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The Truth About "ELO Hell": League of Legends

I'm a recovered video game addict studying to become a mechanical engineer.

ELO Hell

ELO Hell

So What Is “ELO Hell”?

Well, it’s almost easier to say what ELO Hell isn’t.

People like to say they’re trapped in ELO Hell for a variety of reasons. Some say it’s because of all the trolls, leavers, and inexperienced players they encounter. Others say they’ve been “screwed by the system” and are trapped in a ranking they can’t climb out of. Sometimes a player will attribute his inability to carry a team to his being in ELO Hell.

But truth be told, ELO Hell is mostly a scapegoat that people use so they don’t have to look at themselves critically and improve.

Wait . . . I’m in Elo Hell! Of Course It’s Real!

Okay, let me give you a little illustration. Let’s say I’ve got a coin and I’m going to spend all day tossing it (because I’m rather boring). After ten tosses, I’ve gotten heads seven times and tails three times. Naturally, I conclude that I will toss heads about 70% of the time. The conclusion fits the data, right?

But as I keep tossing and tossing, I get tails more often. Now after two hundred tosses, I’ve gotten heads 60 times and tails 140 times. What’s up with that? My 70% heads rate just dropped to 43%! I must be bad at tossing this coin!

Let’s say I keep tossing and tossing all night. Finally, at midnight I total up all the results and . . . lo and behold they’re nearly even! My heads rate is now about 50%!

What’s Your Point?

This is basically a metaphor for the League of Legends ranked system. You see, sometimes we get on a lucky streak early on. But as we play more games, we sink lower. This is because our starting win rate isn’t an accurate reflection of our true win rate. Just like in the example, getting heads seven out of ten times doesn’t mean my actual chance of getting heads is 70%! It just means I was lucky!

And by the same token, dipping under 50% doesn't mean that I'm a bad player! It could just mean that I have room to improve (or that I'm just on a losing streak). At any rate, this is hardly a permanent reflection on your playing abilities!

The fact of the matter is that every League match has two outcomes—just like a coin toss. True, a huge number of other variables are involved . . . but if we’re placed in the rank we deserve to be in (i.e. the one that accurately reflects our skill level), then we should be able to win about 50% of our games.

If you can’t win about 50% of your games, you’re going to trend downwards. If you win more than that, you’ll likely trend upwards. Things don’t always go the way we’d like, but that’s justice.

Is there actually a way in or out of ELO hell?

Is there actually a way in or out of ELO hell?

I Don’t Think You Understand! I’m Stuck Here!

Sometimes players find themselves in an awkward position where a victory gives very few League points and a single defeat takes a huge amount away. How can anyone possibly advance with these conditions?

Well, the thing is that the game is trying to adjust you to a rank that accurately reflects your skill level.

I had this happen to me, too. After a summer without League, I decayed from Silver to the bottom of Bronze I. I was at the very bottom of my division—zero League points. It seemed that even when I won two games in a row a single defeat would send me plunging back down to the bottom.

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This happened because even though I’d get an occasional lucky streak, I wasn’t winning about 50% of my games on average. Actually, I’m not so sure I was winning 40% of my games. Basically, every time I had a lucky streak the game had to decide if I was actually improving or if I was just . . . well . . . lucky.

After a defeat or two, it would know that I wasn’t able to win a larger percentage of my games . . . and it would send me plummeting back down.

So How Can Anyone Get Out?

I got better. Being at the bottom of my division for a couple months forced me to look at my skills critically. Even though there were wins and losses in my match history, there were always personal flubs that I needed to fix. I practiced more and I got better.

Here are some of the specific things I worked on:

  • Farming while harassing the enemy
  • Lane positioning
  • Warding
  • Freezing the lane
  • Working with my team (instead of against them)
  • Strategic building (and counter-building)
  • Not raging or being negative in chat

After a while, it wasn’t so rare for me two win two games in a row—sometimes even three. I started gaining more League points for a win and losing fewer when I lost. Pretty soon, I was one position out from my placements into Silver!

I’m not trying to say that getting “unstuck” from your current rank won’t be difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Put your ego aside and be on the lookout for what you can be doing better!

But What About All the Trolls, Leavers, and Noobs Out There?

I don’t mean to be rude, but there are trolls, leavers, and noobs in every tier. I have friends in high Silver who still encounter these unsavory players. Another friend of mine is in Gold and recently lost his placement match because of an Ahri who just ran around him in circles, spamming “meow meow” in the chat box.

