Big Daddy

Big Daddy,
This week is the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Any thoughts? Advice?
–Chet in Hawaiian Gardens

Me, too.

I like gamblers, always have. They take risks, calculate the odds, bet with their heart, tip their hat to Lady Luck and don’t cry when they sink out trace  – perfect attributes for a good politician. That’s one reason I always liked Willie and gave him a leg up when he first hit Sacramento.

The best money is the money earned, and the second-best is the money won. Poker gives you both, so the dough is twice as sweet and the spending is almost as much fun.

Everybody has their own sage rules about poker, and I’ve got a few, too. Always wear a hat, always play with table stakes, never play with reporters or school teachers, and always leave by 2 a.m. Always, always drink watered-down scotch. Always count your money at the table in front of everybody, and make sure you count out loud. Always draw to an inside straight. Always smile when you look at your cards – if you do this every time, no one else will able to read your thoughts. Forget the poker face – the more expression, the better.

Of course, poker is a lot like politics. Most of the people don’t know what the hell they’re doing. But it’s the bad players who don’t seem to really understand the game who can ruin your odds for success. If I had a nickel for every lobbyist or back-bencher in the Legislature who mucked up an otherwise solid political play simply because of their own ignorance and/or incompetence, I’d be a rich man.

The lessons for poker also apply to politics.

Don’t worry about when to hold ‘em or when to fold ‘em – if you have trouble knowing that, you should be playing bridge – or running for city council. Never bet more than you can afford to lose, and if you win a big hand, cackle loudly and do a victory dance in front of the other players. This really angers them and puts them off-balance.

Never play with airline pilots or evangelists – they get angry too easy – and avoid doctors at all costs. Doctors know nothing about card playing, and they can’t bet without worrying about how much they borrowed to get through medical school. Lobbyists are first-rate players, but if you sit down with them, make sure their clients are not at the table.

I perfected my poker-playing technique in the treasurer’s office deciding how to invest the taxpayers’ money, but I think I would have been a much better treasurer if I had played more. If I was doing it now, I would spend every day from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the card table, take a dinner break, then come back and play until midnight. That’s public service.

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