Betting on Call of Duty: Everything you need to know

Before you start attacking the betting markets, you'll want to get an understanding of how the game is played at a high level.

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What is Call of Duty?

If you’re not familiar with the Call of Duty (COD) franchise, I can safely assume you’ve been living under not one, but multiple rocks for at least the last decade. For those who have set up shop in such a quarry, COD is a competitive first-person shooter (FPS) that was created by Activision and later managed by Infinity Ward, that has been a mainstay in the majority of American households since the early 2000s.

In 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out and changed the console esports scene for ever, usurping Halo 3 as the premier FPS on the Major League Gaming (MLG) circuit. Though Call of Duty is not as popular globally as games like CSGO, League of Legends, or DOTA2, it is by far the most popular competitive title in North America and it’s beginning to gain steam elsewhere as the Call of Duty League (CDL) continues to grow in popularity. Now on it’s eighth installment – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – there’s nothing to suggest that the game’s position as king of North American esports is remotely in jeopardy. 

COD is a multiplayer FPS based on a much different competitive mantra than other titles, in that it doesn’t rely on slow paced, methodical, team-based gameplay to find success. Where Halo 3 was based on a more traditional strategy of map control and punishing mistakes resulting in team-wide mismatches, the Call of Duty model is more focused on blazing fast gameplay that doesn’t punish mistakes as severely and allows for nonstop action. While other games have either lengthy respawn timers or no respawns at all – CSGO has rounds with no respawns, for example – the respawn timers in COD are low and the movement speed is fast, both of which contribute to action that doesn’t stop until the game is over.

This style of gameplay is much more exciting but also allows more mistakes – a very appealing aspect to less skilled players – and thus the game’s player base continues to grow year after year as the skill ceiling is lower than that of games like Counterstrike. This, along with the game being much more popular on video game consoles instead of PCs, has held it back from being a global phenomenon.

Still, the esports world and bookmakers alike have caught onto the Call of Duty League in recent years, and you can now find CDL bets on most major betting markets. As esports betting continues to grow across America, it stands to reason that Call of Duty betting will grow in step.

Basics of competitive Call of Duty

Before you start attacking the betting markets, you’ll definitely want to get an understanding of how the game is played at a high level, and what you can expect to happen during a series. Like traditional sports, it’s important to know more than just surface-level stats in order to bet effectively. Most Call of Duty matches are played in a best-of-3 format where teams play 3 different game types in a structured order on maps chosen by the teams. The game types always follow this order: Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, Domination, a second Hardpoint, and a second Search and Destroy. For more info on the competitive settings, click here.

  • Hardpoint is a game type that most would recognize as a variant of “king of the hill”, and is widely considered the best Call of Duty game type in the competitive settings. The objective is to control a zone that rotates about the map in a predetermined direction while keeping the enemy team out of the zone. Spawn control and call outs are vitally important for teams as they make decisions to maintain control of the hill or abandon it to secure the upcoming objective. Teams rack up points for every second they control a hill uncontested and the first team to reach 250 points wins.
  • Search and Destroy is an elimination style game that has one team on offense and one team on defense. The objective for the offensive team is to set and detonate a bomb in enemy territory while the defensive team tries to stop that from happening. Due to the elimination style of this game, if you die you don’t respawn, leaving your team outnumbered for the reminder of the round. There are no points gained in this mode, where a successful bomb plant or diffusal wins you a round, and the first team to 6 rounds wins the game.
  • Domination is another game type that plays similarly to “king of the hill” but, unlike Hardpoint, it has three static zones to control across the maps and points are accumulated for holding them. It is built heavily on teamwork and macro decision making that punishes deaths harshly because of the difficulty of digging out of a deficit once a team has built a lead. The three zones on the map can be captured or neutralized and the more zones a team controls, the more points they secure every second. The first team to 100 points wins the first round, and the first team to 200 points wins the game. Points carry over from round to round.

On each team there are three roles to be filled: AR, SMG, and Flex. The AR – which stands for assault rifle – is typically meant to cut off rotations and secure spawns across the maps. They set up in positions that allow them to try to dictate the flow of the enemy team toward each objective while also calling out the positions of those they see. The SMG position is meant to be the main engage of each team and will be pushing into objectives and generally more active around the map. The flex position is just that, and can go back and forth between AR and SMG based on the needs of the game type and map selected. If you need to have more objective pressure, the flex will go with SMG. If you need to have more map control, the flex will take an AR.

Gamers who are better at gunfights will usually be on the SMG position, while those who are better in terms of macro play and map mechanics are likely to play AR. The AR players are usually the ones who end up with the best kill to death ratio (KD) since they have agency over the spawn control and can pick off rotations while avoiding the copious deaths that come with objective control. Understanding where players fit into the scheme of a team will allow you as bettors to get a more solid grasp of the fundamentals involved in competitive COD, so you can make more informed decisions.

