Understanding ELO Heaven/Hell

This guide focuses on statistics, and understanding why league ranks fluctuate and how to improve. Specifically on standard deviations and why elo hell/heaven exist in the first place.

The importance of Statistics in League and understanding ELO Heaven/Hell

Posted ByTyK


Hello, My name is Tyk. I wanted to help shed some light on ELO hell, and other aspects of climbing the league ladder with a statistical approach. 

As a baseline, I want to help garner a deeper understanding of the ladder, how it works, how you are placed along it, and why it is important to understand what you need to do to consistently move upwards on this ladder, rather than bounce back and forth.

The Statistics

So let’s get started. When coaching or explaining why people get stuck in ruts, or when no definitive progress can be made towards a goal despite a lot of movement being made, (EX: Someone aiming for diamond gets stuck moving back and forth between Platinum 1-4), I tend to ask them to take a step back and understand why this might be happening, rather than explaining what they can do better right away. 

Elo Heaven and Hell

These fluctuations of a few divisions sometimes make people think they’re playing on a different level when they play (sometimes this is true, sometimes this isn’t). Most of the time, it’s them reaching their true elo, and moving back and forth along their standard deviations. In statistics, there will be a norm, or average. Think of this as your true elo. You will always be playing with different people, under different conditions, with different mindsets, and an unending list of different variables. Your true elo is about where your average rank should be, taken into account all of these variables. So after n number of games, you will reach your true elo. This means this means that given a large enough sample size, you will be x rank. Now, in statistics, there is room for standard deviations. Meaning that there is a certain percentage that after that amount of games, you will NOT be at your true elo. As such, sometimes people will end up above or below their true elo, sometimes by multiple standard deviations. Think of a standard deviation as 1 or 2 divisions. This is where the concept of elo hell/heaven come from. When people play n number of games, and end up a few divisions lower than their true elo, they determine they are in elo hell. The solution is to play more games and decrease the chance of them being below their true elo, or to improve as a whole, and increase their true elo, so it becomes outside the range of probability to be within that bracket of elo. If a gold 3 player becomes stuck in gold 5 after 1000 games, that’s not necessarily uncommon, but if a diamond 5 player becomes stuck in gold 5 after 1000 games, that’s almost impossible. 

The same idea applies to elo heaven. When someone ends up placed a few divisions above where they belong, say a gold 3 player sneaks into plat 5, we see them experience elo heaven. Where the players around them are better than his true elo. This leads to more games gradually decreasing your rank, unless you improve your true elo. 

Why is this important?

This concept is something I try to explain to most if not all of my students, as the importance of understanding this really keeps their ego (and ELO!) in check. It allows people to understand that the ultimate most important part of rising in rank is improving your true elo. Which also helps keep a positive attitude in games. As the importance is not whether you win or lose, but if you improved or not. If you improve every game, you eventually will increase your true elo high enough that you will no longer become stuck in the elo you were at, no matter how many games you play. It’s simply impossible for a challenger player to become stuck in bronze. The difference is too wide. 


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  1. Viva

    Nice article, i think as regular league player you just have to accept that you will jump few division back and forth.

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