The Futures Market: Betting The World Championship

This article has been prepared by John “TheEsportsPlug” George, an esports daily fantasy player, bettor, and former professional poker player.

As many readers might already know, my specialty in regards to esports is that I am a high stakes esports bettor. So when a tournament like the World Championship comes around and I see power rankings, I am looking for how that translates to finding the right odds on each team.

In this article, I’ll go through the updated betting odds for Worlds 2019, as of September 25, and point out the best potential value you could go after.

A note of introduction: for anyone who has never used the American style betting system, it works using + odds and – odds. A + before a number indicates that that number is how much you would win if you bet 100$ on the team. So odds of +350 means that you will win $350 for every $100 you bet, or 3.5x your money. Alternatively, a – odds number means that you would need to bet that much to win $100. For example -230 would mean that for every $230 you bet, you would win $100 (meaning that result is considered a favorite to win). Luckily, we’ll be dealing with entirely + odds bets in the futures market, so lets get to it.

Its important to keep in mind that a number of factors go into deciding this, not just a team’s power rankings vs their odds. For example, what is Lowkey’s path to winning the tournament? Well, it almost certainly starts with an insane realization that the Worlds metagame is somehow insanely good for their playstyle, or that their region was being vastly undervalued somehow. Perhaps we all thought Vietnam was playing inferior macro to regions like the LCK, but all of a sudden at Worlds we realize they are actually playing a BETTER version of LCK League. In that case, isn’t it more likely that GAM will win worlds? Given that they dominated the VCS? Because of things like this, a lower rated team from an emerging region is likely to have a lot less value for me.

Also, some play styles have better chances than others to defeat better teams in a series. A team who plays a slow and methodical style based around good, solid fundamentals isn’t as likely to upset a major region favorite as a team that plays wild and aggressive League. Any aggressive team is capable of finding a few picks and building a lead that can’t be undone. For that reason, aggressive and wild teams will have more value in a huge underdog bet.

It’s time to get into it: here are my rankings of the futures values for the World Championship, given my power rankings of team strength.

1. Fnatic +1600 (5.88% Implied Probability)

Not only is this my favorite bet of the group, but it’s the only one even in its ballpark. When I compared the % chance that I thought Fnatic would win Worlds with the implied probability the books were assuming, this was the only bet that really stood out as a slam dunk. The reason these odds are so high is because Fnatic has one of the toughest groups, but I have a lot of faith in them to get out of that group, and +1600 on a team that will be in the knockout stage for sure is just too good. They aren’t close to being the favorites, but the odds are just too favorable to pass up.

2. Cloud 9 +15000 (.66% Implied Probability)

Obviously no one is really out here thinking Cloud 9 has a really strong shot at winning the World Championship, but +15000 is huge for a team that has been right in the thick of things before and always comes prepared with a great coaching staff. If they find themselves in the playoffs you’ve already won huge by having this bet locked in.

3. Griffin +750 (11.76% Implied Probability)

Griffin has about as good a chance to win this event as anyone, only a slight dog to the top couple teams. At a price that is almost double some of the other top teams, it’s an easy lock-in as the third highest value.

4. Damwon +750 (11.76% Implied Probability)

Exactly the same as Griffin. I think Damwon has a slightly lower chance to win, but the principle is still the same. Once we find ourselves in the playoffs, Damwon is clearly capable of beating any of the other top teams on the right day, and getting almost twice the value is too much to pass up for me.

5. Team Liquid +2500 (3.85% Implied Probability)

Team Liquid stands out a bit too, especially as a team who is likely to find themselves in the knockout stage after we’ve seen the group draw. Do I think they match up that well against some of the other top teams? Not really, but they also have 20% or less the implied probability of some of those teams. For that price, I’ll take a gamble on TL navigating some tough matchups.

6. G2 Esports +400 (20% Implied Probability)

Though I consider G2 my favorites for the tournament, that’s only by a slight margin, and at one of the lowest prices it was tough to put them much further up the list. Still, as a favorite at +400 it makes a reasonable bet and G2 has been an absolute cash cow for their believers this year.

7. SK Telecom T1 +450 (18.18% Implied Probability)

SKT is in the golden three for me along with FPX and G2 as the teams that are most likely to win Worlds. They end up in a weird spot odds-wise, however, as I have them just enough worse than G2 to put them after G2, but valuable enough to rate them above my #2 seed. A bet on SKT is completely reasonable at +450 if you believe in the Faker Revenge Tour and the return of the LCK.

8. Invictus Gaming +550 (15.38% Implied Probability)

IG wasn’t at their best at the end of the summer split, but who’s to say we don’t see IG come on out and put a beating on all these challengers after a bit of time off to rest and recuperate? They slide themselves in here at #8 as a team with a legit chance to win (similar to Damwon and Griffin) but with worse odds than many others at their value point.

9. Funplus Phoenix +350 (22.2% Implied Probability)

FPX gets the shaft a bit here because of their group. Before the groups were drawn I saw FPX as high as +700 (and you might still be able to find that at some books, shop around!), and when they were at +700 they were my clear #1 play of the tournament (and I got some lock in at that number). With a drop to +350 they lose a ton of their value. This puts them at a full 2.2% higher implied probability than my tournament favorites, and 4% higher than teams like SKT. I just can’t pay that price, so they come in at number nine for me.

10. Royal Never Give Up +600 (14.29% Implied Probability)

Rounding out the top 10 is Royal. Royal have a chance to win this tournament, but the 14.29% IP is just too far away from where I have them ranked to let me put them any higher on the list. The big upside of Royal vs. some of the bets below them is that you get a reasonable sweat. Any team in this tournament could theoretically win, but with Royal it feels possible whereas Mammoth winning feels like it would require a major fluke of some type.

For the rest of these teams, I’m just going to list them as I think its mostly a pretty straightforward calculation of how much value I think they have in upsetting major teams vs their current price.

11. MEGA +100000 (0.1%)
12. Splyce +6600 (1.49%)
13. Jteam +6600 (1.49%)
14. GAM +15000 (0.66%)
15. HKA +15000 (0.66%)
16. Isurus +50000 (0.2%)
17. Flamengo +30000 (0.33%)
18. Royal Youth +25000 (0.4%)
19. Clutch Gaming +15000 (0.66%)
20. Unicorns of Love +25000 (0.4%)
21. Detonation FocusME +25000 (0.4%)
22. Mammoth +30000 (0.33%)
23. AHQ +20000 (0.5%)
24. Lowkey +20000 (0.5%)

That’s the list for me for this year! If you play along with me or use any of the info definitely feel free to hit me up on Twitter. I’ll have a number of futures in, and I’ll definitely be betting the stages as they go along, so come chat and sweat along with me!

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