Maps in CSGO betting: Why they matter and more

Depending on which sportsbook you use, there are a multitude of ways for you to wager on maps.

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A brief intro to CSGO 

Counter-strike: Global Offensive (or CSGO) was created by Valve back in 2012. Built on a game of assault between counter-terrorists and terrorists, it is one of the most popular competitive videos games in the world. It sits atop the esports throne when it comes to first person shooters (FPS) and is vastly more popular than games like Rainbow-six: Siege and Battlefield. Though less popular than games like League of Legends or DOTA 2 on a worldwide scale, CSGO is exceptionally popular in western countries due to the easy-to-follow rules, familiar gameplay, and ease of access from the steam marketplace. 

What makes CSGO unique, and has kept it in the limelight of competitive shooters for nearly a decade, is the in-game economy system, which rewards influential gameplay and punishes players who perform badly. You can find a more detailed breakdown of the in game economy here, but here’s a brief explanation for now: Players must spend cash at the beginning of every round on weapons, armor, and grenades (utility). The more powerful the weapons, the more expensive they are. You earn a set amount of cash after each round and get extra money to spend if you achieve various feats such as kills, specialty kills, and planting or defusing a bomb. A team that strings together multiple rounds with few deaths from their members will be able to afford much more powerful weapons and utility than the opposing squad. A losing team will want to save their money to afford better weapons (the cash is not reset, so you can stack it up over multiple rounds), to have an equal chance at facing the team with the better economy.

As you can see, the management of the in-game economy is absolutely vital to the success of any given team in any given match, and understanding it as a bettor is essential to making informed decisions on a live line at a betting site.

The role of maps in CSGO Betting 

The in-game economy is a massively important contributor to the micro-decisions made in live betting games of CSGO, but there is plenty of variance once a game has started, which can be hard to mitigate even for the best bettors out there. We don’t have a lot of hard data or controlled instances while the players do their thing, so it’s important to look for ROI and betting opportunities in the macro sense and before the games even start. 

This is where understanding the maps and map-based win rates comes into play. There are generally seven maps in the map pool at any given time (more on the map pools later). Each team has to practice and master the ins and outs of each map to incredible detail. You have to know how long it takes to get to certain chokeholds, how to master smokes (places to throw smoke grenades to block off enemy sight lines), and be aware of every corner or vantage point a counter-terrorists player can be sitting, waiting to catch you off guard. Because of the high level of detail involved in playing each map, there are certain teams that are just straight up bad at certain maps. In fact, there are certain maps that teams refuse to play and will simply ban first every single time. 

Before we move on, let’s expand a bit on what I mean when I say that a team “bans” a certain map.

Maps in CSGO are decided for a match based on a picks and bans system. In a best of three (BO3) contest, there will be four maps banned, two maps picked, and one map left over that is played as a default if it goes all three maps. The process of picks and bans goes as follows: 

  • Team B bans first
  • Team A bans second
  • Team B picks their map
  • Team A picks their map
  • Team B bans third
  • Team A bans fourth

Using this method, Team B gets to give themselves the best chance at being competitive by choosing to get rid of their worst map and (ideally) choosing their best map. If there comes a point where Team B bans the best map of Team A, they will have given themselves a significantly better chance at being the underdog to upset on the day.

Consider this scenario: Team B bans the better team’s best map – Vertigo, where they have a 75% win rate – then picks a map where Team A only has a 35% win rate. At this point, not only do we expect this match to go all three games because Team A is playing one of their worst maps, but we can also assume the underdog has a great chance to win on Team A’s map pick because it’s not their best map. As you can see, the picks and bans process and the overall map selection for the match has a huge effect on the perceived outcomes, and the amount of expected value on the bets that can be made.

To do some serious research on a team’s map-based win rates and more info about their ability to be efficient and competitive on the different maps in the map pool, head over to HLTV.org, go to the matches link, and take a look at any given match. You’ll be able to see all of the team’s win rates on specific maps next to each other, and this will help you to make informed decisions once you get an idea of how to predict the sets of maps for a given series.

Oct 1, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Gaming teams Astralis and Optic compete in counter strike during the first round of the Brooklyn Beatdown at ESL One New York at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Map Betting

How to bet

Depending on which sportsbook you use, there are a multitude of ways for you to bet on maps and make wagers pertaining to the games rather than the entire match. Within a counter-strike series, there are going to be anywhere from one to five maps played. This will dictate the kinds of bets you can place. Here are a few examples:

