eSports Players Who Bring in Some Hard Cash

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Andy L/Wikimedia

As a kid, it was a dream to grow up and make money playing video games. With the birth of big name tournaments, that dream became a reality. Every year, thousands of people try their luck at earning big bucks for playing their favorite games.

This intriguing career path isn't for everyone, of course. Only a select few players walk away with a decent amount of money in the bank. Still, these select players make their bank accounts proud with their gameplay.

Justin Wong

New York City's Justin Wong is one of the most prolific players in the Fighting Game Community (FGC). In 2004, he earned fame for Evo Moment 37, which saw him making an unbelievable comeback against Daigo Umehara. This moment drew in a plethora of new fighting game players worldwide.

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Photo Courtesy: Justin Wong/Instagram

Since 2004, Wong has been ruling tournaments for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Fighter. Overall, he has earned almost $130,000. His highest earning game is Street Fighter V, which netted him more than $30,000. Wong is the most decorated Evo champion in history.

Keita Ai

Keita Ai, who is better known as Fuudo, broke into FGC with Virtua Fighter 4. After taking the top spot at 2005's Super Battle Opera, he made the jump to Street Fighter. With the release of Street Fighter V, he became one of the best R. Mika players in the world.

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Photo Courtesy: Fuudo/Instagram

While Ai hasn't landed on top since Virtua Fighter, he has been a strong force in Street Fighter V. He was the runner-up at Stunfest 2016 and Evo 2016. Overall, he has earned almost $200,000 from tournaments and about $82,000 from Street Fighter V.

Yusuke Momochi

Yusuke Momochi has been a Street Fighter master since 2008's All CAPCOM vs. Game Olympics. His performance on Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition earned him first place wins at Battle Medley Singapore 2011 and Seasons Beatings. Momochi was also victorious on Street Fighter X Tekken at CEO 2013.

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Photo Courtesy: Momochi/Twitter

Some of Momochi's best victories came in Ultra Street Fighter IV. In 2014, he defeated 15 other players to win the Capcom Cup. The year 2015 found him victorious at the SXSW Gaming Expo and Evo. Overall, Momochi has accumulated almost $225,000 from tournament earnings. Ultra Street Fighter IV brought in more than $90,000.

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Daigo Umehara

At the age of 10, Daigo Umehara began playing fighting games at the local arcade. At 17, the Japanese player flew to the United States to compete in the official Street Fighter Alpha 3 tournament. Umehara shocked everyone by defeating Street Fighter veteran Alex Valle.

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Photo Courtesy: Shino Imao/Wikimedia

He has remained a respectable force in the FGC. His illustrious career was the subject of a manga series, and his countless tournament wins have placed him in the Guinness Book of World Records. Umehara has earned almost $240,000 from those tournaments. Ultra Street Fighter IV accounts for half of his overall earnings.

Saul Leonardo Mena II

Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Saul Leonardo Mena II turned heads at the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour. Mena, who is better known as MenaRD, took first place at the tournament after a battle with Tokido. As a Birdie expert, he continued performing well at major Street Fighter V tournaments.

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Photo Courtesy: MenaRD/Twitter

Overall, Mena has earned almost $260,000 from his handful of wins. Most of the money stems from the aforementioned Capcom Pro Tour, which made him $250,000. Following his win at the Capcom Pro Tour, Capcom made a Birdie skin based on Mena.

Victor Woodley

At 18, Victor Woodley, who is also known as Punk, began competing in fighting games. 2017 was a breakout year for the player, thanks to Evo. He defeated some big names to reach the Street Fighter V Grand Finals. Although he ended up in second place, Punk gained the respect of many veterans in the scene.

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Photo Courtesy: Punk/Twitter

Overall, Woodley has made more than $280,000 from playing tournaments. Street Fighter V brought in nearly 75% of those earnings. 2019 saw him taking the top spot at Final Round, Street Grand Battle and Combo Breaker. Since 2018, he has been a part of Team Reciprocity.

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Du Cong Dang

In 2012, Du Cong Dang impressed everyone with a second place spot at Northeast Championships 13. Better known as NuckleDu, the Florida native has his opponents questioning everything with his Guile play. During his time, NuckleDu joined a handful of eSports teams, including Team Liquid and Ghost Gaming.

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Photo Courtesy: NuckleDu/Twitter

In 2016, Dang won the top spot at the Canada Cup and Capcom Cup. While he had been slowing down on playing, he is looking to make a big comeback. The player has earned more than $325,000 from his numerous tournament appearances, and nearly 90% of his earnings came from playing Street Fighter V.

