Poker is Not a Sport
There were two separate pieces of poker news that came across the wire this week which have left the editors of this site a little troubled. First, poker is now eligible for inclusion as an Olympic event. The International Mind Sports Association accepted poker into it's little club this week. The International Olympic Committee recognizes this association meaning poker is now considered an official game of skill eligible to be added to the Olympics. Will poker ever be added to the Olympics? Yes, probably. As soon as the UIGEA is overturned, Obama enters the World Series of Poker in a show of support and Phil Hellmuth takes a vow of silence, poker will probably become an Olympic sport.
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The other piece of news was that the World Series of Poker may be adding an "all star game" to its schedule. Sigh.
Both of these bits of news suggest that people, apparently a lot of people, think poker is a sport. Poker is not a sport. It's not even close to being a sport. An activity like, say, golf is fair game for the age-old sport vs. not a sport argument. Not only is poker not a sport, but there's really no excuse for anyone who argues otherwise.
A WSOP "All-Star Game"? Really? C'mon Harrah's, some people just finished eating a meal when they heard that news. Have some decency! This isn't baseball. You can't put Mike Matusow in the clean-up spot. There isn't going to be a dunk contest. It's poker. Stop trying to make it into something else. I mean, at least call it an "All-Star Tournament" or the "Tournament of All-Stars". I still may regurgitate half my lunch at the notion of there being a poker "all-star", but at least it's not totally ripping off the NBA and MLB.
As for poker having even just a theoretical chance of being in the Olympics, that's just downright insulting to actual sports. Curlers and synchronized swimmers everywhere should be in an outrage that there's even a theoretical possibility their sport could now be in the same class as poker. I mean, can you just imagine the horror and confusion on people's faces when they turn on the Olympic opening ceremonies and see Eskimo Clark marching into the stadium hand-in-hand with Michael Phelps?
When Full Tilt Poker opened in 2004 and ran their "Poker is a Sport" campaign, at least it was mostly obvious they were just doing anything possible to get marketing exposure and probably didn't actually think poker is a sport. Just like how commercials featuring Santa Claus doesn't mean that company actually believes he actually exists. Unfortunately, Howard Lederer apparently is this dumb. He's said in an interview on ESPN that he thinks poker is a sport. Even more unfortunate is that this mind-blowing and inexplicable stupidity on part of the "Professor" is not an isolated case. Apparently Harrah's management and perhaps even the Olympic committee thinks poker is a sport as well!
Poker is not a sport. You see, sports have athletes. Sports make you sweat, and not just because you have high blood pressure and can't handle the 50 foot walk back from the bathroom after break (we're looking at you, Greg Raymer). You can't get a massage when you're playing a sport. You can't get completely trashed and still win one of the most prestigious events in a sport. That's why Scotty Nguyen isn't an "athlete", he's a degenerate gambler and alcoholic. What's so hard to understand about this?