The chances of Joe Biden or Donald Trump becoming President – or remaining as President, of course – in November have been a bigger source than anything outside COVID-19 for as long as we can remember.
Poker professionals regularly talk about Trump and Biden with the same passion as if they were two high rollers battling it out for the other’s bankroll, so with that in mind, how close is the forthcoming U.S. Election to a game of poker?
One Democrat supporter who is demonstrably anti-Trump is Daniel Negreanu, the Canadian poker legend regularly tweeted his reaction to Trump’s latest comments, actions or arguments. Or his COVID-test.
This should tell you the state of the country right about now:— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) October 2, 2020
The POTUS just said he and the First Lady tested positive for COVID-19 and half my Twitter feed is like,
“Hmmm, is this a brilliant chess move?”
Unsure if it’s true or a political ploy.
How close is the Presidential race at present? Well, it’s still very much too close to call with any certainty, Trump currently a best price of 2/1 and Biden available at 4/9.
Poker is by no means divided as closely as the odds, however. While Negreanu is one of the most vocal Twitter poker players, he’s by no means on his own. Poker professionals are by and large a democratic demographic, possibly as a result of doing something different to ‘The Man’. That is reflected in their way of voting, with only a few % full square behind Donald Trump.
In some ways, Trump could have made it much easier for the poker-playing public (6% of the world, so one would estimate a fair bit more in the United States of America given how entrenched the game in American culture, something written about in great and entertaining detail by the popular poker author Martin Harris in 2019) to vote for him. Owner of several Trump buildings, many of these contain casinos, yet this man who has made profit from gambling has done little to push through the return of online poker, ironically cancelled during the presidency of Barack Obama in 2011.
Had Trump brought back online poker and permitted millions of Americans to stay in the digital game, he might now be able to rely on their votes a little, if not a lot. Instead of backing the unknown player, he tightened his own belt and refused to put anyone else into the game in case it impacted his own profit. It was as if a cash game he was whaling on people in was only for him, and he jealously guarded any profit which might be made. This is ironic due to the poor ability Trump has to tell a story, lie without detection to body language or plain language experts or argue with logic, all of which poker players understand. The fact that he’s so easy to read is of little comfort to poker players – they don’t want to hear the tale he’s telling.
Poker has long provided much of the language used by politicians and Presidents. ‘The buck stops here’ refers to everything from the latest change to taxes to the nominal sense of responsibility assumed by the Commander-in-Chief, whoever that might be. The phrase, however, was popularised by U.S. president Harry Truman and based on the ability to pass blame at the poker table, to essentially pass the bluff on to another player in order to profit. To stop the buck was to accept responsibility, something every President in history has tried to convince the public that they are are doing, bluff or not.
The odds for Biden to win shortening has, in many corners, led to Democrats pleading with their party members and floating votes who will go blue rather than red to ignore the fact that they are winning with the bookies. A little like a poker player with the chip lead with two players left, heads-up isn’t over until the other player has no chips at all, and while he has cards, Donald Trump, who has contracted COVID-19 and recovered from it this month, will play them. Biden supporters insist the battle is not won, and there are echoes of Hilary Clinton’s fate in 2016 when she won more votes but lost due to the placement of them on the political map.
Biden is currently an odds-on favourite, but just like in heads-up poker, things can change very quickly in politics. Donald Trump may yet have a hand to play that no-one has any idea about, and with three weeks to go, no-one should be counting their chips just yet, with the dealing not done.
Just like a poker tournament’s heads-up battle, the closer to the end result it gets, the bigger the swings. Joe Biden may have the chip lead, but Donald Trump still has more than a few chips and his chair is currently situated in the White House.
He won’t leave the table quietly.