Are Poker Players Athletes?

Over the years, the game of poker and other related casino games have drastically increased in popularity. In fact, many celebrities and pro athletes play themselves. The big debate — which has always existed — is over whether playing poker or other casino games is considered a sport, thereby making those who play “athletes.” In order to debate this, let’s look at other sports and see what makes their players athletes.


What Makes an Athlete an Athlete?

SOURCE: Wikimedia

Many people claim to be athletes, but are they really? Webster’s definition says that an athlete is “a person trained or skilled in exercise, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina.” As you can see, there is a lot of room for arguments over the word “athlete” and what truly fits into the category. Of course, the obvious athletes are those who compete professionally, run marathons, play multiple sports all year around, and so on.

Some believe being an athlete is more of a state of mind that’s about setting goals and measuring performance against those goals. If you look at it this way, and then take the part of the definition referring to a person being skilled in games and mash them together, then, yes, a person who plays card games is an athlete.

On the flipside, if you focus on the part of the definition that says an athlete is a person who requires physical strength, agility or stamina, then the argument gets a little fuzzy. While playing card games surely takes mental strength and stamina to withstand long tournaments, does it really take agility?

What makes it a Sport?

The definition of a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Again, the obvious sports are basketball, soccer, football, tennis, golf, rugby, competitive running and so on. While playing poker does involve a lot of skill and includes competition against others, does it really require physical exertion? Some would answer yes, because the length of tournaments and the amount of training it takes does test one’s body and skills. Others would argue that you are simply sitting down and handling cards and therefore aren’t exerting energy in a physical manner.

Competitiveness and Drive

Like pro athletes who play football, basketball, tennis, baseball, etc., playing in major poker tournaments requires a high level of competitiveness and drive as well. For this reason, many pro athletes also play poker, whether it’s just for fun or to raise money for charities. Many people believe that this is because both traditional sports and poker require many of the same core personality characteristics.

The Verdict

SOURCE: Wikimedia

So overall, the verdict is still out regarding whether playing poker should be considered a sport or not. It really falls somewhere in the middle of both options and doesn’t really fit into one category or the other. If you love ESPN and follow news on their website, you’ll notice that poker is listed on their site, due to the high competitiveness and amount of income generated yearly. The choice is yours.