Some time ago, a friend and I had a friendly debate about whether online slot poker should be considered a sport or a game. After some research and contemplation, here are my arguments in favor of online slot poker players becoming athletes.

Is online slot poker a sport or a game? Online Slot Poker is a sport because it is played for entertainment, it is competitive and almost always requires physical and mental strength to play and win consistently at the highest level. Online multi-tabling players are required to have sharp hand-eye coordination and both live and online players need physical endurance to play in long sessions.

Still not sure? Let’s break down the definition of a sport into its individual elements and see if each one can be applied to poker.

Why Online Slot Poker Is a Sport and the Players Are Athletes

The Oxford Dictionary defines sport as “an activity involving the exertion of physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes with others or others for entertainment.”

In other words, sport is defined as a competitive activity undertaken for entertainment that requires physical ability and skill to excel.

How to win more money at poker
Let’s start with the easy stuff.

1. Online Slot Poker Requires Skill

This is an important distinction that most of the population miss. There is a reason why the same poker players win again and again in the long run.

Making Profitable Decisions

Requires Skill
In poker, everything you do requires a decision. There are many of these little decisions in every poker hand you decide to play. In fact, deciding to play a hand is one of the biggest decisions.

Every action you take in poker requires skill to realize whether it has positive expectations and will win money in the long run. This is the part that is difficult for most people to grasp. Whether short term luck can see winning decisions lose money and losing decisions make money.

But if you play hundreds of examples of winning decisions, you will almost certainly make a profit. In fact, the more iterations of bad decisions you make, the chances of being a net loser also increase.

Basketball Gambling Analogy

Take basketball for example. If a point guard makes a difficult pass across the lane at the breakaway, sometimes the pass will succeed and end in a lay-up. At other times the ball will be stolen by the opponent or out of court.

Either way, the player has made a “bet” that is calculated based on the situation at hand. The root of his decision whether to pass or not is what action will score the most points in the long run. If the risk of passing is too great then maybe he will take a slightly more difficult 16-foot shot.

The experience and knowledge gained through practice and experience allows basketball players to make better and better decisions throughout the game. Playing poker is exactly the same thing. Experience, knowledge and practice allow poker players to make more profitable decisions while avoiding losing as much as possible.

This is how skill works for every sport in the world, including poker.

2. Online Slot Poker Played for Entertainment

Coutesy from flipchip •  This one is easy. Anyone who has played online slot poker for a few minutes understands how entertaining it can be. The first time you go all-in versus another player and hit that magic river card, you might get hooked.

For many, part of the fun of online slot poker comes in deciphering the many puzzles to solve. What hands can my opponent have? Is he bluffing? Can I do a bluff? These are just a few of the thousands of possible decision points that can occur at any time during a poker hand.

What If The Definition Of “Entertainment” Just Means Fun To Watch?

Even if you are a bit finicky with the definition of the sport, online slot poker works very well with this repetition of the word “entertainment” as well. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) continues to get good ratings year after year. People like to watch the game because they want to be the one to win that huge amount of money.

I think that’s the reason people watch a lot of sports on TV. They like to see pro golfers win because they themselves aspire to be champion golfers. Or they like watching 3-point contests in the NBA because they want to be great shooters (or think they are already great shooters).

I would call this phenomenon entertainment by proxy, because vicarious enjoyment is achieved by watching sports. Simply put, it’s fun to watch because it’s fun to imagine being the one to do it.

3.Competitive Online Poker Slots

Competitiveness is another area that poker clearly qualifies as a sport. In fact, the entire definition of online slot poker is built around being competitive. The root of the game is having one poker hand compete against another online slot poker hand to find out which one is the winner.

Beyond the obvious, the best poker players in the world are not geniuses at playing their cards well. The biggest winners are the players who most efficiently recognize what their opponents are doing and build a counter-winning strategy.

In other words, being good at competitiveness is what determines who is the best player.

4. Online Slot Poker Requires Physical Ability

I’m sure I’ll get a lot of encouragement for this one. But please, listen to me.

At face value, it seems like little physical ability is required to sit at a poker table for hours playing a mentally challenging “game”. However, if you reread what I just said, you’ll get a hint of what I’m talking about here.

