The Intel Extreme Masters Summer returns with several of the top teams in the world in attendance. Adam Boothe provides his expert betting insight on the potential competition at the tournament. Read on to find out more.
While the steps to return our beloved esports to LAN have begun to fall into place, tournament organisers are still keeping the top CS teams and community busy with as many online events as they can fit in. June is no exception - there will be three distinct and important competitions that we know of. The first is the IEM Summer 2021, featuring a collection of the best teams in the ESL World Rankings, a handful of partner teams, and some last-chance qualifiers.
This IEM event is not quite as stacked with talent as some of the other events we have witnessed this year; however, four of the top five and six of the top 10 teams (as ranked by HLTV) will be in attendance. Naturally, teams who attend more events and have even minimal success are going to move up in the rankings a bit more than those taking a hiatus.
One of the best things about the esports calendar in 2021 when contrasted to 2020 is the return of our outright betting markets. Pinnacle is listing four markets at the moment for IEM Summer: the winner's group; which teams will reach the final; region of winner; and the ever-popular tournament winner. We still see a difference between many of our pre-pandemic CS:GO outright odds and odds from matches in the first six months of this year, and while player turnover is a part of this, the influence of the pandemic on how outright odds are viewed by bettors and traders alike remains evident.
There have been several events this year with $100,000 or more in prize money awarded. Natus Vincere and Gambit have two titles each, while Gambit has placed as the runners-up in two more events. The other team everyone is talking about is Heroic, although they only have one title so far this year (however, they do have a couple of top-four finishes too). The perception may be that Gambit and/or Heroic are having dominant years but in reality they aren’t.
There is a distinction between being the best performing team through a certain period of time and having an era of dominance, so to speak. Each year for the last six years, we have consistently heard analysts comment that ‘this is the most competitive era of Counter-Strike’. Should we not, on reflection, now claim that the ‘Astralis era’ (a reign of three or so years) finally ended at some point in 2020. That time may have seen vast improvements in the competitiveness between teams ranked 5-20; however, other than brief glimmers of excellence from NAVI and Team Liquid, it was always the Danes being priced as favourites to take down trophy after trophy.
This article is not a retrospective of the Astralis dynasty; however, as we make a return to offline events again, it would serve us well reflect on how good the best are in contrast to the rest of the field. Between May 20 and May 27, we found Heroic priced at 66% or above in five consecutive matches, against G2, Complexity, Team Vitality, Astralis, and Ninjas in Pyjamas – truly a ‘who’s who’ of Europe's best (yes, I am calling COL 'European'). By most accounts, we could say Heroic had an excellent week – with three wins all at 2-0 and two losses that both needed a deciding map. However, if we were to assess all of their five performances on five-man player performance, kill conversion, and teamplay execution, then perhaps the only win that was well-deserved was their win against Team Vitality.
And this brings us to the IEM futures markets. Both Gambit and Heroic, arguably the best performing teams outside of NAVI through 40% of the year, are not actually listed as clear favourites to win this title. They are the front-runners based upon the aforementioned seven events; however, I believe the pricing is an accurate reflection of the season they are having: better than most other teams, but far from dominant.
For some, this will seem fair and obvious. However, having witnessed the speed at which analysts declare teams as the ‘best in the world’, it is important to consider this relationship to the bookmakers’ odds. As bettors, there should undoubtedly be a huge sense of relief if we are correct in calling the Astralis era 'concluded'. We can now engage in the far more enticing endeavour of entering positions on underpriced outrights instead of playing ‘will they or won't they’ with each event the ‘best team in the world’ attends.
A significant part of betting on tournament futures in esports goes beyond the assessment of form and opposition. If the odds this year are reflective of the climate within the scene, the structure of the event is more critical to who wins than in years when you have a 2.5 favourite to win the title (which was far too common during the Danish era).
Where Astralis were head and shoulders above just about everyone during their reign, it is currently far harder to determine as to where we draw the line. Again, this is also reflected in the price this week. Is it Heroic and Gambit then the rest of the field? Or is it the top six teams and then the rest? What might be most surprising is to find Astralis at odds of 7.1 while Ninjas in Pyjamas and OG are over twice that level! Were the Ninjas not the team to take down Heroic 2-1.Similarly, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen and the boys were priced at 50% against Astralis! Before entering 2021, we had not seen a price for Astralis like this since Dreamhack Masters Marseilles 2018. Interestingly, that event was also (prior to 2021) the last time that Gambit had been in the HLTV top 10!
Getting back to understanding tournament structure, the structure of the IEM Summer 2021 tournament is critical, as Group A and Group B are not created equal and the path to the title should be looked at first before placing bets. This includes thinking about if either Heroic or Gambit drop down to the lower-bracket of their respective groups and what that would mean for the teams - which of the two teams move straight to the playoffs and which team’s chances of getting that third spot are made significantly more difficult.
Regardless of whether one actually decides to enter a bet on the outright markets, it is fantastic to see a very competitive prices across the field and being given that opportunity to play them on our beloved CS:GO tournaments!