Is Poker a Sport or Gambling?

If you love soccer or baseball, it will take some convincing for you to start thinking about poker as some sporting activity, but those who cherish this game are extraordinarily strong in their belief that is a fact. They are reasoning that if chess or growing darts can be classified as a sport, that the poker should be in the same league with these activities. It is true that you cannot make millions of dollars by playing chess, but there are many similarities with it, as poker is also one form of mental activity that requires a certain skill level. It is competitive and popular across the globe and some would argue that one can bet while playing a game of darts just as during the regular poker session. There is a thin line between gambling and playing poker for fun and the game seems to be evolving in both directions at this moment.

Does it qualify as a sport?

Let’s take some look at what constitutes one activity as a sport and then we will try to conclude if poker meets these stipulations. Every sport has its celebrity stars who are worshiped around the world for their achievements, like Rafael Nadal or Michael Jordan, but so does the game of poker. Everybody knows about Phil Ivey, Doyle Bronson, and Daniel Negreanu plus they are treated like superstars who make millions in endorsement deals. Every sport has main events like World Cups of Masters tournaments but the poker has its world series where those best players meet to take home that big prize which grows larger every year. These events are televised and watched by fanatic fans all over the world who cheer for their favorite players.

We have the stars, we have the main events, endorsement deals, and worldwide broadcasting, so who can argue that playing poker is not some sporting activity that requires physical exertion? Another argument is the fact that we have so many professional players who play this game as their chosen profession. If professional basketball players are recognized as mainstream, then those who choose to play cards for a living should be recognized too. Playing tournaments is very exhausting, it requires hours of constant concentration and it is physically challenging. It sounds a lot like a sport to me, but some would argue that not many sports have the element of gambling embedded in their core.

Do other sports qualify as gambling?

It is true that poker requires both physical and mental abilities, but we can’t disregard the fact that it is a gambling activity featured in every casino on the planet. All the best casinos one can find online are racing to design the best poker rooms and provide the biggest bonuses for new players. For any gambling parlor to be dubbed as the safe casino, it needs to get some stellar reviews on best online casino and most of those depend on how solid is its poker games offer. All that is true, but every mainstream sporting activity is made an object of betting activity as you can put your money on virtually anything from boxing to hockey and table tennis matches. Every activity that has an element of competition can be bet on so this card game is no exception.

The competition is very fierce in Texas Hold’em and some professional players would compare it with going to war. Their goal is to destroy the other opponents and win that sweet jackpot at any cost. This game is brutal and reaching some pro-level requires years of practice and learning about reading people plus mastering the math behind it. Most other sports do not require such a deep understanding of human psychology but from a spectator’s perspective, they can become a source of betting income. That is if one possesses some masterful knowledge of each sport and can turn his passion into profit.

Every sport requires training

Pumping iron and going to the gym will get anyone in good shape and make those biceps and triceps ready for physical exhaustion required in professional sport. Becoming one renowned card player demands a different kind of practice which is more mentally orientated but equally effective. One needs to practice reading his opponents and predicting their moves, but he also needs to study Texas Hold’em statistics until he can calculate certain probabilities by memory. This is what it takes to be a pro and not just some casual player in an online casino who likes to play a few hands once in a while. Pro-level requires some commitment that can only be matched by professional football or baseball players who have that strong passion for their game.

What we are trying to say is that anyone can freely decide whether he will play this game for gambling purposes or move to the Ivy League and become a pro if he believes to possess proper skills. For casual players, this is just a game but for money-makers like Phil Ivy, this is definitely one ruthless sporting activity. Professionals like these have dedicated their life to sharpening their skills and they live very disciplined lives which require constant training and studying their opponents. Take a look at your skill level and figure in which group do you fit in. Maybe you are one prosperous young player or just a supporter who enjoys watching others play, just like you like watching the final of NBA Playoffs.


Whether one sees this game as a sport or a gambling activity it is clear that we are talking about one unique game that captures the hearts and minds of millions across the globe. It can be described as a mental athletic discipline by some and a pure casino trademark by others. Just do not be surprised if you see it at the next Olympics on a list of competing disciplines.