eSports and poker might occupy similar positions on the virtual gaming spectrum, but which one is best?
With both sports challenging a player’s skill, timing, logic, and luck, there’s very little to choose between the two on paper, so the only way to settle the score is to square them off in the ring. Naturally, while combatants on both sides are trained to go for the kill in their respective disciplines, we don’t want there to be any blood stains on the canvas when the final bell rings.
So, to ensure it’s a fair fight, we’re going to stand in the middle of these two gaming heavyweights and keep an eye on the action. However, before the bell sounds and the two industries come out swinging, let’s quickly run through their vital stats.
eSports: When video gamers unite to compete on a public stage, the end result is known as an eSports event. Essentially a virtual competition between individuals or teams, professional eSports events now see high-level pros play games such as Dota 2, League of Legends and StarCraft II, for millions of dollars.
In fact, during 2016 it’s estimated that the eSports industry will grow by 43 percent from a total value of $325 million to $463 million. However, thanks to a recent surge in popularity, the eSports industry is set to grow thanks to a global audience of more than 300 million.
Indeed, a survey of China’s 600 million smartphone owners found that 40 percent (240 million) had attended or viewed an eSports event. Beyond China, there’s estimated to be more than 100 million fans around the world; a fact researchers at Newzoo believe will make the industry worth $1.1 billion by 2019.
Poker: Unlike eSports events where the battles take place exclusively online, poker has more tools in its arsenal. Indeed, while eSports might pack more of a punch in terms of popularity and revenue, major poker events can be played and viewed live and online.
For example, major online festivals such as PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) attract hundreds of thousands of players and generate prize pools in excess of $70 million. Similarly, major live events like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) welcomes players from around the world and offer tournament prizes between seven and eight figures.
In terms of popularity, the WPT (World Poker Tour) has estimated that 100 million are fans of the game and annual screenings of the WSOP (World Series Of Poker) on ESPN often attract 1.1 million viewers. This popularity has helped the online gambling industry reach a value of more than $40 billion, but it’s the diversity of poker that’s its real strength.
eSports and Poker: The Showdown
Because players can ante-up live and online, and because amateurs can compete and possibly beat the pros, the game’s fan base is a lot more diverse than eSports. Indeed, although everyone can play the top eSports games, the chances of an amateur beating a pro are tiny. In contrast, a novice has more chance of upsetting the odds in poker which is why it should be seen as a more diverse industry.
The Early Rounds
Now we’ve sized up the fighters, let’s watch the punches fly as we compare their best moves:
The Final Rounds
As you can see, eSports and poker have strong stats when it comes to participation, prizes and events. This has obviously led to media outlets and TV producers to jump on the gaming bandwagon, but that’s not all. Thanks to the advent of online streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, both eSports and now poker fans can watch the top players via their desktop and mobile devices.
In the early rounds we can see that eSports and poker are fairly evenly matched, so can we find a winner when the cameras are on in the later rounds? In general, poker has enjoyed much more coverage on mainstream TV, while eSports have dominated in the online world. However, as the two industries converge and technology improves, the lines have been blurred in recent years.
After a hard fought contest it’s hard to find a winner. With neither side able to deliver a knockout blow, it all comes down to the scorecards. Looking back through the rounds, we can see that poker comes out on top, just. Taking five of the nine rounds, poker might not have the fan base that eSports does, but the amount of money in the game for players is significantly higher.
However, money isn’t everything, and with wins in four rounds, eSports not only proved it can hang with poker, but that it’s a major entertainment enterprise. As we move further into the age of technology, it’s clear that both eSports and poker will continue to grow.
In fact, just to put things into perspective, remember this stat the next time some questions your interest in eSports and poker:
When you combine the two largest prizepools in eSports and poker history, $100,941,775 the money on offer is worth more than the combined prizepools for the Cricket World Cup ($10.25 million), the Super Bowl ($11 million), the Dubai World Cup Night (horse racing – $27.25 million) and the FedEx Cup (golf – $35 million).