While poker has become an accepted game of skill in many countries throughout the world, it has not come without a long battle with the powers that be. Perhaps that could be a reason why we don’t see many politicians play a lot of big money poker.
There are some politicians who are into poker in some form, though. One may remember the infamous story of John McCain being caught playing play-money poker during a meeting on the ongoing Syrian conflict. One may also remember the even more recent challenge by Norwegian pro Ola Amundsgaard to any Norwegian politician to a game of online poker (it was accepted by a pro-poker politician).
Despite those occurrences, the number of high profile politicians who have delved into professional poker are few and far between. However, there are some political figures out there who have done just that. Here are four who have taken to the felt.
The British millionaire has never actually served in any sort of council or parliament, but Stuart Wheeler has long been involved with a number of right wing parties behind the scenes. The 78-year-old was a long time member and financial donor to the UK Conservative Party before being expelled for making a donation to another political party.
He then founded his own party before being made treasurer of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a highly influential role which involves raising and managing the party’s finances. Wheeler has also shown a love of gaming and poker, having delved into poker at the highest levels.
His best achievement in poker is a 33rd place finish in the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. He may have only won $35,000 (this was before every one under the sun took part in the WSOP) but 33rd out of 839 players is no joke.
Jonathan Miller is the figure in this piece who has attained the highest level of political office – the State Treasurer of the US state of Kentucky. Now some of you may be thinking something along the lines of “some high level – Kentucky’s not even a country!” But being State Treasurer in a jurisdiction of over four million people is quite impressive.
Miller was also chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, one of the two major political parties to exist in the state, until 2007. Besides politics, the 46-year-old has also displayed a fondness towards the game of poker and has shown himself to be a shark on the felt.
The former state politician has one WSOP in-the-money finish to his name – an eighth place finish in a $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em tournament in the 2012 event. A good first showing at the WSOP for the former Treasurer.
The Russian is more of a poker player turned politician, but the interesting career move by Max Katz makes him a good and interesting entry for this piece. The 28-year-old was elected last year to the municipal council Shchukino, a district in the suburbs of Russia’s capital of Moscow. His campaign was funded by his poker earnings.
Katz did well in a number of mainly smaller live poker events, including a few WSOP circuit tournaments in Las Vegas. He also has one WSOP in-the-money finish which came in a $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Heads-Up event in 2008.
Besides playing the game, Katz has also found some success as a staker of other professional poker players, the most famous of whom was 2011 WSOP Main Event champ Pius Heinz. Hopefully, Katz’s success in helping the careers of up and coming poker players can help in his aim to improve the lives of residents living in the district he serves.
This could potentially be a controversial entry as Kassela has not ever held any kind of political position, nor does it look like he has had any past political involvement. However, Kassela did recently file papers to run for Congress for the Democratic Party in the US state of Nevada’s 3rd district.
The move could be successful for the 45-year-old, who lives in Las Vegas, the largest city in Nevada. He has also been a notable figure among the poker community throughout the last decade, having made numerous achievements in the game of poker.
Among those achievements was winning two WSOP gold bracelets, as well as 19 total WSOP in-the-money finishes. Kassela also has two World Poker Tour (WPT) cashes, which have contributed to well over $2 million in live poker tournament earnings.
Kassela will be hoping to replicate his success on the felt in the congressional elections due to be held next year.