MSI Futures and Day 1

Group stages at international tournaments are the peak of LoL to me. The highest quality? No. The most meaningful matches? No. But the promise of anything being possible for every team, the development of the tournament meta, and the diversity (in style, culture, etc) of each league showing itself internationally is as cool as esports gets in my book. 

It has also created some of my most profitable gambling opportunities through two avenues: backing underdogs in early games and mispriced futures. Let’s start with the futures:

The futures for MSI are priced as if no team has any significant chance to make the finals besides DWG and RNG. When it comes to DWG, that’s probably right.  Especially, with Showmaker talking about creating their own dynasty like T1 of yesteryear. But with RNG, a team with discernible weaknesses and who seemed to really thrive in the playoff meta (which has now changed), I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion. Should they still make the final a majority of the time? Yup. But in my opinion it’s more like 55% of the time and in the other 45% of the time there’s serious money to be made. So, then the question becomes: If not RNG, who and what are their odds? Here are three teams I love for the odds:

Cloud9

There’s not a lot new to say about C9. They have a mid-jungle duo that can seriously compete internationally and an ADC and Top laner who are big question marks. Here’s the promising part for them: this looks like a mid-jungle focused meta. With solo lane Lee, Zed, Irelia, Yone and Rumble, Kindred, and Fiddle Jungle due to make appearances in the tournament, C9 could get some pretty dominant pairings for their superstars. Of course, there is also whispers of the hyper carry adc with Karma and Lulu, but that probably favors them too because it makes it easier to hide their weaknesses. Their long odds are just too long for a team that is a near-guarantee to make it out of groups. Plus, if C9 make a run at the tournament, I don’t want to be rooting against them.

Recommended Bets: C9 to make final (+1000) 1u

PSG Talon   

PSG Talon is one of the most undervalued teams I think I’ve ever seen in LoL. They just had one of the most dominant seasons in all of International LoL, only dropping 1 game en route to their spring title in the PCS. They qualified with ease from the playin stages at Worlds. They could have made it out of their Worlds group that included JD Gaming and Damwon with a little more luck. Yet, they’re priced like any other wildcard team. The PCS is a top 5 league in the World and I personally have it on the same level as the LCS and LEC. PSG, Beyond, and Machi would all compete for the title in Europe and North America. I am pretty confident of this. But PSG looked like 2020 Damwon in their league. They played stock-standard, teamfight focused LoL and kicked everyone’s asses. They’re great at a lot of the same things that Damwon is, taking an inch and turning it into a mile. Obviously, the competition was weaker, but this is not a flukey-slow-wait-for-opponents-to-lose team or early game sinners, they are legitimately very good. It’s rare that you get to bet on a team this good at these kinds of numbers.

Recommended Bets: PSG Talon to win group B (+240) 3u, PSG Talon to make final (+2200) 1u

Istanbul Wildcats

What I’m truly banking on with each of these bets is for the teams to make it out of the group stage and then to have a chance to hedge in a semi-final with one of them. It’s not because I believe any of them should be favored to do anything at the tournament. With that said, the Wildcats are also massively mispriced. The odds for Group B assume that Mad Lions is a pretty significant favorite to get first, just like they were a significant favorite to get out of the play-in stage at Worlds last year. Who upset them there? A Turkish team. Granted, the Mad Lions have clearly improved this year and put together a nice playoff run in the LEC, but I don’t think all their issues have disappeared. A shaky bot lane, overplaying from winning positions, and a propensity for solo deaths all showed up at some point in the Spring. It was better in their playoff run, but we could still see it come back at MSI. If that version of Mad Lions shows up, I think Turkey has sent an even stronger representative to knock them off. The gold stats for Istanbul Wildcats are even better than their record and eye test suggests. Once again, they are a team playing meta LoL and getting big gold advantages from their play, not from compositional cheese. That’s the right style to beat Mad Lions with in my opinion. 

Recommended Bets: IWC to advance from Group (+300) 1u, IWC to win group (+1200) 1u, IWC to make final (+3300) 1u

On to my favorite bets for day 1:

C9 ML vs. Damwon Gaming (+300) 1u

This is really just a bet on first day variance. You know everything there is to know about Cloud9 and Damwon. Cloud9 is a pretty good North American team, Damwon is vying to be the greatest of all time. However,  25% to win in a best of 1 on a brand new meta is too good to pass for any competent team. Cloud9 is a competent team. They will not get absolutely smashed in every lane (maybe 1 or 2) and it’s possible that they come into the tournament with a better read on the meta than Damwon. Especially, with the Korean teams’ history of taking the early stages of MSI a bit lightly, this one is worth a first day variance bet.

Istanbul Wildcats ML vs. Pain Gaming (-130) 3u

I am not going to pretend to have watched every game of either of these teams, but here’s why I am pretty confident in this bet: the TCL is a much better league that CBLoL. The TCL looks fairly similar to every other pro league in the world. The CBLoL looks like a challenger level solo queue game. It can be very hard to break those kind of habits. Outside of the difference between the two leagues, the Wildcats were more statistically dominant than their opponents in their home league. Pain had a +7.9% GSPD where as the Wildcats had a +9.2% GSPD. Pain went 11-7 where the Wildcats went 14-4. Better team in a better league at near coinflip odds?  Hammer spot.

PSG Talon ML vs. Mad Lions (+125) 2u

I won’t rehash the case here too much for PSG Talon. Here are the stats: Mad Lions with a 72% Win rate and +5.8% GSPD, PSG Talon with a 95% win rate and a +16% GSPD. The Mad lions are pretty heavily favored. Even if you rate the LEC as a significant cut above the PCS (I don’t), this feels heavy-handed. 

MLS Cup Futures

The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, shots are going into arms, and a little hint of Spring and Summer optimism is in the air. Spring optimism for my thoroughly broken mind means to try to find value in the betting odds for one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world: Major League Soccer. While some folks say to stay away from betting on MLS because of its variance, I like to lean right in and embrace it. In a 27 team league where at least 20 of the teams could tell themselves a story that ends with them lifting MLS cup, there’s bound to be some mispriced futures odds with some very big numbers. For that, I’ve got you covered.

A little about me first: I bet for fun. I am lifetime profitable at sports betting, but have had multiple losing days, weeks, months in a row before and give out my picks because it sparks joy for me, not to get anyone rich. If you want to follow my record on mostly LoL and soccer bets I keep it here. 

On futures betting: treat each of these as an investment on a team at the price. Meaning, if there are playoff opportunities to hedge your bets and make guaranteed profit, do it. If you want to follow what I do with these hedge-wise follow me on Twitter. 

The Favorites

LAFC

  • Odds to win it all: +500
  • Key 2020 Stats: 
    • Expected Goal Differential: +9.84 (3rd)
    • Expected Goals For: 40.33 (1st)
    • Expected Goals Against: 30.50(13th)
    • Key Signings: Jesus Murillo (CB), Kim Moon-Hwan (RB), Corey Baird (FWD)

LAFC is the most talented team in MLS. LAFC regularly has the best advanced numbers in the league. Until either of those things stops being true, I will probably be anchoring all of my futures bets with larger sizes on LAFC. Last year, LAFC had the season from hell as they struggled to keep Carlos Vela off the injury report and to find a working center back pairing and they still almost won the CCL. This year, both those issues seem to be solved. Carlos Vela looks back in form and they have two signings to shore up their back line. Jesus Murillo looked the part of a legitimate MLS CB after signing in the middle of 2020 and the club has extended him.   Before his signing, they were conceding an expected 1.67 goals per game, after signing him, they conceded 1.3. A small difference that will play out in big ways over the course of the season. Their other back line addition is Korean national teamer Kim Moon-Hwan. I won’t pretend to have seen him play, but his pedigree(national teamer, rising stock in Kleague) seem to suggest he’ll be in the upper half of right backs in the league. The offensive side of the ball is a lock to be the best or second best in the league. They have led the league in Xg For for two years straight because Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela have legitimate cases for best player in the league every year they play here. They are both magicians with the ball and create more chances as a duo than some teams do with their entire roster. I would be shocked if LAFC does not lead the league in Xg For again this year with the addition of Corey Baird who is the perfect run-fast-and-score-goals kind of forward they need with their two playmakers. Corey’s going to bang in all kinds of easy ones this year and if you forced me to pick one team to win it all this year, it’d be LAFC.

