IN THE POCKET: J-J
If we're this far along in the blinds, things must be going well - and after a slow start, they have. Q-8 gave us a breakthrough straight in the first period. Then we 2d-9d into a diamond flush in the second, to triple our stack. Now we have at least 30,000 chips, from a starting 10,000. When a man across the table raises to 2,500, we see these cards and decide to do the "smooth call." No one else is in.
ON THE FLOP: J-9-2
We're definitely "hooked" on this! Our opponent checks for some reason instead of continuation betting. We're pleased to check along.
ON THE TURN: 9
Now we have a full house, and we're wondering how patient our opponent is going to be. He bets 2,500. OK, fine; we'll call again.
ON THE RIVER: J
Wow - we made quads! Now with two pair showing, how confident is our opponent? Confident enough to bring out 3,000.
But now we pause. Under casino rules, since we have the superior hand and are last to act, we are required to raise. How much do we think our opponent will dare to go?
"I'm all in," we decide - and it's about 30,000.
Nope, that's too much; our opponent folds.
"You made a very wise decision," we say as we show our Jacks. We probably should have simply doubled there, to maximize our gains. But still, it's a big pot win.
Our stack reached 55,500 by the end of the second period, and a high in the third period of 74,000. This provided us time to wait through some poor cards, and pick up a couple of timely modest pots along the way. At the third break, we moved to the final table at 55,000!
But then the big drama came, as only seven players would win money on this 70-player day. We missed a flop with pocket 8's. Then with nine to go, we were dealt A-J. The biggest stack at the table raised pre-flop, and bet on the flop to put us all-in. We felt compelled to call.... and he had Q-Q. An Ace did not rescue us, and we finished in ninth place.
We missed the money by two, but left feeling somewhat satisfied. Our standard all along has been making final tables, and we did - doing it at one of the premier tournaments of the week in our city. The "500" was a good showing, and we thank God for it.
MINISTRY MOMENT: "First player to lie...." someone at the table muttered between hands. "All you Sunday morning go-to-church folks...."
We had to interrupt that. "I was in church yesterday," we told the man sitting nearby. That prompted another man at the table to start a guessing game.
"I don't know what's left," the man admitted. So we told him.
"The United Church of God," we explained. If you haven't heard of it, that's understandable. It's a small Sabbath-keeping denomination that broke away from a larger group in the mid-1990s. (That larger group now is also much smaller than it used to be.)
In fact, the day of worship was a main reason behind the split. The larger group moved away from decades of teaching about God's Sabbath....
By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. - Genesis 2:2-3God "created" (for lack of a better word) a day of rest. Not that God needed one; He's God, after all. But He set an example for us to follow....
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.... - Deuteronomy 5:12-13
The Sabbath was included in God's Ten Commandments, every bit as much as the commands not to lie (the NIV has "give false testimony" in verse 20) or murder. And Jesus Christ never said anything about doing away with it. In fact....
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.... - Luke 4:16Jesus went to the synagogue on Sabbath because He was Jewish (Luke 2:23, 33). Go into many synagogues today and try talking about Jesus, and it might not end well for you. So early believers gathered in groups, which became known as "the church."
If you don't have a regular church to attend, we suggest giving UCG a try. Hopefully you'll find a group which puts Jesus first in all they do, and really tries to live by all Ten Commandments. It probably won't be a perfect group of people; we're all sinners, after all (Romans 3:23). But it might satisfy something deep within you - a desire to worship God.
UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 183 final tables in 500 games (36.6%) - 36 cashes. As time permits in coming days, we'll analyze those numbers to see whether or not we're really good at poker - and how much this effort has cost us.