Betting on eSports
What is an esport?
The term esport is used to describe sports competitions played using video games. There are several different genres of games which are commonly played as eSports; each genre tends to have two or more popular games associated with it.
The competitions usually pit individuals or teams against each other in head-to-head online multiplayer matches, or in some cases live LAN (Local Area Network) matches which are hosted in a stadium/arena much like traditional sports are.
The rise in popularity of eSports has been explosive over the past decade, the advent of high-speed fibre broadband meaning more people can play and stream HD content directly from home – usually for free on Streaming platforms. Some ‘traditional’ sports TV channels such as ESPN now have dedicated esports programmes.
People get paid to play video games?
Yes, in fact there are several different ways to earn income from playing video games. Pro gamers winning prizes in esport leagues and tournaments is just one of these ways; other methods include live streaming and ‘let’s play’ style video content which can then be monetised on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. And seeing as the games are being played at a professional level, many bookmakers have also started to offer betting markets on these competitions as well.
- Cash Prizes – These can be won for teams and individuals who win games and tournaments. Often there are also prizes for ‘runner-up’ positions.
- Salaries – Professional esports players are usually salaried and can often gain additional bonuses from good performances; similar to goal bonuses in football.
- Sponsorship – Lots of businesses are investing sponsorship into the events and top teams for any given esport. For Example, BMW have sponsored several esports teams under their ‘United in Rivalry’ campaign: https://twitter.com/hashtag/UnitedInRivalry?src=hashtag_click
- Developers – Games studios and publishers will often offer cash prizes, host tournaments and otherwise incentivise their professional esport presence to increase the popularity and sales of their products.
- Merch/Tickets – Fans will often want to represent their favourite teams much like in traditional sports. Teams will offer merchandise such as clothing, computer peripherals, gaming accessories and more. Examples of esport merchandise can be found on the ESL store: https://shop.eslgaming.com/collections/all
- Digital Merch – In addition to physical merchandise, big esport teams usually have unique in-game ‘skins’ or items which players can purchase and use.
- Media Rights – Platforms will pay esport organizers for exclusive/priority streaming rights of their events.
Teams usually field a ‘squad’ for several esports and as such you will often notice familiar names fielding teams for different games. Here’s a small selection of some of the more popular esport teams:
Founded in 2000 initially as a Battle.net ‘clan’ for the game Starcraft they now have 60 pro players across 14 of the top esport games played today. Not only do they operate as a pro esport organisation, they operate several media enterprises like video content creation, wiki content and an influencer management agency.
For more info on Team Liquid:
Redbull’s team OG are something of a powerhouse in DOTA2 Circles having claimed four separate victories in the DOTA2 Valve Majors and being crowned world champions twice. OG have also been making waves on the CS:GO scene.
For more info on OG:
Founded in 1997 as ‘Schroet Kommando’ by a group of friends SK Gaming has won over 60 major championship titles across various esports since its inception. They are familiar competitors when watching esports and often find themselves at/near the top of the leaderboards.
For more info on SK Gaming:
Cloud9 is one of the newer kids on the esports block, founded in 2013. They field teams across 12 of the top games today, placing 1st in 12 of their 64 tournament appearances in 2019 and placing in the top four in 24 others.
For more info on Cloud9:
Team Fnatic is a London-based esport organisation founded in 2004. They have competed in 30 different esport games since then and are often found at the top of rankings. They have won over $15m in prize money.
For more info on Fnatic:
What are the most popular esports?
The popularity of a given eSport is usually correlated to the overall popularity of the game which is played. Split up by genre, here are some of the most popular:
MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
A MOBA style game pits two teams head-to-head in a battle to destroy the opponent’s base. Each team member controls a ‘hero’ or ‘champion’ with a unique set of stats and abilities which they independently control within the virtual arena. Each player’s character has a different team role to play. For example, in popular MOBA, League of Legends, there are the following team roles: Mid, Top, ADC (Attack Damage Carry), Support and Jungle.
