There is nothing more fun than gathering with friends for a nice night out – especially if you add a group game into the mix. Classic games like poker (perfect for a cold night in, so bring out the chips!) or billiards (everyone’s favorite bar game) have long captured the hearts of groups of friends looking for an entertaining yet interesting way to spend their time together; and competitive games like poker do make things slightly more interesting. In fact, thanks to their competitive and complicated nature, many people have claimed that poker and billiards rightly belong to the realm of sports, as they are more than mere games – is there substance to this claim?
Poker: The Ultimate Competitive Card Game
Poker is better understood as an umbrella term for a whole variety of games, from the extremely popular Texas Hold ‘Em to lesser-known variants like Red Dog Poker. It is played with the usual deck of 52 cards, although it depends on each variant whether all cards will come into play or not. The game revolves heavily around betting and thus incorporates elements of statistics and probabilities and requires elevated strategy skills from players. Poker remains probably the most popular card game and is played by millions of people worldwide, from simple home gatherings to online casinos and mobile poker apps.
A lot of people would argue that poker is not a sport: after all, it involves minimal physical activity, which we usually associated with sports. However, just as chess and bridge are considered “mind sports,” poker can be too; it is not a simple game of chance, like dice, but relies on a player’s strategic abilities, their understanding of the statistics involved and their intuition that gets better with experience. After all, poker – along with billiards – is covered in the sports channel ESPN and the Olympic Committee even considered admitting poker as a sport in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Billiards: Physical Skills and Strategic Mind Combined
Billiards, in contrast to poker, depends on physical skill. You have to know how to hit the cue-ball with the cue at precisely the right angle; this is why many people consider it more a sport than a game. Its main element is the pool table, where the two players try to pocket their respectively colored, numbered balls in the six receptacles along the rails. The game is widely popular throughout the globe and especially in North America and the UK, with variants ranging from the most well-known eight-ball to cowboy pool.
Yet billiards is so much more than a mere demonstration of physical ability: a player has to have a strategy in mind, and often forgo an easy shot in order to not undermine the development of their game – much like chess or poker. It also includes a strong element of understanding the game strategy of your opponent – like trying to read their poker face. In that sense, there are a lot of similarities between the two games that allow us to classify them both within the same category. Billiards was also suggested for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – a proposal that was turned down by the Olympic Committee – and is recognized as a sport in some countries, such as the UK.
But regardless of their classification as games or sports, the crucial thing is that millions of people enjoy playing them. And this is perhaps their greatest success: wherever you may find yourself, you will probably run into someone equally excited to play a round of poker or billiards!