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Vanya Kirillov, a betting expert and founder of Alacrity.gg, contributed to this article
Just watching esports can be a thrilling experience, but nothing ups the stakes like putting something extra on the line. At the same time, figuring out which games to bet on and how much money to risk is no small task. That’s why Upcomer has pulled in the experts to lay out the odds and favorites for some of the most important games this weekend.
This week, we’re looking at betting on the start of the summer split playoffs across the League of Legends world. While some match ups look clear cut, no game is ever a sure thing. Here is what you need to know to cash out this weekend.
League of Legends Championship Series
|Market Odds||1.22 (-455)||4.08 (+308)|
|Implied Win Probability||81.97%||24.51%|
|Calculated Win Probability||78.19%||21.81%|
At +308, my heart wants me to take a flier on Dignitas. It’s online, and this entire LCS season, from start to finish, has been a carousel of teams peaking and slumping. The perfect underdog story of a team without any imports barely scratching out a record above .500 in the regular season and then turning it on in the postseason to make the craziest run to finals in the league’s almost decade-long history calls to me.
Yet, I can’t. While my heart and my impulsive nature want me to throw a bit on Dignitas in hopes of cashing out big, Evil Geniuses should win in a comfy fashion unless something historically drastic happens. A Dignitas win would be one of the bigger upsets we’ve seen in either the LCS or LEC. I trust in EG’s coaches to have them prepared for a business-like approach in taking care of a team they’re more talented than in almost every category across the board. Considering macro, individual prowess, laning, experience and just overall raw power, this should be a 3-0 or 3-1 win for Evil Geniuses.
There will be murmurs of how EG’s middle man, Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro, can be a “coinflip player” at times, but he’s been excellent throughout the summer. And even in the worst-case scenario where Jiizuke gets trigger-happy and his bad habits start to show, I’m confident the team around him is strong enough to prop him up and take the series home. Sorry, heart, I’m going with simple logic on this one.
— Tyler Erzberger
It should come as no surprise that Evil Geniuses are favored over Dignitas in Round 1 of the LCS Championship. Everybody intuitively knows it and our model came to the same conclusion. Great, right? Well, the market knows it, too. It’s only worth betting if the odds you receive pay out well enough to have positive expected value. Our predictions are right in line with the market’s view, so we’re square inside the vig — which means that betting on either side here is “unfair” to us.
What are Evil Geniuses biggest edges in this match, according to our model? First, their players are all individually of higher caliber (Jeong “Impact” Eon-young in particular creates the most value for them). More importantly, though, they simply play better as a team. All of their players perform better with this squad than they did on their own, as evidenced by their win rates. Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki stands out here — his win rate is more than 4% higher than before he joined EG. This translates to higher average margins of victory, whereas many Dignitas wins are close to the very end and therefore less replicable.
In short: Evil Geniuses comes together as more than the sum of their parts, handing them a solid edge against Dignitas — but the value just isn’t there to be worth betting on.
— Vanya Kirillov
|Market Odds||1.63 (-159)||2.21 (+121)|
|Implied Win Probability||61.35%||45.25%|
|Calculated Win Probability||61.87%||38.13%|
Honestly, if given the choice of taking a long shot on Dignitas or betting on this match, I’d take the Hail Mary that online shenanigans cash in. These two teams are probably more unpredictable than anyone in the field due to their respective issues, and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable pegging them until seeing them play this initial best-of-five.
For TL, it’s all about Lucas “Santorin” Larsen in the jungle. He’s been on the bench for a large part of the summer due to chronic migraines and only recently found himself back in the lineup. There probably isn’t a more talented squad in North America in a perfect world where all five Liquid players are in their best form. Alas, when you combine Santorin’s absence, Barney “Alphari” Morris’ own issues with the org during the summer split and Edward “Tactical” Ra’s inconsistency makes it almost impossible to be positive on this team heading into this do-or-die postseason.
Oh, and their opponent isn’t any better. While they’ve had fewer lineup changes, betting on mid-season champions Cloud9 might even be riskier considering it’s hard to tell what performance level they’ll show on any given day. For a team that believed they’d be sitting in the No. 1 seed spot by the end of the regular season, it has been a rollercoaster, and now they’re playing a dangerous TL team that could put their world championship hopes on life support.
Their aggressive, sometimes nonsensical style can look pretty and result in devastating smashes when done right. We’ve also seen what’s happened when things go sideways, with several games lost in the match’s opening minutes. They’re a knockout fighter who can stand toe-to-toe with anyone if they get their feet planted, but more recently, C9 have been looking up at the lights with their weak defenses.
I’m staying away from this one. If forced, I’d pick C9 to win in a close one over a TL side still trying to put together their pieces. The odds, though, don’t make them a desirable bet, especially with the wackiness of online play and how different these two teams can look depending on the week.
