For Barack Obama, Poker Was a Social Lubricant

Question: What role has poker played in President Obama's life?

James McManus: Obama fits into the largest group of presidential poker players; that is, people who play for very low stakes to relax with friends, to meet some -- as part of their political cronyism. He arrives in 1997 in the Springfield state -- the Illinois Senate in Springfield, not knowing too many Illinois politicians. You know, he's this tall, thin University of Chicago law professor; he's a writer, kind of an egghead. And part of his effort to get along with downstate soybean farmers and Chicago ward bosses was to start a poker game in the basement of his fellow freshman Senator, Terry Link. And they invited Republicans, and they invited fellow Democrats and lobbyists, and it was just -- it was called "the committee meeting," and it was a chance, once a week, for six or seven hours to get to know the people that he had to do business with for the rest of the week in Springfield.

As a newcomer to the Illinois Senate, he started a low-stakes game to which he’d invite fellow Democrats, Republicans, and lobbyists.

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