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The 2016 Presidential Poker Open has been exciting already, and registration is not even closed for the tournament. And with action taking place all the way through November of 2016 – at least for two of the players – one might think these early levels are inconsequential. Not so in this event, however. All of the initial players are still in the game, and big moves can ensure a deep run.

Last time we checked in with the PPO, Donald Trump was leading the pack, and Rick Perry was suffering with a short stack.

As we check the chip counts as of September 8, Trump remains in the lead of the Republican-sponsored players, but several other players have risen to the top of the chart. Jeb Bush, of the family of legendary Bushes who gave graced these tables and claimed victory in past events, hasn’t been getting any playable hands. Here are the percentages of chips held by each of the RNC-backed players, according to the latest NBC poll:

Donald Trump 27%
John Kasich 11.7%
Jeb Bush 9.3%
Carly Fiorina 8.3%
Ben Carson 7%
Ted Cruz 6.3%
Scott Walker 5%
Rand Paul 4.7%
Chris Christie 4%
Marco Rubio 3.7%
Mike Huckabee 1.7%
Lindsay Graham 1%
Rick Perry 1%
Bobby Jindal .7%
Rick Santorum .3%
George Pataki Not enough chips to register
Jim Gilmore Not enough chips to register

The players affiliated with the Democratic National Committee and sporting those logos on their business jackets have seen a bit of a shakeup. Bernie Sanders has been chipping up consistently and leads Hillary Clinton, another with close ties to a former champion, who lost a bit of ground. And there is still so much confidence among the fans that Joe Biden may enter the tournament that he is being given a percentage of the DNC chips in play. These numbers are also from the latest NBC poll:

Bernie Sanders 42.3%
Hillary Clinton 34.7%
Joe Biden 12.5%
Jim Webb 2.7%
Martin O’Malley 1.7%
Lincoln Chafee .7%


Trump officially became an RNC-sponsored player in the past week. He was wearing already wearing the logo but hadn’t signed an official sponsorship agreement to be a GOP Team Pro. The Republican National Committee pushed him to sign a pledge that he wouldn’t try to re-enter for any other team or as an independent if he doesn’t make it to heads-up play, and he signed the agreement. Trump now appears on the “team pro” page of the RNC players and receives the company’s full support.

Also, the loudest player in the game was caught in a quandary of sorts last week. Trump was on Hugh Hewitt’s talk radio show, a famously conservative-leaning broadcast. Hewitt had been asking questions of numerous Republican players regarding strategy, but Trump was unable to answer several of those inquiries and responded to the interview by stating that Hewitt unfairly asked “gotcha questions.”

One may remember a player named Sarah Palin from the 2008 Presidential Poker Open, who also claimed “gotcha” when caught without an understanding of basic game strategy. Ironically, she publicly showed alliance to Trump this week, noting that he shouldn’t need to “win a game of Trivial Pursuit” with regard to knowing specific game strategy. Palin reportedly said to a reporter on the rail, “I’d rather see a tournament winner who stood up to the naysayers and radical poker media than someone who knows if a flush beats a straight. You betcha!”

On the other featured table, Clinton took notice of Sanders’ increasing chip stack and realized that he may know more strategy than previously thought. It became clear that Clinton’s support had decreased due to her unwillingness to discuss the ongoing multi-tabling email scandal. In an attempt to pull railbirds back to her cheering section and boost her backers’ confidence, she began to seem apologetic. She claimed that she wasn’t aware that multi-tabling wasn’t allowed and took to the reporters she often ignores to discuss an actual apology.

The other woman in the tournament, Carly Fiorina, claimed a big success recently when she and the RNC pressured CNN to revamp their rules for the upcoming September 16 debate (featured table broadcast). Fiorina claimed that the chip counts used to determine those seated at the main table didn’t take her latest big pots into consideration, and CNN agreed.

Mike Huckabee tried to grab a bit of news coverage by visiting a poker dealer from Kentucky for refusing to award pots that had winning hands of two queens or two kings. Huckabee contended that the tournament staff had no right to “torch” the rules, and he rallied his railbirds in support of the court clerk, errr dealer. The rules stayed in place, the TDA rules remained as they had been since the tournament’s inception, and the floor staff rolled their eyes as play continued.

Source: @GovMikeHuckabee on

Source: @GovMikeHuckabee on


As promised last week, we have news to report on Deez Nuts. The player was climbing in the chip counts and garnering a good deal of fan support and media attention, but his registration to the tournament could not be found. He was also hiding his identity under an oversized hoodie, scarf and sunglasses.

Some extensive investigation revealed that the player was actually a 15-year-old boy from Iowa who filled out the registration form with a fake ID. Brady Olson was discovered, and his parents verified his real identity. The person who took his registration form thinking it was funny was put on probation, and Brady was grounded.

Brady’s chips were removed from play.


Tough Hand of the Week:

One player who always seems to be in a big hand is Trump. And even though Bush isn’t close to him in the chip counts, Trump likes to take jabs at Bush whenever possible, usually via social media.

Of the many hands in which the two have tangled, one stood out. Trump spent numerous rounds of that particular level talking about the importance of having energy at the table, and when he looked down at pocket aces, he raised under the gun. As it folded its way around to Bush in the big blind, Bush woke up with aces as well and reraised.

Trump yelled, “Oh, you’re playing now? I think your railbirds are asleep. You should do something to wake them up.” And he moved all-in.

Wake up Jeb supporters!

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Bush responded, “I’m here to play the game, not make a scene. I’ve been a loyal GOP player for decades, and I know how to play.” And he called all-in. “And don’t disrespect my fans!” he added.

Both players turned over aces, the board blanked, and they split the pot. But the railbirds did come alive for a few minutes.


Preview: Special action will take place on September 16 as the Republican players with the most chips take to a featured table to compete. We will have the highlights and fallout in our next report.

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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.