23 May 2006

Healthy Candor

I had a special treat yesterday when Sweetie called me after I got in from Orlando. She told me that she had arranged for a babysitter for last night, so we get dinner and a movie. I give her choices for dinner, but there really is no choice (Qdoba), then we head see The Da Vinci Code. I'm one of the few Americans who hasn't read the book (twenty-seven million books sold in the US, sixty million worldwide), so I didn't really know much about it. I had read all of the bad reviews and was prepared to deal with whatever hit me.

I thought it was just a really great movie. I can see how captivating the story is for anyone, and it was very suspenseful at times. I must confess that I screamed like a little girl, an audible shriek. That is always helpful in the self esteem department. Also saw a preview for The Omen remake, which will be an absolutely fraidy-scared flick.

I've explored before the struggle with poker as a sin. I was fortunate enough to receive a call from Steve Brown, a minister who teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary, as well as leads a ministry called Key Life Ministries, which is a syndicated radio show. He has this incredibly deep voice, looks sort of like a balding Santa, and tackles alot of white elephants in the room regarding faith and religion. He almost never kowtows to the official line; he believes in the truth is all about exploring, which I really like alot. He was good enough to join me for a quick interview. Thought you might find it interesting.

cc: What are your thoughts on the seemingly gray areas like poker when it comes to sin and our lives as Christians?
Steve: I love playingpoker and did a lot. I used to play regularly, and I was pretty good, but I haven't played poker regularly in seventeen years. I don't think there is anything wrong with poker, and I don't think it is a sin. A number of years ago, we looked at casinos here in Florida. They asked me to develop a sermon against gambling. I though it would be very easy, but I couldn't find anything, there really wasn't anything in the Bible. Most church folks don't understand poker. I don't think there isn't much different between the stock market and poker. I have a large radio ministry, so I do keep these thoughts to myself as I don't want to separate myself from the majority of people who I minister to.

cc: What's the difference, from a pastoral point of view, between gambling as a recreational activity, gambling as a source of income, and gambling as an addiction?
Steve: My closest friend is a physician in North Carolina, and he was in the Armed Forces and learned blackjack. He made piles of money, and we were both Christians. He would play all night and clean house, and he had to be careful about going back to the same casinos. This was before the shuffling machines. Some people are really good at poker, and it is the moral equivalency to picking stock. The addiction thing you are moving into a different area. My father was a drunk and gambler, and there were Christmases where we didn't have gifts nor much to eat. If you see yourself moving in this direction, then you need help.

cc: Even with the explosion of poker in America, it is difficult to have discussions about it in the church. Is there a place for poker players in churches or in a relationship with God?
Steve: That's the nature of institutions, any institution whether it be a church or Ford Motor Company, that they punish people that get out of line. That's why some churches are dying. Often, the churches make rules that really are more cultural. I think it's important to remember that people are really screwed up. All people. Once we agree on this, then we can love each other and can grow. But this is an issue for the church. Sometimes it is a smokescreen, an easy escape when we feel uncomfortable with what we hear and think. The church today is growing and changing in a way that is very approachable. The emerging church movement is very laid back yet authentic, very Gospel oriented. People should check around. We are all wired differently, and the Church is so big, bigger than it has ever been.

cc: Sometimes I think of poker as separating me from other believers. Can we ever be too bad to meet Christ? Can we ever be good enough to join Him?
Steve: Everyone is screwed up, and God is not angry at you. God doesn't sit in the sky, He isn't sitting in the sky with a lightning bolt. God isn't ticked that you're playing poker. Having said that, we have a responsibility of grace, that we should be compelled to act on our faith. God doesn't want us good; he wants us to be His.