Cloud9 and Team Liquid are both strong contenders in the Championship, and in our simulations are solidly among the top four teams (alongside TSM and 100 Thieves; and edging out Evil Geniuses, who actually placed third in the Summer Season). We believe Cloud9 is somewhat favored, to the tune of 62%. The market actually skews a bit closer to the middle, but the vig still wipes out any value to be had by betting here.
Where does Cloud9 stand out? Both teams boast strong lineups, with all 10 players handily above 50% win rates. Both C9’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and TL’s Tactical are over the 60% mark. Both teams also show strong intra-team synergy. TL has slightly stronger aggregate improvement, which just about compensates for their slightly weaker individual strength. The main edge is actually in this specific matchup: all of TL’s players do worse than they otherwise should when facing any of C9’s players, even accounting for overall player strength (whether on these exact teams or not). Sometimes play styles counter each other in nuanced ways, and that’s enough to give Cloud9 the upper hand here. Plus, even in a best-of-5, starting on blue side helps.
In short: both teams are quite strong, but Team Liquid is just weak to Cloud9’s particular style of play. The vig wipes out any real betting value, unfortunately.
League of Legends Champions Korea
|Market Odds||2.51 (+151)||1.5 (-200)|
|Implied Win Probability||39.84%||66.67%|
|Calculated Win Probability||46.70%||53.30%|
In spite of Gen.G’s slightly better Summer season record (10-5 to DWG KIA’s 10-6, with one fewer match played), the general sentiment is DWG KIA are the stronger team. Market odds reflect this, projecting a roughly 62/38 matchup in their favor (the implied probabilities above are slightly higher than that due to the vig. Notice how they don’t add up to 100%). While we agree with the overall direction, our model actually thinks the match is more even, to the tune of 53/47. This gives us some betting room, and this is worth highlighting: even though we still think Gen.G is more likely to lose than not, the reward for that risk more than makes up for it. This is the essence of betting based on expected value. You should look for positive value, not “sure” things.
Individually, DK’s players are of a higher caliber. They all boast close to 70% win rates, compared to GEN’s players’ 60%, and beat them out on other metrics as well. Make no mistake, though: a 60% win rate is still fantastically strong. DK’s got an edge in this historic matchup (they did 2-0 GEN in week 4 of the summer split), but looking back farther, the individual player edges aren’t crippling. On top of that, both teams have found ways to synergize; all ten players in this match do better on their respective teams than they have in the past. DWG KIA may be the stronger team overall, but both teams have shown their ability to perform at the top of the game, so it’s a question of who plays at their best on the day of the match. Watch out for Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu’s Nidalee and Heo “ShowMaker” Su’s Viktor, though. Our model flags those two champion picks as particularly dangerous.
So: both of these teams are very strong. DWG KIA has the edge overall, but our model is giving Gen.G more credit to put up a good fight than the market does. They’re still outmatched, but they have a good shot at staging an upset and paying out handsomely. Taking the risk and reward into account, we wouldn’t suggest betting too much; roughly 11% of your unit bet size (which you can think of as the most you’re willing to risk losing on a single bet).
League of Legends Pro League
|metric||Royal Never Give Up||Bilibili Gaming|
|Market Odds||1.35 (-286)||3.08 (+208)|
|Implied Win Probability||74.07%||32.47%|
|Calculated Win Probability||79.21%||20.79%|
It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that Royal Never Give Up are favored over Bilibili Gaming. RNG have been a strong team for a while now, though in BLG’s defense they’ve actually also been putting up good results this season. Here’s the thing, though: as favored as the market thinks RNG is, we actually think they’re even more favored. The market comes out at about 70/30 in RNG’s favor while we think it’s closer to 79/21. Betting on an underdog may feel more exciting because the payouts are bigger, but value is value. Even though a bet at -286 won’t pay out very much, it’s likely enough to happen that the expected value is still positive. That means the reward here is actually still higher than the risk.
RNG’s individual player strength stands a head above BLG’s: their players all boast around 62-65% win rates compared to 50-53%. This may seem like a similar gap to the DK/GEN split above, but we’d argue there’s a wider gap between “good” and “average” than there is between “great” and “good.” Team synergy is close to a wash here, as both teams play better than their individual parts. Specific player matchups are also fairly neutral. The biggest factor in determining RNG’s dominance here is how they win: their average margin of victory is enormous. If they get any lead over BLG, they definitely know how to play from ahead and simply close the game out without giving the other team a chance to come back. Their stronger lineup should secure the early game and snowball into a decisive victory.
We wouldn’t put all of our eggs into this basket, though. There’s still a one in five chance of an upset here, and due to some nuances of how oddsmakers take their vig, there’s some disproportionate compression on payouts on the favorite. However, RNG should be a reasonably safe bet here, so our methodology would suggest staking close to 20% of your unit bet size (again, basically your maximum acceptable loss on a bet).
Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.