Poker: A Game of Probability | An Ace in My Hand

*Special English Edition*

1/24/2012:  Poker: A Game of Probability | An Ace in My Hand

This is probably taboo for me to share but once when I was in basic training at Ft. Sill, OK, a group of soldiers in my barracks started playing Texas hold’em.  It was night-time and the drill sergeants left to sleep.

I went to the group to watch them play.  I didn’t want to join because they are playing for real money.. or real candy.  The soldiers there were betting fives and cough drops.  Well, they pressured me to join because they threatened to call me a wuss and make fun of me in day-time if I don’t.  So I joined.  I had some cough drops so I used that as a buy-in.  The soldiers used them as poker chips.

In the beginning, I started to lose, but I began to relearn the game.  Before this time, I played it on Yahoo! but I was very bad.  Yet, a strange thing happened.  I was pressured to join and then to eventually to play for money.  It was a late night thing.  I put in $20 (I think, or is it ten?) and I began to play wisely.  If I have a good hand, I would make bets.  I would make fake facial expressions to help throw people off.  I would look at how other players play and watch them to get intelligence.  And then I started winning.  

I started winning hand after hand.  Of course, I didn’t win every hand, just the hands that count.  After a while I got $40 in winnings.  I tried to tell the soldiers that we should stop and call it a day.  Not only is it prohibited, I think, in the military, and especially during basic training, but I am also taking other people’s money and I don’t want negative repercussions in the future because of that.  

But the soldiers playing refused to give up.  They told me they “want to get my money back” so they continued to pay more and I.. continued to win more.  Throughout this whole time, I kept saying “lets cancel the game” and “I’ll give all your money back” because I was scared.  We were playing on a soldier’s bunk bed using flashlights because everybody else was asleep.  It is past midnight.  I had about $80 to my name when a soldier suddenly ran to us and said, wild-eyed, that a drill sergeant is coming.  All of us were shocked and we were all trying to put the cards away, throwing bunks and beds, and trying to run back to our areas pretending to be asleep.  

I thought I was going to be caught red-handed and, for a moment, I really thought so.  I realized I probably couldn’t buff pretending I was sleeping so I quickly got my folder out, some notebook papers with miscelleous writing on it, a pen, and pretended that I was writing a letter.  If the drill sergeant asks, I could just say I was writing a letter to my mom.  

Thanks to the shock, I got what I wanted.  I convinced the soldiers to cancel the game and I returned everybody’s money back.  It was a close call and it was the only time I played for real money.

I *probably* won’t play for real money again but recently, I started to play poker, too.  It’s all for free though, and for imaginary chips.  I feel I started to learn how to really play the game.
Sun Tzu once said that if you know yourself, you can expect to win at least half of the time.  I hope, my reading this article, that you can win at least half of the time.  “知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必殆.”

One tool that helped me a lot is a poker calculator.  If you are thinking about playing poker, I seriously suggest you get one.  I downloaded a free calculator in my computer and I use it all the time when I play poker.  Why should you get one?  Because having a calculator tells you your odds of winning given the hand you have, and the situation at the table.  I don’t have the time in-game to calculate every single card so I just do the basic: I calculate the two cards in my own hand.  After some experience, you will learn to see the cards on the table and form a general picture.

Yeah, you should probably fold this time.

Poker is a game of probability and, so far, the adage “go big or go home” rings true.  By using the calculator and thus knowing your odds and by knowing the various possible combinations and the likelihood of them plus the possibility of winning if those cards were to happen based on the cards already set on the table, the player can truly know him or herself.  Watching the World Series of Poker on YouTube is also a good way to gain some exposure.

Second, much harder and without complete infallibility, is the ability to know your opponent.  It takes time to know how your opponents play so I generally play defensive for the first couple of rounds to try to scope out my enemies.  Some players are aggressive and they bet every round.  That means, in some of the rounds, their hands are not good, and if they win more than they proportionally should, they are buffing on some of the rounds.  There are others that are just plain dumb and would go all-in just to make the game go faster.  Then, two or three other players would do the same and within a short period of time, the tournament just lost three people with a huge chip leader.  However, if that happens, there is still hope.  That chip leader is willing to take big risks so there is a chance of big rewards if you know yourself and stay true to it by not folding when the pressure gets hard.

A player can have the perfect starting hand and still lose.  That is why it is wise, generally, to bet in according to what you have.  If you have a good hand, be more aggressive, if a bad hand and the stakes are too high, then fold.  

If a player only bets the first round and checks the second, there is a 80% probability that their hand is not good and they are having doubts.  It’s all psychology.  If that’s the case, place a bet.  That player will likely fold.

If the player bets very high initially, there is a 80% chance that he or she has a good hand.  If you have a poor hand, then fold.  You can still win, but the odds are against you.

