Not taken a look at ESports betting just yet?
One reader has brought it to my attention, as they’ll share shortly.
Make sure you read all of this, you may want to after…
What Are ESports?
If you haven’t already heard of ESports, you soon will do. Bookies and exchanges alike are well aware of the huge amounts of money and viewers that ESports bring. Premier League teams are buying their own ESports teams alongside celebrity investors stretching far and wide including the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Ashton Kutcher and Steve Aoki.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Isn’t it just kids playing computer games?
ESports are multiplayer video games, played by professional players.
The players are just like any other professional sportsman or woman. They are paid well (mostly), they have personal fitness, health and psychology coaches and they work in teams or as individuals to win huge prize money. Of course, their training day looks very different to that of a track athlete. Some of the top players have well over 3,000 hours of play in the game that they are currently professionals in.
To give you an idea of the financial size of ESports, earlier this year there was a tournament for the game Dota 2. The International 2017 was the biggest tournament of the year for Dota players. Some of the worlds best teams played in front of sold-out stadiums to compete for a rather sizeable amount of cash. The total prize pool amounted to $24,687,919.00.
Remember when your parents & teachers told you that playing computer games wouldn’t pay the bills? You might want to strike up that conversation again.
To put that into perspective, the 2017 Golf Open Championship has a prize pool of $10,250,000. That is almost $5m less than The Dota International.
There’s no getting around it. ESports are serious business. In just a few years, things have gone from one extreme to another…
Top ESports Titles:
It’s important to understand that ESports are split up into many different games. They are all very different in nature and attract different types of fans.
Any popular video game has the potential to be an ESport but they must be extremely reliable and kept regularly updated. Many games have tried and failed to become ESports, but there are only a few that have truly stood the (relatively short) test of time.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
For what it’s worth, CS:GO is my favourite ESport to bet on. It’s easy to understand and incredibly fun to play. It’s not the most well paid esport but prize funds can be as big as $1m for major tournaments.
Essentially, CS:GO is a 5 vs 5 first-person-shooter. Each team will take turns to play as Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists. To win a map, a team must win 16 rounds that last around 90 seconds each. Rounds can be won a number of ways, including eliminating the enemy team and planting or defusing a bomb.
At the beginning of each half, teams will start off with basic pistols and knifes. After certain achievements such as killing an enemy player, players are awarded with in-game cash. This can be used to buy more powerful weapons and utilities.
As mentioned earlier, Dota 2 has attracted the most prize money of any esport. Dota is one of many MOBA games (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). It’s another 5 vs 5 game where the aim is to destroy the other team’s Ancient before they destroy yours. The Ancients are a large structure placed in each team’s base.
League of Legends, or LoL for short is another MOBA game, similar to Dota 2. The game mechanics work a little differently to Dota and is generally easier to get into. That being said, most MOBA games have quite a steep learning curve for those who are new to the genre.
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (also known as PUBG), is a Battle Royal style game and is a huge buzzword in esports at the moment. Technically, the game hasn’t even been released yet but the Beta version has attracted millions of players and fans. There have already been paid tournaments and odds available on some betting sites.
Despite the odd name (the caps aren’t typo’s!), the game is simple to play and to understand. A maximum of 99 players are dropped into a large map (similar size to GTA maps) out of a plane. They must then loot for weapons, armor and other utility to survive against other players and the dreaded “blue circle”. The blue circle is just circle on the map that gets smaller as the game goes on and effectively reduces the play area. Standing outside the blue circle will inflict damage on the player and will eventually kill them.
Essentially, the game is a free for all as the last surviving player wins. There are duo and squad variations of the game where you can team up with other players also.
Are ESports Fixed?
As with anything new, people are quite rightly sceptical.
Any new industry is vulnerable to bad business, poor management and outright fraud. ESports has had it’s fair share of all the above, but it’s very nature makes match fixing or cheating extremely obvious.
When a jockey jumps from the saddle moments before crossing the finish line, anyone with a losing bet gets a bit upset and replays the footage over and over to see if it was intentional or not. You see it shared on social media all the time. Unfortunately in racing, there are only a few camera angles to replay the footage. As ESports are all played virtually, games can be replayed in an unlimited amount of ways. Judges can view every player’s point of view at any point in the game along with any other camera angle. This makes it extremely obvious if a player was using a cheat or acting strange in any way.
Players have been handed lifetime bans for taking part in match fixing or using wall-hack cheats (allows seeing through walls in shooter games). Although it has happened in the past any may occasionally happen in the future, cheating and match fixing is no more of a problem than it is for football, racing and many other sports.
As ESports continue to grow, we will naturally see more measures to counter any match fixing, cheating or doping issues that arise. It all takes lots of time and plenty of money, but we’ve come a long way already.
