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Poker News: July 8, 2008

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Copyright © Sydney Morning Herald

HEADLINE: Poker players deal Obama a full house

BARACK OBAMA is winning support for his presidential bid from a novel quarter - America's poker players.

Las Vegas professionals who approve of his belief in the freedom to gamble are putting their chips on Senator Obama, who is a a skilled player of Texas hold'em and seven-card stud.

Doyle Brunson, America's foremost living player and formerly a lifelong Republican, has come out for the Democrat candidate. Another leading poker player, Andy Bloch, said most players in Las Vegas for the main event of the World Series of Poker, which began on Thursday, were pro-Obama.

A group called Poker Players for Obama writes a blog on his campaign website. The support has drawn attention to the fact that this year's presidential election features seasoned gamblers for the first time since the days of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

Senator Obama's Republican rival, John McCain, is a dedicated gambler who plays 14-hour sessions at the craps table. Senator McCain has enjoyed the camaraderie and the thrill of chance in the dice game - in which players bet on the outcome of a throw - since his days as a naval pilot. He is said to wager thousands of dollars a session, and aides reportedly had a job keeping him from the tables during a campaign stop in Las Vegas.

Senator Obama used poker to get to know rivals during his days as an Illinois state senator, when he developed a reputation for playing to win and rarely bluffing. Terry Link, a fellow senator at the time, told Time magazine: "If he runs his presidency the way he plays poker, I'll sleep good at night."

Mr Brunson, twice world champion, said he could not back Senator McCain because the Republicans supported the American ban on internet gambling. Senator Obama has said he would like to regulate online poker and gambling, rather than criminalise it.

"Poker players have to support Obama," Mr Brunson said. "God help the internet gambling business if McCain does happen to win."

Mr Bloch, who has won $US715,000 ($742,500) so far at this year's World Series, sees Mr Obama's poker skills, rather than his gambling policies, as the better qualification for the job. "There are a lot of skills playing poker that would help the chief executive," he said.

"In poker you have to put yourself in the shoes of your opponents, get inside their heads and figure out what they're thinking, what their actions mean, what they would think your actions mean, and read bluffs.

"One thing that got us into the Iraq war was that George Bush didn't realise Saddam Hussein was bluffing, trying to look like a big man, when he really had no weapons of mass destruction."

Anthony Holden, a poker player and writer of the book Big Deal, is concerned by Senator McCain's dice habit. Poker was a game of skill, he said, but "craps is an absurd game of luck. You may have thrilling short-term wins but only madmen play craps."

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on July 8th, 2007

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