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A Complete Guide to Betting on eSports

eSports, which is the umbrella term for playing computer games competitively, is often cited as the most popular sport you’ve never heard of before. Its history stretches all the way back to the 1970s with early computer games, but today’s form of eSports is usually based on MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) PC games like Counter Strike and Starcraft II.

The popularity of eSports has surged in recent years, with viewership for big tournaments now reaching millions. Betting on eSports has followed this popularity, with most major bookmakers offering markets. Some major bookmakers noted for their coverage of eSports betting include: BetwayBetfairPaddy Power, Mr Green, Sky Bet, BetBright and Grosvenor Sports.

Best Sites for eSports Betting Odds

The following table shows odds from the ELeague Major 2018 (CS:GO) Match between Team EnVyUs and Quantum Bellator Fire. The three bookmakers highlighted are noted for top eSports odds.

Bookmaker Odds to Win EnVyUs Odds to Win Quantum Bellator Fire
Betway3/1011/5
Sky Bet2/75/2
Paddy Power3/102/1
BOOKMAKER
BETS
Betway
Odds to win envyus: 3/10
Odds to win quantum bellator fire: 11/5
Sky Bet
Odds to win envyus: 2/7
Odds to win quantum bellator fire: 5/2
Paddy Power
Odds to win envyus: 3/10
Odds to win quantum bellator fire: 2/1

As you can see, Team EnVyUs are favourites for the match. If you were gambling on the favourite in this example, Betway or Paddy Power would be the bookmaker to pick. However, Sky Bet have better odds when betting on the ‘outsider’, Quantum Bellator. It is also worth noting that Betway have the biggest odds difference overall, making them the best overall choice in this example.

The odds are comparable to a regular sports match, somewhat like football betting (without draws) but arguably more similar to American football, tennis or baseball money line betting. Those gambling on egaming events must remember that teams are ranked and studied in the same way as regular sports, so backing a team such as EnVyUs is much the same as betting on Manchester United or Roger Federer, i.e. the same logic applies.

Of course, like regular sports there are different types of betting markets available for eSports matches. The table below shows three of the best eSports online bookmakers for betting markets.

Bookmaker Example Markets Odds for EnVyUs v Quantum
Betway Sports ReviewBetwayMatch Winner, Map Handicap Betting, Map Total Rounds, Map Round Betting.Map 1 Handicap Betting: EnVyUs (-4.5 Rounds) 9/10, Quantum Bellator (+4.5 Rounds) 4/5.
Sky Bet ReviewSky BetMatch Winner, Map Handicap Betting, Map Pistol Round Winner. Map 1, 1st Pistol Round Winner: EnVyUs 4/6, Quantum Bellator 11/10.
Grosvenor ReviewGrosvenorMatch Winner, Round Handicap Betting, Total Rounds, First to 5 Rounds, Round Betting. First to 5 Rounds: EnVyUs 3/5, Quantum Bellator 6/5.
BOOKMAKER
BETS
Betway Sports Review
Betway
Example markets: Match Winner, Map Handicap Betting, Map Total Rounds, Map Round Betting.
Odds for envyus v quantum : Map 1 Handicap Betting: EnVyUs (-4.5 Rounds) 9/10, Quantum Bellator (+4.5 Rounds) 4/5.
Sky Bet Review
Sky Bet
Example markets: Match Winner, Map Handicap Betting, Map Pistol Round Winner.
Odds for envyus v quantum : Map 1, 1st Pistol Round Winner: EnVyUs 4/6, Quantum Bellator 11/10.
Grosvenor Review
Grosvenor
Example markets: Match Winner, Round Handicap Betting, Total Rounds, First to 5 Rounds, Round Betting.
Odds for envyus v quantum : First to 5 Rounds: EnVyUs 3/5, Quantum Bellator 6/5.

