Episode 195: Getting Trumped with Matt Glassman

Political scientist and Congressional Research Service analyst Matt Glassman helped us put the 2016 Presidential Campaign into context a few weeks ago. Now that the election is over, we need him more than ever!

We’ve got a great strategy segment, but the interview is really about trying to make sense of the current political situation in America, using frames of reference that poker players will understand. Were the polls wrong, or did Trump just run good? How might Trump govern? What do we as citizens do now? And what does this all mean for online poker?


0:30 – Hello & Welcome
6:43 – Strategy
33:31 – Matt Glassman


$1/$3 NLHE

Hero ($1200) dealt KcJc on button. 3 limpers ahead. Hero Raises to $20. BB ($120) and CO ($900) call. $60 in pot.

Flop comes 9cQh2c. Check around to hero. Hero bets $35. BB raises to $105. CO folds. Hero?

25 thoughts on “Episode 195: Getting Trumped with Matt Glassman

  1. I can give some insight on why the polls were wrong – Trump supporters were getting physically attacked. I was talking to Andrew on Twitter telling him we have a completely different reality. I get the impression those most opposed to Trump think of his supporters as violent. What those who most support Trump see is out of millions who have attended his rallies over 18 months 3 or 4 have gotten out of line and have been played on a 3 day loop each time. Almost all of the violence (and theft, vandalism, social ostracization) happened to Trump supporters. It was the first time I’ve seen someone run not only against the candidate, but also against the supporters. Two almost opposite views using the same available information. I completely expected the polls to represent Trump’s floor and Clinton’s ceiling. If you look at the polling data in the swing states, especially the rust belt, the polls were pretty accurate for Clinton, but extremely wrong for Trump. That suggests a significant number of those leaning Trump wouldn’t say so even to a pollster, they would say undecided or 3rd party. That’s consistent with my views. Here’s an interview with pollster who tried to account for that by asking “who would your nieghbor vote for”: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/11/donald-trump-2016-polls-upset-214461

    Some other things from the interview that really don’t jive with my reality:

    There are two things required to for people to have confidence in our democracy. The first is if you use electronic voting machines make sure they have a paper backup. It boggles my mind that there are machines that don’t. Who in the world would think that’s a good idea? The second is voter ID requirements. When the 2000 presidential election and the 2004 MN senate race were both decided by under 500 vote being able to both register to vote and vote without ID invites accusations of voter fraud. You say that Trump was lying about millions voting illegally? Prove to me that everyone on the CA voter rolls that voted was a lawful citizen. It can’t be done. And it’s not “voter suppression”. I don’t buy that it’s an unreasonable burden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrBxZGWCdgs&ab_channel=FoxNews

    When Trump is called an “illiberal Republican”, it leads me to believe you guys don’t realize how illiberal the democrats are becoming. It’s gotten really bad on college campuses, and the major social media sites are becoming more and more censorship happy. BTW ‘alt right’ does not equal ‘white supremacist’. This labeling and defining of labels isn’t healthy at all for political discourse.

    When Mr. Glassman mentioned a concerned about the IRS being used to go after opponents I jumped back a little bit. The IRS did target tea party groups for extra scrutiny a few years back. Of course Obama probably didn’t have anything to do with it, but the fear that Trump would do anything like that isn’t founded in rational thought. The risk is no greater with him than with Hillary or any other politician.

    I wouldn’t trust anything coming out about the “turmoil and chaos” on his transition. He’s ahead of schedule in his appointments/nominees compared to every other modern transitions (other than GHWB I think), and I’m sure the chaos no different than what’s expected. The press needs stories, and they’ll take someone floating an idea like “should Ivanna get a security clearance” into “Trump is seeking security clearances for his children”. His public words gets twisted all the time, I can only imagine what they would do with words that can’t be verified.

    And now for some quick predictions. The Democrats will suffer a massive loss in the senate in 2 years, mostly as a function of who seats are up for grabs. The only reason Hillary come close is because she was able to paint Trump as this evil racist sexist incompetent literal Hitler monster. Those lines of attacks will not work next election. Trump will most likely win in a landslide.

    One more thing. You can say if Hillary had 100,000 more votes in the right states she would have won, but if Trump had 95,000 more votes in the right states he would have had 329 electoral votes (or maybe 328, not sure how NH works).

