The World Cup of video games is about to begin once more as the League of Legends World Championship heads to Europe for this year's iteration of the month-long marathon. Thirteen different regions from across the globe are competing for the illustrious Summoner's Cup, with the field of 24 squads being cut down to the final two when the champion is crowned Nov. 10 from the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
This might very well go down as the most wide-open worlds in history. Last year, the five-year reign of South Korean teams winning the tournament was broken (coincidentally, with South Korea hosting) when China's Invictus Gaming upended Europe's Fnatic in the final with a dominant 3-0 sweep. Coming into this year's tournament in Europe, the odds reflect the unpredictable nature of who will leave Paris as the world champion.
We have the odds put out by Bet365, and I'm here to parse through the bets that are trying to fool you and which longshots could be the Cinderella you're looking for to turn your pumpkin into a carriage.
Here is the full list of odds, both for the outright winner (champion) and which region the champion will hail from.
To Win Outright
SK Telecom T1, 9-2
FunPlus Phoenix, 5-1
G2 Esports, 11-2
Royal Never Give Up, 6-1
Invictus Gaming, 13-2
DAMWON Gaming, 10-1
Team Liquid, 33-1
Clutch Gaming, 100-1
J Team, 100-1
Ahq e-Sports Club, 150-1
GAM Esports, 150-1
Hong Kong Attitude, 150-1
Flamengo Esports, 150-1
Royal Youth, 150-1
Detonation FocusMe, 200-1
Isurus Gaming, 200-1
Unicorns of Love, 200-1
Lowkey Esports, 250-1
Region of Winner
LPL (China), 11-8
LCK (South Korea), 7-4
LEC (Europe), 5-2
LCS (North America), 20-1
Any Other Region, 100-1
Note: The number on the left is the amount of money you get for each amount on the right spent should you win your bet. For example, if you put $100 on G2 Esports to win the world championship and they do so, you win $550. If you put $5 on Cloud9 and they win, you'd win $250.
The best bets on the table
I love, love, love Fnatic at these odds. Fnatic are the runners-up in Europe, falling to reigning Mid-Season Invitational champions G2 Esports in the summer split final, but it was a close 3-2 result.
When we start talking about the teams you should be riding to go all the way at the world championship, I always start with squads that have the experience of playing on the biggest stage possible. Worlds is like no other tournament when it comes to video game competitions. Most of these teams have played in front of thousands of fans before in their respective regions, but playing the labyrinth known as worlds is another gambit entirely.
Four out of the five starters on Fnatic made it to the world final last year, and although they lost their ace player to rival G2 Esports, Slovenian rookie Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek has been a rock at the mid lane position. This is a team that I wouldn't expect to fold under the pressure of the bright lights, and though I wouldn't say they're my absolute top pick to raise the Summoner's Cup in a little over a month's time, I think they're definitely in the mix.
In recent history at worlds, almost every title-winning team has had to recover from a tough loss on the international stage before learning from said loss to become world champions. Fnatic got to the peak in 2018 and learned a mighty lesson on what it takes to become a world champion. At 10-1 odds, this is the team that has the right mixture of world-class talent, experience and ingenuity to get the job this time around.
DAMWON Gaming (10-1)
Another team at 10-1 odds, DAMWON are somewhat the opposite of Fnatic if you feel like you want to take more of a risk.
Whereas Fnatic are a team built around a core that made it all the way to the world finals last year, DAMWON is a squad from South Korea with four rookie starters. Fnatic is the safe pick at 10-1. DAMWON? They're the exciting pick. They play with reckless abandon and somewhat resemble the 2018 Invictus Gaming team that defeated Fnatic for the Summoner's Cup.
Actually, the similarities don't stop with just how the two teams play, as Kim "Kim" Jeong-soo coached iG to the world title in 2018 before choosing DAMWON as his project in 2019, seeing potential in the youth on the squad. DAMWON is a true boom-or-bust pick. They have a ceiling where these odds could look mighty foolish in a month when they're running circles around the competition and on a first-class trip to Paris, or, as an inexperienced team, could implode in the early stages and have a quick return home to South Korea. I think it'll resemble more of the former than the latter, and when the only thing that matters is winning the whole shebang, you want a team with such high upside.
LCS, North America (20-1)
North America is heavily undervalued, and this three-team package at 20-1 could be the best bet on the entire board. No, North America isn't the strongest region, with it being clear to anyone who follows League of Legends that China, South Korea and Europe are currently tussling for the top spot. But that doesn't mean the LCS is a non-factor when it comes to these international competitions. Cloud9 made the semifinals of worlds in 2018, and Team Liquid most recently made it to the finals of MSI this year, losing to G2 Esports in the final.
Neither C9 or TL are among the favorites to win it all, but both squads have what I love at worlds: experience. The cores and the coaching staffs of these two teams have made it far along in international competition and know how to navigate these long, energy-draining tournaments. All it takes is a lucky group draw for both Team Liquid and C9 to make it to the knockout rounds, and from there, it's a complete crapshoot depending on who is better on the day and which side is better prepared in the best-of-five series.