Jan 26, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Obaid Asim and Alex Alexx Carpenter and Adam Assault Garcia of the Minnesota Rokkr celebrate their victory over the Toronto Ultra during the Call of Duty League Launch Weekend at The Armory. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

How to bet on call of duty

Types of bets

Moneyline – Every sportsbook on the planet is going to offer moneyline bets for COD, as they do for every other esport and traditional sport out there. COD moneyline betting follows the same general rules as other sports: it’s the easiest and most accessible way to get some action on the game while you watch, but the return on your investment (ROI) is going to be less than it could be when attacking other types of bets that are highly correlated with a team winning the match. If you are going to bet the moneyline, you’ll want to find opportunities to bet the underdog. A lot of teams have strengths and weaknesses in terms of the game types played and, if you can find a single upset on one of the maps, an underdog will have a great chance to win, which will help to increase your long term payouts. Moneyline betting should be a sizable chunk of your overall portfolio, but not the type of bet you make the most.

Futures – Betting futures in Call of Duty esports is a bit different than you might be accustomed to, in that the Call of Duty world league is set up with a bunch of smaller tournaments spanning over the course of the season. Because of this, the futures to be taken aren’t based on the season itself, but on the smaller tournaments and the odds of each team finishing in first place for each of those. Betting futures on these smaller tournaments is interesting because the very good teams like the Atlanta Faze and the Chicago Huntsmen are typically big-time favorites to finish in first, in turn not offering a lot of value overall. As with moneyline betting, it’s a better idea to look for an underdog to back since the ROI swings are more impactful. Futures should represent just a small piece of your betting action on a given weekend and should be focused on long shots that can hedge your day-to-day action in case things get squirrelly. 

Props – Prop betting is generally considered an area every solid bettor must understand in order to round out a betting card, and it’s no different in esports. The props you’ll be able to find for COD are mostly based on objective time and kill counts for individual players and, when you know the tendencies of each team as they relate to the game types to be played, you can begin to attack bookmakers much more effectively. For instance, Suppose there is a prop bet that allows you to bet the over or under on Simp’s total capture time in a game, and it’s set at around 110. If you have data that tells you their opponent – the Dallas Empire – is in a position to win the Hardpoint games by a large margin, it’s a worthwhile bet to take the under on Simp’s capture time considering you are projecting them to lose that game type. This form of prop betting allows you to take advantage of match and individual game level moneyline betting, but without the high lines involved. A prop bet on the under for Simp’s capture time may be set at -120, whereas the line for the Dallas Empire to win that map/series could be set at -175, which gives obvious value to betting the correlated prop instead.

Parlays – Another staple of the sportsbooks, parlays are the most fun and least lucrative bets you can make, especially when betting on COD. A parlay is when you take multiple bets and tie them together to increase the size of the payout if all of them hit. In combining bets -whether they are props or game level bets – you are drastically reducing the probability that your wager will be successful. This, in turn, drastically increases the payout if indeed your bets all do win. The most common form of parlay to be found in Call of Duty betting is something like Player A to get under 50 kills combined with Player A’s team to lose the series. These forms of bets need to be as correlated as possible if you hope to find any measure of success, but smart bettors can gain a good understanding of what leads to certain outcomes and add these types of bets to their portfolio. Because of the inherent variability within a game like COD – where one bad spawn or a team getting a multikill can change the tide of the objectives – trying to hit parlays should be even less of a priority than it is in traditional sports. No more than 5% of your total bets should be parlays.

Spreads and Handicaps – These are some of the most fruitful wagers you can make in betting on Call of Duty – and with esports in general – as the odds offered are almost never close to the reality of the situation. Most spreads and handicaps will be offered on the amount of maps or games played in a series, and it’s typically going to be set at around 3.5 for COD since it’s a best-of-five format. The kicker in betting on spreads and handicaps is that they are almost always going to be ignorant of a general rule that says only 25% of matches end in a sweep, so any line implying the probability of a match going four or more maps at less than 75% is offering edge to the bettor. Likewise, knowing that teams can be either good or bad at certain game types – some teams can’t play Search and Destroy to save their lives – would give you all the reason in the world to bet the over on a map-based handicap. 

Data sources

Betting on Call of Duty is a lot of fun and gives you a deeper connection to the games you already enjoy watching, but it becomes even better when you gain an understanding of how to leverage the games in a way that makes you money. There is very limited public data available for the CDL and, outside of surface statistics or things like capture points and KD measurements, you really have to dig to find actionable info. The most comprehensive collection of Call of Duty stats can be found on Twitter by fans of the game. Two quality sources are CODleaguestats and Its_EasyMac. Both provide a lot of data for free to those who are interested in digging deeper into the statistics of the game.

Good luck and happy grinding!

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