A Guide to eSports

For millions of people around the world, video games are a hobby. You can easily lose hours playing your favourite games day in, day out, whether you’re into first-person shooters, fighters, or real-time strategy. Gaming might have been something of a cult movement in its early days, but over the past 15 years or so, the industry has exploded, and is now Hollywood’s equal in the entertainment world. Still, as much as you might love to play games for fun, there are numerous ways to earn money from it today too. Platforms like YouTube and Twitch have huge communities dedicated to watching each other play, sharing tips and trying to outdo each other. However, there’s another, more competitive option available – with potential for massive earnings for the persons involved.

Welcome to eSports. This is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the online betting world, and appears at a growing number of online casinos. eSports teams take part in huge competitions across the globe, drawing large audiences. Betting on eSports works in much the same way as wagering on any other sporting event, and we’ll get back to this later. In our guide to eSports, we’ll look at the origins of eSports, the various competitions that make up the scene, and the most successful teams. Whether you’re a fan of video games, betting, or simply want to try a new form of wagering, eSports offers plenty to get excited about.

The Beginnings of eSports

The deepest roots of eSports extend back to 1972. At California’s Stanford University, on the 19th of October, students of the university were invited to take part in an open competition based around Spacewar. Anyone lucky enough to walk away with the best score would receive a twelve-month subscription to Rolling Stone (still a major magazine today, but far bigger back then). Some years later, gaming giant Atari launched the Space Invaders Championship – this was the biggest contest of its kind, with over 10000 people taking part across the USA. The competitive side of gaming was given more attention thanks to the establishment of Twin Galaxies – a group dedicated to recording the various high scores from across the gaming community. They helped to run such contests as the Guinness World Records Video Game Masters Tournament, as well as the North American Video Game Challenge Tournament.

Winners of these and other contests would be featured in mass-market magazines, but it wasn’t until the internet started to become more recognised that eSports started to take shape. Netrek – an internet game designed for as many as 16 players – was hailed as ‘the first online sports game’ in the early 90s, though tournaments were helping to raise the eSports profile. The Nintendo World Championships, Nintendo PowerFest, Blockbuster Video’s World Game Championships, and others all continued to make competitive gaming part of the mainstream.

As the 90s began to reach their end, other tournaments began to appear as online gaming advanced. QuakeCon, Cyberathlete Professional League, and the Professional Gamers League all formed, with the likes of Counter-Strike and Quake popular games. This coincided with the rise of online casinos and virtual betting, so perhaps it was only natural that the two interests would combine to form a massive new field.

eSports Today

Today, there are dozens of tournaments taking place across the globe. Since the early 2000s, such major tournaments as World Cyber Games and the Intel Extreme Masters were formed, and the eSports market continued to flourish in Asia, particularly South Korea. Televised eSports also took off there too. Competitions based around Warcraft III and StarCraft – two of the biggest competitive games ever – were screened on cable channels, such as MBCGame. Germany, the UK, and other countries had their own gaming channels too, though these were short-lived. Most eSports competitions are streamed online now, with Twitch showing them regularly, racking up millions of views during the biggest.

The International is perhaps the most well-known eSports tournament. This is based around Dota 2, and has been held each year since 2011, hosted by its developers, Valve Corporation. The amount of money available to the winners has grown year on year, with the first offering 16 teams the chance to play for a $1.6m prize pool. While this was the most generous reward ever in the eSports field back then, it appears minior now. By 2013’s International, Valve’s prize pool had grown to almost $3m, and in 2014, it became $10m. Every one of the 16 teams taking part were given a share of the money, whereas it had previously been spread amongst the highest-performing eight teams alone. In 2016, the International’s prize pool stood at a staggering $20,770,640. The top prize for the best prize was $9,139,002.

Another major eSports event is the League of Legends World Championship, first launched in 2011. Qualifying events take place around the world, with 16 teams picked for the tournament based on their performance (players come from Europe, North America, Korea, and elsewhere). Prize money reached beyond $2.6m in 2016’s event. For players with the skill and commitment, playing eSports at a professional level can be incredibly lucrative.

Betting on eSports

Intrigued by eSports? Big fan of games and want to try your luck with a wager or two? You’ve picked a good time – many online bookmakers and online casinos offer eSports betting as part of their services. Some even have ‘hubs’ dedicated to the field, with articles and guidance on betting on competitive gaming for total newcomers. The first thing to do is check the schedules of upcoming tournaments. Online bookmakers and casinos will list the upcoming events, which may include tournaments based around Call of Duty, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Heathstone, League of Legends, Magic the Gathering, Overwatch, Quake Champions, Rocket League, StarCraft II, Warfract III, and others. If you’re a fan of a particular game, you may find that you want to follow the best players and wager on their chances of success. Alternatively, if you’re entirely new to video games as well as eSports, you’ll likely go for those with the most appealing odds.

