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As October got underway, the 2016 Presidential Poker Open continued to roll on. Twenty players remain, but registration has yet to close, and the final heads-up showdown is more than one year away.

Two weeks ago, we were able to report that the first two bustouts of the tournament occurred.  After months of work at the tables, millions of dollars spent in training, and countless blunders, Rick Perry and Scott Walker were eliminated from the PPO.

That leaves 20 players remaining at the main tables of the tournament, the majority of them sponsored by the Republican Party and only five identifying as Democrats. And still, Joe Biden is reportedly considering buying in to the tournament, despite having lost the experience of the early levels and declining to participate in next week’s special Democratic debate. The tournament officials are keeping the cage open.

We should mention one player who has been seated at the main tables. She is only the third woman in the action and sponsored by the little-known Green Party. Dr. Jill Stein is a physician and an environmental activist, and she played in the 2012 Presidential Poker Open. She garnered only 7% of the chips in the final showdown, but she played hard. So, in early July, she announced another buy-in.

There are a few other players at the outer tables sponsored by the Libertarians and Constitution Party, but they have yet to be recognized by tournament staff.

Chip Counts/Percentages

The latest poll that took Republicans and Democrats into consideration was the Public Policy Polling. The results were dated October 4 but released just as we were going to press with this update.

On the GOP side, there are technically 15 candidates, but only one polled at less than one percent – Jim Gilmore. He has so few chips that many people didn’t even know he was still in the tournament. Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to dominate with Dr. Ben Carson in a serious second. Carly Fiorina lost ground since the last GOP featured table action.

Donald Trump 27%
Dr. Ben Carson 17%
Marco Rubio 13%
Jeb Bush 10%
Ted Cruz 7%
Carly Fiorina 6%
Mike Huckabee 4%
John Kasich 4%
Rand Paul 2%
Rick Santorum 2%
Chris Christie 2%
Bobby Jindal 1%
George Pataki 1%
Lindsey Graham 1%
Jim Gilmore Not enough chips to register

Hillary Clinton rose back to her comfortable position with the most chips of the Democratic players, despite Bernie Sanders showing increasing numbers in smaller polls. But even Sanders can’t beat Biden, who is polling in second despite not actually playing the game. Elizabeth Warren also polled well, taking many percentage points away from the lesser known candidates, even though she has stated firmly that she will not buy in this year.

Hillary Clinton 37%
Joe Biden 20%
Bernie Sanders 19%
Elizabeth Warren 11%
Martin O’Malley 1%
Jim Webb Not enough chips to register
Lincoln Chafee Not enough chips to register


As mentioned, Trump remains the chip leader of the players sporting the GOP logo. However, other candidates had been gaining ground on the business tycoon when his party line continued to lack substance.

But his insults toward other players grew thin, so much so that many people at a Trump rally in Oklahoma booed him when he called Marco Rubio a clown. Trump insisted that they were booing Rubio, but most in the media agreed that the railbirds were simply tired of the name calling. So, several days later, Trump changed his tune by releasing an official tax plan.

His poll numbers began to rise again, especially after people discovered his poker strategy consisted of more than platitudes and self-praise.

Fiorina enjoyed some time near Trump in the chip counts for a while but lost ground by continuing to insist that there was a fully-formed baby on the table that was killed by Planned Parenthood. She refused to provide proof of what she claimed to see, and no other players at the table saw it. Since then, she has continued to lose hands and chips.

Carson continues to win hands though he has yet to show any solid strategy or past game training. But as a “non-professional” player, many of the fans support his “outsider” perspective on the game.

Jeb Bush was one of the initial fan favorites in the tournament, but his struggles continued to run deeper. The most recent flub happened in a hand that happened after a school shooting in Oregon. He was involved in a multi-way pot and needed to say something that indicated his knowledge of the situation and concern about the players involved. What came out was, “Look, stuff happens. There’s always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.” He lost the hand and had to explain his response to the media numerous times in follow-up interviews.

When Bush first entered the tournament, he put a certain amount of distance between his campaign and his former-champion brother and former-champion father. But his inability to win hands without having those Georges on his rail and coaching him on tough hands was starting to frustrate his backers. In the past week, Bush softened his stance on his brother and father, inviting the former to take a bigger role in the tournament.

In the coming weeks and months, it is safe to say that former PPO champion George W. Bush is likely to be making appearances on the rail of the event and offering some strategy tips behind the scenes. At this point, Bush needs more than just the ace on the river to save his troubled run at the title.


As eyes remain on Biden to see if he ever enters the tournament, Clinton decided that the increasing popularity of Sanders was not good for her game. He was showing much more knowledge of the game than anyone anticipated he had, and Clinton’s backers insisted she change her strategy. So, within the past month, she has become friendlier with the media, more outspoken on controversial hands, and even more light-hearted about her own campaign.

To that end, Clinton made more than just an appearance on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live last weekend. She was the featured actor in a skit with another actor impersonating her, and she took the opportunity to poke fun at herself and, of course, Donald Trump.


Tough Hand of the Week:

It is no secret that Rubio credited Bush with being his mentor. Rubio learned the basics of poker from home games at Bush’s home in Florida, and Rubio credited Bush for much of the success of his burgeoning professional career. Now that they have to play against each other, however, the compliments are rare.

The two got into one particular hand that showed there are no friends at the poker table.

Rubio raised under the gun with A-K, and Bush reraised from the cutoff holding K-Q suited. Everyone else folded, and the flop produced a king and two hearts to give Bush the flush draw. Rubio bet a quarter of the pot with his pair of kings, and Bush raised to the size of the pot. Rubio took a few minutes before challenging his mentor further but finally called, saying the next champion should not be part of a dynasty like the Bush family.

Bush looked concerned with the call, especially when the turn didn’t bring another heart. Rubio led out again with a bet, and Bush just called, noting that the young Rubio simply didn’t have the experience to win the hand.

The river failed to complete the flush for Bush, and Rubio knew enough about Bush to pick up on a tell. Rubio flippantly pushed three stacks of high-denomination chips toward the pot. “Where is your family now, Jeb? They’re at the bar, and you can’t ask them for advice.”

“I don’t need their advice,” yelled Jeb. “I’m wearing my big boy pants!” With that, he called and saw that Rubio had the ace kicker.

The battle between the two may have just begun.

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Preview: The players sporting the Democratic logo on their shirts and sports jackets are anxiously awaiting their first featured table next Tuesday. CNN will broadcast the debate with just five players, though it’s likely that Clinton and Sanders will be the most active of the group. Stay tuned for the results of and fallout from that action.

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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.