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The Main Controversy About Poker: Is It a Sport or a Game of Chance?

The debate about whether poker can be considered not a game of chance, but a game of the mind, or even a sport, has been going on for a long time. So far, the results are as follows: poker players are confident that they are athletes, and authorities in different parts of the world are convinced that they are not. Let’s try to figure out what poker is.

Disputes About the Nature of Poker

There is no doubt that poker is not roulette at the live dealer casino, and professional skills play an essential role in this game. But is poker a sport? It seems not, because traditional sport is associated with two main characteristics: competitiveness and physical activity. If in terms of the level of competition poker can be compared with tennis or football, then there are problems with physical activity.

On the other hand, not all classic sports are about physical exercises. Darts hardly requires serious physical activity, but it is a sport. You don’t need to be strong to play bowling. Among the Olympic sports, there is trap shooting. Chess is a sport, but where is the physical activity?

In today’s world, things are even more complicated. Dota 2 and CS: GO are not recognized as Olympic sports, but we call those who practice them, cyber sportsmen. In 1995, at the 104th session of the IOC, Bridge was recognized as part of the Olympic movement, and the World Bridge Association received Olympic status.

Since the 1960s, people have tried to solve the problem of a more accurate classification with the help of the phrase mind games (“smart games”). There is even a special federation of such sports, which includes bridge, chess, go, mahjong, and other “smart” games. Since the 90s, the UK has hosted the mind games Olympiad annually (only in 2020 it moved online due to the coronavirus), and it has a poker tournament. The difference from the usual poker is that the participants do not play for money: in different poker disciplines you need to take places as close to the top as possible – and the best number of these places makes you a champion.

The Game of Mind or Chance?

The main reason why poker cannot become a mainstream sport is its high dependence on luck. To reduce this dependency, several poker disciplines have emerged, in which the luck factor is reduced. The most famous of these experiments is Matchpoker. Several teams are divided by game tables (one team member at each table). The players receive an equal number of chips and the same cards are dealt at each table. After each draw, the number of chips is counted. After a few rounds of the game, the winner is determined.

Lack of recognition as a sport type does not prevent poker from being a competitive discipline. Streams are already gaining thousands of views, while the unofficial World Championship of Poker is becoming a global event, which attracts players from all over the world.

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