A Beginner’s Guide to Esports Betting for 2020

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Esports is the new sexy. Bringing billions worth of revenue each year, the industry of competitive video gaming is only going to expand in size moving forward, and this is confirmed by respected global intelligence companies and financial services, such as Deloitte, JP Morgan, PwC, and media outlets from Forbes to the Economist. Esports are expanding at a heady pace, with online viewership reaching 380 million in 2018, and the net worth hitting $1.4 billion by 2020.

Esports' estimated value
Esports value according to NewZoo.

Hundreds of fans flock to sold-out arenas to cheer and behold their favorite gamers pull off skilled plays. League models are being leveraged by Activision Blizzard and Riot Games, and now, esports betting is becoming an indelible part of the nature of the industry – a natural progression of the events so far.

But how to go from a gamer who loves watching Fortnite and League of Legends to an insightful bettor who knows how to leverage their passion for video games and beat the sophisticated odds-crunching algorithm sports bookies use? We take a closer look in our dedicated guide.

For a long while it was thought that the number of esports titles is carved in stone and no new title could ever break the field dominated by League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancient (Dota) 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and a few others.

This has been rapidly changing in the recent months and 2019 promises to be no less intriguing when it comes to the arrival of new accomplished titles. Let’s have a look at the top esports games of our time and those that promise to shape up the competitive landscape anew.

Dota 2 and LoL: The Defining MOBAs

Known as Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs), these games are the essential competitive titles. The originator of this competitive format was Dota, a Warcraft III map modification which grew into a standalone game in 2013. Dota 2 was quickly followed by others, most notably LoL with a few other, less consequential names thrown into the mix that have since died out or maintain a very small presence.

MOBAs are purely competitive games that have very little storyline to go with them, but offer a fantastic variety of characters, skills and strategies, which makes them appealing. Skill-based and hard to master, these games appeal to millions of fans around the globe.

MOBA’s Competitive Events

The Dota 2 International.
The largest Dota 2 competition.

Presently, there are two main events that excite the most interest with the occasional addition of side gigs. Dota 2 runs the so-called Pro Circuit, which allows teams to rake up points and qualify for The International, which offered over $25 million in cash prizes in 2018, but promises to add quite a bit more for the 2019’s Shanghai Edition.

LoL's largest competition.
The LoL Championship to be held in Paris in 2019

Meanwhile, LoL has its own main event, the League of Legends Global Championship, which commands respectable viewership and a growing prize pool as well. It’s an event worth paying attention to and one that will provide you with plentiful opportunities for esports betting.

Traditional FPS: CS:GO

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is a Valve-developed FPS which has won itself a place in the world of esports, becoming one of the essential games for the entire industry. The game pits teams of five against each other, playing the Terrorist and Counter-Terrorist respectively. Even though – CS:GO has been losing some of its players to more modern versions of FPS games, Valve’s timeless classic is featured in the majority of important competitions, including:

  • DreamHack
  • The Blast Pro Series
  • Intel Extreme Masters (IEM)
  • The Gfinity Elite Series

While CS:GO doesn’t have a single championship event, prize pools can be collected from multiple competitions, with the money ranging from $100,000 to $250,000, depending on the event and how advanced the competition is.

Fortnite – The Game That Changed the Industry

Fortnite is an interesting title. It has bitten a chunk out from the player bases of all existing competitive shooters. The game is (mostly) a free-for-all survivalist shooter in which you try to obtain better gear and be the last man alive. Defined as a battle-royale game, Fortnite offers a staggering $100 million in prizing money for the 2018/2019 season.

In 2018, Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, announced the Summer Skirmishes and Winter Royale competitions, with both events serving as a testing ground for a future competitive format for the 2019 Fortnite World Cup. While the details are still negotiated, the game continues to build a solid following.

With Unikrn’s now allowing gamers to bet on themselves, Fortnite is a perfect game to wager on.