Many people commented during my posts on the slide that I had the last couple weeks, and I wanted to digress into this a bit. We have our own perceptions of bloggers based on what we read and the context of that. Some folks like Pauly or Linda or Gracie we can recognize because we've seen their photos. For others, like kurokitty or TripJax or BloodyP, our mind takes their voice and creates an image. Some we like, others we disagree with. When folks take the time to invest in thought, are proactive in being encouraging, helpful, strategic, or even blunt.
  • "I think you need to both step down and shore up your significant leak of playing above your bankroll, " from kurokitty .
  • "When variance bites you in the ass, it gets harder and harder to play your game the way you used to. There are monsters under the bed, and you feel like everyone's making a play at you. With the added work-stress, I recommend taking some time off from the game. Just take a week," from klopzi.
  • "I feel your pain brother. I'm not sure what to say," from willwonka.
  • "Gotta be honest, Craig. Physical signs of anxiety and stress are really bad especially if you don't have them. Take a few days off, man," from sean.
Why spend that energy? Because we've invested in each other's lives, even though we are really strangers. Why should we give our thoughts to cc/Craig/Closet Poker Player/ccexplore? Heck, wouldn't we rather read about this guy tapping his home equity line of credit and chasing his losses but then losing that? We all like train wrecks, so wouldn't that be more interesting? I'm grateful to everyone for your thoughts, blunt criticism, and feedback. This is variance in a nutshell, and it's been interesting to go through again as well as to hear from more experienced players regarding variance. To kurokitty's point, it really is more about discipline than anything. Again, thanks to everyone.

I have one hand question that I wanted to post. This is from a friend of my brother, and I wanted to get the take of more experienced NLHE players. Blinds are $0.50/1.00, Villain raises to $3 UTG, folds to Hero on the button who raises to $5, with a call ($10.50 pot). Flop comes 7hTh2d, Villain bets $8, and Hero raises to $20, Villain mucks. My thoughts were that the pre-flop raise was too small, that the post-flop was was also too small, but it would be helpful to get other folks angle on this. (ADDENDUM: CORRECTED BETS TO HOPEFULLY BE LESS CONFUSING)

Have a good day, and thanks for dropping by.

13 Comments:

Blogger Bloody P said...

Excellent post and interview, sir. As a non-practicing EV-Free/Lutheran, I sometimes wonder if the whole gambling thing (as well as drinking) is going make St. Peter kick my ass down the fiery slide when I die. I doubt it, but you never know.

Oh, and if want to see a pic of me, check it out here:

http://www.christoph-woerner.de/uploaded_images/hering-admin-761870.jpg

9:40 AM  
Blogger Felicia :) said...

Steve is pretty much in line with my beliefs.

I think I have written a post about how I got involved in casino poker. If not, I'll write it soon. I was against it for a long time, but then suddenly came to a realization practically overnight.

This is one of your best posts, IMO. Thank you!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Jestocost said...

The hand is kind of confusing, since I can't get to a $10.50 pot with the betting described, but I think your take is reasonably good. We also don't know the hero's cards, but that may or may not be important. To, this is a very read-dependent situation.

If the villain UTG raises $2 to make the bet $3, that's within the range of a reaonable opening bet. If he raises TO $2, it should set off warning signs (beware the min raise!) unless you have a good read that it's a weak player. Raising another $2 isn't horrible if you have that read or you really want a call to build a bigger pot to steal or win on the flop, but otherwise I can't see why you'd make that raise.

The $8 bet on the flop is a decent bet, but based on the subequent action it didn't mean anything. The $4 raise is another one that screams "call me," although perhaps too loudly. It looks to me like the hero has a big hand and I'm guessing the villain took a stab at the pot with a drawing hand that missed to see where he was and came to the same conclusion.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Guin said...

We totally have different beliefs but that is what makes us want to understand each other more (I hope!).

In the end we should all attempt to be the best people we can. It isn't a fear of hell or of not getting into heaven that makes me want to be good... right now the biggest force is to be a good example to my daughter. Others may think our playing poker is a bad or evil thing to do but they probably haven't really researched their position. In my line of work I am used to taking positions that are contrary to popular views so maybe I can push aside criticism of my actions easier. Not sure when or how others have made you feel like you were doing something wrong by playing poker.

