Pros and Cons of Playing Poker vs. Sports Betting

A Hand Holding Playing Cards and Closeup of a Football Player

Stand back and survey even an average land based casino and you’ll see there are a lot of things to do. You can get a good meal, do a little shopping, see a show, and you can definitely do some gambling. In some places, your casino will even let you bet on sports.

All of these activities are fun. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned in this life, it’s that neither time nor money is infinite. Therefore, if you’re a big sports bettor and a big poker player, you’re going to have to make a decision… Where are you going to spend most of your time?

Of course, you can always do both, but would you have more fun doing one over the other? It’s a highly personal decision, but I can help answer that question by showing that both poker and sports betting have their pros and cons. I’ll look at each and help you decide what is your ideal activity, and I’ll give you plenty of reasons to keep doing both.

Really, there’s no wrong way to spend time at a casino as long as you’re having fun. I just want you to spend as much time as possible doing what you’ll like best.

Pros of Playing Poker: It’s Fun

At the end of the day, no matter what you do at a casino, there’s really only one reason to do it—you’re having fun. If you’re not having fun playing poker, then why do it?

Sure, there’s money in playing the game, but unless you’re a professional poker player trying to keep up her bankroll, there are other good ways to make money (like sports betting or even playing slots).

Let’s hope that issue has been put aside, though, and we can assume that you love or strongly like playing one of the variants of the game: Holdem, Draw, Stud, etc. That’s great.

Overall, the best pro for poker is that you’re doing something you love. Of course, this fun can take on different forms. You may be the solo player who keeps her earbuds in all the time, is constantly calculating the odds, stays hyper-focused, and never table talks.

If that’s fun for you, poker is your game. If you’re the type of poker player that loves to be amongst fellow fans of the game, likes to tell crazy stories, etc., that’s good, too, because poker allows for that. It’s an activity that supports both introverts and extroverts, planners, and improvisers. What more could you ask for?

Pros of Playing Poker: Immediate Results

Another pro of playing poker is that, for the most part, you get immediate results. Sure, you may be playing head-to-head against one other person and neither of you are getting decent cards, but for the most part, you play poker because every few minutes, there’s another hand to play.

This keeps the excitement up, the dopamine flowing, and it generally keeps players’ interest going for a long time. Those are all great advantages, and you’ll never get bored.

Pros of Playing Poker: Tournaments Can Last a While

If you’re looking for a single activity to do for an entire night (or day or whatever), then poker tournaments are for you. For the price of a single buy in (and potentially some re-buys if the tournament allows that sort of thing), you can sit for hours and play poker as long as your chips last.

Two Poker Players at a Table With Dealer

You’re not always going to have long tournaments, but you should expect to play for a while without needing to spend more money.

Pros of Playing Poker: You Control the Risk

Another nice thing about the game of poker is that you control your risk and reward. If you don’t want to play with card sharks, don’t enter a no-limit, thousand-dollar entry fee tournament. Play pot limit games with small blinds.

As your skill level or risk tolerance increases, you can play in bigger tournaments with higher blinds. That risks more money, but it also means you can win more, too. Still, that’s all up to you!

Cons of Playing Poker

The biggest con of playing poker is probably just that you’re playing poker.

In all seriousness, playing poker is a bit of discipline in and of itself. The game has a terminology all of its own. There are unwritten rules and customs that one should follow.

Not to mention, there’s a lot of blogs and books on poker strategy, reading tells, improving, etc. That means that it’s a little hard to just pick up and start playing poker and have an expectation that you’re going to do well.

If you’re not sure which is worth more, a flush or a full house, your strategy will suffer at the table and the chances of you winning money decrease dramatically. If you’re just at the table to play and have fun, that’s fine. But without a little practice and dedication, having fun is likely all you will be doing until you can up your game.

Ultimately, if you’re not confident in your poker skills, you’re likely to make more money doing something else. Please don’t let that deter you from playing poker. But you might want to download a free poker app and play for a while before you risk your own cash.

Pros of Sports Betting: Fun

Now, that we have looked at the pros and cons of poker, let’s look at the pros and cons of sports betting. To do that, we start with the same first pro as poker—betting on sports is a lot of fun.

Of all the ideas I will advance tonight, this is the easiest to test. Go find a coworker, bet a Coke on some game, and then watch the game. Tell me you don’t get a little more emotional about the outcome… And that’s just for a Coke!

Now, imagine slapping a few hundred bucks down on a game, and tell me that doesn’t get your heart racing.

Also, whether you’re a solo bettor or a socialite, sports betting can be your thing. You can find a quiet sportsbook and sit all alone or you can find a sportsbook that’s more like a sports bar and watch the game with a bunch of friends you haven’t made yet.

Pros of Sports Betting: Great for Sports Fans

If you’re the guy who wants to watch North Carolina A&T vs. Norfolk State at midnight because, hey, it’s sports and it’s on TV, then why aren’t you betting on sports?

A Sportsbook with Multiple Monitors Showing Games

Seriously, the best part of sports betting is that you have an excuse to watch sports, to be around other sports fans, to read about it on the news, etc. It’s not a waste of time in that case because you’re doing research so you can bet better for the next game.

Such is the magic of sports betting.

Pros of Sports Betting: You Control the Heat

Sports betting is another of those activities where you control the risk by choosing how much you’re going to bet on a given line or whether you’re going to bet at all. If a game doesn’t feel right to you, don’t bet on it.

If you’re sure about something, bet a little bit more. It’s all about you, how good you feel about your bet, and what you’re willing to risk.

Cons of Sports Betting

Sports betting also has a barrier to entry, especially if you want to be really successful at it. This type of casino activity has language, terminology, and a set of rules all to itself that you should understand before you start betting.

Even worse, the things that make you a great sports fan (determination, passion, loyalty) are often the things that make you a poor sports bettor. When you’re close to a team, it’s hard to see that team’s flaws (or in some cases, their strengths) and it’s easy to overexaggerate or severely underestimate either one.

With sports betting, you’re looking for holes in the market. You want to find places where the bookies just didn’t get it right so that you can bet on those games and get your payday. That can take some work to do properly and when there’s cold, hard cash on the line, you don’t want too much of a learning curve.

Your saving grace is that you control the risk. Start small, and you can easily grow from there!


No matter what you like to do at a casino, whether that’s play poker or bet on sports, go for it, as long as you have fun. There’s no wrong way to do either because they both offer their different experiences.

If you want immediate payoffs, play poker. If you’re okay with watching teams play for which you have more than rooting interest, that’s good, too.

Of course, at the end of the day, you can always do both. Swing by the sportsbook on your way to the poker tables. Lay down a couple of bets on some teams you like, then buy into a tournament. That way, you get the best of both worlds.