Will League of Legends Star’s $860,000 Annual Salary Make Online Poker Players Jump Ship?

TAGs: eSports, Lee Davy, Lee Ji-hoon, Online Poker, online poker players, Vici Gaming

Chinese eSports team Vici Gaming has signed former SK Telecom T1 mid laner Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon and put him on a reported $860,000 per year salary prompting the question, ‘will online poker players one-day jump ship?’

Online poker has a problem on it’s hands. eSports. The life of an online poker player is sexy. There’s no doubt about it. But there is always someone else with longer legs, a curvier body, and more luscious lips. Online poker players will turn into philanderers. eSports will just become too provocative.

Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier became the first player in history sponsored either side of the divide. When he wears his online poker hat, it says ‘PokerStars’, and when he wears his video game hat it says ‘Team Liquid’. ElkY loves his video games. It’s how he made his name. But he came to poker because of the money. Sure he loves the game as well. But he didn’t have the capability to earn the kind of money he has done playing cards when he was firing missiles.

Will League of Legends Star's $860,000 Annual Salary Make Online Poker Players Jump Ship?That is going to change.

Korean League of Legends (LOL) star Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon has left SK Telecom T1 to sign for the Chinese outfit Vici Gaming. News reports have suggested that he will receive a salary of $860,000 per year.

When Daniel Negreanu beat ElkY in their Hearthstone exhibition during Blizzcon 2015 a few weeks back, the interviewer asked the pair of them if they would ever compete in the Hearthstone World Championships? ElkY said the time needed to play the game would be tough, but he was up for the challenge. Negreanu said he would love to, but the money would make things difficult.

Negreanu is a very different beast than the vast majority of professional poker players. He has more money than he will be able to spend in his lifetime. He is one of the few players in the world who have consistently taken seven figures away from the live tournament tables. But let’s think about this.

In 2004, Negreanu earned $4.4m. In 2013, he made $3.2m. In 2014, he made $10.2m. Take those freakishly good years out of the equation, consider that the costs of buy-ins, accommodation and travel aren’t included in the Hendon Mob stats, and Easyhoon’s $860,000 per year seems a decent wedge.

Negreanu is the face of PokerStars. I have no idea if his salary is greater than $860,000. But there are very few sponsored professional poker players. How many of our brethren are making a clean $860,000 per year? It can’t be many.

So that’s it then, professional poker players are going to learn to play LOL and command the same sorts of fees. There might be one thing stopping them.


Easyhoon decided to leave SK Telecom T1 because he was forever in the shadow of arguably the greatest LOL player of all time, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyoek. In an interview with the Korean new channel Fomos, translated into English on Reddit, Easyhoon explained his decision to leave as thus:

“The reason why I decided to move out of SKT was not because of teammates nor the coaching staff. It was after I played in the semifinals of the World Championship. I had the opportunity to start, and had very satisfactory performance in games 1 and 2. So I thought I would play in game 3 also, but Faker started for that game. When I was leaving the stage and Faker got on, everyone cheered “Faker!

“While I was leaving the stage, I had a lot of thoughts. ‘What role and meaning do I exactly take in this team? Don’t people ultimately want Faker?'”

What he said next made me laugh so abruptly that I spat my lentils all over my naked wife who was minding her business in front of me.

“If i was younger, I think I would’ve gone to another team in LCK and compete against Faker. Just because of the competitive side of me as a player. That wouldve been a worthy challenge. However, I’m getting old. And I have to consider the future.”

The lad is 24-years old. I have boils on my bum older than that. He has been a pro gamer for four years.

If 24 is the age when your cream turns sour, then perhaps online poker won’t experience a mass exodus to eSports no matter how many times PokerStars shafts them.

Go on Pierre Neuville.

Take on the challenge.

Pick up that joystick and show the Easyhoons, Elkys and Fakers just how it’s done.


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