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Poker vs. Craps

By Chuckmonster on Monday, 29th September 2008 10:32am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


It's amazing how political pundits and the candidates themselves describe the 'home stretch' of the current U.S. Presidential campaign in gambling terms. TV news talking heads pontificate certain moves being a 'toss of the dice,' a 'crapshoot,' 'doubling down' or 'letting it ride.' The candidates themselves prefer to not 'tip their hand' but instead show strength by 'calling bluffs.'

Regardless of how the chips may fall come November 4th, one thing is for sure - the big winner in this election is surely the depth at which the vocabulary of gambling has become part and parcel of our collective political vernacular.

From Wall Street to Main Street, we all know how to double down.

In this corner, Sen. Barack Obama, a shrewd poker player who calculates odds and best strategies based on analysis of the mathematics or starting hands. Much like poker pro and multiple WSOP champ Dan Harrington, Obama is known for playing a little tight, leading players to believe that when he goes after a pot, he's got a strong hand. As Harrington would explain in his many tomes on poker strategy, developing a table image as a 'tight' player can give the player the opportunity to scare players with a well timed bluff. However you slice up personal play style, poker is a game of playing people, not the cards.

Poker player/writer James McManus (author of the sizzlingPositively 5th Street) has a great, albeit short, profile of Obama's home game in the Feb 08 issue of The New Yorker.

In the other corner, Sen. John McCain, an excitable craps player who spreads out chops based on gut instinct, placing odds and parleying wins when possible. Unlike poker where players are pit against each other, craps is a social game where the goal of all players is to beat the house. Camaraderie's importance to the excitement of craps is nearly as important as the gambling itself. Anyone who has ever won money playing on an empty craps table can tell you that it's infinitely more fun hifiving a stranger than stuffing a smile in your pocket and walking away.

Life long craps player John McCain took a whirl at the tables in MGM Grand after a recent campaign fundraiser. His connection to the casino industry goes beyond the felt, through is 20+ years in the Senate, Mr. McCain has been waist-deep in advancing the growth of tribal casinos and removing tax barriers for traditional casino companies. The New York Times published a six page article about McCain's connection to the casino business, with tons of graphs and interactive charts too... fascinating stuff for gamble minded people like us.

As someone who enjoys the challenge of poker and the thrill of craps, I'm supremely excited that there will be someone in the White House who knows that blooddrunk feeling of raking in a huge pot or filling your rack with a string of Come+odds hits at the dice table. If gambling habits were the only yardstick to measure a presidential choice, I'd be more than thrilled hang my chad on 'Anyone But Nader'.



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