Winter Olympics Betting Odds: A First Look
by Trevor Whenham - 11/30/2009
It doesn't seem possible, but the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are now just over two months away - they run Feb. 12-28. There will be plenty of betting opportunities when the events are underway, and some oddsmakers have jumped the gate and put out some Olympics betting odds already. Pinnacle has the most extensive set of early odds so far. Here's a look at what's interesting and potentially profitable from among their offerings:
Hockey - I live in Canada, and the Olympic men's hockey tournament is practically the only thing that the sports media talks about here. This isn't new, either - it has been going on pretty much since Canada finished a dismal seventh as favorites in Torino in 2006.
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Needless to say, expectations are high here again for Canada. They are currently favored at +105, with the Russians the obvious second choice at +220. Sweden is a distant third at +615. The biggest issue here is going to be injuries. All three of the favorites are ridiculously deep, but each has been hit with some big injures to key stars and role players leading to the games. We won't know until closer to the games who will actually be able to play, and that will make a difference in the value available.
That being said, Canada is a legitimate favorite. Even with a large number of injuries, the problem for every position on the ice isn't going to be figuring out who deserves to play, but who they can afford to cut. Canada has the right mix of star players, veterans and impressive youngsters to make a big rush, and they also have the best goaltending situation going into an event that they have had for years.
Russia has one advantage over the Canadians, though - the best player in the world plays for them. Between Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin they have a dizzying amount of top-end offensive talent - more than Canada can match with two players. The problem they have, though, is that they are committed to drawing players about equally from two leagues - the NHL and the KHL. That could lead to chemistry issues because players won't be as familiar with each other as the Canadians are. It also makes i harder for sports handicappers to know who will be playing and what they are capable of.
Sweden deserves respect because they are the defending champions, but they have aged more than any other country here, and they haven't done it particularly gracefully. I can't be particularly objective - it's Canada all the way in my eyes - but there is a lot to chew on here, and this will be the most interesting betting opportunity as the games near.
Alpine skiing - The first thing that jumps out here is the importance of going deeper than name recognition. Hermann Maier is one of the biggest names in skiing over the last decade and more, so people who see him listed at +5104 in the men's downhill may be tempted to take a shot at him at that fat price. The problem, though, is that Maier retired in October, and isn't likely to ski in Vancouver.
Michael Walchhofer of Austria is favored to win the downhill at +524. He was the silver medallist in 2006 and is the defending World Cup champ, so it's not hard to view him as the one to beat.
Swiss skier Didier Cuche is second in the downhill at +578. He's also favored to win the giant slalom at +505. The guy is an all-round threat - he won the World Cup GS title last year after two straight years of winning the World Cup downhill title.
American hopes in the downhill rest with Bode Miller, the fourth choice at +735. At his best Miller would be very attractive at this price. He's coming off a truly awful season, though, so we have to see if he is ready and eager to compete. I'd pass on him for now.
On the women's side American Lindsey Vonn is the prohibitive favorite in the downhill - she's at +138, and no one else is better than +853. She's the most successful American woman skier in history, and she's in top form. This price is obviously ridiculous in a sport as wild as skiing, but if anyone could justify it it's her.
Curling - The women's curling sets up to be one of the more intriguing matchups in the games. Canada has long been the world power in curling, and are favored at +131. The unlikely second choice, though, is China at +240. China has only recently begun to compete, but their team made waves by shocking the curling world and winning the World Championships in 2009.
China has a Canadian coach, and spends much of their time practicing and competing in Canada. The Canadians have yet to pick which of the many curling teams in Canada will compete, and the winner of the qualification tournament will determine how well Canada can be expected to do in Vancouver. No matter what, though, there will be a very good showdown between Canada and China in the round-robin portion of the event, and quite likely again in the playoffs.
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