How does esports betting differ from traditional sports betting?

By William Davis


Aug 22, 2021

Reading time: 3 min

The world of esports has changed a lot over the last decade or so. It’s gone from an obscure niche enjoyed by a small group of very enthusiastic people to something that hundreds of millions of people take part in every year. 

The fact that esports has finally broken its way onto traditional television networks over the last couple of years, with major broadcasters like ESPN, Sky Sports, the BBC and the UK’s Channel 4 all providing coverage of some tournaments, shows just how mainstream competitive video gaming has become. 

Another thing that has come with esports’ shift towards being accepted by the general public is that betting on games, leagues, and tournaments has become much more commonplace. 

A few years ago, it would have been difficult to find a sportsbook willing to accept bets on a League of Legends or Dota 2 game. But today, most leading sports betting brands offer a wide range of esports markets. In fact, many of the biggest brands like Bet365 even offer promo codes for new bettors to use while placing wagers on esports. 

But if these major sportsbooks are now taking bets on Call of Duty like they do for the NFL or NBA, does that mean esports betting is the same as it is with traditional sports?

Types of bets

Sports betting in the US is sometimes a little different to other parts of the world. Firstly, odds are displayed using the “American” format, while the rest of the world uses either decimal or fractional odds. 

Secondly, spread betting is far more common. The most commonly placed bets for the NFL and NBA are ones against the spread. In esports, these types of wager are incredibly rare; instead, you’ll most often find the option to bet on the winner of a match similar to the “moneyline” bets found in traditional sports. 

Player fatigue and injuries

When you’re betting on traditional sports, it’s usually important to factor in the current fitness levels of players. A star quarterback in the NFL being injured is going to seriously hurt the form of a team for weeks or even longer, sometimes even after they’ve returned to the lineup. 

Of course, the risk of injury is much higher when you’re charging up and down a field or a court, tussling with your opponents to get the ball with little regard for your safety. However, esports injuries are also something that have to be contended with. 

Poor posture and lack of physical conditioning can leave players suffering from repetitive strain injury or strained muscles that leave them out of action. If this is the case, bettors need to assess how damaging a player’s absence is for a team. 

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Lack of futures

On the Monday morning after the Super Bowl, sportsbooks around the world begin taking bets on which team will win the game the following year. Soccer fans can usually find sportsbooks taking bets on who will win the next FIFA World Cup, even if it’s not due to be played for a couple of years. 

This isn’t always the case for esports. Some of the really big events like the League of Legends World Championship have futures markets. But most of the time, you’ll only find bets for games that will be taking place in the next few days and weeks. 

It’s hard to say exactly why this is. It could be because bookmakers don’t believe there’s enough demand or it could be that it’s difficult to always know which teams will be involved in some esports competitions. 

Difficult to identify historical patterns

Another factor that sports bettors have to consider is the historic performance of teams and players in a particular competition. This is fairly easy to do because the statistics are readily available and because the rules and environmental factors remain roughly the same from year to year.

That isn’t the case for esports. First of all, most tournaments aren’t much older than a decade so there isn’t a lot of historical data to analyze. Secondly, most games get regular updates that can change the rules, mechanics, maps, physics, and features. Some of these changes could favor one player over another, leading to changes in the outcome of games.