  2. So much to say, but it’s mostly nonsense.
    Here’s a few points I think matter.
    Andrew and Nate built a good thing, a successful thing, and they risked alienating a huge portion of their audience to go down this political road. I applaud that risk, but I also applaud the actual effort. They did well. This was a tough thing, and it carried strong emotions, and they still did well.
    A huge chunk of that credit goes to Glassman. He’s been prolific this political season on Twitter and I’ve benefited. Yet he’s been almost universally wrong (IMO) on Trump. Still, I respect him. He’s a great podcast guest. He’s clearly smart. Wicked smart. If he had his own podcast, I’d listen every week.
    I thought Matt was more accurate this episode, compared to the pre-election episode. If there is one area where I think our hosts and guest continue to misread Trump, it is on foreign policy. Trump ran as an anti-interventionist. He wants to calm tempers with Russia. He lambasted our meddling in the Middle East. We’re coming off of 8 years of Obama using drones to bomb children and weddings half way around the globe. Any pullback would be welcome. Trump says he’ll reign that in dramatically. The idea that Trump will be a foreign policy risk is just nuts to me.
    But then, I voted for Dukakis, so what the hell do I know.

      • The hat is a quirky thing. I think only Trump understands the magic of the hat.

        I saw a picture of Trump in a ballcap this morning and I wondered if he would continue to wear one once installed. I think there’s a real decent chance he will.

        I do think there’s a point about ego with the hat, and with many other aspects of Trump. I get the sense that most Trump critics think he has a “fragile” ego. That he hates to be insulted, and he always fights back because he can’t take criticism. I think it’s the opposite. I think Trump has one of the strongest egos. He simply cannot be shamed. As Matt mentioned, the analogy to Trump was Herman Cain. Yet the attacks that brought down Cain, pointing out his womanizing, and his pig behavior, had no impact. Those attacks, which would kill any normal ego simply bounced off Trump like spitballs. He has no political correctness, and very little social correctness. In my opinion, it takes a tremendously confident, strong ego to pull that off. Perhaps a similar analogy is Schwarzenegger, but even he bowed somewhat to the shaming over his womanizing.

        Dukakis had none of it. When folks said he looked silly in the tank, with the helmet on, he didn’t fight back, he wilted.

    • A few things here:

      1. I have definitely been wrong on Trump. I figured he was a Herman Cain style ego-candidate. I figured the GOP elite would crush him in the primaries, the way they virtually always crush candidates not favored by the elite. I figured there were limits to the reach of populism in 2016. I figured the polling was roughly as accurate as usual, or accurate enough to correctly predict the binary result. I figured Clinton would defeat him. All wrong.

      I take some small solace in the fact that basically *everyone* was wrong. Even the people who thought Trump could win the general, typically thought it for reasons that implied he would soundly defeat Clinton in national public opinion by attacking her weaknesses and making her more unpopular than him, which was wrong. Basically no one foresaw what came to pass: Trump remaining nationally unpopular, but successfully building a winning coalition in the rust-belt.

      2. I think you are right in your reading of Trump’s foreign policy outlook: his stated positions are certainly contrary to the mainstream neocon GOP positions, as well as the liberal interventionists positions. I do not think Trump will embroil us in a foreign war-of-choice, nor do I think he will cost us American lives on some foolhardy humanitarian mission. And to his credit, I think those are excellent positions. On those thin dimensions, I’m happy he’s POTUS and not Clinton.

      But I still disagree, in three ways. First, much of foreign policy is reactive and deals with unforeseen contingent events thrust upon you. From what I know about Trump, I do not have a lot of confidence that his skill set is well matched to that task. He seems impulsive, he seems to be a short-term thinker more than a long-term strategist, he seems easily swayed by recent voices in his ear, and he seems to hold personal grudges. These are not great attributes.

      Second, Trump’s economic policies seems very likely to create foreign policy issues. Not of the neoncon type he is clearly publicly opposed to. But of the economic variety. You simply can’t “get tough” with China economically and not expect it to have geostrategic ramifications. You can’t “get tough” with NATO on who pays for Europe’s strategic defense and not invite Russia to test your resolve on the issue. Maybe all of that was campaign bluster, but I think the bluster was strong enough that Russia, and perhaps China, surely have plans to test his resolve in the next year or two. Don’t like neocon wars or paying for NATO, Mr. Trump? Let’s see what kind of balls you have when we mass troops on the border of a peripheral NATO country…

      Third, Trump’s actions on Taiwan strike me as a clear signal that his foreign policy is going to be rocky. I’m not at all opposed to getting tougher with China, but this seems crazy to me as a matter of timing. He’s not POTUS right now, so he has no real capabilities, but he’s already making moves that have geostrategic impacts. That seems … suboptimal. And informal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan—regardless of what you think of it as strategic policy —is not “no big deal.” It’s a bold move. Maybe a good one! But it is not a *stabilizing* move. It’s an aggressive one, and it may pay off for the U.S. and our allies and maybe the world in the long run. But it’s invites a variance that belies the idea Trump is going to have a quiet and calm foreign policy. Non-interventionist? Perhaps. Quiet? Unlikely.

