Once upon not very long ago, poker was something played only in casinos and seedy backrooms, while eSports was a twinkle in the eye of the internet. Today, they both stand as heavyweights in the online gaming arena and both offer big, big money when it comes to tournaments.
But if we had to reduce it to nuts and bolts, a simple, “My dad can beat up your dad” argument, which one outpunches the other?
Ring the bell and let’s take a look.
For those aren’t aware, eSports is on its way to becoming a billion dollar industry. According to the latest stats, 2016 will see the eSports industry grow by 43 percent from $325 million to $463 million. However, what’s even more impressive is that by 2019 the researchers at Newzoo believe eSports will be worth $1.1 billion.
In comparison, the online poker is almost in a different weight class. It was worth $6.7 billion in 2012 and, today, it’s part of an online gambling industry that’s valued at close to $40 billion. James Blythe, editor at OnlineCasino.ca, says: “Since poker tournaments became televised, the popularity of the sports has boomed across the world. With the biggest events like the famous World Series Of Poker drawing huge crowds and prize pools of millions, more and more people are playing online. We’re keenly following the similar rise in popularity of eSports, which are growing at a rapid rate. Both poker and eSports attract young professional players who have the opportunity to make huge sums of money in a relatively short time.”
However, while poker is a more lucrative industry than eSports in terms of money spent, it’s eSports that has the more impressive fan base.
Player Participation and Viewership
Newzoo’s stats suggest that there are 131 million hardcore eSports fans around the world as well as an additional 125 million casual followers. Red Bull has also reported that 32 million watched the Season 3 League of Legends World Championship in 2015 (including 18,000 live) and around 71 million watched competitive gaming in 2013.
When it comes to poker, the WPT estimates that 100 million play the game both live and online, while London-based Poker Player Research Limited found that 40 million people played online poker in 2010. Beyond those actually playing online poker, events such as the WSOP Main Event attract between 450,000 and 1.1 million viewers according to ESPN.
From prize money perspective, poker comes out top in terms of cash won. Looking at the two richest events in both industries, the $10,000 WSOP Main Event attracted 6,420 players in 2015 and generated a top prize worth $7,683,346 (the overall prize pool was $60,355,857).
In contrast, The International 2015 Dota 2 event attracted 80 players (16 teams) and generated an $18,429,613 prize pool. However, because the tournament was contested by fewer participants than the WSOP Main Event, the winning team actually shared a comparatively more impressive top prize worth $6,634,660.
Taking On Other Contenders
Both eSports and online poker can throw some big punches, and both look like they can go a few rounds in the ring. What if they turned their sights outwards? How would they shape up against traditional sports?
Let’s take some of our big numbers and compare them to three of the world world’s largest sports: soccer, American football (NFL) and tennis.
American Football (NFL) – It might be an American game, but American football still has a global fan base of 400 million. That fact, coupled with lucrative TV deals with the likes of ESPN and FOX Sports, mean that NFL contracts are worth millions. In fact, if you’re Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 then your contract is worth $22,133,133 per year, for three years! However, in comparison to this money, the prize for winning the sport’s biggest title, the Super Bowl, is just $97,000 per player.
Tennis – In terms of global popularity, tennis is estimated to have around 1 billion fans worldwide. Given the popularity of the game and the profile of its players, such as Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, prize money and sponsorship is on an impressive level. In fact, with the US Open now offering a total prize pool of $42.3 million and the winner banking $3.3 million, it’s easy to see why Mr. Federer is worth a reported $330 million.
Soccer – When it comes to popularity, there are no bigger sports than soccer. Watched the world over, the game has an estimated 3.5 billion fans, of which around 1 billion watched the 2014 World Cup final. In terms of money, soccer is also a world leader with Gareth Bale standing as the most expensive player in history with a price tag of $126.5 million and Cristiano Ronaldo being the wealthiest player with a net worth of $230 million.
|American Football (NFL)||Joe Flacco ($23 Million)|
|Tennis||Roger Federer ($330 Million)|
|Soccer||Cristiano Ronaldo ($126.5 Million)|
|Poker||Antonio Esfandiari ($17.8 Million)|
|eSports||Peter ‘ppd’ Dager ($2.2 Million)|
As you can see, eSports and poker might still have a way to go before they can stand up to the big boys of the sporting world, but at least the latter still has the advantage over all when it comes to the largest single tournament prize (i.e. the WSOP Main Event).
So Which One wins?
When it comes to picking a winner, it looks as though poker just edges it on a points decision. Although eSports has momentum and a growing fan base, poker is still a game that connects more with the general public.
From professionals, to old ladies playing around the kitchen table, poker is a game that hundreds of millions of people have played at least once in their lives. While this doesn’t necessarily translate into more fans watching major events or more revenue, it does give the game a world of potential.
So, while eSports might have the edge in terms of some numbers, poker appears to have greater potential which, if it can tap into further, would make it a truly global sport.
In conclusion here are the highest prize pools compared throughout sport and games.
If you won the Wimbledon Men’s single final you would win $14.5 million.
If you won the Super Bowl, each player would get $97,000.
If you won the WSOP Poker Main Event you would win $8 million.
If you won The International 2016 Dota 2 tournament, the prize pool currently stands at almost $17million (Which is still counting until August).