Juan DeBiedma

Juan DeBiedma is one of many players keeping Super Smash Bros. Melee alive after its 2001 release. Known as Hungrybox, the Florida native has been competing in Melee tournaments since 2009. He is known by many as an untouchable Jigglypuff player. In recent years, he has been competing in fewer tournaments because of his engineering job.

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Photo Courtesy: Hungrybox/Instagram

From his constant Melee performance, DeBiedma has earned almost $350,000 at tournaments. His biggest earnings came from Smash Summit 5, where he won almost $30,000. DeBiedma also earned the top spot at DreamHack Winter 2015, Evo 2016 and Canada Cup 2018.

Hajime Taniguchi

Better known as Tokido, Hajime Taniguchi became an overnight phenomenon after winning Evo 2002. Winning the tournament’s debut boosted the player's confidence. Since then, he has become a legend in Japanese FGC. Along with Daigo Umehara, he is one of the Five Gods of fighting games.

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Photo Courtesy: Tokido/Twitter

Since 2002, Taniguchi has won almost $480,000 in tournament earnings. Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition accounts for about half of his money. He is still a strong force at tournaments with first place wins at Capcom Cup 2019 and NorCal Regionals 2019. Since 2019, he has been a part of Rohto Zi.

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Dominique McLean

Dominique McLean earned the name SonicFox for a reason. His love of the furry fandom has led to him performing in a fursuit. He is known for his ability to learn characters quickly for important tournaments. Positive behavior earned him the eSports Player of the Year award at The Game Awards in 2018.

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Photo Courtesy: SonicFox/Twitter

McLean has earned almost $630,000 from his tournaments wins at Evo and Combo Breaker. With Mortal Kombat X, he walked away with more than $250,000 alone. He manages to compete in tournaments around the world while attending classes at New York Institute of Technology.

Henrik Ahnberg

Better known as AdmiralBulldog, Dota 2 player Henrik Ahnberg joined forces with Alliance in 2013. With the team, he won The Invitational in 2013. In 2016, Ahnberg retired from competitive play to become a full-time streamer. He has been a commentator/analyst at events such as DreamLeague and The Bucharest Minor.

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Photo Courtesy: Henrik Ahnberg/Instagram

After a four-year career, Ahnberg walked away with almost $640,000 earned from events. His Invitational win earned him a piece of a $1.4 million jackpot. His last win before hanging it up took place at season one of the StarLadder i-League StarSeries.

Marcus Christensen

While Marcus "Ace" Christensen started off playing Counter-Strike, he found his calling with Dota 2. Most of the attraction stemmed from his brother, Sylvester, who played Dota competitively. Christensen found most of his success playing with Team Secret with back-to-back wins at DreamLeague.

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Photo Courtesy: Marcus Hoelgaard Christensen/Instagram

From Dota 2, Christensen earned more than $725,000 for tournaments. His biggest earnings came from a 2017 win at DreamLeague Season 8. In 2019, he started stacking wins at WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Radiant and OGA Dota PIT Minor. After one year, he exited Ninjas in Pyjamas.

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James Eubanks

James Clayton Eubanks has been one of Call of Duty's most recognizable faces for some time. Better known as Clayster, the Virginia native gained the first X-Games gold medal in eSports back in 2014. His gameplay also landed him on three consecutive CWL Pro League All-Star teams.

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Photo Courtesy: James Eubanks/Instagram

Eubanks has earned more than $725,000 during his competitive career. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is his most profitable game with almost $320,000 earned. 2019 was his biggest year to date with a win at the Call of Duty World League Championship. It was his fourth consecutive appearance at the tournament.

Finn Anderson

Finn Andersen, who is best known as Karrigan, began playing Counter-Strike back in 2006. With the 2012 release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, he got serious about the competitive scene. After joining a handful of teams, he found success as part of FaZe Clan.

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Photo Courtesy: Finn Andersen/Instagram

Andersen's time with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has earned him almost $800,000. With FaZe Clan, he collected part of a $500,000 jackpot for winning ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2017. Recently, Andersen left FaZe Clan and returned to mousesports. In 2019, he took first place at the Europe Minor Championship in Berlin.

Jesper Wecksell

At 18, Jesper Wecksell became the youngest person to win a major tournament in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The Swedish native, who is better known as JW, has spent most of his playing career with popular team Fnatic. When he's not playing in tournaments, he is focusing on his gaming store back home.

