Everything you need to know about esports betting
Esports betting has developed into a massive industry over a very short period of time. Today, gamblers can place wagers on a whole host of e-sports events just as they would on traditional sports like football and tennis.
But what are e-sports, exactly? And why are they suddenly so popular? We will be answering these and other questions right here, to help you get to grips with the exciting world of e-sports betting.
What are esports?
In the simplest terms, an e-port is a video game that pits a person or team against another person or team. Literally any video game with this format can be considered an e-sport (though not all make it as recognised events).
In theory, a multiplayer game of Mario Kart is an esport. Human opponents are competing against one another, with skill being a very important factor. On the other hand, a single-player game like Assassin’s Creed or even the vintage Super Mario – where the computer is the opponent – would not be considered esports.
The most popular esports games in 2018, ranked by hours watched, are as follows:
- League of Legends
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Dota 2
- Heroes of the Storm
- StarCraft 2
- Rainbow Six Siege
In terms of earnings, the list changes slightly, with DOTA 2 players making $41,336,698 to Counter-Strike’s $22,620,367. The insanely popular Fortnite has raked in $20,000,000 in prizes during esports tournaments in 2018.
This goes to show that there is a pattern when it comes to which video games make good i.e. watchable e-sports tournament material. They are all skills based games but it is also important that games are unpredictable, either by programming design or through the actions and interactions of other players. No one wants to watch people play the same thing over and over, so an element of luck or chance makes for compelling viewing.
A brief history
Video games have been around a long time, with the very first games making an appearance in the 1950s as simple, on-screen entertainment that captivated players for hours.
Classic games, that would normally have been played on a sheet of paper or a broad, like Tic-tac-toe and draughts, were the first to appear as commercially available video games. The inimitable Pong soon followed and video games started to gain popularity.
Fast-forward several decades and video game technology has evolved in leaps and bounds, with stunning graphics and increasingly life-like in-game physics giving players an exceptional experience. Combined with the power of internet connectivity, games soon started to reach far beyond the living room walls, connecting players who could be thousands of miles apart in a real-time, fully virtual interaction.
It may come as a surprise then that the very first esports tournament did not come about in the era of PS4 and Xbox One but way back in 1972. But it was most certainly an esports event if we consider the previous definition of two or more human players, competing against one another.
The first tournament in esports history took place at Stamford University, where students played a game called Spacewar. The prize was a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.
Two years later, in 1980, the first public video game competition took place. This one was based on the iconic Space Invaders game and drew a massive crowd of spectators. About 10,000 people looked on as players fought for supremacy in the Space Invaders Championship and intense media exposure brought the competition to the attention of many others.
From then on, video games competitions became more and more popular. In the 1990s, with the rise of the internet, competitions could take place between participants who weren’t even in the same room!
As tournaments got more exposure and became more popular, the prizes started to get bigger too. In 1997, 16 finalists made their way to the World Congress Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, where a huge event was about to take place.
About 2,000 participants had signed up and only 16 survived the series of one-on-one games of Quake’s Red Annihilation, a first-person shooter. After a hard-fought final, the winner took home the Ferrari 328 GTS cabriolet, previously owned by Quake lead developer John Carmack.
Weeks later, the Cyberathlete Professional League was founded and the first annual tournament took place later that year. Prize money reached $15,000 in some competitions, though this amount would be dwarfed quite quickly as the tournaments grew. It is possible for a skilled professional nowadays to make a comfortable living from this sport.
Today, watching others play video games is as popular a pastime as actually playing them oneself. The game streaming service Twitch lets spectators watch experienced players and listen to their commentary as they play. Twitch also streams live esports events directly to viewers’ computers, smartphones and televisions, further broadening the reach of these contests.
Betting on esports events
The first thing you will need to do before betting on one is choosing an e-sport. There are many games out there but not all of them will appeal to everyone. After all, football fans may not enjoy watching basketball and vice versa.
Understanding a little about the games on offer will help you decide. Create a Twitch account and watch a few rounds of any game you are interested in (and even some you may not have heard of) so you can figure out what it is you enjoy watching.
A title like League of Legends may be too complex for a newbie player. First-person shooter games like Counter-Strike are very popular, perhaps because they are so accessible to new viewers. If you have the opportunity to actually play any of these titles, you should do so – getting first-hand experience of what a game is like will help you understand what to expect.
Once you have decided what game you would like to bet on, it’s time to put some money down. Just like in traditional sports betting, esports events have odds. This numerical expression lays out the likelihood of a specific outcome i.e. a win or a loss.
If you have bet on sports before, odds will be familiar to you. Esports teams with low odds have a higher likelihood of winning, based on their past performance, individual player skills and all manner of other factors. A team or player with high odds of winning are less likely to do so but this also means a larger payout if a win occurs.