      Now, as stated on the podcast, I don’t perceive Trump to be an automatic foreign policy disaster. I simply thought he was far more likely than a typical President to commit a large FP blunder. I still think that. But 5% is still a longshot, and down most branches of the tree nothing disastrous happens. I could totally see Trump doing fine in foreign policy, and even successfully improving the U.S. standing in the world. A lot of this depends on what happens in the world, a lot of it is who advises you, and a lot of it is making close decisions and running good.

      Disasters also come in many flavors. Bush 43’s FP was largely a disaster, but not an existential one. Ditto with Kennedy and LBJ. It happens, even to the best and the brightest. So yes, I worry about Trump’s FP, but I don’t expect the world to blow up.

      3. It’s still amazing to me that I had to come to a poker website to find reasonable discussions about politics. Who knew.

      Dukakis the set of policy positions seems perfectly defensible. Dukakis the leader of the free world seems quite hilarious. (But I was 10 years old, so I’m not really a good judge).


      • So, yeah, perhaps I was projecting your take of Trump’s foreign policy a bit from others I’ve encountered.
        And your concerns for how his role as wildcard could create FP problems is quite valid.

      • There was an interesting segment on Morning Joe where Michael Wolff explains how Steve Bannon described their strategy in dealing with the media. No one seems to believe and/or understand him (he sounds like he’s explaining something he doesn’t quite understand himself). There’s some interesting crosstalk at the end- “There’s not plan there, that’s who he is, Trump is impulsive and can’t help but react in certain situations”, “You would like that to be the case”.

        When you see the Taiwan call, the tweet about Obama selling them $1.8B in weapons, and the Boeing tweets you might see impulsiveness and randomness. I see all of that as related and part of a well thought out strategy, almost a pre-negotiation. Seems like another example of two people operating from two separate set of facts regarding Trump.


  3. I’ve not listened to this one right the way through yet but the first show with Matt was one of my favourite ever TP podcasts, and the second is shaping up to be every bit as good. Really illuminating and thought-provoking stuff. Any chance Matt could write regular guest posts talking about politics using poker as an analogical framework?

    In relation to the conversation about Jill Stein, recounts and not being able to accept the result: I’d guess I’m at least as left/liberal as Andrew (quite possibly more so) and therefore was pretty devastated by Trump’s election. That said, at this stage, I’m not sure if it’s at all wise for those on the left to actually *want* a recount to go ahead and potentially reverse the result. If that happened, I don’t think we’d just see a few protests, or a few angry nutjobs taking to the streets – I think there’s a very reasonable chance there would literally be another civil war. So even if I had powers of omniscience and could see that Clinton did actually get the most votes in the crucial states if only we could get them to count them up, I’d be extremely hesitant about going down that road.

    As gross, nauseating and downright saddening as it is that Trump will be the next president, I think at this stage accepting that fact and dealing with it (and developing strategies to fight back) is the only thing to do.

  4. I’d like to sell the 6.5 number for the EV of Trump years. Yes, incumbents do very well in their reelection bids. 6.5 gives him a little more than 60% chance of getting reelected, with no other possible bumps in the road. There are 3 obvious ways he doesn’t reach EV:

    1. Impeachment. I think Matt overrates that number. I’d put it at 2-3%.
    2. Lack of desire for a second term. I don’t know what this number should be, but it is certainly not zero.
    3. Health. This is where most of the edge comes from selling 6.5. Trump will be 70.5 when he assumes office. 6.5 gets him to 77. He does not appear to be the picture of fitness to me, despite what his doctor said. Even seemingly healthy 70 year olds die or become seriously ill with reasonable frequency. According to one table I saw, an average male has about a 2-4% chance of dying per year during his 70’s.

    • Given your constraints, I would also sell the 6.5 number.

