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Sometimes, a poker writer follows one player for several rounds of action – or even a day – to chronicle various aspects of his or her play. It is a way to get to know a player’s style and possibly a look into that person’s thought process with regard to the game.

Today, we do that with Donald Trump. He is the most outspoken player in the 2016 Presidential Poker Open by far, and he has been a dominant player for several months.

When we last checked in, Republican players were taking serious jabs at each other while Democrats politely disagreed – all in a matter of several debate settings. Over the past two weeks, however, the tournament has transformed into the Donald Trump show, with little media coverage given to most other players. So, it’s time that we take a look at how Trump has been playing his game.

Latest Chip Percentages

Trump still holds the chip lead of the Republican-sponsored players, and Ben Carson still remains in the top three. But Ted Cruz recently surged in the Iowa polling, putting him firmly in second place.

According to the Quinnipiac polling for the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus on November 24, the chip positions were as follows:

Donald Trump 25%
Ted Cruz 23%
Ben Carson 18%
Marco Rubio 13%
Rand Paul 5%
Jeb Bush 4%
Carly Fiorina 3%
Chris Christie 2%
Mike Huckabee 2%
Rick Santorum 2%
John Kasich 1%
Lindsay Graham Not enough chips to register
George Pataki Not enough chips to register
Jim Gilmore Not enough chips to register

The Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus numbers from Quinnipiac polling on November 25 showed a close race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for most of the chips, with Martin O’Malley still struggling to gain ground.

Hillary Clinton 51%
Bernie Sanders 42%
Martin O’Malley 4%

Key Hands During Round 1 with Trump

When the players first took their seats for the day, the television cameras circled Trump, knowing he would likely have something to say about the reports from the previous day of tournament action. And he didn’t disappoint.

“Look at the cameras, folks!” Trump yelled to his fans on the rail, who all applauded and smiled. “They all want to hear what I have to say because I’m their key to ratings. The media is awful and selfish, but they love me. They can’t get enough!”

The other players at the table were discussing the terrorist attacks in Paris, as they had been for several days.

As the cards were being dealt for the first hand, Carson asked casually, “Anyone here from Syria? I doubt it, since Asia is so far from here.”

“Syria is not in Asia, Ben,” snarled Bush. “Geesh, man. Do you even own a map?”

“I was just testing you all to see if you were paying attention,” Carson responded, opening his eyes to peek at his hole cards.

Carson squinted at his chips, counted out two times the big blind, and bet from middle position. Cruz called from the button, and Trump raised from the big blind. Everyone else folded, and Trump showed 7-2 before tossing the cards to the dealer and collecting the pot.

The next hand consisted of all players folding around to Bernie Sanders in the big blind. Sanders had been ignoring all of the conversation by wearing headphones and reading the day’s news on his tablet, while the rest of his tablemates discussed reigning champion President Barack Obama and his recent press conference.

Obama had spoken from the G20 summit about the Paris attacks and the responses from the GOP players to the idea of Syrian refugees coming to the United States. Obama said that refusing to let Syrians play in US poker tournaments was “not American,” and Cruz was personally insulted.

As the next hand was dealt, Cruz voiced his anger about Obama criticizing the GOP players from overseas while the other players looked at their hole cards.

George Pataki folded, as did Marco Rubio and Carson, but Cruz let his anger fuel his action. He raised four times the big blind from the hijack position, and Bush folded and shook his head in disgust. Trump folded but noted that this hand wasn’t an important one and he had to take a phone call from a big-time supporter. Trump stood up and away from the table to say into the phone, “I knew you’d support me. I’m the best candidate. I’ll send you a copy of my latest book. It’s a best seller, obviously.”

Sanders called Cruz’s raise, and O’Malley slammed his hand into the muck in frustration. The flop delivered three hearts, and Sanders bet half the pot. Cruz had worked himself into a frenzy by that point, still ranting about Obama’s statements.

“How dare Obama insult me after I insulted him?!” Cruz said with a scary, sly smile. “His comments are unbefitting of a PPO champion, that’s for sure. Here’s what I say to him. Insult me to my face, not from overseas, not from Turkey. You’re scared, Obama. Come here and insult me to my face!”

“Clock!” yelled Sanders, barely looking up from his tablet.

Cruz responded, “And now you’re calling the clock on me? Are you serious? I bet you’d like a shot clock on every hand, wouldn’t you, Bernie? That’s a very socialist move, something you might do.”

