For many years, being good at video games just meant you earned bragging rights over your friends and/or siblings. Today though, competitive video gaming, otherwise known as Esports, is a big-money industry featuring a growing number of professional players. No longer just a hobby, the top players of various games can make huge sums of money, exceeding amounts seen in many far more traditional sports.
Did you know, for instance, that in 2019, DOTA 2 players Johan “N0tail” Sundstein and Jesse “JerAx” Vainkka collected over $3m in prize money? These are far from huge outliers either as many others have pocketed huge amounts of cash across either with DOTA 2 or other games, such as Counter-Strike, Fortnite and League of Legends. As of July 2021, 94 players had earned themselves at least $1m in prize money and, with interest growing, we expect this number to increase quite rapidly over the coming years.
When noticing the growing popularity of Esports, bookmakers were not slow to react. For several years, most have been providing odds on major Esports tournaments and fixtures. In this time, we have seen a growth in the number of betting markets too, although the selection does vary substantially between sites. Given that there is now quite a huge selection of different possibilities, we have created this helpful betting guide so you can get to grips with all the most popular options. We shall start by focusing on broader markets you will typically find across a lot of popular Esports games before taking a closer look at game specific markets.
Most Popular Esports Bets
There are those that might not consider Esports to be a true ‘sport’ but it requires just as much hard work, skill, dedication, nerve and tactical thinking as many traditional alternatives. For those that play in professional matches, Esports is their livelihood and you can rest assured they will be doing everything possible to ensure they end up with a win.
Now, in most Esports matches, there must be a winner as there is no possibility of a draw due to the nature of the game. There are some exceptions though, either in group stages in which there is a best of two/four rounds or maps or in certain ‘sporting’ Esports, such as FIFA.
Choosing which team, or individual will prevail (if either) makes for the most popular type of Esports bet. There are a few different ways you can bet on the winner though and these can either increase your potential payout or reduce the amount of risk.
Match Odds/Match Winner
This is your main and plain win market with nothing added on top. All you need to do is select the team or player that will win the match overall. Assuming there is no option of a draw, which there will not be in most cases, you will usually have one favourite priced at odds of under even money (less than 1/1) and one underdog priced at odds of over evens (1/1). A typical example of a fairly close encounter might see one team priced at odds of 5/4 and another at odds of 4/7.
In especially closely contested battles though, it is very possible that neither option will be trading above even money. A perfectly balanced fixture might see odds like 5/6 and 5/6, or perhaps 10/11 and 10/11 if you find a more generous bookie. The reason it is not priced at odds of evens and evens is that all bookmakers build in something of a buffer into the odds. Ultimately, this ‘cut’ of theirs is how they make their money in the long run, much like with casinos and their house edge on the games they offer.
For a match handicap bet, you are still betting on the team or player you think will win but only with a score modifier applied. This modifier, also known as a handicap, can add or subtract a set value from the score of a team or player. So, for example, take a best of three League of Legends game; for the normal match betting, Team A are available at odds of 7/4 and Team B at odds of 2/5. To increase your odds for Team B, you can back them to win with a -1.5 map handicap. In this instance, the odds would increase to around 11/8.
What this means is that when the game ends, Team B will have a -1.5 deduction from their total. If they managed to win 2-0, then the adjusted score is 0.5-0, so still a victory. If they won 2-1 though, once the handicap comes into play they actually end up losing 0.5-1 so this bet would be a loser. As we said before, handicaps work both ways and in this example you could also bet on Team A to win with a +1.5 handicap. This reduces the odds of a normal win but can make an underdog much more appealing. Now, they do not necessarily need to win the match, they just have to lose by less than the handicap amount. So a +1.5 map handicap win on Team A would be a winning bet if they won the game normally or lost 2-1.
Alternative Match Handicap
Usually what bookmakers do for a handicap bet is set an amount that most balances out the two teams or players involved. However, it is possible to find what is known as alternative handicaps for some fixtures. The handicap principle is exactly the same, the only difference is that you will have access to different handicap values. In one Call of Duty League game, the main handicap market offered in a clash between Seattle Surge and Florida Mutineers was +1.5 to the former and -1.5 to the latter.
The alternative market however unlocked an additional three options, as this was a best out of five tie. We have included them all, along with the standard odds, you can get an idea of how the odds shift.
|Map/Rounds||Seattle Surge||Florida Mutineers|
As you can see, by handicapping against a particular team the odds become significantly longer and conversely, by giving them an advantage the odds become much skinnier. In most cases, people would consider a handicap bet when they think a team will not only win but will win quite easily. The alternative scenario when handicap bets are often used is when a punter thinks the unfancied side will comfortably avoid a sound beating but may fall a little short of a full upset.
