The hockey season is underway. Betting on hockey is an under-appreciated way to invest your sports betting dollars. The sport doesn't get nearly the attention that others get. That means that it doesn't always get the same attention from oddsmakers as well. Opportunities for profit definitely exist in the league if you know where to look for them.
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If you aren't familiar with betting on hockey, the most obvious comparison on a technical level is baseball. Neither sport is typically bet with a variable point spread. Instead, it relies on the money line and variations on it. It's a different way of thinking of things, and requires familiarity with a different approach to handicapping than the point spread does. If you aren't in the right mindset then you can make costly mistakes. To get you ready to bet on hockey this season here's a look at the different ways to bet on hockey, and some of the ways these betting options can be used:
Money line - This is the most common form of hockey betting. It works just like the money lines that are available in other sports and are so common in baseball. Typically, one team is made the favorite, and the other is the underdog. The money line for the favorite will be expressed as a negative number less than -100. For example, if a team is a -160 favorite then that means that you would have to bet $160 to win $100. Underdogs are expressed as a positive number greater than 100. With a -160 favorite you would typically have an underdog of about +140. That means that if you bet $100 and won you would make a profit of $140. Money lines are bets on the whole game including, if needed, the overtime period and the shootout.
The most important thing you have to consider when you are betting the money line is the winning percentage you need to make a profit for the bet you are making. If you won 40 percent of your bets at +180 you'd make a solid profit, but if you won 40 percent of your bets at -130 then you'd quickly go broke.
Regulation only - The odds for these bets are expressed as a spread of half a goal, and apply to the first three periods of the game only. The favorite will have a -0.5 spread, so if the game is tied at the end of the third period then a bet on the favorite loses. This bet can be used in a few ways, but perhaps the most useful one is as a way to get a better price on a favorite than you would on a straight money line. You are taking on more risk - you are giving up the cushion of a potential overtime or shootout win - but if you are optimistic that you are betting on the better team than it may be worth giving up that cushion for the benefit of a greater return if you are right. Over the long term the loss of the potential to win in overtime can work out well because the higher payout per win means that you don't need to win as often to turn a long-term profit.
Puck line- The puck line is a spread of 1.5 goals, and it includes just regulation time (because no matter what happens in overtime the bet will always be resolved by the end of regulation since only one goal can be scored in overtime). When you bet the favorite on the puck line the spread is -1.5, so the payoff is significantly higher to compensate for the increased risk. A team that is at -175 on the money line could be available at +175 on the puck line. The puck line can be a good way to maximize profit when there is a significant edge, or it can be used in combination with the money line to create your own line - you can set your own spread based on the proportion of the money you bet on the money line and the puck line.
Totals - Totals in hockey work in exactly the same way that they do in other sports. You can bet on the total number of goals both teams score in one game - that total is typically set at 5.5 or 6 - or the number of goals that one team is going to score. The prices for totals bets typically start at -110, and can be adjusted from there depending upon the amount of action on each side of the total. There is one other type of total bet that is unique to hockey and baseball. Called the grand salami, it allows you to bet on the total number of goals that are going to be scored in all games played on a day.
First periods - If you don't want to bet on the entire game there is still an option for you - first period bets. You can bet on the outcome of the first period both with a money line (with a 0.5 goal spread) and a total. This can be handy to capitalize on a team that is a fast starter, or to bet against one that you suspect could stumble out of the gate in a game.