NHL Betting – Hockey Handicapping, Odds, and Picks
The National Hockey League is one of the few world sports leagues to have a large following across many different countries. Though hockey is not one of America’s most popular sports, it has a loyal following across the border in Canada, and hockey fans in other parts of the world also follow their favorite NHL teams. Betting on NHL games may not be as popular as laying money on the NFL or college football action in its home country, but wagers on the National Hockey League are popular around the world, and all the major books put outlines for NHL games.
Handicapping NHL Games
The NHL is more like a niche sport than any other big American pro league – in some parts of the world, the NHL is extremely popular, but many Americans don’t follow the league, especially those who don’t live in cities with existing NHL teams.
Handicapping NHL games, when combined with a hunt for books that offer you wagers that it’s easy to turn a profit on, works to teach you how to place smart bets. Some NHL gambling fans take this kind of handicapping to an extreme – like baseball, hockey has a wealth of statistics to mine, and hockey handicappers are up against 8 months a year of regular and postseason performances. In the long-term, line shopping will work better than stuffing your head with hockey stats.
How to Read NHL Odds
Knowing how to shop for lines means knowing how to read the kinds of odds offered on NHL games. Two common odds representations in hockey are the money line and the pick line. Over/under bets on the NHL are becoming more popular as well, so totals bet fans should look into the NHL for new totals opportunities. A special bet, called The Grand Salami, is a bet unique to hockey, one that gets more attention later in the article…
In hockey betting, the money line is generally what’s known as a “20-cent line, meaning there is a twenty-point difference in the odds on the favorite and the odds against the underdog. Here’s an example:
Like any money line bet, the numbers indicate how much cash you have to wager to win increments of $100. Bets on Vancouver to win $100 require a wager of $130, while if you put your money on the underdog Dallas team, you’ll only need to risk $100 to win $110.
Of course, not all books (and not all games) fit that neat twenty-cent mold; if a heavy favorite plays a team near the bottom of the heap, you’re more likely to see numbers like these:
In this example, the heavily-favored Detroit team pays out at a dollar for every three-bet, while a winning bet on Calgary will payout at $2.50 per dollar bet. The National Hockey League tends to have a few powerhouse teams who can really throw off money line bets, opportunities for gamblers to look for upset specials.
The Puck Line
Money line betting is simply wagering on which team will win. While money line bets are the most popular NHL wagers, the puck line is also there to tempt sports gamblers. Similar to the run line in baseball, bettors that bet the puck line wager that the favorite will win by two points or more, or that the underdog wins or loses by a point. Changes to the rules of hockey (specifically the shootout in the regular season) eliminated the possibility of a hockey tie, so oddsmakers moved the puck line from 0.5 to 1.5 goals.
Betting on the puck line is an easy way to express a lack of confidence in an over-hyped team, or to wager that a favorite is looking past an upcoming weak opponent and looking for an upset gamble. That’s because the line doesn’t move – as long as your underdog team doesn’t lose by two points, your wager is safe. Of course, it’s also an easy way to win money on teams against much weaker opponents; some NHL games end with point differences near the double digits.
Over/Under National Hockey League Bets
These bets are wagers placed on the total number of goals scored in a game. Because hockey games have very similar scores, most over/under lines are between 5 and 6.5, with decimals often used to avoid push results. If you think the number of total goals will be higher, you bet the overthink it’ll be fewer, you bet the under.
So totals can take on several different forms, but will nearly always look like one of the two following examples:
Edmonton vs. Winnipeg over 5.5 (-110)
Edmonton vs. Winnipeg under 5.5 (-110)
Notice that you’ll often be asked to risk $11 to win $10 on either side of the totals line, but that it won’t always be this way. On games where lots of action goes to one or the other direction, you may find odds on puck lines like -135 versus +115. This happens when the book wants to make sure it has enough action on both sides.
The Grand Salami
For the cost of a single bet, you can place a wager on an entire day’s collection of NHL games, a bet known as The Grand Salami. Placing one bet that lets you in on all of a day’s hockey action makes every hockey game a little more exciting and can lead to big payoffs.
Betting on The Grand Salami means wagering on the over/under of goals scored in all of the games played on a scheduled day of hockey action. A standard ten-game day during the NHL schedule usually has a Grand Salami number between 50 and 65. Shopping for the best Grand Salami line is important if you make this NHL-exclusive wager part of your NHL sports betting.
Making Pro Hockey Picks
The NHL season runs from October to June, a nearly eight-month span of time including the season playoffs. Having a long season gives handicappers an edge in terms of digging through statistical data to look for potential upsets and use their research to pick winners. The famous Grand Salami bet and the international attention the league receives make NHL betting unique among American sports. Combine some handicapping work on the skills of the teams you bet on with the ability to shop for the NHL lines that turn you the most profit and you’ll be a leg up on the casual National Hockey League sports gambler.
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