Sports Betting vs. Poker

By in Sports & Betting on
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Lebron Dunking Poker Cards

It has come to my attention that a great debate has been raging among gamblers for years. The sports betting vs. poker war is fought in gambling circles, local bars, and among friends on the golf course.

I think the answer should be unique to each gambler. Picking between sports betting and poker for me is like asking “steak or lobster?”

I’ll have both please and bring extra butter.

Instant Gratification

If you find yourself quickly becoming bored or don’t know how to spend your downtime productively, you may prefer poker.

When you’re at the poker table, the game comes at you fast. If you’re a novice to a beginner player, the game will seem to fly at you. In poker, you have a new hand being played every few minutes. Even if the cards you’re getting are trash, it helps you stay engaged.

In contrast, sports betting typically takes 3-4 hours to produce a result. The games themselves can be incredibly exciting if you’re an avid sports fan. Still, even the most rabid enthusiast can get burnt eventually.

It definitely doesn’t provide the fast-paced action of poker. Where your fortunes can turn in an instant, and suddenly you’re well into the black.

Sports betting puts the spotlight on the field’s players, allowing you to spectate in the background. You may not even view the games publicly.  Many sports bettors will choose to watch the games from home where they can languish in peace. Many more simply don’t watch the games at all and will occupy their time in other ways.

After the contest, they’ll check online to see how they did. Poker will not afford you the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. Sure, you can play online and remain anonymous.

However, poker puts you squarely in the middle of the action. Your fate is your own to shape. If you spend hours sitting around a poker table watching others play, you’re hemorrhaging money.

Your personality will likely suit one or the other, and there are no rules against enjoying both.

Time on Your Hands

The amount of time you have to spend in the casinos can also play a significant factor in your preferred discipline.

Sports betting takes hours of research and analysis to succeed at a reasonable level. Still, the time it takes to actually place your bets is incredibly short. In fact, those pressed for time can easily place their bets in under 2 minutes from their smartphone.

Suppose you enjoy the experience of the sportsbook. In that case, you can let one bet on a game present you with several hours of entertainment.

Poker moves much faster, and you’ll be making bets far more often than in the sportsbook. Fortunately, a workaround exists for the poker player, looking to hopefully eat up an afternoon or most of the night.

For a single buy-in, poker tournaments allow players to enjoy the action for a prize pool. Typically, players will be playing a bit looser in tournaments because it’s really only the buy-in amount if they bust.

Most poker rooms will have several tournaments running simultaneously with different buy-in amounts. If the tournament scene’s not for you, you could always sit at a low stakes table and doll out $2 blinds for hours at a time.

Sports betting and poker will both provide you their own ways to burn several hours at a time. Depending on your bet size in the sportsbook, you could see much lower volatility than at the poker table.

You may decide to go the route of an overachiever and place your bets then go over to the poker tables while the games unfold. Of course, if your poker skills are lackluster, you may be back in the sportsbook lighter in the wallet before you know it.

Your Interests Will Drive Your Choice

Poker draws a wide variety of individuals. Visit any poker room, and you’re likely to find businessmen, blue-collar workers, and professional gamblers.

Poker players can be an older man just as easily as a young woman. What they have in common is an affinity for the cards.

Poker Is a Game of Skill as Much as Chance

A well-disciplined player can wreak havoc at the tables. Some people consider the ability to read others as one of the most significant aspects of playing poker. I have no doubts that reading your opponents is a great asset at small tables with relative beginners.

I’ve talked with several pros that tell me they aren’t trying to read their competitors as much as reading the cards.

If the pros can put an opponent on a hand, it will give them the edge they need to win the hand. You do this well enough on a repeatable basis, and you have a million dollars and a shiny new bracelet.

This head to head test of mettle will shoot your dopamine levels into orbit. It’s exhilarating to push all-in against the player across the table.

Sports betting has its own thrills, though you won’t typically be going head to head against another player. It’s the sportsbook you’re trying to best. You can spend hours doing your best analysis and carefully placing your wager on the week’s biggest game.

All of the research and anticipation can come down to the final minutes or seconds of the game. The game which I should point out is entirely out of your control.

It’s a strange sensation having money on the line with an NFL team making a goal-line push in a ball game’s closing seconds. If the team you’re backing can move the ball those 3 feet, you’re going to cash in huge. If the defense makes a big-time stop, you’re never to see your money again.

Most sharp sports bettors are able to operate devoid of such emotions. But most gamblers don’t care to be sharp sports bettors.

In It for the Money

From a purely financial standpoint, both sports betting and poker can be extremely lucrative.

You need to understand that only the top of the mountain is going to become millionaires. However, either endeavor can net you substantial profits.

Top pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey have built fortunes north of $30,000,000 in the poker world. That’s very impressive but unrealistic for most gamblers.

Yet, if you put in the time and money to learn poker as a craft, you could become profitable playing in the poker rooms. It certainly isn’t unheard of for a high-level amateur to enter some of the world’s biggest tournaments and come away from a big money winner.

Sports betting has put some highly gifted individuals, not into the millionaire’s club, but the billionaire’s club. Anthony Bloom has amassed a fortune on sports betting. His system is so well executed that those that have come from his betting tree are working on their own billion.

Again, not the average Joe walking through a Vegas sportsbook or visiting an online real money poker site. If you develop a system that produces long-term positive results, you may even get to quit your day job. Overall, it’s a coin toss as to which will be more profitable for you. It depends on your individual skillset and determination.

I will point out that the ultra-wealthy gamblers, I’m talking net worth over $100 million, come from the world of sports betting.

Social Skills

Some gamblers prefer to have as little contact as possible with strangers. If you would describe yourself as not a people person, sports betting may be a better fit.

Poker tables are surrounded by exuberant personalities, and there will be plenty of chatter. It’s hard to ignore engaging a conversation when the person initiating is sitting 3 feet away, staring you in the eyes.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

Sports betting sites allow zero human interaction for some people that is enough to tip the scales.

Others love the social aspect of poker. They enjoy being in a full poker room and discussing anything that may come up with complete strangers.

I’m not intimating that outgoing personalities should shy away from the sportsbook and vice versa. I’m merely pointing out that if you loathe small talk, you can expect plenty at the poker tables.


The sports betting vs. poker argument will rage for decades. It’s my opinion that neither side is right, and both sides know it.

That’s the main reason the debate is prevalent. It gives gamblers something to discuss and pits one large section against the other in friendly jabbing.

I think there is an important question here, though. Which one is best for you, sports betting or poker?

Well, which way do you lean?

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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