Generally, Betway have the widest range of betting markets for a typical eSports match. However, sometimes top eSports betting sites like Grosvenor can offer markets, such as First to 5 Rounds, which are not available on Betway.

Best Online Bookmakers for eSports Live Streaming

In 2015 it was estimated that 134 million people across the globe regularly watch or attend eSports matches, and this number is expected to have grown since then. With much of the viewing done online through internet streaming, it only follows that live betting on eSports is very popular too.

Getting free live streaming of major eSports events through a major UK bookmaker is not easy, as many major tournaments and leagues are tied up to television and streaming deals. Sites like Twitch.tv, which is owned by Amazon, have dedicated eSports coverage however. In addition, some bookmakers are noted for their dedication to live betting on eSports:

Bookmaker Odds Updated in Real Time Best For
BetwayYesChoice of betting markets.
Sky BetYesMobile betting on eSports.
Mr GreenYesUpdated statistics.
BOOKMAKER
BETS
Betway
Odds updated in real time: Yes
Best for: Choice of betting markets.
Sky Bet
Odds updated in real time: Yes
Best for: Mobile betting on eSports.
Mr Green
Odds updated in real time: Yes
Best for: Updated statistics.

eSports In-Play Betting

Just like in regular sports, eSports punters react to shifts in momentum in the game. That is where in-play wagering fills an important role. For something like CS:GO, bettors can react to a team, for example, winning a map or pistol, then change their betting strategy accordingly. Top UK online bookmakers, like those mentioned above, will also offer a cash-out option in their live betting markets, which is a good route if you think momentum is turning against your team. Odds will be updated in real time, but you will find that the betting markets will be suspended for several seconds when significant events occur in the match.

eSports Betting Markets Explained

Of course, not all eSports have the same format. Below is a guide to popular types of betting markets:

Bet Type: Explanation:
Match BettingSimply the winner of a specific eSports match. Also Outright Winner.
Point Spread/ HandicapOne side is given a theoretical points handicap by the bookmaker before the match starts. This evens up the odds for both sides, allowing you to bet on the favourite to win by a specific margin.
Maps HandicapAs above, but with the points handicap applied to a specific stage of the match.
TotalsBetting on whether the total number of events – points, maps, rounds etc. – will reach a specific number.
PropsBetting on events that do not focus on the specific winner of the match, such as whether the total number of rounds will be an odd or even number. Props is an umbrella term for wagering that is not focused on the outright winner.
FuturesOutright betting for a future tournament. For example, you could bet on FaZe to win the ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018, or London Spitfire to win OWL 2018 outright.
Accumulator/Parlay BettingLinking a number of bet selections together, which sees the odds multiplied (accumulated). All selections must win in order to win the bet.

Please note:

  • Maps are the common term for sections in an eSport match, similar to a set in a tennis match.
  • Some bookmakers will offer each way terms for futures/outright betting, which could award a payout if your selection makes the final/semi-finals etc.
  • It is also worth noting that several major bookmakers offer only a single market – Match Winner – on eSports. Other sites like Betway generally offer the most comprehensive range of betting markets for a typical match.

