Monday, January 11th Recap
BiliBili vs eStar (Net: +0.59 units)
BiliBili used their control over the bottom lane in the first dozen minutes in this game to exchange two drakes for top tower. The third dragon fight is where things went south in game one. In order to set up for this play BiliBili used Kennen ult to score a kill on Irma about 30 seconds prior. It wasn’t off of cooldown yet when the dragon fight started. Biubiu had two massive ult opportunities but that’s not very useful when you don’t have it. BLG decided to flip a coin for the drake, lost the smite, and then the fight allowing eStar to take mid tower and get the quick reset for baron setup. ShiauC bailed his team out of a few mistakes in this contest. This was by no means a clean affair after the momentum swing but eStar did eventually win this one after infernal soul and an ace at the elder fight. It shouldn’t have gotten to that point but they did get the win.
Game two started off with first blood in the bottom lane for Aiming’s Jhin compliments of Meteor’s Olaf. He returned to bottom lane for another one, and then another one, and then… you guessed it, ANOTHER ONE. ShiauC must’ve pissed off BiliBili in game one because they made his life a living hell in game two racking up a 3.5k gold lead in just over 8 minutes. This game was effectively over already. BLG did a nice job leveraging this advantage for dragons, using soul timer to force the baron face check and closed off of that.
An early bottom lane roam helped BLG pick up first blood on Zeka’s Twisted Fate to get the ball rolling. This game looked closer than it actually was. BLG had a 2k gold lead at 12 minutes even with a tied score and had thoroughly denied Zs a lot of farm and experience by pressuring him, swapping the bottom lane up there and exchanging dragon for the gold advantage. While the kill score remained close for awhile as eStar traded kills in fights, the gold kept ballooning BLG’s advantage and eventually it was just too much to overcome.
BiliBili are going to remain stylistically similar to their previous iteration except they’ve got one of the best coaches of all time showing them how it’s done this time around. BLG are going to be under darlings this season I can tell. They’re a great tempo team with players well suited to that style and they seem to have a strong read on the champions that fight this well in the current state of the game. I like what I see!
TT vs RNG (Net: -2.4475 units)
Wei went absolutely bananas in this series. He was everywhere. That’s it… that’s the breakdown.. While it basically was that, we did get to see our first taste of top lane Xiaohu on the LPL stage against some soft competition in Chelizi. It was somewhat hit or miss. He was playing top lane a lot like you’d expect a mid laner would but there were a few small mechanical errors and some suspect decision making in game two. He’s still a ways away from being a stud top laner but for a talented veteran like Xiaohu I think this is more of a matter of time. RNG intelligently played around him to make sure he wasn’t quite as exposed.
The individual players on this TT team are there, you can see it, but they lack polish as a full group which makes sense given how young they are. There were a few moments from TT in these early games but seemingly on cue they were thrown away. It’s all too familiar a sight with Dominus from last season as well. Truthfully, I think this team is going to end up much better than the Summer iteration but they’re going to take some time to figure things out. They really struggle with taking advantage of situations where they have the momentum. Against some of the less experienced or strategically sound squads they’ll get some wins but they’re quite a bit away from pulling upsets against the top of the table. It’s only one series but TT are on watch for a potential downgrade already until they can shore up some of these flaws.
Daily Net Total: -1.8575 units
The books finally got us in the red for a day. Back to work!
(I’m going to copy/paste this intro from day one into the first handful of days of matches as a reminder for those just joining us)
“Predicting the metagame”
I’ve done some research into what has been played during the offseason tournaments and on the current patch but while I think it’s important to have a general idea of what’s going on in terms of the champions picked and style of the game in its current state, it can be a futile endeavor to predict every team’s tendencies. Even if you consider your read on the game to be very accurate, it doesn’t mean that all teams, coaches, and players will act rationally and hold the same opinion. For these reasons I try to abstain from making decisive calls based on the metagame in the first few weeks.
