Is Poker a Sport?


When it comes to defining what type of competition is a sport and what is not, it can get a little tricky. For example, pretty much everyone agrees that great sports like baseball and soccer are actually sports that athletes play them. Individual sports such as tennis would also qualify. But when you go down the ladder of competitive effort it gets a little trickier. What about bar games like darts?

Another competitive activity that is being discussed is poker. While no one would argue that it doesn't require a certain level of skill, some aren't that sure if it's a sport. Let's take a closer look at the answer to the question: Is poker a sport?

How do you play poker

According to SportsKeeda, poker is a card game that involves both skill and luck. There are several versions of poker that one can play, but the hands are the same regardless of the type of game.

There is a hierarchy of hands that a player can get. After the cards are dealt, players can bet based on the strength of their hand. Your hand doesn't have to be strong to make a big bet.

Players with a weak hand can place any bet they like and hope that the other player doesn't see their hand's weakness. This is known as bluffing.

Poker requires the ability to analyze both cards and people. Take, for example, Texas Hold 'em, one of the easiest poker games to play. Five cards are dealt to the table together, while two are dealt to each player individually.

The players place bets and it is up to them to determine the quality of the other players' hands based on the bet they placed, the likelihood that they will have a particular hand, and any "tells" that the players show about their hand .

The argument against this game is a sport

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An ESPN article on whether poker was a sport first looked at answering the question: What is the official definition of the term "sport"? This is what they came up with from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1.] An active pastime; Detour; Recreation.

2.] a specific distraction, usually involving physical activity and having a fixed form and set of rules; a game."

The best argument against poker as a sport lies in the "physical activity" component of this definition. Poker players often sit for long periods of time and hardly move their bodies except to toss their cards in after they have been folded.

When you think of sport, you think of action and activity. There is very little of that in poker as players remain stationary throughout the game or session.

There is also no defense. Nobody is physically trying to stifle a player's progress in poker, which is a hallmark of many sports.

The argument that poker is a sport

Of course, there is an argument that poker is a sport too. Using the definition outlined above, poker definitely qualifies as a pastime, distraction, and recreation.

It is certainly a game too. The best argument for playing poker as a sport, however, is that you need a high level of skill to be successful over a long period of time.

Yes, it is true that you will use little physical energy in poker. But mental energy? That's a different story. Good poker players understand probability and statistics.

You have to calculate your chances of winning or losing a hand in a matter of seconds. You must also be familiar with reading opposing players' body language. This requires an innate understanding of human psychology.

Sure, some poker players can bet a lot on a hand without looking at their cards, and they can win a hand or two that way. But this type of poker player is not successful for a long time. The amount of skill required to be a great poker player means it can definitely be identified as a sport.