Even if a person is dealt a good hand in poker, they still have to understand the fundamentals and nuances of the game to know two things: to play it instead of folding, and how to play it for maximum value. Holding pocket aces and folding after the flop probably won’t do you any good. In politics, knowing when to play a good hand comes down to understanding the American electorate. What are voters thinking, and how would your candidacy affect them?
Take Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, for example. In 2012, he was a popular Republican governor from a solidly Democratic state. He’d proven that he could fundraise, was popular among moderates, and had the institutional support to launch a presidential campaign. Indeed, large donors and party elders, such as Henry Kissinger, practically begged him to run against President Obama. Facing a president whose approval rating was in the low-to-mid 40s and an economy that was deemed poor by many, Christie seemed to have a solid hand to play.
Furthermore, the “luck factor” that one has no control over in poker and politics materialized for Christie as well, as Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey days before the election, allowing the governor to appear presidential and bolstering his approval rating further. However, Christie chose not to play his hand, and it cost him dearly. After Obama’s re-election, Christie’s approval ratings plunged and when he did decide to run in 2016, his candidacy failed to catch fire. After dropping out of the race, he endorsed Donald Trump and was faced with countless humiliating stories from the press about how weak he was. Additionally, his approval rating fell into the 20s in New Jersey, and he was not even offered a cabinet position after Trump’s victory.
On the other hand, Barack Obama played a good hand for maximum value in 2008. Even though he faced long odds against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, he made an educated bet on the mood of the national electorate, while also considering the fact that few expected him to win (so losing would not be as humiliating as it often is). As long as he played the hand he had well, meaning that he was able to raise a good amount of money and mobilize portions of the electorate that had felt neglected in previous years, then he’d be rewarded by the Democratic Party even if he ended up losing. And as it turned out, he did win by being able to realize the strength of his hand and played it to for maximum value.
You can’t win if you’re not in the game. As Wayne Gretzky says, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. That said, you’re folding more often than when you play, but when you decide to play, be bold and aggressive in your thoughts and actions towards your goals. As the expression goes, “luck” is when preparation meets opportunity. That said it takes an observant and courageous person to make the most of the opportunity when it comes. Keep your eyes open, and your game sharp.
Thank you to Bharat Krishnanfor sharing his personal experience in the world of political campaigns; co-authored by Josh Silverstone, Pokerpreneur® at Aces Raise.
“Bharat Krishnan has traveled across the country for ten years, managing Democratic campaigns at the local level from Los Angeles to Louisiana. His proudest professional achievement will always be President Obama’s 2008 victory at the Iowa caucuses, but a close second would have to be his time in New Mexico, where he raised a six-figure budget from scratch and gained national press coverage for a state house race. In his spare time, Bharat loves to read and cook.”