The Norman Transcript


May 15, 2008

Presidents at the poker table

Given the high-stakes gamble of being president, it's no surprise that several of our 20th century presidents have played the game of poker:

The first president who we are sure played poker was Grover Cleveland. He was an especially hard-working president and took time off on many a Sunday afternoon to play the game. "My father used to say that it was wicked to go fishing on Sunday," he once explained, "but he never said anything about draw-poker."

Warren G. Harding's advisers were known as the Poker Cabinet because they frequently played poker together. Harding played at least twice a week and gambled away a priceless set of White House china dating back to the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes.

Because of paraplegia brought on by his polio, Franklin D. Roosevelt was unable to relax by taking long walks or playing golf or tennis. But he often had dinner with his poker-playing pals and then adjourned to a marathon session of cards. His favorite game was seven-card stud. Among the regulars were the Vice President, Speaker of the House, Attorney General, Secretary of Commerce, and at least one Supreme Court Justice. The President's secretary, "Missy" LeHand served cocktails and often played in the game. One of the rules was that nobody could discuss anything serious at the evening poker sessions. The only thought was how to outfox the other players.

Roosevelt selected as his last vice president another poker player. Harry S. Truman was playing poker when he found out that he had become president. Truman was known as an excellent poker player, and "The buck stops here" became the famous slogan of his administration. (The "buck" actually refers to a betting marker in poker.)

In office for just a few months, Truman had to decide whether or not to drop the atomic bomb on Japanese cities in order to bring World War II to a close. To help him focus during the decision-making process, Truman engaged in an almost continuous game of pot-limit poker aboard the presidential yacht, the Williamsburg. Often all three branches of government were represented at the poker table. The group would board the ship Friday afternoon and sail the Potomac until Sunday afternoon.

Born a Quaker, Richard Nixon remained unfamiliar with any form of gambling until his mid-20s. But during his World War II years in the Navy, Nixon won $6,000, which helped to fund his initial -- and successful -- run for Congress.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Parents should work on themselves first

    I absolutely love it when people begin to realize that the problems they’re having with a child are of their own making; when they begin to realize, in other words, that the child is not the problem — they are. All this time (however long ...

    July 25, 2014

  • Helping cat with first veterinarian visit

    Dear Dr. Fox: A stray kitty adopted me a couple months ago and has since been tamed enough that I have found a vet to neuter him and do some much-needed dental work. My fear is that the poor boy will be so traumatized by this ordeal that ...

    July 24, 2014

  • Veterans Corner needs volunteer to drive residents to OKC VA

    Veterans Corner volunteer of the week David Sudduth has been with us for the last eight years. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served during the Vietnam War. David and his wife, Carolyn, have had their home in the Newalla area ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Low-cost and free cell phone options for thrifty seniors

    Dear Savvy Senior, What are the cheapest cell phone options available today to seniors living on a shoestring budget? I only need it for occasional calls. — Seldom Calling Senior Dear Seldom, For financially challenged seniors who only ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Harrah residents at home in restored vintage camper

    Sulphur — David Wiegert was quick to help a couple of newbie campers at the Buckhorn Campground on Arbuckle Lake in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. What Dave offered was badly needed advice on setting up travel trailers, where to ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Historic quilt from Noble on auction block

    An alert quilter and teacher is concerned about a vintage quilt from Noble that’s being auctioned on eBay....

    July 20, 2014

  • Bark for Life brings pets into fundraising

    Local American Cancer Society member and Norman Regional nurse is at it again, raising awareness for cancer patients with an event that gets people moving. “Bark for Life” is a noncompetitive walk that will be from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Deadline for entering United Way’s The Ride extended

    Kids ages 3 to 8 are getting ready to roll on their decked out big wheel tricycles in an effort to raise money for the United Way of Norman. The Ride, a big wheel race organized by First American Bank and other local businesses, is ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Fundraiser set

    The Apple Gold Group, a franchisee of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar, will host a flapjack fundraiser July 26 at Applebee’s, 500 Ed Noble Parkway in Norman....

    July 20, 2014

  • Sculpture brings tornado-torn community together

    After the May 20 tornado tore through Moore in 2013, hundreds of families were left to pick up the pieces. And it was in these old, shattered pieces of people’s homes and scattered debris that two local artists found something new....

    July 20, 2014