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Heard on the Hill: Holder Won’t Ante Up

When it comes to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder is keeping his cards close to his vest.  

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month, Holder claimed not to be a poker player, but his prowess at the gambling tables is well-documented.

During Holder’s appearance on May 3, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) questioned him about the Justice Department’s crackdown on Internet gambling, using metaphors of poker players and strategy.

“You seem to think that maybe you didn’t know if it was skill or luck in poker. Do you think Phil Ivey is just lucky? He’s the world’s greatest poker player,” Cohen asked in a string of poker-themed questions.

Holder said he wasn’t sure he knew who Ivey was. “I’m not a poker player myself,” he professed.

Cohen, who prepared for the hearing by reading several articles that documented Holder’s poker skills, looked confused.

“You’re not? Well, OK. I didn’t realize that,” he said.

“I was a bit surprised,” Cohen tells HOH.

Cohen read several articles that described Holder’s poker expertise, including a 1997 New York Times article that referred to Holder as a “longtime friend and fellow poker player” of his current deputy attorney general, James Cole. Cohen saw another article in which President Barack Obama and Holder were called poker buddies.

Still, the Congressman believes Holder. “I take the gentleman at his word,” Cohen says. 

A Justice Department spokesman downplayed Holder’s card-sharp skills. “I haven’t had a chance to ask him, but it’s possible that he played poker once upon a time,” spokesman Matthew Miller says.