The tournament director was already at the table and counting down the seconds that Cruz still had to act on his hand.

“I can call or I can raise,” said a heated Cruz. “I have all kinds of choices here, not like the decisions that Obama forces on us or talks about when he’s far away and not here to talk to my face.”

“Ten seconds,” said the tournament director.

“Fine!” responded Cruz. “I fold! I don’t want to play these stupid cards anyway, not against a socialist, a socialist who likes Obama. Do you have something to say about that, Bernie? Something you can say to my face?”

Sanders simply stared at Cruz for a moment, showed two hearts for the flopped flush, and started stacking his new chips while listening to the new Fetty Wap single in his Beats By Dre headphones.

While Cruz tried to compose himself, Trump returned to the table saying, “That phone call was huge. It was the best phone call there ever was. I’m sure the cameras will return to this table any minute to find out who I was talking to. They can’t stay away from me.”

Key Hands During Round 2 with Trump

Later that afternoon, we checked in for another round of poker with Trump. It turned out only six players were at the table by then, as Sanders was out for hernia surgery and Carson was making a quick trip to Jordan to look at refugee camps.

Credit: Carson Presidential Campaign

O’Malley started the hand under the gun and raised, despite protesting, “I don’t like the name of this position. As the former mayor of Baltimore, I can attest that there are too many guns out there. We minimize that by using UTG in poker.”

George Pataki and Marco Rubio folded, and with Carson sitting out, Cruz was next to act on the button. He was busy reading some Dr. Seuss books, however, and decided to fold so as not to mess up his flow. Bush called the raise from the small blind, but Trump reraised from the big blind.

O’Malley folded, and Bush cursed, “Bloody hell, Trump!” before folding. He then added, “Do you think I sounded British? Could that appeal to the British voters?”

Trump scooped the pot and couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk to the cameras, which were again focused on his table.

“Remember 9-11, folks?” Trump asked the railbirds.

A cheer rose from the fans with a somber tone, of course.

“Well, don’t you all remember those Muslim poker players who cheered in the Atlantic City casinos when 9-11 happened?”

The crowd was silent but attentive.

Trump continued, “Oh yeah, I remember. I remember everything. Those Muslims were so happy that the US was being attacked. They even trashed the poker room, stole poker chips, and punched some poker dealers. Don’t you remember?”

“Yeah!” screamed the fans. “Worst day ever!”

Pataki stood up. “Wait a minute. This didn’t happen.”

“Oh really?” Trump asked, motioning to the rail to respond. “You remember, don’t you?”


“Trump, you are lying,” insisted Pataki. I know we’re sponsored by the same party, but you can’t just lie like this.”

Trump walked over to Pataki, sidled up next to him at the table, and whispered, “Oh yes, I can. Watch me.”

Pataki did watch, as Trump riled the crowd with false memories of Muslims cheering the 9-11 attacks from the land of Chris Christie. The fans started chiming in, “I remember! I saw it on the Internets!”

Trump had no intention of stopping the momentum from the room. “I remember that poker reporter who wrote about it at the time. She looked like this,” and Trump scrunched his face and crouched down to act like he was rolling a wheelchair.

That particular wheelchair-bound poker reporter rolled toward the table and stopped right in front of Trump. “You mean me?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah. You. Remember that article you wrote about the Muslims?” Trump questioned.

The reporter responded, “I remember writing about how the Muslims at the poker tables were in tears and utter shock, as were the rest of the poker players in that room at the time. Do I need to find that article for you?”

Trump took a moment and looked at the cameras, then back at the crowd. “You all know what I’m talking about, right?” he asked. “She doesn’t even remember what she wrote! There must be something wrong with her brain, too!”

The fans cheered, and Trump immediately pulled some of his own books from a box under the poker table and took them to the rail to autograph them for his supporters. Those fans chanted, “Track the Muslims!” as they high-fived Trump and begged for signed books.

Credit: AP

Pataki sat in stunned silence, O’Malley went to the bar for a drink, and Rubio and Cruz started their own conversation about the terrible reign of Obama. Bush bagged his chips neatly, wiped a tear from his cheek, and left the tournament area for the night.


Preview: Something is bound to happen in the next two weeks that doesn’t involve Donald Trump. We will find it. 



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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.