Recommended Bet: LAFC to win MLS Cup (+500) 2u

Dark Horses

Atlanta United

  • Odds to win it all: +2000
  • Key 2020 Stats: 
    • Expected Goal Differential: -3.91(18th)
    • Expected Goals For: 23.01 (25th)
    • Expected Goals Against: 26.10(4th)
    • Key Signings: Gabriel Heinze (Coach), Santiago Sosa (MF), Franco Ibarro (MF), Lisandro Lopez (FWD), Alan Franco (CB)

Here’s another team that is probably a little underrated by their season from hell last year. As Carlos Vela is to LAFC, Josef Martinez is to Atlanta United, but he’s arguably even more irreplaceable to his team. With a combined 58 goals in the 2018 and 2019 season, he is basically an offense all on to himself. Atlanta gets a full mulligan from me because he was out. The other big issue with Atlanta United last year was off the field with coach Frank De Boer. Not only did the coach’s preferred rigid style and methods clearly not gel with the team, it was pretty clear that they had given up on him by the end of the year. This year they have brought back something much more familiar in Argentine great Gabriel Heinze. Heinze’s South American attacking, free flowing style will be very familiar to Atlanta who won MLS Cup playing that way in 2018 under Tata Martino. It’s the style that superstar Barco signed up for when he signed with Atlanta and I think his Assist leader-type potential will be unlocked with Heinze at the helm.  Additionally, they are one of the rare teams in MLS this offseason that seemed to sign legitimate game changers with Sosaand  Franco. Atlanta will hope that Sosa becomes their version of a prime Michael Bradley or Eduard Atuesta: a holding midfielder who can break up opponent’s attack and shuttle the ball up to their wealth of attacking options. Franco is a proven international centerback that will further cement Atlanta on the defensive side of the ball. Atlanta has the potential to be one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league. That kind of team is too good to be at +2000.   

Recommended Bets: Atlanta to win MLS Cup (+2000) 1u

Minnesota United

  • Odds to win it all: +2500
  • Key 2020 Stats: 
    • Expected Goal Differential: -1.61(14th)
    • Expected Goals For: 32.05 (11th)
    • Expected Goals Against: 33.66(18th)
    • Key Signings: Ramon Abila (FWD), Franco Fragapane (W), Patrick Weah, Will Trapp (MF), Jukka Raitaila (LB), Patrick Weah (FWD)

Minnesota definitely has flaws. I still have questions about their back line. Can Dayne St. Clair be as good as he was in the playoffs over the course of the full season? But this bet is really about the potential of two players: Emmanuel Reynosa and Ramon Abila. After a season of having approximately 1 of their goals scored by an actual forward and still being one of the better offenses in the league, Minnesota went out and signed a legitimate South American goalscoring center forward.  Pairing Abila with Reynoso, a classic 10, could be a bit like when Almiron and Martinez played together for Atlanta United. With Lod, Abila, Reynoso, Finlay, Dotson, Hayes, and Agudelo, Minnesota United has arguably the best or second best attacking core in the league. That’s worthy of a wager at +2500.

Recommended Bets: Minnesota to win MLS Cup (+2500) 1u

New England Revolution

  • Odds to win it all: +2500
  • Key 2020 Stats:
    • Expected Goal Differential: +8.69(6th)
    • Expected Goals For: 35.6 (7th)
    • Expected Goals Against: 26.91(6th)
    • Key Signings: Christian Mafla (LB), Wilfrid Kaptoum (CM), Arnor Traustason (W)

There are two versions of New England Revolution: there’s the version without Carles Gil that is a solid, but not spectacular playoff team and the version with Carles Gil (and a lesser part Bou), that is one of the best offensive teams in the league and probably should have won MLS Cup last year.  Buchanan, Buksa, and Bou (not a bad set of forwards themselves) should be bagging goals for fun with a full season of Gil’s distribution. Keeping Carles Gil off the injury report will be everything for the New England Revolution this year. On the other side of the ball, I have very few questions left for this team. Kessler is an absolute rock at centerback and their outside backs are some of the best in the league. They should be right around 5-10 in Xg against this year. The only question was who plays as the second holding midfielder on a week in and week out basis for this team next to Polster. Caldwell and McNamara did an admirable job last year plugging holes, but neither feels like an every week MLS starter. So, Enter Wilfrid Kaptoum, a 24- year-old player with International and La Liga experience. If he solidifies this position for the Revs, he may be the sneaky-best acquisition of the offseason. The Revs have everything a championship team in MLS needs: an all-time-great coach (Arena), a rock-solid CB pairing (Kessler and Farrell), a game-changing playmaker (Gil), a midfield destroyer (Polster), and a lethal goalscorer (Bou, possibly Buksa). It will all depend on health at the right time and I like those odds at +2500.

Recommended Bets: New England Revolution (+2500) 1u

The long shot

Colorado Rapids

  • Odds to win it all: +5000
  • Key 2020 Stats (only played 18 games):
    • Expected Goal Differential: -2.94(17th)
    • Expected Goals For: 1.27/game (19th)
    • Expected Goals Against:1.44/game (15th)
    • Key Signings: Michael Barrios (W) and a bunch of young relative unknowns

The season-long numbers for the Rapids are bad and they definitely still have issues, the books wouldn’t hang a +5000 on them otherwise. But the promise of the Colorado Rapids comes from one word: development. This is one of the youngest teams in the league and improved as the year went on. In their final nine games of the season, they had a goal differential of +8. Their approach of taking kids from their own academy and academies of other teams and giving them regular minutes to develop is starting to pay off as they have found two legitimate stars in Bassett and Vines. Teams of entirely young kids rarely win MLS cup though, and that’s what makes this year a little different for Colorado. First, the kids have another year of experience and their first playoff experience under their belt with Vines, Namli, Bassett, Acosta, Lewis and Shinyashiki. Second, the team has brought in some veterans to keep the kids grounded with Yarbrough, Barrios, and another year of Abubakar. Are there a lot of question marks? Yes. How does the defense line up? Can Jack Price play destroyer enough to stop this team from leaking goals? Is Younes Namli anything other than a great dribbler? Still, there are similar vibes to last year’s Philly team with the Rapids this year and there’s enough promise to invest in them at +5000.

Recommended Bets: Colorado Rapids (+5000) 1u 

LEC and LCS Weekend Playoff Betting Preview

I love playoff LoL. Others might get excited by the variance and chaos of trying to predict what +400 dog is going to win each week in the LEC and LCS regular seasons, but for me, watching the best teams make in series adjustments, play what they think is best, and pull out their pocket picks is infinitely more interesting. It is also much more projectable. My playoff/tournament betting record compared to the regular season is about as stark as it gets. Last year, I broke even or lost money during the regular season in essentially every league, to then win it all back in the playoffs. This year, I was up about 4 units going into the playoffs and just won 11 units in two days last weekend betting on the playoffs. Let’s take a look: 

That’s our record after taking advantage of some mispriced lines early in the week last week in the LCS. Those kind of spots seem to come along once a week in the playoffs as the books base their lines seemingly only on the teams’ regular season performance/records rather than more telling stats on their gold income, objective rates, etc. This week certainly has a few more of these lines for us to take advantage of and hopefully build the bankroll up before we had back to the variance zone of the regular season. So without further ado, this week’s games:

LEC

Fnatic (-525, -2.5 (+160)) vs. SK  (+340, +2.5 (-200))

I’m going to keep this one relatively short because two things are true about this game: the stats favor an SK bet and everything I know about the LEC says to make a Fnatic -2.5 bet. I am guessing a lot of folks are going to love the FNC -2.5 here, but I just can’t get there. Fnatic beats themselves way too often to believe in the 3-0 right now. At some point, we have to believe what they’re telling us: they are an immensely talented team who has little direction in game and back themselves into weird corners during the drafting stage. SK has overperformed all season by playing scaling compositions and letting their opponents beat themselves. They’re not even close talent-wise with Fnatic, but if I had to guess they grab one of the games because Fnatic gives it to them. I rarely bet on feelings though, and definitely don’t lay -200 on them. This is a full pass for me.