This is hardly an excuse not to do better. These players may make things frustrating from time to time, but if you can do consistently well—even in the games you lose—no number of them will keep you from advancing.

Just look on Google. There are hundreds and hundreds of players who climb up from the bottom of Bronze—sometimes making it as high as Platinum or Diamond! If these people can improve, so can you!

The only “ELO Hell” is that which we make for ourselves—by telling ourselves that it’s not our fault and that there’s nothing we can do about it.

I'm sure we'd all like to think that trolls are the devil, but . . .

I'm sure we'd all like to think that trolls are the devil, but . . .

The Final Verdict . . .

ELO Hell doesn’t exist . . . but excuses do! If you’re convinced that you’re stuck where you are, that it’s everyone else’s fault, and that there’s nothing you can be doing better, then you deserve to be where you are. Sorry.

However, if you begin to look at your playing critically, you can start improving! It might happen in a week, or it might happen in a year, but getting better is what gets people out of their current rank! Don’t allow yourself to make lame excuses!

One great practice that helped me improve drastically is adopting a three-fold response to failure: recognize it, own it, and learn from it! Be aware of your own mistakes, and don’t blame anyone else for them. I know for me this meant a lot of “whoops!” and “my bad” being typed in chat! It may be a shot to your ego, but if you want to improve, then your ego is a no-go!

Be patient, and remember that perseverance will pay off!

What About You?

Do you have a personal success story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to leave a comment for friend me on Facebook!

Best of luck on the Fields of Justice!



. on September 04, 2020:

Yeah, because the two rage quitters in my first promo game to plat 2 and the mid that went 0/3 in my second game then decided to afk are my fault that my promos failed.

ZeCactus on August 16, 2018:

That's nice and all but go tell all of this to that 2/22 Anivia from a couple of games ago. Or that nice Mordekaiser that went something like 0/6 very early in my last game. OR the 2/12 Urgot.

Elo hell member on February 12, 2017:

What you described in the article is ELO hell. When your teamates feed the others lane, not much can be done to carry the game. What it boils down to, is I wish this people taht really suck at this game, stay the fuck out of ranked. Go play ARAM if you want to run around the map an chase kills. or stop biulding items that you see the pro's biuld.

Tim on January 17, 2017:

The matter of fact i really really like playing support. In all seasons i got to gold easily, playing support mainly/jungle second.


The % of games i lost cause of literally retards/trolls/AFK's is considerably so big my global win % is under 50%. When you are playing a support function you really can't and i repeat.. can't carry the whole team. Yes you can protect the adc, yes you can make your adc big. But when everyone else loses... you just can't win. The description you give is accurate but not correct in the whole function of the support role. Normally i have no big problems getting from Silver 1 to gold 5.. now i already played like 50games in Silver 1 and everytime i think lets play ranked cause i really want out of this elo. I get an afk... i get a lagger.. then you think omg.. enemy team has a afk... 10mins later he is back and your team is sooooo dumb they throw away everything going in to deep... going solo everywhere, and you still lose the game! Its retarded.. and i try to keep the team focused, i try to give advice, i ping and warn them everytime.. i'm even looking so much at the minimap i warn top or mid when i see a popup of the jungler or when top or mid is missing.. i'm not saying i'm the best ofcourse i'm not.. but as a main support player like i am.. luck is more involved than you think in this low elo HEL. I will keep trying cause i honestly believe i am much better than this elo.. all my friends who are in silver, when we play together you see the difference. They say it themselves... yet i can't get out.. the system at bronze and silver is bs

fu on April 19, 2016:

This s shit.

U say in gold we can find trolls, etc!, OK!, thats true... BUTTTTT, all these trolls are not living in Gold!. HELLO!!!, becasuse, being a troll doesnt allow u to keep in Gold, Plate, whatever... SO.... All the trolls lose, and lose, and they re leaving his position in GOLD V, and then they re in Plate, and then in Bronze, and the biggest quantity of trolls are in bronze, and.... with all this shittty people, I say, the Elo hell does exist!. Because u have trolls in Gold, but not forever like in BRonze, cos u cant be more Down than bronze, and they keep all the time over there...

destiny on March 01, 2015:

My last 6 matches have had at *least* one leaver, or a single lane that feeds horribly, even with repeat ganks and grouping to help them out. Having 2 of your 5 players either not be there or be terrible is a huge crippling effect.

