How to bet on League of Legends: From LCS to LPL

A lot of research will be needed to develop a strong process.

What is League of Legends?

League of Legends (LoL) is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) style game created by Riot Games. It’s the world’s most popular esport, beating both DOTA2 and CSGO in global markets, especially in the Eastern hemisphere. After its release in 2009, LoL quickly became one of the top competitive video games in the world. It has maintained its spot atop the esports popularity level because it’s free to download and play while having one of the market’s highest skill caps, making it great for beginners and expert players alike. 

The game was built on a simple premise: take down the defenses of the opposing team’s base and destroy their Nexus. Like all competitive games, a basic starting point becomes much more complicated as you dive into the intricacies and begin to master the game.

Before the game even starts, players go through a phase of banning certain “champions” while picking the ones they want to play for the game. Champions are different characters with unique abilities, powers, and skill levels in terms of technical mastery, that allow them to affect the game in dramatically different ways. The game is played on a diamond arena with five players to a team, each starting in their home base at the “fountain”, located in a corner of the map. There are three lanes, one on each edge of the diamond and one running straight through the middle, as well as “jungles” between the lanes. The players on each team fight to control these lanes and jungles, and look to secure gold and experience from the objectives around the map. The gold earned is spent on various weapons, armors, and boosts that give their “champions” more power to eliminate the other team and control more of the map and objectives. The teams look to destroy towers that guard the base, inhibitors, and eventually the enemy team’s Nexus to win the game.

There are a cornucopia of leagues across the world, but the main ones are:

LCS – League of Legends Championship Series

The LCS is the premier league of North America, widely considered the weakest of every major league in the world. The top eight teams in the LCS qualify for the playoffs after a double round-robin format from the regular season. The talent levels are significantly lower than those in the LCK and LPL and the gameplay is much sloppier. Cloud9 is the powerhouse team in this league but they can never really make their mark at Worlds (the world championship), even though they decimate the competition within the LCS. Sportsbooks don’t give much respect to teams other than Cloud9 in this league, although second-tier teams like TSM, Team Liquid, and other fringe competitors can garner some larger lines when they face bottom feeders.

LEC – League of Legends European Championship

The European League of Legends region is considered to be stronger than the LCS but still a level below that of the LPL and LCK skill levels, which I’ll outline below. The ELC is built on a double round-robin format in the regular season with the top six teams qualifying for the playoffs. Players in this league are generally stronger mechanically, and have gameplay that focuses on fundamentals with an emphasis on macro-gameplay (objectives, map control). Because of this focus on macro-gameplay, LEC teams are more polished and players typically find more consistency. G2 Esports and, to a lesser extent, Fnatic are the top dogs in this region, but recent improvements from teams like MAD Lions and Rogue have given a bit more urgency to the LEC’s juggernauts, forcing them to continue improving or be knocked from the throne. Betting sites have a solid understanding of the LEC and the main competitors within the league, but there is a higher floor for every team here over the LCS, meaning the lines are typically not as lopsided.

LPL – League of Legends Pro League

The Pro League is a top tier professional league, sitting just behind the LCK in terms of world rankings and global championship relevance. It’s set up in a single round robin format in the regular seasons, leading into a playoff round of the eight best teams. There are multiple LPL teams each year with a true chance to compete for the world championship, making the LPL one of the most potent barometers of the state of the meta within the game itself. 

The style in the LPL is very kill hungry, with a lot of skirmishing and a focus on technical brilliance and “hero mechanics” that creates an exceptionally exciting esports product for viewers. You’ll notice sportsbooks offering considerably higher over/unders on total kills in this league and, due to the hyper-aggressive nature of the LPL, upsets happen more here than in other leagues.

LCK – League of Legends Championships Korea

The Korean league is the premier group of players in League of Legends and the favorite to produce the winner of the world championship each and every year. This is a double round-robin regular season format that builds into a five-team playoff. The worst LCK teams would wipe the floor with most of the LCS teams and the best player in the world – Faker – is a consistent face of the game and its competitive environment.

LCK teams are exceptionally strong in terms of both macro and micro decision making, and can dance circles around the LCS and LEC players when it comes to technical and mechanical prowess. Betting sites know this league is built on objective control and map manipulation, and less on kills. so you will typically see lower over/unders and kill counts. But if you pay attention to the meta at the time and the current patch, you can exploit bad lines as teams adapt to faster or slower gameplay.

For more detailed breakdowns of each league, the seeding and season structures, and information on each team within the leagues of the world, visit this site.

The leagues are built in a way that awards the best teams from each region a place in the LoL world championship, based on different seeding rules from each specific region. The LEC and LCS, for instance, award an entry based on the summer split playoffs alone, while other leagues use a championship points system based on wins in each of the spring and summer splits. The prize pools for the largest LoL events of the year are usually in the range of millions of dollars, so it’s an exceptionally lucrative position for the teams that find themselves at worlds.