PUBG – The True Survivalist Melee

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) puts a strong emphasis on team work. It’s a bit slower than Fortnite and it requires a lot of tactics, which often are what determines the outcome. Of course, the slower-pace of the game doesn’t appeal to everyone immediately, but that’s quite understandable.

PUBG competition in 2019.
The PUBG Global Championships in 2019

Nevertheless, PUBG is the most developed battle royale in terms of a competitive scene. The 2019 Global Championships are the crowning event for PUBG, and the season’s already been announced. But beyond the rapid expansion of PUBG in Europe and North America, the game is also shaping up as a viable esports title for mobile devices, with the recently-concluded PUBG Mobile Star Challenge proving an enormous success.

Hearthstone and Trade Card Games

Hearthstone is Blizzard’s collectible trade card game, which allows you to build complex decks and compete against others. Hearthstone has long been one of the most grossing titles for Blizzard and the company has endorsed it in full. The crowning competitive event, the Hearthstone World Championship, is held each year to elect the world’s top players.

In light of the growing interest, Blizzard has invested $4 million for the 2019 season, promising to reshuffle the competitive format and allow more players to shine and grow to become noteworthy professionals.

Overwatch Changes the Game with League Models

Overwatch is a fantasy FPS which exploded as a competitive title in 2018, so definitely deserves a proper mention. The game is now officially a franchised league with land-based competitions taking places in separate venues around the world. To purchase a slot, each team had to pay around $35 million, or even more according to sources.

OWL first week
The matches in Week 1, OWL.

Today, the main competitive event is the Overwatch League which, starting in 2019, will be held locally at separate arenas around the globe. The grand finals are again held at a specific land-based location in front of a live audience.

Blizzard have been the first company to experiment with a league-based model that comes closest to what mainstream sporting bodies such as the NFL, MLB and NBA are doing.

The Titles You Should Keep an Eye Out For

If you are determined to participate in esports betting, it would help to know which the up-and-coming titles in 2019 are. At the end of 2018, a lot of games have broken into the chart of most-watched games on Twitch, including Rainbow Six, Rocket League, Magic: The Gathering, and a few others. And the shift of interest is justifiable, being the result of solid investment and growing player base.

Twitch's most popular new esports titles.
Esports popularity of video games.

In 2019, we will see a significant increase from World of Warcraft and Rocket League esports. Rocket League will have the strongest following though, as the game has proven exceptionally easy to learn & play.

Titles to Watch Out for in 2019:

  • Rocket League
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Rainbow Six
  • Street Fighter V
  • Super Smash Bros

Magic: The Gathering, a popular digital card game, just received $10 million in fresh investment, which puts it right next to Hearthstone in competitive potential, although the prize pool is already beating Blizzard’s own card game. Competition is of course healthy, and it will entice developers to invest even heftier amounts, which will ultimately benefit you as a player and bettor.

Mobile Esports: A Promising Endeavor

The popularity of mobile esports is also on the rise and there is hardly any denying that. Although still a burgeoning industry, titles such as Honor of Kings, Clash Royale and even Mobile Legends have been appealing to Eastern and Western crowds.

Esports for mobile.
Revealing mobile esports criteria.

The scene is getting attention, but it’s still underrepresented. Clash Royale competitions feature significant prize pools and Mobile Legends is played by hundreds of thousands in Southeast Asia. The fact that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite are also available on iOS and Android is another reason why the segment is growing.

How Esports Betting Works?

Now that we have learnt more about the games that we will be betting on, it’s time to take a look at the process of betting itself. It’s all quite simple. Betting agencies known as bookmakers allow you to place a wager on the outcome of an event. The bet itself could be related to a number of things.

  • Backing the winner of a game
  • Supporting a winner of the entire tournament
  • Betting on specific conditions (prop betting)
  • In-play or live betting as the game unfolds
  • Handicaps to make the outcome more difficult to predict
  • Skill-based bets that players make on themselves to achieve certain in-game objectives (this is the latest format introduce by Unikrn, a leading betting agency)

Opening your account is simple enough. You do need to check if your bookmaker services the specific region you live in, though, and the majority of credible operators will require that you confirm your identity so as to comply with AML and KYC practices.

