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God, Poker and Turning Pro

Whenever I played in home games and the local casino, it seemed I never lost at cards. It came easy. It got to the point that I felt bad about winning every time – especially since I made plenty of money and many of the other players were struggling. To compensate, I would give money back to the biggest loser or dump off my chips on the last few hands. Poker was just way too easy for me.

To rid myself of the guilt, I started playing in tournaments. Now, that was more exciting. It was live or die with every all-in. After only one year of playing, I scored big. I won the River Series in Oklahoma and brought home $700,000.

That got me thinking. Maybe this was my niche in life. So I decided to get serious. I started playing more online. I started reading books. I played more… and more… and more...

Unfortunately, all my studying and dedication didn’t make me any better. In fact, I went through the coldest streak of my life. I went from winning all the time to never winning. If you’ve played poker very long, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I started questioning my skills. Was I a one-time donkey? Did God favor me in one tournament and now it was over?

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I studied more. I played more online tournaments. I devoted a lot of time to improving my game. But I kept losing. Losing to donkeys! Oh, crap. When astronomical odds start mounting against me, it can only mean one thing, and I knew it.

God was giving me another poker lesson.

But what was the message he was trying to send? I thought about my life and realized that the balance had shifted. I had God, family, ministry, work, friends, and poker. But all of a sudden, poker had begun to consume the majority of my time. It had practically jumped to the top of the list. And it was taking away from my time with God.

God is jealous of our time, and he made it very apparent. I wasn’t going to win until I got it straight.

I had to withdraw from poker and discipline my time management. I realized I wasn’t being called to be a poker pro. God gave me my skills and abilities to play and have fun, not to make money or pursue a career. I backed away and went on a 40 day poker fast. It wasn’t easy.

After 40 days, I returned to play in my first tournament. The cards were normal again. I didn’t get beat on every hand. I enjoyed the game. I didn’t place in that tournament – just missed the money – but I could tell things were different.

The next three tournaments I played in, I made the final table. I took 1st WPT, 3rd WSOP and 3rd WINSTAR. It was great to be winning again.

Lesson learned. God, ministries, wife, family, work, and several other things all come before cards. Poker is just a gift to enjoy. Others may be called to be pros, but not me.