Politicians’ Favourite Card Games

Politicians’ Favourite Card Games

by Katie Coopersmith © 2017 Gifts for Card Players

Politicians really do seem like the most serious of creatures – and in many cases, they have to be that way. However, sometimes they let us catch a glimpse of their not-so-stoic sides…which is always appreciated! Many politicians throughout history have professed their love of card games both complex and simple. If we think about it, this makes total sense – isn’t politics a bit like a really, really complicated card game?

Let’s take a look at some notable leaders and their games of choice! Hint: poker features highly in the lives of more than a few of them…


Harry Truman

It’s no secret that the 33rd POTUS loved a good poker game! Truman famously passed many a weekend cruising down the Potomac River while playing poker with friends. Apparently, he preferred an eight-player game, and often managed to use his talents to win not just elections, but many a poker game, too.

Truman also hosted regular White House poker games, and his personal motto, “the buck stops here,” was even thought to be poker-related (‘buck’ referring to the button in poker, which was designated in Truman’s games by a buckhorn knife).

Truman once played poker against Winston Churchill when the British Prime Minister visited America to deliver his famous “Iron Curtain” speech. As the story goes, Truman even let Churchill win!

Queen Elizabeth II

Her Majesty is known to enjoy complicated games of solitaire and six-deck bezique. That’s about all we know about the card-playing habits of this famously private monarch, but we’re sure she’s skilled!

Bill Clinton

During Clinton’s 1992 campaign, he’s reported to have engaged in almost-daily Hearts battles with his campaign team. Apparently, Clinton was almost impossible to beat…until the day before the general election, when Newsweek’s Mark Miller reports having won his first game against the future prez after a whole year of trying. “I think he was a little distracted,” said Miller.

However, Clinton would later dally and stray from his game of choice during his next election campaign. In 1996, while staying at Steven Spielberg’s house in the Hamptons, Clinton picked up a new game that Spielberg had recently learned: “Oh, Hell.” Clinton reportedly returned to the White House brimming with excitement about the game, saying “We’re not playing Hearts anymore, we’re playing this new thing.” Many say that it remains Clinton’s game of choice.

Mahatma Gandhi

The Indian spiritual leader was a passionate bridge player, and is said to have even used bridge as a metaphor to illustrate foundational Hindu principles, such as the relationship between Kharma (predetermined events, or fatalism) and Dharma (human action and decision-making). Kharma, Gandhi said, is analogous to a bridge deal: we cannot change the hand that we are dealt. Dharma, on the other hand, is represented by the player’s gameplay decisions and the control that each person has over the outcome of the game.

Gandhi also said that the first time he ever felt the influence of God in his life was while playing in a bridge tournament in England. If that’s not validation for the importance of card games, what is!?

George Washington

America’s first president is known to have gambled at cards, and it seems that Whist was his game of choice. He kept a diligent record of his game playing statistics in a ledger book entitled “Cards and Other Play”…although he did once refer to gambling as “the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and the father of mischief”. Many would say that Washington’s aptitude for war strategy and cunning on the battlefield likely transferred over at least partially to his skill at the card table.

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