If the player bets very high initially and continues to bet high, there is a 80% chance that he or she got something or a combo they wanted.  But, if you know yourself and your cards and you believe it, you can play along (don’t raise it) and pretend to let your opponent know that you are unsure and have doubts.  Then that person may try to raise it higher to get you to fold but you prove them wrong.  In general, never raise or bet unless you have a good chance of getting a good set.

If the player bets high initially and then only checks afterwards, that player may be having doubts.  

After a while, when the opponent thinks they know how you play, you can change your playing style a little.  Start bluffing a little bit, especially when the opponent has doubts as described above.  I won many rounds with a poor hand because I made my enemy think that my hand is better than his or that somehow the cards on the table just gave me a jackpot.  Of course, your enemy might be thinking what you are thinking so it is all a chance.  You just have to know when to take that chance and be willing to go all-in if you do.

Application to Real Life:

Like in the game of poker, take calculated risks.  If you think something has a chance to be more good than bad, then take the risk, but be willing to back off if the situation changes.  One difference to real life is not to lie and to be honest because God sees.  If what I’m doing doesn’t turn out to be expected, is doing harm, or most likely won’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I would back down.  We can trick people but we can’t trick God and He is the judge.

Some days I have good hands and other days not so good, but, I find that the days that God is in it, somehow I have an ace in my hand.

12/12/2010: My Narnia

12/12/2010: My Narnia

S: 8:51pm

E: 9:54pm

I want to write, but when I write after delaying what I want to write, it gets hard to write, nevertheless, I must still write.

I am now in Camp Beauring with two other soldiers doing a security detail. On that day, a battery organization day, our battery did a day of sports. We played softball, football (although I also want capture the flag), dodgeball, and three point shootout. I was wearing my light green T-shirt that says: “WWW (World Wide Wickedness), URL (Under Redeemers Love), HTML (He Transformed My Life). Haha, I’m guessing people might think I’m a hacker or something wearing that shirt. I did my best and did well by my standards. I got a home run, assisted a touchdown (though I missed catching numerous footballs, such a disgrace to my team), did decent in dodgeball, and got two three-pointer shots out of fifteen (the wind was blowing hard and the highest record was a five or a four, needless to say, I didn’t make it to the finals). When I saw people shooting the basket, and seeing the highest at that time was a two, I was very surprised. The last time I played that game, I shot a four. But, I never knew how hard it was to shoot with the wind until I actually tried it. After that, we retired to lunch (pizza, KFC, Subway, chips, sweets, etc) and after our repast, I played Risk with four other players. I was conceited at first, but as the game went on, I was humbled. I found out I was in danger of being the first player to be wiped out! I just want to say there are many circumstances outside my control that I can’t do anything about. I tried to hold on to Africa (they give 3 armies), but player after player prevented me. Then, I turned in my multi-card and surprised everyone with 13 armies to place. Haha, but my joy was short-lived. I decided to attack the strongest player in the game, since the other player who controlled South America, had a secret alliance with him, but I didn’t know at that time. I attack South America and after conquering it, attacked Mexico. I only had two armies in Mexico after I attacked so I moved one back to Venezuela. Well, Sgt. Frese took back N. America, Hudson, his secret ally, took the rest of Africa and Brazil, and I was almost knocked out of the game had I made a few diplomatic deals to Sgt. Frese and Hudson to let me take S. America and I’ll leave them alone. The game continued and, in the end, after wiping all the players except those three, Hudson attacked me and they both won. Stange things is, towards the very end of my game, I decided to roll one dice at a time because rolling both was giving me bad luck. The first dice I rolled for the next ten times was a 6. That is very strange, impossible I thought. I got a six even when I’m secretly trying not to get a six because I want to give God the glory. When I got up and decided to roll one dice at a time, I was trying to have faith and trust in God. I was upset of their secret alliance.

Now that I’m thinking about it, if I roll a six every time, I can never lose the game. That was what I was thinking when battling against Hudson with 15 vs. 35+ of his. In the end, he attacked with two armies (I think) versus one of mine in Argentina and I lost. I also think this is why Israel never loses if God is with her armies. Israel will always roll a six with God! She can never lose. This is why I love Israel, because God is on her side. I love Israel because God loves Israel. Of course God loves all the nations too, but Israel is his chosen nation where he first revealed himself to men. It can be 100 vs. 1 but if God is with Israel, that 1 army can defeat 99 of the enemies’.

Judges 15:16 Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.”