The Picks: Pass

G2 (-750, -2.5 (+120)) vs. FC Schalke 04 (+450, +2.5 (-155))

Here’s another one that I think a lot of people will think is relatively easy and this time I agree. This is a slam dunk for G2 on the map line. There’s nothing new to say about G2. They are the kings of Europe. They have the best player (on their day) at their position at every position, they have an excellent +8% GSPD, and can win with essentially every kind of playstyle. Other teams in Europe try to narrow down “their” playstyle to focus on and perfect, G2 will play a poke composition one week and a front-to-back teamfight composition the next. If G2 decides they want to, I think they should sweep this series more like 70% of the time.

A large part of that is because I don’t really believe in Schalke. They definitely improved at the end of the season and went on a nice little run, but I don’t think we should throw away their midseason slump, especially because their 3-0 run was against Fnatic, Vitality, and Excel. They have played similarly to SK this season by letting the other team come into them and trying to outplay them with map control and split pushing. That is an awful strategy against G2 who trade up in every single macro play against even the best LEC teams. Schalke’s not that. G2 roll.

The Picks: G2 -2.5 (+120) 2u

Rogue (-418, -1.5 (-167)) vs. Mad Lions (+317, +1.5 (+137))

I want to bet Mad Lions here. It’s very rare that you get a team as talented as Mad Lions at a +300 or more number. I just can’t bring myself to do it. You can definitely construct win conditions for Mad Lions: Humanoid could outclass Larssen on the day, the good version of Carzzy and Kaiser could show up, Mad Lions could have unique picks prepared like they did last year against G2, but none of those have been consistent throughout this year for Mad Lions. In fact, consistent is not a word you could associate with any member of Mad this year outside of the jungle.

It is, however, THE word I would use to describe Rogue. They are unbelievably consistent against every team not named G2. Larssen gets lane advantages consistently, Inspired controls the jungle consistently, Odoamne consistently supports his team, and the bot lane consistently gets priority that turn into early drake takes. That’s kind of the nightmare team for Mad Lions who will often take a fight whether they have the vision to do so or not. Rogue also just outclasses Mad Lions in all of my favorite stats: they have a +8.4% GSPD  compared to Mad Lions’ +2.6%, a 10.3 MLR compared to Mad’s -6.7, and even in Mad Lions’ strength the Early Game, Rogue has a 67.5 EGR compared to Mad’s 62.2. I do believe Mad Lions are talented enough to get a game here, but the implied  62.5% on Rogue sweeping or winning 3-1 is showing a little value for me and I’m going to bet with the numbers.

The Picks: Rogue -1.5 (-167) 1u

LCS

TSM (-170, -1.5 (+125)) vs. Evil Geniuses (+130, -1.5 (-165))

My friend Gelati of The Esports Department made the case that TSM could have easily won every game against Team Liquid, but threw each away with subtle and not so subtle misplays. It’s what separates good teams from great teams and I thought Team Liquid were deserving winners, but points to the fact that a lot is going right for TSM right now, especially in the pretty convincing game 3 win. TSM knows who they are: They are a top side focused team who relies on PowerofEvil to play heavy scaling champions and win for them in the late game. They mostly play great defensive LoL. 

If you were building a team to beat Evil Geniuses in a lab, it would probably look a lot like TSM. EG’s main weakness comes from the unpredictable play of Jizuke, who plays like an Anti-PoE, desperately trying to push every advantage he can in the early-mid game, sometimes to disastrous results. PoE feasts on this kind of player. He doesn’t let them take over the lane and then outmaneuvers them in the late game. A lot of folks are going to focus on the Top Lane as a big advantage spot for EG with the Impact-Huni matchup, and early in the season, I would have agreed, but TSM has been actually supporting Huni and setting him up to succeed the past few weeks and won’t abandon him like they did in lock-in. In that scenario, I think the players have comparable ceilings, with Huni having the lower floor. It’s just hard for me to imagine the top difference being the reason anyone wins this series, and in the stats,  TSM is the better team by far. With a +5.0% GSPD in the regular season compared to EG’s -0.3%, there’s really no comparing the teams when it comes to getting consistent gold advantages. I think folks really underestimate how much these differences show up in a 5 game series compared to a one-off. Could EG get a game with a good game plane in a one-off like they did in the regular season? Sure. Will TSM be in winning situations throughout the majority of the games like the stats say they should be? Also Yes. If they can convert those better than they did against Team Liquid (who are much better than EG), this is a fairly easy TSM win.

The Picks: TSM ML (-153) 3u, TSM -1.5 (+147) 2u, TSM 3-0 (+427) 1u

100 Thieves (-187, -1.5 (+124)) vs. Dignitas  (+152, +1.5 (-150))

These are two of my least favorite teams in the LCS and I think the public is probably a little bit too high on both of them, but I keep coming back to this: If you just wrote down the names on each of these teams on paper and tried to make a preseason line on a best of 5, it would have been something like 100T at -600, but now after weeks of Dignitas overperforming and 100T returning to Earth after a perfect meta and a hot start, we get 100 Thieves at -187. I think what happened this season matters and Dignitas is certainly better than I thought, but they are also highly fraudulent. They have a -2.4% GSPD (the same as Flyquest) and a 40.8 Early Game Rating which is 4th worst in the league. They’re the kind of team that always eventually loses in LoL: the counter attackers. They let their opponents get huge early game leads and then wait for them to make mistakes in the late game and hopefully win on a coinflip. Nothing has made me more money than betting the other side of this kind of team when they’ve strung together a few wins. It was profitable with Excel in the LEC this year and has started to turn a profit with Dignitas as well with a late season slide. 100T does not inspire a lot of confidence, but will overrun Dig enough times in this series to pull it out.

The Picks: 100 Thieves ML (-187) 1u   

3/12-3/14 LEC and LCS Betting Preview

It’s the last week before playoffs and it’s time to take a look back at my power rankings from the beginning of the season:

LEC

  1. G2
  2. Fnatic
  3. Rogue
  4. Mad Lions
  5. Misfits
  6. Vitality
  7. XL
  8. S04
  9. SK
  10. Astralis

LCS

  1. Cloud9
  2. Team Liquid
  3. 100 Thieves
  4. Evil Geniuses
  5. TSM
  6. Flyquest
  7. Immortals
  8. CLG
  9. Dignitas
  10. Golden Guardians

So far, not bad overall. I had a couple of misses with SK and Dignitas, but I don’t expect either of those teams to seriously challenge in the playoffs. I wish I had TSM flipped with 100T and EG, but made a small bet on all of them to win the split and that still feels pretty live for TSM. It should leave us with some profitable spots going forward. Speaking of which, I wanted to try and come up with a good number for each team to win their split for this week’s introduction before going into the week’s bets. Here’s how I’m thinking of each team’s chances at taking their Spring Trophy to MSI:

LEC

G2 (75%) -300                                                                    

Rogue (15%) +566

Fnatic (5%) +1900

Mad Lions (5%) +1900

LCS

C9 (45%)  +122

TL (35%)  +186

TSM (20%) +400

I know I have bet against G2 a little bit this regular season stating that their advantages are relatively insignificant in a one-off against Rogue. I don’t believe that in a best of 5 playoff environment. 75% is probably conservative for how much better G2 is than the rest of the LEC, but it leaves space for the possibility of them catching a bad meta. If I see G2 to win the split around -200 at all next week, I will be placing a sizable wager because I doubt that number will be attainable by betting their individual matchups. 

In the LCS, I think it’s somewhat close, but that the advantages that TSM, TL and C9 have over the league will be expanded in a playoff format. Evil Geniuses is just too inconsistent to win a best of 5 against any of those teams and 100 Thieves just have one very clear exploitable weakness in the mid-jungle duo that will get abused in the playoffs. I will be looking to buy out of my EG and 100T futures bets with a C9 bet if I can get them at any kind of plus money.  Onto last week’s recap:

I got a little wacky on Sunday in the LCS because I wanted some action. It was a dumb mistake and it won’t happen again. Here’s my favorite plates this week

LEC

Bet: Rogue ML vs. XL parlayed w/ SK ML vs. Astralis (-138)

I genuinely believe that -500 is a little low for Rogue against Excel. It is very difficult to see a world in which Excel gets an advantage on Rogue. Excel’s preferred playstyle is to concede everything in the early game and hope and pray they make it to the lategame relatively unscathed. Rogue’s preferred playstyle is to build early game advantages through objective takes so that when they fight in the mid-late game they are undeniably stronger than their opponents. It is a match made in hell for Excel. I genuinely believe I would set this line at Rouge -650. 

