The debate over the difference between a game and a sport is a long one. In casino terms, the question asked is usually which classification poker falls into. Although it is still officially considered a game in most contexts, there is a strong case for poker being a sport. But what other casino games, if any, could be classed as sports? What exactly is the definition of a sport as opposed to a game, and why does it matter?
Poker as sport
Poker has officially been defined as a sport in certain limited circumstances, but it is officially classified as a game in most European countries, and in North America, it is classed as gambling, which amounts to the same thing. While gambling has a negative connotation in the US, poker being classed as a game in Europe works to players’ advantage, as it means that all winnings are tax-free.
In 2011, the International Mind Sports Association recognized poker as a “mind sport” alongside the likes of bridge, chess, backgammon and cribbage. In 2017, match poker was officially recognized as an Olympic sport, which many took as legitimizing poker’s sports status once and for all. However, match poker is a significantly different game from the versions of poker you’ll find at the best NJ online casinos, because the element of chance is removed almost entirely.
Luck or skill?
One of the issues involved in deciding whether a casino game can be considered a sport is whether it is primarily about luck or skill. Most casino games are entirely games of chance, which disqualifies them from sports status. Poker requires more skill than luck, and so could be considered a sport. The modern game is even more sports-like, as players become more methodical, use more math, and leave less to chance.
Bridge and backgammon are also considered mind sports, as mentioned above, because they are primarily games of skill. While you can make money playing slot machines, there is no skill involved. Some have made the case for blackjack being a sport. However, there is far less skill and far more luck involved than with poker, so the case is weaker.
Poker meets most definitions of sport as it is a competitive game of skill that can be watched for entertainment. It has its own World Series and league tables and is televised on sports TV networks. Where it falls down is in the definition of sport involving physical exertion. Poker is a game of mental effort, not physical, though the same could be said for recognized sports such as motor racing.
While poker may not require physical exertion, it is physically demanding, especially at the professional level. Like athletes, pro poker players must train regularly and stay in shape, while the long hours require a high degree of stamina and fitness.
The case for poker being a sport is a strong one. Most casino games don’t qualify, however, as games of skill are generally unwelcome in a casino setting. Poker aside, casino games are played against the house, and are based on chance with a built-in house edge. A casino is a business, not a sports hall – a fact that it always pays to remember.