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The 2016 Presidential Poker Open is the biggest tournament in America. And it goes without saying that it is – by far – the longest-running one of all poker games, as there will not be a declared winner until November of next year.

Two weeks ago, we took you into the tournament and gave you a feel for the 22 players, painfully slow tournament structure, and the featured tables (GOP debates) that pitted many of the Republican-sponsored players against each other.

Since that time, a few changes have changed the chip counts.


Of the Republican players, Donald Trump remains atop the chip counts, and no other GOP-sponsored players have been able to gain much ground on him.

The aforementioned Fox News debate did give John Kasich a bit more publicity, and he continues to use his newfound chips wisely. Carly Fiorina lost some of the chips garnered after the debate, as did Ben Carson. The latest numbers, according to Public Policy Polling of New Hampshire voters, show the percentage of chips each of the Republicans currently hold:

Donald Trump 27.3%
John Kasich 11%
Jeb Bush 9.8%
Scott Walker 7.5%
Ben Carson 5.8%
Chris Christie 5.8%
Carly Fiorina 5.5%
Ted Cruz 5.5%
Rand Paul 5.5%
Marco Rubio 3.5%
Mike Huckabee 1.5%
Rick Perry 1.3%
Bobby Jindal 1.3%
Lindsay Graham 1.3%
Rick Santorum 1%
George Pataki Not enough chips to register
Jim Gilmore Not enough chips to register

As for the Democratic-sponsored players, there has been a shakeup that many reporters saw coming for more than a few weeks. In some polls, like this New Hampshire data from Public Policy Polling, original underdog Bernie Sanders has eclipsed Hillary Clinton. And perhaps the biggest surprise is that current US Vice President Joe Biden seems to be in the chip counts despite not even having entered the tournament:

Bernie Sanders 40.3%
Hillary Clinton 39.3%
Joe Biden 6.7%
Jim Webb 2.5%
Martin O’Malley 1.8%
Lincoln Chafee 0.5%

Biden has been one of the big stories of the tournament despite not having bought in. Rumors have been swirling that he was talking to backers and potential supporters and wondering if he had reason to challenge Clinton and Sanders. His past experience in the PPO has been rather painful. In 1998, he was accused of looking at another player’s cards, so he quickly withdrew from the event. And in 2008, Biden’s loose lips created a lack of confidence from his fan base, and he blinded out early in the tournament. Though he was selected by reigning champion President Barack Obama as VP, he is said to be considering playing again. And with the supposed blessing – no word on financial backing, however – of Obama, Biden is still considering a late entry.

On the Republican side, it continues to surprise players, fans, reporters, and tournament staff alike that Trump remains in the lead. He has insulted nearly everyone involved in the tournament and on the rail, and he continues to poke at Fox News, one of the media sources that had been prepared to show some bias toward the billionaire businessman. But his most recent jab at one of the female Fox reporters included a retweet of someone calling her a bimbo, and the CEO of the company demanded an apology. Trump is flirting with burning the bridge of the most favorable media outlet to him in the past.


Some of Trump’s other comments in the past two weeks have not been as surprising as well-received by the fans on the rail. Every time a microphone nears, he talks about building a wall between the fans and the players, and for reasons unbeknownst to the media, the fans cheer him. He also regularly insults the children of some of his supporters, calling them banker babies. Though those bankers walk away, even more fans come to the tournament room in support of Trump.

The chip leader plays every hand with the same strategy: Trump pushes all in, insisting he holds the best hand, and when someone else challenges him, he insults them, refuses to show his hand, and scoops the pot. The dealers and tournament staff have yet to challenge him in any significant way to stop his abuse of the rules. Other players are usually too stunned by it all to put up a fight.


Backers are a big part of the Presidential Poker Open. Very few candidates ever have 100 percent of their own action, as the buy-in is high and the lengthy nature of the event requires support just to stay in the game as long as possible.

All candidates receive donations to help them stay competitive, but official backers are political action committees and high-dollar donors who have a financial stake in the outcome of the tournament.

As anyone who listens to Trump knows, he is really rich. Therefore, he paid his own way into the tournament and has no major campaign backers. He seems to have all of his action and even funds his oh-so-creative swag with “Make Poker Great Again” logos.

Sanders claims to have no backers. He has publicly refused to accept any PAC (Poker Action Committee) funds in order to be beholden to no one but the voters. It should also be noted that John Kasich and Lincoln Chafee also have no funds in their accounts from PACs.

bernie sanders

The Federal Election Commission released the latest numbers featuring money raised by each candidate as of July 31. While some like Sanders raise most funds from small donations and Jeb Bush thrives on big-money contributions, the entirety of the donations are listed here:

Player Total Raised Total PAC/Super PAC
Jeb Bush $120 million $108.5 million
Hillary Clinton $67.8 million $20.3 million
Ted Cruz $52.5 million $38.1 million
Marco Rubio $42 million $17.3 million
Scott Walker $26.2 million $20 million
Bernie Sanders $15.2 million $0
Rick Perry $15 million $13.8 million
Chris Christie $14 million $14 million
Rand Paul $13.9 million $6.9 million
John Kasich $11.7 million $0
Ben Carson $10.8 million $200K
Bobby Jindal $9.3 million $3.7 million
Lindsey Graham $6.6 million $2.9 million
Mike Huckabee $6.5 million $4.5 million
Carly Fiorina $5.2 million $3.5 million
Martin O’Malley $2.6 million $600K
Donald Trump $1.9 million $0
George Pataki $1.1 million $900K
Rick Santorum $900K $300K
Lincoln Chafee $400K $0

It is notable that the two top money-raising candidates overall were supposed to be the favorites in the tournament all along, but two of the few that are not accepting PAC money at this time – Trump and Sanders – are the current chip leaders.

Some backers are clearly not happy about the way the hands are playing out. To see some of the lobbyists who probably shouldn’t count their share of the winnings too early, the Open Secrets website has this handy list of lobbyist donors to each player.


Tough Hand of the Week:

Rick Perry thought he could win enough hands to maintain an average chip stack, but he has been having a tough time even getting a walk in the big blind. Despite the confidence from backers, including nearly $14 million from PACs alone, his play has suffered.

rick perry

Photo Credit: Photo by Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

It was revealed through the last debate that he was bluffing and giving off major tells, the most egregious tell being the pushing up of his eyeglasses higher on his nose every time he liked his hand. Every other player knew what he was doing, and the dealers even tried to tell him to stop it. As a result of the loss of chips, he stopped paying some of his staffers (personal poker assistant, personal chef, poker coach) several weeks ago. And this week, the co-chair of his Iowa fan base quit the team, leaving Perry in dire need of coaching to make it through the early levels of the tournament.


Preview: We will examine a new player who may or may not be in the tournament named Deez Nuts. No one can verify his registration, but he is said to be accumulating chips.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.