Jonathan Miller, the former State Treasurer of Kentucky, was unable to indulge in his love for the game of poker while he was in elected public office. Miller, a progressive Kentucky Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2007 but now considers himself a “recovering politician” whose website serves as a forum of ideas how to fix America’s most intractable problems: climate change, skyrocketing health care costs, the country’s multi-trillion-dollar debt, and more.
No longer in office, Miller was encouraged by his wife to spend a weekend playing poker in Las Vegas. The timing of his visit coincided with a four-day World Series of Poker No Limit Hold ‘em event and Miller determined that the “$ 1,000 entry fee wasn’t too expensive to throw down the proverbial toilet.”
As he detailed colorfully in a Huffington Post blog article, Miller’s “impossible run through the World Series of Poker tournament” was “an exhilarating roller coaster ride encompassing 40 hours of mind-thumping boredom.”
Miller’s “impossible run” ended at the final table of the event, where he was eliminated in 8th place for a prize of $ 69,000. Miller spoke to us about politics, poker, and the WSOP in an exclusive interview.
Q: Is the game of poker banned in the state of Kentucky?
A: It is in every state, although Delaware and Nevada should re-instate it soon, and there is movement in Congress to legalize it federally.
Q: Have you ever played online poker? How did that go for you?
A: When it was legal a few years ago, I played occasionally. I won more often than not, but never risked much money.
Video is from news broadcast of WHAS-TV (Louisville).
Q: You served as a Democratic treasurer for Kentucky, but you played the World Series of Poker conservatively. Do politics and poker not go hand in hand?
A: I have always been someone who has lived my life conservatively, but voted as a liberal. Politics taught me a great deal about how to read people.
Q: Prior to the World Series of Poker, had you ever played in a major poker tournament?
A: This was my first big tournament. The only previous were online, and I have occasionally traveled to Vegas to play in casino based tournaments — usually $ 50-$ 100 buy-ins, with no more than 60 or so people participating.
Q: Your success in the World Series of Poker seems to have come, in many instances, from having the right cards in the right situation. Is poker a game of luck or a game of skill?
A: You have to have the requisite skill to advance far in a tournament like this. But with all of the great players I was competing against, it is obvious that a whole lot of luck was involved in my success.
Q: You’ve said that winning in poker doesn’t fit into the moral equation of fighting for the causes in which you believe. After your success at the WSOP, aren’t you ready to give everything up and concentrate on a more profitable career as a professional poker player?
A: No. I am dedicating my life to working on causes that I believe in, which of course includes the safety and security of the Jewish State. I will certainly continue to play poker occasionally.
Q: Online poker is currently not legal in the United States. Any chance that this situation will change on a federal level in the near future?
A: An article came out just yesterday that said that two key Senators had worked out a big compromise that might make it legal before the end of the year. I am hopeful, but understand that with our broken Congress, bipartisan deals are often illusory.
Q: The state of Nevada has already moved to legalize online poker. How far behind is the state of Kentucky?
A: Kentucky won’t move on this independently — we have a legislature that has blocked expanded gaming for decades, so we must count on federal action.
Q: Have you already booked your seats at the 2013 World Series of Poker?
A: Right now, I probably wouldn’t go — because there is simply no way that I can improve on my recent feat — not even the best pros ever make two final tables of tournaments this large. However, by spring, I bet I will have changed my mind. Anyway, a whole lot of my friends tell me they want to go with me next year.