Many traits make for an effective card player. Some rely on the numbers, others on reading the slight reactions of other players, while still others play mostly on instinct. If it were possible to gather some of history's well-known personalities for a no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament, who would come out on top?
This collection imagines how historical figures would fare at the card table, and where their strengths and weaknesses would lie.
Strength: Bold, aggressive play could win big
Weakness: Lack of staying power
The Deal: At his best, Alexander's poker game would be akin to poker legend Stu "The Kid" Ungar, a three-time World Series of Poker champ known for his aggressive style of play. Alexander's natural inclination toward bold and decisive action could translate well on the card table.
Like his poker-playing kindred spirit, Alexander didn't live to see old age. Would he be cut out for the long game?
Strength: He'd wait for the perfect moment to strike
Weakness: That moment might never come
The Deal: The founder of the Tokugawa dynasty's signature move was waiting. For decades, the great warlord bided his time as his enemies tore themselves to pieces. After much of the groundwork had already been done, Tokugawa Ieyasu swooped in to claim the grand prize of Shogun.
In a poker tournament, his patience could be a great asset. Rather than continually chasing a big pot, he'd stay out of trouble until the time was right. Of course, that approach would run the risk of him bowing out without ever winning a hand.
Strength: Seeing into the souls of other players
Weakness: Might be a little too clever for his own good
The Deal: You'd struggle to put one past the famously sly Niccolò Machiavelli. His infamously cynical, but often perceptive, view of human nature would render attempts to bluff him futile.
However, his reputation could also precede him and make the other players especially guarded against his tricks.
Strength: Counting cards
Weakness: A suspect poker face
The Deal: Given his extensive, ground-breaking scientific accomplishments, it's hardly a stretch to imagine Albert Einstein would have the mathematical side of poker down. Poker math is largely based upon probability, working out how many "outs" there are in a given hand (cards that make a winning hand) versus the pot odds (how much a successful bet can return).
If poker was simply down to mathematical precision, there's little doubt Einstein would walk away with it all. However, the psychological aspect of the game could be the physicist's undoing. His relentless curiosity and mischievous, playful nature could make for an easy read by opposing players.
Strength: Excellent timing
Weakness: Could lose it all with one bad hand
The Deal: Napoleon's greatest victories on the battlefield tended to be the result of precise timing; for example, at Austerlitz he defeated an Austrian and Russian army by timing his main offensive to perfection. In poker, he would instinctually know just when to press an opponent to win huge hands.
But poker always has that element of the unknown, and Napoleon's style of play could be vulnerable to a stroke of misfortune. An "ace from space on the river" (final card) could wipe his chip stack out in a single hand. He would likely spend the rest of the game brooding about his misfortune.
Strength: Mastery of underhanded tactics
Weakness: Might take it too far
The Deal: Don't be fooled by that silly story about the cherry tree - America's first president was actually a very talented liar with a great appreciation for subterfuge. During the American Revolutionary War, George Washington employed just about every sneaky trick there was and personally financed a spy ring. It wouldn't be hard to imagine these traits working very well at the card table.
But it's possible his sneaky ways might land him in some bother among his fellow players. Would he be able to resist the temptation to cheat?