eSports betting is a new service, offered by some online sportsbooks, that allows you to wager on the outcome of high-profile video game tournaments. The event coverage doesn’t compare well with traditional sports, however, major contests tend to be available on multiple sites. Some platforms offer live in-play betting for the most popular titles, such as League of Legends or DOTA 2.
What makes betting on eSports worthwhile is that the entire industry is young. The majority of bookmakers don’t understand video games like they do tennis or basketball. Combined with the inherent unpredictability of most eSports scenes, this makes it possible for a knowledgeable gaming fan to outsmart the odds-makers on a regular basis.
Picking the right platform
The number of bookmakers that offer eSports betting is still limited, but you should be able to access at least one from most jurisdictions. In order to pick a platform, you’ll need to consider its trustworthiness, game coverage, and welcome bonuses.
In most cases, verifying the trustworthiness of a sports betting platform boils down to checking its credentials. If you live in a gambling-friendly European country, you should focus on sites that operate under Gibraltar, Isle of Man, or Malta-issued licenses. If your country has a fenced iGaming market and you aren’t allowed to use offshore betting sites, state-licensed sites are your best bet.
Things become more complicated if you live in the United States. This is because federal laws, such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the Interstate Wire Act, prevent decent bookmakers from offering regulated eSports betting in the country. In such cases, it is best to stick to offshore sites that enjoy a good reputation, such as Bovada.lv, SportsBetting.ag, or BetOnline.ag.
The consequences of skipping this step and picking a site without a good track record and which isn’t regulated by a well-established licensing body can be severe. A dishonest bookmaker can refuse to pay out your winnings under false pretenses or sell your personal information to third parties. When it comes to choosing online gambling operators, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Most sportsbooks cover DOTA 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends. If you’re into other games, such as StarCraft 2 or Hearthstone, you’ll need to do some extra digging to find an online bookie willing to take your bets.
Additionally, sportsbooks differ in their event coverage for particular games. For example, Pinnacle and Bet365 accept bets on the majority of League of Legends tournaments, including niche events. On the other hand, William Hill is unlikely to cover anything beyond the LCS.
Online sports betting promotions are very modest in comparison to bonuses offered by internet casinos and online poker rooms. In most cases, you’ll be offered no more than $200. This is because, unlike other iGaming promotions, sports betting bonuses don’t carry significant rollover requirements. A 5x rollover requirement is fairly common and means that you won’t be allowed to request a cash out unless you bet five times the size of your initial deposit.
The size of the bonus is usually based on your initial deposit. A bonus that matches your deposit dollar for dollar is often referred to as a 100% bonus. Some sportsbooks, including Bovada, offer a 50% bonus, or one that’s equal to half your deposit.
Conversely, sites that offer 200% bonuses allow you to receive double your deposit in bonus cash, but such offers are difficult to come by.
Some bookmakers have an even more friendly system that awards customers with free bets. These bets must be activated by placing wagers totaling the value of your first deposit. Such offers typically allow you to grab up to $50 and you’ll be able to withdraw your winnings as soon as your bet is resolved.
Some bookmakers require you to meet additional requirements before you can clear a bonus for withdrawal. For example, BetWay, a popular Europe-facing eSports betting platform, requires your single bets to be placed at odds of 1.75 or over. If a wager doesn’t meet this requirement, it won’t help you activate your free bet.
Because differences between promotions can be significant, we recommend all eSports enthusiasts to read the fine print before signing up with any sports betting site. Consulting our sportsbook reviews is also highly recommended.
How eSports betting works
Before you start placing bets, you should learn how to read the odds correctly. Online sportsbooks use American or European notation to express them, and most platforms allow you to swap between the two formats.
American odds are listed with an integer and are often referred to as moneyline odds. When there’s a minus sign, you need to lay the amount on display to win $100. Conversely, a plus sign means that you will win the amount on display if you wager $100.
