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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is Obama On Tilt?

Poker is a game that is rich in language and strategy. Good poker players know they are not playing their cards but rather playing their opponents. They read their opponents looking for "tells," signs from their opponents that signify what kind of hand they have. Are they playing with their chips different, slouching and looking upset, anxious to shove chips, giving any sign, or tell as to what their hand may be?

Read tells of their opponent determines if they call a bet, bluff a set of rags (bad cards), limp along trying to show a weak hand, or storm all in shoving every chip in the pile daring their opponent to call the bet. Being able to read the other players at the table is a lot more important than the strength of the cards in your hand.

In poker if a player has lost a hand on a very bad beat, such as his opponent pulling the one card out of 52 in the deck that could give him the winning hand, if a player loses a good stack of chips on a bad beat he can go into a funk. The funk is known as being "on tilt" and is often characterized by a bad decision or two in the ensuing hands. Often a player on tilt plays himself out of a tournament, or all his cash.

The very best players recognize when they are on tilt and become very tight players, folding hands they would normally play and only playing if they get top cards. They take a few hands off to regroup, refocus and reset their internal emotions and instincts.

In poker there can come a time when one player has significantly more chips than his opponents to be able to control the game. Wise poker players with large stacks control the table in a manner where everyone knows they are in control, but at the same time look for hands and situations to eliminate other players from the game. The wise player picking and choosing hands to collect more chips from opponents until game over, using his large stack to put opponents in difficult decisions to call bets and possibly lose it all, or fold their hand having lost just a few more chips.

Amateur players play their own cards and do not have the ability to read and analyze opponents as well as the professional and experienced players. Amateur players with large stacks often begin storming into hands and trying to bully opponents, and often find themselves taking a bad beat or two, finding themselves on tilt and suddenly not in control of the table any more.

At some point there is some luck involved, but a lot more so for the amateur than for the seasoned professional, who more often than not make their own luck. More than luck success is dependent on knowing your opponents, being able to calculate odds for hitting certain hands for yourself and your opponent, ability to out maneuver opponents into betting hands you want them to bet, and managing your resources, i.e. chips, so you can last to the end.

Last January President Obama and the Democrats were starting the new year with the largest stacks of chips in the poker game of American politics. They had plenty of investors having securely won the Presidential election and insurmountable majorities in both houses of Congress. Over the course of the next twelve months they have managed to squander their stacks on bad cards, and bad reads of the others in the game. Most notably they misread the player in politics that counts the most: the American voter.

The first hand was an "all-in" situation by Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress, passing the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ostensibly to provide jobs for Americans immediately the ARRA still has over 60% of the funds left unspent. A huge spending bill filled with pork it passed in a matter of days and told the American people "we control the table and will use our chips and position to pass what we want."

After the bill was passed and the cost and where the funds were going became more publicized grumbling began with the voters. Next up was "Cap and Trade" legislation that would add hundreds of billions of costs to American industries, shove more manufacturing jobs out of our country into others and cost jobs. While this was being debated unemployment numbers in American began to grow. The members of the House and the Senate who have more seasoning in the political poker game began reading the public and pulled back on the Cap and Trade bill and let it languish in political purgatory.

On top of this the American automakers were failing and about to go under. Rather than let that happen, Obama and Congress pushed more chips into the game and sent billions to GM and Chrysler, and then billions more. It was seen by the public as not a bailout for the automakers but for the United Autoworkers. Decades of increasingly bad contracts for the companies and increasingly beneficial for UAW members pushed the automakers to the brink. More discontent among the American public caught the eye of a few more players in Congress.

Pushing more chips into the pot, Obama flew off to Europe to try to secure the Olympics for his home town of Chicago. More chips sent him to Virginia and New Jersey to campaign for Democrats running for governor in those states. More chips from Obama and Democrats in Congress when they headed to Copenhagen to craft a global warming agreement that would put America at a severe economic and manufacturing disadvantage and cost hundreds of billions more. Bringing terrorists bent on killing Americans from military lock ups to trial in New York City with the same rights as American citizens. Closing the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay. Loss. Loss. Loss. Loss. Loss. Loss.

Chips began to move from the stacks of Obama and Congressional leadership and to the stacks of other players. Power began shifting at the table.

The biggest hand of the game so far was health care. Making secret deals away from the table to gain more chips from other players, Obama and his allies in Congress made deals with three individual states at the expense of others, deals with the pharmaceutical industry, with the American Medical Association and with organized labor. Each of these deals cost the American public more money and gave these groups those funds. Cobbling the deals together it appeared that Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the far-left of the Democratic Party had bought the cards needed to win the hand.

The cost was dear as the American public was amassing its own stack of chips and they were collecting more and more from the center and center left of American politics for the right and center right to play. And play them they did last Tuesday in Massachusetts when a fellow name Scott Brown pulled an Ace on the hole card. Obama and his allies have lost most of their stack on this hand after bleeding much of their stack the previous twelve months.

This past week President Obama had the appearance of a player on tilt, joining him were his allies in the media who have been pushing his agenda and government take over of health care, encouraging Obama to ignore the obvious tells of the other players, especially the American voter, and push ahead betting more chips. Finally taking a read of the American voter Pelosi and Reid seemed to sense that the cards and chips have shifted and have sat back and not made any bets since Tuesday. Obama and his Administration have taken to the airwaves and speech circuit and continue to bet chips.

Of the hundreds and hundreds of speeches and television appearances Obama has made in the past fifty-three weeks as President none has been more important than the State of the Union speech this evening. It will provide a tell for the American public and how to play their chips in the coming year and midterm elections.

Will Obama continue his misreading of an American public that has as many people disapproving of his performance as approving? Will he continue to misread the members of Congress who last February rushed through his stimulus bill? Will he lash out at opponents, lecture the nation and look somewhat petulant? Will he adhere to his belief that he knows better than the public what is good for them? Will President Obama push more chips into the game playing the same cards he had when he lost most of his stack?

Is Obama on tilt?

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