Can a 22-year-old poker player who wins still be a Christian?

By noon on Day 8, Nick Maimone's life already had changed. He was one of 27 poker players finding his seat at three tables in a Rio Las Vegas casino ballroom. He had made it deep into the 2009 World Series of Poker, a tournament that began with almost 6,500 players and guaranteed each of these final 27 at least a quarter-million dollars in prize money.

If he did the math — and how could you not do the math? — Maimone would be getting about $90,000 after splitting the money with the backer who paid his entry fee, then paying taxes. Ninety grand. He was 22. He'd been playing poker full time for about a year.

He knew, for now, only this: "I've really been blessed."

That might seem an odd thing for a poker player to think. Maimone figured that of the professional poker players he knows of, about three-quarters of them are athiest, believing instead in their own ability. But he was different — a Catholic, a devout Christian who volunteered with kids and wrote a Christian music blog and, yes, played cards for a living.

It was a choice that arched some eyebrows, especially among those who shared his faith. He understood the doubts, and he also struggled sometimes — but perhaps not in the way you'd think.

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