This is ELO Hell. For the past 6 games I've been in it.

konstantians on October 05, 2014:

well i think that it is about your team at the most part of course you can carry your but when the enemys defeat all of your teamates it is just lost you can defeat alone when 4 from your team have lost

Samuel Franklin on September 13, 2014:

Not raging was what really finally got me into Gold tier, especially taking a break after a bad game to ensure I was 100% focused on the next.

TwerkZerker (author) on August 10, 2014:

Hey, Rob! What an excellent breakdown! I appreciate your insights!


Rob is entirely right. It's simply unscientific, unmathematical (I'm making this a word), and demonstrably untrue to say that a each player in a team has only 20% of the influence that determines the outcome of game.

Simply put, if this were even remotely true, it would be impossible to carry a team--regardless of how good you were. Even attaining "pro status" wouldn't help--the odds would just be eternally against you.

And yet we see people carry hard for their team all the time. How do you think so many of the unskilled players in Silver and Gold got where they are? They either got cosmically lucky (doubtful) or they got carried!

Several pro players prove each year by speed-leveling and getting ranked on smurf accounts (and many times, they even throw their placement games to ensure they start in Bronze 5) that it is entirely possible to start at the bottom and work your way into "ELO heaven" by becoming a better individual player. Eventually this individual proficiency allows you to be come a better TEAM player.

You may think I'm "a fcking imbecile", but I've taken algebra I and II, precalculus, calculus I, II, and III, and differential equations. In total that's more math than the vast majority of people study in their entire lifetime (and I still have to take numerical analysis and advanced probability and statistics!).

I once even wrote a mathematical formula to model the effect of Liandry's Torment in a game, given your amount of magic penetration, your enemy's MR, health, and the amount of time that he is affected by crowd-control abilities. I feel pretty qualified to say that the only "inescapable ELO hell" is the one that exists only in your mind.



Rob on August 10, 2014:

@Andrew I will argue that there is no Elo hell. You now accuse me of being an imbecile who doesn't understand statistics. Sadly for you, I do understand statistics and I see the statistical flaw in your theory. You claim that you have exactly 20% influence in the game, that is absolutely incorrect. From a census standpoint only, you account for 20% of people who are in the game. You are failing to account for the fact that each person will have a varying degree of skill. Lets say that each player in a game is given a card with a number on it between 1-10, however, your card is a static 10 each game you play. Statistically speaking, if you take the sum of all of your teams cards and compare it to the sum of the opposing team, your team is more likely to have the higher number and with enough iterations it will undoubtedly be true. Now lets pretend that the cards represent your skill level in league and apply the same logic. If you are highly skilled and consistently playing at a higher level than your current elo, you will naturally progress as the sample size increases. You are the only variable you can control in the game, and if you really suck, then you are a liability to every game you play, you will eventually fall in rank until you are playing at a level where you become a consistent asset, meaning the people around you are usually worse than you, now you will win more games and climb in elo because you are the static 10. You see, there is no elo hell, if you aren't able to get above a certain rank, it is because you have reached the end of the road of your current skill level. Elo hell is just an imaginary place filled with the people who feed their lane and blame the jungler instead of reflecting on what they did wrong and learn from their mistakes

Basil on August 09, 2014:

Umm,to y'all dudes saying you always have shitheads and afkers on your team,try something new.

I was bronze V last year but now im Silver I and i'm still improving.

Getting high on the ladder on your own is not that simple.

You need a guy you can synergize well with.

For example I met a Romanian guy that plays good as Graves and Vayne and I synergize well with him as Leona and Blitz.

Lets say you are the normal(good sometimes)player of your team

and the rest of your teammates are monkeys.

But let's also say there is a dude who plays well in the opposite team as well but he still has those 4 monkeys on his team.

By having a friend on your team you reduce the percentage of losing by 10-20 % because you will have one less monkey on your team.

My point here is,all you need is a guy you can synergize with (and patience,realise its gonna take some time) and then you will see how fast you will climb that ladder (considering you know how to ward,engage,potitioning,being friendly and csing)

Andrew on July 21, 2014:

Obviously, everyone can always reflect and improve, but only a massively tiny percentage of players are good enough to carry the 80% of influence that they random team controls every single game.

Anyone claiming anything else if a fcking imbecile.

Andrew on July 21, 2014:

To clarify, you have exactly 20% influence on what happens in a game with 4 random teammates.

Anyone who claims elo hell is not real needs to explain how you can overpower the 80% of control that the rest of your random team has in every single solo queue game.

