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Betting on Online vs. LAN CS:GO events

Henrieta Hyrlikova

It is a well known fact that online and offline CS:GO are two very different things, even more when it comes to betting. Current state of CS:GO esports provides a good example. Because of the global pandemic, most major events this year are being played online and we can all agree it’s a madness.

Safe bets are not so safe anymore and we’ve seen more surprises from underdogs than ever. In fact, the increased rate of upsets and surprises is specific not only for counter - strike, but for online tournaments across all esports. If you were wondering why bookies have been offering little to no outrights for CS:GO tournaments lately, that's why. In short, it’s just too risky.

Experts usually don’t take online results too seriously either. Almost like it doesn’t even count. But why is that so? It’s the same game, with the same rules and same players after all. Well, there is more to that.

Offline vs. online

First of all we should make clear what’s the main difference between the two. Online events are held with players connecting from their homes over the Internet to a server in another location, while offline or LAN (Local Area Network) tournaments require all players to be at one place in the world, all connected to the same network. Major LAN events are usually held in big arenas with spectators and livestreams.

That already says quite a lot about main issues that come with online events. Everybody who ever played a competitive video game knows that darned word: 'ping'. Connecting from different places in the world using personal Internet connections will always result in server latency, which seriously impacts the match and ultimately the results as well. With high ping the game is lagging, the reactions are slower and players cannot be as precise as needed.

This puts some teams to an obvious advantage or disadvantage and nothing can be done about it. Not mentioning the fact that even different latency of only one player in the team might develop into a very different match than what it would be if it was offline.

Generally it depends on the physical distance from the server - longer distance means higher ping and worse conditions. Location of teams is therefore an important factor to consider when betting on online tournaments. For example Russian team Natus Vincere would suffer high latencies to Western European servers when playing against G2, located in Germany.

The mental game

Many pro players however claim something different to be the main problem: the mental game. To make it to major LAN tournaments, teams need to be not only exceptionally good at the game, but also at dealing with pressure. An enormous pressure of the stage, the crowd and the whole world watching. The kind of pressure that selects elites and only those who don’t crack under its heavyweight can make it to the top.

There’s no pressure like that at online tournaments. Players perform from the comfort of their homes, with their own equipment, relaxed and ready to play what feels to be just another game. Without the pressure, less experienced teams who didn’t make it to the top because of that pressure, now have pretty good chances against top tier teams. Additionally, these teams are more used to the online environment, which only evens their chances.

The lack of pressure and abundance of comfort brings very different play than what we see in overall very tactical LAN events. Players are more aggressive and take more risks. Top tier teams are often surprised by less experienced teams taking more duels and playing more fiercely. It only makes sense that the odds of surprising results on online events are higher and it brings us to a conclusion that it’s not always smart to bet on favorites.

Ability to adapt

Experienced bettors know that many factors need to be taken into consideration when analyzing the performance of players, some of which could seem like details. In case of LAN events, a player's ability to adjust to a different culture, language and even the local food plays a role in their performance.

With the transition to the online environment, there are different things to adapt to. Some say that playing from home might be ‘too comfortable’ and as a result of this, players might focus less. Communication between players is also affected when they are not able to see each other in person during the match. Plus, online victories are somewhat less rewarding than winning the grand finals on stage.

All of this might ultimately lead to some burnouts and so teams will have to figure out how to stay highly motivated and also how to maintain high work ethics while playing from home. Let’s not forget about adaptation to earlier mentioned things like server latency, or a different playstyle of their opponent.

In any case, the ability to adapt to new circumstances is a valuable skill to have. And only those who can adapt, can remain on top. It’s pretty much the same principle as with handling the pressure offline. It seems that these are the qualities to look for in a team.

Given these points, results of online CS:GO are not completely useless. Even though this season is fairly chaotic and predictions not very reliable, it still provides us a valuable insight into the dynamics of competitive CS:GO play.