Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford has received a lot of kudos for being a pragmatic leader with the steadfast ability to get things done. But his recent personal scandals highlight why he should stick to politics and avoid the poker room.
For the most part, serving as a mayor is a thankless job. These public officials are occupied with day-to-day tasks while receiving little of the recognition reserved for presidents, prime ministers and senators. But every couple of decades a high-profile mayor comes along who grabs the spotlight and won’t let go. And we don’t mean great mayors like Rudy Giuliani of New York City or Richard Daly of Chicago. We mean clowns who draw attention by doing laughable or unspeakable things.
Over the past year Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto took a page from former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Berry’s book. What kind of publicity stunt are we talking about? Being videotaped smoking crack cocaine. While Ford’s lifestyle adds up to bad political strategy, it’s even worse poker strategy.
He can’t stay sober
Drugs and heavy amounts of liquor don’t have any place in American or Canadian poker rooms
. There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit drunk while playing a friendly game with your buddies. But when you’re lined up against seasoned pros like Phil Ivey and Vanessa Selbst you’d better be completely under control.
They will pounce on any perceived mental weakness.
• Rob Ford has a record for pragmatism as the mayor of Toronto, but his personal record looks nothing but
• Lacking basic skills like sobriety, bluffing ability and knowing when to act conservatively, Ford would never make it as a pro poker player
• His stance on gambling: Ford backed a casino project in downtown Toronto in 2012
That’s a problem for Mr. Ford. He seems to wander through life more than a little drunk. Allegations swirl around him behaving in a belligerently drunk state on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012.
Sure, everybody has a few drinks too many on St. Patty’s, but Ford is reported to have knocked down a staffer and insulted an entire room full of people at a party at City Hall. After dancing drunkenly at a restaurant, he also allegedly made racial slurs to a cab driver.
And that’s just the start of things. In May 2013 Gawker posted a video of Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. After initially denying any connection between himself and the video, he later admitted to having smoked the illegal substance (more on that later). While I have no right to comment on Mr. Ford’s personal life, maintaining a constant state of inebriation isn’t much of a poker strategy.
He doesn’t understand bluffing
A pro poker player has to master the art of deception, constantly keeping their opponents guessing. When you have a strong hand, bet small to draw your opponents in. When you have a weak hand, bluff. Bet big, striking fear in the hearts of your opponents and inducing them to fold. And never betray your emotions. Be as cold as ice. In this way, a poker player is not unlike an actor.
Rob Ford doesn’t seem to have much time for acting. Rather, he wears his heart on his sleeve at all times. Last year during an interview Ford was asked if he had ever smoked marijuana. He responded: “I won’t deny that, I smoked a lot of it.” Later, when asked about the crack cocaine incident, he responded: “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine but … am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Um, probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.” Well, if it was during a drunken stupor then it was okay. To be honest I find Ford’s honesty refreshing, but it wouldn’t suit him well at the poker table.
He doesn’t know when to take his foot off the gas
Poker is a true game of skill, requiring a great deal of strategy. Hubris doesn’t do any good here, as a pro needs to be able to recognize when the cards are stacked against him. When chances of success look slim in the face of formidable opponents, there is no shame in folding, and living to fight another day. Sometimes minimizing losses is the best thing you can hope for.
Rob Ford doesn’t seem to understand this. No matter how dire the situation looks, he always seems to push for more. Despite plummeting approval ratings and calls for resignation following a scandal-filled 2013, Ford refused to step down. Understandable, but now he’s gone a step further and announced he will seek reelection, going so far as to call himself “the best mayor this city has ever had.” Ford claims to have given up drinking and begun living a healthier lifestyle, but it’s hard to undo the damage of 2013. In addition, his support for changing Canadian gambling laws to allow more commercial casinos hasn’t done him any favors with social conservatives.
The people of DC forgave Berry for his crack/prostitute incident, but will the people of Toronto forgive Ford? It’s possible, but he will have to tone things down a lot. Phrase himself as a level-headed pragmatist, and avoid making grandiose statements like the one above. Watching the video of him smoking crack, he doesn’t look all that “great.”