Should Poker Be Considered A Sport?
It’s almost impossible to solve the mystery of what’s the most difficult sport to play. I mean, how do you judge what’s tougher—hitting a fastball over the back fence, shooting a basketball over a seven-footer with a 40-inch vertical, smashing a puck while dancing on ice skates or trying to absorb the punishment dished out in the ring or the octagon.
Well, here’s a question at the other end of the sporting spectrum that may even be tougher to answer. Should we consider poker—that’s right, playing cards—a sport?
As the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event heads into its three month intermission (that’s right, once the field narrows down from its starting point of 7319 entrants to the final nine, they take a three month time-out), let’s see if we can ascertain if sitting at a card table for 12-16 hours a day is an athletic achievement.
At face value, you’d think no. But when you read how the top poker professionals prepare for these events, it’s quite similar to athletes preparing for their (obviously more) physically demanding activities. Top pro Daniel Negreanu (pictured below) regularly blogs about how he gets ready for high-stakes tournaments and how eating right and his extensive mental and physical preparation is what can give him an edge over his opponents. And make no mistake, being locked-in mentally for 16 hours is a ridiculous feat.
Some people will say that for poker to be a sport there has to be some kind of physical toll taken on the participants. Well, is darts a sport? Is billiards a sport? Some of the featured “athletes” in these fields look like extras from Trainspotting.
Others will say poker has too many variables which are out of the hands of the competitors (i.e., luck) to be called a sport. I guess that means diving and gymnastics aren’t sports either, as the results of these sports hinge 100 percent on the opinions of those judging you. (If you use this argument then, technically, your definition of “sport” would only include pure athletics, like who can run the fastest or throw the furthest, as even sports like basketball and football can be influenced by external factors such as refereeing.)
As a part-time poker player I’d like to think it’s somewhat athletic (albeit mainly mental athletics), but at the same time if you can drink a beer while playing it, maybe that should be the cut-off as to what classifies as sport (which then means we rule out golf as a sport too, so the debate continues).