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United States Government Deems Poker Players as Professional Athletes

Friday, October 15, 2010
By David Tubbs

The United States government has had a long standing debate with the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) that poker is a game of luck not skill, but recently a TwoPlusTwo poster named Michael took it upon himself to have the government define what kind of occupation a professional poker player is. Michael's goal was to try and set up a professional poker player vocational school in California, and on the road to that goal he was required to have the government define what professional poker players are in the occupational world. As it happens Professional Poker Players were approved as an occupation and sectioned as Professional Athletes under the occupational title of "Athletes and Sports Competitors".

What it Means to be a Professional Poker Player

Not only did the government approve professional poker player as an occupation and define it, but listed it as part of the Professional Athletes category. In the original 2+2 post Michael asked the question "What do Kobe Bryant and Doyle Brunson have in common?" The answer is obvious now; they're both professional athletes under their government issued occupational definitions. Here is the full definition of a Professional Poker Player as stated in code #27-2021.00 of the "Athletes and Sports Competitors" code section as defined by the United States Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration:

"Participates in competitive poker events, such as single table games and multiple table tournaments as his full-time occupation. Plays poker and engages in game conforming to established rules, betting, and regulations. Appraises each poker table or poker tournament as to the skill of other players. Keeps track of other poker player's skill and betting habits. Has knowledge of poker-hand probabilities and bets accordingly. Has knowledge of poker playing money management. Interacts with other poker players at gaming tables or tournaments. Plays poker at single tables up to 12 hours a day or tournaments lasting for days. Must have the physical and mental endurance to concentrate for long hours of play. Must have the mathematical skills of poker strategy and probabilities. Must have the psychological skills to 'read' other poker players. Must have the 'poker feel' of knowing who and when to 'bluff.' Must have the knowledge of the rules of the poker game he is playing."

It wasn't the influential PPA that spearheaded this piece of poker related ruling, but a single poker forum poster.

Potential Ramifications of Professional Poker Player Definition

Later in the 2+2 post the original thread creator, Michael, adds that this action by the Department of Labor may give credence to a professional online poker player's claim to practice their vocation in a state that prohibits poker or online poker. However, Michael does say that a vocational diploma that he was hoping to issue with his professional poker school, would be the biggest tool in claiming practice to your vocation.

Right now this is merely a sub-category in the Department of Labor occupational descriptions, but the definition displays that it does require skill to play poker, especially at the professional level. It takes "physical and mental endurance to concentrate". If poker wasn't a game of skill, like bingo, you really wouldn't have to have physical and mental endurance leading to the need for skill.

To view the Professional Poker Player occupation list check out the OnetCenter website, type in "Professional Poker Player" in the Occupation Quick Search box at the right, and click on the blue "100" at the left of the "Relevance Score".

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