Recently our friends at Ante Up Magazine had a mailbag question from one of their PokerCast listeners, Captain Phil, setting the criteria for considering a specified activity a Sport or a Game. Captain Phil put himself out there, and sustained the criticisms, however constructive, of the show's hosts Chris and Scott. If you want to hear Captain Phil's criteria and the show's response, you should head to their site and listen to the September 17 show. Here, we will take our own look.
First, I believe "Sport versus Game" is a false distinction. The question is, "Is Poker a Sport"? There are plenty of sports which are games - I enjoy the game of baseball, which few would question is a sport. Chess is a game, not a sport. Boxing is a sport, though arguably not a game. Football is a sport, and is a game. How do we define the criteria by which an activity is evaluated as a sport?
- The activity must be a competition between two or more opponents, and have a clear outcome - winner, loser, or tying opponents. (I will save my rant on ending games in a tie for another time. I'm looking at you soccer.) Foursquare (the playground game, not the social networking tool) has a hierarchy of participants, and an objective of climbing the hierarchy, but no winner (unless it is defined in-game, e.g. the "first square when the school bell rings"). The game is, theoretically, unending.
- The outcome must be able to be determined solely by the primary participants (i.e. the "players"). If it is occasionally determined by a judge, referee, or other official (e.g. TKO in Boxing), it does not disqualify the activity from being a sport, so long as the competitors can derive a victor without the official as a part of the activity's rules (e.g. Knock Out). Competitive figure skating is a competitive activity, waged between highly trained athletes, and the outcome is always determined by the judges. It is, therefore, not a sport (nor a game).
- The outcome of the event is determined by the skilled, physical movements of the participants, be it the movement of balls, sticks, clubs, or machines, and not the mental or vocal movements. Chess could be played purely verbally, and is not a sport. ("Bishop to Queen 4.")
It would seem that, given these criteria, poker is not a sport.
By these rules, activities like race car driving (Indy, NASCAR) are sports, as are golf and bowling. Figure skating, cheerleading, and diving are not. A hunting competition, by this criteria, is a sport.
Do you agree, or disagree? What criteria am I missing?