Now, building on what we just said, if you do have a sense that a team may win by a comfortable margin or that they’ll only fall just short, you can bet with even more precision. Many bookies will allow you to bet on the correct final score of a match. It usually provides more of a challenge than handicap betting as there is only ever one particular outcome that will ensure your bet is a winner. Get it right though and you will receive much more money than you would with your basic win/lose wager as the table below shows (sticking with the same example as before).
|Score||Seattle Surge||Florida Mutineers|
We will only briefly touch on what a double chance bet is at is does not apply for most Esports. All it is, as the same suggests, is a bet that cover two outcomes. In a competitive FIFA game for example, the double chance options would be Team A & Draw, Team B & Draw and Team A & Team B. Most people will use one of the first two options as it means they are still covered should their selected team have to settle for a point.
Map/Round Winner Betting
The above covers all the overall ‘win’ markets but what is also very popular in the world of Esports betting is map/round winner betting. With these you are not bothered about who wins the entire match-up, instead you are simply focused on the outcome of one specific map or round.
For this bet you just need to select which team or player will win which a specified map, for example, Map 1. Betting on this can become easier when you know the order of the maps because certain teams tend to favour select maps over others. This is not a big factor in some Esports games but for the likes of Call of Duty it can make a noticeable difference. Using the same match as referenced before, Florida Mutineers were the strong 1/2 favourites on Map 2 but actually the very slight 10/11 underdogs on Map 3.
With total maps/rounds you are looking to bet how many maps/round you think a chosen team or player will win. This works by choosing over or under a set amount. CS:GO is a good example to use because they actually use both rounds and maps so we can cover two birds with one stone. The table below shows real odds taken from a match between FURIA and 777.
|Over 2.5 maps||5/4||–|
|Under 2.5 maps||–||4/7|
|Under 32.5 rounds||8/11||5/6|
|Over 32.5 rounds||1/1||5/6|
The reason you will find that a .5 figure is always selected is both for clarity and so that the bet cannot end as a draw. If the bookies used whole numbers e.g., 33 rounds and there were exactly 33 rounds, it would be neither over nor under 33 rounds and no bets would win (they would probably be classed as a ‘push’ and stakes would be returned in that hypothetical scenario). There would no doubt be some disgruntled punters should this happen plus those arguing under/over should also count ‘and including’, so this way just makes things much simpler.
To Win at Least 1 Map
Obviously in the case of CS:GO there is no realistic proposition that a team would go the whole game without winning a round as there are simply so many up for grabs. Map betting is different though and this is widely the case across different Esports. For most that have maps, you will usually find they operate a best of three, five or seven depending on the competition itself and the stage of the competition.
Lacking a huge number of maps to play for, even managing to win one can be a solid accomplishment against strong opposition. As such, for a lot of games, some bookies will let you back either team to win just one map at any point during the match.
Game Specific Bets
Now the markets we are about to discuss are not some fairly generic markets you might spot across games. Instead, they are more unique to a particular video game. As a result, we have decided to break this section down by individual title. We have selected games that receive plenty of betting coverage and that have markets outside the standard range. This is why there is no mention of the likes of Honor of Kings (KoG) because despite being popular, it does not really have many tailored bets.
This game’s full name is Defence of the Ancients 2 but you’ll hardly ever see anyone call it that. Instead, most of us know it by Dota 2 and it is the game that boasts the most money in Esports, by some margin. At the time of writing all but one of the names in the top 30 for Esports career earnings made their fortune by playing Dota 2. Games are a 5 v 5 team battle in which each player chooses their own Hero (of which there are over 100) and controls them from a third-person view.
- First Team To… – Options for this include first team to draw blood (first kill), destroy a tower, destroy barracks or slay roshan.
- Total Kills – This will be an over/under bet relating to the entire team rather than an individual. Kills in Dota 2 can add up with each team easily able to register over 100 in a full game, or over 50 per map.
- Aegis Steal – As an incredibly high-risk play, this does not happen very often but it is attempted occasionally due to the high rewards available. A typical Dota 2 match might have odds of 15/2 on a successful steal but a mere 1/20 on no steal.
- Tower Handicap – A handicap bet on the number of towers one team will destroy. A -3.5 towers bet means the team must destroy four or more towers than their opponents for it to be a successful wager.
- Either Team To Score… – There are two options for this with your betting options being yes or no. Either you can choose either team to score an ultra kill or either team to score a rampage. Typically, most games go without either occurring but they are hardly incredibly rare sights.
League of Legends
For most people, the word ‘LoL’ is something they would only use when they find something mildly amusing (or let’s be honest, when pretending to be amused). In many parts of the world through people know LoL to be the quick way of saying League of Legends. First released in 2009, it is a game that has survived the test of time with flying colours as in 2020 it still boasted over 110m active players each month.
- First Team To… – You can bet on which team you think will reach important milestones first such as the first kill, the first to destroy a tower, to slay a dragon, slay a baron or destroy an inhibitor.
