By Daniel Bukszpan
The 42nd Annual World Series of Poker got underway on May 31, and on July 19, it came to a close. Held at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the nine players who emerged victorious from this battle royale will return four months later as "The November Nine" and compete in the $10,000 buy in, No Limit Hold'em Championship. The event was broadcast on ESPN, which begs the question, "Is poker actually a sport?"
Poker is without question a game of strategy, with high stakes and tense outcomes. It might be a stretch, however, to refer to it as a sport in the traditional sense. After all, contestants remain seated for the entire event, and as with darts, the game can be played while drinking beer and chain-smoking, activities that may compromise athletic performance. Still, the question of what is or isn't a sport is a thorny area.
|Slideshow: Ten unathletic sports|
Like poker players, NASCAR drivers remain seated for the duration of their races. No one would argue, though, that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. doesn’t expose himself to potentially fatal physical hazards. This goes for motorcycle racing and power boating as well, both of which are potentially hazardous.
The definition of the word "sport" is wide and includes activities that nobody should be disqualified from participating in simply because they lack an Adonis-like physique. What are some notable sports that the unathletic can participate in?
Croquet is a lawn game dating back to 19th century England. Its first appearance in the Olympic Games took place in 1900. Although it’s known for a relaxed pace, it's taken on a reputation as blood-thirsty and competitive. One needs only to look at the 1988 Winona Ryder film "Heathers" or Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," in which an unfortunate hedgehog is used in a game as the ball.
In 2009, the Princeton Alumni Weekly devoted an article to Matt Mielke, a 2007 graduate who had studied research science, but whose heart belonged to curling. The game, which has been dubbed "chess on ice," is popular in Canada, but it has yet to catch on in the U.S.
Popular culture has conspired to depict bowling as the pastime of former athletes in their autumn years. This is demonstrated in such movies as "The Big Lebowski" and especially "Kingpin," whose protagonist was able to compete at the highest level of competition despite a two-decade absence from the sport and the use of a prosthetic hand.
Chess as we know it today has been traced back to 15th century Europe, but it was originally inspired by a 3rd century Persian game called Shatranj. It requires the strategic thought of a theoretician and the cunning mind of a tactician. It also requires supreme levels of patience, as games can sometimes last for hours and players can deliberate on their moves for just as long.
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