July 3rd, 2008
04:00 PM ET
15 years ago

McCain and Obama put it on the line

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/03/art.gambling.getty.jpg caption=" Both presidential candidates have been known to enjoy gambling."]

(CNN) – John McCain often brags about gambling with his political career by reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats or by voting against his party. But it turns out risking his political ambition is only part of a larger affinity for the thrill of putting it on the line.

An article published Thursday by Time Magazine takes a look at both McCain and Barack Obama’s love for the tables.

McCain is a heavy-betting high-energy craps man, while Obama prefers the slow pace and strategy of poker, reporters Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf write.

“Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John's life,” the article quotes former McCain strategist John Weaver as saying. “Taking a chance, playing against the odds.”

You won’t find McCain at the low-stakes tables, but rolling the dice with thousands of dollars at stake. He draws the line at taking markers, or loans, from the casinos to play.
He’s not in it for the money, the article says, but the camaraderie at the table and the thrill of winning.

Aides have recently curbed McCain’s casino visits, and Obama’s gambling days have waned since arriving in the U.S. Senate. But back in Springfield, Obama and three other state senators made up the core of a weekly bi-partisan poker game that often included lobbyists and bank, insurance and utilities agents.

Tight play and an unwavering desire to win kept Obama raking in the $3 top raise pots, and led a Republican rival to exclaim, “Doggone it, Barack, if you were more liberal in your card-playing and more conservative in your politics, you and I would get along much better.”

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (200 Responses)
  1. John

    No kiding Smash...

    A choice between somebody who plays a game of skill with calculable risks and reasonable betting versus a game of mere chance involving thousands of dollars.

    Yeah, I'd say McCain isn't worth the risk.

    Molly, please stay on topic.

    July 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  2. 4obama

    not willing to go snake eyes with America...GOP-kada
    McCain is bluffing, he does not have a hand...

    July 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. ber6964

    Vote for Intelligence (Obama) Not for Insanity (McCain)!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  4. ron

    hey captain smash

    Mccain played against the house. Obama well you got it He played with all those with all those people he wouldn't be seen dead with lobbyist yuk bank, insurance, and utility agents, heaven forbid. as for taking markers what do you figure Tony Rezko's holding for that house deal

    July 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. john williams san diego, ca.

    Figures that Obama would like a game that if you can't bluff you have to fold sort of like Jimmy Carter.

    July 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. Paul In Seattle

    I'd like to play McCain at a dice game downtown. That would be fun. Maybe a game of three card Monty.

    July 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. roscoe

    It is very telling about McCain:

    He wants you to believe he's risking it all. But he's betting the don't come line – that is, he's betting with the house all along. If he really had some nuts he'd resign his senate seat while running for President instead of being the personification of waste, fraud, and corruption by taking a paycheck he doesn't need to not work 3 1/2 days per week. It is pathetic. Obama is no better – they are indeed the politicians of change we can count on: no change at all.

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. Anita from Arizona

    McCain shoots the dice and Obama uses strategy. Keep this in mind when reviewing their policies when voting.

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. John McCain-McFlip-Flop-McBush is no "maverick"

    I see even the McCainiacs and Hillary's Hater Club don't take any holiday. Maybe they should act like George Bush and take off as much as possible.

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. from MA

    I would like to see Obama and McCain play cards together.

    July 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. Mellow Down


    Take a chill pill, you sound like a rabid ocelot. You are making no sense.

    At least the boy's know how to relax and enjoy.

    July 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. J. Richter

    Poker is actually a very intellectual game. In total I would prefer a non gambling president. But a big gambler in charge of red button decisions?

    And one that admits shortcomings in knowledge on economics, maintains thousands in credit card debts and forgets to pay property taxes for four years is one I will not support for president in the next four years after the mess of the past eight years.

    July 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  13. Cynthia - Arkansas

    I prefer the poker player. At least he has to be SMART and SKILLED to win. Throwing dice, throwing money! Yicks! We've already had that for 8 years. All of Bush's buddies have been paid well for their campaign donations. I already see McSame lining up to do the same thing. All this talk about off-shore drilling, when the oil companies already have 70 million acres that they don't drill now. Talking NAFTA, CAFTA and now Colombia so his corporate doners can get cheap labor. America better wake up!

    July 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. Linda of Atlanta

    Of what value is this article? Everybody knows McCain has a high propensity for wanting to win against the odds. He is 72 years old, marginally intelligent, inarticulate and he is seeking the highest office in the land. Duh!

    July 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  15. RV - Arizona

    McCain gambling strategy is not so smart because the house always has the upper hand.

    I'll never vote for that counterfeit hero! He's a dam traitor to this country!

    Why doesn't he declasify the 35 propaganda radio show he did for the enemy during the Vietnam war. Dam traitor!

    July 3, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. Neal

    Cute. So what?
    Although McCain sounds a little gross.

    July 3, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. Judgement over experience

    As we have seen during the campaign, how he has run his campaign and even in this article, Obama is methodical, practical and has shown brilliant judgment, exactly what we need in a president. Mccain is a gambler and will gamble our futures' away.

    July 3, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. Louis

    McCain can afford to wager thousands of dollars–just get it from his multi-millionaire wife who inherited a beer distributorship fortune.

    July 3, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Auntie Coosa, Blairsville, Georgia, USofA

    Since Senator John S McCain played the odds in Viet Nam and won, I'd say his odds in the USofA are good.

    Senator Barack H Obama is holding a losing hand but he's still betting he can bluff the Voters.

    Think the scenario through before you pull that lever or mark that X on the ballot. Do you want a seasoned winner or an empty "change" pocket loser? (Sen. BHO keeps making changes in his public statements so often he needs an 18-wheeler to hide all the previous contradictory sound bites.)

    July 3, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. Nathan

    "You won’t find McCain at the low-stakes tables, but rolling the dice with thousands of dollars at stake."

    And McCain tries to paint Obama as an elitist.

    July 3, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. Jason

    I am really starting to get worried about the Democratic party as once again they backed the wrong horse. Change we can believe in has turned into Change whatever I want. If he continues at this rate he will be a more conservative Republican than McCain by election day. Sure am glad all the young kids and educated people could see past the slick speeches and slogans and pick this guy for what he stands for. Oh wait what exactly does he stand for....TODAY!

    July 3, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  22. Ross in MD

    Key point seems to be that Obama always won in poker (a game of strategy more than luck), whereas McCain was just gambling away thousands.

    Who do YOU trust with the economy?

    July 3, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. James "Hussien" Monroe

    Which one of these pursuits seems "reckless" ... CRAPS or POKER ?

    Which one involves reading & understanding people interaction?

    I'm not sayin .... you know, I just sayin ....

    July 3, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. ObamaMama

    Being a poker player myself, I find that quite amusing and telling. I have lived in Las Vegas and never, ever put my money on the line! McCain has a problem if he puts it 'all on the line'. I will put my faith in the poker man!

    Obama 08

    July 3, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. Pat Riot

    I would never gamble and vote for Obama. I don't plan on betting my liberty.

    July 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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