That leads me to my next point….
Cognitive Biases and Overall Approach to Opening Weeks
How you decide to attack the first few weeks depends heavily on your risk tolerance but no matter what you choose to do it’s important that you have structure within your process. Over the years I’ve been very aggressive early on in the year because I trust my evaluation of the offseason more than the books and there are frequently very bad lines. There are pros and cons to this approach. While you might be “ahead of the curve” on a team, you could also get yourself in trouble “sticking to your guns” for too long. Last year, for example, I was overconfident that TSM were a good team based on my pre-season evaluation and continued backing them over and over insisting that they’d eventually meet my expectations. Long story, short; they never did.
Another way to play the early season is to be very selective and take more of a “wait and see” approach. This is more what I’ll be doing this season with a few exceptions for what I think are extremely undervalued and overvalued teams.
I’ll be discussing the different cognitive biases over the course of this season, likely in an evergreen style article or podcast but I think the two that come into play this early are overconfidence and confirmation bias if you are “right” about a team in the first few games. It’s a long season folks and the first few weeks mean very little in the grand scheme of things.
In short, I’ll be taking a less aggressive and more of the aforementioned “wait and see” approach to the opening weeks than I have in the past. Staking will be smaller until we get a decent picture of what each of these teams starts to look like and then we’ll ramp up from there along with the models and our eyes collecting more data. Of course, there are going to be a few exceptions to this. There are a handful of teams that I think are not just undervalued, but extremely undervalued and we have some bigger picture trends that I’m going to discuss below that I want to take advantage of early on.
Spring Last Year
We had a bit of a bizarre year last year (obviously…) with the first LPL week being played before the league went on hold over concerns about COVID-19 before picking back up again in the second week of March. In a way we got two different week ones. We had 34 matches over those two separate week ones. Let’s take a look at some of the results:
- 8 underdog 2-0’s (LGD def TOP, SN def BLG, EDG def eStar, SN def EDG, RNG def TOP, RW def SN, eStar def RW). Admittedly a few of these look a bit silly in hindsight such as eStar who dominated the rest of Spring split and Suning being underdogs to BLG only to eventually end up in World finals.
- Favorites had a combined 20-14 moneyline record with average odds of -521 over the 34 matches. (underdogs averaged +237 on the moneyline)
- Favorites went a combined 13-21 against the map spread with average odds just over even at +17.38 (underdogs near even as well at -98.38)
If you would have wagered the same amount on every single underdog map spread through the first two weeks you would have had a +84.35% return on investment. While that seems ridiculous there is a history of this phenomenon across the globe in the major region domestic leagues specifically in the Spring split.
Why is this the case? Some of the good teams had a longer season with a handful of them going to playoffs and the World Championships and the players and coaches don’t get as much preparation time since most take a break while other teams are working (think Super Bowl hangover). Many teams both good and bad are dealing with roster shuffling as players are moved around. The game is also more “chaotic” and “raw” early in the season with the pre-season patch, where most of the major changes to the game for the year take place, only about a month old. It takes awhile to figure the balance out resulting in some over and underpowered champions and higher variance games. There are also coaching and infrastructure changes similar to the players changing teams which can disrupt things.
How the books derive their prices early in the season?
In addition to the points above, books tend to heavily overprice the favorites, especially those that went to the World Championship or finished the Summer season in a high position. They also shade toward popular teams with name brand value that receive a lot of action as favorites. If we look back at Summer 2020 in the LPL anecdotally who would you guess were the most heavily bet and talked about favorites? TOP, Invictus, FunPlus, JDG, Team WE, and Suning are your top six teams in the futures markets and their prices are reflected accordingly in the opening match lines. The books also favor teams that didn’t change much, especially ones that were favorites, like the top six in our case. While they consider other roster moves there isn’t a lot of faith given to unknown qualities. In a traditional sports context this would be like grading a rookie quarterback as a varying amount below league average for example. Some end up performing at about that level, others exceed it, and other still far exceed that expectation.
