Dota 2 Betting Predictions for StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5

StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 is a Dota Pro Circuit Minor, having a prize pool of $300,000 and awarding a total of 300 qualification points for The International 2018. The event is organized by StarLadder in association with ImbaTV, has eight participating teams and is scheduled to take place in Kiev (Ukraine, Eastern Europe) between April 12th and April 15th.

Teams, Tournament Format and Prize Distribution
StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 features eight teams from a total of six regions:

Europe: Team Kinguin.
CIS: FlyToMoon, Natus Vincere, Vega Squadron.
South America: SG e-sports.
North America: OpTic Gaming.
China: VGJ.Thunder.
Southeast Asia: Fnatic.
For the Group Stage, the teams will be split into two groups of four.
Group A

OpTic Gaming
VGJ.Thunder
FlyToMoon
Team Kinguin
Group B

Fnatic
Vega Squadron
Natus Vincere
SG e-sports
Both groups will be played in a double-elimination bracket format. The second and first placed teams from each group advance to the Playoffs. Here, the rank 1 from Group A plays against rank 2 from Group B and vice versa. Until the Grand Final (Bo5), every match is a Bo3 series.

Because it belongs to the Dota Pro Circuit, StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 offers 300 qualification points in addition to its prize pool. The money and the points will be distributed among the 8 teams in the following way:

1st place: $135,000; 150 points
2nd place: $60,000; 90 points
3rd – 4th place: $30,000; 30 points
5th – 6th place: $15,000; 0 points
7th – 8th place: $7,500; 0 points
Betting Predictions
VGJ.Thunder vs. FlyToMoon
VGJ.Thunder
VGJ.Thunder is sitting at number 8 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings, having 1665 points. This is a very strong Chinese competitor and given that most of its usual opponents are missing from this event, it is likely that it will claim the title or at least qualify for the Grand Final. Overall, VGJ.Thunder has obtained two 2nd place finishes this season at Dota Pro Circuit LAN events. One of these tournaments was The Bucharest Major.

FlyToMoon
This team has been around for only two months and does not have a single notable result apart from some tournament qualifications. Even at this level of competition, which is considerably lower compared to that of Major tournaments, FlyToMoon has little to no chance of getting anything other than a 7th-8th place finish.

Prediction
This is a complete mismatch and will definitely end with a quick 2 – 0 victory in favor of VGJ.Thunder. Given that it’s a Bo3, there’s almost nothing that FlyToMoon can do to stop the Chinese juggernaut.
Bovada puts the odds for this match at -310 / +200 in favor of VGJ.Thunder, giving you spectacular returns for such a low-risk bet.

OpTic Gaming vs. Kinguin
OpTic Gaming
OpTic Gaming is the strongest team in North America, with the exception of Evil Geniuses. With more than 6 months of local and international experience, a great roster full of highly skilled individuals and a formidable captain (Peter “ppd” Dager, TI 5 champion with EG), OpTic Gaming is one of the main contenders at this event and should easily get a top 3 finish. I personally think they’re very likely to reach the Grand Final, but it remains to be seen.

Team Kinguin
Team Kinguin is a mediocre European squad with a few participations at Dota Pro Circuit events but no achievements so far. Given that StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 is a Minor event which for the most part, didn’t attract the interest of top teams, Team Kinguin might achieve a 5th-6th place result. But I don’t think they can climb higher than that.

Prediction
This might be a disputed match, but OpTic Gaming will almost certainly still be victorious in the end. Either a 2 – 0 or a 2 – 1 result in their favor is an extremely likely outcome for this encounter.

Bovada puts the odds for this match at -325 / +210 in favor of OpTic Gaming.

Vega Squadron vs. SG e-sports
Vega Squadron
Vega Squadron is a fairly strong team in the CIS region and in recent weeks has managed to beat tough opponents such as Team Empire, Natus Vincere and Team Spirit in the CIS qualifiers for various tournaments. The players on its roster aren’t very well known, but they’re all seasoned professionals and play reasonably well as a unit.

Vega Squadron has little chance of winning against top contenders like OpTic Gaming, Fnatic, and VGJ.Thunder, but has at least a 50% chance to emerge victorious against any other team. The most likely result for them at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 is a 5th-6th place finish.

SG e-sports
No doubt, SG e-sports is one of the top South American teams. However, South America is by far the weakest region in Dota 2 of the 6 that are officially recognized, and the only one that doesn’t have a representative among the top 10 teams inside the Dota Pro Circuit rankings table. Like most of the other participants at this tournament, SG e-sports hasn’t had any notable results this season. And since the skill difference between South America and the other regions is so big, it’s likely that they will get either a 5th-6th or 7th-8th place finish at this event.

Prediction
Vega Squadron is slightly favored to win this match, but only by a little. So you should be cautious here and not take a huge risk.

Bovada puts the odds for this match at -175 / +120 in favor of Vega Squadron.