- Totals – As well as the first time you reach the above milestones, you can also bet on the total number of dragons, barons and inhibitors as well as the total number of kills.
- Both Teams To… – For this option there are three choices: both teams to slay a dragon, slay a baron or destroy an inhibitor. These are in order of unlikeliness with the last of them usually available around 15/2 for yes and just 1/20 for no!
- Race to Kills – With this market you can pick which team you think you will reach a specific number of kills the quickest. The choice is usually in multiples of fives ranging between five and 30. If neither team reaches the total, your bet will be void rather than being a loser.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a first-person shooter that can be quite a test of stamina in a competitive setting. Each map will usually last between 20 and 50 minutes and with the best of three maps being the standard, players can face quite a long stint in front of the monitor. It’s a great attack and defend-based game with a high emphasis on teamwork and tactics.
- Race to Rounds – A standard competitive game of Counter-Strike consists of two halves with 15 rounds per half, for each map. You can back which team you will reach a certain number of rounds first, for example, three, six or nine. This is an ideal bet for teams that are strong from the off.
- Correct Round Score – A team needs 16 rounds to win a map on CS so this means there are a lot of possible round scorelines. Not only do you have everything between 16-0 and 16-14 for both teams but you can also have a 15-15 tie. With 29 different possibilities, you will find a variety of giant odds in this market.
- Winning Margin – If the above sounds a little too ambitious for you, punters can instead back a team to win a map by a set number of rounds. This can be, for instance, 2-5, 6-9, 10-13 or 14+.
- Method of Victory – This applies to an individual round and there are four options: elimination (by far the most likely), bomb defused, bomb detonated and the extremely unlikely time win which you can easily find trading at odds of above 100/1.
- Bomb – For bombs betting you can either bet over/under a certain number of planted bombs or over/under a certain number of defused bombs that there will be. This can either relate to a specific half or to the whole map.
- Most… – With ‘the most…’ markets you have a few options, backing the team with the most first kills, the most clutches won or simply the most kills.
- Win Both Pistol Rounds – As it says on the tin, you can bet on either team’s performance in the pistol rounds either choosing yes or no to win both rounds.
FIFA will be the game some of you reading this are most accustomed to. It does not have quite the competitive following as the games listed above but it is the biggest selling sports video game franchise in history. As of 2021, a whopping 325m copies of FIFA had been sold worldwide! Watching the best players is often a good way of getting better yourself so be sure to make some mental notes when watching the pros.
- Match Goals – For this market, you will be given a number of goals, for instance 4.5, and then you simply need to decide if there will be more or fewer goals scored. This applies to the total goals rather than an individual team’s tally.
- Final Score – A sometimes challenging bet to get right but it pays well. To have a winning bet you need to predict the exact scoreline the match will end and this includes having it the right way round so it’s not enough to say 2-1, you need to say 2-1 to which team.
- Three Way Handicap – This is like the handicaps we have discussed before but instead of +/- a 0.5 total, a round number is added, often 1 or 2. This keeps the possibility of a draw alive hence why it is a three way handicap. Betting on Team A to draw the game with a -2 handicap would be a winning bet if the full-time score is 2-0, 3-1, 4-2, etc.
- Asian Handicap – A slightly trickier handicap one this but one you might well have seen before if you bet on actual football. For an Asian handicap, there are two handicaps included in the bet, say for instance -0.5 and -1. If your selected team wins by one goal, the -0.5 handicap part is a winner but the -1 is not as the match would be a draw. When this happens, you only receive half the potential winnings.
- BTTS – Both teams to score is an absolute classic football bet and one which has you rooting for both teams! (Providing you pick yes rather than no of course). The only requirement is that both teams find the back of the net.
- Match Result & BTTS – A more challenging bet as it requires you to pick the winner of the match in addition to whether or not both teams will score. You must get both aspects correct otherwise your bet will lose.
Outright Esports Betting
Most Esports betting revolves around picking the winner of individual matches, but players do have the option of placing what is known as outright bets too. In the case of Esports, outright bets allow you to pick the winner of a particular tournament or competition. You will usually be given the opportunity to place these bets several days or even a couple of weeks before things get underway. In some cases, the outright market will close as soon as the very first match of the competition begins although it is possible for them to stay open for longer.
Just to go through some outright bets we will take the first example available to us which is the Starcraft 2 – DH Masters. To win outright we have options such as Rogue at 3/1, Maru at 7/2, Trap at 4/1, Clem at 4/1 and Reynor at 5/1. At the other end of the betting, you have incredibly unfancied options, such as Nice at 500/1 and Probe at 1000/1. Usually, with Esports outright betting you only have the option of picking the eventual champion. You may occasionally find a couple of other outright markets though such as ‘to reach the final’ and ‘region of the winner’.