Tying it all together
Good teams from the previous season with a lot of continuity seem like an attractive position to take but historically they have not been successful early in the season for a litany of reasons (see above). Bad or mediocre teams with a lot of changes or unknown players, especially rookies, aren’t given a lot of respect early on and most people are afraid to back them so it makes sense for the books to lean toward juicing up the favorites. This results in a double whammy situation. Not all unknown players end up bad or below average and if you can figure out the more promising prospects in good situations there’s even more gold to be mined here early in the season.
In the early weeks I’ll be asking a lot of favorites if I’m going to pay the tax that comes with their price tag. Typically you want to operate in the middle, making the case for both teams and weighing your options but I tend to shade more towards the underdogs in the first couple of weeks in combination with a lighter staking structure.
We’ll be touching on these points and more as we go today but I’d encourage you to check out my LPL Pre-Season Power Rankings post where I break down each team and their expected trajectory in greater detail.
LOL Pro League (China)
Week 2 – Day 2
OMG +543 (+1.5 maps @ +161, -1.5 @ +1300)
FunPlus Phoenix -909 (-1.5 maps @ -213)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +195 / under -256)
Kill Total: 26.5 (over -114 / under -114)
Kill Spread: +9.5 @ -119 / -9.5 @ -110
Team Kill Totals: 8.5 / 17.5
Time Total: 31:00 (over -122 / under -108)
OMG – New, AKi, Wuming, Eric, Cold
FPX – Nuguri, Tian, Doinb, Lwx, Crisp
OMG looked competitive in two of the three games they played against EDG on opening day and I’m about as bullish on that lineup as I am on FunPlus as you can read about in my pre-season outlook post for the LPL. The long and short of it is that FunPlus’ problems weren’t with the top lane and unless you think he’s leaps and bounds better than Khan and GimGoon this is more of a horizontal move than I think most people want to admit. FunPlus weren’t a bad team last season. There weren’t many glaring errors or holes in their game, they were just a little bit slow to the punch. They weren’t quite as sharp as they had previously been. You could blame coaching or the players for that. WarHorse left after years with this roster and organization. It’s going to be interesting what the influx of both Nuguri and Steak, a guy I haven’t been impressed with so far in his coaching career, does to this veteran roster.
Unlike the other underperforming teams last season like EDG, RNG, and Vici, FunPlus’ underlying metrics told a story much more accurate to what we were seeing; that they were a middling team with a big reputation. Individually, Doinb and both top laners measured toward the top of the table at their positions but the overall team metrics were very underwhelming even for a team that was three games over .500. I think we have to accept the possibility that MAYBE this team isn’t quite as good as their reputation.
That said, I expect FPX to be a good team and they’ll likely outperform their 2020 season but I’m not convinced that it’s as surefire a thing as most do. There are enough questions for me to have my doubts. We don’t know how Nuguri will transition, we’ve never seen him outside of his DAMWON teammates/system. Steak hasn’t showed us that he can be a great coach and while WarHorse may have left a lot to be desired last season, his read and conviction were a big reason why FPX continued to improve all the way up until their final win in 2019. That’s not an easy thing to replace.
I think you can tell where I’m going here.
I don’t think OMG are going to be a great team and FPX certainly could be but in week one against a team that just showed a competitive series against a similarly rated foe in EDG, I’ll be taking a shot on the underdogs here. AKi looked good in his debut and the OMG bottom lane is a strength for them against arguably the biggest question mark for FPX last season. The concerning matchup is the solo lanes.
There is some concern that OMG’s global-centric compositions might be the only pitch they have making them predictable, which I mentioned in my previous writeup, but I don’t trust Steak, or even most LPL teams for that matter, to make that kind of adjustment. Most LPL teams just do their thing, whatever it happens to be. They don’t play their opponents. That’s why a team like eStar in Spring was able to run the same exact set play for 8 weeks before anyone did ANYTHING to counter it.
