Playing higher vig markets like futures isn’t appealing to many. For esports, most of the futures markets can reach into the upper 20%s in the percent rake that the book takes. But there are a few reasons I’ve had success with them over the years.
#1 Discrepancies in the market
Particularly during the pre-season books aren’t using updated rosters and weight heavily the prior year of results in grading a team. We also frequently see inconsistencies in pricing BETWEEN futures markets. While a single one, such as To Win Outright might have incredibly high vig, it doesn’t take into account the possibility of the handicapper to do their research and leverage other markets to create massive middles or high leverage situations because it requires work and the tying up of their bankroll.
#2 Engineering high leverage situations through multiple markets
I treat futures just like options trading. You’re seeking arbitrage opportunities. If you anticipate a stock, or in our situation a team, to run up over the next few weeks you can invest in that now and fade the dip or run up using that previously established position. When looking at a tournament it’s usually fairly easy to eliminate a majority of the unlikely events. By doing this we can create situations where we’re essentially creating synthetic lines for ourselves over time.
To me, futures are a highly active derivative market that demand a lot of close attention from the trader involved. You need to constantly evaluate your positions to determine when and how you want to take advantage of your setups. Unfortunately for us, unlike traditional sports, we rarely get mid-tournament opportunities to make adjustments like we would in a sport like, for example, the NFL where odds are updated seemingly every week that allow us to buy and sell on a more granular level. (go get that Ravens to win the Super Bowl at +500 by the way, they’ll likely be the #1 seed in the AFC after this week so get in while the getting is good!). While we’re not to that level yet, there’s is still a lot of tremendous opportunities to be had with futures.
It’s not for everyone, if you can’t afford to have this much of your bankroll tied up one thing I’ve done in the past is set aside a percentage of your bankroll at the beginning of an event and derive your “unit” from a percentage of that instead of your full bankroll.
Let’s get into it!
To make finals vs Win Worlds
A few of the middle of the table teams are solid targets here as there isn’t much of a gap between their winning expectation if you like the dark horses I recommend some sort of split on outrights and to reach finals in much the same way you’d be a golf Win/Cash/Cut or Win/Top5/Top20 or a tennis Win/Top 2 (E/W). The reason I’m pointing out these teams specifically is that the gap between the winning odds and to reach finals odds is rather small compared to their colleagues and it present potential value IF you give these teams a shot at all. It just so happens that I give a few of them a shot here.
Suning +2300 to win / +2100 to reach final
MAD Lions +3500 to win / +3300 to make final
Gen.G +1700 to win / +1100 to make final
DragonX +1500 to win / +1100 to make final
Region of Winner
- LPL -125
- LCK +150
- LEC +450
- LCS +6500
- Any Other +12,500
Liquid +6600, FlyQuest +10,000, TSM +4500
These are the outright odds for the three LCS representatives. If you’re going to take an LCS team to win the tournament, just take Region of Winner NA for +6500 for half of whatever you were going to wager and split the rest three ways or on whichever team you happen to like. The presumption here if you think an LCS team has a shot is that you think the LCS is either being underrated or that everyone is being overrated. You might like one team over another but the sentiment is likely about the region in particular and not specifically one team.
Machi +15,000, Talon +15,000
Similarly to the LCS, if you have an inclining about the PCS teams you’re better off splitting half on Region of Winner “Any other” @ +12,500 which covers these as well as any potential wild card roster. If you want just like above split it half on Region of Winner and either quarter of wager each or on whichever team you prefer.
TOP +150, JDG +300, Suning +2300, LGD +2900
There’s actually a lot of value on this especially if you feel strongly that TOP or JDG take this down. Even wagers on JDG and TOP would net you roughly a -200 synthetic line (obviously you could bend that to your preference if you like one or the other). -125 is already beating that by a significant amount AND you are covered on a Suning or LGD deep run as well. This is one of the best values on the entire futures board and even though I like the LCK teams in this tournament it’s difficult to ignore this.
