As with any other sport in the world, match fixing does occasionally happen to the temporary benefit of some and detriment of others. The truth is, anywhere there’s competition, there’s bound to be people trying to earn a profit by cheating one way or another. In this article, we’ll focus on esports match fixing and the consequences those involved can face.

What Is Match Fixing in Esports?

Match fixing in esports is the process of manipulating the end result of a matchup between esports teams. This is usually done by partnering with the teams (or certain players) so they can ‘throw’ (lose) their esports tournament matches on purpose by playing badly or not playing at all (basically AFKing as much as possible).

The way money is made in such instances is by placing outrageous bets with incredible odds that turn out to be winning bets. We know from traditional sports (especially football) history that there have even been cases where multiple teams were involved.

In rare esports match fixing cases, the people who participated (whether they were the organisers, esports organisations, teams, players, or anyone else with the power to influence the result) can sometimes escape detection for prolonged periods of time.

However, the issue for those involved is that modern esports is very strict when it comes to match fixing; it’s incredibly hard to pull off a successful strategy without it being obvious because the risk of being caught is simply too high, especially for continuous instances of match fixing.

Here are a couple of examples of esports match fixing, where you can learn more about why going down this route is never worth it. But you’ll also see just how resourceful people can be to prevent the ‘authorities’ from finding out what they’re doing.

Esports Match Fixing Examples

iBuyPower CSGO Scandal

The iBuyPower CSGO esports match fixing scandal is arguably the biggest one of its kind in modern esports.

The year is 2014 – iBuyPower currently has one of the best CSGO teams in the world and is set to go up against NetCodeGuides, a team that Tarik (a very well-known CSGO player, now turned VALORANT streamer) played for at the time.

For all intents and purposes, iBuyPower were the favourites going into the match and were expected to win easily. However, as soon as the match started, iBuyPower’s players began playing like complete newbies. They didn’t take clean shots and would stop moving or doing anything at random intervals.

The team claimed they were just joking around but evidence of their behind-the-scenes activity has begun to surface. Following a detailed investigation, it was concluded that the teams placed bets with expensive CSGO skins on the match (against themselves).

This was verified and confirmed by Valve because they saw the players (except Skadoodle – the only player not to have participated in match fixing) receive the skins and some additional ones after the match had ended. The other four were permanently banned from participating in Valve events. This just goes to show that even one of the biggest esports games in the world is susceptible to match fixing. If you’d like to know more about this incident, check out the detailed video by theScore Esports:

HObbit Accusations

HObbit is another well-known CSGO player that is currently making strides with Cloud9. Although the team has somewhat fallen off the top of the leaderboards, they’re still considered one of the best CSGO teams in the world.

But – HObbit’s match-fixing accusations aren’t related to his current career as a Cloud9 player. Instead, there seems to be evidence showing that he did, indeed, participate in fixing matches during the StarLadder Regional Minor Championship in 2015.

The player has denied these allegations and stands firm in defending his image and reputation (per his words). HObbit did pledge to provide assistance if needed to the ESIC during the investigation, but no other news has been released since then.

It’s worth noting that the ESIC (Esports Integrity Commission) is ruthless when it comes to match fixing; they give no quarter and are fully committed to rooting it out whenever they can. For now, we can only guess what’s going on, all we know is that it still hasn’t stopped HObbit from playing in esports tournaments.

First Instance of Esports Match Fixing

Match fixing in esports is nothing new, as evidenced by the following story which goes all the way back to 2010, when Starcraft II esports was in its heyday. You could find many Starcraft II esports streams and enjoy the highly-skilled gameplay.

At one point, however, 11 players were found to have been working together fixing matches for their own gain. What made it such a big scandal was that some of those were among the best in the world: sAviOr, By.1st, DarkElf, go.go, Hwasin, Justin, Luxury, ShinHwA, type-b, Upmagic, and YellOw.

The price of this agreement? Permanent bans for all pro-gaming and esports tournaments. On top of that, they had to pay fines, enroll in gambling treatment programmes, and some players even had to do time for their infractions.

Solo – Against His Own Team

Usually, when esports match fixing is mentioned, you’d assume that we’re talking about large amounts of money. In most cases, you’d be correct.

But this story is a little bit different. Alexey Berezin (known as Solo) was a professional Dota 2 player for the Rox team in 2013. He decided to place a bet against his team during a 2013 StarLadder match against Z-Rage.

While the match was going on, Solo wasn’t playing to his usual standards – a fact that both his teammates and the spectators noticed. Because of his reluctance to play to his fullest ability (so he could win his bet), his team’s performance suffered as a result.