I was excited but tired when I came back to my bay. Shortly afterwards, I was told to go to Camp Bearing and to be ready in 20 minutes. What a rush! But, luckily, I managed to make it on time. My mentality is, with God of course, is that life is hard but I have to make the best out of it. I brought my camera (but I haven’t taken any pictures yet), my mini (this laptop I’m typing on), mp3 player, and Kindle (with book 2 of Narnia). I’ve only been to Bearing once so it will be a cool learning experience.

Well, now I’m here for two nights and a day already and I’ll be here until Monday (another day left). A lot of what I can say miracles happened. To me, a miracle is something that is not supposed to happen but God made it happen. Getting to Camp Bearing was a miracle. None of us knew the way to get there, but I did my best to study the maps and took notes. Together, we were able to maneuver the Kuwaiti highways to Camp Arifjan. Getting a building to live in was also a miracle. The three of us when to the housing building (where they issue temporary housing) and we were told unless we have a memorandum we cannot obtain a building.

“Is there any way that you can help us?” my sergeant asked.

“No,” the clerk said, shaking her head.

But, my sergeant was persistent. She (yes, she) really wanted a building so she kept on talking and asking and referencing. In the end, the staff gave us two rooms (one male and one female of course), with blankets, pillows, and sheets. Wow, what a blessing. Without the building, we would have slept in two large, unlocked bay, or in the truck. Although I felt she was being very pushy and aggressive, she reminded me of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-5) who is never tired of fighting for what is (or think) right. Finding where our security site is at is also a miracle. We had no idea where to go! But we noticed a few landmarks and with a hanging phone-call and couple wrong turns, we eventually found the site. I think, in this day and age, God does miracles in the most ordinary way. He does that so we can put our faith in Him. For example, you are driving and are lost. However, you noticed a few signs or landmarks that reminded you of where you are going and suddenly, your intuition tells you where to go. Or, you have to go work but you are just so exhausted and tired. When you did go to work, you found it to be much easier than expected or that the work days are shortened due to logical conclusions. Such is my trip to Camp Bearing.

The last thing in my heart to write is to share that I finished reading The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. After reading that book, I realized my life also shared many similarities. For me, being in the Army is like being in Narnia. It is a whole new world to me. I went from a world of Starcraft, counter-strike, and resistant evil to a world of going to formations and doing what I’m told. From a world of being locked in my room and alone to a world full of people, and yes, sometimes even crazy people. My wardrobe however, is the recruiting office. The rules are so different. From a world of computer games to the world of real-life and trusting in my Aslan, which is Jesus. I learned so much about life and about God in the Army, things that I would never have learned had I not went to my wardrobe.

12/10/2010: Being me II

12/10/2010: Being me II

S: 5:16pm

E: 5:42pm

Many times, even though I want to write, I feel I don’t want to write. I would rather do something else that I want, like playing games. However, an incident happened today that makes me want to write. I have to write now, if not, my heart will burn within me. I need to write not just when I feel like it, but when I don’t, as long as it gives glory to God.

I will write from events of greatest importance to events of lesser importance.

I was sitting on one of my platoon’s truck, sulking away. My sergeant noticed it and kept asking me what’s wrong.

“Nothing, I’m good.” I would say, or “I’m fine.”

What I said is close to a half-truth. I am fine, as long as I try to follow God, He will be with me, and I will be fine. Another thing I was reluctant to open up is because I’m afraid my sergeant may use this information against me and I felt my troubled thoughts won’t change anything. Yet, another thing is I felt it is partly my fault. I should be stronger.

Earlier, when we dropped off the humvees, my sergeant did something that offended me. Well, it wasn’t just that incident that set it off, but the past. This was just like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I began to retreat to myself, alone, watching the sunset. I want to be alone. I can feel the quietness and the wind. I can feel peace. Some sergeants came to me and greeted me and started talking in my area, so I went to another area. I opened my Bible and began reading the book of Psalms. I cannot depend on my own strength, but on the limitless power of God. Later on, we got back on the truck and went to the front of the site. It was there when my sergeant talked to me.

I was resistant because I’m afraid. I’m not sure what he would do. I need to be careful. Yet, another part of me want to tell the truth, because it is the truth that sets people free. I told my sergeant that I need time to think. And then, I told him. I told him I didn’t know if it was my fault, his, or both. I told him there are times when I feel hurt dealing with people. It hurts me. I have to endure. When people attack me, not physically, but deeper inside, I feel hurt. Yet, my usual response is to endure the pain and rely on God. But, since my sergeant inquired, I told him the truth. He said who do you have trouble working with? Me? I told him yes. I told him it’s just my weakness, that I’m never good in the ways of this world and when people attack me, it hurts. But, since he asked what he needs to change, I added that he should be more loving, kind, and humble. I told him I prefer to work with nice people; people who are loving and humble, but, of course, in this world, that is not the case. He told me he tries to be nice and kind, and I told him yes. He told me the frustrations of working with me, that I simply do not know what everybody else should know: common sense. I also lack, since I hardly deal with people before the Army, the sense of people’s expectations of me. He told me I don’t really understand people because I’m so sheltered, but after he said that, I told him I feel I do know a bit about people, but I lack the sense. In basic training and AIT, I had the same problem. I would, despite my best effort, just not know what is going on or what to do. Towards the middle of basic, the drill sergeant assigned a “babysitter” to me so he can guide me. If I get smoked, he gets smoked along with me. If I run to block a street as a road guard, he has to run with me. It’s really painful to know that others seem to magically know what to do and I don’t. I told my sergeant my weaknesses, but I added that I am still growing in this world. I am still learning more about life and understanding people. All this, of course, implied, that I am also growing in spirit and truth.