Notable MOBA Games
- DotA2 (Defence of the Ancients 2, Valve Corporation)
- LoL (League of Legends, Riot Games)
- HotS (Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Entertainment)
- SMITE (Hi-Rez Studios)
Notable MOBA Tournaments
- The International 2019 (DotA2, Prize Pool of $34.3M USD)
- LoL World Championship 2018 (LoL, Prize Pool of $6.45M USD)
For further tournament and prize pool info
FPS (First-Person Shooter)
An FPS-style game sees the players controlling an avatar in the first person and shooting the opposing side’s avatars and/or carrying out some form of game objective/s. These types of games are usually played between two teams. In some FPS games, the players avatars have abilities much like you find in MOBA style games (see Overwatch), whilst others adopt more ‘realistic’ gameplay such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where weapon and item load-outs play a significant role.
Some FPS games have faced criticism in the past for being too violent, and whilst there are still some critics, the popularity of these types of games cannot be disputed.
Notable FPS games
- CS: GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valve Corporation)
- Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment)
- RB6: Siege (Rainbow Six: Siege, Ubisoft)
- CoD: MW (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Activision)
Notable FPS Tournaments
- World Electronic Sports Games 2016 (CS:GO, Prize Pool 1.5M USD$)
- Overwatch League – Season 2 Playoffs (Overwatch, Prize Pool 3.5M USD$)
- Six Invitational 2020 (RB6: Siege, Prize Pool 3M USD$)
- CWL Pro League Finals 2019 (Various Call of Duty titles, 1.25M USD$ )
For further tournament and prize pool info
You may be aware of the latest videogame crazes to sweep the globe: Battle Royales. A Battle Royale game pits player against one another as individuals or small teams (typically one to three players) by dropping them into a ‘map’ where they must scavenge weapons and items from their surroundings to aid their survival. The aim is to be the last man/team standing; there is usually some form of ‘zone’ which confines the area of play and gets progressively smaller as the match progresses, forcing players towards one another.
Notable BR games
- Fortnite Battle Royale (Epic Games)
- PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, PUBG Corporation)
- CoD: Warzone (Call of Duty: Warzone, Activision)
- Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment)
Notable BR Tournaments
- Fortnite World Cup Finals – Solo (Fortnite Battle Royale, Prize Pool 15.287M USD$ )
- Fortnite World Cup Finals – Duo (Fortnite Battle Royale, Prize Pool 15.1M USD$)
- PUBG Global Championship 2019 (Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Prize Pool 5.99M USD$)
- TwitchCon 2019 – Apex Legends (Apex Legends, Prize Pool 0.5M USD$)
For further tournament and prize pool info
Many traditional sports have videogame counterparts, the rules mirroring the real sports with the developers’ goal to simulate the real sport as accurately as possible. Each new instalment of a given franchise adds new content, updated physics/graphics and any annual changes to the team rosters/fixtures. The appeal of traditional sport videogames is a familiarity from gamers and non-gamers alike; it’s much easier for an outsider of the eSports community to get up-to-speed, for example, with a FIFA game vs a League of Legends match.
Notable Traditional Sport Games
- FIFA (FIFA Football, EA Sports)
- NBA 2K (NBA Basketball, 2K Games)
- Madden NFL (NFL American Football, EA Sports)
- NHL (NHL Ice Hockey, EA Sports)
esports and Gambling
Can you bet on esports?
Yes. Although gamers often bet against each other or on esports markets using in-game currencies, usually known as ‘skins’, you can also bet real money on esports.
Where can you find odds/place bets?
Most major bookmakers offer odds on most popular esport titles. There are also several online bookmakers which cater specifically to eSports, often incorporating their own livestreams to watch matches.
Who to bet on
Just like with traditional sports betting, there is no substitute for knowledge when it comes to betting on esports. Don’t be tempted to wade in just because a team has short odds – most games allow for a huge number of different scenarios and a mistake by one player can make all the difference, even in team events. Instead, get to know the games, the teams and their relative strengths. Watching live streams and staying up-to-date with tournaments and real-world team changes are key.
Whilst it can be fun to have a bet and become more invested in an event you enjoy for its own sake, successful gambling is partly about being patient, and waiting for an opportunity where you can be confident of value. ‘Value’ betting describes when the odds given by a bookmaker are favourable to the punter, when compared to the true chance of that outcome happening. Again though, it takes a wealth of understanding and experience to get to this point.
What to look for
Whilst only a few bookmakers have esports-specific sign-up offers, most can be used on esports markets. You can find a wide range of them on our Free Bets Page.