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Photo Courtesy: Jesper Wecksell/Instagram

With Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Wecksell has accumulated more than $800,000 in career earnings. In 2018, he won a portion of a $800,000 jackpot after Fnatic won World Electronic Sports Games 2017. Recently, Wecksell took home the first prize at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019.

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Nick Cannella

Nick "nitr0" Cannella became a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player in 2014. After hopping around teams, he landed with Team Liquid the following year. As an in-game leader, he has taken his team to several tournaments, including ESL One, Intel Extreme Masters and DreamHack.

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Photo Courtesy: Nick Cannella/Instagram

Cannella has earned almost $850,000 from his playing career. 2019 found him taking part in a $1 million jackpot following a win at Intel Grand Slam Season 2. The year also gave him grand prize wins at BLAST Pro Series: Los Angeles, iBUYPOWER Masters IV and ESL One: Cologne.

Olof Kajbjer Gustafsson

Olof Kajbjer Gustafsson originally aspired to be a football player. Following an injury, he became infatuated with Counter-Strike. Under the name olofmeister, the Swedish player has played for Absolute Legends, LGB eSports and Fnatic. Since 2017, he has been playing for FaZe Clan.

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Photo Courtesy: Olof Kajbjer Gustafsson/Instagram

Gustafsson brought in almost $850,000 in career earnings through various tournament wins. With 25 trophies, he is the most decorated Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player in the world. Some of his biggest wins have been at ESL One: Katowice 2015 and FACEIT 2015 Stage 3 Finals. His last major win was Epicenter 2018.

Fernando Alvarenga

Fernando "fer" Alvarenga has been competing in Counter-Strike tournaments since 2011 with a hidden disability. Since he was a kid, Alvarenga hasn’t been able to hear out of his right ear. That didn't stop him from being a top-notch Counter-Strike player in Brazil. In 2016, he underwent surgery to fix his hearing problem.

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Photo Courtesy: Fernando Alvarenga/Instagram

During his long career, Alvarenga has earned almost $970,000. In 2016, he won ESL One: Cologne and MLG Major Championship: Columbus, which both had a $500,000 jackpot. With Brazilian team MIBR, he won the 2018 ZOTAC Cup Masters.

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Gabriel Toledo

Gabriel Toledo has influenced a slew of Brazilian players in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Under the name FalleN, he became a master at the magnum sniper rifle. In 2016, Toledo won eSports Personality of the Year at the eSports Industry Awards.

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Photo Courtesy: Gabriel Toledo/Instagram

In his 15-year career, he has earned more than $980,000 in winnings. In 2016, he won two $500,000 jackpots under two different teams (Luminosity Gaming and SK Gaming). In 2012, Toledo founded his own eSports organization named Games Academy. This organization lasted four years before closing. Currently, he plays for MIBR.

Jake Yip

One year after first playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Jake "Stewie2K" Yip started playing professionally. Soon enough, he joined Cloud9 but not without some criticism from the community. Many assumed he was too green for such a major organization. Fortunately, he proved critics wrong with wins at iBUYPOWER Invitational 2016 and ESL Pro League Season 4 – North America.

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Photo Courtesy: Jake Yip/Instagram

Yip's explosive game has brought him more than $980,000 in earnings since 2014. In 2018, he became a key member of Team Liquid. With that team, Yip has achieved victories at ESL One: Cologne 2019 and DreamHack Masters Dallas 2019.

Lukas Rossander

Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander is easily one of the toughest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players out there. In 2016, he suffered a collapsed lung before his team's semi-final match at the Assembly Winter 2016. Instead of letting a replacement play for him, he chose to play the match.

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Photo Courtesy: Lukas Rossander/Instagram

In his nearly 10-year playing career, Rossander has earned a total of almost $1.5 million. Most of his earnings stem from his four wins at Major tournaments. Since 2016, he has been a part of Astralis. 2019 saw him winning the StarLadder Berlin Major and Intel Extreme Masters XIII - Katowice Major.

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Andreas Højsleth

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Andreas Højsleth created his user name, Xyp9x, from hitting random keys on his keyboard. As a support player, he is one of the best around. After going pro in 2012, Højsleth was part of notable teams like Fnatic and Team Dignitas. Since 2016, he has been playing for Astralis.

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Photo Courtesy: Andreas Højsleth/Instagram

Højsleth's prominent gameplay has earned him about $1.6 million at tournaments. Some of his biggest wins took place at ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018 and FACEIT Major: London 2018. He holds the record for most 1v1 wins at a major tournament with 13.

