As I sit at the poker table, my mind focused and my heart racing, I can’t help but ponder the question: is poker truly a sport? It’s a question that has sparked countless debates resulting in divided opinions. Regardless of the truth behind that age old question – to which I believe the answer is yes – I realize that the emotional roller coaster ride on which I’m about to embark bears a striking resemblance to the experience of watching your favorite sports – and this is one similarity that will always be there.

Physical and Mental Strength

Poker, often regarded as a game of chance, requires more than mere luck. It demands skill, strategy, and a profound understanding of human psychology. The mental prowess, quick calculations, and ability to read opponents become the defining elements of this captivating game. While most sports do not require this level of mental acuity, being able to ‘track the ball’ or ‘see the whole play’ before it unfolds, is a vital intellectual skill for any professional athlete if they want to succeed.

And while physicality and athleticism are often associated with the term “sport,” the mental athleticism displayed by poker players is equally remarkable. The capacity to analyze, strategize, and make decisions under immense pressure mirrors the challenges faced by athletes in traditional sports. This is not to say there is no athleticism involved in poker, as building the stamina needed to keep your body under control for hours while grinding at the tables, is not a small feat. The toll the mental and physical game can take on your body can be rough and sometimes you will be too tired to play poker.

Emotional Rollercoaster

Within the realm of poker, emotions wax and wane, creating a captivating journey of highs and lows. There are exhilarating moments of triumph when the perfect hand materializes before our eyes. The surge of confidence and accomplishment as we play it perfectly fills us with a sense of euphoria, akin to a soaring crescendo in a symphony.

Yet, even within the symphony of victory, discordant notes can emerge. The anguish of a bad beat, the frustration of a misjudged move, or the cruel hand of fate can shatter our hopes, plunging us into a disheartening dissonance. In these moments of defeat, we are challenged to confront our vulnerabilities and reassess our strategies. The emotional journey of a poker player, like the rise and fall of musical notes, tests our resilience and fortitude. The emotional ride can be exhausting and sometimes it is hard to keep playing poker.

On Being a Fanatic

This is not much different than being a part of the fandom for any sports team, where emotions run a gamut and find resonance among dedicated fans. As a passionate supporter of a sports team, I stand on the sidelines, my heart beating in unison with the athletes on MY team who grace the field. Each play, each goal, and every victory or defeat reverberates within me, forging a connection with the collective spirit of the crowd as we watch OUR team.

The symphony of fandom builds with anticipation, growing louder and more fervent as the decisive moments draw near. It is a melodious journey of hope and determination, where victory becomes the chorus we yearn to sing. When the symphony reaches its crescendo, the exhilaration is unparalleled. The shared joy of a last-minute comeback or a championship triumph unites fans, binding us together in a chorus of celebration and camaraderie.

However, sometimes the cards do not play out the way we want. Sometimes the emotional ride is just a downward spiral. The jarring notes of disappointment infiltrate the harmonies we hold dear. Heartbreaking losses, missed opportunities, and the relentless pursuit of victory can leave us crestfallen. In these instances, we experience the raw, vulnerable side of fandom. The symphony weaves through the depths of defeat, testing our loyalty and resilience. Such is the story of MY team.

The Unfulfilled Dream

Being born in Canada, ice hockey is part of who I am. Being raised in Toronto, the Toronto Maple Leafs were the obvious choice. They are MY team. The Leafs are a team with a deep history and strong fanbase which I am proud to be part of. But the story of my fanaticism, while rooted in a history of championships and awe-inspiring stories of resilience, has seen nothing but failure. The last time the Leafs won the championship, the Stanley Cup, was 1967, so long ago that my parents had not even started dating. The symphony of emotions that accompanies each Leaf’s game is a complex composition, filled with moments of hope, despair, and unwavering loyalty.

As a lifelong Leaf fan, I have witnessed the highs of regular season success, the glimmers of playoff potential, and the lows of heartbreaking defeat and having to wait for the next season to try again. The echoes of past triumphs amplify the agony of present struggles. The weight of history rests heavily upon our shoulders, adding an extra layer of poignancy to each game, each missed opportunity, and each passing year without a championship. Yet, in the face of this adversity, we the Leafs fans remain steadfast, our loyalty undeterred.

So, why do I continue to support a franchise that hasn’t lifted the cup in over five decades? It is not merely about the pursuit of victory. It goes beyond wins and losses. It’s the camaraderie with like-minded fanatics, the shared stories, rehashing great moments, and consoling each other as the lights turn off at the end of the season. It’s the same reason we keep going back to the poker table. It’s hard to quit what you love.

Poker, like hockey, is absolutely a sport as far as I’m concerned. And being a Leaf’s fan really is difficult. The season starts with hope, determination, and desire. More often than not, we make the playoffs, and that always ends poorly. Sure, on occasion, we get beat by a team that is just better, but that consolation only goes so far. Sometimes it feels like it would be better to have not made the playoffs, allowing you to keep your emotional state more even-keeled. Same as playing poker, when the cards come out and you’re holding out hope, only to be crushed by the case Ace on the river. Even after getting knocked out, I still look to the next hand, or table, or tournament. I keep coming back. Just as I do with hockey and the Leafs. It’s hard to deal with another bad beat. It’s even harder being a Leafs fan.

From the Desk of the Wordsmith

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