The reason all us bloggers don't want to see you crash and burn is because we all have a bond... enough other donks out there that can go broke that you don't have to!

Keep up with the great posts.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Klopzi said...

I'll just comment on the hand you posted...

Flop betting is ok, but I'd re-raise a little more pre-flop. If UTG raises to $3, I'd re-raise to around $9 (+/- $2).

By only making it $3 more to go for UTG, the Hero seems to be asking to be bet into on the flop.

Was that his intention though? Was he looking for the pre-flop call and hoping to induce a bet from UTG on the flop?

11:04 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Thanks for the cards and note CC -- I'm going to try them out at my homegame Wednesday.

For the hand question, there's a bunch of info missing -- stacks, your hand, etc.

Assuming standard stacks of about $100 and a large pocket pair (AA or KK) the pre-flop re-raise is too small. A min-raise advertises a large pair and giving up the content of your hand in NL is deadly. Furthermore, you've priced the villain in with any two cards because you'll likely make a continuation bet on the flop and your whole stack could be at risk if you can't release big pairs.

Instead, if you had a drawing type of hand (small pair, suited connector) I like the small raise -- you've taken the lead in the hand and deceived your opponent. The only risk is you re-open the betting and he could blow you out of the hand with a large raise.

I like the flop play no matter what your hand is. Many guys will lead out to see where they are -- re-raising puts pressure on them no matter what your hand is. You also force drawing hands to pay. More importantly, though, you gather information for later in the hand. If the villian re-raised you can seriously consider mucking AA in that spot.

I don't believe the flop raise is too small because you want to keep the pot small if you have small hand (one pair is always a small hand).

11:52 AM  
Blogger WillWonka said...

To say that church/relegion is becoming more culturalry based is spot on and to tell you the truth it truly pains me. While we as Christians have to adapt to the culture; we should not adapt our faith and our basis for that faith.

I obviously believe playing poker is OK as I would be a hypocrite if I said otherwise. Having said that, it all comes down (in my humble opinion) to your priorities. The Bible clearly says that we can not serve two masters. Is it money or is Jesus. Your/our choice. That is the beauty of it all. Choose Jesus and your reward is Heaven. Choose money (or other earthly things), your reward is the here and now.

While I say that my faith and family come first, my actions don't always point to that and that is something that I work on continuously.

Great post, as usual. Thanks.

11:56 AM  
Blogger cc said...

Regarding the hand, this was a hand emailed to me by a friend of my brother's. My feedback was that the pre-flop was raise was too small, as well as the post-flop raise ($12 into a $19.50 pot or something like that). So I think we're in agreement here but wanted confirmation. Hero has KK, and we don't know the villain's hand as he bails to the $12 raise. Any further thoughts would be helpful.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

Low limit can be confusing because I had a similar hand called an all-in with Aces, and someone behind also called.

With the board 7 6 2 they held

Pusher: 87o
Behind: 77

When you see plays like that its very difficult to "put someone on a hand" enough to justify folding a big overpair.

2:57 PM  
Blogger TripJax said...

Another great interview cc...

...good stuff.

3:02 PM  
Blogger FatBaldGuy said...

I am a non-practicing Catholic [my dad was born in Cajun country in south Louisiana, so that was inevitable].

There is a huge dichotomy between churches that are inflexible [like the Catholic Church] and others that are becoming more open to cultural influences in the modern world.

And the really tricky thing is that most people want both of those things. They want their church to be a rock, a stable place, with permanence in their theology. And at the same time they see that things change, and sometimes being inflexible is unfair, and they don't want their church to be persecutorial.

I don't know if any church can walk that line, and I think that is why so many people have abandoned organized religion.

6:56 PM  
Blogger The Poker Enthusiast said...

I had a similar discussion with the pastor at my church just the other day. He said the same thing and that as long as poker does not interfere with family then he didn’t see a problem.

Great stuff man.

1:25 AM  
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