What is eSports and how to start betting on them?
The eSports world has grown exponentially, especially in the past year. As traditional sports paused for the global COVID-19 situation, casual sports fans and punters migrated to the net.
For that reason, revenue from eSports betting increased several times over during 2020. Even as the virus situation improves, it's a big business, and it's unlikely to go away anytime soon.
In this article, you’ll learn
- What eSports are and how they work
- Different kinds of eSports
- The different kinds of betting available to punters
- The details of “skin gambling”
- Tips and other important things to think about when betting on eSports
What is eSports?
Most video gamers are casual. It’s estimated that over a billion people worldwide have some connection to videogaming. That may be hardcore gaming or once or twice a month with friends.
eSports is video gaming done professionally. In many ways, eSports players aren’t much different from other professional athletes. They play on recognised teams, get sponsored, have fans, and their competitions are broadcast to a broad audience.
Even traditional sports media has gotten into the market of showing eSports. This is especially true over the past year when it has been harder to organise in-person events.
Different kinds of eSports
eSports are video games, and video games have genres. Games are divided into categories like First-person shooter (FPS) or Real-time strategy (RTS).
Some genres are more popular for eSports gaming. These tend to be faster, more intense games.
I'll mention four different genres and give some famous examples. These genres and the games within them account for the lion's share of the viewership and the money.
Multiple Online Battle Area (MOBA)
MOBA games are usually played between teams of multiple players. They're a kind of combination of action and strategy. Each team member controls a single character, and the object is to destroy the other team's base.
These are fast-paced team games, which makes them highly well-suited for entertainment. The most famous examples are Dota 2 and League of Legends. In both of these games, teams of five players try to destroy the opposing team’s base.
Throughout each round, players gain experience and unlock powerups, hoping to do so more quickly than their opponents.
First-Person Shooter (FPS)
FPS games may be the most recognisable to non-gamers. These are games in which the player sees the first-person view of a soldier or fighter and tries to kill other players. These are most often played by teams, but free-for-all modes do exist.
Several ubiquitous FPS franchises: Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike are the big names. The most popular FPS in professional eSports is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, known among gamers simply as CS:GO.
Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
Real-time strategy games are more likely to be 1 vs 1 matchups. Usually, each player controls an army or a base instead of a single character. The players use in-game resources to deploy forces and try to destroy the opponent.
By far the most popular RTS among professional gamers is Starcraft II.
Fighting games are precisely what they sound like. Players control a single character and try to inflict as much damage to other characters as possible.
Recognisable titles include the Tekken series, Mortal Kombat, and Super Smash Bros. Games may be in teams or 1 vs 1.
Betting on eSports: tips and things to consider
How does it work?
Betting on eSports with real money is done in precisely the same way as on a traditional sport. If you would bet on football, you can be on a FIFA match precisely the same way.
Matches between FIFA players take place all the time and are listed on many bookmakers’ websites. You can make bets on the winner, goals scored, and everything in between.
If you’re a traditional punter and you’re looking to expand your repertoire, this is probably your best bet. It’ll seem the most intuitive.
Is it legal?
Betting on eSports is legal in most places where betting on other sports is legal. Still, it’s very new. There aren’t many places with specific laws that deal with it.
In most cases, the laws that cover traditional sports betting apply to eSports betting.
Know the risk
This is a basic betting tip, but it's worth repeating. In the beginning, you’re much more likely to lose than win. It takes time to improve your understanding of the game and learn to make good picks.
Don’t be surprised if you start out at a loss. Set yourself a budget, keep your bets small to start, and focus on learning the game.
Should you specialise?
This depends on what you’re looking for. Are you looking for a fun way to bet on a new sport? If so, feel free to shop around and bet on anything. Treat a new eSport like you would treat any other sport.
If you’re hoping to make consistent money with betting, it helps to specialise. This is as true of eSports as traditional sports.
If you know a lot about a sport, you’ll be able to spot value where bookmakers and other punters can’t.
You need to understand the game you're betting on to make decent bets in it. One of the nice things about eSports is that they're easy to play yourself.
Games like Dota 2 and League of Legends are both free to play online. Playing a couple rounds yourself will give you a sense of what gamers are thinking about and help you make better bets.
This is especially true if you decide to specialise. You don’t have to become a pro, but a solid understanding of the game might well make you more knowledgeable than the bookmaker. That will help you find value.
The gaming community
This goes in line with my tip to play some yourself. The gaming community is all online and extraordinarily active. Gamers stream on Twitch, share tips and make friends and connections via Discord, and discuss current events on Reddit. This is only to name a few.
Again, it’s especially true if you’re going to specialise. Get involved in the community of gamers as well as the community of punters. You can learn a lot about how the game is played and the strategies in or out of favour at any time.
Focus on the players
This might seem obvious, but when you’re used to real sports, it’s worth keeping in mind.
When you watch a real football match, the players you’re betting on are the same ones kicking the ball around.
When you watch an eSport, the figure on the pitch is virtual. You’re not betting on the animated figure of Messi onscreen. You’re betting on the person behind the controller.
That means that analysing player statistics might feel a little different at first. You’ll need to pay more attention to things like matchups, historical head-to-head, and gamer playstyles than on the characters those players are using.
Don’t be fooled by the quality of the “team” that the player is playing with. It’s much more important to consider how that player has historically matched up against the opponent they’re playing today.
Keep track of game changes
Video games change frequently. If you’re not a gamer yourself, popular game developers continue working on games as people play them, fixing bugs and making improvements. They call these changes “patches.”
A patch might change something very minor, or it could significantly change the gameplay.
An effective strategy in one patch might not be as effective in the next, so it’s important to keep track of what’s changed and which players are the best suited to adapt.
What is skin gambling? Is there money in it?
I include a final section on this because it exists as a major market. Still, it's probably not a good choice for the typical punter.
Skin gambling is eSports betting where the currency is a “skin.” A “skin” is a cosmetic item in a video game that players can use to customise their characters.
You can have a rifle with rainbows and unicorns on it if you want. Skins are only cosmetic. They don’t provide any kind of powerup.
Skin gambling is most commonly associated with CS:GO. The developer of CS:GO, Valve, started issuing tradable skins as random rewards in 2013.
Over time, players started using skins to place bets, and specific skins started to take on more and more value. So, there is money in it—a lot of money, actually.
But by 2016, the market had gotten out of hand. Lawsuits ensued, and Valve has since tried to clamp down.
This means that a lot of skin gambling is done underground. Scandals involving match-fixing, malware, skin theft, and underage gambling are common.
I'm not going to tell you to definitely avoid it. Still, with so much opportunity in regulated eSports, skin gambling probably isn't worth the risk.
Getting started with eSports
In conclusion, betting on eSports really isn't that different from betting on regular sports. If you bet on football, you'll probably find that the interface for betting on esoccer doesn't look very new.
Still, there are new things to think about. It's worth thinking about it as a completely new sport. Suppose you decided you wanted to start betting on Formula 1. In that case, you'd research the ins and outs of Formula 1 to make good decisions.
Switching from football to esoccer is exactly the same. These are different sports with different strategies, so take your time, set goals, and enjoy yourself!
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