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It’s an age-old question that has been asked for many years, the answer of which changes more frequently than a lady getting ready for a night out. So, is poker a sport or a game?

The Sport of Kings, Queens and Jacks

Sport is often defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”. Although poker involves minimal physical exertion (unless you count leaping out of your chair following a bad beat as a star-jump), the classical definition of sport, to accommodate activities like poker, has to be altered.

Poker was officially classified as a ‘mind sport’ back in 2011 by the International Mind Sport Association, joining bridge, chess, backgammon and cribbage amongst others regarded as such.

Being classified a ‘strategic skill’ and aligning with games enjoyed by Jen Shahade (a chess grand master) and Gus Hansen (a backgammon legend in his own right before transitioning to poker) is an accomplishment in its own right. Does classification alone truly define poker as a sport? You can’t dunk a Jaffa Cake so can you consider it as part of the biscuit family?

Who’s Got Game?

Poker is categorised as a ‘game’ in many European countries, a classification one of the most important players in professionals’ lives, the taxman, agrees with. Poker is identified as gambling this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Poker professionals reap the most benefit from plying their trade in Europe, where poker can be exploited as a skill game, but is tax-free when it comes to winnings.

Some think labelling poker as a game is crucial for grassroots development, with new blood entering largely because it is perceived as ‘aspirational’. Would the same inexperienced players be more attracted to a sport, with the nature of competition being the main attraction? Would you take Lionel Messi on in a penalty shoot-out? (actually, given his recent record, yes)

Poker being seen as a game, a form of gambling does have its advantages. Players enjoy the gambling aspects of poker, the lucky river card, the suck-out that saves them or the bink they celebrate as a win.

Training Is Paramount

Poker has undeniably, whether labelled a sport or game, become an activity in which anyone can succeed. Those who work the hardest usually reap the lion’s share of the spoils. From online training videos to live poker experiences, poker players have never been better, more competitive or more in shape, classic trademarks of many sports. Players like Sam Trickett make sure they’re highly conditioned to ensure their power poker is on top form.

Many ‘games’ are defined as such due to the fact they’re more about luck than skill. Can you say that about poker? Most would say no, with the margin of error narrowing in recent years. The continuation bet (or c-bet), as it was played during the early years of the World Series, is not the move it is today. Poker’s development demonstrates that the game once only played in the backrooms of clubs and casinos, seen as a gamblers’ paradise, has come a long way, evolving in the same way that many other sports have.

The Power of Television

Being broadcast on TV far and wide, poker has slowly morphed into a formalised global export, one that has a massive following. We’ve never been closer to the action and, from the partypoker Premier League to other major tournaments, television has shown first hand poker’s progression and transition from card game to mind sport.
More than ever before poker players are addicted to, and fascinated by, analytics and statistics. Results are tracked by online league tables which are checked by players more often than musicians monitoring the Top 40. Being top of the all-time money list is the dream of thousands upon thousands of live players.

Online poker, following Black Friday in the US, is still not permitted but one day will be… hopefully sooner rather than later. When it is allowed, many expect poker to enjoy another boom, new players flooding to the game – or sport – that brilliantly combines both luck and skill. Each player sees poker in a different so what do you think? Is it a game or a sport?

We hope, no matter how you classify the greatest card activity on the planet that you run and run well.

Speaking of sport, here’s how the UK Team Challenge is shaping up

We’re five days into the inaugural UK Team Challenge and already it is shaping up to be an amazing contest. There are 148 teams registered to date (August 6) and with registrations available until August 31, there’s a good chance we’ll hit the magical 200 and add another £5,000 to the live final’s prize pool.

Here are the top 10 teams as of the start of August 6, 2015.

Place Team Booster Chips Team Chips Total chips
1 IRONMAN 3+1 20,000 365,400 385,400
2 The Ninja Turtles 40,000 307,400 347,400
3 Four Amigos 0 340,600 340,600
4 Blue Blood Bowlers 25,000 300,600 325,600
5 BLONDE TAMM 20,000 287,600 307,600
6 THS Quid Hats 10,000 208,400 218,400
7 Quad Kings 20,000 149,600 169,600
8 BadRegSupply 15,000 153,600 168,600
9 BRS Sprawlers 0 167,200 167,200
10 The Four King Nuts 25,000 136,000 161,000

Register your team today and see if you can catch any of the teams above.

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