There is a lot of money to be made in pro gaming these days. The latest figures suggest Johan ‘NOtail’ Sundstein has amassed $6.9 million in prize money playing Dota 2. But while the rest of us can only drool making so much cash playing a battle arena video game we love, other gamers have gone on to win much higher sums in another game of skill – poker.
You might think at first glance there is little in common between multiplayer online battles and a card game, but you would be wrong. They have many similarities, which is precisely why some folks have crossed over from one to the other with incredible success.
Both game genres require clever strategy and aggression (in terms of betting in poker, not hurting other characters!), and the biggest prizes come from tournaments involving thousands of players.
Here, then, are three of the best-known gamers who made it big in online poker. If you would like to follow suit, you can without risking money by playing for free at a play money site while you learn Texas Hold’em poker.
Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier
I take your Sundstein’s $6.9 million and raise you to ElkY’s $14.6 million, the amount he has won playing in poker tournaments around the world. Frenchman ElkY, real name Bertrand Grospellier, first found a following as a StarCraft: Brood of War player in South Korea.
In 2001, he finished second at the World Cyber Games, and in 2003 he won the Euro Cyber Games in France. He began shifting towards WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos, but around this time, he discovered a new gaming love – poker.
His interest came as the game began exploding online, and big tournaments like the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) began showing on television. He found he had a knack for the game and began winning. His first decent cash was $10,478 at a WSOP event in 2006.
One of the biggest online poker rooms at the time, PokerStars noticed his potential and the marketing opportunities ElkY’s gaming links presented. He joined Team PokerStars and began a long relationship, winning a lot more money in the process.
In 2007 he finished second in a tournament in Copenhagen for $399,000. And then in 2008, he famously the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas for a cool $2million.
Big wins have followed ever since, most recently at the EPT Super High Roller in Prague in December 2019, where he picked up $554,991 – a nice Christmas present.
Interestingly, although ElkY still plays poker, he has recently gone back into the gaming arena, joining the Team Liquid Hearthstone squad in 2015. He had noted that more money than ever was swirling around the pro gaming circuit, and felt he could justify more time away from the poker tables.
Randy ‘Nanonoko’ Lew
American Randy Lew is another player who went from gamer to poker pro and back to gaming again. He was once a force in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, placing at EVO several times. When he was old enough, he turned his attentions to online poker.
He found notoriety to taking down single table tournaments and would famously play many at one time, with tables spread out over multiple monitors on his desk. He was able to use his quick wits and decision making to keep on top of the action. Again, PokerStars noticed his formidable performances. He joined their pro team, winning a few million in live tournaments along the way. One of the biggest was a $102,00 cash at the APPT in the gambling centre of Macau in 2013.
More recently, Lew has gone full circle back to gaming, also joining the Team Liquid Hearthstone roster.
Polk was a competitive Warcraft III player and a regular at World Cyber Games tournaments where he went by the name of T-Rider. But while gaming was his first love, the American soon found poker was, at the time, where all the money was.
He was more of a cash game specialist than a tournament player, but still notched up some noticeable tourney wins, including $3.7 million at a WSOP event. In total, he has cashed $9.4 million in tournament finishes.
Crossover is Real
With so many people playing poker over the past 20 years, it’s no surprise to see some gamers get involved. But the number of successes, like the three players highlighted in this article, is no coincidence. Using quick-thinking, analytical skills, and calmness under pressure are three critical ingredients to gaming and poker success.