Sometimes referred to as moneylines, odds take different forms, though any format will represent the same odds. The betting platform you choose will let you view odds in whichever format you prefer, whether it’s American, decimal or fractional odds. It’s really just a matter of preference.
Odds tend to fluctuate, over time and between different platforms. It can be worth looking around for better odds, though keep in mind that they can shift in real-time so your meticulously researched odds may not be the best ones for long. Esports odds search engines can take the hassle out of doing all that research, so give these a look before you put make a bet.
So you have found a sports betting casino you like the look of, the odds are good and your favourite esport tournament is about to start. As always, we encourage players to gamble responsibly and we don’t half go on about it! But just as sports betting, poker or slots can set the stage for overindulgence, esports games can too. Always gamble in moderation and don’t be afraid to reach out for help and advice regarding responsible gambling.
Esports events to look out for
The esports tournament calendar changes from year to year. This is down to shifting audience preferences, sponsorship deals and other factors. However, there are three tournaments that continue to draw huge crowds, year in year out, as well as one we think will be seeing an explosion of interest.
Dota 2 The International
This annual tournament first began in 2011, hosted by the game’s creator, Valve. The event started out in Cologne, Germany but has since relocated to Seattle.
The prize pool for TI, as it is known, continues to grow every year and in 2014, after its move to the KeyArena in Seattle, it broke records with a $10.9 million prize pool. In 2018, the prize pool was over $25.5 million!
DOTA 2 fans can follow the action through a live stream if they are not able to get tickets to watch the event live. For new viewers, a newcomer stream is also available. This broadcast overlays footage of the event with contextual info that will help the audience understand the world of Dota without missing any of the action.
Intel Extreme Masters
Sanctioned by the Electronic Sports League, the Intel Extreme Masters comprises events across a long list of games, including League of Legends, StarCraft II, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Quake Live, among others.
Tournaments take place all over the world and cities like Katowice, Sydney, Shanghai and Oakland have played host over the past few years. These tournaments first began in 2006, with the game roster changing a few times since.
From 2018 to 2020, Chicago will be the home of the Extreme Masters events, with a total prize pool reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s no wonder that more and more players are looking at esports as a viable career path!
League of Legends Worlds
There has been much debate over the merits of Dota 2 versus those of League of Legends, to the point where players often play both. The League of Legends Worlds tournament may not have (yet) reached the calibre of the Dota 2 TI but it’s clear that there are plenty of avid fans in both camps.
The League of Legends tournament pits 24 teams against one another, with players coming from as far afield as China, Brazil, Europe, the US and Hong Kong. With such as large number of starting teams, it’s the perfect way to compare team strategies and root for your favourite in the diverse group.
The prize pool for Worlds topped $2,130,000 in 2017, which means that it has a way to go before reaching Dota 2 levels of cash. Still, there is clearly a growing interest in the event, with viewers tuning in via Twitch, YouTube and other streaming services to keep up with the action.
Call of Duty World League
It may come as a surprise to learn that the Call of Duty event is not quite as popular as the others just yet. The various releases of titles in the CoD series have done exceptionally well in terms of sales, with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, released in 2018, earning the accolade of best selling game of the year.
That’s not to say that the Call of Duty World League isn’t a highly anticipated event. Given that it only began in 2016, the annual event still draws large crowds, who watch players compete on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare on Playstation 4. In fact, it’s getting more and more difficult to snag tickets to the event.
The tournament has had some memorable moments, including three-hour-long final bouts that kept everyone guessing. Prizes top out at $80,000 for first place, with 25,000 Pro Points also awarded to the winning player.
It may not be breaking prize money records just yet but this Call of Duty championship esport is not going anywhere. Indeed, it looks like it will be matching up to older, more established competitors sooner than first thought.
Where can I bet on esports?
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to actually get betting! While many casinos offer sports betting entertainment, not all of those sites also include esports. This will likely change very soon as operators realise the profit potential of these highly popular events.
For the moment, here are our favourite esports casinos, where you can place bets on upcoming events or even in-play bets.
Head to the Sports section of the LeoVegas site and select ‘Browse Sports’. You can then choose between Call of Duty, CS:GO, Overwatch, Dota 2 and League of Legends events.
LeoVegas allows you the choose how you want odds displayed and also has some other handy settings you can tweak for live betting specifically.
On the Sports page of Mr Green, you’ll see a long list on the left-hand side of your screen. You can select Esports to be taken to the betting area. Place bets on various CS:GO, Call of Duty, League of Legends and Overwatch tournaments. Live betting is not available on esports at Mr Green just yet.
This titan of UK casino brands offers the largest choice of esports betting options. Visit the Sports page and find Esports in the list on the left. You can wager on Artifact, Rainbow Six: Siege Pro, Call of Duty, StarCraft and StarCraft II, Dota 2, League of Legends, Overwatch and CS:GO:
Bet365 offers odds on a a large range of events for each game title but in-play betting on esports events is not available yet.