As much as any other pastime, poker straddles the line between “game” and “sport”. The “game” part of poker requires no further validation. The status of poker as a “sport”, however, can certainly go up for debate.
Can poker be rightfully considered a sport? Let’s evaluate that question:
Is Poker A Sport?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
Poker certainly involves competition between individuals. Team competition occasionally comes into play in poker, such as in events like the Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the annual World Series of Poker.
Poker undoubtedly qualifies as entertainment. Players around the world participate in the game for the sake of their own entertainment. Television coverage of events like the WSOP presents poker as entertainment for viewers.
Does poker involve physical exertion and skill? The game unquestionably requires skill, but does poker require physical exertion?
If you’ve ever played a lengthy poker session, you know the answer to that last question. Poker does require physical exertion, alertness, stamina, and general fitness. The physical grind of a live tournament like the WSOP Main Event is real, and the players that make it to the late stages of that tournament endure days of physical (and mental) stress to do so.
The fact that the WSOP was covered by ESPN for years, and is now covered by CBS Sports, is no coincidence.
Are All Forms of Gambling a Sport?
Poker is the only form of gambling that can be considered a sport, at least by the Oxford Dictionary definition. No other gambling game involves individuals or teams competing against each other.
Aside from poker, all casino games involve players competing against the house.