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Hockey betting is more of a niche market than the other major sports, but that just means that there are a lot of opportunities to bet into softer lines. The concept in and of itself seems “easy” because the most popular way of betting is to just pick the winner. There are a lot of different bet types and strategies when it comes to wagering on the NHL, but the simplification of betting a sport without a spread resonates well with bettors of all bankroll sizes and skill levels.
The beauty of betting on hockey is that you can make it as simple or as complex as you want. There are alternative puck lines and no overtime “regulation” bets. You can bet totals and alternate totals and props. The opportunities are plentiful and the fact that the NHL is generally overshadowed by the NBA, college basketball, NFL, and college football means that you can usually find some good value bets in a sport that just falls through the cracks a little more often than it should.
The odds movement in hockey is driven by sharp, respected bettors, so paying attention to the market is a very good strategy. There isn’t a ton of public money in that market, relative to most markets, so the moves are well-defined and a good way to learn about the teams that are popular.
Once you know the bet types, you can look more into the intricacies of betting on hockey.
The standard betting option in hockey leagues like the NHL and the European leagues is the money line. All you have to do is pick the winner. While that is easier said than done, it is a more straightforward wager type than spread betting like you do in football and basketball.
The money lines are going to have favorites and underdogs and the odds will be a way of accounting for the gaps between the two teams. In football and basketball, a point spread handicap will be placed on the game to add and subtract points from a team’s final score. In hockey betting, the money line is suggestive of the differences between the teams.
For example, an underdog might be +120 and a favorite might be -130. In some instances, a favorite might be -200 and the underdog might be +180. Favorites are represented by a minus sign (-) in front of the odds. Underdogs are represented by a plus (+) sign in front of the odds.
In those instances, to account for the vigorish or “vig” or “juice”, you’ll have to bet more to win less on the favorite or bet less to win more on the underdog. To make the math simple, we’ll use increments of $100. If you bet a -130 favorite, you’d bet $130 to win $100. If you bet a -200 favorite, you’d bet $200 to win $100.
With underdog wagering, you would bet $100 to win $120 on a +120 or $100 to win $180 on a +180 price.
The puck line is a lot like the run line in baseball. The favorite will have a -1.5 puck line with vig and the underdog will have a +1.5 puck line with vig. Because it is easier to win the game than it is to win the game by two or more goals, puck lines have longer odds. For example, a -130 money line favorite might have a +190 puck line. That -1.5 line means that team needs to win by two or more goals. Basically, if you subtracted 1.5 goals from their total, would they still win?
On the flip side, a +120 underdog will have a +1.5 puck line that could be at something like -230. There are a lot of one-goal games in the NHL and the vig reflects that. If a +1.5 loses by one goal or wins the game, that +1.5 bet is a winner.
Puck lines carry a higher degree of risk on favorites, but a higher reward. Puck lines on underdogs carry a lower degree of risk and a lower reward and a higher price to pay.
Another very popular bet type in hockey is totals betting. This is also known as over/under betting. This is a bet based on the total number of combined goals scored by the two teams. These lines are generally going to be 5.5, 6, or 6.5. In rare instances, you will see some totals of 5 or 7 depending on the offensive skills of the two teams involved.
Like all bet types, there is vig attached to the over and the under. The standard vig on totals betting is -110 on the over and on the under. Based on betting action, the over might be -115 and the under might be -105. The over could be -120 and the under could be +100, or even money.
This is a measure of the combined goals scored in a game, so a game that ends 4-3 with a total of 6.5 would be an over. A game that ends 4-2 with a total of 6.5 would be an under.
Most sports have 1st half or 1st quarter betting, but there are no halves or quarters in the NHL. Instead, hockey is split into periods and you can bet period money lines and totals. The favorite for the full game is also going to be the favorite for the 1st period. The total for the 1st period will be relative to the full-game total.
Usually most first periods are going to be lined at 1.5 or 2 goals on the over/under. You can also bet period money lines, which are typically going to be +0.5 or -0.5.
Like all of the other sports, live betting has become very popular in the NHL. You can place your bets while the game is being played and this could provide serious advantages for those that are paying close attention. You might be able to make a live bet before a power play starts or you could take a team that is dominating play but has not yet scored a goal.
Live betting options include money lines, totals, puck lines, and different props, like next goal, time of the next goal, or next power play chance. Live betting is designed to encourage a lot of action for the sportsbooks, but it can also be extremely profitable for astute observers.
There are a ton of prop betting options for the NHL as well. You can bet whether or not a player will score a goal. You can bet on the number of shots on goal or assists or saves for the goaltenders. If a line can be made on it, you can probably find it somewhere.
NHL betting continues to grow in popularity and more and more sportsbooks will find creative ways to encourage their players to bet.