Tackling the Poker Stigma 

The stigma that surrounds this game is rife, we have all had to deal with it or have seen it at one point or another. My own experience with this has dramatically affected my life. I am estranged from my own mother because I play poker. I do not even get to see my small sisters as she does not want me around them. This is a somewhat extreme case. The view she has of me if one of a degenerate gambler who will just eventually lose everything he has. The reality of the matter is I have never spent a cent on poker I could not afford to lose. Then when she found out I played online she really lost her lid as if it’s some serious taboo. Her reaction I can imagine would be on par with if your living in the deep south and came out to your Christian extremist family. Sadly, I am not exaggerating and again my online stakes vary from micro to low. Every now and then I might save and play a bigger tournament but when on average I am playing 10NL cash and $11 tournaments oh and I like the $3 sit and go’s. I doubt you could call me a degenerate gambler with those stakes. This view comes from nothing more than a complete lack of knowledge and education about the game. I am sure old westerns and Vegas movies don’t help the stereotype either. It is such a world-wide phenomenon now that people shouldn’t even bat an eye after hearing that you’re a player. People who don’t play sadly do not have an understanding of what poker really is.

So, what is poker, I have seen this question being asked a lot just recently, is it just another form of gambling no different from blackjack or roulette, is it just a game that can be played or is it a sport.

First of all, there is no one answer fits all and poker isn’t just one generic thing. Let me break it down.

Is poker just gambling? No. I for the most part do not consider poker to be a form of gambling, however there is an exception to my thought process on this. The difference between poker and other table games is simply. It is always our decision on when to act and when to put money at stake. We are not compelled to play money. It is our decision to put money at stake depending on holdings, position, board texture and opponents. If we are unhappy with anything we are facing we can just let it go. Other table game we are forced to put money at stake before we even begin. We understand our game and play in the right frame of mind, we are not drunk, we are not stressed, we are not tilted or angry how can that be considered gambling, how is the winners to seem to always win and the loser seem to lose over a lifetime. Yes, there is variance but I don’t mean in the now but over a life time.
Poker does however become gambling if we decided to play drunk, our judgement is impaired, if we are playing outside of our skill level meaning we are just hoping to get lucky, if we are playing outside of our bankroll. We are too busy stressing about the money we have on the line and trying to make money quickly than being relaxed and happy making the best decisions possible. The aforementioned dramatically affects our decision-making process and ultimately the outcome of our hand reducing our session to just simply gambling hoping for some luck.

Is poker a sport or just a game. This again needs to be broken into two parts because poker is separated into two parts meaning cash and tournament poker. Cash poker in my opinion is a game or for some a legitimate career and cannot be considered a sport by any stretch of the imagination. The structure is unmoving and remains the same, stack sizes do not become at risk due to time and can be maintained at a certain level to ensure maximum value can be gained when we do win. This is not a bad thing its very enjoyable and can lead to some amazing games but tournament poker is a completely different beast entirely.

Tournament poker is a sport. It may not be played on grass, a court or with a ball but make no mistake it is physical and it is a sport. Being fit dramatically improves your game. Tournament poker must be considered a sport for the following reasons. It is physical, it requires stamina, focus, endurance, it requires study and training to be successful, it has a structure and awards or simply you can win trophies. You can achieve sponsorship. That all sounds like the definition of a sport to me it has all the same qualities any other sport has. Poker even has its own arenas. I don’t think after reading this that tournament poker could be considered anything but a sport.

It is also a sport that does not discriminate. Old, Young, short, tall, fat, skinny, disability all can dominate in the poker world if they choose to work at it.


Gambling Definition, take risky action in the hope of a desired result.

Sport Definition, an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

Why I went into so much detail about what poker really is to show that if people really understood what it was I don’t believe we could be judged or criticised for playing so long as we are playing within our means, we do not place it before our wives, husbands and children.

Sadly, however there is a dark side to every game but we cannot hold those in judgment over misrepresentation that others in the dark side have given the world. (Star Wars fan lol)

By slowly educating those on the integrity and dynamics of the game we could and will slowly remove any negative light or judgment people may hold over players. There is a reason we love this game so much and most are not making any real money from it so it can’t just be for the money. So, think there must be something more. What got me into it in the beginning was just the comradery, the friendship and social aspects of the game.

Now for some off-topic poker related stuff. I have been running well lately. I feel my game improving massively. I satellited into the Micro Millions Half Price Sunday Storm for a mere 22 cents. 20 Seats awarded and a field of just under 700. That was a great result. I bubbled a final table in a university league tournament was a bit disappointed just taking refuge in the fact I played well and just got unlucky and someone must be the final table bubble boy, it was still a massive achievement.

I had a wonderful hand the other day on the button with A4clubs and raised two limpers only one called and in the words of one of my favourite pros, the flop was you could say “Favourable” (Andrew Neeme) 2,3,5 of clubs. The limper who called had Q5o with the Qc. So, he stuck around I even improved the river was the 6c. if I had known he had a big club I could’ve gotten more value from him but was still a good hand

I had another hand which I think I played badly I am unsure but I will go through it now.

Blinds 250/500
(Hero 16750 stack)
(Villain 9500 Stack)

UTG +2 limps
MP limps behind

Hero CO AKd raises to 2500

+2 calls MP folds

Flop is 5h,6h,Ks

Villain jams 7k into a pot of just over 6k.

Ok I’m going to press pause now and go through a few things so you can get where I am coming from. I had him most definitely on a heart draw. I see this play a lot in the micros from weak players with sets, they limp with small pairs call a raise and jam the flop out of position when they hit a set it turns their hand face up but I don’t see it a lot in the low stakes and especially in the Sunday Storm.

The reason I had him on the heart draw was simply he does not have the stack to mess around he can’t call a bet he would have to jam if he was to call. If he had hit a set if he would have checked to me almost certainly expecting a c bet which would then pretty much commit me to the hand and he could check raise me all in which considering the pot size and what he would have had left behind I would have had to call with TPTK. His donk bet shove seemed weird. He had fold equity by moving all in here and if I fold he picks up a nice pot so a heart draw is really the only hand that makes sense to me here so I figure I am a favourite here to chip up nicely. Since It was the only holdings that made sense. I normally wouldn’t be too quick to call down that type of bet with TPTK as it looks stronger than a one pair holding.

I elect to call and hurrah I was correct it was a heart draw but it was 7,8h and I was an underdog and he had over 60%equity in the hand

Turn Jh and I am dead to rights river was a brick I don’t remember.

With all that information, I am not sure if I was correct to call, should I have found a fold.