SK, while not impressive last week, will want to get right before going into the playoffs unexpectedly and are significantly better than Astralis.  Astralis, on this patch, has a -16.6% GSPD, that would make them the worst team anywhere. Zanzarah just has not been up to LEC snuff so far despite giving the best post game interviews in the World. SK’s strength is Tynx. He should easily overwhelm Zanzarah in this game and SK should cruise to victory. Occasionally, in the LEC, teams will take the last week less seriously than the rest of the split if playoffs are wrapped, I don’t expect that with either of these teams. 

LCS

TSM ML (-135) vs. EG 2u

Evil Geniuses’ problems are the same problems they’ve had since they entered the LCS. They have new players, new coaches, new blah, blah, blah, but the team still plays like they have voice chat turned off. It is kind of maddening. They are unbelievably talented. In fact, before the season I thought they were more talented than TSM, but no amount of talent can overcome the in-game decision making of this team. TSM are the exact opposite. They have become the steady-eddies of the LCS under Bjergsen’s leadership. TSM is playing standard, front to back compositions and counting on POE to carry them in the late game. It’s given them a  very nice +5% GSPD in the regular season. I have this as TSM at -190, and would bet it up to that number. 

CLG Over 10.5 Kills (-127) vs. Evil Geniuses 1u

I already went over Evil Geniuses problems and I think they could easily lose this game, but the kill number for CLG is particularly appealing to me because they could get to this number in a loss too. EG averages 10.75 deaths per win which makes them the second highest team in the league in that number. CLG averages 11 Kills per loss making them the highest team in the league in that number. It points to the teams’ style. They both love to scrap and will try to fight their way out of a corner or out of a win. I expect this to be an extremely bloody game and like CLG to get close to 11 kills in a win or loss. If they win, it’s a near guarantee this goes over. If they lose, it probably goes over around half the time. I would take this up to -200.

Flyquest Over 1.5 Inhibitors vs. GGS (+164) 1u

I do think that Flyquest’s Moneyline is also valuable here and is the safer bet, but I think there’s a couple reasons to like this inhibs bet. First, Flyquest is way better than Golden Guardians. I would take every player on Flyquest before I took one player from Golden Guardians. Sometimes, the difference between the bottom of the table gets lost, but to me the difference between GGS and FLY is as large as the difference between FLY and C9. That’s the case for the Flyquest ML. For the inhibitors, I just don’t see this game ending cleanly with one inhibitor for Flyquest. It is a late season game and Golden Guardians will be throwing it against the wall.  Flyquest also struggles in late game shotcalling and will probably play it safe with multiple inhibitors. It’s a bit of a gut-feeling handicap, but +164 is good enough for me to take the shot here.   

Shameless Self Plugs:

Like and subscribe to every video with  The Esports Department’s youtube, but especially my show The Infinity Edge   

Join thesportsdepartment.com  with the code IEDGE for a 10% discount and the DFS projections, betting analysis, and DFS analysis that the best players in Esports betting/dfs use

Sign up for Thrive Fantasy to try out a fun new style of DFS with prop betting. Use the code LCSPICKS to get your deposit matched up to 50 bucks

LEC and LCS 3/5 weekend betting preview

As the import conversation has gained steam again in the LCS (and outside the LCS), I have been struck by how little actual conversation is happening. There are certainly two sides here and they are talking at one another, but I am not sure anyone is truly listening either way. It’s been a frustrating thing to watch in a growing industry with potential, but seems, at times, to still be run by manchildren. (I say manchildren intentionally because the teams with prominent women in leadership, like Flyquest and Evil Geniuses, have stayed mostly out of the mud. Coincidence? Probably not). Right now, there is the “NA players are terrible and we need to replace them all to compete internationally” side of the argument represented by Reginald, and then the “any change to the import rule would bring about the end of NA talent development and interest in the game” represented by the majority of journalists working in the scene. They are both built on the same two misconceptions: that there are hundreds of Korean, Chinese, and European players who are better than every North American player in the LCS right now and North American fans wouldn’t root for a full team of imports. That is, frankly, bullshit. Vulcan and Blaber could play in any league in the world. Licorice, Aphromoo, Tactical and Huhi would make it in the LEC. Then there are plenty of players who act as “residents” in North America from other countries currently who could play in every league in the World like Ssumday, Impact, Santorin, CoreJJ that North American fans root for because they win. It’s impossible to prove, but I promise you if a team of imports was winning Worlds under the TSM logo their fans would be going nuts in NA. That argument feels totally made up.       

I am pro-loosening of the import rules for totally different reasons than being argued by the most vocal owners right now. I actually believe raising the standard of the league helps NA talent development. We have seen this with soccer in the US. As rules around how much teams can spend and on who have loosened, we have also seen the popularity of the sport in the US increase and the quality of players developed here become better. Part of that was simple internal competition, another part was accepting that the NA ways of doing things needed to at least try to model what was working in the other countries in their academy systems. That took bringing players and coaches from that region to lead about some of the best ways of doing things. We have already seen the tremendous benefit having CoreJJ in North America has brought to the overall health of the scene. His experience and investment in making North America better has shown what amazing things the right player can bring. Will every team sign someone like CoreJJ in a changed system? Nah, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a shot. If a North American player or fan sees teams from their region consistently performing at international competition, even without representatives from their home country, are they not excited about the prospect of the future of NA LoL. The LCS will still always be the league where it is easiest for NA players to rise to the top. Look at the EPL. There’s a reason most English players decide to stay home and get to play on some of the best teams in the World. It’s actually an advantage for them that their home league imports some of the best players in the world. 

So, here’s my solution. It looks a lot like the rules of MLS or EPL and involves a compromise for both sides. These rules would have to be applied to every league in the world because Riot is the central authority for all leagues. Every team gets 3 import slots. All teams have to start 1 homegrown player in every match. Homegrown players are classified as any player who was born in the region they are competing in or an international player who has been in the team’s academy system and in the country for at least a year. Import spots become tradeable or purchasable. I.E. If TSM wants to have 4 imports on their team they will need to buy or trade a prospect for an import slot from Golden Guardians.  This allows teams who feel like they have the money to build superteams to compete internationally to try and do it, but maintains some incentives for the other teams as well. It also heavily incentivizes internal talent development for playing for your first team or to be purchased by other teams. LCS doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, nor should they. 

Alright, into what you came here for, my Western LoL early bets:

LEC

Bet: Mad Lions ML (-170) vs. FC Schalke 04

Mad Lions are too damn good to keep losing to teams that are worse than them. If I were their coach, we would be having a series of meetings about what our goals while clips of all of Carzzy and Humanoid’s ridiculous solo deaths played in the background.The point being obvious. This team is better than that. They have a +3.4% GSPD  and a sort of average Early Game Rating. Last season, they had much better stats in both categories and if they start to clean it up, should improve in both as the season goes on. Schalke’s stats have trended in the opposite direction. After starting the season with a positive GSPD and wins against the best teams in the league, they have plummeted to 5-8 with a -2.2% GSPD. They might be slightly better than that, but I think it’s closer to their actual level. I have Mad Lions closer to a -200 favorite in this matchup and I think the two teams’ talent is probably closer to -250. Take the scary value with Mad Lions.

Bet: Rogue ML (+125) vs. G2

I have a feeling this is not going to be a popular bet, including among my peers in the LoL betting world. But either you believe in the numbers or you don’t and I do. I don’t believe G2 has some sort of cosmic power over every other team. They are better than every other team at a few key things (teamfighting, skirmishing), but they are certainly not flawless. The numbers have these as the same teams: both are 11-2 with +9% GSPDs. Rogue is slightly better in the early game, G2 is slightly better in the late game. They have the number 1 and 2 players at their positions in nearly every role between these two teams. Will G2 beat Rogue in a 5 game series? Absolutely yes. This would be a hammer G2 spot in that scenario, but are they really nearly 60% to win in a one-off regular season game? I just can’t get there. There’s nothing left to break down with these two great teams. I am just taking the one with the plus by their name.