How To Bet On ESports
Betting on ESports is just the same as any other. The only real difference is that most bookmakers and betting exchanges haven’t fully taken on ESports yet. This means that they either don’t list ESports at all or only list odds for certain events.
A quick search on Google will return an endless amount of stats for the bigger teams in ESports. You can quite easily find their recent win rate, which maps they are best at (most important in CS:GO) and their best performing players etc. If you’re used to researching players and teams before betting on traditional sports, you will be happy to know there’s plenty of data available for ESports.
Bookmakers are slowly improving their ESports sections. Some have done it much better than others. For the most part, the odds seem quite accurate and well researched but there are heaps of crazy odds available. This is partly due to the bookmakers struggling to understand some games and certain bookmakers doing a bad job at copying others.
I think anybody with a couple of hours time on their hands and a basic understand of odds and ESports will be able to find value odds. This becomes even more true in-play.
If you think bookies have a hard time pricing ESports pre-match, wait until you see their in-play prices. You’ll need a bit better understanding of the game you’re betting on, but I’ve seen crazy prices offered at times.
Betting Exchanges & ESports Trading
Unless you’re completely new to sports trading, you should be well aware that betting exchanges are the bread and butter of successful trading. Unfortunately it’s still quite difficult to turn a profit on the exchanges. This is mostly because there is such a small amount of money available in the markets. It’s not rare to see events with £0 matched or maybe less than £1000 at the best of times.
Apparently, ESports liquidity on Betfair Exchange is increasing, but it’s still a way off its prime. It’s very difficult to get matched in-play and money is only usually available at similar prices to the bookmakers.
There have been a few ESports specific betting exchanges pop up over the past few years. It’s easy for us to assume that if it’s not on Betfair, it doesn’t count. But, we may have to look elsewhere in the future to find some tradeable markets.
Wherever ESports bettors place their bets, it’s clear that they understand the concept of exchanges and trading. Most ESports games have trading aspects built into them. For example, CS:GO fans regularly buy in-game items on an exchange and sell them on for profit. I would hope that this suggests a bright future for trading ESports on betting exchanges as opposed to relying on bookmakers…
Problems with ESports
You might have figured I love ESports, but I’m happy to admit that it does have it’s faults.
Unlike traditional sports, ESports games are owned by companies operating for profit. Although there may be plenty of regulatory bodies, nobody owns football. This hasn’t been much of a problem yet, but it’s possible for games to be updated in unpopular ways at any point. It’s entirely the decision of the owner or developer of the game.
As with any new industry, ESports has suffered from it’s fair share of dodgy business. There have been plenty of horrendous player contracts shared around the community which have put players in all kinds of trouble. This is partly due to some ESports organisations having a lack of business experience.
One of the biggest problems for ESports bettors is the constant roster changes and restructuring of ESports organisations. Most ESports involve teams of five players so if one of them leaves, the team can often fall apart. We see lots of team changes in football but the effect of roster changes and substitutions is arguably less eventful, as there are more players on the pitch to make up for the change. With so much money flooding into ESports as well as politics, we are likely to see a lot more team changes in the future.
It isn’t uncommon for a team to change half of it’s squad in a 12 month period. Although it can be a nightmare to keep track of, it can also be a huge benefit. The bookmakers will struggle to keep up with the changes just as much as you. Keep an eye out for roster changes in ESports and use them to your advantage when betting on them or you could get badly stung.
Where Will ESports Be In 10 Years Time?
The million dollar question.
It would be foolish to say exactly where ESports will be in 10 years time, nobody knows. We can make some educated guesses.
ESports will be more widely accepted as a sport, just like golf or cricket. Whilst a lot of ESports fans couldn’t care less if it’s classed as a sport or not, it really can make a difference to making ESports more accessible. For example, the 2024 Paris Olympics bid have suggested that ESports could be included alongside other sports during the event. There has been some worry about including ESports involving violence though, so we may be more likely to see games such as Fifa instead of CS:GO.
Betting markets will expand in volume and in geographical reach. Although it looks like some couldn’t care less about ESports, most of the bigger UK bookmakers are all keeping an eye on ESports and have some plan to incorporate it into their business. My guess is that ESports fans are generally quite tech savvy in nature and shouldn’t have much of a problem understanding and seeing the benefits of betting exchanges. There have already been a number of ESports-specific betting exchanges and they seem to be doing quite well.
Worried about being out of the loop? Want to find a betting edge? No problem. There will be plenty more ESports titles released in the future. Keep an eye out for the latest game to be breaking into ESports and get playing it. Understand it as best you can so that when betting markets become available, you have a strong edge against the bookies. Most bookmakers will rush to list a new ESport without actually doing much research. This creates tonnes of value for profitable bettors and traders.
by Laurence Stanley
Related: Sports Trading Explained