The Great Game of Poker: Lucky for us, President Trump knows how to make other countries fold

I am not what I’d consider to be a gambler. I’ve never lost once cent in a casino and I don’t put any faith in “fate” to provide any financial enrichment. But I have of late had quite an obsession with the card game of poker, for a lot of reasons. I suppose you could say that I’m at a juncture in my life that is inevitably linked with the popular gambler’s game that originated out of New Orleans just prior to westward expansion and became the modified representation of American capitalism. Poker is essentially a game of playing the cards you are dealt and making the most of them while forcing those around you to do things to your advantage. Poker is not about the cards, it’s about controlling the people who are playing the game. The chips that are bet in poker are currency which often become representative of actual cash, so the emergence of the game in America is a unique attribute that I have found myself studying of late because it fits my present lifestyle. We all play poker to some degree or another. The game just represents a frame of reference for casual play. Some are better at the game than others and it is to my great relief that we finally have a president who knows how to play it to win it all, when all the chips are on the table—he knows how to play the cards.

If you are in business of any kind the game of poker is being played, you have to use whatever cards you have to manage value against the marketplace. You are either getting played by the system or you play the system, and that’s the reality of capitalism. The by-product is worth it, but the process can be brutal. Wimpy soft minded people obviously are drawn to socialism because they don’t have the heart for that kind of game and those were the types of critics that were angry at President Trump for invoking his trade tariffs against the world markets. Yet when it came time to go all in with Europe Trump did it without blinking and the European Union blinked, and now we are suddenly talking about working toward zero tariffs in our trade with Europe starting with pharmaceuticals, medical products and soybeans—as announced by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. This was enormous news and it shows that Trump knows what he’s doing in regard to trade.

I think if more people in America understood the great game of poker they’d understand why President Trump is poised to win all these trade wars. The economics of the situation declares that all trade between nations be free and open, which is what conservatives have always wanted. The tariffs as they have been established through other administrations has been to leverage favoritism toward China, the EU and many other oversea markets to give them a shot at global dominance. But only free trade can truly do that when the value of the product traded sets the competitive circumstances of the exchange. The game between nations really isn’t any different from the game of poker, the values and strategies are the same, and Trump knows how to play it. So it is quite a relief that we finally have an American president who knows how to not only play the game, but to win it.

The aim of these tariff negotiations is to achieve a tariff free world where products can flow globally without modified value trying to shift favoritism to one country or another. If the value of the product is good, then the country trading it will benefit, naturally. Just as in poker, the values on the chips are universal throughout the game. But a $10,000 chip from one player can’t become a $100,000 chip when it comes in possession of another player and that is essentially what is happening under the present tariff system. Trump has been essentially calling the bets from the other players who clearly don’t have a hand better than what the President has, and the entire game is being reset.

What I find interesting about any game that human beings invent I find that most of them were created to fulfill a psychological relationship that the players have with the world they are living in. Such as poker emerged to play with the basic concept of capitalism as inherited from the Europeans during the 13th century where kings, queens and jokers were part of that Dark Ages world. On the river boats of the Mississippi in 1840 through 1950 the old European game evolved to incorporate American ideas about private property and having the ability to generate value and to use that value to push competitors into situations that the winner of the game desires. The trading of values through betting one value against another is what poker is all about and it’s the backbone of American business.

Politicians play poker all the time, and while they know the rules of the game, they don’t seem to be able to connect the game to real life largely because as government employees they don’t have to work very hard to generate value in their lives. When they bet something, they didn’t have to work very hard to earn it, so they don’t apply much risk to the game. For them smoking cigars and sipping on mixed drinks and talking with friends is what the game of poker is. They really don’t care who wins or loses because they are not personally invested in any of the values represented in the chips. That is essentially why traditional politicians are not good at doing what America needs done on the world stage and why we’ve been getting played more than we’ve played. Our presidents just didn’t understand the game that was being played against them so we ended up with all these terrible tariffs that other countries had placed on us and we’ve been getting short-changed when all along we have had the best cards at the table.

It took someone like Trump to know how to play our good cards, which is why Jean-Claude Juncker from the European Union is now leveraging toward a no tariff system. China isn’t far behind this decision and to understand the why and how, reporters and political commentators really need to understand the game of poker. My obsession with it is in recognizing the patterns and history of the game and how it applies to current events. That’s the reason we have games like this so that we can use leisure activity to inform us of the truly important things in the world. But when it comes to a high stakes game, whether it is for millions of dollars in a casino or a big business deal with even more value at stake, or its international political negotiations that Trump is conducting, the efforts and motions are all the same. And knowing how to win those engagements is more important than just the fun of casual play. If you are going to play, you should always play to win, and it is such a relief to find that Donald Trump is finally an American president who gets it and knows how to play poker. When the European Union folded yesterday, China is right behind them. Trump knows he has the cards to win, it’s just a matter of time before China has to reveal that they’ve been bluffing and will have to fold as well. It’s really that simple.

Rich Hoffman

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