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Who Says Poker Is A Sport?

  • Jason Whitney

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(UPDATED) Many of the game’s detractors state base their argument on the facts that poker players simply sit in a chair. That analogy is similar to saying that a weight lifter simply lifts a weight. A poker tournament player often plays for ten or more hours a day. He must make a minimum of eighteen to twenty decisions on how to play each hour, and often substantially more. The player also has to pay attention to all of the action in the hand even, when he is not involved.

Poker professionals, poker instructors and poker books stress the need to be physically and mentally fit in order to be successful. The successful pros exercise daily, especially cardio.

They also are proponents of healthy eating to the extent that several catering companies specialize in providing healthy meals, including vegan and macrobiotic meals, to players during tournaments.

While poker is indeed one of the most egalitarian of sports, age does play a factor in the game. Doyle Brunson, who is now in his 80’s, is considered one of world’s best poker players and still is very active. He has won poker championships around the world and is the holder of ten World Series of Poker championship bracelets. He recently stopped playing tournament poker due to it being too hard physically on someone his age.

The argument can be made that poker be considered as an Olympic event. The game certainly fits the Olympics rules to be classified as a sport. The IOC includes a sport of discipline in the Olympic games if it has world wide participation. They also require that the sport or discipline have a governing body.

Poker’s worldwide popularity is unquestioned; just look the countries represented in European Poker Tour and WSOP events, or log on to online sites where you will also see players from all parts of the world. Poker rules are also the same worldwide and poker tournaments do indeed have a governing body, The Tournament Director’s Association.

Many sports have been “demonstrated” at the Olympics prior to becoming medal events. It’s time for poker to be included.

The debate that ‘poker is sport’ is one of the most interesting debates of the recent years. The topic has around 90 million hits on Google, major news channels term the game as sport and not game, major ‘sports’ channels of the world air poker tournaments and treat poker as a sport. However, the main question that arises is that what are the origins and meaning of the word ‘sports’ and what criteria does poker have to fulfill in order to enter the prestigious domains of sports respectfully without garnering any debates.

So according to English language dictionary, the word sports has two underlying meanings:

Sport (noun): unnamed (63)

2. An active pastime; recreation. 1. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs ad often undertaken competitively.

Thus, if we consider the above mentioned meanings then it is pretty clear that Poker has a genuine and specific set of rules, is taken pretty competitively, is a very active pastime and a mode of recreation for millions around the world.

Thus, the case and debate rings true to the core as per the dictionary definition is involved. However, like all etymological debates, the main issue governing the ‘poker as sports’ debate is that poker doesn’t involve physical exertion as per the traditional definition.



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However, in our meager opinion, it’s all a marketing gimmick as poker does involve physical exertion. Like, palpating heartbeat, lying and bluffing through the teeth, nervous gritting of teeth, and does involve electricity in veins and a considerable amount of adrenaline rush when placing and winning the game. However, the antagonists of the debate don’t accept that.

Thus, to make peace with all the sides, and fulfill the etymological definition of sports to the fullest, International Mind Sports Association termed Poker as a minds sport and termed it as a competitive game of strategic skills. Poker will now appear at the World Mind Sports Games in London in 2012 alongside chess and bridge. You can read more on the subject at this article by poker journalist Ross Jarvis.


Further action: write the IOC (International Olympic Committee) if you think poker should be a Olympic sport:

Address: Château de Vidy – C.P. 356 – CH-1007 Lausanne/Switzerland

Telephone: 41- 21- 621- 61- 11

Fax: 41- 21-621- 62-16

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Jason Whitney

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