My prayer before every tournament is that I will say what God wants me to say, do what he wants me to do, go where he wants me to go, and (of course) that he will show me favor in the game. That seems like a pretty simple prayer to stick to… until God actually answers.
It was a WPT event. I was one of the largest stacks in the tournament, and I was feeling pretty good. As I sat down at one of the two final tables, I took a quick inventory of my surroundings. I had the second largest stack. The largest stack was sitting to my right; but his chips weren’t completely stacked and the chair was empty.
We played for about thirty minutes, and still no player. When he finally came in and sat down beside me. I instantly judged him. Long hair, tattoos… and he reeked of alcohol. The guy was totally drunk. For some reason, he immediately picked a fight with a kid sitting across the table. The floor was called after the two men threatened to physically come across the table. A time out was assessed.
While all of this was happening, I was starting to get pretty excited about the prospect of vacuuming up this guy’s chips. And it got better. After his time out, the drunk sat down, leaned over to me and slurred, "I sell medical marijuana for a living." I smiled to myself. This was going to be too easy. A low life character, completely drunk, with too many chips. I think I responded with, "This is going to be so easy."
Then he whispered, "You know how I got all these chips? I go all in blind. I’m going all in on the next hand." Sure enough, the cards were dealt and he didn’t even look. He went all in, as promised. I Iooked at my cards and insta-called with pocket aces.
He flipped over his hand, revealing a 7 and a 10 off suit, then looked at the dealer and mumbled, "Dealer, give me J, 9, and 8." The dealer spread the flop and sure enough, he peeled off J,9,and 8,in that order. I was stunned. I didn't even look to see if the guy had more chips than me. I just got up and stomped off to my room, where I flew into a cussing rage.
How could God favor this drunken, drug-selling scum over me? I mean, the odds of a getting my aces cracked were maybe 18%. But the odds of this guy calling the flop in exact order were off the charts.
Whenever the odds go astronomical like that, I usually figure it's God trying to get me a message. But at the moment, it didn’t matter. I was mad as hell, and there wasn’t room in my brain for anything but frustration and anger.
After venting for about 45 minutes, I went back down to the casino. There he was, playing craps. He had been knocked out of the tournament. No doubt going all in every hand had caught up with him. I wanted to send my wife a picture of this long-haired monster whom stole my chips, so I conned him into exchanging numbers and snapped a shot of him while I had my phone out. Then I packed my bags and took an early flight home.
Check out these articles about God's lesson plan for Poker.
During the next six months, I shared this bad beat with all my buddies. I still had no clue why God had jacked with me, until my wife and I went to the WPT celebrity event in Commerce. I entered one of the regularly scheduled events. After a day and half of playing, some guy went all in from the small blind. I looked at my hand in the BB. Those darned pocket aces were there again. I insta-called. You know the rest of the story.
Not to be defeated, I ran to the registration desk and arrived just in time to get into the last event of the day. I sat down at the table, and on the first hand, I was the big blind. Everyone folded to the small blind, and he went all in. I called with AK. His A5 turned into a straight. I shook my head and left.
Depressed, I walked to the taxi line. Only one other person was there – the drunken, drug selling, tattooed guy from six months before. I recognized him instantly, but the recognition wasn’t mutual. I asked him if he remembered knocking me out of that tournament. He replied, "I can’t believe what I just did. I lost all my cash in a game and now I don’t have money for a taxi." Without thinking what God might be doing, I told him to ride with me and I’d give him the fare. We went to my hotel first, so I gave him an extra twenty bucks to get to his.
When my head finally cleared, I realized that God had orchestrated this whole thing. The taxi ride had been the perfect opportunity to talk to this guy. Maybe help him out in some way. But I'd blown it. I let him get away without sharing anything with him about God or purpose. I'm a little slow sometimes.
The next day, I was telling my wife the story and how I had blown my opportunity. I really felt guilty. It had been so obvious, but I'd completely missed it. She said, "Call him. Invite him to dinner." Funny thing, I still had his phone number from six month earlier. So I called. We were eating dinner at the Commerce casino. He had just gotten knocked out of a tournament, so he came down to join us. I was surprised to discover that I wasn't supposed to talk to the guy after all. It was my wife. My beautiful, genius IQ wife, who was working high level corporate work for more than 30 years and this Hell’s Angel reject were suddenly best friends.
After a few hours, this big, tough man grizzly of a man was crying at the table as he forgave his dad. In another thirty minutes he would pray to accept Christ. My wife did all the work. I was just watched in amazement. This was what God had planned all along.
The moral of the story is this: It's not all about me. It's not all about you. God has plans for every player at the table. And it's okay to take a beating for the team. The loss only hurt for a while; but this amazing bad beat story will be told for eternity in heaven.