The top esports gamers in the world can earn millions in big tournaments. In 2018 the average esports tournament featured a prize pool of $41,000, but many tournaments offered much bigger jackpots. The International 2018, which was the Dota 2 world championship, had an overall pot of $25 million with more than $11 million going to the winning team.
As of June 2019, sixty-nine top esports gamers have earned more than $1 million through tournaments alone, though only nine have cracked $3 million in winnings. Dota 2 offers the biggest jackpots of any game, illustrated by the fact that every one of the top 38 earners made their riches through the popular MOBA game.
A handful of elite competitors have separated themselves from the field however, and earned more than any other esports athletes in history. Naturally all of the top five earners are Dota 2 players, and a few even won a world championship together. Here are the current top esports gamers of all time.
1. Kuro Takhasomi, a.k.a. KuroKy
Takhasomi grew up in Germany and as a child had issues with his legs that led him to play video games since he couldn’t be as active as most kids. Now at age 26 Takhasomi is the most accomplished esports athlete in the world, having won more than $4 million in his career.
KuroKy’s list of achievements is extensive, but a few stand out. Takhasomi is one of just three Dota 2 players to compete in every International world championship, beginning in 2011 when his team was knocked out in the first round of the losers bracket.
He continued to edge closer to The International championship, including a second place finish in 2013, before capturing the title in 2017. KuroKy’s Team Liquid, which featured three other gamers on this list, split more than $10 million and earned a place in esports history.
“I’m not much of a crier, but I couldn’t help myself. It was so surreal being on that stage. At long last, we were International champions, and, of course, $10 million richer,” KuroKy wrote in The Players’ Tribune after TI7. “Someone told me that that made me the highest-earning esports athlete of all time. That’s nice, and I’m happy that I get to do this for a living, but that’s never been why I play the game. The distinction of being the best at the thing I love – there’s no amount of money that surpasses that feeling of satisfaction.”
Career Winnings: $4,201,426.95
2. Amer al-Barkawi, aka Miracle-
al-Barkawi, born to a Jordanian father and a Polish mother, spent years playing Dota before he knew about the competitive scene. Miracle- was a “pubstar” for years, meaning he dominated the public scene but wasn’t a professional, a label that pros generally looked down upon.
When he joined the professional scene with Team OG in 2015, he turned heads and showed he belonged on the professional circuit. Miracle and Team OG won the first ever Dota 2 Major, the Frankfurt Major, and pulled off another major win in Manila in 2016 ahead of the 2016 International. On the biggest stage, however, Miracle struggled and OG was eliminated in the second round.
In 2017, Miracle joined KuroKy on Team Liquid and was a major part of their TI7 championship.
Career Winnings: $3,765,837.28
3. Johan Sundstein, a.k.a N0tail
Sundstein broke into professional esports at just 15 years old as a Heroes of Newerth player and won his first tournaments as a 17-year-old in 2011. As Newerth lost traction, N0tail moved on to Dota and racked up five tournament victories in his first year before a disappointing 7-8th place finish in the 2013 International.
Sundstein is the lone player on this list who was not on Team Liquid for the 2017 International, but he has links to some of these other gamers nonetheless. In 2015, Sundstein co-founded Team OG and recruited Miracle- to join, helping al-Barkawi find a foothold in the pro scene.
In 2018, N0tail finally captured the elusive International championship with Team OG, securing the largest grand prize in esports history. His team of five split more than $11 million between them.
Career Winnings: $3,765,555.59
4. Ivan Ivanov, a.k.a. MinD_ContRoL
Ivanov has been on six different teams in his professional career, but one thing has remained consistent since his first tournament in 2014: success. Mind_Control helped lead his team to victory in the first three tournaments of his career and overall has won 25 of the 59 he’s competed in, plus another 11 second place finishes.
Mind_Control spent most of 2015 as a mercenary before joining KuroKy on Team Liquid, and together with Takhasomi, Miracle, Matumbaman, and GH put together one of the most successful seasons in esports history in 2017. Liquid won 9 of the 15 tournaments it participated in, including The International, and Ivanov is still with the team today.
Career Winnings: $3,556,911.76
5. Lasse Urpalainen, a.k.a. Matumbaman
Urpalainen broke into professional esports in 2014 at just 19 years old with the team Veni, Vidi, Vici, and went on to join Liquid in 2015. Matumbaman stuck with Liquid through 2019, winning the 2017 International, but left the club for Chaos Esports Club in June.
When Urpalainen left Liquid, they had been together for 892 days, the longest consecutive five man run in Dota history. Their overall success was unprecedented, but now the rest of the team may run into Matumbaman and Chaos at The 2019 International.
Career Winnings: $3,540,616.04
Are you ready to take your game to the next level? Read our guide How To Qualify for eSports Tournaments to find out how!