Could there be a day when a form of poker is seen in the Olympic Games? The game may have taken its first step on the road to inclusion this month, as an international body that says it works closely with the International Olympic Committee gave it and other lesser-known sports recognition for the first time.

Match Poker Olympics

The International Federation of Match Poker has taken the first steps towards getting their form of poker into the Olympic Games. (Image: IFMP/Matchpokerfed.org)

Earlier this month, the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) granted Observer Status to seven international sporting associations, a new designation that they say could help these groups eventually find their way into Olympic competition. Among those is the International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP), a group that promotes a form of poker designed to be as skill-based as possible.

According to a press release from GAISF, this designation will allow such organizations to grow and develop as they work towards full GAISF membership. For the time being, they can participate in events with the federation, but cannot vote.

“We warmly welcome our first Observers,” said GAISF President Patrick Baumann. “This is an exciting time for them and for us and we will do everything withour our remit to help them realize their full potential as International Federations within the global sports family and, one day, maybe become part of the Olympic program.”

Match Poker Features Team Play, Minimal Luck

According to the IFMP, Match Poker is designed to be played in a team format, one that tests the skill of players while minimizing the impact of luck. Teams are comprised of players who sit at different positions at each table. Each table is then dealt the same predetermined decks, playing through a set number of hands.

Because every team will play the same hands from the same positions across the competition, the overall results are based on which team played most skillfully.

It is certainly possible for new sports to enter the Olympic program: after all, this happens in nearly every Olympic cycle. In the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, baseball and softball will return to the program, while karate, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing will be played for the first time.

‘Mind Sports’ Struggle to Enter Olympics

However, the organizations that have obtained Observer Status are far from reaching that goal. Poker in particular may have trouble because of its designation as a “mind sport” that features very little physical activity.

Chess and bridge were both among the 26 sports that were considered for inclusion in 2020, but neither made the cut, which came as little surprise to most observers. Chess did participate in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as an exhibition event.

While that might make poker’s Olympic aspirations seem unrealistic, they might still be better than for some of the other organizations that earned Observer Status with the GAISF this month.

These include the International Pole Sports Federation, which organizes (you guessed it) competitive pole dancing events for men and women.

Pole dancing may have a leg up (both figuratively and literally) on the competition: after all, it’s easy to imagine that the television ratings for the sport would be through the roof.