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Yang Puts Poker in the Presidential Race

Andrew Yang Poker November 14 2019

It’s not often that online poker gets its moment in the spotlight during a presidential election. In fact, we can’t remember a single presidential candidate bringing the topic up.

That’s why poker players all around the Twitterverse flew into a frenzy when Andrew Yang, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said – unprompted – that online poker should be legal across the United States:

Yang seems to be serious about courting the poker vote. Joey Ingram invited Yang to be a guest on his podcast and Yang agreed. We contacted the Yang campaign to see if they had locked down a date yet, but they said they have yet to nail down a day.

We also asked them several poker-related questions like Yang’s most memorable poker hand or what his strategy would be in a heads-up match against Donald Trump, but the campaign said they wouldn’t be able to provide answers to those.

Yang hitting up Vegas

Yang will be in Las Vegas this coming weekend for a Bet on Yang Rally on November 17, though.

It’s likely that poker will come up given the venue. The rally is being held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, the home of the World Series of Poker. Almost-2019 WSOP POY Daniel Negreanu will be there since he and Yang are apparently buds now. The two had a phone call where they discussed online poker and Negreanu said that Yang “gets it.

Long Shot to the White House

Yang’s support for online poker was an unusual policy announcement from an unusual candidate. Yang is a businessman and lawyer who jumped into the political scene headfirst with radical new ideas like the “Freedom Dividend,” a basic universal income of $1,000 to every U.S. citizen.

The dividend is tied to another issue central to Yang’s campaign, the automation of the United States labor force. Yang’s policies have earned him some diehard followers, but he’s still a long shot in the odds to win the 2020 presidential election.

As of November 13, Yang is polling sixth in the Democratic primaries, ranging from one to four percent. BetOnline currently has him fifth to win the Democratic nomination at +1000, and at +2000 to win the presidency.

Presidents and Poker

While Yang is the first presidential candidate to bring up online poker as a policy issue, he’s far from the first political figure to play the game. Jim McManus, author of “Positively Fifth Street,” said in an interview with NPR that a whole slew of presidents liked playing poker.

Some, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Teddy Roosevelt, were more laid-back recreational players while others took the game more seriously. In the interview, McManus describes Barack Obama as a serious player who used to organize poker games to aid negotiations when he was in the Illinois Senate.

Other presidents like Richard Nixon were more serious high-stakes gamblers. Nixon even wrote about poker in his memoirs and said that he used his winnings to help fuel his first congressional campaign.

There are no reports of Donald Trump playing poker, but he did own one of the most popular New Jersey casinos and card rooms: The Trump Taj Mahal. The legendary poker movie “Rounders” even featured a few scenes in The Taj Mahal. If you want to check out the card room, you’ll have to rewatch the movie since The Taj was sold in 2016 and reopened as the Hard Rock Hotel in 2018.

Is Online Poker Legal?

If you live in the White House, you can’t fire up a game of online poker just yet. The legality of online poker is regulated at the state level and is currently legal in just four states: Nevada, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Delaware.

West Virginia passed legislation legalizing online gaming earlier this year but sites have yet to launch in the state. Several other states are taking steps toward legalization and regulation too, but Michigan had online poker legislation vetoed by the governor and others are facing pushback by land-based casinos.  

Lots of states seem to be inching toward legalization and Yang’s endorsement is the first calling for a nationwide push to legalizing online poker.