Bet: Misfits ML vs. Astralis parlayed w/ SK ML vs. Vitality (+112)

This is a parlay of two teams who should be making a push to enter the playoffs in the LEC against the worst two teams in the league. Misfits has been a total anomaly to me all season. They have the same GSPD as the Mad Lions and Fnatic, but are 5-8. It’s kind of incredible to watch them throw away game after game. However, last weekend I think they found a way to win in the late game: Kobbe on safe, scaling, back line damage. The Kaisa and Samira didn’t really fit him, but Ezreal, Ashe, and Jinx are perfect. If the rest of the team can keep getting their sizable early leads, and he can carry through their wildness in the late game. This is a good team. Good teams beat Astralis. SK, too, has found themselves in a perfect meta. Tynx, while very capable of playing the farming junglers, is a super-duper star on the ganking Skarner and Hecarim. Couple that with Treatz just getting better every week and this team is legit good. Are they the top 3 team in the league their record says they are? Probably not. But you don’t need to be top 3 to beat Vitality

LCS

100 Thieves ML (-140) vs. Evil Geniuses

I am legitimately concerned about 100 Thieves as a real LCS championship contender. In fact, I am pretty confident they are not, but at some point, they are going to get tired of losing to teams that are worse than them and go back to their strengths. I would expect that to be this week. If they pick Damonte TF, Ryze, or Galio in this game, I am pretty confident that they will win. Evil Geniuses went on a nice run of form in the LCS Lock in that probably had them slightly overrated coming into the season. For whatever reason, since the beginning of Jizuke’s tenure, this team has moments where they look completely disconnected and make elementary mistakes. To me, that’s the kind of teams that 100 Thieves have pulled off their “heists” against by just having better players in the late game. I would expect that to be the case again here. The stats also have these two as the biggest pretenders of the top 5 LCS teams, but 100 Thieves as the better side. 

CLG ML (+105) vs. Immortals

This one is really just about a feeling. I have a feeling that CLG is going to be much better in the second half of the season. There’s just one too many pretty good veterans on this team for them to stay this bad. If they were in the LEC, I would say they were dead. But in the LCS, we have seen teams of veterans whose best days are behind them consistently finish in the playoffs because the bottom teams in the LCS are just really bad. With that said, Immortals are also a team of mostly veterans. There’s not a lot to examine here. I think this game is a near coinflip and we get a little plus money on CLG.

TSM ML (-115) vs. 100 Thieves

There are two contenders in the LCS– Team Liquid and Cloud9– and then one mini-contender in TSM. This team has really started to find themselves in the last few weeks. Huni has played much more under control. Spica is starting to flash that superstar potential again. Swordart has found his niche. PowerofEvil is same old reliable Powerofevil. Lost is fine. It’s what I have to imagine Reginald had in mind when he put the team together. Despite having a near 1 kill to death ratio, they have a +4.2% GSPD. That’s pretty impressive and suggests the team is getting non-kill related advantages, usually a good tell for a smart team. 100 Thieves just isn’t getting sizable leads on their opponents in the regular season and have won a lot of games with very minimal advantages or slight deficits. In pretty much every sport in the world, a point differential is heavily correlated to the team’s quality. 100 Thieves’ GSPD says they are a lower quality team than TSM. I have TSM as -140 faves here and love them at -115.

Cloud9 ML (-135) vs. Team Liquid

This year I have tried to apply some principles from other sports to LoL and one of those has been the “revenge game”.   Revenge games are generally overblown when it comes to teams that are not close in quality. However, there is something to revenge between two teams that are close. Cloud9 and Team Liquid are quite close statistically speaking and talent-wise, but Liquid won their last matchup and the Lock-In Tournament. At this point, I think Cloud9 will be very prepped going into their match with TL and want to beat them pretty badly. I am also starting to believe that Cloud9 is the better team over the longterm. Blaber and Perkz have been of legitimate international quality so far and have played some of the best games I’ve seen in any league this year. I am not sure TL has that kind of ceiling. They are unbelievably solid at every position, but do they have the “it” factor that C9 does? I would expect Blaber to overwhelm TL in this one with revenge on the mind and C9 to roll.

Shameless Self Plugs:

Like and subscribe to every video with  The Esports Department’s youtube, but especially my show The Infinity Edge   

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Thrive Fantasy LEC/LCS Value Picks

A lot of having a profitable betting/DFS season last year for me was learning when not to play. Early on, there would be slates or games where I had strong feelings, but had not done the requisite level of research for a full 5 game slate in DFS or my model told me to bet the opposite way of my head. Usually, I would just play anyway and go with my gut. That was predictably a disaster. It’s hard to avoid playing when you love it. So this year, I am trying out a new platform Thrive Fantasy .

Thrive Fantasy has a new way to play DFS in which players select from a set of Player Props that have different point values assigned to them. The players who get the most points from their props win a share of the guaranteed prize pools. It’s perfect for when you don’t want to do hours and hours of research and want to form an opinion on a few key props. If that sounds good to you, come join me on Thrive Fantasy, and use code LCSPICKS to get up to a $50 match.

As far as winning in the LEC and LCS, I’ve got you covered:

LEC Lock: G2 Caps Over 2.5 Kills vs. Mad Lions (90 Points)

I would expect this to be by far the most popular play on the slate, but it’s for good reason. Caps didn’t hit 3 kills in only 9 of his 35 matchups in the LEC last split, which included 11 losses. I do not expect G2 to have 11 losses this season and expect them to start off with a bang. They are the perfect kind of team for a huge season: they have a lot of continuity, but are also reinvigorated by a big offseason move. His lane opponent, Humanoid, is also an explosive kind of player who will take a lot of lane 1v1s and never stop fighting even from behind. It’s an ideal matchup for lots of kills for Caps. Just take the free 90 points here and look for other places to get different.

LEC Value: Humanoid Over 5.5 deaths vs. G2 (110 points)

I am going with a little correlation angle here. If Caps is going to pop off, Humanoid is going to die a lot. These two plays have a lot to do with how I feel about this game in general. I think G2 is going to stomp. Mad Lions has 2 new members to fit in and get acclimated and are coming up against G2 who has the same mid-jungle-support core and simply added the best ADC in the history of the LEC. Thrive has a perfect way for us to get some skin in this game without having to simply bet on a huge favorite.

LCS Lock: Blaber Over 1.5 Kills (90 points)

Here’s another easy one that everyone’s going to be clicking right away, but I’m bringing it up here because I think it’s key to strategy on Thrive. Don’t get too cute. There’s only 10 options and the contests are currently pretty small. You will be able to get different enough by choosing one or two value options. I will not be trying to fade the obvious plays. 90 points is like 60ish% implied odds of happening. Blaber gets 2 or more kills in way more than 60% of outcomes for this Dig-C9 game. C9 is a huge favorite. Blaber is central to their kills and map play. Jungle champions favor kills for junglers right now. Take the free points.

LCS Value: Aphromoo Over 4.5 Deaths (110 Points)

Supports are dying right now. Anyone who has played LoL DFS this season knows this. The strong champion pool for supports right now includes Leona, Alistar, Thresh, etc. All champions that put their bodies in between their teammates and the other team and are usually the first to die in a team fight. I actually think Aphromoo dying 5 times is slightly favored in this matchup, but this is priced as if it’s the underdog. Points-to-value wise this is my favorite play on either slate.

I will be trying out a few of the cash head to heads for this slate and will be playing these plays. If you think you can beat me, come join Thrive and use code LCSPICKS for your deposit match.

LPL/LCK Week 1 Betting Breakdown

Lol is back! Perhaps more importantly, LoL betting and DFS is back! The sweating as I lock in yet another IG stack, the waking up at 4 AM wondering how ppgod is doing, the guaranteed income of just parlaying favorites in the LCK has all returned and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This weekend we will have three leagues running and by next weekend we will have all four major leagues back in full swing. 

So, on that front, a little housekeeping. For LPL/LCK I will be doing a weekly betting breakdown for my favorite bets of the week and a recap of the preceding week like the one you are reading now right here on lcspicks.com. For the LCS/LEC, I will be doing a “First Look” with betting talk on Tuesdays over at linemovement.com. Then, for LEC and LCS DFS I will be doing a DFS youtube show with theesportsdepartment.com with a couple of sharp DFS players which you can get along with a myriad of other betting analysis and DFS Projections for all the big esports by subscribing with the code: IEDGE for 10% off. This blog is entirely for fun and done in my free time and will remain so, but the other two things actually provide me a little income. So, if that is something you want to help me with, please click on those.

With that out of the way, let’s get into some LPL and LCK action. 

