My previous article dealing with the favourite-longshot bias got a very interesting comment from a reader, who shared some alternative rules to quantify the bias. I recommend everyone interested in the topic to give them a look. They are certainly worth a further analysis and a comprehensive comparison with the rule explained in the article, however I could hardly fit all that in a comment so probably I will write another article about that at a later point.
And today I want to dive into one of the hottest topics in the betting world at the moment: e-Sports betting. More specifically, I will look into the most popular e-Sport nowadays, the League of Legends (LoL). Every month more and more bookmakers are offering new League of Legends betting markets and if until today you were scrolling past those weird sections with a raised eyebrow it is perhaps time to pay them the attention they deserve, since there might be some money to be made.
What’s in there for you
Of all the exotic betting markets, why did I pick exactly this one, you might ask. I might as well have written an article about darts, chess, the Eurovision song contest or the latest UK election. While these are all interesting topics in themselves, what caught my eye about e-Sports and LoL in particular was the recent availability of great arbing opportunities on those markets. I have had more than one case where I was able to place an arb between two sharp books on an e-Sports event. Those of you with some arbing experience would know how rarely an arb involving only sharp books comes along. This got me thinking: if even the sharp books cannot adjust their markets in a timely manner, it is possible that the traders are not that far ahead from the rest of us in this new market.
What’s more, it seems that the market is here to stay. The LoL story can by no means be compared to the short-lived Pokemon Go craze from a few months ago. LoL is on the market since a few years already and has been on a growing path ever since. As of September 2016 the game had reached a milestone of 100 million monthly players. There are numerous international tournaments being hosted with players from all over the world flying in to play in front of huge crowds in packed sports stadiums. The events are also broadcasted online where the bigger games attract hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of viewers. Some of the teams are being owned and funded by notable sports investors who don’t like to waste their time with short-lived spells. Many of the tournaments and players have secured contracts with large corporate sponsors.
Soda drinks and Doritos included
In brief, we have a young market where a lot of books are still testing the ground as it comes to setting the right odds, but also want a piece of the action as the market is expected to grow further in the future. So I think that is a pretty good place to be at as a punter. What is left for us is to take the challenge and start building our LoL betting skills. What you should know about the sport, where to place your bets and some betting strategies, I will cover it all here.
LoL is a tactical team-game played by two rival teams of 5 players each. Teams start from two opposing corners of the map, each player picks a champion and the champions fight each other with the ultimate goal of reaching and destroying the other team’s base. In the process of doing so the two teams are destroying vital buildings but also killing each other’s champions. A killed champion is placed off the map for a certain time before reappearing in his team’s base.
The most basic LoL betting market is the win outright market. In the common 2 out of 3 games format the game also does not have the option for a draw, so it is a two-way market. However there are a few more markets on offer such as a total number of kills, a kill handicap (notice that you don’t necessarily require more kills to win, so this market is more similar to a game handicap in tennis than a point handicap in basketball), which team will make the first kill (aka “First blood”) and a few more.
Whether you’d go for the more established markets or the more exotic ones is a matter of taste, however I do think you have to pick your niche and stick to it, since those markets are driven by very different factors. I will just share a few thoughts on the main ones.
The win-outright market
This is the most usual LoL market and therefore it could be said it is the most efficient one. However, I still think it is one of the best ones to get into. Being the most basic market, you will find selections for every featured event, even the most obscure ones. And arguably the smaller leagues are where you could find the most opportunities. This is also the market where I have landed all my arbitrages so far.
Total number of kills
It is a difficult and extremely unpredictable market. Depending on how the game goes or what strategy a team has chosen you could be surprised by the end result and trends are difficult to spot. However, if you get a solid knowledge about the teams and their preferred tactics against certain opponents you might get an edge here.
This is actually an interesting market with a great potential. The reason for this is that by design, during the game the winning team accumulates an advantage against the losing one, resulting in the greatest gap between the two right at the end of the game. So, except for games that are really close ties, you could expect that at the end of the game the winning team will lead with a handful of kills. Therefore, if you want to back the favourite, but are not happy with the odds, you might go with the handicap instead. By the same logic, a handicap bet on the outsider would of course be a poor bet.
This one is a very unpredictable market (think “who will have the first corner”), but is still far from a coin toss. Teams’ odds are usually closely matched in this market even when there is a clear favourite for winning the game. However, there is some rationale behind picking the winner that can give you the edge. I will talk about that in more detail in the betting strategies part
And All the Others
For big games you sometimes get an even more obscure markets such as “Which team will kill the Baron Nashor” (Baron Noshar is a strong neutral beast at the center of the map) and the like. In my opinion those markets are incredibly unpredictable and so far I could not identify the factors that can help you make an accurate prediction there. Still, you might look into those once you get deeper into the sport
Fundamental team analysis
As in every sport, knowing the game, the teams and the players pays off. Look for stats of the teams and players (1, 2, 3) and try to evaluate the relative player’s strength. Rosters (the LoL transfers) are a common occurrence and can influence the team’s performance significantly, so be up-to-date. To learn more about the players or just get a feeling of the whole thing, watch a few games on Twitch, live or recorded VOD (videos-on-demand). The games are broadcasted free of charge with a very professional commentary, often from other experienced players, so they could be a great source of knowledge.
