Online Poker at The Poker FatherOnline Poker - - "Keep your friends close, but your Poker Friends Closer" Online Poker - - "Keep your friends close, but your Poker Friends Closer" The Poker Father Online Poker Site

Poker News: April 28, 2006

(Click Here for the Latest Online Poker News Stories)

Copyright © 2006 USA Today

Sport or not a sport? Pot is split on poker

sport(noun) 1. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively. 2. An active pastime; recreation.

poker(noun). 1. Any of various card games played by two or more players who bet on the value of their hands.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition

In this iPod, Xbox age, the question is no longer under the table: Is poker a sport?

The dictionary definitions of the two words seem to render the case closed. They don't belong in the same sentence. But Webster and colleagues haven't taken into account the effect of television and the blurring of our cultural boundaries everywhere.

POKER PRIMER: Learn how to play

OK, it won't go down in history with the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and it doesn't examine the great issues of our day, like whether the split-up was Nick's or Jessica's fault. But what sports argument does?

To most folks old enough to have voted for Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan for president, it's not a sport unless the smell of Ben Gay is prevalent in the locker room. In their minds, the term Texas Hold 'Em refers to the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line.

But that thinking has been challenged since poker started showing up on every cable TV channel except C-SPAN.

The game has skyrocketed in popularity — thanks in part to ESPN's tightly edited series from the World Series of Poker (WSOP) — and its proponents are now making a case that it should be listed right up there with other great athletic endeavors. Like synchronized swimming. And curling.

Indeed, to many, it's a very simple equation.

"You know what? I guess it is (a sport) because they show it on ESPN," said Chicago Bears cornerback Charles (Peanut) Tillman. "So I guess it is a sport, just like the spelling bee is a sport."

For the record, ESPN has never claimed the game is a sport. And remember what the "E" in ESPN originally stood for? Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

"It's not a sport. How can it be a sport?" said Bob Chesterman, former executive producer of the shows for ESPN Original Entertainment. "It's a competition, and the audience likes that."

The game's stunning growth is unquestioned: The Nevada Gaming Control Board said casino poker earnings for the fiscal year that ended June 30 increased 48.3% to $119.6 million, poker's largest one-year increase in Nevada history.

No one doubts the skill and mental acuity required to play at the top level, but how can something be a sport if it requires less physical activity than sports writing? (No wisecracks until you've climbed the upper-deck ramps at Wrigley Field).

What the jocks say

"The word 'athlete' and the word 'sport' are getting so watered down," said Bryan Clay, 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the decathlon, the event that traditionally comes with the title "World's Greatest Athlete."

The debate would have seemed ludicrous 15 years ago because poker doesn't seem to meet the minimum criteria for the traditional definition.

"Sweating, at least," said Bears offensive lineman John St. Clair. "Although you might sweat (in poker) if you're losing a lot."

"There's absolutely no physical activity at all," added Dwight Phillips, 2004 Olympic long-jump gold medalist, "except maybe lifting a beer or lifting a card."

"Maybe if they did full-contact poker," suggested Adam Nelson, two-time Olympic shot-put silver medalist, who plays poker online occasionally.

You'd think football players in particular would scoff at the notion, but a sampling of Bears players late last season turned up a surprising number who were willing to classify the card game as a sport. After joking there's no good answer to the question, all-pro linebacker Brian Urlacher said he guesses it's a sport because it requires thinking, preparation "and sometimes you have to walk around."

So those guys are athletes?

"I say it's a sport," he shot back, carrying the diplomacy only so far.

Endurance required

If not part of the club, poker players are at least kindred spirits with athletes, said poker legend Doyle (Texas Dolly) Brunson, 72. Called the Babe Ruth of poker, Brunson was a multisport athlete before he shattered his leg in a factory accident. He said many top professional poker players, like him, are former athletes.

"I think there are so many things that are the same in sports and poker that you've got to link them together some way," said Brunson, a spokesperson for "You have to be a mental athlete to play. You have to have physical endurance. ... The last tournament I won (the No-Limit Six-Person Hold 'Em at last year's World Series of Poker), I played 18 hours one day, 16 hours the next day and 16 hours that last day. That's pretty tough. ...

"You have to practice like we did in athletics. If I go several weeks without playing and I go back and play, I'm so rusty I make a lot of errors," said Brunson, a high-school state champion in the mile run and a basketball standout at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, who was ticketed for the NBA before his injury. The best poker players have the sort of mental toughness and discipline that you see in top athletes, he added.

Interesting, said long jumper Phillips, but not enough to clear the hurdle for sports.

"There's a difference between endurance and trying to stay awake," he said.

Brunson, who often walks with a cane, says many top players hire trainers to work out and build endurance. Though his leg and two bad shoulders limit his physical training, "I swim every morning," he said.

"OK, so some of the guys are out of shape," he added. "Let some of those guys that are in such good shape come and try to sit with us at a poker table. ... I'll bet you the pro athlete folds before the poker player does."

'Dangerous' label

While the debate seems harmless to some, others view the stakes as significantly higher than a round of beers or points on a sports columnists' talk show. Affixing the label of sport to poker gives it broader acceptance, especially among younger viewers who could be susceptible to gambling problems.