Let’s take a look at a real example from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive:
- Team Astralis: -200 vs Team Faze: +150
If you bet $50 on Team Astralis and they win, you will earn $25, because $100 / ($200 / $50) = $25.
If, however, you bet $50 on Team Faze, you stand to win $75, because $150 / ($100 / $50) = $75.
American odds make determining the underdog at first glance very easy. On the other hand, calculating your expected win based on bet size can be confusing under this system.
European odds are known as decimal or fractional odds. They express the amount of money you stand to win in relation to your wager.
To calculate the potential profits under decimal odds, use the following formula:
(BET) x (ODDS) – (BET)
In this case, determining the underdog isn’t as intuitive, but calculating the potential payout is easier. Let’s take a look at an example, this time from League of Legends:
- Royal Never Give Up: 1.75 vs King-Zone 1.96
If you wager $10 on RNG and your team wins, you get $7.50, because $10 x 1.75 – $10 = $7.50.
If you bet on KZ, you stand to win $9.60, because $10 x 1.96 – $10 = $9.60.
American odds are generally used in the United States, while European odds are more dominant in Europe, Canada, and Australia.
Types of bets in eSports
The eSports industry has been undergoing rapid expansion over the past few years, however, betting options for competitive gaming enthusiasts are still very modest. Most bookmakers’ offer is limited to match winner bets and outright winner bets, which is a far cry from the betting options available to traditional sports fans. Some sportsbooks go the extra mile by offering additional game-specific proposition bets, handicap bets, and exact score bets, but unfortunately, this isn’t standard practice yet.
- Match winner bets: these bets allow you to wager on which team or contestant will win a match. The score doesn’t matter – in a best of three format you’ll get paid whether your team wins 2:0 or 2:1.
- Outright winner bets: these bets allow you to bet on the winner of a tournament or series. They are inherently more risky than match winner bets, especially when there are many equally skilled teams or players competing for the main prize. In the case of eSports, the risk is even bigger than in traditional sports because video games are constantly evolving and players are always coming up with new strategies and play-styles.
- Handicap bets: these are match winner bets with better odds and some additional risk resulting from the handicap. If you’re betting on a team in a best of three match with a handicap of -1.5, it means your team must win 2:0 for you to get paid. The same handicap in a best of five format means that your team has to win 3:0 or 3:1. On the other hand, a -2.5 handicap requires a 3:0 win.
- Exact score bets: as the name implies, these bets require you to predict the exact score of the match. In a best of five match, you must pick the winner and predict whether he wins 3:0, 3:1, or 3:2. Given the inherent unpredictability of most eSports, exact score bets usually come down to luck.
- Over/under bets: in traditional sports, these bets allow you to wager on the combined score of both teams. In an eSports context, they are usually offered for MOBA (Multiplayer online battle arena) games.
- Proposition bets: arguably more interesting than other types of wagers, because they offer an opportunity to bet on specific events during a match. They can be based on specific objectives (first team to slay the dragon in League of Legends or first team to slay Roshan in DOTA 2), kills (first team to score a kill in CS: GO), or any other game-specific mechanic.
- Live in-play betting: some bookmakers allow eSports enthusiasts to place proposition bets and match winner bets while the game is ongoing. The odds are dynamically adjusted, and available betting options are frequently refreshed to match the action. Live in-play betting is an excellent way to spice up your game viewing experience whenever you’re watching a high-profile match on Twitch or YouTube.
- Best of three, best of five: popular match formats in competitive gaming. In a best of three match, the first team to win two matches claims the victory. In a best of five match, a team needs three wins to advance.
- Counter-Strike GO: a first-person shooter released by Valve. eSports matches are played in a 5v5 format.
- DOTA 2: a popular MOBA game released by Valve. Professional teams consist of five players each.
- Kings of Glory: a Chinese MOBA game released by Tencent. Competitive matches are played in a 5v5 format.
- League of Legends: the MOBA game with the largest player base, developed by Riot Games.
- MOBA: a popular sub-genre of real-time strategy games. The most popular MOBA eSports are DOTA 2 and League of Legends.