Esports Betting In-Play
There are so many people that tune into professional Esports matches and watch the action live as it happens. Unlike watching other sports, you do not have to worry about expensive monthly packages or extortionate PPV fees. Esports is incredibly accessible and this is what has helped propel its popularity. Given the high number of live viewers, most bookies have ensured they cover all major Esports matches within their live/in-play betting pages.
In today’s market, you will find betting on live Esports is widely available and often comes with a solid array of markets. Now, you might be wondering, what is the benefit of placing an in-play bet compared to one before an event starts? After all, you are often time-limited with in-play bets and the odds available are prone to sudden drops. Well, the main advantage is that by watching you are able to gather an increasingly informed position about what might happen next. Perhaps you have spotted that one team does not have a coherent approach or that one normally reliable shooter is having an off-day. By making these potentially crucial observations, you might find yourself in a position to place better bets.
This can work the opposite way too, of course. Say you are watching a League of Legends match and the pre-game favourites have made a poor start and are looking a little overwhelmed. Their price will begin to increase as they fall behind but you know that there is plenty of time for them to fix their problems. As such, if you time it right, you can place a bet on the favourites at a much better price than was initially available courtesy of their slow start.
Multiple Bets & Accumulators
Often Esports competitions have several matches running near enough back-to-back or even several running at the same time. As there are plenty of matches across the year too, this means there is plenty of scope for punters to place what is known as a multiple bet. Put simply, a multiple bet is a bet where you combine multiple different selections, all from different matches, into one single bet. An accumulator is the name often used for a multiple bet that features four or more selections.
Most people tend to turn towards this type of bet when wishing to back several favourites or low priced options. You could always place singles bets on these options but often the returns are underwhelming and are hardly worth the time to put them on in some cases. To highlight this point, we have taken the odds of four Dota 2 matches and we will place a hypothetical £5 on all of them.
|Selection||Bet Type||Stake||Odds of selection||Potential Returns|
|Simply TOOBASED to beat bumble bEE’s||Single||£5||5/6||£9.17|
|Black N Yellow to beat Arkosh Gaming||Single||£5||4/7||£7.86|
|Undying to beat 4 Zoomers||Single||£5||4/9||£7.22|
|Chicken Fighters to bear No Bounter Hunters||Single||£5||3/10||£6.50|
So, even if we were to get all four matches correct, we would only secure a little over £10 profit from our £20 stake. We are sure you will agree this is rather disappointing but placing a multiple bet on exactly the same outcomes would provide us with much larger returns in the event we get every selection correct. This last part is key as with a series of singles bets, if one lost we would simply win less money. With a standard multiple bet though, it is very much all or nothing as if even just one selection lets you down, you will win nothing. Without further ado, let us see what happens if we place a four-fold bet using all the same selections as before using a £10 stake.
|Selection||Bet Type||Stake||Odds of selection||Potential Returns|
|Simply TOOBASED, Black N Yellow, Undying to win, AND Chicken Fighters to win||Four-Fold (Accumulator)||£10||4.4/1||£54.10|
So, even when wagering half as much overall, the amount of profit up for grabs is over four times what it was with singles betting (£10.75 v £44.10). The more selections you add, the bigger the increase becomes too. If we threw in another two selections at 4/9 and 4/6 we would be looking at a return of a massive £130.23 from a £10 bet. This isn’t any kind of special deal either, it is simply a standard formula that every single bookmaker uses. What happens is that the winnings from one selection are used as the stake for the next and so on. This is why the potential winnings can jump up so much by just adding one more selection.
One final point to make about multiple bets is that you can combine different betting markets in the same bet, providing they are not from the same match. Although we just used ‘to win’ in our example to keep things simple, you could just as easily bet on over 2.5 maps for Black N Yellow’s match and Undying to draw first blood in theirs.
The Best Bookmakers for Esports Betting
By this point, we hope that you fully understand the different Esports betting markets available as well as the difference between singles and multiple bets. Just because different markets exist though does not mean that all bookmakers offer all of them for every kind of Esports game. You will find that there is a great deal of variation across sites when it comes to the range of markets they have available. Many bookmakers take the growing sport very seriously but some stick to the bare minimum, providing little more than a token offering.
It is hard to say there is an outright winner because some provide more markets for particular games but not others. You then have other factors such as the odds on offer and how many Esports fixtures are actually covered (both pre-event and in-play). Ultimately, what is ‘best’ will depend on the individual so we can only advise you to shop around a little. Our only suggestion would be to start with the big names first!
Is Esports the Same as Virtual Sports?
Although both are usually offered by bookmakers, Esports and virtual sports are absolutely not the same. We already know what Esports are but virtual sports are most different as they do not involve actual people dictating the play. Instead, virtual sports are mere game simulations with pre-determined outcomes. Users are able to watch the simulated action and place bets on what they think will happen but this is the only human input virtual sports have.