Online Slot Poker Also Demands Physical Movement Support

In order for online slot poker players to make money, they have to put hours of “grind” at the table. They should also play at a time when weaker competition is at the table, whether that fits into their ideal schedule or not. These marathon sessions are sometimes mentally and physically draining. The fact is, the better the player’s form, the better he will perform.

The core problem. Look at the average age at the World Series of Poker final table each year. It’s rare to see a player over 30, let alone 40 make it all the way to the end. What happen? Are younger people just smarter? Impossible.

Younger people happen to be in better physical shape more often and thus have the mental and physical fortitude to play 7 or 8 twelve hours a day in a row. Those who are in poor physical condition tend to end up also experiencing mental breakdowns and making big mistakes that cost them their tournament lives.

Online Slot Poker Requires Physical Agility

Don’t forget about online slot poker players. There are more games than just sitting in front of a computer and clicking buttons with a few fingers.

To be successful as an online player, you will need to play multiple tables to maximize your hourly win rate. This requires acute hand-eye coordination and physical agility, as well as a strong mind-body connection to minimize mistakes when playing 600, 1000, sometimes 1500 hands per hour or more.

In the long run, players with better physical fitness will only outperform other players with similar abilities. In fact, I had a section in my 2012 book about the importance of an exercise regimen for poker players.

I believe that, as parody becomes more common among top professionals, players will seek an edge wherever they can get it. Don’t be surprised if the WSOP final table will consist mostly of 6-pack players by 2030.

Some Famous Sports Require Little or No Physical Exercise

If you have ever watched American baseball then you have seen some seemingly unhealthy players involved in every game. In fact, one former major league footballer was asked by a reporter, “You don’t look like an athlete.” The player replies, “I’m not an athlete, I’m a baseball player”.

But have you ever seen someone ask, “Is baseball a sport?” Of course not, because there are some physical elements to the game.

How about golf? Of course, it takes physical ability to hit the ball. Even so, I’ve seen pretty big guys win a lot of pro golf tournaments. Think Craig Stadler or John Daly. That’s because they have good hand-eye coordination and timing, just like good online slot poker players.

I’m sure if you take a moment you can think of some other sports where there are players or positions where great physical ability is not required.

But Online Slot Poker Can’t Be a Sport Because There’s Gambling?!?!

I would argue that all sports have an element of gambling or just bald-faced gambling.

We have discussed how decisions made during a game are similar to online slot poker decisions. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m referring to any sport that has a league in which there is a buy-in.

Most Sports Cost Upfront

We have established that sport is a game of skill. What I think is the biggest travesty of how people view online slot poker is that they are okay with people putting up hundreds, or thousands, of their hard earned cash every year to play in golf tournaments, bowling tournaments, pool tournaments, soccer/soccer leagues, etc. while they turn their backs on people buying tournament poker.

Aren’t you really just placing a bet on yourself, no matter what sport you play? Isn’t there a prize for winning this league or tournament, whatever the sport? I think you can see where I’m going with this.

What About Other Casino Games?

If a game is played against the house or has no way of beating, no matter how skilled one is, then it is not a sport. If a game is played against other players and involves skill and not just luck, it is a sport.

Why Is All This Important?

There is a negative connotation in online slot poker because the element of gambling is found in the sport. People believe that just because you usually play it in a casino, and it is played with cards, it must be gambling.

My hope is that this article will help explain the true nature of poker. That it is a fun and skill-based sport, one that deserves attention and is not looked down upon.

Related Questions

Is online slot poker illegal? The legality of online slot poker all depends on where you live. In the United States, it is legal to play in all states except Kentucky and Washington State. Be sure to research the legalities in your local jurisdiction before playing.

Where is the best place to practice poker? The best place to practice poker is at home with family or friends, or at a poker site that has play money. For US players and some other countries, Ignition Poker is a great option. To the rest of the world, I recommend 888 Poker as a fun place to play.

What is the World Series of Poker? The World Series of Poker, or WSOP is a series of live poker tournaments held annually from late May to mid-July. Currently, the event is being held at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada. Anyone who can afford it can play in the event. >