If you have spent any amount of time at an online bookmaker’s site or app, nestled in amongst the usual suspects of football, horse racing and tennis lies eSports, a category that may be completely new to you.
So what is eSports? Well, in short, it is betting on the outcome of video games.
Okay, so there is a lot more to it than that, but this is a fast-growing betting opportunity. Indeed, millions of dollars are wagered upon the biggest eSports games each year, with Forbes predicting this could reach a staggering $30 billion by the year 2020
Perhaps there is a chance to make some handy profit here then, so what does any burgeoning eSports punter need to know?
The Biggest eSports Games
There are a number of different options available as to the games supported by the bookmakers, but for the brevity of this guide it is perhaps easier to focus on the ‘big three’: League of Legends (LOL), Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Dota 2. These are games that feature battle prowess and strategy in equal measure, and with numerous big events and tournaments held each year they are ripe for betting on.
League of Legends is a ‘multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)’ game, which features role playing and strategic thinking. It has an estimated 75 million active players each month, and in 2015 the LOL World Championships attracted an online audience in excess of 32 million!
CS:GO is a classic first person shooter, with the basic premise of blowing up your opponents before they get to you. For the purposes of competitive eSports, the game mode typically deployed is bomb disposal. There are two teams, with one trying to plant a bomb at a designated site and the other trying to ‘eliminate’ the opposition before the time limit runs out.
Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota) is another MOBA that brings together two teams with one goal: to destroy their opposition’s ‘Ancient’, which is a building located somewhere on the game map.
League of Legends Betting
LOL remains one of the biggest eSports games on the planet, and as a consequence it is one of the most bet-upon, too.
There are a number of leagues and competitions to bet on in Europe and across the world, with the NCAA – USA’s National Collegiate Athletic Association – organising their own conference each year. The pinnacle, however, remains the World Championships.
The object of the game is to reach the enemy’s base and destroy their ‘nexus’ – a fancy word for base. The contest is fought out between two teams of five players, and if you want to know more about its mechanics, with characters ranging from summoners and champions to minions and inhibitors, then it really is worth checking out the myriad of video tutorials online. It would take thousands of words to do the game justice!
For the sake of this guide, all you need to know is that there are many different betting opportunities available.
The most obvious one is the outright market, where you can bet on a particular team to win a specific match or tournament. This remains the most popular eSports betting market to this day.
And then there are betting markets which exist within the individual matches. You can wager on the team to score the most kills, which you think will slay the first dragon or destroy the first tower etc, and you can even have a bet on handicap lines, total kills, player of the tournament and much more.
Remember, LOL is a team sport, and so in some respects it is like betting on any other pursuit. You can research recent form, past head-to-heads and monitor roster changes, and in amongst it all you can generate enough insight to have a meaningful wager.
Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO) Betting
For a game which began life as a ‘mod’ from the popular shoot-em-up Half Life, it is testament to the quality of CS:GO that it remains as one of the biggest eSports games to this day.
There are some pretty big competitions too, with the likes of the ESL Pro League, BLAST Pro Series and the ESEA Global Challenge drawing millions in audience figures and wagers each round.
The overriding theme of competitive CS:GO is the team, so as far as betting is concerned you are looking to back the team you expect to win. But there are a number of sub-markets to consider too, including best player (i.e. most kills) and ‘map bets’, with each round using a different map. So, you can wager upon total maps, map handicaps, correct map score and so on.
Dota 2 Betting
It has been a slow build for Dota as an eSports game of choice, but they have made the leap and can very much be filed under the heading of one of the biggest eSports games around today.
There are a number of brands in the professional world of Dota 2 that compete in tournaments across the globe, with a particular emphasis on the Asian market.
The actual specifics of Dota are again hard to bring to life in mere word: you should check out the stacks of guide videos that are out there. But as far as betting goes, again the emphasis is on the team aspect: outright winner, to reach the final, region of winner, handicaps, map score, total maps and so on.
Other eSports Betting Markets
If you are a gamer of a slightly older vintage then titles like FIFA and the NBA series are likely to be familiar to you. Good news: these are well represented by eSports betting markets!
There’s also Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, Overwatch and much more.
While the style and content of these eSports games can vary greatly, the basic premises of successful betting remain the same regardless; indeed, effective eSports betting shares many similarities with betting on football, horse racing, tennis etc.
The basic principle is simple: do your research! Check the formbook, view head-to-head records and use Google News to identify any factors that may influence an eSports contest one way or another.
Who knows, you might just add another profitable string to your betting bow.
Written by Craig Simpkin
A sports journalist with a smorgasbord of experience writing for a variety of publications, Craig is a Leicester fan hoping that England can also achieve the impossible this summer.