Betting is woven into the fabric of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s fanbase. For years, the game had a massive and vibrant betting industry that revolved around in-game cosmetic items. Players could freely wager their skins through various third-party sites with few limitations.
The questionable ethics and legality of the practice eventually resulted in multiple lawsuits, an FTC investigation, and a crackdown from CSGO publisher Valve that largely killed skin betting. Despite that, skin betting normalized gambling in a way that established it as among the most exciting games in all of esports.
Fittingly, bookmakers offer a number of different options that both afford players some extra freedom in how they approach the game and make the experience all the more exciting. Here are the most common markets in CSGO betting.
The standard form of betting in CSGO is to pick which particular team wins a series. With much of Counter-Strike’s official games being played in best-of-three series, there are also options for picking out the winners of each specific game in a series.
While this is common in other esports as well as traditional sports like basketball and hockey during the playoffs, things are different in CSGO due to the fact that teams will face off on a number of different maps. Pro teams have can have varying levels of success on different maps, with squads like Astralis building up a 31-game winning streak on Nuke while Ninjas in Pyjamas struggles on Dust 2.
Bettors can look to patterns in map drafts to see how the two teams might play off one another and how their approaches to the draft might drag the other into uncomfortable territory.
The vast majority of series in CSGO are contested in best-of-three fashion, that means 2.5 over/under handicapping on the total number of maps played in a series fairly common among bookies. In a best-of-three setting, this functionally boils down to whether the series will be a sweep with the “over” paying off if the game goes three games and the “under” paying off if either team wins in 2-0 fashion.
This can also be presented in a different way, with bookies offering action on an “odds or evens” for the total maps played in a series. These will carry the same lines.
Best-of-five series are fairly rare in CSGO, with a select few events rolling with them for grand finals. This can result in over/unders also being offered at 3.5 and 4.5 games. The dynamics function similarly, with shifting lines based upon the likelihood of the outcome.
In best-of-three and best-of-five series, bettors can make predictions on the final score of a series rather than just picking its winner. For example, if Natus Vincere and Team Liquid were to face off in a best-of-three series, players can pick Team Liquid to win with a final score of 2-1, Natus Vincere to win via 2-0, or anything else in between. Best-of-threes offer just four possible outcomes, while things spread out a bit in a best of five series with six.
Picking the exact score of a series can offer serious value when looking to bet on a favorite, even a heavy one. This can see a fairly significant favorite still pay out underdog money.
There is a tradeoff there in the form of increased specificity regarding the win condition. A bet on Team Liquid to win in 2-0 fashion against Natus Vincere won’t pay off if they win 2-1. Still, these lines are worth taking a good look at.
The same line can be presented in multiple ways by a bookmaker. The best example of this in CSGO are bets related to the number of maps won by a team during a series.
In the hypothetical best-of-three series between Natus Vincere and Team Liquid, oddsmakers such as Betway offer the option of picking how many maps either team will win during the series. Punters can predict Team Liquid to win zero, one, or two maps, with each one sharing the same lines as other options.
For example, picking Team Liquid to win two maps is functionally the same as picking them to win the series and carries the same line as a result. Picking Liquid to win zero maps is functionally the same as picking Natus Vincere to win 2-0 and it carries the same line.
Counter-Strike games take place over the course of 30 rounds, with the first team to reach 16 rounds won taking the map. Similar to “spreads” in traditional sports where the odds of victory when betting can be increased or decreased by creating a margin of points the favorite must win by. There is a similar phenomenon in CSGO betting where bets can be made based upon how many rounds the underdog will win.
Different betting sites offer the ability to set one’s own spread for games, with varying levels of risk and rewards. Much like the final score in a series bets, is a great way to find value when rolling with a decisive favorite that might not offer much of a reward by just betting on them to win.
As mentioned, Counter-Strike games usually take place over the course of 30 rounds, with the first to reach 16 winning. If those 30 rounds are completed with a score of 15-15, the two teams will typically enter an overtime period.
Overtime periods are six rounds long, with each team playing three rounds on offense and three on defense. The first team to reach four rounds in the period wins, though this can be repeated if the period ends with each team winning three rounds.
The overwhelming majority of tournaments have overtime, though certain events will allow maps to end in a draw. The most prominent example of this is the BLAST Pro Series, which has previously allowed for draws during its group stage.
In either case, certain betting providers will offer bettors the opportunity to bet on the map going to overtime or ending in a draw. The lines are often wide, given how games end in regulation the vast majority of the time.
A Counter-Strike map can end with a score of 16-13, 31-28 or 16-0. That broad range of possibilities perfectly fits into a betting setting and naturally, bookies took notice.
Some bookmakers offer action on how many rounds will be played on a specific map. If they do, there will often be a broad range of options that affords bettors a fair bit of room for measure how much risk they’d like in their bets.
Not all possible outcomes are offered, but this is still an option for bettors that are expecting a tight, competitive game or that want to build up a parlay.
CSGO games are split into two halves, with each team getting 15 rounds on offense and 15 on defense. Each half starts with a “pistol round,” where players start with a minimal amount of money that forces them into using just grenades and pistols.
These rounds are hugely important in terms of establishing an advantage both in the direct and psychological sense, and stand apart from any other rounds in a map. That results in special treatment from bookmakers, with many offering lines on which team wins either pistol round for any given map.
These can be particularly interesting for hardcore CSGO fans, as different pro players have a reputation for their strong skills with pistols.