Can poker be ever considered a game which can ever be played in Olympics? Let’s find out. The Olympics showcases the physical prowess of the athletes from around the world. This sports mega event is held every four years and the crème de la crème are in attendance. They are in peak physical and mental form necessary to drive their bodies to victory.

When we talk about Olympics, we think about being physically strong. There are multiple subcategories one can delve into physically vis-a-vis the mental acuity, the degree of skill or good fortune, the nature of the sport being played and the best way to define an Olympic winner. This cursory approach to defining the Olympics is the most accepted approach. 

Poker fuses skill and chance and is an immersive game. But does this mean that poker should be classified as a skill-based game? Depending upon where you are, and who you ask, the answer will vary. In the United States, live poker is legal and it is regarded as a skill-based game with an element of chance involved. Poker players will tell you that skill is more important than luck, but they will never discount the importance of luck while playing poker. 

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Competitions like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are the equivalent of the Olympics for poker players. Every year, the World Series of Poker is hosted at the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada and millions of dollars in poker pots are up for grabs. In Brazil, poker is actually classified as a skill-based game. The Brazil Ministry of Sport recognises it accordingly. In the UK, poker is a game of chance and players who enjoy it have the distinct privilege of not being taxed on their winnings. 

Do poker players want the game to be classified as a sport or a chance-based game?

A strict definition of poker as a skill-based game in the UK would eliminate the tax-free element and this would certainly not be appreciated by poker players. Other countries around the world have their own categorisation of poker, many of them regarding it as a game of chance.

Same is true for Australia, South Africa, Germany and elsewhere. Poker is also a high-earning game as the A-grade players can earn millions of dollars every year. But this does not make poker a sport – it simply reinforces its appeal as a lucrative game to play. With sport, it is clear that physical exertion and physical prowess are paramount. This is not so in poker which utilises a player’s mental acuity in much the same fashion as chess does.

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One poker pro, Dennis Phillips, admitted that, “Any game where Phil Hellmuth could be an Olympian shouldn’t be an Olympic sport.”  Also, poker players are not champions by dint of a victory in one competition, they are champions by proving themselves over a prolonged period of time. This means that if poker were to be included in the Olympics, it would have to be a six-month tournament which would crown the ultimate victor. Poker is a mind sport – of that there is no doubt, and chess also fits the bill. In 2010, the International Mind Sports Association classified poker as one such sport.

Six of one and half a dozen of the other – poker could well be an Olympic sport

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Poker can be classified as a game but it would not be correct to give it a same classification as other sports. However, just like any sports, tournament players need to maintain peak form by using various types of fitness techniques including practice, physical exertion, meditation, rest and time management, dexterity testing, hydration, diet and music.

One fundamental difference between poker and Olympic sports is that of luck. But if Olympic athletes are all equally matched, luck will certainly play a part in determining the winner too!