Tuesday night, I witnessed an event that was a war of attrition with a raucous crowd and high stakes on the line. No, it wasn’t the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics kicking off the NBA season, it was the final table of the World Series of Poker.
Three men were left at the final table and those three men played through the night into Wednesday morning totalling almost 12 hours of play. Greg Merson from Maryland walked away from the battle of wills the victor and $8.53 million richer, not bad for a night of playing cards.
I arrived home from the newsroom that night after a long production with a paper to write. Being the sports fanatic I am, I had to turn on ESPN for one round of SportsCenter before I began writing my paper. However, when I turned on the network the main event of the World Series of Poker was on live, which was surprising for me as it was near 11:30 p.m. PST.
I found myself procrastinating on the work I had to get done as I was entranced by the high stakes poker action. I kept saying to myself, “This is the last hand I’ll watch,” and before I knew it, it was 3 a.m. and I needed to get some rest. The first thing I did waking up was check who had won, only to realize that I missed the final hand by only half an hour.
All this poker obsession got me thinking, is poker legitimately a sport?
Dictionary.com defines sport as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical practice and often a competitive nature.” By this definition I can say that poker is a sport because it is an activity that requires skill and is very competitive. If you don’t believe it’s competitive, you should see the bickering that I’ve seen between good friends and family over the card game. As for the athletic part of the definition, I think a 12-hour workout of the mind and the strategy involved makes up for not being as “physically exhausting” as your run-of-the-mill sports.
Taking risks, elation and agony, strategy, practice and competition are all qualities that I find as reasons that I am so drawn to in sports, and poker encapsulates every one of them. If Nascar, pool and bowling are considered sports then poker should definitely be considered a sport. I believe that a poker game is more exciting than turning left 500 times.
I think one distinction that I appreciate about poker that is different from standard sports is the dependence on luck that the sport has. Anyone could win the main event in poker as long as they have the skills and fortunate hands at the right time.
One of the coolest things about poker is that anyone can participate and it’s made stars out of regular people that millions would have never heard of before. People like Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker and Doyle Brunson have all made careers of the sport they love.
Also, women compete on the same level as men; what other sports exist where the sexes can compete on the same competitive field?
I know that many will never consider poker as a sport but if ESPN keep showing it, I’ll keep watching it.