One of the things that “normal” people wonder about is what poker players do with the (occasionally) massive amounts of money they win. Unfortunately for most, that money doesn’t stay in their pockets for long due to different leaks that they might have. But for German poker superstar Fedor Holz, you can say he’s potentially looking to the future and investing his money.
Holz, who has won almost $27 million in live tournament poker earnings since 2012, has invested a portion of that take into the growing world of e-Sports. Holz is now a part owner of Envy Gaming, which is the ownership behind Team Envy and the Dallas Fuel, teams that compete in the League of Legends Championship Series (Team Envy) and the Overwatch League (Dallas). League of Legends and Overwatch are both multiplayer online video games that feature teams battling against each other in the video realm.
Holz has had significant relationships with a couple of players in the e-Sports realm. According to ESPN UK, Holz has a good friendship with former Team Envy player Nathan ‘NBK’ Schmitt and through Schmitt met another Team Envy player in Mike ‘Hastro’ Rufail. That involvement with the players on a personal level seems to be the thing that prodded Holz to put his money into the industry.
“I like to invest in things that I’m emotionally connected to it, because I feel that I contribute the most but I also get the most out of it,” Holz is quoted by ESPN. “I like Envy, I like to watch, I like the way they build their infrastructure and team, take care of their players. And it was just a corporation I wanted to be a part of in some way.”
While there weren’t any terms released in the Holz deal, the “minority interest” could be substantial. ESPN reports that Envy Gaming sold a “sizeable minority stake” of the company to Hersh Family Investments in August (and moved from its initial home of Charlotte, NC, to Dallas as part of the purchase). That deal was reported to be worth $35 million; to use that number, it is possible that Holz could be in for a minority interest in the $5 million range.
The e-Sports industry is a rapidly growing one due to the interest of not only fans but also advertisers looking for ways to tap into a new market. In 2015, the e-Sports market was valued at $325 million and, by 2019, is expected to crack the $1 billion mark. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Nissan are major sponsors of leagues, while television – especially ESPN and Turner Sports (on TBS) have begun broadcasting major e-Sports competitions (the ESPN broadcasts of the Drone Racing League have been especially well received).
Poker also has its link to e-Sports. Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier came from the e-Sports world (he was a champion StarCraft player) to be a major player in poker, as did Oskar ‘LakermaN’ Ljungström (Quake champion who has over $1 million in career poker earnings) and Iain ‘TillerMaN’ Girdwood (former Warcraft and StarCraft champion who has a penchant for high stakes poker). The ties that link poker to the e-Sports community haven’t been overlooked in other areas, either.
The owner of the Global Poker Index, Alexandre Dreyfus, has noticed the symmetry between e-Sports and poker and is looking to become the de facto expert in ranking the e-Sports industry (with the Hendon Mob and the Global Poker Index, Dreyfus already has that market). Announced this year, Dreyfus’ Gaming Player Index will rank the world of e-Sports and its major players, much like the Global Poker Index for poker’s best. Although it has yet to start ranking players, it is expected that the Gaming Player Index will be kicking off in the coming year.
It is good to see poker players looking at their long-term health rather than just living in the moment. There is a plethora of stories of how a player makes that “one big score” and then has trouble even sniffing the Winner’s Circle again. Professional poker players like Allen Cunningham, Kathy Liebert and others have invested their winnings well and, should they never even enter a poker tournament again, look to have a method of making a solid living. Holz, recognizing that poker success could be a fleeting thing, is doing the same by investing his money in another up and coming industry.