- Scrim: a practice match between two professional teams.
- StarCraft: Brood War: a real-time strategy game released by Blizzard Entertainment. eSports matches are played 1v1. The first game in history to feature a large professional scene.
- StarCraft 2: the sequel to StarCraft: Brood War. Matches are also played in 1v1 format.
How to turn a profit betting on eSports
Bookmakers earn their money by offering odds that are lower than the true odds determined by their experts. However, this doesn’t mean that a skilled individual can’t turn betting on eSports into a steady source of income. Of course, doing so will inevitably require a lot of hard work.
Plus, the steep learning curve means you’re very likely to lose money in the beginning.
On a brighter note, if you’re a fan of one of the games available for betting, you’re already on your way towards becoming a successful eSports bettor.
Competitive gaming is different from traditional sports
In order to truly understand eSports, you must realize that there are significant differences between eSports and traditional sports. Unlike professional athletes, pro-gamers’ training sessions aren’t limited by physical exertion. This means that most pros have to spend most of their non-sleeping hours in training to remain competitive. Furthermore, unlike football players or basketball stars, professional gamers practice in a similar setting to the one enjoyed by fans of the game.
For example, a professional MOBA team might spend a lot of time scrimming with other professional teams, but its members are will still dedicate a lot of their time to solo-que play, competing against people from outside the professional circuit. As a result, team rosters constantly change as new talent get introduced, resulting in a highly unpredictable environment.
Understand your game inside-out
Aside from understanding eSports in general, make sure that you understand the game you’re planning to bet on. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should be able to play it at a competitive level, but it’s imperative to be aware of what the current professional meta-game is and which teams or players are well-adjusted to it.
A good way to learn more about the meta-game is to follow professional analysts, many of whom share their insights with the general public through YouTube and Twitch. You should also focus on following professional gamers with excellent communication skills and who are inclined to share their thought process as they play.
Don’t choose streams based solely on their entertainment value and try to include channels that will help you grow as an eSports bettor.
If you’re serious about eSports betting, consider joining more than one sportsbook. This will allow you to pick the best odds for any specific event, which is guaranteed to have a positive impact on your long-term profitability. Another reason to compare odds is the lack of experience demonstrated by most eSports oddsmakers, which can lead to excellent arbitrage opportunities.
Research the fundamentals
This ties in with knowing your game and the eSports scene in general. Always do your homework before placing a bet. Don’t follow the “hype train” and don’t get too attached to any specific team or player. Focus on past performance under the current meta-game conditions, training time, player transfers, and even scrim partners. Try to get as much information as possible and never feel too comfortable with the opinions you currently hold. This will allow you to approach every match with a clear head, thus improving your chances of placing the right bet.
The amount of work involved in doing research might seem daunting at first, especially during international tournaments. Learning about teams from outside your regions of interest will require significant effort, but the payoff will be worth it. If for some reason doing even the most basic research is impossible, avoid placing bets unless for entertainment purposes. The reason for this is simple: in eSports, relatively obscure teams can turn out to be surprisingly capable – it’s very easy to get burned.
Avoid inherently risky bets
If you want to be consistent, avoid taking risky bets. This means that handicap bets and exact score bets are out of the question – as mentioned above, the world of eSports is so unpredictable that even the least conspicuous underdog can score a win against the reigning world champion.
From SlayerS`Boxer` to SK Telecom, the most dominant players and teams have repeatedly made mistakes during high-profile tournaments, causing them to drop points against opponents who were completely outclassed on paper. You don’t want to lose a sizeable chunk of your bankroll every time this happens, especially since the odds are seldom favorable enough to justify the risk.
Don’t fall for the gambler’s fallacy
The gambler’s fallacy signifies the false belief that the outcome of a random event can impact the outcome of a different, unrelated random event. While gambler’s fallacy-based views are more prevalent among online casino gamblers and poker players, eSports bettors can fall into a very similar trap. This fallacy can lead you to believe that if a team loses several matches in a row, it is more likely to win the upcoming game.