"The more that connection is made, the more dangerous it is," said Peter Roby, director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. "A lot of young kids can't make the distinction between what they see on TV and what's happening off TV with online gambling."

Added Phillips: "We're supposed to be trying to teach kids not to gamble."

The flood of poker on television is promoting gambling to a young audience, and its appearance on a brand like ESPN "makes it easier for people to make that leap" that it is a sport, Roby said.

Chesterman, who produced the show from its inception until leaving ESPN this winter, says the network has been sensitive to the issue and tries to balance the coverage.

On the other hand, he said, the game has been an American pastime for generations: "Fifty million people play; it's a lot more accepted than not."

In addition to concerns that it is fueling Internet gambling among youths, decathlon champion Clay worries about another trend.

"It kind of seems the things that are becoming more and more popular take less and less activity," he said, citing video games and card playing. "It could be very dangerous to let that go too far. ... I wish people could know you can have just as much fun running track."

If it's considered a sport, he said, next thing you know you'll have students lobbying for it as an alternative physical -ducation class, like coaching poker.

"Imagine having a professor who majored in poker playing," he said.

Poker's near ubiquity on cable TV is particularly irritating to track athletes, who are almost ignored on the airwaves until the Summer Olympics every four years.

"We work our bodies hard and train, and we get less recognition than a lot of guys playing Texas Hold 'Em. I take it personally," said Phillips, the 2005 world outdoor champion in the long jump. "We don't get a lot of air time. I can turn on TV and watch Texas Hold 'Em every day of the week."

Clay said he enjoys the game but is disheartened to see sports networks devote so much time to it compared to more obscure "real sports and athletes."

"I think it's sad that the things kids are going to see and look up to are the ones winning a card game," he said. "I wish kids could learn more about athletes doing things the right way."

ESPN's World Series of Poker telecasts are actually a product of the ESPN Original Entertainment branch, which also produces original movies, scripted dramas and is collaborating with an independent production company on Giants slugger Barry Bonds' current series, Bonds on Bonds. WSOP is, in a sense, ESPN's answer to reality TV.

For 12 hourlong shows of the WSOP main event with the $7.5 million jackpot, the network shot more than 2,300 hours of tape. It used 23 cameras and took about three weeks to edit each show into a minidrama in which viewers get to know — and love or dislike — the players like the participants in The Apprentice.

"That's why it takes awhile to edit, making sure the storylines are good and compelling," said Chesterman, now vice president of park strategy and management for Six Flags, Inc.

"They do a great job packaging it," said shot-putter Nelson. "They've got some great characters routinely in the running for the big money."

The TV poker season, such as it is, ramps up next month when ESPN begins airing last fall's United States Poker Championships. The 2006 WSOP competition opens in June and ESPN coverage starts July 18.

ESPN's WSOP coverage went from seven shows the first year, 2003, to 32 last year. It averaged a 1.3 rating for the 32 episodes in 2005, including a 2.0 (1.8 million households) for the grand finale in November. Last year's ratings were higher than the first year (1.2) but down from 1.7 in 2004.

Fun on the Internet

As the poker/sport debate continues, the next question is obvious: "Does poker belong in the Olympics?"

A website called (sponsored by Full Tilt Poker) promoted the idea in 2004, presumably tongue-in-cheek, featuring animated graphics of rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming and doubles luge over the heading, "If this qualifies, why not poker?" Last year, another online poker site pushed an extreme underwater poker game, 30 feet below sea level, as worthy of the five-ring treatment.

The International Olympic Committee hasn't recognized any poker federations, but the idea may not be completely as wacky as it sounds. The IOC recognizes bridge as a sport with its own international federation, and senior IOC member Marc Hodler has lobbied for its inclusion.

"I'm a believer that the human brain is at least as important as muscles," Hodler told the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City before the 2002 Games.

Federations representing billiards, chess and ballroom dancing also have been granted provisional recognition by the IOC.

None, including bridge, is expected to join the Olympics, and none involves gambling as an integral part of its play. But if one makes it, we all know what the poker parties will say: All In.

Hollywood Poker Bonus Code

Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on April 27, 2006:

(Click Here for the Latest Online Poker News Stories)


Online Poker Offers you CANNOT REFUSE

Last Updated:

Online Poker Offers YOU CANNOT REFUSE!

Help The Poker Father and WIN $100


The - Online Poker Site The - Online Poker Site The - Online Poker Site
The - Online Poker Site

Online Poker | Poker Bonus | U.S. Poker | Poker News | Poker Games | Casino Games |Poker Rules | Poker Tips
Poker Strategy | Poker Books | Poker Movies | Poker Banners | Partners | Poker Supplys | FreeRoll Poker
Poker Lessons | Poker Glossary | Security | Who We Are | Link Directory | Contact Us | Site Map

Didn't find what you are looking for - try Google, Open Directory Project or Yahoo! Directory is an independent online poker information website not affiliated with any poker room.
Copyright © 2005-2011 The Poker Father Online Poker Site - All Rights Reserved.

The - Online Poker Site