      On the show, I suggested 6.2, with the caveat that I was ruling out and setting aside 1st term death or health resignation. You are correct about the death rate for men in their 70s (see this actuarial table from the SSA), it’s about 3% per year. That said, the annual death rate conditional on being able to run a national campaign must be much lower. Trump may not be in great physical shape, but he *must* be in better shape than the median 70 year old. Much better.

      I agree that the lack of desire is the key unknown variable, and as I mentioned on the show, it’s somewhat endogenous to how successful his first term is.

      Including health issues, I think I might sell at 6.0 or so, but I really am not confident in that number.


      • I think there’s some chance (15%?) that Trump resigns during his first term, due to lack of interest in the job, lack of motivation to do the work needed for the job, or lack of success in the job. Yes, the number I put on “some chance” is insanely high by the standards of any other President, but I really would not be too surprised to see him step down.

        That said, much as I once said I’d rather have Donald Trump elected than Ted Cruz, I think I’d rather have Donald Trump as President than Mike Pence. I think. Maybe.

  5. I’m enjoying this, but only part way through.

    On the topic of simple metrics, I read somewhere that the best measure of the lastingness of a marriage is {regularity of sex} – {regularity of arguments}.

    I agree that the Trump presidency is a great unknown, but I’m not sure it’s unreasonable to freak out about the chance of fascism rising from 2% to 6% or whatever. This is classic taleb stuff – we’re not well set up to evaluate the importance of low probabilities. Moreover, I think we’re getting the worst of both worlds: a lunatic in the executive seat and the GOP’s least good impulses in the legislative seat: anti progressive general policy as a baseline, with maximal likelihood of disaster to boot.

    • I read that both parties in a marriage present things to be recognized by the other party. The rate of acknowledgement to dismissal of these presentations is a large factor in a successful relationship.

      An example would be honey I just read x. If honey dismisses x as dumb or disinteresting too often it erodes the relationship.

      Sounded right to me at the time.

    • I heard from a journalist on NPR that people who have been in the ready room say the most important trait is patience. It is difficult and can take time to sort through good and bad information, often the first information that comes in is later discredited. The journalist stated this sentiment was particulary prevalent with republican security experts.

      This sounds like the opposite of trump style. He can’t be trusted to distinguish between real information and fake news which can seen from him and his loyal supporters spreading fake news on the internet. Now Kelly Conway is saying if you disagree with trump you have no justification besides wanting him to fail. These people should be perceived as dangerous to democracy.

      • Agreed. And “can’t be trusted to distinguish” is the generous interpretation of the situation. Certainly seems likely that Trump et al are deliberately citing/spreading “news that they know to be fake.

    • Oh yes, I saw that thing about partners displaying interest, too. It made my wife pay some attention to my ‘look, it’s a green woodpecker’ comments for at least a week,

  6. Interesting that Matt put the expected number of years of a Trump presidency as high as 6.5.

    On the European betting exchange Betfair he’s trading at 2.62/2.66 to win 2020 – so a probability of 37.8% * which would put the EV at 5.5 even if he always completes all terms he is elected to.

    As for the “line” where you win a fixed amount if you make the correct binary choice then take the over on 4 or less and the under on anything higher than 4 – simply because the real number is very likely to be exactly 4.

    * the markets are giving Pence another 8% chance of being the 2020 winner though (imagining Nate playing sad trombone.wav)

    • Note that I said 6.2 on the podcast, not 6.5 (that was Nate’s friend).

      Also note that the 37.8% on Betfair is the total market probability of him winning in 2020, and that includes when he doesn’t win because he’s impeached or resigns or is dead or just chooses not to run. As I noted on the podcast, I was specifically setting aside health related issues that prevent him from running. If you look above in the comments, we discussed a bit how probable death is for a 70-something man in decent shape, it’s not trivial.

      All that said, I’m probably still buying at 5.5.


      • If we _don’t_ put aside health and everything else, I think I’d buy at 5.55 and sell at 5.7 (obviously tighten that band a bit for very small bets and widen it for big ones).

  7. Both this and the prior Matt Glassman show were outstanding; thanks very much for them. I’ll stay out of any substantive political debate here, but I did want to note that a) I’m libertarian/conservative and voted for Trump, mostly because I did not as a matter of pure policy want to see President Obama’s policies continue — regardless of the much more entropic result that we’re likely to see from Trump; and b) I wasn’t AT ALL alienated from your show; to the contrary, I thought the discussion was very very interesting.

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