An Olympic poker dream

July 24, 2012, Chris  

Two years ago, we used this column for an ambitious idea. As the Winter Olympics wrapped in Vancouver, we dared to dream poker, if just as an exhibition, might be part of the London Games, which are running now until Aug. 12.

As you may have guessed, that never happened. But couldn’t you see Doyle Brunson, nearly 80 years old, propping himself up with his black crutch on the podium, removing his trademark cowboy hat so an Olympic official could slip the gold medal around his neck as the Star-Spangled Banner echoed throughout the Empire Casino?

A lofty idea to say the least. After all, no matter how much we promote poker as a game of skill, the common man will think it’s purely gambling. Comparisons to golf and tennis (sports with tours of individual players vying for large sums of cash and accepted as Olympic endeavors) should quell the naysayers as poker players competing for cash on their tour is no different.

With national pastimes, such as baseball and softball, being left off the Olympic roster, it’s hard to imagine poker finding its way into the Games. When we broached this subject, we said one of the major hurdles was getting the International Olympic Committee to recognize poker as a legitimate sport. We have the required numbers and diversity, but perhaps an even bigger sticking point may be the players.

As the World Series of Poker gets put on hiatus until October, we still can hear the cliché sound bytes: “It wasn’t about the money; it’s always been about the bracelet,” and “I’d give up the money if it meant I’d win the bracelet.” Well, poker in the Olympics would give them that chance to compete for the sake of competition. What’s more prestigious than representing your country against other countries trying to prove their mettle, or maybe that’s medal? Can poker players see their way to entering an event where there’s no money involved? If it truly is about the bracelet, then wouldn’t a gold medal be just as sacred?

Perhaps we can convince Caesars Entertainment to agree to name the Olympics an official bracelet event. CE always says it wants to promote poker on a global scale; what better way to do that than to have poker in the Olympics? Yes, this idea has about the same chance as hitting a one-outer on the river, but we can have an Olympic dream, too, can’t we? We’ll see you at the tables.

— Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long