Interestingly, both of our Presidential candidates are gamblers. One plays small-stakes poker, while the other plays craps for thousands of dollars at a time. One is a game where skill matters, the other is a game where you are always at a disadvantage, at the whims of dumb random luck. Which would you rather have as President?
The casino craps player is a social animal, a thrill seeker who wants not just to win but to win with a crowd. Unlike cards or a roulette wheel, well-thrown dice reward most everyone on the rail, yielding a collective yawp that drowns out the slots. It is a game for showmen, Hollywood stars and basketball legends with girls on their arms. It is also a favorite pastime of the presumptive Republican nominee for President, John McCain.
The backroom poker player, on the other hand, is more cautious and self-absorbed. Card games may be social, but they are played in solitude. No need for drama. The quiet card counter is king, and only a novice banks on luck. In this game, a good bluff trumps blind faith, and the studied observer beats the showman. So it is fitting that the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, raked in so many pots in his late-night games with political friends. […]
In the past decade, he has played on Mississippi riverboats, on Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip. Back in 2005 he joined a group of journalists at a magazine-industry conference in Puerto Rico, offering betting strategy on request. “Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John’s life,” says John Weaver, McCain’s former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. “Taking a chance, playing against the odds.” Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. “He never, ever plays on the house,” says Mark Salter, a McCain adviser. The goal, say several people familiar with his habit, is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table.
Only recently have McCain’s aides urged him to pull back from the pastime. In the heat of the G.O.P. primary fight last spring, he announced on a visit to the Vegas Strip that he was going to the casino floor. When his aides stopped him, fearing a public relations disaster, McCain suggested that they ask the casino to take a craps table to a private room, a high-roller privilege McCain had indulged in before. His aides, with alarm bells ringing, refused again, according to two accounts of the discussion.
“He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing,” says a Republican who has watched McCain play. “And he just sort of revels in it.”
So, even though he knew it was a border-line unacceptable behavior, he needed to play anyway. When he was blocked by staff once, he suggested playing in private and was blocked again. What is that they say about drinking in private, again?
From the New Yorker, we learn that McCain sometimes plays craps for 14 hours straight!
The moment the car stopped at McCain’s hotel in downtown New Orleans, he set out at his usual fast clip for Harrah’s, across the street. McCain is an avid gambler. Wes Gullett, a close friend who worked for McCain for years, told me that they used to play craps in Las Vegas in fourteen-hour stints, standing at the tables from 10 a.m. to midnight. "Craps is addictive," McCain remarked, and he headed for the fifteen-dollar-minimum-bet tables. At the most obvious level, the game is incredibly simple -- players rotate turns throwing the dice, and you either win or lose depending on what number comes up. But McCain’s betting formula makes it much more complicated. "Uh-oh!" he cried, as a player accidentally threw the dice off the table. "This is a very, very superstitious game," he said. When his turn came to throw the dice, he picked them up and blew on them first. He had placed chips on the number 5, so (envisioning a combination of 2 and 3) he called, "Michael Jordan! Michael Jordan!"
If you're playing for 14 hours, it is not just for fun.
Finally, The Telegraph chimes in with some analysis:
"You're always at a disadvantage at craps," said Mr Bloch. "It's a problem, if you have a leader who believes they can beat the odds. You don't want him shooting dice with the economy." Mr Holden added: "We poker players don't call poker gambling. It is a game of skill. Craps is an absurd game of luck. You may have thrilling short term wins but only madmen play craps."I know which one I would rather have acting as my President.