Though many people believe odds are not be in his favor, former poker player James Hinton is moving up in stakes.
A few years ago, when it was legal to play online poker in the US
, Hinton was earning thousands of dollars doing just that. Now, he decided it was time to take the game to a whole new level and get into politics. Of course, everyone was surprised when Hinton announced his candidacy, especially in a district which has been ruled by US Rep. Mike Thompson since 1999.
“I beat the toughest online poker games in the world. Now I want a shot at beating the lobbyists,” the 39-year-old candidate said.
And when you think of it, it takes many complicated skills to be that good at poker and some of them might come in handy in this tough political battle. Here are a few skills and strategies used in American poker rooms, which might also help Hinton defeat his opponent:
Picking the right game for his skill level and bankroll – Some might think that Hinton didn’t get this one right, because he has never run for political office before.
He doesn’t have the experience or the money, that’s true. But this weakness could actually work in his favor and he certainly sees it as a plus.
Profile of a poker player running for Congress:
Name: James Ross Hinton
Total Winnings: $29,797
First Place Finishes: 4
“I think people are fed up with the idea of career politicians. Most people I talk to say they want term limits on politicians. I feel the community is ready for a fresh new perspective,” the poker player told reporters.
As far as getting money for his campaign, things are complicated. Most candidates are backed by a party and have sponsors who contribute with huge amounts of money, and this helps raise votes. Hinton’s campaign will be running mostly on Facebook, with very modest resources, because he claims he’s trying to stand up to big banks, corporations and moguls.
Some might admire the gesture, but others would argue that he can’t expect to get the grand prize for such a low buy-in.
Paying attention to other players – Observation is key, both in poker and in elections. Only by watching his opponents closely will Hinton know what he has to do in order to defeat them. Voters expect reactions, statements, promises. In other words, they need to be convinced.
Hinton is running in the heavily Democratic 5th Congressional District, where people have been going with Mike Thompson as their top choice since 1999. The Republicans won’t even bother to compete against him this year. All this points to the fact that his main rival will be difficult to beat and the only way Hinton can do this is by exploiting his opponent’s weaknesses.
No mindless bluffing – Any professional poker player knows he shouldn’t bluff just for the sake of bluffing. There are absolutely no rules to this technique, so it’s up to players to decide when they can use it to their advantage.
Politicians often do it, especially when they know it will make them seem bold in the eyes of voters. But the thing with politicians is that they have so much power and money, that they can easily get out of trouble when someone calls their bluff.
Hinton, on the other hand, is entirely new to this political game and will have to work very hard to gain the public’s trust. So, as a professional poker player, he should know better than to risk losing everything on a bluff.
Understanding risk vs. reward – They say this is an essential poker skill and it has a lot to do with pot odds and demanding an advantage. Basically, if the reward is high enough, players will take a long-shot risk, but only if the return is higher and is worth it.
Hinton is not really risking a lot here, except for a small amount of money which he invests in his campaign. But surely he considers the reward to be worth it. If he wins, he becomes an important and influential public figure, and if he loses, running for Congress will still get him a lot of attention.
The truth is poker might be a game of skill, but Hinton sure needs a lot of luck to win this one. But fortunately, he doesn’t have much to lose. After all, Illinois lawmakers are considering legalizing online gambling and if his plan doesn’t work out, he might still be able to go back to his old poker career.