won. Sometimes we've lost. But imagine having to take on three computers at once.

The Texas Hold 'em table at the family-friendly game site is set up that way. Unless you're a member, you sit down to play for free against "Computer 2", "Computer 3" and "Computer 4." If you fold, the computers take on each other like an old Japanese monster movie - and they're programmed to be aggressive at times, with pre-flop raises and bluffing pushes.

It took us four tries to figure out a winning formula against these guys.... uh, machines.... and Saturday night it worked. By ignoring the prodding voice who says, "Let's play some poker!" we were able to knock out #2 and #4 at the same time with an all-in bet - then eliminate #3 on the fifth round of blinds with a full house.

For doing all that, we won.... 60 tokens, which we could use if we had a paid membership. That's not exactly what we're looking for online these days.

For one thing, how can you talk about the things of Christ with a computer? Even God realized this long ago....
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil.... - Hebrews 2:14
Verse 11 makes clear this is talking about Jesus - the God-Being who created humanity:
He is the image of the invisible God.... For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. - Colossians 1:15-16
Jesus created human beings. Then He came to Earth to "share in their humanity." Why would a God-Being lower Himself and do such a thing?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Jesus the Son lived a perfect, sin-free life to defeat Satan the devil, and open the way for us to have eternal life with Him. You don't have to become a mechanized "bot" to do that, either. It starts with confessing how human you are, repenting of your sins and turning to God's way of living.

Jesus shared Himself and went "all in" for you. Are you willing to respond to that love, and do the same thing toward Him?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Poker Day 509: Jack for the Pot

Today marked the start of a poker experiment for us. We'll explain what we mean in a moment - but first, let's get to the action on our first-ever Wednesday midday tournament at Kansas Star Casino:

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: J-9 of spades

The midweek tournament moves a little faster than the others, with 15-minute blinds. Not many good cards came our way in the first hour - but we won a couple of pots, including a desperation all-in chop at the first break with A-Q. That put us at a high for the day of 4,300 chips.

Now we're in our second hand at a new table, in the Small Blind with 3,300. No one has raised. It seems safe to speculate here, with relatively high suited cards. We call. The Big Blind checks, and about five players are in.


Ughhh.... this smells like trouble. We have a pair, but it's bottom pair. We have a straight draw, but it's a very risky straight draw. We're first to go, and we check. Much to our surprise, the entire table checks.


A third Jack for us looks like a jackpot card! It's a potential big winner - but we decide now is the time to strike.

"I'm all in," we say for 3,100. Trouble is, the woman in the Big Blind calls. Everyone else bails out, and we wonder - did she have a straight all along?

She flips over.... A-J! She has three Jacks as well, and her kicker has us topped. Our only real hope is for the river card to be a King or Queen, to chop another pot.


The very risky straight happens instead. Ours is K-9; hers is A-10. Hers is the pot; ours is the door. On a day with 63 players, we wind up 39th - but we don't think we would change our tactics, if we had a second chance at it.

MINISTRY MOMENT: "How are you today?" a man asked as we sat down next to him.

"Recovering," we said. Then, of course, he asked for an explanation.

"I was let go from my job Monday," we admitted. That's why this tournament was the start of an experiment. Can we make money playing poker, while we're between jobs?

A former co-worker happened to be in the poker room, at a cash game table. Based on his chip stack, he seemed to be doing well. But he's a self-described "grinder," ready to spend hours at tables. That's not what we've historically done.

Yet whether we strike it rich at poker or take a more regular job, we're trying to be optimistic. The Bible offers these words....

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. - Psalm 37:25

Yes, we know - some don't consider playing poker in casinos something "righteous" people would do. But the tournament format allows us to win a good bit of money for a relatively small entry fee. Midweek games will permit us to avoid the pricier Sunday tournaments for a while. And we always tithe on our winnings.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him.... - Psalm 111:4-5

Longtime blog readers will recall we were in a similar job predicament several years ago, in an area with no casinos at all. We could only play free tournaments at bars and online - yet we won money 12 times during a year-long layoff. We thanked God for each small win (and each prize was indeed small).

So we'll see what happens this time - although we admittedly tried to win back some of our entry fee at a blackjack table, and wound up losing a little more. We plan to follow this guideline:

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. - Philippians 4:5 (KJV)

We're not "betting the farm." Maybe a few bushels at a time. We'll see if God allows them to turn into a bumper crop.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 185 final tables in 509 games (36.3%) - 36 cashes. Experiment cost: Down $50.