by Davida Mintz, January 19, 2014
The word sports brings to mind the image of a team of people engaged in rigorous physical activity. Five-O Poker is rigorous, but certainly not an athletic endeavor. So why the debate over whether or not poker is a sport, and what is a game doing on an all sports network? We watch the World Series of Poker on ESPN and the World Poker Tour on Fox Sports Network. Five-O Poker is a variant of Texas Hold’ em, so if it’s a sport that make me an athlete. I turned to Wikipedia to help clear up the confusion.
Sport (or sports) is all forms of usually competitive physical activity which,through casual or organized participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing entertainment to participants, and in some cases, spectators.
There’s no doubt that Five-O Poker’s a sport when it comes to entertaining participants. It’s competitive, both casual and organized and involves skill. However, the part about physical activity prevents me from calling Five-O Poker a sport. I continued reading and realized I had ruled out an entire segment of the sports world. The definition goes on to read:
However, a number of competitive, but non-physical, activities claim recognition as mind sports. A mind sport is a sport or a game of skill where the mental component is more significant than the physical.
Compete Like Athletes
This describes Five-O Poker perfectly. Players challenge each other mentally in the same way members of rival sports teams compete physically. Competition drives Five-O Poker players who go head-to-head against friends and the entire player pool in weekly contests. Athletes train to be at their best in high-pressure situations on game day. Every game of Five-O Poker is a high-pressure situation. In Five-O Poker and in sports, players develop strategies to outplay their opponents and finish first.
A Lot Like Chess
At the same time Five-O Poker is similar to athletic sports, the thought process is very much like chess, the ultimate mind sport. Players learn to identify the hands their opponents are building and adapt their play accordingly. While poker is a game of incomplete information, Five-O Poker players have more to go on, with all but one row of cards face up. In this way, Five-O Poker closely resembles chess, a game of complete information. They are both two-player games that require complete focus because one wrong move can cost you the game.
Final Thoughts: Mind Sports
While Five-O Poker isn’t the type of sport that helps you burn extra calories, it exercises your mind. It works out your brains ability to process information quickly, concentrate and problem solve. The International Mind Sports Association recognized poker as a game of skill last year, by adding it to its list of official mind sports that include chess, bridge and backgammon. That was just in time for last month’s 2013 Prague Mind Sports and Poker festival.