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Legal Esports Betting Guide

esport-logoEsports betting is more prevalent in 2019 than ever before thanks to thanks to massive player bases in top competitive multiplayer games like CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch and several other hit video game titles.

The esports betting industry is projected to see nearly $13 billion wagered on leagues, events, and tournaments hosted from the top esports by 2020. So if you’re looking to get in on the action, we want to provide you with reviews for the best legal esports betting sites for the US as well as the latest news, guides, and strategies on how to win money when betting on your favorite esports.

Is it legal to bet on esports?


Following the repeal of PASPA in May 2018, a handful of states have chosen to enact legal sports betting legislation as part of their regulations for state-licensed sportsbooks. Other states have adopted legislation to prevent operators from accepting wagers on professional gaming.
However, one thing is clear: The path of least resistance, which also happens to be the one with the most betting freedom, is to use betting sites located outside the United States and are located offshore. Below you’ll find the most popular and trusted esports betting sites in the world.

Best esports betting sites 2019

 Site NameCurrent BonusU.S.Visit Site
1Bovada Sportsbook50% Max $250USA Players Legally AcceptedVisit Site
Review
2MyBookie Sportsbook100% Max $1,000USA Players Legally AcceptedVisit Site
Review
3Betonline Sportsbook50% Max $1,000USA Players Legally AcceptedVisit Site
Review
4xbet logo100% Max $300USA Players Legally AcceptedVisit Site
Review

Differences among most popular esports

The term “esports” encompasses several different video game titles and genres. These games are all played, watched, and bet on in very different manners. Before diving into the betting starts, here’s a brief overview of how each game is played.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

gameplay

CS:GO is an online multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) created by Valve. The competitive esports scene plays the “Bomb Defusal” mode a.k.a. “Bomb Scenario,” which pits two teams (Terrorists, Counter-Terrorists) of five play against each other on various maps. Players earn money for beneficial action, and they can purchase more powerful weapons and gear before each round.

The mode is simple: The T-side must plant and detonate a bomb at marked sites while the CT-side must prevent this from happening. However, if all players on one side are eliminated during a round, then the round is awarded to the other team automatically. Maps are best-of-30 and series winner is typically based on best-of-3, or best-of-5 maps won.

CS:GO follows a similar championship format that closely resembles professional golf or tennis where the best players compete in “majors” multiple times a year. There are usually two events, one in spring and fall, that are Valve sponsors with $1 million prize pools and qualify as CS:GO majors.

Dota 2 & League of Legends

DOTA-2-Legends

We’ll combine the overview for Dota 2 (Valve) and LoL (Riot Games) into this section since both games are not only multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA) on three-lane maps, but they also share identical objectives for killing opponents/AI enemies, destroying defense structures, and ultimately, the cracking the enemy team’s base.

In both games, two teams of five players form a composition by selecting from a massive pool of characters that have numerous unique abilities and powers that can be leveled up with items and gold. The first team to destroy a structure (Ancient/Nexus) inside the enemy team’s base wins the games and series are typically played in a best-of-3 or best-of-5 format.

While Dota 2 plays more minor tournaments and LoL has a Spring and Summer league structure based on the best teams in select regions, both have one huge tournament at the end of the year. Dota 2’s The International and LoL’s League of Legends World Championship or “Worlds” crown the best team in the world for that year along with awarding millions of dollars to the top teams.

Fortnite

fortnite-gameplay

Fortnite has exploded onto the scene over the past couple of years thanks to the rising popularity of the battle royale genre, where 100 individual players skydive from the Battle Bus and onto an island where being the last one standing decides the best player for the match. Matches can also have 50 two-player teams (Duo) or 25 four-player (Squad).

Players must keep moving and avoid getting killed by the electric circular wall known as “The Storm” that gradually shrinks the playing field over time. To accomplish the goal of being the last one standing, players can loot weapons from buildings and off enemy players they eliminate. Additionally, Fortnite allows players to create “forts” with resources, which gives every player a chance to play defense even if they are caught out in the open.

