Poker has a long history and has been popular at least since the birth of the nation. As a result it should probably come as no surprise to learn that a number of presidents have played the game of poker. Really the only thing that is surprising is given how many of them have played poker is that the game has somehow become illegal in most of the country.
Not only is it true that American presidents have played poker it would actually be fair to say that majority of them have played the game, often very seriously. Poker is a game that has been around for years and the early presidents were almost all regular players. This was mainly because gambling was a popular past time through much of history. Up until the start of the twentieth century it was not at all uncommon for poker to be played almost everywhere. It was not until laws to outlaw gambling started to appear that we started to see presidents who weren’t regular players.
Even in the twentieth century most of the presidents were regular poker players. The early twentieth century presidents were of course old enough that they would have played in the days when it was common for everybody to play. Others learned to play mostly because it was common to play the game while they were in college. While many of these presidents only played with friends in college the fact remains they still played poker.
Until recently all presidents had served in the military which is another location that they would have played poker on a regular basis. Soldiers for generations have gambled to kill time while they were waiting for something to happen and for American soldiers this usually meant playing poker. Dwight Eisenhower spoke on many occasions about playing poker while he was in the army. In addition Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter both talked frequently about how they had played the game in the Navy.
It is really only the recent presidents who may not have played the game. Growing up in places where poker was illegal and having no military service meant that they likely never got the chance to play. That being said we do know that Barrack Obama played poker on a regular basis when he was younger. He is of course not able to play now that he is president but when his days in office are over it is likely that he will go back to playing.
Given how many presidents have played poker it is a little bit surprising how restrictive the laws on playing are. After all you would assume that presidents who played the game would veto laws to ban out. This has not happened however and as a result the number of places that you can play in the US is pretty limited.