The former Counter-Strike professional runs through the key points to look out for when picking an eSports winner
Betting has become incredibly popular and, some even say, a cornerstone to the success of Counter-Strike in 2015.
While it all started with websites that allowed users to bet in-game skins on results, we have increasingly begun moving towards a time where, at least the grown-ups, are also betting real money – exactly like in traditional sports.
And while it may feel like gambling on skins is fun – which most find it to be – especially with real money in play, it does make sense to do some research before pushing your chips towards the middle of the table.
So here’s a few basic thoughts on betting in CS:GO.
‘Past performance is not an indicator of the future’
This adage is so overused in investing that it is painful to read. But it is true – you cannot draw direct conclusions from past performance.
Yet at the same time, short of you being privileged to insider information – knowing how a team has been playing in practice recently, for example, or which players have struggled with motivation – the only real data you can base any future bets on is from the past.
It is not a guarantee by any means, but it is the best you can do.
Most users will place their bets based on their gut feeling and a majority of the ones that do not will still not consider the context of past results correctly.
Common mistakes include comparing online results with offline results, mistaking group stage results to be equally important to playoff matches or even missing the fact a player might not have played in one of the recent matches between the two teams a user is placing a bet on.
All of this takes little time to figure out, yet most users will not go through the trouble. And that is why you can get an edge on your competition if you do put in some very basic research.
What to look for in research and what to watch out for
Let’s say you are considering placing a bet on the next match between EnVyUs and ex-TSM.
The most obvious thing to look at would be their most recent head-to-head results, their most recent results against other comparable teams and their key players’ form in recent matches.
When comparing matches, the first thing you should do is make sure each team fielded its full roster in each.
In addition, you should keep the importance of the matches in mind.
For example, you should not compare a last-round ESL ESEA match where both teams already qualified for Finals – meaning there is nothing at stake but minor bragging rights – to a semi-final at a major event.
Incentives simply do not match.
Finally, in terms of match-ups, always consider maps, and in best-of-three/five series, the veto system, and possible advantages in the veto phase, which often exist in grand finals now.
Form of key players can also matter.
For top heavy teams such as Na`Vi, who rely quite a lot on their star player GuardiaN’s play, the recent play of the Slovak may also be an indication of how the team will fare.
In this scenario, even watching players’ streams could prove valuable, as you would gain knowledge others would not have, even if in most cases it should not be enough to base your decision on.
If you want to get technical, you could compare the cumulative form of each team, whether measured through stats or your qualitative system, and see if either should get a notch up in the category.
Either way, individual play matters – and is quantifiable.
Areas to look for value
From my experience, possibly the best way to find value involves catching new trends early on.
For example, Cloud9’s odds for winning first remained too high for a while as their level of play increased dramatically in the summer, but equally they took far too long to increase once they stopped being a near-contender.
You can also bet against similar changes, if you think they are not for real.
For example, an unlikely group stage result will often skew upcoming matches’ odds far too much, giving you a chance to correctly bet on the favourite, whose odds may have not have shortened, sometimes even in a best-of-one match, compared to a best-of-three decider.
Another example of a similar situation includes teams directly after roster changes, if they led to drastic changes in said team’s level of play.
Especially in situations where the team got worse, fans can often take a while to recognise the fact they are no longer as good.
Whether we like it or not, team names play a huge part in decision making when it comes to betting and sometimes changing one player can seemingly change everything.
A rarer version of this involves betting against a team without one of its starters – a fact some less-active fans may miss, especially in online matches (Virtus.pro at IEM San Jose, for example).
Further ideas for betting and a way to bolster your winnings
I will be tweeting my own bets every now and then, so if you would like to play off of me, make sure to check out my Twitter for further betting ideas.
In addition, I will naturally do my best to answer any questions you may have over there.
In the future I am going to be writing a weekly column here about Counter-Strike, with a little more emphasis on betting.
Finally, the obvious way to improve one’s odds – which is the goal you should strive for when betting – is using handicaps to your advantage.
For example, in seemingly one-sided series it often makes sense to take on a little more risk by betting on 2-0 scorelines, or by combining two bets into one (fnatic will beat NiP, while EnVyUs will also take down TSM, say).