Tuesday, March 29, 2016

To Call It “Three-Handed” Assumes They’re All Playing the Same Game

I talk politics on this blog occasionally, though like every other non-poker topic I’ve taken up in nearly a decade’s worth of posts I’ll do so only in relation to some poker-related idea. That’s the only restriction I’ve ever followed here on HBP -- to make at least some reference to poker in every single post, even if the link might be as thin as a river bet with fourth pair.

The Republican primaries have been kind of jawdropping in a number of ways, thanks largely of course to the destructive rambling about of bellwether Donald Trump. I wrote a post here almost exactly two months ago about “Trump and the Poker Analogy,” making the point there that in truth all politicians -- especially those running for office -- are always like poker players, or at least always capable of being viewed in such a way.

In the weeks since many have continued to try to piece together a coherent strategy out of the various, sometimes way-off-the-beaten path headlines emanating from the Trump campaign. The very process of trying to look at a campaign as being a “game” played “like poker” imposes a kind of logic upon it, even when one doesn’t exist. We do the same thing at the tables when confronted by strange-seeming plays from an opponent. (If this guy knows what the hell he’s doing, we think, what is that, exactly?)

Trump has many fervent supporters, it’s obvious. It’s also obvious that when asked to address absolutely any issue in any detail beyond introductory rallying-cries he is wincingly unable to demonstrate his understanding or in many cases even to make sense in his responses. But he’s got a seat at the table, and to the befuddlement of others he’s somehow amassed a big, threatening stack. Every hand is now necessarily being played -- by both parties’ remaining candidates -- with a wary eye cast in his direction.

Had the teevee on tonight and that “town hall” on CNN playing featuring the three remaining GOP candidates -- Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich -- each separately appearing to take questions. Most interestingly, I thought, was how each of them in turn made clear he would no longer be willing to support the party’s eventual nominee. This represented a change for all three of them, as they’d each previously said they would support whomever the Republicans eventually chose.

What would be the poker analogy for this?

Would it be like a deal negotiation at three-handed suddenly turning very sour, with all three coming away offended at the terms they had been presented and each of them now returning to the table full of spite versus the other two?

Or is it more like one having tried to shoot an angle, another calling the floor, and a third intervening during the subsequent discussion in a way that causes still more consternation, engendering a lingering enmity between all three once play finally resumes?

Then again, maybe it’s wrong to try to impose the clarity-lending analogy upon the proceedings at all, given that doing so incorrectly makes it seem as though the “players” aren’t in fact each playing wholly separate “games” for which tonight’s “town hall” format that segregating them from each other seemed suitable.

Don’t know what to conclude, really. Other than to think when players start turning on each other -- whatever they are playing -- that’s usually a sign the game is probably about to break up.

Image: “Republican Primary Final Three 2016 - Caricatures,” DonkeyHotey. CC BY-SA 2.0.

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