When evidence of this came to light, Solo himself admitted to match fixing, and as a result, he received a lifetime StarLadder ban, prohibiting him from participating in their events ever again.

However, Valve at the time didn’t have any rules in place regarding match fixing so they couldn’t punish him accordingly. After Solo received his StarLadder ban, Valve created and instituted a rule where any match fixing instances from that point would result in a lifetime ban across all Dota 2 esports or Valve competitions.

As for Solo? StarLadder reduced his ban to a year following Valve’s decision, and Valve themselves didn’t want to punish Solo for his misdeed retroactively. Oh, and he also won $322 from the bet he made! Except he never received the money – ultimately making his decision one that could have ended his entire career…for nothing.

This example has been immortalised in esports betting and the Dota 2 culture as the ‘322 Incident’.

LPL Match-Fixing Scandal

You could argue that it would be impossible and irresponsible to even attempt match fixing in one of the most popular esports tournaments on the planet – the Chinese League of Legends league. However, that’s exactly what more than 38 people did.

Back in 2021, an expansive and long investigation concluded that these 38 individuals participated in match fixing in the LPL and all of them received lifetime bans. In April 2022, it was discovered that LGD Gaming’s Chen Bo (former midlaner for the team) was involved with match-fixing. He was handed a permanent ban.

Consequences of Match Fixing in Esports

If you participated in esports match-fixing in the past, you’d usually get off with a small fine or a one-year ban from certain events (for smaller infractions).

However, the organisations in charge of keeping match fixing and cheating to a minimum have learned from their past mistakes and implemented a rigorous system of punishment, especially for the biggest offenders. Nowadays, the negatives outweigh the positives (of which there aren’t many), so it’s becoming increasingly difficult for match fixing to occur.

But, although uncommon, it still happens from time to time. So, what about the consequences given out to individuals involved in match fixing? They can be any of the following:

  • Monetary fine
  • Re-education programmes
  • Permanent competitive bans
  • Imprisonment

The harshest punishments depend on the country’s match-fixing laws; certain countries will lock up match fixers while others will make them pay a fine.

Additionally, past accolades, successes, wins, and titles can be made void by tournament organisers if the team or player is found to have participated in match fixing.

How Does Esports Tackle Match Fixing?

First and foremost, the punishments are harsh for a purpose – to deter any match-fixing attempts because of their severity. Sure, the match fixers may win €10k, but they’ll have to pay 5 times more if they are caught.

Secondly, the ESIC always has eyes on major matches. On top of that, there are dedicated spectators whose sole purpose is to detect and report potential match-fixing instances. Usually, this isn’t difficult to see because a team or player involved in match fixing will play to their team’s detriment.

Lastly, if someone is suspected of such activity, the ‘authorities’ can easily track and find their previous betting pattern. Esports bookmakers do not take kindly to match fixers and in 99% of the cases, they collaborate with the authorities to help them nail those guilty.

Summary

When you’ve got a hugely competitive environment such as esports, match fixing is bound to happen.

But while the current method of fighting match fixing may seem very efficient, in reality, it can still be fairly difficult to detect. After all, there’s a fine line between simply making mistakes and playing badly on purpose while trying to minimise the chance of raising questions.

Nonetheless, match fixing in esports is getting the attention needed and we’re finally seeing some major overhauls to the whole monitoring and punishment process. Hopefully, we’ll see even less of it in the future.


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FAQ

FAQs

When it comes to major, prestigious events and even some minor tournaments, match fixing is rare. These tournaments are watched by hundreds of thousands of people and have insane media coverage, so fixing matches is simply too risky. However, it’s still a relatively common occurrence in smaller, regional tournaments where the governing body may not be up to the task.

Match-fixing punishments range from bans and fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense. Usually, being found to be fixing matches spells the end of the player’s career.

Simply put, people want to make money in a controlled environment. Betting is all about predicting the end result correctly, and the lack of influence is what makes betting difficult. People that fix matches seek to completely eliminate the lack of influence by incorporating influence into the equation. When you fix matches, you already know who’s going to win. This makes it ‘easy to make money’ off the fixed matches, for both the fix organisers and the players/teams involved.

The most recent case of esports match fixing is that of HObbit, although this is recent news about an old and rumoured incident. Two Australian men have been charged with match fixing in League of Legends, and face up to 10 years in prison.

The ESIC (Esports Integrity Commission) are responsible for investigating match fixing, punishing the perpetrators, and instituting new regulations whose aim is to prevent further instances of match fixing in esports.

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