In eSports, the opposite is true, because a long series of defeats is very likely to have a devastating impact on a team’s morale. Conversely, if a team is on a massive win streak, it doesn’t mean it’s more likely to lose the next game. eSports’ history is full of dominant teams that pulled off win streaks lasting a whole season or even several years.
eSports betting FAQ
Q: Can you really win money by betting on eSports?
A: Yes, you can win money by betting on eSports and you can do it consistently. Turning a profit on a regular basis requires a solid understanding of the mechanics of the game you’re betting on in particular and eSports in general. It also involves a lot of work and research.
On a brighter note, if you’re a die-hard eSports fan, you’re probably already doing some of this for fun.
Q: Do online bookmakers offer special promotions for eSports fans?
A: Yes, some operators offer special deals to eSports aficionados. Promotions of this kind award free bets as soon as certain wagering requirements are met. In most cases, you’ll get between $5 and $10 in free wagers for betting between $10 and $25. As far as welcome bonuses go, eSports fans must rely on the same deals as all other punters.
Q: What games can I wager on?
A: Most bookmakers that offer eSports betting allow you to wager on competitive League of Legends, DOTA 2, Counter-Strike: GO, and King of Glory. Other popular titles include StarCraft 2, StarCraft: Brood War, and Overwatch. In addition, there are many games that receive some coverage exclusively during major tournaments. This is particularly true for fighting games, such as Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear, and Tekken 7, which center around the Evolution Championship Series – a yearly event that attracts players from all over the globe.
Q: How do I deposit money with an online sportsbook?
A: All reputable online bookmakers give their customers several banking methods to choose from. These vary from country to another, but e-wallets and Visa/MasterCard payments are typically available in all regions. The most popular e-wallet services are Neteller and Skrill. PayPal availability is very limited, particularly in North America, due to general animosity towards processing gambling-related transactions.
If you live in the United States, avoid Visa/MasterCard deposits – rejection rates oscillate between 25% and 45%, depending on your state and financial institutions processing your payment. While having your transaction blocked won’t cause any legal repercussions, there’s no point in wasting time when reliable alternatives are available.
Q: If I win some money, how will the online sportsbook pay me?
A: Note that the availability of certain methods may depend on your deposit history. For example, certain bookmakers allow their customers to cash out via an e-wallet only if they’ve already used it to load up their account.
Furthermore, if you’re making a very large withdrawal, you may be faced with cash-out limits. In such a scenario, you will receive a series of monthly or weekly payments, depending on the site. Some operators allow you to circumvent this problem by ordering a check by courier.
Q: What about cryptocurrencies? Can I use Bitcoin to fund my betting account?
A: The number of online sportsbooks that support cryptocurrency payments is still limited. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, operators that offer eSports wagers are often enthusiastic about following the latest technological trends. For example, if you live in the United States, you can make a BitCoin deposit with all three major US-facing sportsbooks that offer eSports betting. Canadian, European, and even Australian eSports fans also have several crypto-friendly options to choose from. When it comes to crypto-currencies, eSports bettors are in a significantly better situation than internet casino enthusiasts or online poker players.
A brief history of eSports betting
The history of eSports betting dates back to January 2010, when Pinnacle Sports started offering StarCraft 2 bets. This groundbreaking decision was made by Pinnacle’s Head of Sportsbook, who himself was a huge League of Legends fan. Over the next three years, Pinnacle’s eSports offer was expanded to include DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Hearthstone.
In August 2012, Pinnacle took its first live eSports bet, and in 2013 it launched a dedicated eSports hub and sponsored a professional DOTA 2 team, Pro-Am. By May 2013, Pinnacle hit a milestone of 500,000 eSports bets taken, and it became apparent that betting real money on competitive gaming was more than a short-lived fad. Other sportsbooks quickly followed suit with their own eSports offerings, creating the dynamically expanding industry that we know today.