Poker lobbyists who have campaigned tirelessly to promote poker as a sport will be thrilled to learn that the Global Association of International Sports Federations’ (GAISF) has shortlisted ‘Match Poker’, one of the many poker variants and has placed it on its list of ‘Observer’ sports along with kettlebell lifting, foot golf, arm wrestling, pole-dancing, foosball and dodgeball.
What does Observer Status mean?
The Olympics which happens once in every four years is widely regarded as the greatest global sporting tournament and features popular sports from around the world and the very best athletes who have been chosen to represent their country at the highest level. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) along with GAISF keep a close watch on new sports that are gaining popularity and then decide if they can be shortlisted and placed on the ‘Observer’ list of sports.
The ‘Observer’ list is a shortlist of potential sports that will be reviewed by the Olympic Programme Commission to determine if each sport is eligible to receive official status and be a part of the Olympics. Golf and Rugby which have been around for ages were recently approved and given official Olympic status. Some of the other new sports that will feature as part of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo include skateboarding, karate, rock climbing and surfing.
Match Poker
The game of poker has continued to expand at a rapid pace and gain popularity all over the world during the last decade. Poker has been broken down into a number of variants over the years and is played at live casinos as well as online casinos.
The International Federation of Poker (IFP) which was founded in 2009 in Switzerland was established to push poker into the limelight and gain Olympic recognition. The IFP has looked to promote poker as a mind game which involves a high amount of skill.
The IFP has used digital technology to develop Match Poker which is a variation involving traditional no-limit Texas hold’em and a few modifications. Match Poker has been developed as a team sport which must be played with a ‘pot-limit pre-flop and no-limit post-flop structure’. Different teams compete against each other by playing at electronic tables using community cards and hold cards that are precisely the same.
Players from each team start out with the same number of chips and when the hand is finished, the combined chips from each team is counted and scored based on a point system. Chips are then replenished for the next round and the process remains the same until a fixed number of hands are completed. Match Poker uses detailed analysis and automated scoring to determine the winning team and the best player during the game.
 Match Poker – Olympic Shortlisting Process
Poker lobbyists will be happy at the progress Match Poker has made in its push to receive official Olympic status but will realize that there is still a long way to go. The Olympic Programme Commission will use a number of measurements to see if games on the ‘Observer’ list can qualify for the next Olympics.
The Commission will look into the tradition and history of each sports, global popularity and universal appeal, health and fitness of the athletes and players that compete, cost for hosting the sport at the Olympics, the impact it will have on the International Federation and its overall reputation.
Match Poker does have a good chance of making the shortlist because the IFP is represented by 55 countries from 5 different continents. The IFP is widely recognized and accepted across the world and does fulfil all of the criteria which are essential for the shortlisting process. However poker lobbyists will have to wait patiently and remain positive because as of now, there is no way to know how the Commission will vote on Match Poker.
What Would It Mean For Poker?
If Match Poker eventually makes it to the Olympics, it would provide global poker with a tremendous boost and give poker lobbyists the firepower required to push gaming regulators across the world to recognize poker as a sport and not a game of chance. This would also help poker to be legalized in markets across the world where the game is currently banned on the basis that it a form of gambling.

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