Aside from their times as American presidents, there are few things connecting Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, FDR, and Barack Obama. As Big Think’s new guest James McManus points out, one of the strongest bonds between these figures is a love of poker. The game lured Grant into bankruptcy, enabled Eisenhower to date, gave FDR a little calm before plunging into the Second World War, funded Nixon’s early campaigns, and helped Obama forge friendships among Illinois’ political elite.

That poker is the activity that brings such a varied set of men together is far from surprising for McManus. The game speaks to the fundamental duality of American history, linking cowboys and puritans, the rebellious and the reserved, mathematicians and politicians for centuries now.