Poker Is Not a Sport...Even If It Is Broadcast on a Sports Network

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIINovember 2, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 18: Commissioner of the Epic Poker League, Annie Duke (C) presents the remaining five players (L-R) Joe Tehan, Scott Clements, Andrew Lichtenberger, Chris Klodnicki and Michael Mizrachi at the third Main Event on the final day of the Epic Poker League Inaugural Season at the Palms Casino Resort on December 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for Epic Poker)
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Sorry, but poker is not a sport.

ESPN might broadcast it for the entire world to see, but I have a hard time putting it alongside baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoy playing poker. I do not know if I would call it good television, but every so often I like to get together with some of my friends and play a little cards. We enjoy some snacks, exchange walking-around money and have some laughs.

Not a sport.

Now, this will inevitably bring up the issue of definitions. What is a "sport?" At the risk of avoiding the question, I will suggest that this is a very long philosophical discussion that is best resolved with a larger group at a barbecue or late at night at a coffee shop.

However, for the sake of argument I will suggest that sport should at least require a minimum amount of physical talent or skill. Poker is not exactly a grueling physical activity.

Granted, this can quickly delve into the definition of an "athlete."

Once we go there, people will quickly start bringing up golfers that are either chain-smokers or not exactly svelte. Golfers who, if they had to run laps, might struggle to keep up. Let’s not go there.

I have no problem with ESPN broadcasting the World Series of Poker. After all, they are the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Their job is to broadcast anything that will be watched.

If they want to jam a camera under someone’s thumb so that we can see their Fishhooks up close and personal, so be it.

Still, slapping the phrase “World Series” on the front of something does not equate it to baseball. Granted, baseball does not exactly have a “world” series either, but that is a different story.

Television is all about personal preference.

Some people watch grown men put on helmets and smash into each other. Others prefer to watch a dude in a hoodie and sunglasses act all cool and play cards for big money. 

And then there are those who apparently like to watch someone named Honey Boo Boo, whoever that is.

Now I know that some will argue that sport is as much about mental ability as it is about physical gifts. A quarterback has to make quick mental reads on the field. The pitcher and batter play an endless mental game of, “Can you guess which pitch I am going to throw?”

There are clearly mental aspects to sports, and some of the biggest stars have been people who are cerebral thinkers as well as physically gifting.

The physical structure still needs to be there. There might be some chubby golfers out there, but they still have the athletic ability to hit a ball straight. I have the physical gifts to hit the ball into the fairway, but it isn’t always my fairway.

If you want to embrace a more open definition for the word sport, be my guest.

I am still going to stick with the premise that poker, while entertaining, is not a sport. Just because you might need some big guns to shove a stack of chips into the middle does not make you a world-class athlete.

If poker is sport, then ESPN needs to add the World Series of Chess, Risk and Monopoly. That might make for some good television.


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