If you are like most people and favor the LPL squads this is an absolute slam dunk wager even if it’s unexciting. You can hammer this and if you think the LCK teams look good before a quarterfinal match you can sort of “fade the region” in multiple matches presumably at plus odds with the non-LPL underdogs.
DAMWON +230, DragonX +1500, Gen.G +1700
Unlike the LPL version of this, which is a value, the Region of Winner LCK line you’re better off doing any kind of split you like as most are net better than this number. I covered a few of my opening LCK positions in my previous article. This is a stay away just take the teams individually. Obviously shop around because higher numbers for this are more interesting.
G2 +750, Fnatic +2400, MAD Lions +3500, Rogue +4500
Similarly to the LCK teams, the LEC you’re better off just taking the individual teams weighted slightly toward G2 over this number or if you think G2 are the only live contender here then just take them outright. Keep in mind the numbers on G2 vary quite a bit book-to-book and range as high as 12 to 1 and as low as 6 to 1.
Full Worlds 2020 Outright Futures Portfolio:
** from previous article
“The Lottery Tickets”
Region of Winner: Any other (non- LCK, LPL, LEC, LCS) @ +12,500 (0.5 units)
To Reach Finals: Talon +16,900 (0.1 units)
**To Win Finals: Talon +15,000 (0.1 units)(ew old number)
To Reach Finals: Machi +9800 (0.1 units)
To Reach Finals: Unicorns of Love +8700 (0.1 units)
To Reach Finals: SuperMassive +16,900 (0.1 units)
Total Exposure: 1 unit
This group is primarily as the name suggest, the lottery tickets I like most. Of the wildcard region teams these are the only four I really like to make any noise. The other would be Legacy but I’m more or less ruling out Rainbow7, INTZ, and V3 Esports. To me, these four actually represent enough of a possibility within their range of outcomes to actually make a deep run or to run hot for a tournament. They play in competitive domestic leagues, most of the players have previous international experience, and they possess the individual capability to not be automatically ruled out of any given game.
The PCS teams, Talon in particular, just made an upgrade to mid AND jungle but will also be playing with a sub ADC for an undisclosed amount of games. IF they can gel on short notice, and it’s a big if, then I could actually see this team making some noise. LMS teams have done so in the past and I think this is a bit of a “super” team for that league which improved and grew more versatile and diverse with the merger.
“The Dark Horses”
Region of Winner: LCS (North America) +6500 (0.5 units)
To Reach Finals: Liquid +3400 (0.25 units)
**To Win Finals: TSM +5500 (0.25 units)
Total Exposure: 2 units
I’m not giving FlyQuest much of a chance here just because I think Solo is going to have his work cut out for him in this metagame and against the top laners in his group and it makes FlyQuest a bit more linear than they should be able to get away with here. The elevated quality of practice environment has been a boon for Western teams traveling East in the past and given how poor Liquid looked to finish the LCS season I think it’s reasonable to expect a significant improvement from them especially with four members returning to the World stage, many multiple times. TSM could continue to improve like they did throughout playoffs and Bjergsen has a reasonable case for second best mid laner in this group. I wish I had access to TSM to reach final at the old number but it’s a significant difference so this will be my exposure.
To Reach Finals: Suning +2100 (1 unit)
To Win Group A: Suning +130 (1 unit)
If the meta ends up shaping out to one where the mid lane is more of a handshake like maybe an Azir/Corki or similar situation (Zoe vs a lot of things) then I could definitely see Suning far exceeding expectations in this tournament. Angel is the weak link on this squad and against the quality of competition in this tournament it’s reasonable to expect he could be a liability. The rest of the squad is incredible so if mid laners end up cancelling each other out or the previously mentioned handshake situation then Suning are poised for a deep run.
