Is poker a game or a sport? Even television is confused. The World Series of Poker is a widely viewed component of ESPN programming, yet High Stakes Poker and the World Poker Tour can be seen on GSN, aka The Network for Games.
The definition of sports competition implies physical dexterity, which would exclude poker players. Yet, the combination of skill, strategy, competitive spirit and cerebral input it takes to play the game successfully just may place poker in a sporting category all its own.
Surely there are qualities about tournament poker that are unlike any competition in which you can be involved. The object is to eliminate and win. It engages participants mentally and physically, when you take into account marathon playing sessions over a number of days, even weeks.
Every hand that makes up a poker game or a tournament is a competition all its own with a beginning and an end. There are winners and losers.
It's the combination of those decisions that determine the ultimate decision, but because there are so many strategic layers involved in getting there, the correlation of poker to sports gets complicated.
The mechanics of the game create the tempo for the playing experience. The subtleties, which revolve around timing and decision-making, are what give it life as a sport.
In tournament poker, success seems to feed on success, or better yet, a position of strength.
The bigger stacks of chips, the more daring you can be and the more gambles you can take. The damage created by mistakes is minimized by the cushion you enjoy over your opponents.
Conservative play, or playing with "scared stakes," dilutes the disciplined, tactical behavior required to succeed consistently under tournament conditions. One mistake can spell defeat.
Failure in poker feeds on impulsiveness and desperation. When you are compelled to gamble big on one hand to get back in the game, hoping that luck will be on your side instead of relying on skill and strategy, you set yourself up for defeat.
Waiting for the opportune moments and then striking while the iron is hot gives credence to the genuine philosophy behind winning poker: Patience plus some nerves of steel! (Credit: nwitimes.com)
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