  • Over/under on maps played – This kind of bet will usually be offered at 2.5 maps or 4.5 maps, as the line is based on what the maximum amount of maps can be. This is usually a bet for or against one team sweeping the other, and one of the most lucrative bets you can take when offered, if you have an idea of the maps that should be played. If the bookmakers put a line at 2.5 maps and offer +200 on the over (around a 33.33% chance) and you know at least one of the maps to be played is in favor of the underdog, then you can have quite a bit of confidence in taking the plus money on the over and hoping the underdog wins just one map.
  • Over/under Rounds played – Some sportsbooks offer the option to bet on the amount of total rounds that will be played on a given map, with the line usually somewhere around 26.5 (games are best of 30 with the potential for overtime in the event of a 15-15 tie). Understanding maps where particular teams are especially strong, and how many rounds they typically win and lose on those maps, can give you a major leg up on the books when you are deciding which side to take. Say a team averages 11 rounds lost when they win on a map like Dust2, but their opponent only wins an average of 8 rounds when they lose. If the line is set at 26.5 and we take into account the underdog’s typical rounds won, it only comes out to 24 (16+8), so we would have great incentive to take the under. Furthermore, when you are able to live bet on the rounds played in a match after the pistol round, you can get an exceptionally good price on a line if the stronger team took it, as they can snowball into a win in fewer rounds.
  • Map based moneylines – This is likely the most intuitive way to bet with information on map-based win rates because it’s simply a matter of picking the map winner in the individual games of a series, and has the least to do with macro possibilities or percentages. Betting on specific map winners is the equivalent of betting in a best of one circumstance and, although it’s significantly more variant than betting on a series, it can offer you greater upside and more expected value from your bets if your research is solid. As one example, let’s take a game between Astralis and Fnatic. Astralis as a team has an arbitrary 40% win rate on Dust2 while Fnatic has a 50% win rate, but Astralis is favored to win the entire match as -150 favorites. Generally, a map-specific moneyline will follow the same line, but that doesn’t really make sense as Astralis – the favorite – only wins on Dust2 40% of the time. When you do thorough research on map-based win rates (which can be found at hltv.org), you can bet the sportsbooks just by getting an idea of what maps might be played along with a team’s ability to do well. If it doesn’t match with what the books have, you’ve got an excellent chance to scrape together some return on investment.
  • Live betting Maps – CSGO is a game built heavily on streaks and stringing rounds together, and when you are betting on maps individually you can make safe choices that the bookmakers can’t reconcile as well, because the hard data doesn’t exist. For instance, say a game is being played on Train (a famously counter-terrorists favored map) and the team playing on the CT side is down six rounds to nine at half, but then wins the ensuing pistol round. Knowing how the in-game economy works, and knowing that winning the pistol round on the CT side of Train pretty much gives you four rounds instead of just one, means you can bet on that team to win since they should have the lead before the other team gets to buy meaningful weapons. The line offered before they win those four rounds consecutively will be much better than after, and you can take advantage of this to get some solid ROI by embracing the streaking concept in the game. This is just one example of betting on map-based moneylines and which team will win based on one event.

Map Pool 

What is the map pool?

The map pool is the current grouping of maps available for competitive play, a combination of seven maps the devs feel give the best balance to both terrorists and counter-terrorists. These seven maps are dynamic.

When a specific map is felt to be under-performing or giving too much of an advantage to one side, it will go onto the chopping block and receive some reworks so it can be reintroduced later on. Maps like Inferno, Mirage, and Dust2 are mainstays in the competitive rotation sue to their familiarity and consistency in terms of rounds won on CT and T sided halves. Meanwhile, maps like Nuke and Vertigo go through quite a few reworks to correct broken exploitations and brutal differences in win rates (on the CT side specifically).

For instance, on Vertigo the upper middle area of the map used to be a mostly closed open-form hallway that led to the CT spawn on the left and the entry to the A-site on the right. Because this trapped area gave an unfair advantage to the CT side of the map, the devs added an extra vantage point in the middle that made the B-site more accessible and allowed for more options once map control of that area was taken by the terrorists. These kinds of changes are made semi-frequently to maps as they become unfair in one way or another, and the current map pool is the set of seven maps that best provides a level playing field to all involved. 

Kinds of Maps

A useful thing to keep in mind about the maps in rotation is whether they are “open maps” or “closed maps”. An open map will have a lot of space to traverse and a lot of open areas for gunfights and maneuverability. These maps are typically going to give an edge to the terrorists as the chokepoints can’t be as easily controlled, allowing them more room to engage. Closed maps are going to feature a lot of hallways and closed off areas with only one way in and one way out, favoring the counter-terrorists as they can more easily block off the entrances and exits to a significant portion of the map, which makes it difficult for the T side to execute and get away.

Knowing these archetypes is helpful when betting because you can get a sense of which teams do well on each and which teams you can expect to show up or get embarrassed. In general, teams that are more volatile and scrappy will favor the open maps while teams that are more technically sound but not as good in terms of gunskill will favor the closed maps.

