Cloud9 v Evil Geniuses (LCS 2021-01-16)

Cloud9 v Evil Geniuses (LCS 2021-01-16)

In a couple of hours, the LCS 2021 season is kicking off, and one of the more exciting games of the Kick-off tournament is Cloud9 vs. Evil Geniuses.

According to every betting platform and external pundit, Cloud9 appears heavily favored - they’ve look incredibly dominant on paper, while Evil Geniuses looks supremely outclassed.

While Cloud9 is definitely favored, we respectfully disagree with any assertion that they have “no chance” as some talking heads have said.

                            |Cloud9      |Evil Geniuses |
|Market Odds                |1.27 (-370) |3.54 (+254)   |
|Implied Win Probability    |78.74%      |28.25%        |
|Calculated Win Probability |61.22%      |38.78%        |
|Expected Value             |-0.2225     |0.3728        |
|Bet Size                   |$0          |$146.75       |

In fact, the Alacrity Predictive Model (APM for short) estimates Evil Geniuses at a 39% winrate, significantly above the market-implied 28%. While C9 is still favored, to be an effective and +EV bettor, it’s clear that the payout for EG heavily outweighs the risk.

The Teams

During the 2020 off-season leading into the 2021 season, Cloud9 was a major spender and acquirer of talent. Pairing with, by our metrics, the best support player in the league in Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme, Cloud 9 picked up future hall of famer and European superstar Perkz to shore up their midlane. Additionally, they brought on minor league wunderkind Fudge into the LCS, replacing an all-LCS player in Licorice with a player they believe to be the future of Top Lane in North America.

In comparison, Evil Geniuses made a change in the top lane in adding top North American resident Impact from Team Liquid and changing their bot lane from World Champion Bang to AAAA player Deftly. They also brought on an engage-heavy player in IgNar in the support position. The public did not feel these changes to be positive for EG, but all-in-all our model believes the team performs roughly equivalent to where they were last year.

All in all, this one should be in the bag for Cloud9.

The Market

The odds market, unsurprisingly, agrees. At the time of this writing, had odds of 1.27 on C9 vs. 3.54 on EG (that’s C9 -370 vs. EG +254 if you prefer American odds). As always, we can back out the implied probability of winning from these odds, and see C9 at 78.74% to EG’s 28.25%.

Our savvy readers will note that these two numbers don’t add up to 100% - this is because of the “vig” (vigorish), which is the cut that the bookmakers take in order to make money. We’ll have a future article on this topic and how to use these numbers, but for now we can simply say that this is roughly a 74/26 game in terms of actual market expectation.

Remember, to be a +EV bettor, we still have to beat the market numbers and overcome the VIG in order for us to make a profit.

Additionally, we’ve noticed that the bookmakers are also offering odds on a variety of other metrics - think prop bets with your friends. These range from overall match score (not relevant here, since this is a best-of-one match), which team gets first blood, total number of kills in the game, match duration, and so on.

These are all things that we’ll aim to explore in the future, but for simplicity, we will stick to the main event: who is going to win?

The Model

Our model looks at over 28,000 professional games worth of data to estimate the actual probability of each team winning. The end result:

Cloud9 is still favored, but not by nearly as much as the market would imply. Their 74% win probability (derived from their betting line) is much higher than our model’s 61%, while Evil Geniuses have gone from 26% to 39%. The quick takeaway is that while C9 is still clearly the better team, our model does not believe in a Best of 1 game that the gap ought be this large.

While it’s very difficult to quantify exactly what factors are contributing these win percentages, and more importantly why the market, bookmakers, and public perception are putting such a high premium on C9, let’s take a look at some specific data to try to justify this result.

When evaluating a team’s strengths, we should first look at its components.

“How good are the players on the team?”

Let’s start here.

