The role of a US president is a demanding one, with daily challenges and decisions that can potentially affect the lives of millions. Constantly under pressure and forced to make difficult choices, often in a very limited amount of time, one could say that being a President of the US is somewhat similar to being a professional poker player.
But, these similes aside, quite a few US presidents have, in fact, been actual poker players, enjoying the game in their spare time. Some played just for fun and in a more social environment, while others were regulars in high stakes games where serious money was on the line. One way or the other, though, US presidents and poker have often come hand in hand.
But even if you are not the president just yet, you can still enjoy the game even if you are in the USA, by simply going here, and putting your skills to the test.
Reading People and Situations
As we all know, poker is as much about reading your opponents and individual situations as it is about the cards. A good player will heavily rely on his or her ability to understand various tells and make decisions based on these conclusions.
Politicians, especially those functioning on high levels, often find themselves in similar spots.
Being able to switch “styles” and playing wild and loose at one moment, only to back off minutes later and go back to the waiting game is what makes the best poker players so dangerous. US presidents, over the years, have been in countless situations where such adjustments were required. So, to them, playing actual poker was probably a relaxing timeout from their daily tasks.
One of the best examples of this is Harry Truman, who was quite famous for his love of the game, although he primarily played for social reasons and lower stakes. After returning from the Potsdam conference, Truman had famously organized a week-long poker game that would start in the morning and run late into the night. President Truman was looking for a distraction after ordering the use of nuclear bombs and the destruction of Hiroshima.
Nixon was a more serious player, and he was often involved in higher stakes games. Allegedly, he used money won playing poker to fund his first Congressional race. We don’t know if this is actually true, but there is usually some truth to every rumor. If true, it would suggest Nixon played a healthy and winning poker strategy even without many poker studying opportunities like we have today.
Donald Trump Takes Pride in His Love for Poker
Past US presidents may have enjoyed an occasional game of poker behind closed doors but it Donald Trump is the first President to openly talk about and even take pride in his poker endeavors. Once a gambling magnate, it comes as a no surprise that Trump would occasionally play poker, most notably in his own establishment, AC’s Taj Mahal, which used to have an excellent poker room.
But, unlike the others, Trump has often mentioned the fact in the public, most notably to refer to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “world class poker player.” This was an analogy, of course, as President Trump was talking about a certain change in attitude towards North Korea, but the phrasing is definitely quite interesting.
Because Trump knows what it means to be a “world class poker player” and he clearly believes that the same skill set can be of great use to a high-level politician such as Xi Jinping.
Whole World as a Big Poker Table
In the past, politicians were often described as “playing chess” and the world, in the political and diplomatic sense, was described as a large chess board. This analogy was probably fitting several decades ago, as the concentration of major forces was much more straightforward.
Today, however, the entire image of the world has changed radically. There are different forces to be reckoned with all over the place, and they all stake their claims. More and more, daily politics are starting to look like a high-stakes, never-ending game of Texas Hold’em, where every decision can have escalating consequences as other players are yet to act and we haven’t even seen the flop yet.
In the global game of poker, there are no players with really weak hands, so it could all well come down to reads and tells. And, in that game, Trump might have the upper hand.
If we were to transfer his political persona to the poker table, he would be that loud, annoying guy, who refuses to keep quiet and constantly speaks his mind. But, at the same time, he’s not afraid to put his chips where his mouth is. In general, a good loose-aggressive style is usually the way to win in a poker game, and President Trump certainly displays the qualities of this style.
Of course, being a LAG at the table comes with its risks, and the time will tell if this approach is the right one for the given situation. Sometimes, other players at the table can start to take unexpected actions in an attempt to counter the game they don’t understand.
In a cardroom, this usually results in a few unusually big pots with somewhat questionable holdings taken to the showdown. On the global scale, where stakes are much higher, it is a bit scarier to think about these types of scenarios where everybody’s decided to go nuts all of a sudden.