Fnatic vs. Natus Vincere
Fnatic
Fnatic desperately needs a title or at least a 2nd place finish at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 if it wants to get back into top 8 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings table and obtain a direct invite for The International 2018. Right now, it’s sitting at number 11 with 884 points, so this type of competition is a perfect opportunity for a great result because it lacks top opposition for the most part. In terms of strength, Fnatic is the second-best team at this event and will likely reach the Grand Final if it can defeat either OpTic Gaming or VGJ.Thunder in the Semifinals (depending on who it will face at that point).

One thing to take note of is that Fnatic will be playing with their coach Adam at this tournament and not with “pieliedie”. This decision might have a significant impact on their game.

Natus Vincere
Following the departure of RodjER and SoNNeikO, Natus Vincere went on a downward spiral and is now an underdog in most of the tournaments participates in. At the moment, this famous CIS team is sitting at number 10 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings, having 1199 points. Just like Fnatic, Natus Vincere needs an excellent result at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 if it wants to have a chance of getting a top 8 finish for the season and get a direct invite to The International 2018. Based on its recent performance, Na’Vi has little chance of getting more than a 3rd-4th place finishes at this event.

Prediction
Fnatic will be seeking revenge for its previous defeat against Na’Vi and will almost certainly going to get it. However, keep in mind that Fnatic will be playing with a substitute and this may affect their performance in a negative way.

Bovada puts the odds for this match at -250 / +170 in favor of Fnatic.

Why I Love American Roulette

I bet you won’t agree with me when I say this – I love American roulette.

When I go on a casino trip, I head immediately for double-zero roulette games.

I’ve long been a defender of this casino classic.

After all, I’m an American.

So what is it about double-zero roulette that gets me excited?

First – an explanation of the main difference between American and European game rules.

American vs. European Roulette
The most important difference between American and European rules roulette is the number of spaces in the wheel where the ball might land. American wheels have 38 slots (1-36 plus one green zero and one green double-zero space) and European wheels have 37 slots (1-36 plus one green zero space).

The impact this extra space has on the American game’s odds is pretty significant. All wagers on American roulette games have a 5.26% house edge – while all wagers on single-zero games have a 2.7% house edge. The house edge on the American game is almost double that for single-zero or European tables.

But wait – I haven’t told you the whole story yet. True European roulette games include a special rule that reduces the house’s edge even more in certain game situations. At Euro tables, if the ball lands in the green zero space, bettors get half their wager back. With that rule in place, all even-money bets have a house edge of just 1.3%. Those are excellent odds by anyone’s definition, right?

So why do I love American roulette so much?

It’s Accessible
Only seven Las Vegas casinos host a single-zero roulette game. The Palazzo and the Venetian are the only two that host true American rules roulette – the other five have one European rules table each.

If you don’t do your gambling in Las Vegas, rest assured that your Euro game options are limited, too. The few Atlantic City casinos still in business aren’t eager to hand out money with low-odds games taking up floor space – I don’t know a single AC casino offering single-zero tables outside of a VIP room. You won’t find any single-zero tables in any property in Mississippi or Louisiana that’s run by one of the major operators like Harrah’s. Basically, if you’re in America, American rules games are by far the most common and the most budget-friendly. You may not even have the option of playing single-zero games, especially if you aren’t a high roller.

It’s Familiar
Because I’ve lived my entire life in the United States, I’ve only ever really known or played the single-zero game. I remember getting a casino play-set when I was a kid (with playing cards, a plastic roulette wheel, a ball bearing, some poker chips, and a set of dice), and sure enough, that game’s wheel was set up in imitation of good old USA rules.

I admit – the rules of European roulette are a lot better for the player. The “en prison” rule (the one that will pay you back half your even-money wager on a zero result) is so popular that a few casinos in America adapted it for use on double-zero wheels. Unfortunately, that game never caught on, probably because it cut the house’s edge from 5.26% to 2.63%. I also appreciate that the stupid “five numbers” bet isn’t available on single zero tables – I think that’s a terrible move by the casino to cheat ignorant people out of their money, and I wish it wasn’t available in American games.

But it all comes down to familiarity, for me. When I play the game, I expect a wheel with two green zero spaces. I don’t expect to get half my wager back thanks to “imprisonment rules.” I grew up risking way more of money than you can risk on European tables, and it’s just not familiar to me.

It’s Affordable
If single-zero roulette offers way better odds, why shouldn’t I just stick to those seven casinos when I visit Vegas? Because the vast majority of those single-zero games are in the VIP rooms, with $100 bet minimums. The most affordable single-zero games in town are at the Mirage, and the MGM Grand, where you can play on a single-zero table for a $25 minimum bet.

Most of the American-style roulette games in Las Vegas allow me to bet $5 or $10 per spin. Basically, I can’t afford to play singe-zero roulette. I’m used to seeing about one outcome per minute at a full Las Vegas table – if I wanted to step up to the VIP games, I’d be betting my mortgage four times over each hour. That’s not the kind of action that I (or my wife) can live with. Heck, it’s expensive enough at $600 an hour.

Atlantic City casinos hosted single-zero games years before Las Vegas did – at a time when Atlantic City gambling houses were playgrounds for the well-to-do. In America, European-anything is code for elite and uppity, and that seems to be the case with this European import. Though I consider myself an intellectual, someone able to overcome the trappings of his cultural heritage, I still can’t help but see the double-zero game as comfortable and familiar.

