Many of the current top poker players are known only as that, but before they became poker pros, they had other identities that seem to be lost now, but not without a trace. Would you have guessed that WCGRider, right now known as the world’s best No-Limit Hold'em Heads-Up Player, was also a professional Warcraft 3 player and that the "WCG" in his name is derived from the World Cyber Games, the World Cup of Video gaming, which he has participated in several times?
Back in 2010, games like Starcraft, CounterStrike and Warcraft 3 were really popular and poker had far less media attention. Many of these gamers were teenagers or young adults who were enthusiastic about the infinite digital world and its possibilities for sitting in your own room while being connected to a big network of people, celebrating the thrill of playing videogames in groups against other human beings.
Some of them have been real icons in the gaming scene (in Korea in particular), being cheered and followed by thousands of fans when they entered the arena or playing in their small homes at high concentration. They played for fun but also in the hopes of taking home a trophy, prize money topping out between $10,000 to $20.000, and sponsorships as a nice bonus on top. A small part of this Egamers turned into poker pros and still have some "Clan-tags" attached to their poker pseudonyms that link to their former careers.
Similarities & Differences between eSports/Gaming and Poker
1) Both games are easy to access, and you can play together with your friends, independent of time and location.
2) Focus and Endurance are two important qualities of both games. Gamers are known to play hours for hours with dedication. Thus, they are well prepared to be equally focused while playing on numerous poker tables.
3) Fast thinking and multi-tasking are two of the key abilities you need to have when various decisions must be made in split seconds. You are switching from action to action. Most games reward the ability to make decisions quickly, and in poker, you have to process a lot of information and act quickly when you are playing 6 tables or more simultaneously.
4) Forget about short-term results: There is no time – in poker or in gaming – to be bothered by the misery of past failure. This is even more present in poker, where you are not supposed to be results-oriented and are expected to just move on as if nothing has happened.
5) Strategic thinking and anticipation in relation to what your opponent is doing or will be doing – based on the strategy you've chosen and that you know your opponent knows (you can go into infinite circles) – is mandatory for both games. It can become a game of cat-and-mouse in which each individual is always trying to be one decisive step ahead of the other.
The Money factor
Although both games require similar mental abilities, there is certainly one big difference : Money! It’s very difficult to make a living at gaming. Back in the days, you had to belong to the top guys to take home cash prices of $5,000, so the pressure was high. That's another reason why so many gamers have made the transition. Earning $5,000 USD a month playing poker in 2005 was relatively easy.
3 Big names and insights about their histories and careers as gamers and poker players
1) Bertrand Grospellier as known as "Elky"
One of the biggest gaming names who turned poker pro – after being a professional at Starcraft – is Elky. He was one of the few who could keep up with the Koreans, who were considered to be the best. Elky was even living as a professional gamer in Korea for a while, obtaining a contract and sponsorships. His biggest accomplishment in Starcraft was finishing 2nd in the World Cyber Games 2001. His name was first linked to poker when he attended the WSOP 2005 and 2006, and he approached poker with the same eagerness as he did Starcraft. His first success came when he won the PokerStars Pro-Gamer Challenge 2005 and € 300.000. Further achievements followed, with an EPT Title 2008 for $2,000,000 and a Bracelet at WSOP 2011. By the end of 2013, his total tournament winnings rose above $10,000,000. As a Member of Team PokerStars, Elky is still travels and plays tournaments a lot, fascinating thousands of people who watch his regular Twitch stream.
Elky: Poker good (Right) Starcraft bad (left)
2) Lim Yo-Hwan "Slayer's Boxer"
When you heard his fingers hammering the keyboard, you would assume it was a secretary writing a letter at high speed. What was happening instead was that each hit on the keyboard was not a letter but a command, navigating his units over the map. Llim Yo-hwan was considered one of the world’s best Starcraft players for many years. He was once voted as one of gaming's top 10 most influential characters. He has a fan base of over 600.000 followers. The list of his accomplishments in Starcraft is really long and includes a couple of trophies at the World Cyber Games – the most prestigious Tournament – essentially the World cup of gaming. He became a coach for Starcraft one day, but he didn't feel the same passion and desire that he felt as a player. That was when he met the CEO of Fulpotpoker, who introduced the game to him as a mind game. He had already enjoyed playing for years but just for fun and with no ambitions. He defined a new path for his life when he became the ambassador for poker in Asia, particularly in Korea, playing live poker ambitiously, travelling and attending tournaments in Asia, such as APT Manila. "StarCraft and poker require understanding of opponents’ tendencies and styles of play," is what he thinks about the similarities. His first live poker tournament experience was when he attended the Poker Macau Cup in January 2014 and finished in 8th place. His latest cash happened at APT Manila, April 2015. He still has a lot of work to do, but there is a good chance he might excel at poker one day just as well as he excelled at StarCraft.
3) Ian "Tillerman" Girdwood Ian "Tillerman" Girdwood is a legend in the Warcraft 3 gaming world.
He was considered to be the best Warcraft 3 Gamer in the world in 2002. "My biggest ever money cash in gaming was $5,000 for winning I2E2 USA," he confessed in an interview. His gaming salary of about $3,000 those days was a big deal. He started gaming in 1996, and when he was attending the World Cyber Games in 2003, a friend of his, also a gamer, attracted his attention to poker. He was convinced that with his gaming abilities he could quickly become a millionaire through poker. He lost his first deposit of $50 right away. It was wise of him to make another attempt with $500, and he’s never had to deposit again ever since. Although he played poker a lot, he said that he never reached that high feeling that he had as a gamer. In Warcraft 3 or gaming in general, you can possess your opponent – literally, play with him. Variance in poker denies that opportunity. He competed at the highest stakes, became a millionaire quickly, and bought a house in Nova Scotia, but he always kept his head under the radar and avoided all media attention.
Prominent ex eGamers who turned into Poker Pros:
StarCraft: •Bertrand ElkY Grospellier •Dominik Korn Kofert •Hevad RaiNKhaN Khan •Simon ScHnibL0r Münz •Lex RasZi Veldhuis •Dan Rekrul Schreiber •Viktor Nazgul Goosens
WarCraft III: •Ian TillerMaN Girdwood •Florian FA-Morgoth Langmann •Andre HoRRoR Wagner •Per-Werner Dared Svensson Counterstrike: •Oskar Ins Holm •Bodo Bodo Sbrzesny
QuakeIII und Quakeworld: •Oskar LakerMaN Ljungström
EA-Sports FIFA: •Sebastian Luckbox Ruthenberg