Esports betting is a very enticing segment of sports betting. It’s blowing up in terms of popularity, more and more money is being dumped into it each year…and yet bookies still don’t completely understand it. Lots of attention on esports + less-than-perfect bookies being common = lots of value and opportunity for the esports bettor with a fine-tuned esports betting strategy.
But here’s the big catch – you need to know what you’re doing. Even if you don’t own a PC or game system and haven’t ever role-played as a sorcerer or dwarf once in your life, you may still be interested in esports just for the value available. Or maybe you know a particular esport or two inside and out and follow all the major competitions, but you don’t know the first thing about sports betting. So how do you get spun up?
That’s what this guide is for. We’ll start from the very beginning so that you learn the fundamentals of how both esports and sports betting work. Then we’ll move on to topics such as beginner and advanced esports betting strategies for those who have become comfortable with both.
Understanding the Games
If you’re totally new to esports, you first need to understand how the games actually work before testing any esports betting strategies. It just isn’t possible to bet successfully if you don’t at least know the fundamentals of the game in question, and with many games, you need to know something about the big-name competitors and teams as well.
For example, reading and understanding match analysis involves knowing the lingo of the esport in question. For Dota 2, the esport that draws the most viewers and usually the largest amount of betting action, that means knowing things like what a “carry” is and what “jungling” means.
If you’re planning on betting on an esport, it’s a really good idea to play the game in question for a while. You don’t have to get good at it or even sink more than a few hours into it, and many of them have “free to play” modes that won’t cost you anything but a little time spent downloading. Just play it enough so that you can mentally pair game strategies that you read about with the actual actions in-game.
For help getting started and quickly learning the tips that you’ll need to know as a bettor for each of these games, check out our handy game guides linked below which include game-specific esports betting strategies.
Understanding the Bets
Understanding the games and how they work is one half of the foundation for a new bettor to develop their esports betting strategy. The other is understanding bet types and how sportsbooks work in general.
In theory, sportsbooks can offer any type of bet that they want, but there are some “industry standards” that you can expect to see at any betting site. For example, the “moneyline” is the primary type of bet for those interested in simply picking the winner of any given esports match.
Outright 50/50 odds on every match wouldn’t make the betting site money consistently, however, so they engage in what is known as “handicapping.” There are “lines” attached to each side of the match that make betting on one side more appealing than the other. This is the central element of the competition between bookie and bettor. The bookies have their experts adjust the lines in such a way that they expect to make maximum profit. Players, in turn, utilize detailed esports betting strategies to find value in lines where the bookies may have screwed up or missed something. Rampant betting errors among the non-expert general public can also cause the lines to shift in such a way that the sharp bettor can take advantage of it.
You can see that this topic is already getting somewhat complicated, and that’s just for the most basic and standard type of wager. There are all sorts of other types of esports wagers – over/unders, prop bets, parlays, teasers, pleasers, and more. For much greater detail on the subject, check out our in-depth guide to the different types of esports bets.
Calculating Betting Odds
As mentioned in the previous section, esports betting sites don’t like to do 50/50 even-Steven bets. They can’t consistently make a profit that way. That’s where the odds come in.
Let’s go back to the example of a moneyline bet that was introduced in the previous section. Say, for example, you’ve decided to bet on a League of Legends match that’s about to go down: Team SoloMid vs. Misfits. Go to any betting site, and you’ll see a moneyline that looks something like this:
- Team SoloMid -265
- Misfits +135
The team with the negative number is actually the favorite. That number means that if you wanted to win $100 on the match, you’d have to bet $265 on Team SoloMid. The underdog in this example (Misfits), represented by the positive number, pays out $135 for a $100 wager.
Obviously, it’s crucial to understand what all of these numbers represent before developing your own esports betting strategy. To learn more about how all of the different types of esports betting odds work, check out our in-depth guide to the subject.
Know What Not to Do
There are some very common esports betting mistakes that you can avoid simply by knowing about them before you place a bet.
For example, opportunity and entertainment are almost always at odds when it comes to esports betting strategy. What do we mean by that? Well, some people bet on matches just to make the match more exciting. It can liven up games in a season or tournament that you otherwise wouldn’t really care much about. That’s betting for entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with it (as long as you’re playing with money that you can afford to lose).
Betting for entertainment and betting to make money are two completely different things. You bet to make money by finding value bets and only placing those bets. Now, you can certainly gain some entertainment from the matches when you have a value bet on them, but that’s a side effect rather than the primary goal. Being able to separate entertainment from profit-making is actually harder for bettors than you might think.
What other common mistakes should you be looking out for? Check out our guide to common esports betting mistakes for the full rundown.
Basic Esports Betting Strategies
An “esports betting strategy” is different from an “esports betting system.” That’s an important distinction to get familiar with early in your esports wagering career. An esports betting strategy is a careful plan for managing and increasing your money, consisting of a number of different elements. An esports betting system is usually some hot garbage that will end up costing you money in the long run (or even in the short run if it’s a particularly bad one).
Elements of esports betting strategy include managing your money, playing at the right places, and evaluating odds, among others. We’ll go into more detail below.
A “bankroll” is basically just the money you have set aside specifically for your esports betting. Conceptualizing it as a bankroll often helps people to set reasonable betting limits for themselves and to keep from dipping into rent and food money for gambling.
The way to be a winning esports bettor is to consistently grow your bankroll over time. You won’t win every bet you place; that’s why most bettors measure their success in terms of yearly or quarterly numbers. Taking a beating for a week or two isn’t all that uncommon even among top esports bettors, but when you look at their longer-term results, they’re consistently making money rather than losing it.
