In the biggest upset in American politics (to some), Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. Many expected Hillary to crush him on November 8th but as the even commenced, it became apparent that the election would be closer than expected.
As the even dragged on, it became clear that Trump was going to shock the world and become the first reality TV star turned President. Now that the election is over, the race has been analyzed by all sides as the nation continues to divide over our next Commander-In-Chief.
Today we will take a look back at the 2016 election and analyze what poker players can learn from Donald Trump’s victory. Jennifer Newell wrote a series of Presidential Poker articles throughout the election cycle but this time around, I’m going to give my two cents about what happened and how it applies to poker.
Don’t Tap the Glass
Hillary Clinton clearly never heard about the poker cliché of “don’t tap the glass.” Poker players know that you do your best to avoid criticizing or chastising bad players as it sometimes forces them to improve their game.
One key blunder that Hillary and the Democratic Party made on a consistent basis was the constant name-calling towards Trump supporters. The biggest glass tap was perhaps her calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.”
That statement became a rallying cry for Trump supporters and may have led to some voters coming out to support him that may not have before. Name-calling directed towards a candidate at one thing but once you direct it towards the voters, that’s a critical error that Hillary couldn’t afford.
The Right Move at the Right Time Can Make All The Difference
Heading into the home stretch of this election, it appeared that Hillary Clinton had things wrapped up and some were even predicting a “blowout” victory by the Democratic candidate.
However, one move that Trump pulled toward the end of the election was focusing his attention on the key battleground states of Ohio and Florida. Various sources confirmed that Trump held more rallies in both states than Clinton.
Considering how close the vote was in both states, one can argue that Trump’s focus on those states ultimately led to his victory in the election.
This is very similar to when a poker player chooses to make a move late in a tournament. Perhaps they make an all-in bluff in a big pot or maybe they play a speculative hand that hits lucky and wins a huge pot.
In either event, the right move at the right time can make all the difference in where you finish in the tournament, just as a couple of moves late in the election shifted the victory to the Trump train.
Lack of Effort Leads to Lack of Results
If you’re a poker player and want to win in heads-up cash games, you usually spend some time trying to hone your skills. Otherwise, you do not have a reasonable expectation to win the game.
The same could be said about Hillary’s game when it came to Wisconsin. Amazingly, Clinton completely expected to win Wisconsin despite never stepping foot into the state. While Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes wouldn’t have made a difference in the end, one has to wonder whether a few visits to the state would have turned it blue.
Even Bad Players Go On Runs
The beauty about the game of poker is that at times anyone can win. That was the slogan for the World Series of Poker for years and this election was a prime example of that fact. Anyone looking at this election objectively over the last year completely expected Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency against Donald Trump once she secured the nomination.
To put it into poker terms, if I were to go into a high roller tournament against Fedor Holz, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Isildur1, Daniel Cates and Doug Polk, the expectation would be that I would get my ass handed to me. That’s a realistic expectation.
Despite the significant difference in skill, short-term luck and variance could allow me to go on a run that would lead to a victory. We saw similar in the 2016 Presidential Election.
In the past, candidates have been forced to pull out of an election for far less than the things that Donald Trump was accused of, or even said publicly. The same could be claimed for Hillary Clinton.
Looking at experience, Clinton far outpaced Trump in every area and despite his grand claims to “Make America Great Again,” we weren’t getting enough information on how he claimed to do so. He came across as largely unorganized and many believe that he is unfit to serve.
For Clinton, she had several issues hanging over her during her entire campaign, the most public being the email scandal. In addition, she was representing what many thought was a de-facto third term for President Obama. Many felt she would just continue Obamaesque policies and this turned off many voters.
Ultimately, the combination of public distrust of government and a less than desirable Democratic option opened the door for Trump to pull off the biggest upset in history. Had Sanders won the primary, we’d be talking about President-elect Sanders rather than President-elect Trump.
Odds are that most any reasonable Democratic candidate would have taken the White House in 2016 but circumstances allowed a Trump to go on the run of a lifetime and become the political equivalent of Jerry Yang.
You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play
Yes, another cliché is being thrown your way but it is an important one. If you’re a poker player and want to improve, you have to put in the hours in order to get better. When you fail to do so, you cannot expect to improve.
Looking at this election, the #1 reason that Hillary Clinton lost this race wasn’t that more people turned out to vote for Trump but rather that overall turnout was the lowest in 20 years.
In terms of number of votes cast, there were more votes cast than ever before. However, reports claim that over 90 million registered voters failed to vote this year. Only 57.9% of those that were eligible to vote chose to do so.
Out of those that stayed home, stats seem to point to Democrats staying home over Republicans. Hillary is currently ahead 1.7 million in the popular vote. How differently would things have turned out had even another 5 or 10% of eligible voters chose to come out and vote.
While there are some states where the extra votes would not have made a difference, but in other states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan*, Wisconsin, Virginia and even Arizona, the extra votes could have swayed the states in Hillary’s favor.
*Writer’s Note: Michigan has yet to officially be called for Trump but he is presently leading.