Everything you need to know about how to bet on esports

Steven R. November 19, 2019

Watching esports is fun under almost any circumstances, but having an extra bit of investment in the outcome can make things even more entertaining. In the same way that betting often makes for a more enjoyable experience in traditional sports, an extra layer of excitement can be added to esports by getting personally involved in the action.

The esports betting industry has been growing rapidly for years now. Major betting sites have adopted esports, with an increasing focus on esports markets and catering to esports enthusiasts.

The ever expanding list of betting options that are available might be intimidating for newcomers to the world of betting, so we’ve assembled some best practices that can help you to get the most out of your foray into esports betting.

How to choose where to bet

The first step in betting is to actually find a bookmaker.. There are going to be many options available, and there are a few things to consider when selecting one.

First and foremost is ensuring that a bookmaker operates within one’s area of residence. Not all bookmakers offer the ability to play on a global scale.

Another important consideration is what type of coverage a site has. Games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and Dota 2 have massive international tournaments taking place at the same time as regional leagues that appeal to more hardcore or domestic audiences. Not all betting providers offer action on every game, so it’s important to get a feel for what events a site covers before choosing one. This is especially the case if one is looking to regularly wager on smaller or local events.

Another consideration depending on what types of bets a player is interested in is the margins offered by the bookmaker. 

Margins are the difference between the odds offered by a bookie and the actual odds of victory. For example, a coin flip has a 50-50 probability between heads and tails. Some bookies might offer a $90 return on a $100 bet on tails, even though the equitable probability should theoretically yield a $100 return on a $100 bet. That $10 difference is the margin.

Different bookies will use different margins, and depending on what bets one is planning to make it might be worth comparing and contrasting the lines on bets with different outcomes just to see what sort of cuts the bookies are looking to take.

Differences between bookmakers

Even if two bookmakers have the same coverage and the same margins, they might not be equally ideal for you as a player. Different sites will have different features and different customer service practices that may make one better than another, depending on your needs.

Not all bookies have the same options for withdrawing funds from your account. Additionally, some will take longer lengths of time in order to process withdrawals, ranging from hours to days. Some also don’t allow users to completely cash out, withholding some of a player’s money to encourage future betting.

Another important thing to consider is the betting provider’s layout and how it relates to one’s own playing habits. Does their app work on the user’s phone? If they have a mobile website, is its UI workable on your phone’s screen? These are things to test out before pulling the trigger.

From there, it’s worth checking out the various other features and UI options on tap. Does the site have game streams embedded into match pages? Does it have other community features that could be fun down the road? Does it offer betting in other sports that could also be enjoyable?

There are a lot of considerations to make before slapping down one’s money, and figuring out the provider that best meshes with one’s own betting habits is an important step. Betway offers new players a good starting point.

Is it safe to bet on esports online?

Online gambling is an enormous industry that is reportedly worth tens of billions of dollars globally. Whether it’s slots or sports betting, players have no shortage of options for finding action online.

The trouble is that this success hasn’t been overlooked by various scammers who prey upon newcomers. Fortunately, it isn’t too hard to identify which sites are legitimate.

The easiest way to ascertain the legitimacy of a website is by simply listening to what the browser is saying. Most browsers have a way of instantly alerting users to a website that is associated with scams or malware and will force users to acknowledge this before venturing deeper into the website. 

The other way is by paying attention to the small lock icon next to the website’s URL. Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and other commonly used web browsers all use these icons, with a closed lock representing a secure site and an open lock representing an insecure and potentially illegitimate site.

One other important thing to check out is what betting regulator the site is licensed with. Most legitimate betting sites plainly state the primary location of their business and what gaming authority they are licensed under. If this isn’t listed, it could be problematic.

Different odds systems (decimal vs. fractional vs. +/-)

Once someone takes the plunge on sports betting, they’ll instantly be hit with bunches of available odds. This can be tricky because different sports, sites, and regions all use different methods for displaying their lines.

In western esports, the most common system is decimal odds. One team in a game will be have odds between 1.0 and 2.0, with the other team being represented by a number of 2.0 or higher. Decimal odds work by simply multiplying the line for the team by the bet made on them. 

For example, a game between Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses might carry odds of 1.5 for a bet on Team Liquid to win the match and 2.5 for Evil Geniuses. A winning bet of $100 on Team Liquid with a 1.5 line would see the bettor walk away with $150, for a $50 return. A winning $100 on Evil Geniuses would see the bettor walk away with $250, for a $150 return.

Fractional odds focus on what the value of a winning bet would be. The aforementioned Team Liquid vs. Evil Geniuses contest would see the odds represented as 1/2  vs. 3/2, denoting the $50 return on a $100 bet against the $150 return on a $100 bet.