All in all, League of Legends is a game built on technical precision and lightning fast decision making and responses. Because of the high level of difficulty involved in mastering the game, LoL betting is very rewarding to those who develop a solid process and pay attention to the finer details of the teams and the leagues themselves.

Apr 13, 2019; St. Louis , MO, USA; TSM members Soren Bjerg and Matthew Higginbotham walks on stage prior to game five against Team Liquid during the League of Legends Championship Series Spring Finals at Chaifetz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

How to bet on League of legends

Types of bets

  • Money line – Moneyline betting is nothing new to the world and it finds its place in LoL betting as the easiest and most widely offered form of wager at any sportsbook. The idea of moneyline betting is to pick a straight up winner of a series between two teams, with the caveat that you are betting based on the odds offered on the given teams. There are a multitude of different ways that odds are given in the sports betting world but, in all circumstances, the favorite will pay you less than the amount of money you risk while betting the underdog will pay more. Bettors use money lines as the most common piece of action they will lay and, because of the inherent volatility of competitive gaming and esports in genera,l you can and should be trying to hedge your bets often and take shots on underdogs. It’s not uncommon to see absolutely gigantic odds in favor of the best teams against the worst teams – one team was recently -3333 on the moneyline, odds implying a 97.09% chance to win – and teams are very rarely able to match those probabilities in practice. Moneylines are an important component of any bettor’s action. A solid tip about betting moneylines is to assume any team between -150 and +150 is a coin flip to win, and to lean to the side of the underdog more often than not unless your research shows an obvious edge to the favorite.
  • Total Kills – Most betting sites will offer bets on the total amount of kills to take place in a given game of LoL, and there can be some solid edges to exploit if you have a firm understanding of what teams are after in a game. As noted in the explanations of the leagues themselves, kill counts in the different regions vary since certain regions have more or less aggressive natures than others. The kill counts in the LPL and CBLOL (Brazilian league) will be higher across the board than those of the LCK and, knowing this, bookmakers will adjust the over/unders on games based on region. But this can be broken down to a team-based level so, if you gain an understanding in your research of which teams are willing to fight for objectives and which teams are more likely to sit back and level up before fighting, you can make much more informed decisions on the line being offered. Likewise, having an understanding of the patch the game is on – which dictates the meta – will give you a leg up on the books as you can better guess how games will be played.
  • Handicap – Handicaps in LoL betting are based on how many games will separate the winner and the loser of the match and, at a game level, the amount of kills that will separate the two teams. These are offered when the series is decided in best-of-three or best-of-five formats and, as some of the most lucrative bets you can make, they’re a great way to hedge your moneyline bets if you are feeling less confident coming into a game. Because each game of LOL takes place on a different playing field with different champions played by the teams, a series is likely to have a large amount of factors that contribute to how many games are played. Still, a lot of the lines offered will be a juiced moneyline. For example, a -400 favorite to win a match will be around a +115 underdog to sweep. This is true for the majority of teams as a cookie-cutter kind of line offered. Good research can offer insight into which teams are more consistent in dropping fewer games, and betting the under on their handicap can be a great way to build a floor into your action. As far as the handicaps on a game level go, it’s typically pretty easy to get an idea of the average difference of kills between two teams in wins and losses. When you pair this information with an understanding of how the current meta affects kills, there is a lot of reason to lay action. However, you should understand that kill counts and deficits are highly correlated with winning and losing in LoL, and there are better ways to leverage kill counts.

Prop Bets in League of Legends

  • First blood – Wagering on first blood is very much based on luck and team composition, but it’s a popular prop bet to make nonetheless. There is a lot of data out there that can lead you to finding success on what is treated like a coin flip by the sportsbooks. Going to gol.gg and looking up the teams in question will provide you with some solid first blood rate data, giving you a starting point for your research and enough information to begin making better bets on this prop. As it goes with the specific style of the leagues you are dealing with, the more aggressive leagues will have more variance with first blood rates, while the slower-paced leagues will usually be more predictable as the better team will end up securing it based on map and objective control as the game progresses.
  • First to “X” amount of kills – Similar to bettors being able to lay money on who will end up with the first kill of the game, you can make bets on who will be the first team to rack up a certain number of kills. These bets are typically offered in multiples of five kills, so five, 10, 15, and 20 kills are the benchmarks you’ll be offered. The thing about this kind of bet is that if you make the assumption that a team will be the first to 10 kills, they are much more likely than the other team to be the first to 15 kills, 20 kills and so on. Considering how highly correlated kills are to winning the game, this also offers a way to get the best odds on a team to win the game outright without paying the price for the moneyline. For instance, let’s say the moneyline of Team A is -250 but the line offered on them as the first team to reach 10 kills on any of the given maps is just -150. This is an opportunity to pay a much better price on a line and, in turn, receive a better payout on your bets and gain access to teams as winners. Just another way to boost your return on investment as you research each matchup for the night.
  • Objectives – Another type of prop bet that can be broken down in an analytical sense using data found over at gol.gg, there are a whole bunch of different objectives props offered by various sportsbooks. You can bet on whether both teams will kill elemental drakes, barons, or inhibitors. You can bet on how many drakes or barons will be taken in the game overall. You can bet on how many towers are destroyed and if either team will end up killing the elder dragon. There are a multitude of different objective based props and data on how often each team ends up completing the various objectives in any given game, so there’s ample opportunity as you pay attention to these kinds of props and the inefficiencies that can be found. As a brief example, if your research shows you that one team averages just .75 drakes per game while the opposing team averages just 2.5 drakes per game, and the over/under on total drakes killed is set at 4.5, you should have a good chance at meeting the under in this instance.
Apr 13, 2019; St. Louis , MO, USA; Team Liquid plays against TSM during the League of Legends Championship Series Spring Finals at Chaifetz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Betting tips/How to be successful 