Andrew on July 21, 2014:

No matter how good you are, you cannot be expected to compensate for a team of up to four complete imbeciles/noobs. Elo hell is real, and anyone pretending otherwise doesn't understand statistics very well.

Yes, some tiny percentage of LoL players are so amazingly good that they can consistently win even when stuck with AFKers, feeding shitheads and trolls, but many players are better than average and still stuck permanently in the lowest ranking there is.

BestRimmiesAU on July 11, 2014:

Yes I do blame elo hell frequently, and yes this has opened my eyes and I will start not fighting against my team, but I can't say I am playing poorly, in the ranked games that I have lost my kills and cs has still been good, I show up to team fights, could work on my warding though. But I often find myself in the "Leader" position of the team, telling my team when to go in, when to split push, who to ult. God even who to focus, with all this being said I can't help but kind of feel like it is the people around me? I know its not but that's all I am seeing, I am having to tell people how to play the game. I have almost 500 normal wins so i have a rough understanding of the game and I don't play a lot of ranked because it stresses me the fuck out, but when I do I am always getting paired with players with 200-300 wins and they don't really know how to play, of course this is not every game but it is a good percentage.

I would love any pointers I am welcoming criticism, I would be happy with silver V for the next year, I was silver V last year but have been struggling to get out this year.

TwerkZerker (author) on June 24, 2014:

Hey, corporate adviser!

Thanks for the read! I enjoy politics, so I found your response very interesting. I would agree that there are many, many players (probably a vast majority) who will never bother to educate themselves or do any meaningful self-examination. But this is mostly because they choose not to (it's always easier to blame someone else); it's not because they're unable to.

It's for that reason that I don't think that food stamps or "making it" in America are good analogs for the League Community. What you've said is true--getting an education, a degree, and showing determination don't equate to guaranteed success. But this is because (in addition to things we can control) there are many factors at play that we cannot control, but can ultimately make or break our success in this instance (such as a boss's decision to hire/fire you, the stock market crashing, economic downturn, to name a few).

In League, though, there really aren't any factors that are beyond our control that significantly impact our ability to succeed. The only things we can't control in a match are who we get teamed up with, and the possibility that any of the people (on either team) could be a smurf or a troll. As many players have found, though, no amount of lousy teammates, smurfs, or trolls, can wholly prevent moving up the ladder in ranked tiers in the long run (this is because every player in your ELO has to deal with the same likelihood of uncontrollable factors; therefore the only major factors that differ between you and another player are your individual skill levels).

While hypothetically speaking it IS possible that someone's luck could be so terrible that he is paired up with trolls, AFK-ers, and lousy teammates virtually every game and, despite playing flawlessly as an individual, he always gets ROFL-stomped by cohesive teams with competent players, the odds of this happening are astronomical--you'd probably have an easier time crapping gold.

The same works in reverse. It's virtually impossible to think that someone could play consistently at Bronze-level and get bumped up to Plat V by always getting teamed up against nincompoops. Sheer luck and uncontrollable factors don't ultimately decide success or failure in League--it boils down to things that we CAN control or improve.

...Of course, many, many players choose not to improve or to take control, as you've correctly pointed out.

corporate adviser on June 21, 2014:

here's another way to look at it: LOL is a mirror of society. there are approximately 50 million people out of 330 million people in the US on food stamps (~20% of families). this is the base of players that you are mostly looking at in the LOL community.

now your argument is that with self-examination and drive to improve, you should be able to make it out of this base. this is no different from the GOP (and repeated famously by mitt romney during his 2012 presidential campaign) mantra that you can make it in the US as long as you pull yourself up by the bootstraps, get an education and make something of yourself (e.g. by taking out a loan and becoming a job creator etc.)

are there people able to do this? sure, there are. do they represent the mean or the majority? definitely not. in fact, they represent perhaps at best 5% of the base. you are disregarding the fact that most LOL players are disadvantaged in the 1st place because they are uneducated and don't have the tools for critical self-examination or improvement (e.g. they are uneducated kids)

TwerkZerker (author) on January 29, 2014:

Hello cleanupguynr1!

Thanks for reading and sharing your insights! Good luck!

Cleanupguynr1 on January 29, 2014:

I think this is a very accurate description of the so called ''elo hell'' and indeed just an excuse for people with low self mirrioring.

iam busy getting myself out of bronze V as well and often blamed it on afk,leavers and ragers but at the end i looked at my own playstyle and saw many flaws. Flaws like lane freezing , warding and last CS score.

Very useful tips and thanks for sharing

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