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The last time we checked in with a report from the 2016 Presidential Poker Open, Donald Trump had been chosen as the Republican Party’s nominee, and Hillary Clinton was still fighting for the nomination of the Democratic Party, which she did receive by defeating Bernie Sanders. Tonight, Trump and Clinton faced off in a special heads-up match on live television.

Other players still in the tournament are Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, but they were not invited to this special game due to their low chip stacks.

Most television channels across America broadcast the 90-minute heads-up match at Hofstra University in New York, and Lester Holt served as the tournament director. There was a rail of supporters for both candidates, complete with family and prominent backers of each player in the front rows. The rail was ordered to be silent during the match, though they occasionally chimed in after big plays.

Split Pots Start the Action

Play got underway with the opponents shaking hands and acting cordial. The very first hand saw quite a bit of action but all of it done in a friendly and respectful manner. Holt started them off with a question about jobs in relation to the poker economy, and Clinton was the first to act. She raised, of course, with a comment about her granddaughter’s second birthday. Trump began with a play that most had seen from him in previous games, and he raised as he talked about his many, many chips that were bigger than other chips. Clinton reraised with specifics on taxes and trade while criticizing his play as “trumped up” poker from his background of family members who played only High Roller tournaments. Trump denied that his family played Super High Rollers but stayed cordial, saying that he wanted Clinton to be happy. They continued reraising the minimum each time until Holt finally called the hand. They each turned over pocket kings, and they split the pot.

For the first 30 minutes of play, there were quite a few raises and reraises, but none of the hands went to showdown. Trump took a few pots, and Clinton took several as well, though most of the hands resulted in split pots.

At one point, a hand was played while discussing race in America, and Trump began to lose focus. As Clinton recited plans for dealing with racial divisions, policing, and gun violence, Trump reraised by putting in his chips one by one and calling them “law and order.” “It’s called law and order. You have to say those words. Law and order.” Clinton merely reraised, turned over aces, and took the pot without even seeing a flop. Holt authorized the result.

Clinton won another key pot when Holt brought up the birther movement that Trump had been talking about at various points in the early stages of the tournament. Trump denied starting the movement to verify President Barack Obama’s citizenship after he won the last two championships, while Clinton equated his actions regarding Obama’s birth certificate to racism. Trump lost track of the hand and didn’t notice when Clinton won and scooped the pot.

Trump Loses Key Hands

Though Trump began the heads-up event with a solid strategy and remained off tilt, he began to lose ground with a few key issues.

One that stood out was during a discussion with the tournament director about accusations of cheating by some Russian players months earlier. Clinton accused those Russian players – with whom Trump had formed previous friendships – of hacking into the tournament database to see secret interviews with the players. Trump then said that the hacking could have been done by a number of other people, as it “could be someone sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds.” Holt then asked the players to take their seats and start another hand.

Eventually, Trump went on tilt. The more Clinton smiled and riffled her chips calmly, Trump began splashing the pot and raising hands by odd amounts. Holt tried to maintain order and keep the play moving forward, but Trump yelled at him, saying he would play the game his own way.

Just before the last hand of the night, Trump praised himself for getting through the match without insulting Clinton and for keeping the chip stacks relatively equal throughout the action. Holt then started the last hand by asking both players if they would accept the outcome of the tournament no matter the winner. Clinton min-raised and said she supports the game of poker and the rules, she is playing the game for the people, and she will support the ultimate winner. Trump responded that he wants to make poker great again because the game is “seriously troubled,” and he reraised the size of the pot with a comment about immigrants. As Clinton went in for more chips, Trump admitted that even though he didn’t believe Clinton will make a good champion, he will support her. With that, Clinton simply called. Holt asked that they turn over their cards, and both had A-K. The split the pot due to no time left on the clock, and the match was over.

Clinton Wins but Stacks Remain Even

Little progress was made in the tournament. Both players retained most of their chips. Though Clinton did win more pots and increase her lead by a few chips, the overall standings remained the same.

Play is set to continue for another month until the final day of action on November 8.

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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.

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