This question has been a topic of discussion for ages now; is poker actually a sport? Well, we’ve no problem with that question at least being asked, and anyone in the gambling world knows that indeed this is a game of skill and not simply luck.
However, the point has been put forward that poker players are in fact ‘athletes’ and frankly we’d have to draw the line right there!
Here we look at some key points in the argument, with counter-arguments for why poker is not a sport and why its players cannot be classed as athletes.
The Basic Argument
The argument put forward recently is that the dictionary definition of a sport matches what poker players believe their game involved, i.e. a competitive activity done for entertainment requiring physical ability and skill to excel.
Fair enough. But what physical activity? Let’s look at the argument for poker being a sport point by point, with a counterview to balance the debate.
Poker is a Game of Skill
Indeed it is. The top players win and win a lot. This is not a coincidence. Decisions need to be made at every juncture in poker and just throwing whatever cards down you’ve been given and hoping for the best will never lead to winning in the long run.
Counterview: Many activities require skill, including all professions. But the necessity for skill or knowledge alone does not make an activity a sport.
Poker is Watched for Entertainment
Simply put, poker is fascinating both for those who play and those who watch. It is undoubtedly entertaining, at least if you understand it anyway.
The fact that poker is even televised these days tells you it is a genuine form of entertainment. Without the need for debate, poker does attract audiences meaning those around the table are in effect, providing that entertainment, part of the definition of a sportsman.
Counterview: Singers and magicians are entertainers too, but they aren’t sportsmen.
Poker is a Competitive Game
Within the specific definition of a sport comes the need for a game to be competitive. The very essence of poker is competition. Those sitting around the table are playing each other, not the cards and that’s a well-known fact.
Not a single person in the world who understands even the very most basic premise of what poker is and what it’s about would argue against the game being competitive, much like football or basketball for example.
Counterview: The stock market is about the most competitive thing in the world; it still isn’t a sport.
Physical Ability is Required
The biggest bugbear of the lot for those against the argument is surely this; that poker players require a certain physical ability.
Hours at the table are tiring. They get into a game whether their schedule allows it easily or not. Long sessions are draining, and sharp hand-eye coordination is needed to cut down on errors.
Counterview: Poker can be mentally draining, not physically draining, and there is a significant difference. A darts or snooker player doesn’t have to break much of a sweat, but they still need a proper physical technique to excel in their sport. Poker players actually do not need this, no matter what they might say. Sport has a mental side yes, but ultimately it is about competing physically setting it apart from any other ‘game’ and poker cannot claim this.
While it’s evident that any distance that can be put between poker and gambling-related games and the player has no control over it, it is a real stretch to call it a sport!