Could Mind Sports Add a New Dimension to the Olympics?

Could Mind Sports Add a New Dimension to the Olympics?

Could Mind Sports Add a New Dimension to the Olympics?

The 2016 Rio Olympics might be a fading memory, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is already plotting its next move. Following the conclusion of the Rio Games, the IOC has moved to adopt a more flexible approach to the events that take place at the biggest sporting festival in the world.

As well as vowing to add more sports to the mix, the IOC has decided to review the status of core events that have traditionally been given Olympic status automatically. Although it would take a major incident to see sports such as swimming, boxing or gymnastics to be removed from the schedule, the new model does mean more sports could be given a chance to shine in the coming years.

IOC Becoming More Flexible

In fact, ahead of Tokyo 2020, the IOC has already proposed five new sports to the mix. Karate, skateboarding and climbing are now being considered as they reflect modern trends and, in the case the latter two, the "urbanization of sport". With the IOC stating that any new sports must reflect the zeitgeist and offer something in terms of popularity, entertainment and skill, mind sports are now vying for a spot in the Olympics.

Although a relatively new term, "mind sports" is now used to described endeavors such as chess, backgammon, poker and eSports games like League of Legends. Despite lacking the physical demands that sports like sprinting or weightlifting have, mind sports are equally taxing and competitive.

For example, chess is regarded as one of the most technically complex games in the world. With Grand Masters thinking as many as ten moves ahead, the level of skill in chess is extremely high. However, as skillful and competitive as chess is, the mass appeal of the game isn't quite enough to inspire the IOC board.

The Perfect Mix of Entertainment, Appeal and Skill

"cards" (CC BY 2.0) by Ben Alford

However, if you look at a game like poker, this has the elements of skill present in chess as well as the mass market appeal. Although some believe it's just a gambling game, the reality is extremely different. Today, the WPT estimates that poker is played by more than 100 million people worldwide. Not only that, but many of the top players are extremely well educated and savvy.

A serious poker player will know the mathematical breakdown of many common situations. For example, if they were holding ace king and they assumed their opponent held a pair of deuces, they would know their chances of winning were 52%. Beyond knowing the odds, online players will constantly be looking for the best conditions. Assessing the table stats (i.e. how many pots are raised) is important, as is finding the right place to play.

Using comparison sites, players will look for the Poker Deals that allow them to get more for their time online. So, at a player can get unbiased reviews of the latest deals and then sign up to a site that gives them the most bang for their buck. Essentially, the process of learning the odds, analyzing table dynamics and reading reviews is all about a poker player trying to improve their chances of success.

New-Look Olympics

"Olympic logo iron rings" (CC BY 2.0) by oddsock

This underlying element of skill is something that separates poker from other games and not only makes it a skilled endeavor, but hugely entertaining. Moreover, this dynamic is what could make an interesting addition to the Olympic roster. Indeed, as the festival attempts to evolve and move with the times, it seems inevitable that mind sports will become part of the IOC's discussions. If that's the case, then poker has a serious case to make.

With a global fan base and an undeniable element of skill, poker could be the mind sport that captures the zeitgeist and bring a new dimension to the Olympics.


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