Poker v. Chess


Arthur W. Goodhart has a post over at Spectator|USA titled Donald Trump is playing poker. He compares Trump’s negotiating style with more conservative “chess players,” and notes Trump’s similarities to and differences from other poker-playing Presidents (such as Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman). A chess player is well equipped to deal with a single opponent. A poker player is better equipped to deal with several opponents at once.

For all Trump’s faults, and there are many, he does seem to be able to read situations as well if not better than many of his opponents. What isn’t so clear is whether he is actor or reactor. Clearly the chess analogy suited a bi-polar world. But maybe an increasingly multi-polar world is one where the game has changed. Trump’s inclination to poker rather than chess is perhaps purely fortuitous. ….

A loose aggressive poker-playing President may horrify some but the reality is that such a person is often more in control of events than the supposedly reassuring and conservative leader. The latter spends much time reacting, responding while the former sets the agenda, decides when to raise the stakes, will have enough wins to their name to be able to fold and move on when something doesn’t work out.

Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Poker v. Chess

  1. I’m not certain this take is accurate. The idea that the president must be playing poker when he acts erratically, or is doing things only to misdirect his opponents has appeal, but I don’t see it as being correct.

    It’s not that much of a stretch of imagination to think there might be some deeper plot behind particular events or incidents, but some of the overall conclusions seem off. It brings a few questions to mind.

    If the President is playing poker, he needs to be a good judge of people and situations. If that’s true, why does he turn around and proclaim many of the people he chooses personally to be liars and traitors?

    Why do so many of his policy positions fail? The ACA repeal failed, for example, and while a good poker player might take the small pots, he also doesn’t lose the big ones.

    The simpler position, that the President lies because he is a liar, seems to explain the situation just as well as Goodhart’s theory.

  2. There’s also the second issue. Lets say that position is true.

    How do you know that you aren’t the one being played? The biggest mark for the con-man is always the guy who thinks he knows what the trick is.

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