The sport of poker
A 5-card stud plays Texas Hold-em
Daytime and late at night — that’s it.
It’s the only time sports channels show poker on television.
I was watching poker on TV one afternoon while playing poker online, which felt like being sealed in some sort of poker panic room. I had been playing for a few days and always finished in the top three every game.
I began gaining confidence about the game. It was ironic because I was too much of a wuss to play for real money online and felt safer playing for cash in real life.
After playing online and gaining a grasp for what theScore television calls a sport, I felt I was ready to go to the casino and compete myself.
This would be the worst decision of the week.
I felt a rush of anxiety heading down to the Elbow River Casino.
Walking through the casino during a weekday afternoon is perhaps the most depressing feeling one can have. No one is smiling and the crowd looks like they checked their souls at the front door, along with their coats.
At night time, the casino usually resembles a drunk after party, with people laughing, lights and sounds going off and tables full of people. On this afternoon, it resembles more of a wake.
Walking into the poker room, I notice a giant whiteboard filled with indiscernible scribbles. I immediately look for the cheapest entry for no limit poker.
“We have a spot open for 2-4,” says an attendant dressed in a black suit.
Given an intermediate knowledge of poker, I know that means a table with $2- and $4- blinds. I’m then directed to the booth where playing chips are being handed out.
The minimum buy-in is $100. I feel like barfing.
Eight people are already playing at the table I’m directed to. The only seat left is to the direct left side of the dealer. It’s so crammed I have to contort my body just to sit down.
I’m new to the table so I have to wait for my turn to be the big blind. The break provides time to scan my opponents to try finding their weaknesses. Most seem very chatty.
The dentally impaired lady across from me, let’s call her “Tooth,” raises $30.
Everyone folds, but an older gentleman. He has a fortress of chips around him, and a golden charm. He lays back in his chair, but avoids slouching. As he gazes at Tooth, you can just imagine the curse words he’s thinking in his head.
Just looking at him causes anxiety, knowing that I might have to play in a hand against him. He calls Tooth’s $30 and the dealer places the last card. Both players give an anticlimactic check, and Tooth wins with two pair.
It’s finally my turn to play. I’m the big blind, so I have to pay $4 to start. My initial strategy is to see as many flops as possible with $100-worth of chips.
The dealer doles out the cards. The first one is a 10 of spades. The next a 10 of clubs. I start getting nervous.
Four people call before Tooth raises to $10. She sits upright in her chair, stoic, but confident — a far cry from her chatty, flamboyant self between hands.
Two others call and now it’s down to four of us.
The flop comes up: seven, 10, king, all diamonds. I’m ecstatic. I have no time to enjoy this moment though, as I’m first to act. I am trying so hard to not shake and stay calm that I don’t even try to think logically on how much to bet.
Everyone at the table is playing with their chips, and it sounds like a symphony of rattling poker chips. I bet $10. At this point I don’t care if people call or fold. All I know is that there is a big mound of money in the middle of the table.
In what seemed like just seconds, two players fold and Tooth raises to $25. I also instantly call, trying to show confidence in my hand. While grabbing my chips, I toppled two of my four piles. I must have looked like an idiot.
The turn card comes, which is the queen of diamonds. I feel like barfing for the second time in 10 minutes.
Being the first to act, I now have to weigh my options. If I check, Tooth will bet. She’s been doing it the whole time I’ve been watching. All she needs is a diamond and she wins. It was time to put all logic aside and show Toothy who’s the boss.
“All in,” I said nonchalantly, as though I didn’t care if I won or lost. It was an Oscar-worthy acting job. Although inside, I was livid at myself for making that bet as soon as I made it. But, at least my turn was over.
“I call,” Tooth said. My heart sank.
I flipped my cards first, showing that I had three-of-a-kind 10s.
“Oh, I thought you had a diamond,” Tooth said, as she flipped her cards revealing the king of hearts and the last 10 of diamonds.. Among the “wows” and “woahs” from the other players, I must have looked like a heroin addict who hadn’t had a hit in years (yes, I watch Intervention).
I had just lost all of my money on my first hand, after being at the table for only 15 minutes. $100? It could have been my life savings the way it hurt.
The dealer asked if I wanted to re-buy. I wanted to punch him in the face. I stood up, wished them all a good game and left the room.
Like a zombie I walked through the casino looking for an exit. As I was walking out, I wondered if I left my soul at coat check..
Is poker a sport?
The way we judge professional sport is being televised during primetime and people wanting to pay money to be in attendance. A case can definitely be made for poker.
The main focus of sports is winning; some want to win at all costs, and some want to win with grace. Poker is dependent on winning. The only way you can make money, or a living if you’re a professional, is to win. In other professional sports, you make a salary just for playing.
Another factor that makes poker a sport is the emotion and adrenaline that consumes your body when you play. If you’re bluffing and push your chips all-in, your heart beats out of your chest and your face works double time to keep it together. Although you may not be running around on a field, your heart rate is increased and you have to be mentally focused not to crack.
Poker can also be compared to other sports in the sense that people can play it all different skill levels. People can play for fun with friends, or try and get out of crippling debt by playing at the casinos. Either way, there is a game for everyone!
There is a lot of gray area when it comes to classifying things as sports. Perhaps a better way to solve these arguments is to categorize different levels of sport. Poker is not a sport where you need to be in good physical shape. If you’re looking to lose weight however, many pounds have been lost from throwing up after losing to someone on the river.