How about Rating systems? There is plenty of data on LoL around there, so you could surely prepare some cool model. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind. For one, team performance is volatile and heavily influenced by, among all, the participating players who are switching teams constantly. So it makes much more sense to rank players as opposed to teams. Team chemistry is also a factor, but team performance from year to year or even from tournament to tournament can change dramatically. League compositions are also very dynamic so teams will often come and go from one season to the next.
Actually, player ratings have been around since the beginning. LoL was using Elo-ratings to rank players for some time before switching to a proprietary rating system (LP), which should act similarly, but some details are kept secret. You could use the LP or develop your own ratings.
Acting on new information
A trader-like approach, you can aim at reacting to price-relevant information before everyone else does. As it is with other sports, social media is your friend. You can also join the big LoL communities such as the Reddit boards dedicated to LoL. A great tool for you for this strategy (and LoL betting in general, actually) are the Discord chats where the LoL community is discussing the games, teams and what’s new.
What sort of information you are looking for? There are quite a few surprises as it comes to the starting players for a team. For international contests Visa issues often pop up. Players are being substituted for this and other reasons, which would sometimes damage the winning chances of a team, so it might be a good idea to place a quick bet on the opponent.
Look for trends
You could develop your own thesis on certain trends for certain leagues, backtest them and then try them live. For example, Jordan Mackenzie, who is sharing his LoL betting experience in one of the websites dedicated to LoL, has observed that bookmakers offer too generous odds on the favourite for a few leagues. I recommend following his blog, I find it an interesting read.
Bet on Patches
Being based on a computer game, the rules of LoL as a sport tend to change quite frequently, especially compared to a traditional sport. Every new version (aka Patch) of the game brings something new to the gameplay and these come at least a couple of times a year. These are no fundamental changes to the rules, but they can give an advantage to certain champions, or roles, on the board.
Roles is a huge topic in itself so I would not get too deep into it, but in short, different champions play different roles on the field, just like in every other sport. You have a Jungler, who is for the most part hiding from the opponent players, trying to surprise them for a quick kill, and plays in a very mobile fashion in general. There is the Support who tries to improve the capabilities or save the lives of the other team players. Then you have the Tank, whose main goal is to attract the attention of the enemy players to himself due to his durability, while the rest of the team members use the time to destroy their opponents. And then there are many other roles and subroles, which are detrimental for the tactics of the game.
Why do you need to know that? Players usually specialize in a certain role. So a team might have a great Support player, but their Jungler might be less than impressive. If a patch that benefits the Support champions and reduces the role of the Junglers gets introduced, that might be a great boost for such a team and might influence their short term winning rates substantially.
Being aware of the new patches and their effect is another way to gain an edge in front of the bookie
And finally, an interesting and really fun approach is to try to guess which team will get the first blood. I have mentioned some of the roles above, and the one role that plays the most here is the Jungler. Again, that is the guy who is moving around the map and is waiting for an opportunity to surprise an opponent and make a killing. Often times the Jungler will be the one to take the first blood or at the very least he will be involved in it. The best strategy here is to wait for the players to pick their champions and immediately after that place your bet. You should not waste any time as the market closes shortly after the last pick is made.
At this point you should know which of the two Junglers is the better one, the more aggressive one, has the better champion and in general is more likely to go for the first kill and make it. Factors like how fragile are the other team’s champions in the early game can also influence your pick. Once you have taken all those factors into account, if the odds are right, you could try your luck. The bet will be settled relatively quickly as the first blood normally takes place during the first few minutes of the game. You could also analyse past games and the short time window for analysis allows taking a look at a larger number of games. In general I believe that is an interesting market and mastering it could ultimately bring you some nice profits.
Kind of like those gamer guys who just won 2 million dollars from a LoL tournament
League of Legends is a young and growing market where most bookmakers are still testing the ground, but there are already a lot of betting opportunities available. There are quite a few betting strategies you could practice and master, which can give you the edge over the rest of the market participants. But most importantly, LoL is a cool new sport which you can have a lot of fun betting on. And it is also available in the summer! So there is a great way to fill in the summer days when the big sports and leagues are taking a break.
If you have any experience to share from the e-sports markets I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments feel free to post below or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I hope the arbers among you had a great season so far and will enter the summer months in a happy mood! Thanks for reading and see you around!