E-sports boom no surprise to Randy Lew, who credits Street Fighter with helping him become online poker legend Nanonoko

The 32-year-old says his days playing arcade games laid the foundation for his rise to a multi-tabling Guinness World Record holder

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 7:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 10:53pm

He was ahead of his time when it comes to e-sports and Randy “Nanonoko” Lew credits his days playing arcade games during school with helping him become an online poker legend.

Lew has lived through the e-sports boom and says he is not at all surprised by how swiftly it has taken hold, likening it to the rise of poker during the mid-2000s.

“It all started out as someone’s dream and someone just not giving up and continually trying to grow the games they love. The same thing happened to poker,” the 32-year-old says.

“Video gaming has always been around but maybe hasn’t been so respected. The world just evolves and people have come to accept that computers and machines are here to stay and a lot of people have access to them.

“They used to run Street Fighter tournaments when I was playing in the arcade and like 16 people would show up, but now they run tournaments and thousands and thousands of people will show up.”

Watch: learn about Nanonoko’s online poker career

Born in the United States to Chinese parents, Lew has won millions in both online and live poker and is best known for his multi-tabling exploits that saw him set a Guinness World Record for playing 23,493 hands of online poker in the space of eight hours while still making a profit.

He still considers himself a “Street Fighter enthusiast” and also plays Hearthstone, another online card game that has a huge following in the e-sports world, but is not likely to consider a career in e-sports any time soon.

“I like e-sports because I like playing against other players, it’s what I enjoy most,” he says. “I kind of miss the scene a little bit which is why I started playing Heartstone.

“But I wouldn’t give up poker for it, I like poker too much. I think it’s a beautiful game. Of course, it’s easier to make a living in poker because the prizes are much larger.

“In e-sports it’s very hard to make a living unless you’re top 1 per cent or something like that.

I find poker fun, it doesn’t ever get boring for me.”

Lew says the art of multi-tabling, which sees players play up to 24 tables at once, came easily to him after hours at the arcade playing Street Fighter.

“The video gaming helped me a lot. I was able to have a high action per minute. Street Fighter allowed me to multi-table quickly,” he says.

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“I think at the time when I was trying to learn there were some high stakes players that were able to play nine tables at one time, which was kind of absurd. I was like, well if this guy is making millions and he’s nine-tabling then I’m going to do it to, so I pretty much tried to instantly open nine tables.

“It helped me learn a lot quicker and I got up to 24 tables, which was the table cap limit on PokerStars.”

Part of the PokerStars’ professional team, Lew was in Macau in October for the Asian Championship of Poker, a return to the scene of his biggest career win.

He collected US$483,857 when he won the Main Event at the Macau leg of the PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour in 2011 and says he gets back as often as he can.

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While Lew has extended family in China, he doesn’t often get to the mainland China and spends a lot of his time travelling the world playing poker online.

He has a 50,000-strong following on online streaming platform Twitch, where people watch him play and he can even coach his followers.

“The best part is it builds community, a lot of times you will get the same viewers every single day and it just builds that community,” he says.

“I use Twitch to play poker and for teaching, I have been playing poker for 10 years and it’s nice to have this new model.

“Usually it’s me versus the other players but you are doing it by yourself, so it’s nice to have this team that is cheering you on.”

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And as for the Nanonoko name that is feared throughout the virtual world: “I was a pretty slender kid and I am still pretty slender nowadays, so I kind of went by the nickname Nano Boy before, that was my user ID.

“I changed it to sound a little more classy in my opinion, Noko in Japanese is child, so it’s like small child.”