Reputation Is Key

But before you even consider committing money, you will need to ensure that your bookmaker is up to the required standards. This means proper licensing, solid reputation, and fair betting odds. There are a number of ways to confirm whether an operator is worth your while:

  • Certification by the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC)
  • Licensing by an established gambling authority
  • Seal of Approval by authority reviewing service
  • Reputation impressions after diligent research

Alternatively, you can always follow off one of our own recommendations. We have curated a number of esports betting websites, which will provide you with a handful of respectable options when it comes to picking a top venue for your future bets.

Reading Esports Odds

There are three main ways to depict the chances of teams winning. The formats are mostly geographical with the United Kingdom preferring fractional odds and US gamers choosing their moneylines. As to the rest of Europe, for example, decimal odds prove to be the most intuitive way to place a wager.


With Decimal odds, you have the odds of a team winning expressed as a decimal number. It’s quite simple to comprehend. The lower the number, the better the chances the team will stand to win. Conversely, the higher the odds for a team, the slimmer its chances of winning are. The decimals are easy to read because they also represent how much you stand to win.

Decimal odds in esports.
A quick way to pick up the odds!

In the case of Angry Titans against British Hurricane, $1 bet will fetch you $1.31 if you back the Titans. However, you will have to discount your original bet, leaving your profit at $0.31.

Fractional odds

Fractional odds are no more complicated than decimals. If you want to bet on OG as the winners of the upcoming Bucharest Minor event, you will need to commit $5 to win $7, or a total of $12. The right number denotes the bet and the left number denotes the amount you stand to win.

Fractional odds esports.
Fractional odds are a fun betting format.


Moneylines are easy to read as well, just different. They are also called American and the bets operate under the assumption that you are staking $100, although this need not be true. For the sake of example, though, the -202 value in 3D Max means you will need to stake $202 in order to win $100.

Conversely, odds of +164 means that you will win $164 if you wager $100 and the wager turns out to be successful. These numbers need to be adjusted for your actual bet, but the principle remains the same.

Moneyline type of wagers.
Bet in Moneyline/American odds on esports.

Legality of Esports Betting

Esports betting is tied to the same fate as regular sports betting. In the United States, a defeat of the federal ban known as PASPA has enabled companies to start expanding their esports offer. Unikrn is the flagship operator in the United States and the world, offering a variety of exciting bets and having officially obtained an Isle of Man licensing.

Now, the company plans to conquer the whole of the US while maintaining a strong presence in Europe, and possibly venturing into Southeast Asia soon. Another established and licensed company, Luck Box, is a legitimate operator which will provide blockchain-powered betting in 2019 and beyond.

While there has been a lot of progress made in recent months, it’s important to note that not all verticals are legal. Skin betting was tipped to become the largest esports betting market in the world before Valve started to clamp down on the activity in 2016, after the company had been faced with a class-action lawsuit accusing it of facilitating underage gambling through the trade and exchange of skins.

As to the legislation in the rest of the world, it’s vastly a subject of local laws. Europe has seen a great upheaval in its markets, with more countries becoming betting-friendly.

Esports skin betting estimated value in 2016
Skins promised to be a big vertical before the ban.

Asia is again a patchwork with countries dictating their own terms. You can place a wager on esports events from places such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines where regular bookmakers are legal.

It’s in this context that esports advances around the world, carrying on its popularity and gargantuan investment opportunities. Southeast Asia is quickly shaping up as the next hot spot for competitive video gaming, and this will understandably attract more esports betting action.

Choosing the Right Site for You

By now we have learnt quite a bit about esports betting, from what the top titles are to what wagers and odds are on offer. But how do we make sense of all of it and choose the right website for ourselves?