I don’t think there’s any way you can justify a position on FPX at this price point in their first match together. If you’re not willing to hold your nose and take OMG just pass this game, don’t overpay for FPX.
You guessed it, OMG firsts.
I’ll also mention that the books opened way too many of these lines way too high based on Demacia Cup blood baths. Just 4 out of the 15 games we’ve seen so far have gone OVER with an average kill spread of 28.5. We’re beginning to see some adjustment downward but it’s likely worth getting in while the getting is good. See the bottom of this post for a few more notes on unders.
By the model’s priors, take that for what you will in week one, the better EV play here is to take FPX team total under rather than the flat under at 26.5. If FPX win this they’re very likely to just completely run over OMG with individual talent likely resulting in swift and dominant wins. They also like to split push. If OMG win it’ll likely also be lopsided given their propensity for global comps which snowball very quickly. FPX were not a high kill team in most games last season and I don’t expect that to change much given the limited changes they’ve made.
Another way to attack this would be to go with the OMG +9.5 kill spread. Given that I think book totals are still high in general as they’re in the process of adjusting, big kill spreads like this are more valuable than they’d be in a higher total game. Think of an NFL game with a low total like 37.5 and a team is favored by two touchdowns. That’s a very VERY thin margin of error for the favorites to cover if you respect the total number. I’ll be opting for the FPX team total but the OMG kill spread also looks to be positive value on my end.
Map Spread: OMG +1.5 maps @ +161 (0.5 units)
Moneyline: OMG +543 (0.25 units)
Map Spread: OMG -1.5 maps @ +1300 (0.1 units)
Team Kill Total: Map 1 FPX UNDER 17.5 kills @ -114 (0.57 units)
Team Kill Total: Map 2 FPX UNDER 17.5 kills @ -111 (0.555 units)
Team Kill Total: Map 3 FPX UNDER 17.5 kills @ -114 (0.57 units)
Prop: Map 1 OMG first blood @ +114 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 2 OMG first blood @ +116 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 3 OMG first blood @ +118 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 1 OMG first dragon @ +119 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 2 OMG first dragon @ +123 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 3 OMG first dragon @ +123 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 1 OMG first herald @ +137 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 2 OMG first herald @ +137 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 3 OMG first herald @ +137 (0.25 units)
Rogue Warriors +793 (+1.5 maps @ +186, -1.5 @ +2200)
TOP Esports -2000 (-1.5 maps @ -250)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +240 / under -323)
Kill Total: 27.5 (over -119 / under -110)
Kill Spread: +9.5 @ -111 / -9.5 @ -118
Team Kill Totals: 9.5 / 18.5
Time Total: 30:00 (over -125 / under -104)
RW – Ziv, Haro, Forge, Kelin, QiuQiu
TOP – 369, Karsa, Knight, JackeyLove, Zhuo
The new look Rogue Warriors looked a little bit like the old Rogue Warriors at times. They made a few unforced errors that kept them from taking game two in their debut against Team WE but there are other aspects of their game that looked much more improved including a surprisingly good series from fresh ADC Kelin, the one no one saw coming. RW punched back when they were behind and made proactive picks once they realized the game was slipping away. This is what good, competitive teams do. Perhaps they’re turning over a new leaf then again, maybe the fact that they looked better, Jiumeng had a bad series, and they still couldn’t take a game is indicative of a bleak forecast.
There were very few things I criticized TOP Esports for during the Summer. One was being too predictable in their drafts, insisting on end game compositions. The other was not putting teams out. When you let a team hang around in a game because you’re not putting your foot on the gas some weird stuff can happen and we saw that at times during the Summer, at the World Championships, and now in their first series back against Suning. Admittedly, Bin and SofM absolutely schooled 369 and Karsa but that’s besides the point. TOP should have won both those games, at the very least game two. It doesn’t really change my outlook for this team too much but it’s something to think about as a bit of a weak spot in the armor if you can attack it. I hope teams do so that they’re forced to fix it, it would help them out a lot.