I will be writing this article weekly, just looking at a few of my favorite value spots or games, not necessarily breaking down every game. If you wanna follow someone who breaks down every game in depth, check out Gelati with The Esports Department.

LPL

Suning (-240) vs. RNG (+196)

Date: 1/14

Suning started out their season with a 2-0 sweep of Top Esports. That was first, closer than that scoreline suggests, and second less impressive now that we saw Top also lose to Rogue Warriors in what appears to be a little championship hangover. Still, Suning’s demise in this meta feels like it may have been overstated. We are still in the powerfarming Graves jungle meta that made it possible for SofM to carry this team to the World semifinal. As long as we’re there this team has a chance against anyone in the world

With that said, this line is insane. RNG started their season with a 2-0 asskicking of TT who some analysts predicted to be significantly improved this season. Even if you think TT is not good (I do), RNG did exactly what a top team should do: take care of business. Cryin and Wei are back to the form that had E-star at the top of the table in 2020, Xiaohu, despite some hiccups, showed enormous potential as a carry top laner, and their bot lane was just plain solid. I would have bet on RNG last year at this number when they were worse and Suning was better. The game should be a coinflip. This is an easy one. Take the RNG value. 

The Picks: RNG +1.5 (-176) 2u, RNG ML (+196) 1u

Rogue Warriors (-235) vs. Estar (+165)

Date: 1/15

I am going with a theme here: anyone who has beat Top Esports is going to be overrated by the books. That team is a mess right now and I’m not sure beating them says much about your long term prospects as a serious LPL contender. This is priced as if Rogue Warriors is a serious LPL contender.

Although, Haro was impressive in his debut, Rogue Warriors were pretty fortunate to beat TES. They were behind in gold in every game and depended on Top making some pretty bad mistakes to win. I am glad they showed they can still take advantage of mistakes and I will be backing them as dogs at times this year for sure, but there’s no way I can back them as this kind of favorite.

Estar,  hung in there with an improved BilliBilli gaming team, and the H4cker/irma duo looks like they could cause some legitimate problems this year. Rat and Shiauc also looked at least league average in the bot lane. This is another mispriced coinflip. Take the dog.

The Picks: Estar +1.5 (-190) 2u, Estar ML (+165) 1u

Rare Atom (+230) vs. Top Esports (-325)

Date: 1/15

Top Esports is going to right the ship at some point. They are just way too talented to continue to lose to what projects to be middle of the table LPL teams. You could make a credible argument that they have the best player in the league at his position in every position. But I don’t think they’re going to get right with a 2-0 of Rare Atom.

In fact, I project Rare Atom to be better than both the teams they’ve lost to so far. Vici’s stats to end the year were that of a legitimate contender in the LPL, not a middling team. From Patch 10.13 on, they were close to Suning and IG’s level on GSPD on oracleselixir.com  and should only improve upon last season with another year of continuity. Until TES has a few days off to work on some new picks and flexibility in the draft. I am going to keep betting on their opponents to win at least a game.

The Picks: Rare Atom +1.5 Games (-140) 1u

LCK

Afreeca ( -135) vs. DRX (+100)

Date:1/14

Last year this would have been one of the locks of the year in favor of DRX. 2021 DRX is not the beast they once were. The only piece of the Chovy-Pyosik-Keria core that remains on the team is arguably the worst piece, Pyosik. He is certainly a top LCK jungler, but that should tell you just how good those pieces were. Their replacements are almost entirely unknown prospects. DRX has had a history of finding some of the best young players in Korea, but still it’s hard to have the same expectations for DRX this year. 

My bet in this game has more to do with my expectations for Afreeca though who went almost exactly the opposite direction as DRX. They took the already solid core that upset T1 last year and added a veteran bot lane to shore up the team. To me, that’s the kind of move for a team that has real aspirations to make a deep playoff run. If that’s the case, they’re going to have to beat teams like DRX this year that project in the LCK middle. This is all gut because we have not seen much of these teams yet, but my gut says Afreeca takes care of business.

The Picks: Afreeca ML (-135) 1u, Afreeca -1.5 Games (+210) 0.5u

T1 (+275) vs. Damwon (-425) 

Date: 1/15

This is the only time this season you will see T1 at this kind of number. Now in all caps, bold, and italics: THIS IS THE ONLY TIME THIS SEASON YOU WILL SEE T1 at this kind of number. T1 just dispatched the Chovy-led HLE that lots of folks had high expectations for with their “subs”(or their main roster, who even knows anymore?). They are back and one of the best teams in the world. Damwon Gaming is the reigning world champions with a new top laner. There’s nothing new to say about these two teams. It’s a clash of two of the best teams in the world and priced as if T1 plays in the LCS. You have to take T1, even though the book is begging you to do it. 

The Picks: T1 +1.5 (-120) 2u, T1 ML (+275) 1u, T1 -1.5 (+700) 0.5u

MLS Cup Quarters Betting Breakdown

Round 1 Recap:

Despite being a completely insane, “only-in-MLS”, kind of Round 1 on the field, the first round of the MLS playoffs were pretty kind to my pocketbook. Some of the questions about “contenders” showed up big time: Can SKC defend at a high enough level to win the whole thing? Probably not. Could TFC flip the switch from their late season form back to their mid season form? Hell no. Would Philadelphia come out flat after the emotional high of winning Supporters Shield? Yup. But one thing you can pretty much always count on in MLS at this point is that the Seattle Sounders are a top team. When Lodeiro, Morris, and Ruidiaz all play, they may be the most efficient attack in the history of MLS. They looked legitimately unbeatable against LAFC. Each piece perfectly compliments the other: Lodeiro provides the picture perfect through ball for the strong, pacy Morris to cut in on and deliver the cut back to a clinical Ruidiaz to tuck away from inside the box. It’s a formula that has made them the best team in MLS all season long and it’s the formula that I believe will bring them another MLS Cup in December. It’s why we made them larger than any other bet in our futures bets and it’s why we’ll be using them to hedge the rest of the futures.

Let’s check in on those:

 

After round 1, the TFC and Colorado bets are dead. TFC is out mainly because their aging core, particularly Michael Bradley, appear to be on the wrong side of their career at this point. Colorado was always a longshot and may have been a “bet with the heart” for me. The Rapids are my team and, although I came up with an analytical reason to bet them, my heart was heavily involved in that one. Still, if Columbus, New England, SKC, or, most importantly,  Seattle win the Cup, we will be profitable on futures bets. Not a bad spot to be. On to the quarterfinals..

Orlando City (-0.25) vs. New England Revolution–Total 2.75

I have lost a decent chunk of money betting on New England Revolution this year. They are the most seductive kind of team to a “sharp” soccer bettor. Their actual goal total of 25 lags significantly behind their expected goal total of 36, meaning they either have extremely wasteful strikers or there is some positive regression coming for the team. Getting ahead of regression, positive or negative, is one of the main objectives for any sports bettor. So naturally, I’ve been riding with the Revolution all season long.

The problem was, a good portion of the reason for the discrepancy between their expected and actual goals was actually due to wasteful strikers. When it’s Buchanan and Bunbury (whose wind up in front of goal is comically slow) trying to finish off the multitude of chances the Revolution create over the course of the game, you end up with a lot less goals. Luckily for me and New England though, in the playoffs, Carles Gil, Adam Buksa, and Gustavo Bou are all in form or back from injury to either create scoring chances or finish them off. Bou and Gil, in particular, are two of the most productive per 90 minute players in the league. The positive regression is coming at just the right time for the Revs after beating the shield-winning Philly team last weekend. 

Unfortunately for both teams, Orlando City, may be the second best team left in the Eastern Conference. They have as formidable of a front four of any team in the league with Mueller, Dike, Nani, and Perereya. That quartet has only been shutout 3 times this season. It’s once you get behind the forwards and attacking midfield for Orlando that the problems begin. Their defense has been right around league average this year and that’s probably kind to them. They’ve been kept in games they probably should have lost by stellar play from their GK, Pedro Gallese. They will have to do it without him in this one after he got one of the worst red cards in recent memory in their last match.  It just feels like slightly too tall of a task for the Lions with the Revs clicking the way they have been. They will almost definitely get a goal of their own, but New England should continue to put expected goals in the actual goal and win this one 2-1 or 3-1.

