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Poker is a sport and not a game

With changing times, Poker is increasingly being viewed as a competitive sport that assesses cognitive skills.

Poker is a sport and not a game

Md Imtiaz

Updated: 26 May 2023 10:21 AM GMT

Thought Partner- PokerBaazi

Poker, a recognised sport of skill, has been growing in popularity in India since the early 2000s. It has now emerged as a serious profession, allowing individuals to utilise their mental abilities to ace toward winning. Poker is increasingly being viewed as a competitive sport that assesses cognitive skills.

The bigger side of Poker

Playing poker holds significant value in various aspects of life, making it more than just a card game. It teaches valuable skills in decision-making and risk assessment. Successful poker players must analyse probabilities, assess risks, and make informed choices under pressure. These skills translate well into real-life situations, such as business negotiations, investing, and strategic planning. Additionally, poker cultivates emotional resilience and discipline, which is invaluable in high-stakes situations.

The similarity of the sport with real-life situations has translated to Poker being a part of management lessons around the globe. The world-renowned Massachusetts University of Technology in Boston, USA has a specially designed course on Poker Theory and Analytics, which takes a broader look at poker theory and applications of poker analytics to investment management and trading. In India also, top MBA institutes like the IIM Kozhikode offer poker lessons to instill leadership qualities in students.

What makes Poker a sport?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Hence, if we compare the elements of sports in poker; it involves competition between individuals and occasionally includes team competition as well. It is widely regarded as a form of entertainment, with players participating for their own enjoyment. Grand poker events often receive television coverage, particularly in the Western world.

While skill is unquestionably required in poker, there is a debate about whether it involves physical exertion. Anyone who has played a lengthy poker session knows the answer to this question. Poker does demand physical exertion, alertness, stamina, and overall fitness. Players who reach the later stages of live tournaments endure days of both physical and mental stress.

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) has also acknowledged poker as a sport, making it eligible for potential inclusion in the Olympic Games. These recognitions are a strong testament to considering poker under the legit sports category and dismissing misconceptions.

Where is Poker heading in India?

Poker is gaining significant momentum in India and emerging as a promising industry in the country. The sport has witnessed a surge in popularity due to the rise of online gaming platforms, increased awareness of the game, and a growing player base.

The accessibility of smartphones and internet connectivity has played a crucial role in the growth of online poker in India, attracting players from diverse demographics. The industry has also seen increased investments and sponsorship deals, indicating a growing interest and confidence in the sector.

PokerBaazi, currently India’s No. 1 online poker platform established in 2014, is one of the first movers in introducing online Poker to a large pool of Indian audience. The platform has experienced remarkable growth, reaching an audience of over 3 million players since its inception. PokerBaazi has achieved this by providing a secure user experience and by hosting some of the major online poker tournaments in the country. These include The Greatest of All Tournaments (GOAT), which offered an unprecedented ₹7 Crores in guaranteed prize pool this year, followed by the recently wrapped poker series- The National Poker Series that offer a whooping GTD of 25CR that extended to 32CR, while their upcoming marquee tournament EndBoss is right around the corner and offers an exciting 5CR prize pool.

Their most successful endeavor has been hosting the National Poker Series (NPS) which aims to change how Poker is viewed in India evidently. The top three players from the National Poker Series 2023, which lasted for a daunting 18 days, will be representing India in Las Vegas.

Poker is not what you think: Bursting Myth

While poker is often regarded as a game that requires skill rather than relying solely on luck, it is important to note that luck does play a role in the short term. However, long-term success in poker is primarily determined by strategic decision-making, mathematical calculations, understanding opponents' psychology, and effective risk management. Skilled players consistently outperform those who rely on luck alone over an extended period.

The legal status of poker in India has been addressed by several courts, including the High Courts of Karnataka and Kolkata, which have ruled that poker involves a significant degree of skill and is not solely based on chance.

As with any activity, excessive or uncontrolled participation in poker can lead to negative consequences. However, responsible and mindful play can help mitigate the risks associated with the sport.

PokerBaazi actively promotes responsible gaming practices and provides tools such as self-exclusion options, deposit limits, and GTDs to ensure a safe gaming environment.

GTD indicates the total guaranteed payout for a specific tournament. It represents the minimum total payout for all players who finish in the prize-winning positions. If the number of entrants exceeds a certain threshold, the actual payout will increase. This threshold is determined by dividing the GTD amount by the total entry fee.

By understanding responsible gaming principles and exercising self-control, poker encourages maturity and the ability to discern when and how to play. It fosters an environment where players can develop a healthy relationship with the game and exercise restraint when necessary. With the right approach, poker can be enjoyed as a challenging and rewarding activity, devoid of the negative consequences often associated with addiction.

Progress on the Regulation front

The Indian government has recently implemented significant measures to regulate the online gaming industry, specifically real money gaming (RMG), by introducing Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs).

These SROs, such as the Online Rummy Federation (ORF) and the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), have been established to create industry-wide standards, codes of conduct, and self-regulatory mechanisms. Their primary objective is to collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including gaming operators, players, and government authorities, to develop a unified framework that promotes fair play, responsible gaming, and consumer trust.

A key focus of the SROs is to prevent illegal and fraudulent activities within the online gaming sector. Consequently, this has enhanced players' confidence and addressed concerns regarding fraudulent practices, thereby positively influencing the perception of RMG in India.

Testimony of a professional

People all over the world are divided over poker's perception. However, a true poker player who has a grasp of the sport would never call it a game as it requires physical and mental skills that are similar to those required in other sports.

"As with any sport, poker needs training of the mind. Logical thinking is of utmost priority in the game and yes, it may sound discriminatory but not everyone can or will be able to succeed in the game. You need to have a certain level of ability to understand the logical decisions behind each move that a player executes. Only then will you be able to analyze the information gathered and thus make the correct decision in hand," opines Thiyam Danish Singh from Manipur, one of the top professionals and full-time poker players in India.

Professional poker players also compete for large sums of money, just like athletes who compete for prize money in tournaments.

"In India, poker is at a transitional stage where the general population is starting to understand that it is not like other card games. In poker, the luck factor is negated by the decisions taken by the player following the knowledge studied in a scientific game theory optimal level and the table dynamics of the players he is playing against," adds Singh.

The Bridge's Perspective

Poker is a game that possesses unique characteristics that align with the criteria commonly associated with sports. It requires a combination of mental and physical skills. It is not solely a mental activity, as some may argue, but also involves physical elements such as endurance and stamina. Furthermore, many recognised organizations classify poker as a sport. The International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) recognizes poker as a mind sport, alongside games like chess and bridge. This acknowledgment highlights the mental prowess and strategic thinking involved in poker, positioning it as a legitimate competitive endeavour, making it a sport like any other.

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