This feels like the “get right” spot of all get right spots doesn’t it? TOP lose another series to Suning and they’re going to Tom Brady FU style completely obliterate the next thing they see and Rogue Warriors are just what the doctor ordered. That narrative sounds familiar doesn’t it? It makes sense philosophically but I actually think there’s more to this series than meets the eye.
You could say that Rogue Warriors still lost 0-2 even looking better and with Team WE having a bad game. Team WE are, coincidentally, very similar to TOP stylistically. They have a tendency to wait for their opponents to make mistakes rather than forcing the action, TOP less so than WE but it’s still an issue. Rogue Warriors are the kind of team that will play right into it with a mistake. Typically I don’t like Rogue Warriors in these kinds of matchups but I do think they’re worth a play here. TOP didn’t look bad against Suning, and obviously the competition is stiffer, but I don’t think there is as big a difference as most do. Rogue Warriors still upgraded at every position around Haro and as I’ve mentioned a million times, they’re exactly the kind of team you want to take as a big underdog like this. RW aren’t afraid to flip coins and introduce variance to the game. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of their modus operandi. Now maybe we don’t see that as much with this iteration of the team but we saw the aggression and confidence in the first series which makes me think they haven’t changed. I’ll be taking a small position on RW here. From a gut perspective I’m always skeptical of a spot that “feels” too good to be true anyway and I’d rather have RW in this position than a team like OMG for example. At least with RW you know they’re going to throw some curveballs.
Haro tries to strike early and often. He had an above average first blood, first dragon, and first herald percentage last season. TOP, even with Karsa focusing his attention on it, had a sub 50% first blood rate last season. I’ll be taking the first blood here.
This is yet another spot to consider TOP Esports under the team total of 18.5 which is very high. My only pause would be that RW have a history of “throwing themselves” at opponents and this team, even in their first series, showed that they aren’t just going to roll over and die and they’ll take whatever chance there is to get back into the game. Could be a late backdoor to your under so buyer beware.
Map Spread: RW +1.5 maps @ +186 (0.5 units)
Moneyline: RW +793 (0.25 units)
Map Spread: RW -1.5 maps @ +2200 (0.1 units)
Map Moneyline: Map 1 +500 (0.1 units)
Prop: Map 1 RW first blood @ +124 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 2 RW first blood @ +124 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 3 RW first blood @ +127 (0.25 units)
I’m planning on doing a look ahead lines show on Monday evenings once we start getting more leagues running and more data points. It would be just a quick hitting live stream where I’d answer questions, go over the lines when they’re posted and any positions that I think are obvious in the coming week before moves happen.
In that spirit, there is a position I’m absolutely in love with on Wednesday that I wanted to get out ahead of. As I mentioned earlier, Totals have been coming in way under and while the books have been slowly adjusting downward, we’ve got a matchup between Invictus and LNG where they’re still floating a 30.5 or 29.5 depending on where you look. I’m going to hit that now especially because I’m expecting Invictus to roll in that series. Now, obviously Invictus can have some goofy games as we’ve seen over the past few years but I’m seeing a ton of value in that number as there’s a good chance IG just roll.
My Bonus “Look Ahead” Picks:
Wednesday, January 13th
Invictus vs LNG
Kill Total: Map 1 UNDER 30.5 @ -120 (1.2 units)
Kill Total: Map 2 UNDER 29.5 @ -114 (1.14 units)
Kill Total: Map 3 UNDER 29.5 @ -118 (1.18 units)
I believe in accountability. For years I’ve tracked all of my picks publically. 2021’s selections will be via this spreadsheet but it isn’t updated until AFTER the games have started. The Esports Department subscribers get the first look.
Check out The Gold Card Podcast and can find me on Twitter @GelatiLOL
(all lines from Nitrogen unless noted otherwise)