These 5 Video Game Tournaments Aren’t Only for the Pros ― and They Pay

A winner of a an EA Sports video game tournament sits in a room with computers moniters and a game controller.
College student Christian Lomenzo won his first major video game tournament -- a Madden Challenge Championship -- and $35,000 in March of 2019. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

It was overtime, a tight match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. The Giants had third-and-3 at their own 30.

Then, a miracle play: a catch-and-run with a perfectly executed juke of a Philly defender. The announcer screamed, “We have a walk-off. Ten. Five. Touchdown!”

Christian Lomenzo, 21, set his controller down in shock. He stood up, put on his Giants cap and raised the Madden Challenge Championship belt above his head. He had just won his first major video game tournament.

And $35,000.

When Lomenzo started playing games at 8 years old, he never thought of gaming as a career path or a way to make serious money. Like most Americans, he played for fun and with friends. Even until the very last play of the Madden NFL championship, he wasn’t really thinking about the money.

“Going into the tournament, and during the tournament and even during the play before I won, the last thing on my mind was winning,” said Lomenzo, who goes by the moniker Chritobin online. “All I was thinking about was getting the first down.”

Video game tournaments, such as Electronic Arts’ (EA) Madden Championships, have never been more popular, and gaming companies are raking in the profits. Though it’s considered a pillar company of the gaming industry, EA’s competitions are dwarfed by companies like Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends, and Blizzard, the makers of StarCraft and Warcraft.

Their events are international spectacles, where the players travel the world on special esports visas to compete.

EA flew Lomenzo to California for an all-expenses-paid trip to play in the Madden Championships at its brand new, state-of-the-art esports broadcast studio. By winning the penultimate Madden Championship, Lomenzo automatically qualified for one of 16 spots in the Madden Bowl. The first-place prize for that competition was $40,000, but every contestant on the roster was guaranteed something. Even the player who placed 16 out of 16 walked away with $5,000.

Lomenzo made it to the Madden Bowl Finals, earning an additional $10,000.

Before his days of Madden fame, he would make a few bucks here and there in smaller video game tournaments. That’s how he got his start.

“I really like playing against other people to win something,” Lomenzo said. “I would just play for $1 wagers when I was 14 years old.“

And as he grew, so did his cash prizes.

Everyday Gamer? Try These Video Game Tournaments

A video game tournament winner holds up his championship belt.
Lomenzo holds up the Madden Challenge Championship belt in victory at the EA Broadcast Center in Redwood Shores, Calif. Photo courtesy of Entertainment Arts 2019

Let’s be clear: Most gamers won’t make $35,000 per match. Such big prizes are reserved for an elite few. However, there are video game tournaments that reward above-average players with prize money.

Below are some tournament websites that Lomenzo used to get his bearings. You can earn anywhere from $1 to $10,000 per match.

Pro Tip

Want to qualify for the big leagues? Start in small video game tournaments to sharpen your skills and earn some cash along the way.

(Note: some states such as Arizona, Iowa and Louisiana ban cash-prize competitions. Users who pay to enter a competition must be at least 18 years old.)


A broad mix of tournaments are available on GamerSaloon. Typical, small matches could earn you $9, whereas the larger tournaments pay up to $10,000. Several matches require a small entry fee, which goes into the cash pot. But if you don’t want to fork over any money, stick to the free-entry tournaments.

Trending Games: Apex Legends, Call of Duty, FIFA, Fortnite, NBA, NFL and UFC

Gaming Systems Accepted: PCs and most consoles

MLG GameBattles

Not all winnings in MLG GameBattles are cash. Some tournaments pay in achievements, trophies or credits. The tournaments that do pay cash can be quite lucrative. It’s common to see daily competitions with prizes of $100 to $400.

Trending Games: Apex Legends, Call of Duty, Fortnite and Gears of War
Gaming Systems Accepted: PCs and most consoles

Players’ Lounge

If you got beef with another gamer, Players’ Lounge is the place to settle it. Here, you can challenge other players to a head-to-head match and make a wager from $2.50 to $500. Or, if you’d prefer, join tournaments at your leisure. You get free admission to your first tournament; after that, it typically costs $1 to join a cash-prize match.

Trending Games: Apex Legends, Fortnite, Madden and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Gaming Systems Accepted: PC, PS4 or Xbox One

World Gaming

With over 3 million registered gamers, World Gaming is one of the largest competitive gaming websites. It hosts both free-to-enter and pay-to-enter tournaments with varying cash or token prizes. Weekly tournaments offer cash prizes typically between $100 and $200.

Trending Games: Apex Legends, FIFA, Fortnite, Hearthstone, Madden and Super Smash Bros

Gaming Systems Accepted: PCs, smartphones and most consoles

XY Gaming

Both a marketplace for virtual video-game items and a competitive gaming platform, XY Gaming runs on virtual coins and cash. There are free-to-play tournaments with cash or coin prizes every month. Or, you can use your coins (you get 2,300 for signing up) and cash to join tournaments daily. If you’re feeling extra competitive, challenge other users to a head-to-head battle.

Trending Games: Dota 2, League of Legends and Smite

Gaming Systems Accepted: PCs and most consoles

While Lomenzo remains hopeful his recent Madden win is the beginning of a long career in esports, he’s deciding to play it safe: He’ll practice gaming when he has the time.

For now, his main focus is graduating from Florida Polytechnic University with a bachelor’s degree in business analytics.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in ways to make money that don’t involve stuffy corporate offices. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.