In the plus-minus system, the plus is used to denote the underdog in a bet while the minus symbol is used to denote the favorite. Numbers with a plus next to them show what the return would be on a bet of $100, while numbers with a minus next to them show how much one would need to bet in order to earn a $100 return.

In the plus-minus system, the lines for the Team Liquid vs. Evil Geniuses game would be represented as -200 and +150.

Odds comparisons

While multiple betting operators will cover the same games, not all of them will offer the same lines. Bookies will come to different outcomes when they calculate the odds of victory in a game between two teams, which will result in them potentially setting different lines. On top of that, lines will shift as bettors flock to a specific pick.

It’s generally quite rare that bookies will have a huge difference between their lines, but anyone that is honed in on one specific game ought to check out multiple bookies to find the best bang for their buck. The best and most efficient way to do this is through an odds comparison table.

Various betting affiliate sites will aggregate the odds from a list of bookies, which allows bettors the chance to quickly discover which operator is offering the most favorable lines for any bet they are planning to make. These are valuable tools for people at any stage of their betting careers and it’s worth keeping one bookmarked, if only to see how other operators are feeling about a given game.

Different market types

The most common form of betting is straightforward. One team will win a match and those who bet on it win money. There are also markets for single games, rather than a complete match.

That isn’t the only way to go about it, though. In addition to straightforward wins and losses, there are markets for over/under bets and handicaps.

Over/unders hone in on a specific statistic for a contest and allow bettors to guess how many times this condition will happen. The mark will be set at a specific point, usually a decimal, with bettors guessing whether the result will ultimately be over or under the specified mark.

For example, in football/soccer an over/under might be set at 3.5 total goals scored in a game. If the final score of the game is 2-1, for a combined three goals, then the bet on under was correct. If the score is 3-1, for a total of four goals, then the over was the winning bet.

Over/unders in esports betting work the same way, except they typically hone in on different conditions. This might include how many maps a team wins during a series, or how many rounds a team wins during a specific game. Most esports titles have their own standard set of over/unders which are offered by a number of different odds providers.

Another common type of market is handicaps. These offer more lucrative odds than a straight bet on one team, with the additional risk of having them win by a certain margin called “the spread.” 

This is a common practice in sports betting on American football. While betting on the mighty New England Patriots to beat the frequently underperforming Miami Dolphins might not offer much of a return on a successful bet, predicting that the Patriots beat the Dolphins by nine or more points could offer a much better reward.

Handicaps aren’t regularly used in all esports titles, but games like Counter-Strike can offer bets like this for teams to win by a specified number of rounds while Dota 2 and League of Legends often offer map handicaps.

Parlays, Chain betting, and system betting

The primary concept behind handicaps and over/unders is to encourage betting on matches that might have unappealing odds. Those aren’t the only ways to increase the risk for greater reward, though.

Imagine an esports event with four separate matches set to take place on the same day. Bettors can place one single bet across multiple matches. There are a few different ways to do this.

Parlay betting, also called accumulators or express betting, allow bettors to combine multiple bets together. For example, if Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses are going to face off, followed by a match between G2 Esports and Fnatic, bettors can run a parlay that Team Liquid and G2 Esports will both win their games. If this bet is successful, it will typically yield a stronger return than betting on the two results individually. This comes with the increased risk that if Team Liquid wins and G2 loses or vice versa, it will be considered a losing bet.

System betting is a similar concept, but offers a bit more flexibility. Bettors can hypothetically lump bets on each of those four games together, but still win have a winning bet if three of the four picks are correct. This offers less reward than a parlay, but at a significantly lower risk.

Another option is chain betting. Chain betting allows bettors to string multiple wagers together sequentially, with one bet being made after another with each win, but a loss cancelling future bets. If the bet on the first game is correct, then the bet on the second game will be made. If that one is correct, then a bet on the third game will be made, and so on. A loss at any one of those steps would break the chain but bettors still pocket the returns on each of the winning bets.

This does not impact the odds, but once again offers a different way to mitigate risk while still offering potentially higher upside than running a parlay.

Prop bets and Side markets

The most common form of betting is purely based on results, with bettors putting down money on who they will win a given contest. That’s a fine way to go about things, but it isn’t the only option.

Many bookmakers offer prop bets, which hone in on fulfilling a specific condition of the game. Common prop bets vary between titles, but typically focus on things like picking out which team will get the first kill in a match or which player will be at the top of the scoreboard by the match’s end.