“The Meat and Potatoes”
Region of Winner: LPL @ -125 (12.5 units)
**To Win Finals: DAMWON +400 (3 units)
To Reach Finals: Gen.G +1100 (2 units)
**To Win Finals: Gen.G +1700 (2 units)
To Reach Finals: DragonX +1100 (2 units)
**To Win Finals: DragonX +1500 (1 unit)
Total Exposure: 22.5 units
These wagers make up the majority of my futures portfolio for tournament outrights. As I mentioned in my article last week, I think this is essentially a six horse race between a clear top four, DAMWON, Gen.G, TOP Esports, and JD Gaming with DragonX and G2 a half tier down from those teams. After that top six it’s a big drop off in my perceived likelihood of a tournament winner. The most likely candidates of the remaining teams, to me, are Suning, Fnatic, LGD, Rogue, then another drop off. (Check that post to familiarize yourself with my tier list for this event).
This is a bit complicated so I’ll try to simplify it.
I think the VAST MAJORITY of scenarios in this tournament end up with some iteration of LCK and LPL teams in the finals. To me the Region of Winner LPL has so much value in it that it allows us to hedge against my entire LCK position AND profit on ANYTHING other than specifically a DAMWON finals win. Let’s take a look a few hypotheticals:
* these factor in the entire outrights portfolio and are naked or without hedge factored in
- Worst Case Scenario: G2, FNC, MAD, FLY win Worlds (-25.5 units naked or without hedge)
OR a zero LPL/LCK team finals OR non-futures team beats any non-Suning LPL team
We’d lose 25.5 units on various outrights. G2 would likely be short underdogs against any of the top three teams which could offer a reasonable fade position especially given our other futures. The worst case scenario that I feel is closest to likely would be G2 beating JDG, TOP, or LGD in the finals. We’d probably have pretty good odds on G2 in that spot so we could at least cut losses. The full on worst case scenario would be G2, FNC, MAD, or FLY winning worlds against a non-Suning LPL team.
- Second Worst Case Scenario #1: DAMWON win vs non-Suning LPL team (-13.5 units)
We’d have a chance to back DAMWON at a reasonable number probably around even money if it’s TOP or JDG and given that I think they are the favorite that’s a situation I’ll likely want to be in. If I end up on the other side that’s an opportunity as well, likely at close to even money as well. Easy to cut losses in this situation.
- Scenario #1: DAMWON win vs non-LPL team (-13.5 units w/ +hedge upside)
DAMWON would likely be massive favorites against any of the non-top six teams so we’d be hard pressed to get any kind of value and we’d be probably wagering heavy on map spreads in that match which is bad. However, there is upside depending on the team that makes it, we’d likely have exposure to any of the teams making it unless it’s G2, Fnatic, or MAD Lions or FlyQuest or one of the lower wildcard teams which could create a nice middle opportunity.
- Scenario #2: DAMWON lose vs LPL team (-3 units, or +18 if Suning make it, w/ upside)
We’d have a chance to back whoever we like in the series or middle if it happens to be Suning.
- Scenario #3: DAMWON win vs Gen.G (~ +18.5 units)
- Scenario #4: Gen.G/DragonX lose to any LPL team (~ +19 units)
- Second Best Case Scenario: DAMWON lose to Gen.G or DragonX (~ +34.5 units)
- Best Case Scenario (without long shots): Gen.G win vs DragonX (~ +44.5 units)
- Best Case Scenario (with a long shot): Gen.G/DragonX lose vs Suning (~ +45 units)
Often times, similar to DFS, when you’re setting these portfolios up you’re fading a few teams. G2 are the team that would completely blow up my spot with a tournament win but we’ll have plenty of opportunities along the way to recoup the value on this, especially because I’d imagine we get slightly better odds than we did last year on them as we go. To me ceiling far outweighs the floor here and even on most of the slightly losing “average” scenarios we’d have plenty of room to maneuver on hedge opportunites.
I’ll see you all later in the week for our first day of the tournament on Friday! Article for those selections should be up Thursday afternoon.
UPDATES (9/23, 730pm):
To Win Group A: Suning +130 (1 unit)
To Win Group C: Gen.G +100 (3 units)
To Win Group C: TSM +900 (0.5 units)
To Qualify from Group C: TSM +300 (1 unit)
To Win Group D: DragonX +240 (1 unit)