The fundamentals of bankroll management involve knowing how much to bet and when. Part of that ties into knowing the formats and schedules of various esports tournaments, which is where the vast majority of the action is. To learn more about all of this, check out our bankroll management in-depth article linked below.
Finding the Right Bookmaker
Finding the right esports betting site to place your bets at is at least half the battle. Even the best esports betting strategy means little if you’re playing at the wrong betting site. You have to spend some time hunting up the best options and the best odds if you want to see the best consistent profits.
Not all betting sites are created equal, especially when it comes to esports. Even though esports is huge business (and has been for some years now), bookmakers are still adopting it slowly and cautiously. It’s a whole new thing for them, and they don’t yet have the mastery of it that they do with sports like football and baseball that have been around forever. That means a lot of potential value out there, but it also means that betting opportunities can be fewer and farther between as bookmakers decide they simply aren’t equipped to handle certain games or matches.
Fortunately, you have a lot of help at hand in this area. Check out our detailed guide to choosing the right esports bookmaker below, and you can also peruse our library of esports betting site reviews.
What to Bet On
As we’ve touched on previously, knowing what to bet on involves knowing something about the various esports scenes and how the games are played. But it also involves knowing what kind of interest level there will be in various tournaments and competitions.
Not only do you need to know where the action will be, but there are also a number of different ways to get in on it. So far, we’ve focused on the traditional sportsbook model as it applies to esports. That’s not the only way to wager, however.
For example, you’ve got “skins” or item gambling. What started out as a clever way to work around real money gambling laws has blossomed into a pretty serious betting market. People buy digital in-game items for games like CS:GO and use those to wager with; it’s a complicated topic, but it technically makes things legal by using the game’s internal marketplace as a middleman.
Speaking of marketplaces, live markets (aka live or in-play betting) are another great option. These sites allow esports bettors to take positions against each other rather than betting against the house bookies and their lines. Some sportsbooks have also incorporated their own version of live betting, simply offering their own adjusted lines mid-match based on how things have been going to that point. This is an area of esports betting where the quick and insightful can really take advantage of those who aren’t as up to speed.
And then there’s fantasy esports. You’ve no doubt heard of things like DraftKings and FanDuel for traditional sports like football and baseball. Well, esports have their own versions of the very same thing. Draft your favorite players ahead of a tournament, season, or individual match, then hope they rack up more points than the other competitors.
Our guides to choosing your esports action and skins/item betting will help you to learn the finer points of these things.
Advanced Esports Betting Strategies
These advanced esports betting strategies are for those who plan to move beyond casual “just for fun” esports betting. If you plan to bet regularly or to try to make a living at betting on esports, these are important things to become familiar with. This information is more complex and will take more time and effort to absorb and understand, but you’ll need it to keep pace with bookmakers and other established esports bettors.
How to Research Effectively
Once you understand the basics of the games, how they work, and how to effectively utilize the above basic esports betting strategies, it’s time to move on to doing detailed research. This involves going through the best available data to try to predict the likelihood of future outcomes.
Another advantage that esports offers to bettors is that since it all takes place on a computer, it is a ready-made source of data mining and analysis. There are lots of different techniques you can employ to get information about player and team performance and how particular matchups are likely to shake out.
Research and analysis aren’t magical tools that allow you to predict the future, but they do help to narrow down the possibilities and to find the wagers that have the best value. You won’t win every esports bet you ever make, but the consistent winners are the ones who do the best job of identifying value on a regular basis. Analysis and research are the bread and butter of this process.
You can get started with learning these methods by checking out our guide to effective research and analysis.
Finding Betting Value in Esports Betting
We’ve touched on the concept of value a few times now, including in the previous section. To try to break this down as simply as possible, value bets are those that offer the highest likelihood of winning money. To identify them, you have to be able to read odds and know from context when they are set in such a way that the bettor has an advantage.
Again, this isn’t about winning every bet you place. No matter how good of an esports betting strategy you have, that won’t happen. But if you’re always betting when value is available – or in other words, when there is a positive expected return on your bet – simple statistics says you should win more than you lose over time and thus make money rather than lose it. This is the fundamental concept that makes it possible to be a professional full-time sports bettor.
The big trick here is identifying that value. The basic way this is done is by creating your own model of probability for any given match result, then comparing your model to the currently available odds to see if you’re onto something that the bookies (or the other bettors in a live market) aren’t.
So how do you create a model? You incorporate all sorts of relevant data points. For example, let’s say you are trying to predict an upcoming match between Misfits and Team SoloMid. If the two teams have had a recent head-to-head match, that’s an excellent data point. Their recent head-to-head history while having similar rosters and coaches to the current lineup is also going to be useful. Other things you might consider would be each team’s recent performance in the current tournament and the health of the players.
The basic result of all of this is a percentage chance of winning that comes from your own research and analysis. You then compare that to the percentage chance that the current odds are offering, which is calculated with some simple math.
Of course, there’s much more to this than this basic introductory explanation can possibly cover. For more detailed information, check out our guide to finding betting value.
Coming to Grips with Esports Betting Strategy
Esports betting might seem like a lot to come to grips with when you’re new, but the learning process is fun, and the difficulty curve isn’t as bad as you might think. How many other opportunities do you get to learn how to make money by playing video games? Cover the basics we’ve outlined here, check out the in-depth guides for even more info, and you’ll be well on your way.