Strategy 

There isn’t going to be just one individual way to find success in LoL betting, but there needs to be a lot of research done on the teams in terms of the early and mid game efficiency if you want to develop a strong process. When teams win, they often look dominant no matter how well they actually played the game, and knowing just how much better or worse teams are than the opponents they have faced, is important for betting them in future spots. I’ll usually direct people to two sites for all their LoL betting data needs: Oracleselixer.com and gol.gg. Both sites have broad information like region and league specific stats, as well as player specific stats that can paint a more detailed picture of efficiency all the way down to the base levels. 

Areas to focus on when planning to make bets on teams are the average gold differential at 15 minutes, as well as the first blood rate. To me, these two statistics help give an idea of how well teams are able to get ahead of opponents to develop a lead that extends to the later parts of the game. Gold differential is going to tell you how much more powerful teams are on average at the mid-game mark – since gold directly correlates to power levels – and racking up early kills is an easy way to get your champions not only more experience, but more map control to take objectives as they come up.

Another thing to pay attention to is the average difference in kills between teams and their opponents. It’s one thing to know how often a team wins, but another thing to know they average 12 more kills than their opponents while absolutely dominating them. Sometimes we run into scenarios where a team is only winning by a couple kills per game and they end up as bigger favorites than they deserve to be, based on the amount of gold they give up to the opposing team. In other scenarios, a team may not be willing to fight for objectives often but still wins because their opponents make mistakes, which results in low kill counts. A sign of a truly dominant team is one that frequently out-slays their opponent by a large margin.

Knowing the game

The most important part of LoL that you absolutely must understand when betting frequently, is what patch the game is on and what changes it may make to the current meta. When I speak on the meta, and when you hear about it, what it means is simply the way to play the game in an optimal manner. LoL experiences a patch update every two weeks that introduces changes to various aspects, champions, and items within the game. These updates can have a major effect on the efficiency of teams and players. There will be small patch updates that don’t dramatically affect the pro level of play, like upgrades to a champion in the pool that doesn’t move the needle much. There will also be updates like the one from patch 10.06, which gave a massive boost to the experience gained for certain types of players and entirely changed the way the game is played. 

Keeping up with these patches and reading the patch notes ahead of time will be paramount to your success as a bettor since you will be able to make more informed decisions on how games are likely to play out. That said, pro players usually play on the patch just before the most current one. This means you should pay attention to how players are reacting to the current patch and what it has done to certain champions win rates, and project it forward once the pros end up on that patch. This will greatly increase your ROI.

Champion and class selections and how that impacts betting 

Within a series of LoL, there will be a lot of things we can measure and make hard assumptions about. But the picks and bans phase is something that is exceptionally hard to project, and that is therefore a constant unknown – or at least a partial unknown – that we need to account for in our LoL betting analysis. Similar to picks and bans in CSGO, there is a picks and bans process before the start of every LoL game that sets the table for who will play which champion and what kind of team compositions will be created. Each team will start by banning three champions then choosing three, followed by two more bans, and then the final two selections. This results in a total of 10 bans and 10 picks.

There is a lot of strategy that goes into this phase of the game and it’s exceptionally difficult for us as bettors to predict what teams want to accomplish with any level of consistency. Some teams are committed to picking a specific kind of team composition that is built to achieve different objectives through the game. Some teams want to use their picks and bans to set up a longer game that allows their champions to become more powerful than the opponent. Some teams just straight up want to choose the champions they know best so they can have the easiest time mechanically. A lot of what the picks and bans come down to is the meta, and making sure you are securing the most powerful champions for your team or banning the most powerful champions from your opponent. But there is a high level of nuance that happens here and, as in most elite esports, the coaches will have a heavy hand in the decision making and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

The best you can do if you want to try to make assumptions about champion selection and the picks and bans of teams is to go to this site, find the teams you are looking at, and check out the most banned and most picked champions for their players. You can sometimes spot patterns and develop an idea of the identity of players and teams, but you must keep in mind the ever-changing landscape of the game with such frequent patches and updates.