Sunday, November 23, 2008

Barack Obama and Poker

We all know that recently Obama has become the focus of the world. But do you know even this new president plays poker games, just like you and me.



Barack Obama's triumph in the 2004 U.S. Senate race earned him a memorable send-off from his friends in the Illinois legislature they emptied his wallet in a take-no-prisoners night of poker games.
"We brought him down to earth real quick," said state Sen. Terry Link, chuckling at the memory.
Obama was a regular at the low-stakes games sometimes stud poker, sometimes draw designed to break up the tedium of long legislative sessions. Poker, beer and cigars were staples; Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists who Obama sometimes rails against dealt the cards and placed their bets.
The traits Obama displayed around the poker table those many nights are ones he brings to his presidential bid and are certain to be evident and analyzed if he wins the White House.
By his poker buddies' accounts, 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. But he's also serious and competitive: When he plays, he plays to win.
"It's a fun way for people to relax and share stories and give each other a hard time over friendly competition," Obama said by e-mail. "In Springfield, it was a way to get to know other senators including Republicans."
Obama, then a state senator, was a founding member of the group. He became known as a cautious player with a good poker face, someone who paid more attention to the game than to the chatter and laughter that accompanied it.
Obama studied the poker odds carefully, friends say. 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.
"When Barack stayed in, you pretty much figured he's got a good hand," said Larry Walsh, a former senator.
More than one lawmaker teased Obama about his careful style of play.
"I always used to kid him that the only fiscally conservative bone in his body I ever saw was at the poker table with his own money," said state Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican from the central Illinois city of Bloomington. "I said if he would be half as conservative with taxpayer dollars, the state would be a lot better off."

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