Point/Counter Point: Poker = Sport?
July 10, 2021

Kristian Garic, a sports reporter for, in a recent article asked his readers one of poker's oldest and most often debated questions, "is poker a sport?" 

In the story, Garic takes the common position that poker is definitely not a sport and even goes so far as to say it should no longer be allowed on ESPN "the World Wide Leader in Sports," fitting better perhaps on a channel like Lifetime- a fairly incendiary statement if I've ever heard one, especially when made during this, one of the games holiest of weeks.

Whether Garic is right or not, is of course up for debate and he's certainly not the first one to state that belief, in fact one need not even leave PokerRoad to hear poker pro Haralabos Voulgaris argue the same thing, in numerous classic episodes of Big Poker Sundays.  So is that it then?  Should someone go head to the Rio and tell ESPN to stop filming?

Most people define sport simply as an activity that requires skill and physical exertion in which individuals or teams compete, so by that definition does poker fit?

No one reading this article I imagine would argue that poker is competitive and most would hopefully agree that poker requires some skill (although that's another argument that seems to often spring up) so then the discussion seems to hinge on the physical exertion section and indeed, this seemed to be the part that most infuriated Mr. Garic while he was flipping the channels hoping to catch some old baseball reruns.

Now personally I'm not eager to pick a fight with Mr. Garic and I'm even less willing to disagree with Haralabob (on pretty much anything), but it does seem that there are some examples, perhaps even from this year's World Series of Poker, that could make the argument that poker does require some amount of physical exertion:

Miami John Cernuto collapsed at the table during a Razz event during this year's World Series and had to be hospitalized, one of many players over the year's including Poker Hall of Fame members Tom Abdo and Jack "Treetop" Straus, to experience serious health problems, heart attacks and even death while playing high stakes poker.

David Bach won the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Event, after playing for five days and surviving a final table that lasted almost 20 hours, the longest final table in the history of the WSOP.

Daniel Negreanu was unable to survive Day 1 of this year's WSOP Main Event, which in his blog (found here at PokerRoad) he primarily blames on being sick as a dog, perhaps making the argument that a players physical state plays at least some role at the table.  Indeed, many of poker's top players including Negreanu, seem to argue the importance of being in good physical condition before sitting down at the tables can't be overstated.

So does poker require physical exertion?  Well doesn't almost everything?  I guess the real question is how much is required for the definition to fit.  Granted poker isn't exactly pulling a school bus a 100 yards with nothing but your muscles and a 3/4 inch chain, but its gotta be close to say, putting.

Story by Mark Anderson

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