Obama the Poker Player
by Ron Powell
President Obama was a regular in the low stakes games that he and members of the Illinois State legislature engaged in during ling sessions. He brought some of the tendencies he displayed around the card table to his presidential campaign. They are certain to be evident and analyzed through the course of his presidency.
By the accounts of his poker buddies, Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists, Obama is careful and focused. He's not easily distracted and doesn't give away his intentions unless it's to his advantage. He's not prone to taking risky chances, preferring to play it safe. He's is seriously competitive. They say that when he plays, he plays to win.
His friends say that Obama would study the odds carefully. If he had strong cards, he'd play. If he didn't, he would fold rather than bet good money on the chance the right card would show up when he needed it. That reputation meant that he often succeeded when he decided to bluff.
Some of the participants in the games described Obama as a careful player who manages risk and has excellent control regarding behaviors that could give away the strength of his hand. He is what poker players might describe as a "Rock". Republican players often teased him about being his being a conservative only when assessing the strength of his opponents in the game and the relative strength of his bankroll.
President Obama hasn’t played poker since he left Springfield to become the junior senator from Illinois. He didn't join a Washington version of his weekly poker game and he didn’t play while running for the presidency. But, those of us who know the game, know that if Obama was as good as they say he was, even though he has left the game, the game hasn’t left him.
We know that the game of poker is as much a part of who Barack Obama is, as his game on the basketball court. It is in this regard that President Obama would do well to think back on the days of playing poker in the back rooms of the Illinois legislative building and remember that: He who holds the best cards at the beginning of a hand doesn’t always win the pot.