Harrison Chang

In 2016, Harrison "Psalm" Chang quit college to pursue a professional gaming career. Heroes of the Storm was his game of choice until Fortnite arrived. "I was looking for a new game, a popular game where I could grow my career, … and Fortnite seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that," he told The Daily Bruin.

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Photo Courtesy: Harrison Chang/Instagram

In his short time playing Fortnite, Chang earned a career total of almost $2 million! He made this money after coming in second at the Fortnite World Cup. Chang was the oldest competitor at the finals, which took place in New York City.

Kurtis Ling

Whether you know him as Aui_2000 or just Aui, Kurtis Ling has been a Dota 2 master for a while. Discovering the game at age 9, he officially began a professional career in 2012. Three years later, he won The International 2015 as part of Evil Geniuses. The team earned an astounding $6 million from the win.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

From Dota 2, Ling gained an impressive $1.9 million from several tournaments. Ling has since transitioned into coaching rising Chinese team Newbee. As a coach, his biggest win was second place at 2018's DOTA Summit 9 with Fnatic.

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Artour Babaev

Artour Babaev, who is known as Arteezy, made his professional Dota 2 debut as a stand-in during MLG Columbus 2013. Three years later, he became the second player to gain a 9,000 Matchmaking Rating in online matchmaking. In 2016, he permanently rejoined Evil Geniuses after some bouncing around between them and Team Secret.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

Babaev has accumulated more than $2.1 million in winnings during his Dota 2 career. Some of his biggest wins include The Summit 3 and The Manila Masters. In 2019, he earned second place at ESL One Birmingham and MDL Macau. Outside of competitions, he streams to 550,000 followers on Twitch.

Clement Ivanov

When it comes to Dota 2, Clement Ivanov can do it all. Known as Puppey, he is well-versed in all roles in the game. In 2011, Ivanov shocked everyone by winning The International with Natus Vincere. Three years later, he formed Team Secret after being released from the team.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

Ivanov has walked away with more than $2.6 million throughout his career. Aside from The Invitational 2011, he won big at The Chongqing Major, The Shanghai Major 2016 and DreamLeague Season 8. He is one of only two players to have competed in every Invitational.

Peter Dager

Better known as ppd, Peter Dager's eSports career began with Heroes of Newerth. After jumping to Dota 2, Dager teamed up with Evil Geniuses for an explosive two-year run. Following two appearances at The Invitational, Dager became CEO of the group. In 2016, he quit the position and made a comeback in the competitive scene.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

Dager's six-year competitive career has earned him more than $3 million. In 2018, he officially joined the roster for Ninjas in Pyjamas, which re-formed in 2012. His biggest wins with the team so far are the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor and OGA Dota PIT Minor.

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Saahil Arora

Saahil "Universe" Arora has been dominant in the Dota 2 scene with his usage of Faceless Void and Dark Seer. After a third place finish at The Invitational 2014, the Wisconsin native began a streak of wins at premier events. The next year, he emerged victorious at The Invitational with Evil Geniuses.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

Arora has been living comfortably on his career earnings of more than $3 million. Compared to previous years, 2019 has been considered low key. While he topped the DOTA Summit 11 Europe Qualifier, his team, Ninjas in Pyjamas, finished in fifth place at the event.

Amer Al-Barkawi

Amer Al-Barkawi's dreams were nearly crushed after he was removed from Balkan Bears in 2015. With some recognition to fall back on, the player known as Miracle joined OG. He went on to earn major wins at The Manila Major and The Frankfurt Major.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

Al-Barkawi managed to rack up almost $4.7 million in career earnings. Most of his money stemmed from The International 2017. The grand prize of $11 million was the largest prize pool ever offered at the time. In 2019, he took part in his third All-Star Match at The Invitational. Days later, he was the runner-up at the tournament.

Johan Sundstein

Johan "N0tail" Sundstein is considered the greatest Dota 2 player by many critics. With his win at The International 2018, he became the first Danish person to win the tournament. The following year, he helped OG become the first team to have two victories at The International.

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Photo Courtesy: Dota 2 The International/Flickr

Sundstein is the highest earning eSports player in the world with almost $6.9 million accumulated throughout his career. With his two International wins, OG has earned a combined jackpot of almost $27 million. For Dota 2 fans around the world, it's hard to imagine Sundstein calling it quits anytime soon.

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