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Tabletop Gamers in the White House

Tabletop Gamers in the White House

From traditional games like poker and chess to more modern titles like Scrabble and Taboo, gaming has just about always been a part of the White House. It makes sense; many first families include young kids and games are often used to teach strategy and critical thinking (not to mention that they’re played for fun). Here’s a rundown of just how close we’ve come to having a full-on gamer as Commander-in-Chief.

Woodrow Wilson

The most openly game-loving president was by far Woodrow Wilson. A card and board-gamer, Wilson and his wife amassed quite a collection over the years. It includes a massive number of card decks and tabletop staples like Monopoly and bridge, as well as odd games of his time, such as the large, chess-like Game of War.

The Wilsons’ collection was passed on to the Woodrow Wilson House, a museum in the president’s old home. Nowadays, there’s a monthly game night at the house where gamers get a chance to try their hand at a variety of these historical era board games.

The Obamas

We know a bit more about the Obamas’ gaming habits than we do about the tabletop tendencies of most other first families. Barack and Michelle play chess on occasion and good ol’ Barry is said to regularly beat his staff at Scrabble and has definitely been seen playing Connect Four. Before becoming president, Barack is known to have played a great deal of Taboo on his campaign bus with his staffers and played Go in college.

Like many presidents before him, Obama is an accomplished poker player, though his campaign was tight lipped about the subject during the Democratic party primaries. When it later became circulated that his political rival John McCain was an avid craps player, the two games were sometimes compared as metaphors for the two politicians’ governing styles or personalities. One relies on careful playing of one’s cards, the other a trust in chance to sort things out in the end.

The Chess Players

Many US presidents have been chess players; some talented, some not. Nixon claimed he couldn’t understand the game, and Carter studied and studied before ultimately giving up.

Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the most avid chess playing president, owning many fine sets and books and writing letters that included game strategies. Jefferson was known to play against many of the founding fathers and bragged that he was the equal of Benjamin Franklin, who was quite famous for his talent at the game.

The Poker Players

trumans-poker-chipsAfter chess, the most commonly played game among presidents seems to be poker. Though not nearly as universal as chess, the bluffing game does seem to go hand-in-hand with politics.

Harry S. Truman played nearly every chance he could get. He notably had a set of poker chips made bearing the presidential seal and helped popularized the phrase “The buck stops here,” which is a reference to the dealer button in poker. High stakes gambler Warren G. Harding is said to have lost the White House china in a poker game. Other presidents well known for their poker playing include FDR, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon.

Trump the Game

President-elect Trump may not be much of a gamer himself, but he published his own game (obviously called Trump). Take a look at the ad.

The game’s slogan: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”

Still no accounts of Dungeons & Dragons played in the building. Let us know what game you’d play if you had the most powerful elected position in the world in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: The White House

Image Credits: Harry S. Truman Library 

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