Fortnite esports is still in its infancy due to being only a couple of years old, so there isn’t a set structure that repeats each year. However, rules may now be firmly established since Epic Games introduced the Fortnite World Cup for 2019, which allows any of the 250 million players playing the game to qualify and compete for the $30 million prize pool in the finals.

Overwatch

Overwatch-screenshot

Released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016, Overwatch has firmly established itself as one of the world’s most popular esports. The game combines FPS action and MOBA objectives into a hero-based match where team compositions will need to be altered based on game type, situation, and overall skill level of the players themselves.

Matches are played between two teams of six players on each side with either a best-of-3 or best-of-5 format decided the winner. Unlike the other games mentioned, Overwatch currently incorporates four game modes — Assault (capture two points, one then another if successful), Control (both teams fight for control over one point), Escort (advancing/stopping a payload), and Hybrid (capture one point, then advance payload) — onto several maps for its competitive scene with both teams getting a chance to play offense and defense.

The Overwatch League is the pro league for the game and takes place over several months. The 20 best teams from regions across the globe have a salary to give players who need to qualify for the playoffs to have a chance to compete in the Grand Finals at the end of the season to decide the champion. Overwatch also has a World Cup that’s played every year where top players from each country battle each other for the top spot similar to the Olympics.;

Other esports not mentioned

We could go on forever but chose to cover the top 5 most popular esports from around the world. However, online sportsbooks have esports betting lines on numerous games that we didn’t cover, including Hearthstone, Rocket League, Rainbow Six: Siege, StarCraft I & II, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Halo, FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA 2K, Magic the Gathering, World of Tanks, and many more.

To see what games the betting site offers odds for, we recommend visiting any of the sites listed above and checking their esports section to view the current betting lines available to get an idea of what games the oddsmakers for the site regularly have available.


Esports Bet Types Explained

Betting money on esports isn’t too different from wagering on traditional sports, but there are some key differences between the two that you should be aware of before diving in headfirst. Here are the types of esports bets you’ll regularly find at online sportsbooks.

Tournament winner: Otherwise known as “futures,” betting on “who will win (insert name) tournament or league” requires you to place a bet on the team you think will win it all.

  • Odds to win LoL Worlds: SKT T1 +500

Match winner: This straight bet is essentially a “money line” and requires you choose which team, between a favorite (-) and an underdog (+), you think will win a single game, match, or series.

  • Cloud 9 (+150) vs. Team Liquid (-210)

Advantage: The type of wager mirrors how the “point spread” works where the favorite is handicapped and must not only win but must also win by a set number of maps, rounds, kills, etc.

  • Fnatic +1.5 (-110) vs. NIP -1.5 (-110)

Totals (Over/Under): An oddsmaker will provide a number for a given stat, such as total kills by both teams, and you must wager on whether the actual number will fall over or under.

  • LGD vs. OG - Game 5 total kills: O/U 55.5

First blood: Think you can guess who will record the first kill? First blood allows you to bet on which player will strike first in a given matchup.

  • Will Uzi get first blood? +450

Prop bets: “Proposition bets” allow you to bet on whether something happens that is not directly related to which team wins or loses the game.

  • First team to 10 eliminations: New York Excelsior (-140) vs. Vancouver Titans (+120)

Parlays: When you combine two or more bets into one single wager, it’s known as a parlay. This can give you a more favorable payout, but if any bet is lost, then you lose entire slip.

  • Two-team parlay: Astralis -150 times Vitality -150 = +178 if both teams win

Live betting: This bet type allows you to put money on odds while the game is currently in progress and is typically done from a mobile betting service. Also known as “In-game betting.”

  • With 28 players remaining: Tfou Victory Royale odds +400

Skin betting: Some games assign a monetary value to cosmetic items based on rarity and can be wagered for more skins, better skins, or real money. This type of wagering is most commonly found in CS:GO.

  • AWP Dragon Lore skin w/ Skadoodle autograph sold for $61,052.63 in 2018

How to read and convert esports odds

To avoid any confusion when you visit an esports betting site, we put together a detailed summary for what “odds” actually are when looking at a betting line.