Conclusion
How little do casinos want Americans to play on single-zero wheels? It’s common for online casinos to restrict bets on Euro roulette from counting towards bonus requirements or loyalty points. The tables are practically gone from US casino floors. When you can find them, they’re restricted by high betting minimums or by requiring special permission to enter the VIP room where the games are kept. For all those reasons, I much prefer to play American-rules roulette games. I’m hoping that, after reading this, a few of you will feel the same way, and give the game a second chance.

Beating Baccarat – Winning Systems & Strategies

Baccarat is one of the oldest casino games, remaining virtually unchanged over the past four centuries. It’s a game that gives off an air of elegance. Baccarat’s cousin chemin-de-fer is the favorite game of James Bond.

Certain parts of the gambling world are more in thrall with baccarat (or punto banco, or chemin-de-fer) than others. Macau is the modern baccarat hotspot – what Las Vegas is to poker, Macau is to baccarat. By the same token, you won’t find a huge baccarat audience in Atlantic City or anywhere else in America, really. The game is still really popular in parts of Europe, but it’s catching on in Asia (with Macau as the flashpoint) faster than anywhere else in the world.

Baccarat is a card game, but don’t confuse it too much with blackjack. Blackjack offers a lot of opportunities for strategy – it’s a mathematician’s game that can be managed through the use of basic strategy. Baccarat depends more heavily on luck – in some cases entirely on luck – to produce winnings. If you find yourself reading a baccarat betting strategy that advertises altering your bets to get an edge, you’re being lied to.

Below are a few real tips and tricks for winning at baccarat. If you follow the advice below, you’ll be a better baccarat player, regardless of where in the world you choose to try your hand at “the royal game.”

Place the Right Wagers
Honestly, there’s only one wager in baccarat that I consider worth your time. I can give you all the baccarat wagering tips you need in just two statements:

Never bet on “tie.”
Always bet on “banker.”
The house edge on banker wagers in baccarat is just 1.06%. That’s better odds than even the best craps bet. That’s the kind of odds you can only get in blackjack with perfect strategy and a little bit of luck in terms of liberal rules. If you stick ONLY to the banker bet, the casino has a slim advantage. Sure, they’ll eventually win all your cash, but at least with this wager it’ll take them a bit longer.

The tie bet is a classic sucker bet – it pays out at 8 to 1, but actually gives the house an edge of more than 14%. If the tie bet paid out at 14 to 1, we might be having a totally different conversation. Unfortunately, the gap between true odds and payout odds is too great. If you ever place a “tie” bet and I’m nearby, you’ll probably get offered a free beverage and then have to listen to a mini-lecture on your wicked ways.

What about side bets? I’m never a fan of side wagers, and the ones available on some baccarat games are no exception. The most popular is called the “Dragon Bonus,” which pays off if your bet wins by four points or more or if you win with a natural 9. It pays out as a 1:1 bonus but must be triggered with a $1 side wager. The house edge for the Dragon Bonus is about 6%, which makes it a definite no-go in my opinion. All other baccarat side wagers offer either equivalent or worse odds. They’re sucker bets to be avoided.

Look for Small-Shoe Games
Most baccarat games use an eight-deck shoe – that means the game is played with eight decks of cards. Small-shoe games, popular everywhere you find a real game of baccarat, use a shoe of just six decks. Rumors abound about an Atlantic City game that occasionally uses a half-shoe (four decks), but I can’t confirm that.

Here’s a tip – if you find a baccarat game with a reduced shoe, play it. I don’t care how many decks are in it, if it’s fewer than eight. Every deck removed from the game affects your likelihood of winning by a tiny percentage. Though short-shoe games aren’t all that much better odds-wise than full games, every little bit helps.

Manage Your Money (and Quit While You’re Ahead)
Managing your money means establishing a unit bet size, sticking to win and loss limits, and (above all) gambling for entertainment rather than income. When you establish your budget, your bet size, and other facets of your bankroll management program, you should be fully prepared to lose the cash you’ve set aside for your baccarat play. If you think of that money as the casino’s, which you exchange for entertainment a little bit at a time, you’ll be surprised with how differently you feel about your losses at the table.

Another major aspect of bankroll management is quitting while ahead – if you manage to get ahead, that is. Bets on player and banker give the house a 1.06% and a 1.24% edge respectively, which is small, but significant enough that it will eventually drain your bankroll. If you’re foolish and bet on tie, you’re staring down a 14.36% casino advantage, which will make your money the casino’s money at an even faster rate than usual. If you find yourself up $100, and you’re happy with that, walk away and finish the day a winner.

Conclusion
Though baccarat doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity the world over as it does in parts of Asia and Europe, it’s still a classic casino game, popular enough to be available in online versions at any worthwhile Web-based casino site. Baccarat has a rich history, a flavor of nobility, and a couple of decent wagers in the form of “banker” and “player” wagers.

Provided you don’t fall for any outlandish wagering systems, or place the “tie” bet pretty much ever, you should have a good long session of baccarat for your investment. Just make sure to manage your finances appropriately. Nothing ruins a good time like an empty wallet.