What does President Barack Obama have in common with his predecessor Richard Nixon? A love of poker. And with George W. Bush? Hypocrisy in trying to stop people from playing it online.
Nixon's love of poker is well documented: He reportedly financed his first campaign with poker winnings, and after reacting badly to losing a hand he was famously reprimanded by fellow poker player, House Speaker Tip O'Neill, who told him: "Any guy who hollers over a $40 pot has no business being President."
Many other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson, were poker players too.
Truman may have been the keenest: He had a poker set embossed with the presidential seal, and he had a sign on his desk that declared "The Buck Stops Here" – another poker reference: On the frontier the dealer position was often marked by a knife with a buck's horn as the handle, and so "the buck" would be passed.
On March 4, 1946, Truman played poker with Winston Churchill till 2:30am while they traveled together to Fulton, Missouri, where Britain's wartime leader was due to give his historic "Iron Curtain" speech. Playing together created a more informal relationship, historian David McCullough records. "Mr. President," Churchill said as the cards were dealt, "I think that when we are playing poker I'll call you Harry." "All right Winston," was the reply.
What about President Obama? In the Chicago Senate he played in a regular poker game with Republicans and Democrats every Wednesday evening (they started at 7:00pm and often went to 2:00 am). And during the 2008 campaign he listed being "a pretty good poker player" as a "hidden talent."