I just read a brief piece about Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama in The New Yorker called Aces by James McManus. It was about Obama’s interest in the game of poker, even though he has been opposed to expanded legalized gambling.
McManus points out that there have been a number of American presidents who were fans of the game of poker -Andrew Jackson (7th), Ulysses S. Grant (18th), Theodore Roosevelt (26th), Warren Harding (29th), Franklin Roosevelt (32nd), Harry Truman (33rd), Dwight Eisnenhower (34th), Lyndon Johnson (36th), Richard Nixon (37th), George W. Bush (43rd). I’m not sure whether Abraham Lincoln (16th) played poker, but McManus points out that “he did use a poker analogy to explain his decision not to apologize to Queen Victoria during the Trent Affair“.
Given this history, one might think that Obama’s position on legalized gambling is an anomoly. But this may not be the case. According to Rodney Reyman in his article Gambling, there is evidence that the Founding Fathers of this country were far from fond of gambling. Consider these quotes:
George Washington: “Gambling is the child of avarice (greed), the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief.”
Thomas Jefferson: “Gambling corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us the habit of hostility against mankind.”
Benjamin Franklin: “Keep flax from fire, youth from gambling.”
Do these quotes indicate that these three Founding Father would be opposed to poker? I’m not so sure, especially in light of the fact that while Obama has been opposed to the expansion of legal gambling, he still plays in a regular game (see here), and, as McManus reports, considers himself to be “a pretty good poker player.”