SportAccord to Accept Poker as a Sport

March 27th, 2016 | by Kaycee James
Patrick Nally and Match Poker accepted by SportAccord.

President of the IFP Patrick Nally is hoping his Match Poker variant will be given “sporting” status by SportAccord. (Image: patricknally.com)

SportAccord, the international body tasked with uniting Olympic and non-Olympic sports, looks set to accept the International Federation of Poker’s (IFP) Match Poker variant as a sport.

While some players may still argue that poker isn’t a true sport, there has been a definite movement by some factions of the community to align the game with activities such as professional golf and tennis.

Leading the way in recent years is the CEO of the Global Poker Index (GPI), Alex Dreyfus. Creating the Global Poker League (GPL) as a showcase event for the leading players in the world, Dreyfus believes that the poker industry’s growth is dependent on highlighting the skill aspects of the game in order to attract high-profile sponsors (much like the esports industry has done).

The Quest to Make Poker a Sport

The GPL is currently in its final developmental stages and is set to debut later this year, but before this happens the IFP is expected to be formally accepted to SportAccord General Assembly in a ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 22.

Following a recommendation from the Council of SportAccord, a point-based variant of poker championed by the IFP looks set to be accepted by the organization and, therefore, accepted as a sport.

The version of the game proposed by the IFP and recommended by the Council of SportAccord is the same “match” variant of the game that Alibaba Sports is hoping to make a hit in China. 

Match Poker was created by the IFP and features teams of players competing for points instead of cash. Additionally, instead of physical cards being dealt, players play on their Smartphones which has promoted some to liken it to an esports version of poker.

Match Poker’s dynamics have allowed it to launch in China (gambling is illegal on mainland China) with the help of Alibaba Sports and, subsequently, get a recommendation by the Council of SportAccord.

Poker as a Skill Game

Becoming a member of SportAccord might not instantly transform the fortunes of the poker industry, but it could certainly help its long-term prospects both in terms of investment and regulation.

According to SportAccord’s voting criteria, the sport should have, among other things, an element of competition and, importantly, “not rely on any element of luck specifically integrated into the sport.”

While there is undoubtedly an element of luck in poker, SportAccord clearly feels that there is enough skill in Match Poker specifically to brand the game a sport.

If this is the case then major sponsors and regulators could be more likely to take poker as a serious endeavor and that should help to boost the industry’s long term fortunes.

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