Barack Obama has the better hand. He has more chips, he’s won more hands and the blinds are getting big. At this point in the pot, we’re past the flop and there is absolutely no doubt about who has the better hand. But Hillary is still in the pot – in fact, she just bet out.

While most people find her actions and speech on Tuesday June 3 misguided at best, a part of me kind of respects what she is doing; after all, it’s a classic tournament poker move. At this point, she knows she has the small stack – not to mention the worst hand – and the only real way for her to win is to force her opponent into a bad decision. I don’t think anyone sees Sen. Obama bungling the first prize now; he is the Democratic Presidential Nominee for 2008. But she’s still got a lot of support and no super-delegate has technically cast a ballot yet – she may be outchipped but she’s not dead to rights.

Although I don’t think that’s exactly what she’s doing. Rather than hope to force him into a bad decision, I think she is following a different motus operandi. I see shades of the Party Poker May Madness Milliontournament in the former First Lady’s actions. I see her jockeying for a deal just like the players at the Final Table of the Party Poker May Million Madness tournament.

So in honor of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the red and blue circus that is the United States of America’s Electoral process, let’s take a look at how to make a deal.

1. You must have something: You really cannot initiate a deal with 2% of the total chips in play and you wouldn’t want to either. Most of the time those deals are made according to the relative stack sizes;the guy with 15% of the chips gets 15% of the remaining pot. You don’t want 2% of what’s left if you finish in fourth.

This is especially important for the mini stacks to remember late in a tournament. Say there are 4 players left, blinds are $30,000/$60,000 with a $3000 ante and there are 30,000,000 in total chips. Let’s say that the big stack has 12,000,000, next has 10,000,000, next has 7,000,000 and you have the remaining 1,000,000. If you agree to a deal at that point then you are probably looking at taking 3% or so of the remaining prize pool (as you have about 3% of the total chips.) Don’t do it!

First of all, chances are that the fourth place prize money would add up to more than 3% of the remaining prize pool. Secondly, what if the two big stacks pick up Aces and Kings – one of those two is going to get knocked out bumping you up to third place money in the process. And action is coming, no one can sit back and watch other stacks bleed to death with blinds like those. Small stacks have no business in deals.

2. It’s all in the timing: The best time to make a deal is when you appear most threatening to the big stack (remember that the big stack gets to control the deal-making process, so the ball is really in their hands.) The best time to make a deal is when you win a big pot that brings you close enough to the first place that they can feel your breath up the back of their neck. As long as you don’t think that you are a virtual lock to beat them (because if you can win outright, take the time and do it – you’ll always make more money winning outright than you will in a deal) that is the best and most likely time for the deal.

This is of course, the problem with Senator Clinton’s move. While we don’t have a political pocket cam, at this point she is probably holding the VP card – she wants to be the Vice Presidential nominee on Barack’s big ticket. But instead of making her push for a deal following a victory, she just lost a huge pot in the form of Montana pushing Obama over the required delegate number; she’s no longer the same type of threat. Yet she is now putting out an even-more assertive vibe than ever before. She seems to be saying, “either you make a deal with me or I will destroy you any way I can.” But by all accounts, she’s lost. Now if she made this move 3 weeks ago when everything was still in question I bet she would have received a deal in a hurry. Which leads to our third scenario: what to do if you are the big stack in deal-making mode.

3. You have the chips, you have the power: You are the Obama at the table. If you don’t like the deal – don’t do it. You are the one with the chips, you are the only one at the table who cannot be knocked out in just one hand. No matter what someone else says, if it is not obviously in your best interest to take the deal then just don’t do it. Saving yourself the time and hassle of closing a player out is seldom worth the money that you stand to lose in the quick fix of a deal.

In political terms, what Senator Obama has to do is identify the unique benefits of adding Hillary Clinton to his ticket. Does adding her virtually guarantee a win in November? Is he already guaranteed a victory? If he does not offer her a deal, what are the chances that she could come back and destroy him? And most importantly, can he live with the consequences of the deal?

Sometimes the difference between the $10,000 first prize and the $8,000 deal is more than just $2,000. Let me explain what I mean: If you need $10,000 to buy a car and you need it tomorrow, what is $8,000 going to do? Yeah it’ll get you closer and if you had all the time in the world, you could make that $8,000 grow… but you don’t have all the time in the world; you need the car tomorrow. Obama needs to win back Hillary supporters by November, not sometime in the next decade.

So what do you think, Party Poker people? Will Barack offer a deal?

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