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Is Poker a Sport?

Oliver Jones considers "what is a sport", and would it be appropriate to say, "Poker is a sport"?

While some may argue that it makes no difference whatsoever whether poker is classified as a sport or not, the fact remains that the argument has been there for the longest time and is not likely to vanish anytime soon. First, let us look at how the term 'sport' is defined?

In one definition, the Collins English Dictionary presents sport as an "activity pursued exercise or pleasure." Then it adds that sport would often involve testing physical capabilities and would be competitive. Poker fits into the characteristics of pursuing pleasure and, of course, being competitive. Being physically active, we would associate the word 'sport' with fast-paced or tactical movements of the body rigorous enough to make one sweat, but where does that leave an activity like golf?

Skill, and then luck

Golf is considered a sport, but how much physical exertion does it require? Walking through a golf course might be more of physical activity than sitting in front of a table, but it goes beyond that. It requires skill and practice to get the perfect swing. The same can be said for darts and poker, which are considered sports and require some skill level for a player to win a competition. Do you know what else involves a repertoire of skills for a player to win consistently over time? Poker.

'The poker boom' of 2003 began when a non-professional poker player, Chris Moneymaker, won the first position for a total of $2,500,000 during the main event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), a poker tournament series run in Las Vegas every year. Moneymaker's win favours the argument that poker is more about luck than it is about skill, but it happens that tournament poker is the one type of poker that requires loads of luck for a player to win one tournament. However, as the number of tournaments goes up, so does the importance of skill.

Meanwhile, the 2003 poker boom contributed to the rapid growth of online poker. People loved the Moneymaker story of how he could win a $40 online satellite tournament that allowed him to enter the tournament he later won. Now, online poker has evolved and led to the popularity of mobile casinos, with games for your mobile becoming easier to access.

Like many other sports

Annually, at WSOP, a professional poker player in first place wins millions of dollars, like many professional athletes. Also, professional poker players have to train for a considerable amount of time in preparation for professional-level tournaments. Like many major sports, advertisements and player sponsorships are commonly seen at WSOP, and the tournament is shown on television.

The thrill

In auto racing, the drivers drive round and round, with the only difference between one driver and the next being who ends up at the finish line first. Maybe this is why people watch these races, not because they want to see a driver exhibit impressive reflexes when avoiding a multi-car pileup. Or perhaps the thrill/danger is part of the equation, where the audience knows anything can happen at any point and enjoys the moments of breath-holding as much as seeing who ends up the winner. We can say that poker players feel a sense of danger, the danger of losing money. That's what makes it a thrill.


Sports cannot be boxed as people play and watch sports for many different reasons.

Page Reference

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  • JONES, O. (2017) Is Poker a sport? [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Oliver Jones is a freelance journalist.