When it comes to playing casino games, you’re usually engaged in a game of luck – but this isn’t necessarily the case with poker. While some luck is required, it is largely considered a game of skill – and, in some cases, a sport. The Ukrainian government has recently deemed it as such, as poker is now listed in the country’s Register of Recognized Sports.
It has been 8 years since the government originally removed poker from its official list of sports. Lawmakers believed that poker was just like any other casino games, and considering it a sport would conflict with Ukraine’s anti-gambling laws.
Local poker clubs did not take kindly to the news and fought to have the decision repealed. In 2013, the case was reviewed by the Supreme Court. The court somewhat sided with the clubs, stating that tournament poker is a sport but cash games are still gambling. At this time, all online poker operators were forced to leave the country.
Now, this is the first step towards reintegrating poker as a sport in the Ukraine. There is likely more work required in order to reopen poker clubs and there is the still the decision of whether or not online poker operators will be allowed back into the country.
So, Is Poker Really a Sport?
The debate over whether or not poker is a sport is ages old. Both sides of the discussion have very strong views. Jackpot Jay covered the topic extensively at ESPN.com, and made an important case for poker being more a sport than a game of luck.
Firstly, a sport is a defined as something that is an active pastime; diversion; recreation – or a specific diversion, usually involving physical exercise and having a set form and body of rules; a game. While the physical exercise part of the definition is where poker somewhat fails, there are many other games that are considered sports that don’t require much strength, speed or physical endurance – such as golf and pool.
The main arguments against poker being a sport are that betting is involved and there is an element of luck. However, players can get lucky in almost any sport. On top of this, there is plenty of non-physical skill required (much like in eSports). The most successful poker players are those that have studied the game and do the mental math required to make wise decisions.
So, while it is still heavily debated as to whether or not poker is a sport, there seems to be more and more lawmakers that believe the same should be classified as skill-based rather than luck-based. It will be interesting to see how Ukraine’s decision will influence other countries around the world.