Prop betting options for traditional sporting events are still more robust than in esports. The Super Bowl, for example, will have prop bets of all sorts ranging from how many times the cheerleaders will be shown for either team during the broadcast to who will win the coin toss. Boxing matches will have prop bets on which celebrities will be shown during the event broadcasts.

Bettors that are looking to get similarly creative in making esports bets have plenty of options available to them. We’ll quickly go over some of the most common side markets for major esports titles.

Understanding Counter-Strike Betting

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive works differently from other first-person shooter titles. While one typically thinks of shooters as run-and-gun affairs, CSGO is more focused on strategy.

Two teams of five face off in 30-round games, with each team playing one offensive half and one defensive half. The offensive Terrorist side looks to plant and detonate a bomb within one of two designated areas of the map, winning rounds by either detonating the bomb or first wiping out the enemy side. The defensive Counter-Terrorist side looks to win rounds by preventing the bomb from being planted, defusing the bomb if it is planted, or first wiping out the Terrorist side.

Depending on the tournament and its format, series can be competed in best-of-one, best-of-three, or best-of-five formats. The vast majority of events have games go into overtime in order to prevent games from going to a draw, but a handful of events do allow games to finish as a tie during early event stages.

One of the most common side markets are for who will win the so-called “pistol rounds,” the opening rounds of each half which force teams to only use pistols before they have enough money to afford greater weaponry.

Past that, the side markets are fairly straightforward. Over/unders on how many rounds a team will win are common, as are handicaps and over/unders on how many rounds each teams will win.

Understanding Dota 2 Betting

Dota 2 tasks two teams of five with destroying the core structure of the opponent’s base, called the Ancient. Groups of small, weak, AI-controlled monsters called creeps will spawn every 30 seconds for either team, and will charge down one of three lanes to attack the enemy’s base. Each player controls a stronger unit called a hero, who will become stronger as the game progresses.

Before teams can attack the enemy base, they have to break through certain thresholds in each lane called towers. These towers shoot damagin projectiles at anything nearby, killing enemy units that happen to come within range. This can be treacherous, so teams need to knock down these towers before they can assault the enemy base directly.

Most tournaments in Dota 2 are divided into two stages, the group stage and the main event. The group stage format varies wildly from tournament to tournament, with some using round-robins with one or two game series and others using the GSL format with best-of-threes. The main events are typically contested in brackets with best-of-one or best-of-three series and a best-of-five grand final.

Most side markets for Dota 2 are intuitive, with bets offered on specific series outcomes and the hero kill tallies of either team. There are also regular options for which team will get the first kill, or knock down the first tower.

The other bet that’s commonly available is on Roshan.

Roshan is a giant monster located in a cave in the game’s river. Killing him yields special items, most notably the Aegis of the Immortal, which resurrects a hero on the spot a few seconds after they die.

Many bookies will offer bets on which team will kill Roshan first, and over/unders on how many times Roshan will be killed after respawning.

Understanding League of Legends Betting

Dota 2 and League of Legends have a shared history and as such the games are quite similar. There are two teams of five that try and destroy the core of the enemy’s base, which in League of Legends is called the Nexus. Computer-controlled units called Minions spawn and rush down three lanes to attack the enemy base, but first need to work their way through multiple Turrets in each lane that fire projectiles at incoming enemies.

The game has a very different competitive format from most other games. Top-level League of Legends is contested within closed regional leagues. These leagues have a regular season which is contested in round robin format with either best-of-three or best-of-one matches. The playoffs and interregional events are contested with a mix of best-of-ones, best-of-threes, and best-of-fives.

Most of the secondary markets are straightforward, with lines for the team to destroy the first turret or claim the first kill, series handicaps, and so on.

The biggest differences surround the special in-game enemies in League of Legends: the Drakes, Elder Dragon, Rift Herald, and Baron.

The Drakes are dragons in the bottom right of the map. There are numerous types of elemental drakes which spawn at random and offer different rewards for the team that kills them. Drakes will respawn after a set amount of time with rewards stacking after each kill.

Later in the game, an Elder Dragon will take the place of the elemental Drakes. The Elder Dragon offers an even more powerful reward than do the drakes.

In the top left of the map is a cave that will initially spawn an enemy called the Rift Herald. The Rift Herald is an enormous monster that has the appearance of a bipedal beetle. The team that kills it has the ability to capture it and then summon it to charge down a lane, dealing massive damage to turrets and other structures.

Later in the game, another massive enemies called Baron Nashor will spawn. Slaying this giant beast empowers a team’s minions, making it easier for them to push down the lanes into the enemy base.

Most odds providers offer action on which team will be the first to kill a Baron and over/unders on how many Barons will be killed. Bets on Drakes and the Rift Heralds are also possible, though they aren’t as common.

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