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Obama is to Poker as McCain is to Craps

Since the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Act) was passed in 2006, poker enthusiasts in the United States have been very curious about what effect the 2008 election will have on online gambling. While most players don’t consider poker to be gambling, the UIGEA unfortunately does, prohibiting U.S. residents from placing bets online. Many a online casino offers bonuses, allowing visitors to play without making a deposit, and online gamers can always play games for free, but most players desire the freedom to place real bets. Some poker players who are also sports fans enjoy online betting as well, but this too is restricted by the UIGEA.

According to a recent article in The Daily Telegraph, Barack Obama "has said he would like to regulate online poker and gambling, rather than criminalize it." Meanwhile, during an interview, John McCain told ESPN.com that he is "absolutely" against online gambling.

Despite the candidates’ differing stances, both enjoy playing games whose online versions are restricted by the UIGEA. According to Time Magazine, Obama enjoys playing poker (especially Texas Holdem), while McCain loves to shoot craps. These different preferences tell us a great deal about the candidates’ personalities.

Craps players are usually social and eager to please, for when they win, they win for many others on the rail. Unlike poker, craps is almost entirely a game of chance. It’s no surprise that McCain, an ex-Navy fighter pilot, loves the thrill of the dice. According to Time, his political aides say he usually plays for thousands of dollars each session but never plays on the house. In the past year, McCain’s aides have all but prohibited him from gambling, despite his gravitation to the craps table, for fear of bad PR.

In contrast to thrill-seeking craps shooters, poker players must be quiet, reserved, and methodical during the game. While the charismatic Obama would not generally be characterized as quiet or reserved, his poker game is marked by seriousness. In the late 90s in Illinois, he played weekly with lobbyists and fellow state senators. The stakes were quite low, with a one-dollar ante and three-dollar top raise. Obama rarely bluffed, basing his game on strong cards and calculating the odds, and he won more often than not.

According to Andy Bloch, one of the world's best poker players and an online poker advocate, "There are a lot of skills playing poker that would help the chief executive…. One thing that got us into the Iraq War was that George Bush didn't realize that Saddam Hussein was basically bluffing, trying to look like a big man, when he really had no weapons of mass destruction." Bloch was disturbed by McCain’s craps habit, reiterating that while poker is a game of skill, craps “is an absurd game of luck."

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