LOL LCK Playoffs Betting Odds and Picks: KT Rolster vs. DAMWON Gaming (April 18)
Woohae Cho/Getty Images
As we head into the final three days of China’s LOL Pro League (LPL) Spring regular season there are still seven teams battling for the eighth and final playoff spot. In Korea, the regular season ended on Thursday but the five-team, gauntlet-style playoff bracket starts early on Saturday morning.
Over in the Western leagues, Europe’s LEC and North America’s LCS will be having their semi-finals and grand finals this weekend. Check out Josh Roberts’ preview for those leagues here.
The weekend is going to be chock-full of high-level League of Legends action all over the globe which presents a number of betting opportunities, but I wanted to do a more detailed dive into the first playoff match early Saturday morning in the LCK and offer a few strong positions I’m taking on it.
The LCK has used a gauntlet-style playoff format since 2015. In this format, the No. 4 and No. 5 seeded teams will play a best-of-three match from which the winner will go on to face the No. 3 seed in a best-of-five. The winner of that match plays the No. 2 seed and the winner of that match will meet the waiting No. 1 seed in grand finals.
Korea also uses a circuit point system to qualify for the World Championships in the Fall, so placement during the Spring split matters much more than it does in the Western Leagues which have done away with that system altogether.
Since moving to this playoff format in 2015 only two teams have made it all the way to finals from the No. 4 vs No. 5 match and one of those managed to win it all. In 2017, SK Telecom made it to the finals before losing but in Summer 2019 they ran the entire gauntlet as the No. 4 seed to take down the Summer Finals and a top seed at the World Championships.
While momentum can work to the lower-seeded teams’ advantage, the combination of ever-increasing quality of opponents and the ability to watch film from the previous round make it quite difficult to climb the proverbial mountain.
LOL Champions Korea
No. 5 DAMWON Gaming (+116) vs. No. 4 KT Rolster (-147)
Kill Spread: KT Rolster -3.5
Kill Total: 21.5
Time: Saturday, 4 a.m. ET
- KT Rolster are 4-2 as favorites, 2-4 against the map spread (ATS)
- DAMWON are 1-6 as underdogs, 4-3 ATS
- Favorites are 61-29, 34-56 ATS in the LCK this season
- Favorites of -154 or shorter are 11-2, 3-10 ATS
- The No. 4 vs No. 5 playoff match has gone to three games 50% of the time since 2017
This series is a tale of two very different archetypes; veteran savvy and consistency vs. youthful exuberence and clumsiness. To make matters more interesting, it’s also biggest over-performer and under-performer based on pre-season expectations doing battle.
KT Rolster have a combined 25 years of professional starting roster experience on their primary five players. That’s unprecedented in eSports. Interestingly, not a single of them have won a title as a starter. Perhaps that’s why this crew of veterans was able to turn around an abysmal 0-5 start to the season to end up here.
They have the LOL equivalent to “old man game.” They’re intelligent and creative problem solvers when they have to be but often don’t make things more difficult for themselves than they have to be.
KT Rolster are also very versatile, able to play a more controlled, defensive style when a draft or game plan calls for it but they’re also arguably the best up-tempo, pace-based team in the LCK. While this run has shocked a lot of people based on pre-season expectations, it’s no surprise that all the experience leads to consistency, versatility, discipline, and good decision-making, all of which lead to a lot of wins.
DAMWON Gaming have been, for the most part, the opposite. Primarily constructed of young, superstar talents like Jang “Nuguri, Ha-gwon and Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu, DAMWON rely significantly more on their raw ability to win games.
In 2020, LOL is much less forgiving to mistakes than it was last year and the decisive fight-first-think-later style that brought DAMWON so much success in 2019 has been the cause for much of their inconsistency this season.
They’ve also been very slow to adapt to or pick up new champion selections and strategies that other teams have been taking advantage of. In other words, DAMWON haven’t really changed who they are. “Getting with the times” isn’t something they appear ready to do so far in 2020.
Any series involving DAMWON has a wide range of potential outcomes based purely on their individual capabilities alone. When they’re on form, any one of the top trio of players can single-handedly take over a game but in this series I’m not counting on it. DAMWON have a lot of trouble with setting up plays through planning or in the draft and require their opponents to make unforced errors.
Relying on individual outplays to move forward in games is risky and against superior competition, happens much less often. This is evidenced by their lack of match wins against elite teams. DAMWON’s “best” win was against a T1 team that was limit-testing by starting a substitute jungler and letting a frequently banned champion (Senna) through in both games. Their next highest quality win was against KT Rolster all the way back on February 16th.
A look at the statistical comparison for these two teams would reveal an advantage for DAMWON in most measures of economy but a deeper dive reveals that DAMWON’s numbers are heavily skewed by a handful of spike performances against poor teams that are inflating numbers such as gold per minute and gold differential per minute in their favor.
Gold Percent Rating (GPR) is a metric that measures average amount of the game’s total existing gold controlled by a team. KT Rolster have a GPR of +0.35 while DAMWON sit at +0.16. For comparison the elite teams usually have around +0.8 or higher and middling, non-playoff teams are often near zero or in the negatives. Last place Griffin has a -0.78.
KT Rolster are doing all of this with second-lowest kill per win (KPW) total (14.08) in the LCK while DAMWON have the second highest KPW (16.64). What this means is that KT Rolster’s advantages are based on fundamentals and are repeatable while DAMWON’s are higher variance and more reliant on opponent error.
KT Rolster have significant advantages in a few other places as well:
- First Tower rate: KT Rolster 63% vs 49% for DAMWON
- First to kill three towers rate: 59% vs 53%
- First dragon rate: 72% vs 56%
- Total dragon control rate: 56% vs 53%
Unless there is a good reason for it I’ll take consistent, repeatable, fundamentally sound play every single time. KT Rolster are more versatile, more experienced, more consistent, and have been the better team by a fairly large margin this season. I expected this line to be closer to -200 and think we’re getting an outstanding value in the mid-100’s.
Both teams have a trending combined kills+deaths per game of 19.65 in their past three series and 20.7 for their season long total. As previously mentioned, KT Rolster also have the second lowest kills per win (KPW) total in the LCK at 14.08.
Factoring in both the implied outcome based on the odds, the expected outcome based on my handicap, and the fact that high pressure situations tend to push kill totals down in LOL, the under 21.5 or even 20.5 is an excellent play.
Picks: KT Rolster moneyline -147; Kill Total Under 21.5 (Maps 1 and 2)