My sergeant told me I’m too grounded in heaven and not on earth which is part of the reason why I am so clueless. What he said is true, but the big reason is simply because I don’t have people-sense. Although I understand people, thanks to the Bible, I can’t sense them. There are times when I can, but there are also times when I can’t and being in the military, it is important to know people’s expectations of me. I don’t really focus on people’s expectations, but on God’s expectations.

It’s hard; it’s tough to be me, to life my life. Everyone seems to be so blessed but me. They are better in the ways of this world than me, but, I must still follow God and do my best. I will still cry because people do hurt me, but I will still continue to love God and love people. It gets tough. It gets hard. But as long as God is with me and I can read my Bible (or read them in my mind), I will be alright in the end.

12/9/2010: Love people. God judges.

12/9/2010: Love people. God judges.

S: 8:45am

E: 9:22am

I am just about to start making an Asia Friend Finder / OkCupid account but before I do that, there are a few things I wish to write.

I just came back from guard today, and, surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard. I always hate guard because I have to suffer so much. In one day, I finished Book One of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. My sister likes to read Harry Potter books but for me, this is it. Before reading those Narnia books, I read the Choose Your Own Adventure version of Narnia, called Narnia Solo Games. I played all four books and grew in love with the series. I’m thinking about making my own choose your adventure story.

There is one thing that happened to guard today that is very important. I was on my sleep shift and my sergeant had the same shift as me. He woke me up halfway into the shift and told me we have to go back to the ECP because there was some work to do. I didn’t quite understand what he was saying, so I started to ask questions. It went downhill from there. My sergeant became very mean and hard as stone. I’m a bit traumatized. I don’t understand why my sergeant is acting this way nor do I understand what is going on. Back at the ECP, I thought of a way to bring this issue up because this is an issue that needs to be understood and resolved.

I said, “Sergeant [name], it seems like I’m walking on eggshells. Why is it like this?”

As soon as I said that, my sergeant finally opened up and spilled the truth to me, and although I was nervous and a bit afraid, I’m happy to know the truth. He told me that I have a tendency to always want to know everything and if I do it in front of his superiors, it seems like he can’t control his soldiers. He went on and on trying to get me to understand his point of view. I listened attentively, eager to resolve this conflict. He told me that since my rank is a specialist, I should just execute and not ask questions about why. I thought about what he said and I told him, honestly, that he’s right. It is always me to want to know the big picture. I feel that by knowing as much as I can, I can grow in life skills, but I never noticed that my probing is bothering him. He told me it’s all about perception. If he tells a soldier to do something and that soldier asks “why?” it will make the sergeant look bad. I never realized this so I behaved oblivious to it. He told me he has to play the game, and the game all about appearance. Inside myself, I knew this is wrong. Why can’t man look at the heart also? I told him I will keep this perspective aware as a soldier. In this messed up world, these flawed rules apply, but I can’t wait for Jesus to come back. If you wait long enough, he will come back.

While I was reading the Chronicles of Narnia, the rest of my battle buddies are watching the TV show Lost. I ignored it and as I listened to the plot and the drama, I began to be upset. God’s truth in the Bible shines so much light on this drama. If only these people could start caring about others first instead of themselves, loving one another as themselves, if only they follow God’s ways, then boom! the conflict’s resolved.

James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

If only these characters can stop living for themselves and start living for God and for others, everything will be blissful. There would be peace like a river. I can’t stand watching these secular movies. All I see is people trying to follow their evil desires. They need to live for God, not themselves. Amen! Desire leads to sin and sin, when it is full-grown, leads to death.

James 1:14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

These characters need to shut the fuck up and follow God, excuse my language, because His ways are the best. They fight for stupid reasons; they kill for stupid reasons, and in the end, they actually hurt themselves. Think of the possibilities if only the characters love one another and let God be the judge.

Psalms 25:10 ¶All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful ¶for those who keep the demands of his covenant.