Wednesday, May 10, 2017

After 500: Counting the Cost

In a recent post, we mentioned we've won more than $3,000 in prizes playing 500 live poker tournaments. That's admittedly small change, compared to big-time poker pros - but we don't claim to be one.

Yet there's one thing we've always wondered about the "career earnings" of top poker players: how much did they lose along the way? After all, no one wins every tournament they enter - and buy-ins at big events can be huge.

So this week, we sat down and did some complex math - trying to figure how much all the live games have cost us. In the early years of "free poker" nights at bars, the price was cheap: sodas only cost $1.50-$2. In poker rooms, of course, the cost goes up; our highest buy=in was $150 for a Heartland Poker Tour event last year.

By our rough estimation, our total entry fees in 500 tournaments has been $3,800. So over the long haul, we've lost about $700 in ten years. It's not a big loss, when you figure it year-over-year - about the price of 1 1/2 buy-ins at Kansas Star Casino.

(We're not counting cash game wins and losses in this; we realize poker pros go to cash games and grind out an income when tournament play falls flat.)

This is something we think poker players should do often, to see exactly how well they're doing. And a famous "man" recommended such a thing long ago....

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. will he not first sit down and estimate the cost [KJV "counteth the cost"] to see if he has enough money to complete it? - Luke 14:28

Jesus Christ is getting very practical here. The Lord was a carpenter by trade before going into full-time ministry (Mark 6:3), so He probably had first-hand knowledge of how this worked. It's only logical to want to make money from a business project.

For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, "This fellow began to build and was not able to finish." - Luke 14:29-30

We've had some projects away from poker over the years which began with good intentions and dreams, but collapsed in a hurry. When we saw the downward trend, we tried to minimize our losses and get out quickly. This approach is good in poker hands as well.

But Jesus doesn't stop there:

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:33

Whoa - the Lord pushes His disciples all-in! Jesus wants "complete surrender," as one commentary puts it. Yes, that's a big commitment. But disciples in the Bible thought it was worth it:

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for who sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.... - Philippians 3:8

Our financial losses in ten years of poker don't matter much to us, because we have a different motive for our tournaments. We do ministry and share the things of God. If you're losing a lot at the table, maybe God is showing you it's time to go "all-in" in a different direction - toward Him. If you need help with that, leave a comment and let us know.

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