Should Poker Be Considered a Sport?

The best definition I have ever heard for the difference between a game and a sport is this: A skilled player, regardless of age, can win any game. On the other hand, a skilled adult will beat a skilled child in a sport every time.

By that standard, football, baseball, and basketball are all clearly sports. Also, by that standard, checkers, Magic: the Gathering ™, and even chess are all games. And, yes, golf is a sport by that standard, though miniature golf clearly is not. Ping pong may actually be questionable, but I suspect it falls into sport. Applying the standard to poker is a little more complicated.

Obviously, poker has no meaningful physical requirements. Poker can be played in person, online, and even purely as a mental exercise. Therefore, physical conditioning clearly provides no benefit to a poker player. But, physical conditioning alone is not the only advantage adults have over children. Experience is also a tangible advantage that a child simply cannot have comparable to a highly experienced adult. And, in the case of poker, it is a specific experience that children are missing. To learn more about the game of poker and to play poker online with other skilled players have a look at

Poker, as any professional will tell you, is not simply a game of chance. In fact, chance is the element of the game that the best poker players actively seek to minimize. Other elements of poker include the mathematical odds manipulation of betting and bluffing. A person of just about any age can conceivably be a math genius. That element tends to be age dependent, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. The important element to consider is bluffing.

Bluffing is an oversimplified term in this case. It is being used to refer to all poker actions taken to try indicate the quality of one’s hand, often falsely, but not always. It is also being used to refer to identifying the quality of an opponent’s hand based on various indications the opponent is making, intentional and unintentional. It is this element that a child, even an experienced one, has a severe disadvantage compared to an experienced adult. The ability to create a false, but believable indication of hand quality requires experience with social interactions. Similarly, the ability to identify those indications in others requires that same experience. A child’s social interactions have not developed to that level. Lack of opportunity is part of the reason. But, in addition, the brain goes through biological changes during puberty that hones the ability to deal with social interactions.

And, that fact, is the key fact in determining whether the standard applies. The standard stated above is simply another way of saying that puberty has an effect on mastery of sports, but not on mastery of games. While the effect may not be physical, puberty has an effect on the mastery of poker. It may seem strange, when most card activities would be classified as games, but it shouldn’t come as that big a surprise. ESPN has been airing poker for years now and cable companies classify poker events as “Sports, Other”. And, like any good sport, it is fun to watch with beer and pretzels, the professionals who play make unreasonable amounts of money off of it, and a lot more people think they could play it professionally than actually successfully do.

Sally is a professional copywriter with an experience of 15+ years. She wishes to share her keen knowledge of the online gaming world. Besides that, she loves watching sci-fi movies and is a tech enthusiast.