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Since the mainstream attraction of eSports has taken over the globe and begun to rival the popularity of traditional sports teams, a growing number of poker industry representatives have argued that professional poker players should also be considered as “athletes.”

The term, when applied to pro poker players and their video game counterparts, has been loosely used to describing those who successfully take home big bucks in high stakes tournaments and cash games, but does it accurately relay a poker pro’s abilities?

The world “athlete” has traditionally been used to define someone who possesses physical prowess. And this is where crossing over into the poker realm has been met with hurdles. Of course, there are plenty of poker pros who are physically gifted, but successful poker play requires more “mental” power than it does “physical.” No matter how great a poker player is, it is not necessary for him or her to consistently place the body under excruciating physical wear and tear when compared to those who are paid to compete in sports such as football, soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis etc.

Phil Ivey

So will the word “athlete” eventually make the transition to describe someone who routinely places their body under physical or mental stress to compete professionally? That remains to be seen.

Perhaps a new term will be created to differentiate the two. While I don’t have such a word on the tip of my keyboard at the moment, something that accurately generalizes the extraordinary mental discipline that a top-tier professional poker player must have would likely catch on in no time.

Poker players are often forced to make quick, critical decisions, yet those do not exactly compare to the lightning-quick actions required of eSports video game players, who are susceptible to conditions like Carpal Tunnel much more frequently.

Personally, I’m fine with grouping elite poker players into the category of “athletes” just because I have a profound admiration of them, but it’s possible the poker industry (or poker players themselves) can create a more refined term that separates eSports players from those who play physical-based professional sports.

What do you think?