For some former eSports gamers, turning to poker has paid tremendous dividends over the years. One of them is Bertrand Grospellier, better known in the gaming circles as ElkY. Having played Starcraft at the highest level in the world and finishing second in WCG 2001, ElkY transitioned into poker and has won several European Poker Tour and World Series of Poker bracelets. He also holds a Guinness world record for the most SNG’s played in one hour – there’s no question that he is simply the most successful French poker player the world has ever seen!
Why did ElkY do so well in poker, after playing Starcraft professionally for years in Korea? Video games are popular since they are so easy to play and access, but playing tournament poker for high stakes needs a somewhat lot of capital before you can play them on a regular basis. Let’s dive into what eSports and poker share in common!
The common characteristics of eSports and Poker
The two endeavors have a surprisingly lot of factors in common when you take a closer look at them. To become a great player you need attributes such as patience, ability to take calculated risks, ability to focus for lengthy periods of time and the capability of learning new strategies and adapting to different styles of your opponents. It takes tens of thousands of hours if you want to compete at the highest levels, and your practice & play has to be done deliberately instead of just putting in the hours mindlessly. This was the case also for professional poker players of Team BeastsOfPoker, such as Joni Jouhkimainen and Sampo Ryynänen.
When you sum up these similarities, it’s clear why there has been quite a lot of crossover between eSports and poker. While this was mostly a one-way transfer earlier, some poker players have also started trying their hand at eSports with different degrees of success. Poker as a phenomenon really exploded after the Moneymaker 2003 WSOP main event win, and eSports has been growing in recent years due to massive coverage and entertaining streamers on platforms such as Twitch. It’s much easier to connect within the global gaming community nowadays, which is definitely one of the reasons eSports has been doing so well lately.
The audiences of eSports and poker are somewhat different
People who fancy these two endeavors do have a bit different demographics though. There are many times more eSports players (over 200 million) than poker players (around 40 million) in the world – and much more women in eSports relatively, especially in the viewers of big events. eSports players are younger on average since the average poker player is close to 40 years old, while eSports players are mostly in their twenties. Most eSports competitions do require a minimum age of 17, although you can start to practice competitive play in different clans as soon as you get accepted into one.
For most people, playing as a professional poker player or gamer is not realistic. However, there are other ways to enjoy these endeavors to great extent. One of them is becoming a streamer.
The reasons eSports and poker will grow further in the future
Although poker has already seen a big boom in the Western countries and eSports has gained tremendous amounts of regular players & viewers, we think the growth might not stop here.
Increasing media coverage & real-time streaming
Huge media publishers such as BBC and Sky have started to show eSports like FIFA and League of Legends due to the vast demand for eSports. There is no doubt other media companies will follow their lead eventually, and once the mainstream media has increasing airtime for eSports, it will result in more players and viewers joining the phenomenon.
Similarly in poker, the biggest success stories have ended up on mainstream media for quite some time now, and ESPN is showing comprehensive coverage from the World Series of Poker each year. Streams on platforms like Facebook, Twitch and YouTube are appealing to young audiences in both eSports and poker – these audiences are the future consumers, so advertising to them is a no-brainer for companies of many industries.
The dream of becoming a millionaire
Poker has offered the dream of becoming a millionaire for a long time. Lately also Asian players have joined in to chase their dream of financial independence through poker, with multiple favorable recent events such as the growth of online poker apps online and online poker being legalized in three states of India. With multi millions prizes in largest eSports competitions, there will be a constant stream of new gamer generations aiming at the top of eSports too.
Access and interaction for everyone
Getting started in poker or eSports is quite simple, affordable and quick if you own a computer. Compared to many other endeavors that might need more preparations, in eSports or poker you just install the game or poker software and get started right away. During gameplay you can chat with your opponents, and at the live events you can meet big superstars in both eSports and poker.
Big corporations want their piece of the cake
While sponsored players have been around in poker for over a decade, most sponsoring companies have been from the gaming industry (or PC hardware manufacturers in eSports). In the future also other types of big companies might get into backing players in both eSports and poker – in eSports many players now have a monthly salary from their sponsor in addition to the prize money won in competitions, which makes eSports sponsorship a good fit for both the sponsor and players.
How big eSports and poker can grow in the upcoming years is a question that is hard to answer. According to current trends, eSports can quickly surpass poker in this regard, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes another multi-billion dollar industry. One thing is for sure – the opportunities to seize the rising popularity of eSports and poker will not run out anytime soon!
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