Popular eSports Games

Heroes of the Storm Video Game - esports Betting
Heroes of the Storm
Released in 2015, Heroes of the Storm features characters taken from several other popular eSports titles, including Warcraft, StarCraft and Overwatch. The game is played by two teams, each consisting of five players. It is relatively new on the eSports scene, but proving to be popular with players, fans & bettors.
Rocket League Video Game - esports Betting
Rocket League
Also released in 2015, and arguably the least typical example of eSports, Rocket League is a football- based game featuring cars instead of players. Teams can consist of 1-4 players, with matches usually lasting about five minutes. In 2018, there are 40 million Rocket League players worldwide.
Counter Strike Video Game - esports Betting
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
First released in August 2012, CS:GO is one of the ‘biggest names’ in eSports and arguably the franchise that propelled professional gaming into the mainstream. Two teams, one made up of ‘Terrorists’ and the other ‘Counter-Terrorists’, compete against each other.
World of Tanks Video Game - esports Betting
World of Tanks
World of Tanks was made available in different countries in stages from 2010-2013. Players take control of armoured vehicle(s), and the match is won by destroying the vehicle(s) of the opposing team. Its popularity has grown to make it one of the top online games in terms of revenue in recent years.
Overwatch Video Game - esports Betting
Overwatch
One of the most popular recently released games (2016), Overwatch consists of two teams of six players who try to capture/defend points on a map. An estimated 35 million players play Overwatch worldwide. Betting growth is expected in the newly created Overwatch League (Owl).
Smite Video Game - esports Betting
Smite
Released in 2014, Smite is an online battle game where players play as mythical characters with the objective of destroying the other team’s ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Titans’. It has seen plenty of success and popularity as a professional eSports game, however betting opportunities are somewhat limited at the moment.
Hearthstone Video Game - esports Betting
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Coming out in 2014, Hearthstone is a card-based game that uses the characters from the popular Warcraft series. Players use their cards to summon special powers for each of their characters, with each move having an impact on the ‘health of their opponent’. The game has achieved widespread acclaim and popularity.
Dota 2 Video Game - esports Betting
Dota 2
Another big hitter in eSports, Dota 2 was first released in 2013. Gameplay involves two sets of teams, which each have the objective of destroying the opposing side’s fortress (Ancient). Each team consists of five players. Dota 2 has won several gaming awards and is currently one of the mainstays of eSports betting.
Call of Duty Video Game - esports Betting
Call of Duty
One of the most recognised video game franchises on the planet, Call of Duty has been part of eSports since 2006. There have been several variations of Call of Duty used in eSports, but all are first-person shooter games.
Starcraft II Video Game - esports Betting
StarCraft II
StarCraft II was released back in 2010 and is one of the most recognisable franchises used in eSports. It blends science fiction and military gameplay, with the aim for the team to destroy the base of their opponent. It has been popular with gamers and those who bet on eSports for several years.
League of Legends Video Game - esports Betting
League of Legends (LOL)
Another game inspired by the Warcraft series, LOL has been available since 2009. It also has a sci-fi/fantasy theme, where the goal is to summon a champion to destroy the opposing team’s nexus. LOL has several frequent tournaments and matches, making it popular for regular eSports betting.
Warcraft III Video Game - esports Betting
Warcraft III
First released in 2003, Warcraft III has been one of the staples of eSports competitions for the last fifteen years. Although it has iconic status among gamers, it does not have the same popularity in eSports betting as rival games.

Most of the games mentioned above have common themes and styles of play. Almost all popular eSports games are termed Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (Moba), which is essentially a fusion of action, strategy and role-playing.

Styles will, of course, vary. Some games such as Call of Duty focus more on traditional game-play, i.e. shooting, or performing moves with characters. Others, like Hearthstone, focus more on the strategy side of things.

Many games are made by the same developers. For example, Blizzard Entertainment are behind Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft, Warcraft and Overwatch. This can allow for cross-overs of characters, styles of play etc.

It is should also be noted that nearly all games popular in eSports  ‘grow’ by receiving new updates/expansions. These could involve new characters and missions. For example, StarCraft II has different variations: Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void.

Fortnite Battle Royale Betting

Released in 2017 by Epic Games, Fortnite Battle Royale (FBR) is a multiplayer elimination fighting game. It can be played on many platforms, including XBOX, PlayStation, PC, iOs and Android. Fortnite has become a gaming phenomenon, and has other titles like Fortnite: Save the World. In FBR, the goals for players is to be last individual (or team) standing by eliminating all opponents. With an estimated 125 million players worldwide, its particularly popular with young teenagers, whose enthusiasm for FBR has seen it win a multitude of gaming and pop culture awards.