We generally differentiate between endemic and non-endemic websites. Some are fully-esports-oriented whereas others have been expanded to include esports (the non-endemic ones). Choosing the best website for you should be predicated on several factors:

  • A reputable & possibly licensed bookmaker
  • A fair entry-level promotion
  • Abundancy of markets
  • Fair odds
  • Third-party certification & audits

A combination of all of these factors usually determines whether your operator is worth your trust. If you are an outright esports fan, you might want to choose the companies that are fully dedicated to the segment. On the other hand, if you love mainstream athletic disciplines, you certainly have a rich choice of mixed-bookmakers.

GamblingNews Approved Rankings

At GamblingNews, we take pains to ensure that the bookmakers we end up recommending will always meet the outlined standards. It’s a lot of hard work, but that doesn’t bother us in the slightest since we love esports and spend a fair bit of time playing & watching ourselves.

Our experts have proven themselves quite keen at calling the successful outcome of competitions as well, which puts us in a unique position not only to tell you which websites are worth your time, but also how to beat them.

Always rest assured that our hand-picked operators are the top choices in the industry, and they have earned the privilege to call themselves so after independent audits from a number of respected services, including our own.

Exclusive Bonuses & Loyalty Schemes

All esports fans love to start with a bit of extra capital, although you certainly hate any attempt to restrict how you spend your money. This is where esports betting providers become inventive.

Deposit bonus at ArcaneBet.
Grab a lump sum and start placing wagers on your favorite esport titles.

Even if there are playthrough requirements, they will make sure to keep them to a minimum. Other agencies offer you to enjoy a “free play bonus” whereby you keep your winnings while playing with borrowed money from the casino. This is a great bonus type that will allow you to start without committing any capital. And even though the maximum winnings with this particular bonus are capped, it’s still a great way to break into esports betting.

Bonus missions at Rivalry.gg
Accomplish a new mission day by day and grow your bonus funds!

Other companies are more inventive still in the way they present their bonuses. Instead of granting you the cash up front, they will integrate quests or special missions, allowing you to benefit in full from their offer, while gradually adding to your bankroll upon successful completion.

At GamblingNews, we have sifted through the variety of bonus offers and promos to provide you with an exhaustive final pick of top choices. There are quite a few loyalty programs to benefit from and we guarantee to always draw your attention to those noteworthy titles.

Reading the Theory

The parallels between sports and esports betting are hard to overlook. But if anything, that will only help you become a more accomplished bettor yourself! Loads of literature has been written about how to beat the bookmakers already.

At the beginning of 2018, only 5% of bookmaker esports offers turned a profit for them, meaning that operators are still very much behind you in terms of understanding video games. So why not consolidate that gut-knowledge with some serious theory-crafting? Here’s our recommended list of titles:

  • Conquering Risk: Attacking Vegas and Wall Street by Elihu D. Feustel allows you to explore and look behind sports markets’ inefficiencies, which lead to successful betting patterns.
  • Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game by David Sumpter tells the story of a Maths professor with plenty to do who managed to devise a strategy guaranteeing him 20% return on his investment in sports bets.
  • Weighing the Odds by King Yao highlights the importance of remaining vigilant and analyzing the available data to your benefit. Betting is not gambling, Yao argues in his book, and he uses practical examples to demonstrate just that.
  • Mathematics in Games, Sports, and Gambling by Ronald J. Gould is a theoretical read of the science of betting. There’s much mathematical knowledge that goes in understanding different patterns and this is the book that will help you explore all different theories behind it.
  • Looking for inspiration? Then Enemy Number One – The Secrets of the UK’s most feared professional punter by Patrick Veitch will tell you the story of the author who has successfully amassed £10 million in winnings over eight years.

Esports betting is no different than putting wagers on regular sports. Only this time, it’s the gamers who have the high-ground advantage. Having spent decades playing games, most of us are quite happy to challenge themselves against the bookmakers and commit a wager or two. Meanwhile, the operators have a lot of catching up to do. Let’s make sure we’re prepared to keep them busy for a long while more.