Here’s a simplistic first pass. Below, we show an adjusted winrate for every player in this game, with more recent games weighted a bit more heavily:

|player_name |   winrate|team_name     |
|Fudge       | 0.7847512|Cloud9        |
|Blaber      | 0.7100507|Cloud9        |
|Perkz       | 0.6595160|Cloud9        |
|Zven        | 0.6452791|Cloud9        |
|Impact      | 0.6350490|Evil Geniuses |
|Vulcan      | 0.6128874|Cloud9        |
|Svenskeren  | 0.5490529|Evil Geniuses |
|Deftly      | 0.5264131|Evil Geniuses |
|IgNar       | 0.5083681|Evil Geniuses |
|Jiizuke     | 0.4962079|Evil Geniuses |

Fudge, the academy superstar, has an absolutely dominant winrate of 78%. Additionally, the rest of the Cloud 9, coming off a nearly-record setting season, boasts very impressive winrates. However, it’s worth flagging that Fudge’s C9 Academy performance and dominance may not translate to the LCS stage. A fun data point comparison would be Impact, who over a long career playing at the top of the game, has still managed to hold onto a 64% winrate.

While the EG players crowd the bottom of this table, almost all of them still won more than half of their games! The only exception, Jiizuke, is just shy of that mark. So, while the C9 squad is clearly better, by individual win percentage, almost every player on EG is still above average! Again, we agree with the broader assessment that C9 is the better team, it’s simply a question of how much better - and there’s no denying that EG is still a fairly solid team.

“Ok, so the players aren’t completely dominant, but C9’s favorite champions are better right now!”

Champions do fall in and out of favor, so what ought a data nerd do with this information? Quantify it, of course! We looked at the most dominant heroes this patch, as determined by some combination of their winrate and their pick-rate, and took a look at just how good each player is with them:

Blaber and Fudge stand out - Blaber has two great picks in Graves and Olaf, while Fudge’s Aatrox and Ornn are incredibly strong and certainly compensates their relative meta dominance right now. The above caveats still hold - Fudge was dominant with these heroes in Academy games, which may not translate to the LCS. Otherwise, the data suggests a relative wash. Neither team appears to have a strong advantage here, so at least with the information we currently have (now being the beginning of portion of the patch) the patch doesn’t really favor any team over the other.

There are, of course, an almost endless number of similar comparisons to look at to inform our qualitative view of the match. They are of course, but a small part of the overall model, but hopefully the above metrics served to at least give a glimpse into the inner workings of the Alacrity Prediction Model.

The Bet

So believing the outputs of the APM, it still says Cloud9 is favored.

Shouldn’t we still bet on Cloud9?

If it was an “even money” bet - that is, you either lose your money or make the same amount back, then sure!

That’s not how odds markets work. Based on the quoted odds, if you bet $100 on C9 and they win, you would win $27. If you bet $100 on EG and they win, you would win $254. We have to adjust for the greater rewards based on the greater risk. Because we think that EG isn’t nearly as unfavored as the market says, what we’re saying is we’re seeing an outsized return relative to the priced risk.

However, this doesn’t mean that we should bet all of our money on EG - there’s still a greater than 50% chance that we lose that money. We provided a summary table at the top of this article and will repeat it here; this is the fundamental breakdown of where our suggested bet sizing comes from:

                            |Cloud9      |Evil Geniuses |
|Market Odds                |1.27 (-370) |3.54 (+254)   |
|Implied Win Probability    |78.74%      |28.25%        |
|Calculated Win Probability |61.22%      |38.78%        |
|Expected Value             |-0.2225     |0.3728        |
|Bet Size                   |$0          |$146.75       |

We’ll go into more detail on exactly what Expected Value means, how to translate that into a suggested bet, and a lot of nuance surrounding this, in a future article. For now, the most important thing to focus on is the last line: if you have a betting budget of $1,000, you should be willing to bet $146.75 on EG on this game. If you win, you stand to gain a good chunk of money, but if you lose you’re not out your entire budget.

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