Can Poker Become An Olympic Sport?

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A player looks at an ace-pair next to chips on a poker table.
BetMGM Apr 18, 2024, 3:12 AM

While poker isn’t considered a sport, it’s a game that requires high levels of skill and mental agility. Online poker has extended the game’s reach further than ever before and there are millions of people all over the world who now play poker online. 

Olympic puritans might scoff at the idea of poker becoming an Olympic sport, but this may very well become a reality soon. The IFMP (International Match Poker Federation) is pushing for a version of poker called Match Poker to be trialed at the 2024 Paris Olympics and to be included in the Los Angeles 2028 games.

Softball, baseball, and karate have been cut from the Paris Games, with skateboarding, surfing, and breakdance taking their place. So, what’s to say that online poker tournaments are not going to be the next big Olympic event? 

Take a look at what needs to be done for poker to be considered by the Olympics and the format that it would follow if it were to be incorporated into the Games.

Olympic Rules for Adding a New Sport or Event

A sport or event can’t just be added to the Olympic Games. A number of rules and regulations have to be followed just to be considered. 

First, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must recognize it as a sport. The IOC requires that the chosen activity or event “must have administration by an international nongovernmental organization that oversees at least one sport.”

Once it’s recognized as a sport, it will gain IF (International Sports Federation) status. The organization that administers it then has to enforce the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code, including tests of participants according to the Olympic Charter.

But even when all this has been done there’s no guarantee that poker will be added to the Olympics. The IF will have to file a petition for admittance to the IOC. The IOC can then decide whether to add it as a sport, discipline, or event, depending on which they believe is the most appropriate. They could also decide that it’s not suitable for the Olympics and decline its application.

What Is Match Poker?

To be eligible for the Olympics, poker would have to move away from its current form of gambling into something more suitable. Match Poker is a poker format that would make it appropriate as a sport rather than a gambling game.

Each country will have four competitors sitting at different tables, all in different positions relative to each other. Each table will be dealt the same hand so that every position will have an identical hand. Therefore, players are not competing against one another at their table but rather against players in the same positions at other tables.

Since all players have the same hand, the outcome will depend directly on their skill level rather than their hand’s perceived luck.

How Are Players Scored?

You may wonder how Match Poker will score players and enable countries to add medals to their Olympic tally.

While Match Poker has the same basic rules as Texas Hold’em, the biggest difference is that, unlike normal online casino games, players are awarded points based on their chips rather than money.

So, if a player in seat four has more chips than the other players in seat four across the tables, then they’re going to get more points. The players with fewer chips will be awarded less points. This means that a player’s points will fluctuate throughout the game, but they’ll know the outcome once the last hand is played.

The country with the most combined points between its four players will win. 

Is There a Real Chance of Poker in the Olympics?

At the moment, Match Poker is an online poker game and there are concerns about the crowds it would attract at the Olympics, even if it were to be converted into a physical format. Although high-profile poker games have been broadcast in the past, many observers are unsure about how well-attended an event with Match Poker would be in person without the amount of money at play. After all, this would remove one of the more exciting elements of why people play and watch high-stakes games.

However, given the popularity of esports across the world and an increasing need to connect with a younger audience, the Olympics Committee may well look at doing something different. 

Could poker really be in the Olympics soon? One will have to wait and see. In the meantime, it won’t hurt to learn things like how to balance your range in online poker and online poker tells you should know to maximize your winnings. Just in case.

Play Poker Online Games With BetMGM

Poker might not be at the Olympics yet, but you can still sharpen your skills in anticipation. At BetMGM, players can choose various online poker variations and formats. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s Texas Hold’em video poker, live online games, or even poker-themed online slots.

Register with BetMGM and play online poker today.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.