Placing bets works in much the same way. You simply browse the fixtures, find the most competitive odds, and process the bet as per the website’s guidelines. The actual events themselves may not be dependent upon the physical skills of those competing (as with, say, football or basketball) but on their reflexes, their experience, and their knowledge of the characters / maps they’re playing with. You can place bets on eSports through your desktop computer or your mobile device.

Which Teams to Bet On?

There are hundreds of eSports teams competing today, each with their own specific expertise in a variety of games.
The top-performing teams include, Team Liquid: this gaming team has won significant amounts of money across games like Call of Duty, Dota 2, Fifa, Heroes of the Storm, and Super Smash Bros. Their total winnings so far, across more than 1000 tournaments, amount to almost $17m. Evil Geniuses: first launched as a Counter-Strike team back in 1999, Evil Geniuses have gone on to make a name for themselves playing Halo, Quake, Dota 2, StarCraft II, and more. They’re actually a subsidiary of GoodGame Agency (owned by none other than Amazon, as part of the company’s Twitch group). Their overall earnings to date, in more than 660 tournaments, is more than $16m. Newbee: this team specialises in Dota 2, League of Legends, and Overwatch. They have achieved winnings of more than $11.5m throughout just 96 tournaments.

LGD Gaming: this group are known for their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Dota 2, and League of Legends, with total winnings of close to $10m across 103 tournaments. Wings Gaming: this Chinese team has performed incredibly well in Dota 2 tournaments, and made a name for itself in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Their overall prize money across 22 tournaments amounts to almost $10m. Fnatic: these are London-based gamers with experience of Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, Counter-Strike, Dota 2, StarCraft II, and others. Their prize winnings stand at more than $7.8m over 658 tournaments. SK Telecom T1: this team has competed in League of Legends, Special Force, StarCraft II, StarCraft: Brood War, and more. Their winnings amount to more than $7.8m across 209 tournaments.

Keep an eye out for these and other high-performing teams when looking to place bets on eSports. Each of these has performed extremely well in the past, and may well have high odds. The more experience you gain betting on eSports, the more you’ll become familiar with the different teams and their abilities. You may also want to get involved in the eSports community, and scan forums for tips on which teams have the strongest rosters or are expected to perform best at specific upcoming tournaments. As with any sport with a large betting scene, eSports has a thriving community of followers, some of whom might be happy to help you get started.

eSports Betting Strategies

As with any sports betting, there are certain strategies to consider with eSports. As you start experimenting with different teams and games for the first time, trying certain techniques and strategies can help you improve your odds of winning.

Keep track of your bankroll: this is as crucial here as it is with any sports betting. Don’t let yourself get carried away with wagering more money than you know you should on a particular game. If you find yourself heading for a losing bet, but haven’t set any more aside for further wagers, you should simply accept this and perhaps make a different choice next time. Set yourself a limit ahead of a tournament, and bet carefully.

Start small: on a similar note to the point above, starting small can help prevent you spending more money than you should. If you place, say, £50 on your first eSport bet, only to find you’ve backed a team which has never competed in a specific game before, you’ll likely feel frustrated that you have nothing left to play with. Increase your bets as you get more confident and experienced.

Watch videos of previous tournaments: just as watching horse racing, football, or tennis can help you gain a deeper understanding of the sport itself, and enrich your betting experience, so too can actually watching videos of previous tournaments. Try to get a feel for how certain games are played, how teams work with each other, and how quickly their fortunes can change from one wrong move or oversight.

Don’t spread yourself too thin: if you’re a fan of gaming, it can be tempting to place bets across a number of different tournaments, especially if they’re based around games you enjoy. Let’s say, for instance, you’re a major fan of StarCraft II, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Naturally, you’ll take an interest in tournaments featuring those games, and likely want to support your favourite teams (or just win a little bit of cash).

However, if you wager on all of them, you could either end up spending too much, or have to thin your bets out so much any wins could be greatly reduced. Focus on just one or two tournaments, and bet responsibly. There’s no reason you can’t still live-stream the gameplay from contests you’re unable to bet upon.

eSports have come a long, long way in the past 20 years, and as technology continues to evolve, they’ll only get to be even more exciting. VR, for example, is transforming the gaming industry slowly, and it’s only a matter of time before teams compete side by side in more immersive games. This will lead to an entirely new form of eSports, but would require competitors to develop new skills in virtual-reality technology. If you’re interested in betting on eSports, take a look around at the best online bookmakers and online casinos. Not every single one provides an eSports betting feature, but those that do make it easy to follow. Check the odds, study the events schedules, and start slowly.