Current Map Pool and Betting Tips

  • Dust2 – This one falls in the category of open maps, giving it a lot of back and forth and a large probability of comebacks and variant outcomes. At the time of writing, counter-terrorists win on this map 48.3% of the time and terrorists win 51.7% of the time, which gives it a relatively even split of rounds. In terms of betting on Dust2, it’s important to note this is the map that sees the most “save rounds” – where the CTs will give up on a round in order to save their weapons. This is because retaking the site after the terrorists get a plant is more difficult on Dust2 than nearly every other map. Due to the amount of save rounds, you have to be careful betting on teams that have CT side in the second half, since they may throw away too many rounds and give away the game. When betting this map, pay close attention to a team’s terrorist half and take advantage of teams that are likely to be aggressive while playing out the full rounds.
  • Overpass – Another open map, Overpass is difficult to play and is one of the most banned maps in the current pool. Some of the best teams in the world will ban it simply because of their inability to account for all the possible angles that could lose them a round. With B-site being a funnel that terrorists must run through and A-site being exceptionally far from the terrorist spawn, it leans toward being a CT favored map. They currently win 53.1% of rounds with Ts winning 46.9% of the time. Betting this map is all about knowing a team’s comfort level on it. Most teams that choose to play this map have great gameplans and strategies, so betting on the team that chooses it is usually the right move.
  • Vertigo – This is one of the maps that gets frequent reworks and adjustments because it’s so challenging to balance, and it’s currently one of two maps in the CSGO competitive pool with more rounds being won by terrorists than counter-terrorists. Vertigo favors Ts mostly because the sites are in such close proximity to the terrorist spawn, which makes it easier to bullrush and harder for the CTs to set up and gain map control over the chokepoints. The first team to lose a player (first death of a round) is always going to be at a disadvantage, but CTs win just 25.6% of the time in such a circumstance. That’s the second lowest in the current map pool behind only Dust2, where so many of the losses occur simply because the CT side elects to save. When betting this map, you really need to focus on pistol rounds and streaks, as it is very hard to be competitive on Vertigo if your economy is off, with engagements happening so quickly. If a team has a strong CT side (7-9 rounds at half) they have a very strong chance to win the map. 
  • Train – Certainly considered to be a closed map, Train is one of the most difficult maps in CSGO, one that usually sees the superior team come out on top regardless of leads or streaks due to of its unforgiving angles and difficult executes. It’s a map that is played frequently (third most popular) because it is a great test for newer teams. Built on technical mastery and strategy, Train is a map that good teams love. It stands as the second most lopsided map in terms of counter-terrorists and terrorists rounds won, with CTs winning 54.7% of the rounds. This is entirely because you can only enter the sites through 4 separate funneling hallways, making it very easy to lock down with utility. Betting this map is usually about betting the team favored to be the match winner, but if a team ends up having a fantastic terrorists side (7-9 rounds) they will be huge favorites to win the map overall. Train represents a great map to take advantage of in live betting as you watch.
  • Nuke – Like Train, this is a map favored by teams that excel in strategy and teamwork, and one that can be easily punish teams lacking strong synergy. It’s a combo map that leans toward an open style as the A-site is located inside a bunch of hallways and rooms, while the B-site is mainly accessible through a path through a courtyard or a ramp room with a lot of open space. Nuke is the most lopsided map in the game, with the CTs winning 55.7% of the time and the Ts winning 44.3% of the time. This is mainly due to the sites being so difficult to access (much like Train) and utility shutting off a lot of entry ways. When betting Nuke, you will almost always want to focus on the team that breaks the 10-5 mark at half. If the CT side team of the first half gets more than 10 rounds, they are in a good position to win the game. If the T side gets more than five rounds, the ball is in their court. Map-based win rates matter here as well, as strategy is key to success on Nuke. A team that plays it frequently and is actively choosing to play it is going to be the better bet to win, as teams that don’t actively pick it to play generally have weaker strategy and a lower win rate on Nuke.
  • Mirage – By far the most played map in the competitive map pool, Mirage is an open map that favors the CT side slightly thanks to an A-site that is difficult to hold against a retake, and a B-site that is exceptionally difficult for terrorists to access outside of flawless utility usage. CTs win 52.7% of all rounds with Ts sitting at 47.3% and it’s frequently used as the deciding map of a series. Many teams would rather use their pick on maps like Dust2, Inferno, or Nuke. Mirage is typically the map that everybody is okay with playing as the default after all the bans are made. This makes Mirage unique because, if it is indeed the tiebreaker map and you are betting it, you get the added bonus of knowing the two teams are evenly matched. Watch out for teams that have troubles retaking sites when you are betting Mirage. If a team doesn’t do well taking back a site after a bomb plant, this map can be incredibly difficult considering how close the sites are to the terrorist spawn. When this map is the tiebreaker, it also offers a great opportunity to hedge any match winner bets you made.
  • Inferno – People love to play Inferno as one of the premier closed maps as it rewards teams with solid teamwork, flawless utility usage, and map control, while not giving as many escapes to teams that play it fast and loose. Gunskill takes a back seat to map control, which typically allows upsets to occur if the more seasoned team underestimates their opponent. CTs win 50.7% of the time with Ts winning 49.3% of the rounds, making this the most evenly balanced map in the current rotation. Betting on Inferno requires in-depth knowledge of teams and their tendencies. Teams that frequently pick Inferno and have a high win rate on it will carry that through against teams that don’t focus on it as much, and you can get bonus points on teams with exceptionally high assist numbers and phenomenal map control. When live betting, try to fire on teams that are keeping members alive more frequently and not relying on individual players to win them the game, as hard carries don’t fair so well.

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