This year Fortnite made its first foray into the world of professional eSports, with major competitions including Summer Skirmish and Fortnite Friday. To be frank, it hasn’t gone exactly to plan, with critics pointing out that top players’ showmanship, a major part of the attraction to millions of viewers, is somewhat lacking in professional play. Epic Games, however, promised a huge budget of $100,000,000 in prize money for Fortnite competitions over 2018/19. In short, despite some hiccups, Fortnite is going to be a big deal in professional eSports.

From a betting perspective, Fortnite still has a little catching up to do on the likes of LOL or CS:GO. It’s not yet widely available to bet on with major bookmakers. However, it is almost inevitable that it will be soon a major part of top eSports betting sites like Betway and 10Bet. The format of the game might need a few tweaks before Fortnite Battle Royale betting rivals other eSports, but the game’s popularity means it is going to be difficult to ignore.

Skin Betting vs Match Betting

If you are interested in eSports, you may come across the term ‘skin betting’. In battle-themed games like CS:GO, skins are basically virtual decorative items that change the appearance of weaponry. These skins can be purchased in-game (for real money using a Steam account) or earned, but are also wagered (skin gambling/betting) through 3rd party sites like CS:GO Lounge. Skins offer a sense of status to some gamers and as a consequence can range in value from a few pence to hundreds of pounds.

Bettors will then wager their skins on outcomes in the game. Skins can be traded for real money, so it resembles traditional betting, up to a point.

Different types of skin betting:

  • Match Betting – betting your skins on the outcome of the game.
  • Coin toss – betting your skins on a simple coin toss.
  • Jackpot – trading your skins for ‘raffle tickets’ to win more valuable skins.
  • Roulette – like Jackpot, but you trade your skins for a position on a roulette wheel.

There are, however, some big differences between skin betting and real betting:

  • Skin betting markets work on an exchange system, i.e. the value of your winning skins depends on the value of the opposing wagers.
  • Sites that host skin betting may take a commission, whereas there is no commission from traditional bookmakers offering eSports wagering.
  • Regular sports bookmakers offer a bigger range of traditional eSports betting markets, which have odds based on form, actuary and probability, unlike the raffle-type bets mentioned above.

CS:GO was the first eSports game to tie up with the idea of skin betting, in 2013, though the game creators, Valve, have never endorsed the concept or sites that host it.

eSportsbooks and Traditional Bookmakers:

eSportsbooks/skin betting sites are specifically designed to facilitate skin betting. However, they have been mired in controversy in recent years due to:

  • Lack of regulation.
  • Underage participation in skin betting.
  • Allegations of match fixing/corruption.

That in no way suggests that all skin betting sites are corrupt. The lack of regulation can simply have consequences like those mentioned above. By contrast, traditional sports bookmakers who specialise in eSports betting, such as Betway, offer a wide range of betting options while being fully regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

Famous eSports teams

eSports teams and their players are as celebrated in gaming as their counterparts in traditional sports. The majority of eSports teams will not just limit themselves to playing one particular game. Players are acquired and move teams in a similar manner to regular sports.

Some of the most successful teams are outlined in the table below:

Team Specialties Star Player
Clan FaZeCS:GO, Call of DutyOlof Kajbjer Gustafsson
SK GamingCS:GO, HearthstoneGabriel Toledo
Invictus GamingDota 2, LOLXu Zhilei
Virtus.Pro CS:GO, Dota 2, Heroes of the StormWiktor Wojtas
Team EnVyUsCall of Duty, Overwatch, LOL, CS:GOVincent Cervoni Schopenhauer

eSports Tournaments

There are numerous eSports tournaments held throughout the year. As with regular sports, they can vary in terms of prestige and exposure to mainstream media. The table below shows some of the most important eSports tournaments, most of which are regularly available to bet on eSports specialist betting sites like Sky Bet and Betway:

Tournament Game Good To Know
ELEAGUECS:GOMost important league tournament for CS:GO.
The International Dota 2Broken records for prize pools, with over $20 million in 2016.
League of Legends World ChampionshipLOLDominated by Asian teams.
Smite World ChampionshipSmiteDecreasing prize poo;
OWLOverwatchMassive investment from NFL and NHL teams owners
StarCraft II World Championship Series StarCraft IIClimaxes with the WCS Global Finals.
Rocket League Championship SeriesRocket LeagueMain competition for Rocket League.

eSports tournaments will vary in terms of size and structure, but mostly they follow the structure of regular sports tournaments. Often tournaments will consist of Group Stages/Qualifiers, followed by Knockout Rounds/Playoffs.

It is also worth noting that teams with previous success are often seeded, meaning they will be kept apart in the Group Stages or receive a bye into later rounds. As an example, OWL features 12 teams who are split into two divisions: Atlantic and Pacific. The top team from each Division will qualify for the post-season at the end of the regular season, with the other teams having to playoff against each other to make the post-season spots. The current season will climax with a Grand Final, which will be held in July 2018.

eSports Stats, Revenue and Betting Statistics

Nearly all eSports players and teams are ranked based on how much money they have earned. This allows fans and people placing bets on eSports to get an idea of who the best teams and players are. For example, Gabriel Toledo (FalleN) currently has the highest player earnings for CS:GO at over $715,000. Some of his current SK Gaming teammates are close behind him in those earnings rankings.

It must be pointed out that there has been a lot of outside investment in eSports recently, with the creation of OWL an obvious example. As a consequence, the prize money is expected to grow considerably in the future.

As you might expect, the growth of betting on eSports online has also been very steady in recent years. One eSports betting firm reported a 205% growth in terms of Dota 2 betting between 2015 and 2016. It should also be noted that LOL, CS:GO and Dota 2 are the three main players in terms of eSports betting.

How to Make Winning eSports Selections: eSports Betting Tips

The most important thing to remember when betting on eSports is that it is very similar to regular sports wagering. When making a selection, team composition, form and location all have a part to play in the process. Most punters also like to make their own judgements, so you can check out the action on Youtube, and sites like twitch.tv. Regular eSports updates and news can often be found through major sports broadcasters like ESPN. Specialist eSports bookmakers like Betway also provide an eSports betting blog.

Obviously, the first thing to do before backing a team in eSports competition is to check their form and rankings. Sites like esportsearnings.com will readily display the earnings of hundreds of players, allowing you to gauge the players in your chosen team. As mentioned, SK Gaming have a team whose players dominate the earnings for CS:GO. Naturally then, they have been made betting favourites for the ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018.

However, sometimes a cohesive team unit is better than a collection of individuals. In CS:GO competition, Virtus.Pro have had the same roster since January 2014. This is a relatively long time in terms of eSports rosters and has led to the team having consistent success in recent years, winning ELEAGUE Season 1 (2016), Dreamhack Masters (2017) and Runner Up in ELEAGUE Major Atlanta (2017). None of Virtus’ players are currently ranked in the top ten in CS:GO earnings.

One should also note the location of the matches. While eSports fans naturally consider the games to be played in a virtual world, big tournaments are sometimes played in front of thousands of fans, especially in places like South Korea. As in football matches, thousands of fans cheering for the ‘home’ team can have an impact on the outcome of the game.

Bottom Line on eSports Betting

eSports bets should be treated the same way as wagering on any other sport. Doing your research before parting with your cash is always necessary for success. Traditional sports punters will want to keep in mind that the value and odds structure available in eSports betting markets is very similar to that of tennis betting.

The growth in the egaming industry has been nothing short of remarkable, with huge money, time and effort being put into eSports to bring it into the mainstream. OWL and ELEAGUE are the two most striking examples of this.

With this expected to continue, so too will the maturity of the eSports betting industry. Punters can expect to see more betting opportunities, more markets and greater access to media in the coming years.