The Picks: New England +0.25 (-108) 2u, Over 2.75 (+102) 1u

Columbus Crew (-0.25) vs. Nashville SC– Total 2.25

There was a stage of the season in which I would have thought this was a no brainer. I would have written about how Columbus would relentlessly press on the Nashville low-block and squeak out a goal in the first half and then sit on the ball to a comfortable 1-0 win. But I really don’t effing know with this Nashville team anymore. With Jhonder Cadiz, they actually have a functioning attack. It’s not as if they’re ever going to be on the front foot in any game, but their 3 to 4 opportunities a game have become infinitely more dangerous now that Hany Mukhtar has an outlet with Cadiz up front.  This game also has all kinds of Covid concerns. So, I am just going to pass and root for the Crew to beat the parked bus of Nashville.
 

The Picks: PASS

 Seattle Sounders (-1) vs. FC Dallas– Total 2.75

If last week’s FC Dallas and Portland match had been a regular season match, I think we would have totally written it off. Dallas sat back for the majority of the game and were heavily outplayed by Portland, but got a little fortunate with a last minute goal when they had to go after the game, and then held on for a shootout win. Credit to them for doing what was necessary to advance, but color me unimpressed.

Seattle does struggle against teams who defend with ten (most notably Portland this season), but I’m not sure that FC Dallas is truly that strong of a defensive team. They are a year removed from being the worst defensive team in the league and have overperformed their expected goals against total this year. Besides that, asking Bryan Reynolds and Johnny Nelson to just stay home and not let Jordan Morris and Christian Roldan get behind them feels like a total handicapping of what makes them effective fullbacks. I see the Sounders catching one of those two too far up field and scoring an early goal and blowing the game open into another free-flowing-high-scoring game like they had last year. As FC Dallas pushes for a goal they may score, they certainly have talented attackers, but committing numbers forward against the Sounders is suicide. Seattle will almost definitely score multiple goals in that situation. 

It’s rare that I’m shocked by a single game’s result in MLS, but I would be shocked if Seattle does not win this one. They are the far better team on average and will have the 3 best players on the pitch. The books feel the same as me and have made them the biggest favorites on the board, but I think the Sounders win this by multiple goals enough to make the goal spread bettable.

The Picks:   Seattle -1 (+100) 1u, Over 2.75 (-115) 3u

Sporting KC (-1) vs. Minnesota United– Total 2.75

Speaking of open, free-flowing, high scoring games, we’re in for one here. Both of these teams love to push their entire team up the field when they have the ball and struggle to get back when they lose it. SKC has scored multiple goals in 6 of their last 9 games and so has Minnesota. Neither of these teams ever tries to sit back and grind out results. I absolutely love the Over 2.75 here and still like the Over 3 that this has moved to at a lot of books. When you have players like Reynoso, Molino, and Lod on one team and Pulido, Russel and Busio on the other, you have to like a lot of goals. Especially when you see them lining up against centerbacks like Reid and Boxall.

SKC allowed 3 goals against another one of the league’s most potent attacks last week and Minnesota certainly gave up an agonizing amount of scoring chances that my Colorado Rapids wasted. That makes SKC being the heavy favorite puzzling to me. These are two very similar teams in my eyes. SKC won both the regular season matchups, but Minnesota played without Lod and Reynoso in those two matches. Their attack is heavily boosted by those two players. SKC is deserving favorites, but are they Sounders over Dallas kind of favorites? Not to me.  I like a 3-2 or 2-2 regulation result in this one.

The Picks Over 2.75 (-124) 4u, Minnesota +1 (-116) 1u

MLS Decision Day Betting Breakdown

MLS will wrap their regular season with 7 simultaneous games in the Eastern Conference at 12:30 PST and then 6 simultaneous games at 3:30 PST in the Western Conference on Sunday with lots still left to play for including two Eastern Conference playoff spots, the right to play at home, and the Supporters’ Shield (for an in-depth look at what’s at stake, look here.) Usually, the last day of a season can be a bettor’s worst nightmare trying to figure out who’s going to put their best foot forward, but with this unique setup, almost every team has something to play for with a few notable exceptions. With that in mind, let’s get into some of the betting opportunities.

Here’s a quick look at my betting record in MLS so far this year:

Columbus Crew (-0.5) vs. Atlanta United– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Atlanta United is playing for the bottom playoff spot. Columbus needs to win to guarantee a home playoff game.

Last week, I bet on Columbus Crew against Orlando City believing that with Nagbe and Zelarayan back in the lineup they could find their early season form where they were one of the best teams in the league. That did not work out well. The Crew are really struggling to find any sort of rhythm in the attacking third even with their key pieces back. Orlando took the game to them and never really looked threatened until a weird red card from Nani let the Crew open up some. I have no doubts about the Crew’s defense, but they will need to get Zardes and Zelarayan clicking to at least take advantage of their few counter-attacks per game.  

With those concerns aside, there’s no way I’m betting on Atlanta United who have less expected goals than the Colorado Rapids despite playing 5 more games than them. Atlanta, after losing Josef Martinez for the season, have completely collapsed and just can’t score goals anymore. So, with both sides ruled out, I absolutely love the under 3 here. I think the stakes of the game, the character of the teams, and the level of attacking talent screams a 1-0 win for either side, so I will be all over the under here.

The Picks: Under 3 Goals (-140) 3u

Chicago Fire (PK) vs. NYCFC– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Chicago Fire is playing to hold their playoff spot. NYCFC is playing to jump into the home playoff game positions.

The numbers say you should bet Chicago Fire here. In fact, Fivethirtyeight has them at 46% to win the game. Compare that to the implied odds of their +160 Moneyline at 39% and you have yourself a hammer spot right? The problem is: Chicago manages to grasp a draw or defeat from the jaws of victory more than any other team I have ever watched. It’s because they have two centerbacks who can be the best and worst centerback in the league over the course of the same game. Francisco Calvo, in particular, is prone to mistakes you would see in a Sunday league at your local middle school. NYCFC will eat that kind of mistake alive with their attacking talent. Still, the passing and movement of Chicago’s attack is a tantalizing small bet at home with a playoff spot on the line. 

The Picks: Chicago Fire ML (+160) 0.5u

DC United (-0.25) vs. Montreal Impact– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Both teams are playing for the bottom playoff spot, but need other results to go their way to get in.

I firmly believe that a bet on this game is pure degeneracy. Neither of these teams are any good with a discernible identity, but both somehow have a shot to make the playoffs. I have no idea how this game is going to go and neither does anyone else.

The Picks: Pass

Inter Miami (-1.25) vs. FC Cincinnati– Total 3

  •  Playoff implications: Inter Miami is playing for the bottom playoff spot. FC Cincinnati is eliminated

There’s a chance that I’m totally alone here, but I love Cincinnati in this spot. With this line, you win if Cincinnati loses by 1 goal, ties, or wins, that’s ridiculous against Inter Miami regardless of opponent. The books have had them overrated all season because of the star power of the names on the team (Higuian, Pizzarro, Matuidi). They are just not very good as a team. They give up at least a goal per game, they can’t finish, and they don’t play particularly attractive soccer. I don’t see what people like here. If they were to win this game by 2 goals, it would be the first time they have done so in their history. 

The line looks like this because of FC Cincinnati. They have been awful this year and have nothing to play for. As bad as they have been, there are some indicators that they’ve been a little unlucky too.  Their actual goal differential is -24, but their expected goal differential is -10.29. The -10 is still not great, but not historically bad like their actual differential. I think that regresses a little closer to the mean against a team like Inter Miami who miss sitters and leak goals and FC Cincinnati is lifted by the freedom of nothing to play for. 

The Picks: FC Cin +1.25 (-110) 3u, FC Cin Double Chance (+190) 1u

Philadelphia Union (-0.25) vs. New England Revolution– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Philly is playing for the Supporter’s Shield. New England is playing to guarantee their spot in the top 6 and not have to play a play-in game. 

I will have a lot more to say about these two teams when the playoffs are actually here because I think both teams could win the Cup if things go their way, but this game is too close to call for me. I think the Union are clear favorites with GK Andre Blake, but without him it’s much closer. I will be watching to see how both teams attack this game for a later playoff matchup, but won’t be betting this time around.

The Picks: Pass

NYRB (-0.25) vs. Toronto FC– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: NYRB is playing to jump into the top 6 with a NER loss. TFC is playing for the Supporter’s Shield  with a Philadelphia loss.