With these odds, you also get Clutch Gaming, the No. 3 seed from North America which has that unpredictable nature you want from the weakest of the sides you're sending to worlds. Clutch are the type of team that might lose to the worst team in the competition but the next day blow out one of the tournament favorites. They're not expected to make the top-eight and have a chance at the knockout rounds, but they're an added bonus along with Liquid and C9 that could prosper if everything aligns in Europe.
GAM Esports (150-1)
I know some of you look at these odds, see some of these longshots and think, "Wow, I can throw $10 on this team called the Unicorns and become rich!" They look tasty. It's a video game, and if they made it this far to the world championship of all places, they must have a chance to strike gold, right?
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
While this is the most wide-open world championship ever, that really is only at the top of the board. We have a handful of teams that have a legitimate shot at the Summoner's Cup, but for the rest, it's going to be tough sledding. In League of Legends, there are five major regions (North America, Europe, China, South Korea and Taiwan/Macau/Hong Kong) with the others considered "wildcard" or "fledgling" regions. Can you guess how many of these up-and-coming region teams have won matches in the knockout round in the eight-year history of the League of Legends World Championship? Zero. They've never won a single map, let alone a match in the quarterfinal round at worlds.
The best run a team from the non-major region at worlds has had was in 2016 when Albus Nox Luna, a small side from the Commonwealth of Independent States, made it to the quarterfinals and then promptly got thrown out by H2k Gaming from Europe. Miracle runs from these smaller regions don't happen, and I wouldn't expect 2019 to be any different. If you're going to throw money on one of these longshots in an attempt to win a fortune, go with GAM Esports. I think they should be more around 100-1 than 150-1 and have some experienced players that have upset teams at previous world championships.
GAM, a Vietnamese squad, are a fun team that always believe they're playing with the green light on and can match up with their opponents. They're fearless, and when picking a longshot, you want fearless. They probably won't get anywhere near Paris, but don't be too surprised if they make some noise in the group stages and threaten to make the knockout rounds.
Bets to avoid
FunPlus Phoenix (5-1)
Stay away. This isn't an indictment of how strong FPX is as a team -- they're pretty dang good -- but more so on if a team that has had no success internationally is worthy of such odds.
This is the first world championship for every player on China's top team, and that's OK for a team with long odds. But for a team that is seen as one of the clear favorites to take it all? I'm staying far away. FunPlus are a team that puts most of their hopes on one superstar: mid laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang. Although he's certainly a top-five player at the event, his lack of experience on such a grand stage is concerning.
FPX might win it all, and Doinb might be the runaway winner of finals MVP, but that still doesn't make this a good bet. I'd only go with these odds for FunPlus if you truly believe they're the best starting five in the tournament.
Invictus Gaming (13-2)
Yes, another Chinese team. If you're going to bet on a Chinese team for these worlds, go with Royal Never Give Up. They lost to FunPlus in the most-recent domestic final, but they have all the right ingredients to win the Summoner's Cup. Invictus Gaming's odds seem to be inflated because they're the defending world champions and are bringing back a starting roster that took home the title last year.
When it comes to talent, there is little question if this team can win the 2019 title. They can. The core of this team is ridiculous when we start talking about skill. They obviously have the experience.
The issues? Dysfunction and current form.
Invictus Gaming narrowly survived the China Regional Final by the skin of their teeth, and there's no reason to believe they will all be on the same page with a few weeks of downtime going into worlds. The biggest question mark surrounds 2018's grand final MVP, Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning. Ning, an explosive yet inconsistent talent, lost his starting job over the course of the summer, and it's not even guaranteed if he'll be traveling to Europe as the team's sixth-man substitute they can bring off the bench. Lu "Leyan" Jue, a rookie, has taken over Ning in the jungler position and performed admirably, though no team would willingly want to start such a green player at the biggest event of the year if they were given the chance.
Even the team's most well-known player, Song "Rookie" Eui-jin, is still trying to rediscover his peak form after taking a short sabbatical midseason to deal with personal issues back in his home country of South Korea. At longer odds, iG would be similar to DAMWON as an exciting team with a low floor and high ceiling to get behind. But last year's worlds win is stuck in people's minds, and the odds reflect that. I wouldn't put money on a rookie jungler with only 16 professional starts to lift a team to a repeat world championship. RNG or taking the Chinese region as a whole is the way to go if you really want to get behind China this tournament.
MEGA or Lowkey Esports (250-1)
I know you want to put $5 on these two teams. I know that $5 could turn into over $1,000 if MEGA or Lowkey Esports wins the title. It's not going to happen. Put that $5 toward a charity or coffee or just about anything that isn't these two teams. I know these odds are shiny and tempting, but that's what gambling is. Don't do it. Put the $5 on GAM Esports if you really want to put money on a longshot.