In this breakdown, we list the different ways odds can be displayed, how much is needed to wager and what the payout is for that wager, and how to convert odds to see the exact percentage chance an oddsmaker is giving a team.

Plus/Minus Odds

Let’s begin with the following example:

Ex. Tfue odds to win the Fortnite World Cup +1300

There are essentially three different ways to list odds (typically by region):

  • American odds: +1300
  • Fractional odds: 13/1
  • Decimal odds: 14.0

Despite being displayed differently, they all mean the same thing:

  • +1300, 13/1, 14.0 tells the bettor: 1 unit bet wins 13 units, so a $1 bet wins $13 = $14 total, a $100 bet wins $1300 = $1400 total, etc.

The odds above are known as Plus Odds (+) and indicate that something has less than a 50% chance of happening, and as a result, more money is won than is initially wagered.

Minus Odds (-) are the reverse and indicate that something has more than a 50% chance of happening. They work like this:

Ex. TSM to win the match -115

  • American odds: -115
  • Fractional odds: 20/23
  • Decimal odds: 1.87

For Minus Odds, more is wagered than won because the odds are more favorable and thus, are more likely to happen:

  • -115, 20/23, 1.87 tells the bettor: 1.15 units bet wins 1 unit, so a $1.15 bet wins $1 = $2.15 total, a $115 bet wins $100 = $215 total, etc.

Convert to a % chance

The great thing about odds is they not only tell the bettor the required wager amount and potential payout but also what the oddsmakers believe the likelihood of something happening is for each player or team.

You can convert odds to an "implied probability" or "chance to win" with these formulas:

  • Plus Odds: 100 / (Plus Odds + 100)
  • Minus Odds: (-1 x Minus Odds) / ((-1 X Minus Odds) + 100))

And to see these formulas in action, we’ll use the Plus/Minus Odds from the examples above to find out what the oddsmaker thinks our chances are to win the wager:

Ex. Tfue odds to win the Fortnite World Cup +1300

100 / (+1300 + 100) = 100/1400 = 0.0714 or a 7.14% chance to win

Ex. TSM to win the match -115

(-1 x -115) / ((-1 X -115) + 100)) = 115/215 = 0.5349 or a 53.49% chance to win

Removing the juice

But wait, there’s one last step. To see the true probability, you need to remove the vigorish or "juice" (the sportsbook's cut or tax). Once this is done, we’ll know exactly what our chances are.

For this example, let’s use a match-winner money line that includes the odds for two teams:

Ex. Secret -150 vs. Vici +115

After using the formulas for the Plus/Minus Odds, we can see that the oddsmaker assigned the following implied probability (in parentheses) for the two teams:

  • Secret -150 (59.99%)
  • Vici +115 (46.51%)

However, when you combine the odds for both teams, it comes to 106.5%, which isn’t possible since nothing can have more than a 100% chance of happening.

To get to a denominator of 100%, we’ll need to use the following formula to eliminate the juice and get a clear picture of both teams’ chance to win the matchup:

  • True probability: Implied Odds / Combined Implied Odds

Now, we just divide the implied odds from earlier by the combined implied odds of both teams, and we’ll get the percentage we need:

  • Secret: 99 / 106.5 = 0.563 or a 56.3% true chance to win
  • Vici 51 / 106.5 = 0.437 or a 43.7% true chance to win

After completing this final step, we can see the following:

  • Secret (with -150 odds) has a 3% chance to win
  • Vici (with +115 odds) has a 7% chance to win
  • The oddsmakers’ juice is 5% for the betting line

Summary

At the end of the day, odds are a way to tell the person betting on esports 1) how much needs to be risked, 2) how much can be won based on the amount risked, and 3) most importantly, what the chances are for that particular team.

There is no such thing as a safe bet, but a good bet has “value” when you believe the chance of winning is greater than what the oddsmaker is giving you on the betting line. This can be hard to accurately predict in esports — for you and the oddsmakers — due to the RNG of some games as well as younger ages of pro gamers leading to less mental toughness.

But if you can beat the oddsmaker more often than he/she beats you, then you’ve already made a profit from betting on esports.

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