If TFC is playing a full strength roster for this match, they present a lot of value at +.25, but I am not 100 percent certain that will be the case. They have won the shield before and may decide to rest players for a cup run. If they decide to play for the shield, they are the best team in the league and should be a favorite against anyone. They have a stalwart back 4, an intimidating midfield, and multiple gamebreakers. Puzuelo is the rare kind of player who can win all by himself. NYRB have overachieved their talent this year and deserve credit for making the playoffs, but they are nowhere near TFC’s level at full strength. If TFC is playing everyone, I will be betting them on the goal and moneyline, if they are not, I will be passing.

The Picks: TBD when lineups come out

Orlando City (-0.5) vs. Nashville SC– Total 2.5

  • Playoff implications: Both teams are virtually locked into their spot.

Nashville SC parks a triple-wide bus in every game that they play. It’s what helped them allow the lowest amount of goals in the league at 20 and it’s what has them in the playoffs with so-so talent. The way to beat that is to have a gambreaking player in the middle of the field who can break teams down off the dribble and deliver the ball on goal in between tight spaces. Orlando has that player right now in Mauricio Pereyra. He completely broke down another of the best defensive-minded teams in the league, Columbus Crew, on Wednesday with a mix of dazzling dribbles and stunning through-balls. If he can do that early against Nashville, I really like this game to go over. 

If Nashville have to go chase the game, they will open up at the back a little bit and have a sneaky-good attack of their own with Jhonder Cadiz and Hanhy Mokhtar on the field. I think this one could easily finish 2-1 and will be betting the over provided that both teams play a full-strength roster.

The Picks: Over 2.5 Goals (-125) 1u

Houston Dynamo (-0.25) vs. Colorado Rapids– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Colorado is playing for the possibility of jumping into a home playoff spot. Houston is eliminated. 

Let’s keep it simple: Colorado is the better team, Colorado has something to play for, and we’re getting them at plus a quarter ball. Take that. Second, I like the over in this match. These are two of the shakier defenses in the league, playing against some special attackers in Namli, Benezet, and Quintero. This looks like a banger 3-2 Colorado win to me. 

The picks: Colorado +0.25 (-115) 1u, Over 3 (-125) 1u

LAFC (-0.75) vs. Portland– Total 3.5

  • Playoff implications: LAFC is playing for a home playoff spot. Portland is essentially locked into their spot.

I would expect both teams to be resting players for this game and am not educated enough about the ends of their benches to make a pick here. I will have a lot more to say about LAFC and Portland when the playoffs begin. 

The Picks: Pass

Seattle Sounders (-0.75) vs. SJE– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Both teams are essentially locked into their spots. 

This is another match where I expect both teams to be resting players and will not be making a pick.

The Picks: Pass

LA Galaxy (-0.25) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: Both teams are eliminated.

Another game where if you’re making a bet, it would be pure degeneracy. We have no idea what either of these teams are good at and they will be playing a meaningless game. The passiest of passes!

The Picks: Pass

Minnesota (-0.25) vs. FC Dallas– Total 3

  • Playoff implications: The winner of this match will be the 4th seed in the Western Conference and host a playoff game.

This is one of those toss ups where you just take the home team. These teams are dead even in stats, talent, and style of play. Each has some players who can be reliably counted on to produce and score goals, and some questions about if their defense is good enough to win a championship. That kind of team generally wins games at home where they are comfortable and lose games on the road where they have to do better defending. Minnesota is the home team here, we’re riding with them.

The Picks: Minnesota -0.25 (-115) 1u

Worlds Final Betting Breakdown

With Suning coming through for a +12 units last weekend, the LoL World Championship is all but guaranteed to be  my most profitable LoL gambling venture this year. When I set out posting plays on Twitter in January, I did it mostly to find a community to talk about this stuff with. I wasn’t using a model, I wasn’t seriously studying the game, I mostly was betting off “feel” and trends. Doing that for a couple months got me about where you would expect: in the hole with motivation to improve at what I was doing.

There are no guarantees of success when you work hard at something and in the short term, randomness takes control. But over the long term, I feel my process has undoubtedly improved (mostly by actually having a process). At this point, it is pretty rare that I bet against the numbers. If I do,  there has to be a very good reason like Fnatic and G2’s historical form in the LEC playoffs. So, to have the hours of compiling and staring at data in sheets, SQL, and Tableau pay off feels pretty great.   

I do find that side of things fun and I want to be as sharp as possible. I like winning. I like money. But moreso than either of those, I like being able to share my passions with other people. In that regard, this year has been an unbelievable success for me and I am extremely grateful to anyone who reads this, shares this, or just interacts on Twitter. I love those game days where everyone is getting their takes off on Twitter, raging about some DFS outcome, or talking about some jaw dropping play that Caps just made. I’m going to miss that for the next couple months. But it will be back before we know it and when it is, I hope you’ll check out The Esports Department and join the community over there where I’ll be a part of a LCS/LEC-centric DFS show, The Infinity Edge (if you end up joining use the code: IEDGE, for a 10% discount and to help me). Another way you can help me out, is read my work on Line Movement as well. 

My other sports love is soccer. After tonight, I’m going to transition into “MLCS Picks” mode, and start writing about betting on my other favorite league: MLS. I have a couple of TBD things in the works on that front as well that I hope you’ll check out if it interests you. Most of my previous success in sports betting has come from soccer and it’s something I feel comfortable saying I have a longterm small edge at.

All of this is a long way of saying: Thank you so much for reading and sharing this with me.

Enough of the sap, let’s get into the degenerate action:

Suning (+175) vs. Damwon (-250) 

Every single LoL sharp I know has money in one way or another on Damwon and the line has only marginally moved. I have no idea what that means, but I am not going to be the one to tell you to go another way. In fact, I would be slightly surprised if Suning won a game. It’s no disrespect to Suning and what they’ve done, Damwon is just a cut above every other team in the world right now.

Coming into the tournament, the two areas where they were quite obviously the best team in the world was in the Early Game and their objective control. They had the highest Early Game Rating in the world partially because they are always faster at setting up early drakes and tower takes than their opponents and partially because their solo laners just always win their lanes in CS, gold, and experience. It means they are almost always ahead when they enter into the first teamfight of the game.

The questions I had for them were: what happens when you don’t get that early game lead and what happens when you fight against great micro teamfighting teams? Well, the answer turned out to be they are uniquely great in those situations as well. They beat G2 by just being better than them. It wasn’t some great gameplan, it wasn’t a better read on the meta, it was just a pound-for-pound, skill-for-skill beatdown. They beat them with better map control, better laning, and better control of the movements their champions made. It was a scary sight for a team that already had great gameplans and great meta reads. To me, there’s no style that they’re not the best in the world at, making them unbeatable.

Especially against Suning though– who won against Top Esports by playing mid and late game teamfights better than their opponents–I think Damwon is favored. First, Suning is going to need to survive the early game lanes against superior players in Mid and Top, and then they are going to have to outplay them in teamfights which is something no one has done at the tournament. It’s just not going to happen. Some championships are won with great coaches and team systems (FPX), some championships are won by great players being great (Invictus), and some championships are won by having it all (SKT). I think this is one where the team has it all. Damwon feels like the 2018 Golden State Warriors. They have 3 superstars who can win by themselves, their coaching staff is elite, and oh, by the way, they execute team concepts better than everyone else too.

I could waste a paragraph here telling you about Suning’s strengths, but here’s what I’ll tell you: Damwon’s better than them at all of them. So, let’s get into the gambling picks. I have a futures bet that will net 8 units if Damwon wins and I am just going to let that ride,  but like I said before, I am feeling a Damwon sweep coming so I’m going to bet the -1.5 and -2.5 too. You can also gather that I don’t think these games will be particularly close either. Games that are not close favor the under, because only one team is getting kills. Combine that with the fact that Damwon and Suning play lower kill total games generally, I will be going under on every map. Then, I am taking the First Tower and First Baron for Damwon on every map because it is essentially a bet on them to win each map and has been a consistent part of their game plan this split.

The Picks: Damwon -1.5 (-110) 2u, Damwon -2.5 (+275) 1u, Under 27.5 kills on each map (-115) 1u each,  Damwon First Tower and First Baron on each map (-165) 1u each