It is time for the first major event of the year in the world of Counter Strike: Global Offensive with the IEM Katowice in Poland getting underway on Wednesday.
The S-Tier event is the first Intel Extreme Masters tournament of the year and it's a big one, featuring 24 teams and a prize pool of $1 million.
Winning the IEM Katowice can often lay down a marker for the rest of the CS:GO season and that was certainly the case in 2022 as FaZe Clan took the title and went on to dominate the first half of the campaign.
It is one of the most prestigious titles on offer in the CS:GO season and the champions will take home $400,000 and secure a spot at the IEM Cologne 2023.
The event begins with a play-in stage, which features a double-elimination bracket, and the top eight sides will then progress to the group stage.
The group stage features 16 teams divided across two groups and the top three teams in each group will make their way through to the playoffs.
The first batch of matches are on Wednesday 1st February, so here is a look at the outright betting picture before the action begins.
|What||CS:GO IEM Katowice|
|Where||Wednesday 1st February 2023 - Sunday 12th February 2023|
|How to watch||ESL Counter-Strike Twitch / Youtube channels|
|Odds||Outright - FaZe Clan 9/2, G2 Esports 5/1, Heroic 11/2, Cloud9 13/2, Team Vitality 7/1|
Given their reputation, it is unsurprising to see FaZe Clan leading the way in the IEM Katowice outright betting at 9/2.
They defeated G2 Esports in the final of last year's IEM Katowice 3-0, having also beaten Gambit Esports and Heroic in the playoffs, and that set the tone for a very strong start to 2022.
They immediately followed up the win in Katowice with the ESL Pro League Season 15 title and then in May, they added the PGL Major Antwerp to their collection.
FaZe Clan enjoyed a fierce rivalry with Natus Vincere in the early stages of the season but they failed to win their section at the Blast Premier Fall Groups 2022 and were knocked out in the quarter-final stage of the ESL Pro League Season 16.
The European side have since returned to winning ways at the Blast Premier World Final, making the top four, and won their group at the Blast Premier Spring Groups 2023 earlier this month.
But one gets the sense they are still not at their top level and there could be better bets than FaZe Clan in Poland.
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Natus Vincere were a consistent force last season and are perhaps underrated in the HLTV world rankings in sixth spot but they had to battle through the play-in stage after failing to win their section at the recent Blast Premier Spring Groups.
Consistency has evaded them since the second half of last season and they are worth avoiding at 8/1 in the outright betting, as are Heroic at 11/2.
The Danes enjoyed a strong end to 2022, finishing as runners-up at the IEM Rio Major in Brazil and winning the Blast Premier Fall Finals.
But like Natus Vincere, they had a tough time of it in the Blast Premier Spring Groups recently and had to edge past BIG 2-1 in the play-in stage to secure a spot in the finals.
Instead, punters after outright value should look no further than G2 Esports at 5/1.
G2 are most definitely a team on the up, having finished 2022 by winning the Blast Premier World Final, capturing their first S-Tier title since 2017.
They have a great AWPer in their ranks in Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov and will be hoping last year's World win can give them the confidence to star getting over the line in more major tournaments.
G2 have reached the final of the IEM Katowice in two of the last three seasons, so this would be the perfect opportunity to showcase that renewed winning mentality.
There were few concerns for G2 Esports at the Blast Premier Spring Groups this month as they won their group, comfortably beating Natus Vincere in the decisive match, and they are the team to beat in Poland.