NHL Betting System – Isolate Strong Underdogs
by Trevor Whenham - 1/28/2010
My favorite sport to bet on is hockey, and I like it so much because I never, ever have to bet on anything other than an underdog. Because hockey is bet on the money line instead of a point spread, that means that every bet on an underdog pays you more than you bet every time you win – this is why I use underdogs as my NHL betting system. That's an incredibly powerful thing. If I liked to bet heavy favorites on the point spread then I would need to win about 55 percent of my bets to make a profit. Betting heavy favorites on the money line, however, requires a massive winning percentage if you want to make a profit. By betting underdogs, though, you can win less than 50 percent of your bets and still make a profit - significantly less if you are betting solid underdogs. You can argue that it is harder to pick underdog winners than favorites, but in my experience it's not as hard as it seems, and certainly not as hard as the prices would make you think it is.
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There are several reasons why I believe that betting on underdogs in hockey is the best way to go for an NHL betting system. Let's look at four of them:
1. Winning percentage - as I have already talked about, betting underdogs requires a lower winning percentage to be successful. To understand the significance of this, all you have to do is look at an example. If we made bets with an average price of +150 (we make a profit of $150 when we bet $100 and are correct), we only need to win 40 percent of our bets to break even. Anything above that is profit. If we were to switch to betting favorites at -150 (we have to bet $150 to make a profit of $100 if we are correct), then we have to win 60 percent of our bets just to break even. The difference between 40 percent and 60 percent is huge, and the latter is much more difficult to maintain.
2. Home team bias - Linesmakers in hockey love the home team. They will occasionally make a road team a favorite, but it isn't particularly common - you will rarely see it more than a couple of times a day on a busy day. The betting public, and therefore those that set the lines, gives a huge amount of credit to the impact of home ice advantage - often too much credit. Since the favorites are usually the home team, and home teams obviously don't win every game, a sound betting strategy is to look for situations where the road team is in a good position to win. If you can find situations in which the road team should be favored in your eyes but isn't then you have hit the definition of value - a situation where the potential return significantly outweighs the risk involved. Over the long term, value is the best friend of bettors, and NHL road teams are one of the best places to find value.
3. Psychological benefits - Let's say you have a fairly busy day and you are betting on five games. If you bet on five favorites and only two end up winning then you have had a discouraging, costly day. If I have bet on five underdogs and won two, though, then it is quite possible that I will have broken even or even made a profit. Depending on the prices involved, I can bet on three games in a day and break even or make a small profit by winning just one. Long-term betting success is about maintaining a positive mindset to avoid making costly mistakes because you are panicking or chasing success. It's much easier to maintain a positive mindset when your bad days aren't so bad, and when a good day isn't as hard to achieve. There is also a particularly positive mental aspect to betting underdogs and having great days. Going back to the earlier example, let's say that we flat bet three games at an average price of -150, and we won all three games. In that case we would have bet a total of $450 - $150 per game - and made a profit of $300. That's a return on investment of 67 percent - very nice. If the games we had bet had an average price of +150, though, and we won all three then we would have bet a total of $300, and made a profit of $450. That is a return on investment of 150 percent - significantly better. The mental boost of a payoff like that, especially when the risk isn't particularly significant compared to the lesser payoff, can be significant.
4. The public isn't particularly sophisticated - As a general rule, hockey bettors are fans of three types of teams - those with big stars like Pittsburgh and Washington, Canadian teams, and Original Six teams. When the public likes a team they tend to bet on them. It's overly simplified to say that you should just blindly bet against any of these kinds of teams when they are at home. What it does mean, though, is that because the public will tend to give those teams a disproportionate amount of support, the possibility exists to find extra value in games where the visiting team playing one of these teams is already attractive. It's as if these games pay you an extra bonus for handicapping them properly.