Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Decade of Decisions

The first decision came ten years ago today. We took a short walk from our home to a corner bar, and joined in a free Thursday night poker tournament.

Ten years later, we're still playing poker - but like many who took up the game in the last decade, the "fad" has faded for us. Our schedule doesn't allow us to enter many live tournaments right now. And even our online play is way down, because other Internet games seem more interesting. (Anyone for Scrabble?)

We could compare our rise and fall to a comment made to an ancient church...

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.... Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. - Revelation 2:2, 4

If you have a "red-letter Bible," this comment probably is in red ink. These are words of a resurrected Jesus Christ. He gave praise to the "church in Ephesus" (verse 1) for several accomplishments and traits. Yet He indicated that interest had faded. In this case, we think the "first love" was for God.

Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things your did at first. - Revelation 2:5

If your first love was poker, this is relatively easy to do. You head back online or into a poker room and get reacquainted with the cards. But if your real first love is for God - and we think it should be - it may be time to repent of letting distractions get in the way.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - I John 2:15

OK, we'll admit it - poker is definitely a game "in the world." Some church-going people actually might commend us for losing some passion for it. But if you've used poker to be a light for Jesus Christ, those "deeds" and "hard work" can fade by becoming more introverted and secluded.

When we started playing live poker in 2007, we didn't think much about doing it for ministry. It was a test of game-playing skills we developed online. But as time went on, we saw the opportunity to do more than that. Now we can go home from short tournaments feeling better than a final-table bubble player, because we accomplished a higher purpose:

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." - Mark 16:15

That's what we try to do at the table, and on this blog as well.

We were writing a different blog when we sat down for our first poker night ten years ago. It was a locally-centered humor blog - so here's how we reported on what happened 15 Jun 07.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


The World Series of Poker normally starts a couple of weeks after Mother's Day in the U.S. But this year, one man played with his mom on his mind.

John Racener won the "Dealer's Choice Championship" early this morning, while wearing a "Unibomber" style black hoodie. After he won, he took off the hoodie and showed a "FOR MOM" t-shirt. Racener's mother died from cancer four years ago, and broke the news of her diagnosis to him only after he played in the Main Event final table in 2010.

We can't fault Racener for this tribute at all. He's doing what a classic guidebook recommends....

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. - Exodus 20:12

Honor for parents should begin in our youth:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. - Ephesians 6:1

Of course, we realize some parents do things which are less than honorable. But when their commands fall within the rules of God's instruction, children should follow them:

My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. - Proverbs 6:20

Racener also seems to realize the "honor" for parents can go far beyond this life. We personally wondered for years how to honor a mother who died when we were a young adult. We've tried to do it through respectful words about her - and in recent years by annual graveside trips, as we've lived closer to her grave.

But we respectfully disagree with Racener's comment that his mother is now his "biggest fan.... from up above." That's a view of the afterlife which the Bible does not teach....

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man. - John 3:13

Jesus said these words. As the Son of God, we think He would know about such things.

But we congratulate Racener not only on his success at the table, but the statement he made in victory. May he enjoy the winnings, the WSOP bracelet - and the hope that he and his parents will be together someday in a resurrection.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Game Within the Game

World Series of Poker season has arrived again in Las Vegas. You can enter dozens of contests and try to win bracelets. Or this year, you can go play somewhere else.

The "Kings Cash Game Lounge" lets players relax between tournaments by playing cash-game poker. Based on what we've seen in other places, this is really no surprise. In what other activity would people take a break from playing poker - by playing more poker?

But what strikes us is how WSOP tries to sell the "luxury" of this lounge. Tables with "cushioned rails" and "automatic shufflers"? That's standard stuff at most casino poker rooms we've visited. "Comfortable sofas and easy chairs" on the side? Plenty of upscale clubs which host weekly "poker nights" have those.

In other words, some poker players back home may have things better than they know. But imagine how much better things could be....

Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. - Proverbs 10:6

The best blessings come from God. And believe it or not, He wants to hand them out - even to you. So how can you obtain them?

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him. - Romans 10:12

So we need to call on God, and be "righteous." How does that work?

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. - Romans 2:13

That "law" can refer to God's commandments (Psalms 119:172). But we've found a "righteousness" that's even better than that....

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.... - Romans 3:21-22

The law (despite what some might tell you) is good. Faith in Jesus is even better. Have you called on Him, to begin receiving the best blessings of all - the spiritual ones?