The rise of e-Sports has been magnified by the COVID-19 crisis, which has stopped the world’s prominent sporting codes in their tracks. While e-Sports is predominantly the domain of Asian, European and American players, a number of Australians are carving out a reputation on the pro-gaming scene.
If you’re not into gaming, chances are you’ve pigeonholed e-Sports as a faux sporting code and are refusing to recognise its players as athletes. But the fact is e-Sports’ popularity is exploding, its top players are earning big bucks, and their chosen pastime’s pandemic-proof nature means they’re enjoying a lot more elite-level action right now than James Tedesco, Dustin Martin and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While some in-person LAN tournaments were cancelled during the early days of the coronarvirus sporting apocalypse, e-sports leagues quickly pivoted to remote competitions. E-sports betting has become a saviour for punters, with e-sports odds and markets available on a range of competitions, headlined by games such as Dota 2 (Defence of the Ancients), LOL (League of Legends) and CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive).
Australians are, by and large, on the fringes of the professional gaming big time. But a handful of players from Down Under are making a virtual splash in the rapidly growing e-Sports sphere.
Pham joins sporting rich list
Melbourne born-and-bred Anatham Pham – better known by his gaming alias of ‘ana’ – moved to Shanghai aged just 16 to pursue his e-Sports dream to play Dota 2, the beloved multiplayer online battle arena video game, professionally.
After gaining a grounding with Invictus Gaming, ana linked up with Europe-based team OG. His reputation grew with a string of top-four finishes at Dota 2 tournaments, before inspiring OG to back-to-back triumphs at The International – the Dota 2 world championships – in 2018–19.
OG collected US$15.6 million for winning the 2019 event, while ana’s reported career earnings are over US$6 million – placing him third among all e-Sports pros.
Ana’s US$3.2 million earnings in 2019 put him 18th on the list of Australia’s highest-earning sportspeople according to the Financial Review, ahead of the country’s best-paid cricketers Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins. There were no NRL or AFL players on the 30-strong list.
Not for the first time, ana is currently giving his thumbs a rest and taking a break from the pro circuit. But he did make headlines last month when he stood in for team TNC Predator’s star Gabbi, who was experiencing internet issues (don’t laugh, it’s just like working from home these days), at a charity tournament.
We got your night jam-packed with action as the two-time TI champion Ana will stand-in for Gabbi, due to ISP issues, in our match versus Adroit tonight at 8 PM!
— TNC Predator 🇵🇭 (@TNCPredator) March 22, 2020
Reaching those ‘Kpii’ targets
Damien Chok, aka ‘Kpii’, is Australia’s only other million-dollar e-Sports earner. Another Dota 2 star, Kpii has amassed US$1.8 million as a pro gamer since 2015.
Kpii cut his teeth with Australian team Can’t Say Wips in 2014, before being snapped up by Korean squad MVP Phoenix. His career went up another gear when he joined Newbee in 2016; the Shanghai-based team came second at The International 2017 – pocketing almost $4 million – and Kpii’s annual earnings finished just shy of $1 million.
Dota 2 betting markets and Dota 2 odds on Sportsbet feature Newbee’s upcoming matches, but the 26-year-old Kpii has been playing for TNC Predator since September last year and is already making a big impression.
esl one hamburg 🏆 shoutout to our biggest sponsor Alchemist 🥺 pic.twitter.com/OMGN8znc5S
— Damien Chok (@kpiidota) October 27, 2019
100 Thieves fly Aussie flag in CS:GO
Lifestyle brand and gaming organisation 100 Thieves boasts teams in several e-Sports leagues – and their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive line-up is stacked with Australians. CS:GO is a wildly popular multiplayer first-person shooter video game.
The five-strong side boasts Aussies Justin ‘jsk’ Savage, Aaron ‘AZR’ Ward, Jay ‘Liazz‘ Tregillgas and Sean ‘Gratisfaction’ Kaiwai, and is currently competing in the CS:GO – ESL Pro League. Savage and Ward have earned almost $200,000 in their gaming careers, while Tregillgas is into six figures.
100 Thieves kicked off their ESL Pro League 11’s North America group stage campaign with back-to-back wins over Swole Patrol and Evil Geniuses, coming from one map down on each occasion to win the best-of-three series. But the team is smarting from consecutive losses to heavyweights Team Liquid and MiBR, losing both inside two maps.
While ana and Kpii effectively make up the select group of Australian gamers to make a genuine impact in the e-Sports world, it’s only a matter of time before more joystick jockeys from these parts gain a foothold. The hiatus of traditional powerhouse sporting codes will keep the attention fixed on e-Sports for the time being and give an increasing number of Aussies time in the limelight.
As well as Dota 2 and CS:GO – ESL Pro League, Sportsbet has a wide range of LOL betting options and LOL odds, DreamLeague betting options and DreamLeague odds, and CS:GO ESEA betting options and CS:GO ESEA odds plus many more available for punters. Bet now.