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Is Poker A Sport?
Posted at 11/10/2005 04:15:50 AM in General Discussions by Sack.
I frequent a few message boards, have casual conversations, and listen to drunken banter on almost a daily basis. People wage verbal war from all topics ranging from politics and religion to whether or not that chicks things are real. Conversations get heated, things are said about someone’s Mama, and eight year old suburban kids wearing the Polo shirt they bought with their Mom at JC Penny’s get gangsta on some fools. If you’ve ever spent ten seconds in a chat or on a message board you know what I’m talking about. Real life isn’t really too much different. The constant is that no conclusion is ever really reached, and no final answer is ever determined-- but there are always those folks that absolutely know the answer to all things no matter what offer of proof is presented to them. Personally I believe the wisest of people are those who realize that the only thing they know for sure is that they KNOW nothing at all… but hey that’s my opinion.

So one debate I’ve seen popping up lately is if poker is a “sport” or not. This is a prime example of one of those things that no true answer can come, but as a curious Sack I come to the masses to seek opinion. I can’t give an answer on this (although in my humble opinion I do lump it in a sport category). But what I will do is present several points of both arguments to y’all, and then ask the fine readers to give me their opinion on the matter. It won’t be very scientific, but it’ll be interesting to see what the tallies may say.

First off (and what doesn’t help matters) is the actual definition of sport itself varies from source to source. One dictionary limits sport to “An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.” Then one encyclopedia defines it as consisting of “a physical activity or skill carried out with a recreational purpose: for competition, for self-enjoyment, to attain excellence, for the development of a skill, or some combination of these.” Almost the same definition, if not for the fact of that huge difference in “and” and “or”. Add on top of that the broad spectrum that may cover what physical activity actually is (sometimes to me brushing my teeth can be a grueling physical activity) and you’ve still really got nothing.

If one accepts the “or” definition, then technically poker would fall into sport. But under such a definition so would a board game, video gaming, verbal debate, etc. I’m not sure if I’m ready to accept Wheel of Fortune on my brain as a sport. At the same time I’m not ready to rule poker out as one either.

So to the physical factors of it if you accept the “and” definition. Obviously it doesn’t fit what we consider the big sports. There isn’t any running (no, hitting runner-runner doesn’t count), no contact besides pounding your palm to your forehead after a bad beat, and no great physical exertion… well… then again. Although sitting in a chair clicking a mouse or throwing cards and chips isn’t a strenuous activity, have you ever pulled an 8-12 hour session? After playing for a while I tend to actually be exhausted once finished. Even after one tournament or ring game I can be worn down simply from the mental factor. That’s not to mention the fact that my ass is getting more mileage than a Nascar driver’s. How “physical” does physical need to be?

Poker no doubt fits both definitions in that it is governed by sets of rules and customs, as well is carried out competitively. It’s purpose and goals for most of us can certainly fit into any one or all of the criteria mentioned. Add on top if this that it gets what is referred to as “sports treatment”. What I mean by this is that results or information can generally be found in a sports section of a periodical. It’s covered and televised by sport juggernauts ESPN and FSN. At the same time, though, less “sporty” channels such as Bravo!, and The Travel Channel both feature regular broadcasts. Hmmm, even that magical glowing god of ours we call television and media don’t clear it up much.

So what then? I’d like for our readers here at PokerGreed to chime in with their opinions and thoughts. In order to save Gecko what may be several comments to weed through (and prevent a possible flame war in the comment section), I ask that you email me your thoughts to You can simply say yes or no as to whether you think it’s a sport or not. Also if you’d like you can go into further detail as to your reasoning and hopefully I can feature it in a future article for all to enjoy (I’ll keep them anonymous unless you otherwise specify). Obviously if you’re here you enjoy poker as a interest/hobby/profession, but that’s fine because who’s opinion would matter more than ours anyway? I look forward to hearing various thoughts on this one, so don’t be shy! Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have something to write about without having to put as much thought into!

Your Mama, Sack

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