Whenever I hear Poker described as a sport I laugh. Or cry. It is beyond ridiculous to the absurd. Here are my views on how Poker is like a Sport:
You Can Behave Like a Cock
The ESPN coverage has highlighted some truly terrible behaviour. It used to be that there was a tightening of the lips, a grimace and a firm handshake. Now we can watch the likes of Mattias Andersson contort and roll around like an epileptic contortionist crossed with a hillbilly/porcine coupling, whilst the impassive Saint of Cowboy Murderers, Chris Ferguson, shows not a trace of emotion in the foreground. And many, many more.
You Get an Audience
People watch you. Millions of people watch you. However the same is true in the US for such luminaries as “dog jumping” and “crazy golf”. We must be so proud.
You Can Take Drugs
There have been recent exposes on performance enhancing drugs in the US especially. There are plenty of drugs in Poker, also of the performance enhancing kind. Or at least the players “think” that a quick toot of Nicaraguan Marching Powder in the dinner break improves performance.
And that’s it, really.
On why Poker isn’t like a Sport:
The Luck Factor Does Not Dominate the Skill
Imagine a Wimbledon where everyone in the quarter finals of the Men’s event is not only unranked, but a club player. Then imagine that in the final a guy from the crowd barges his way onto the court and wins the title. Then watch the Reno event for Season 2. Dreams do come true.
Experience is Not Easily Overcome
Any master sportsman not only has genetics as an advantage over his amateur counterparts, but literally a lifetime of preparation, grueling training and countless experience. Even if you are literally a sporting genius this cannot be easily overcome. Unless you take up the “sport” of poker, in which case a few books, a bit of thought, maybe 6 months of play then you’re in with a chance.
The Players Benefit from the Media
Beside the ability to play $5K to $10K tournaments every month I struggle to see what the poker pros have gained from their Sportification. Besides exposing their game plans. Proper sponsorship and added prize money simply haven’t materialized. And this is three years later. It’s even debatable how much value has been added through extra players, as they seem mostly to want to play games that in the long term will destroy their own, probably far-to-small bankrolls, i.e. tournaments and NL cash.
The Sport and TV Negotiate
“We’ve decided that Soccer is a bit boring, so we’re going to get rid of goal keepers. Any problems?”
Poker’s negotiating position to TV seems trousers around the feet, ankle’s firmly gripped. Shorter rounds. No logos. Rights waiving. Speed poker???
I will leave the last word to an auld favourite of RGP, Steve Badger. Steve was the first person to give me a public slap on a forum for talking garbage and although abrasive, is rarely wrong on matters Poker related:
“ESPN is marketing to their own target market, definitely not the "casual fan". The target demographic is 18-34 year old males, and to be blunt, specifically the dork/loser element of that demographic -- people who go into a frenzy over the result of a game that they themselves don't participate in, and even call talk radio to yell at other people about such
games…They can't relate (much) to Doyle or Howard. They can relate to someone about their age making idiotic trash talk, just like they do.
It is basic sports TV marketing, and is partly why ESPN loves poker. Poker *has* people very similar to their prime market. Major sport personalities are not nearly as relate-able to. The viewers can't say "I could do that" when watching Barry Bonds, but they could look at any of this crew and think "that could be me"."