Gambling Pit – July 31, 2020

Yesterday’s results: Let’s not live in the past. Look, if you cut through the sarcasm and actually listened to the analysis, you went 1-1. If you blindly followed the picks, you went 0-2. That’s on you, not me.

Today’s picks: No games today, but the action starts in earnest tomorrow. Before the postseason officially kicks off, here’s a quick primer on hockey betting.

Let’s use the first game on tomorrow’s slate as an example. In hockey, the “spread” located in the numerical first column is commonly referred to as the puck line. 99.9% of NHL games will have the puck line set at +/- 1.5 as it is above. International and amateur competition often have a different puck line than the standard 1.5 due to lack of parity. (I know I give the team a lot of abuse, but the only time I have seen a puck line other than 1.5 in an NHL game was this past year when the Red Wings played a heavily favored team). When betting a puck line favorite, the favored team – in this scenario the Hurricanes – must win by at least two goals in order for you to win the bet. Conversely, the underdog – in this case the Rangers – need only be within one goal for you to get paid. They can still lose, but can only lose by one.

Although the puck line is usually always +/- 1.5, the odds you can get on that bet will change from game to game. The odds are represented by the +/- numbers underneath the puck line (-225, +185). Here’s where tricky things like math, typically scorned by the average hockey player, really comes into play. When you are getting positive odds, like the +185 above, it means if you put $100 on the Hurricanes puck line, and they win by 2 or more, you get $185 in return. NOT TOO SHABBY! On the flip side, when you are getting negative odds, like the -225 for the Rangers above, you need to bet $225 on the Rangers to lose by one or better to get $100 back in return. NO BUENO. It’s important to remember though, if you are getting positive odds, it means you’re unlikely to win the bet. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I like to stick to positive odds when betting hockey. The sport is too random and chaotic to be shelling out money for minimum returns.

PUCK LINE STRATEGY: Personally, I love to bet puck line favorites when you can get better than +160 odds. As long as the favored team is up by 1 with two minutes left in the game, you are in pretty good shape, because as every puck line bettor knows, THE EMPTY NET IS YOUR FRIEND. I NEVER bet puck line underdogs. First, as noted above, you usually get terrible odds. Random puck bounces too often dictate a game, get a good return for your money. Second, if you think a team is good enough to lose by one, they’re good enough to win the game. If you are betting on the underdog in a game, the better play in my opinion is the money line, as discussed below.

The “win” column is commonly referred to as the money line. It’s a simple bet on which team you think will win the game. The odds work the same way as they do with a puck line. So, if you think the Rangers will win tomorrow’s game, you’re better off going with the money line than you are the puck line, because you’ll get a better return: bet $100, get $110 back.

MONEY LINE STRATEGY: I generally only use the money line bet for underdogs, using the puck line bet for favorites as discussed above. But in a game like this where the odds are fairly even, I prefer the three-way money line, discussed in more detail below. +110 is a bit low for my liking.

The third numerical column titled “Total” represents the over/under for the game, meaning how many total goals, including overtime, will be scored. You are generally always going to see negative odds on an over/under bet. Typically, for an NHL game, the over/under will either be set at 5.5, 6, or 6.5 goals per game.

OVER/UNDER STRATEGY: I hate betting unders because they’re boring. I want to cheer for offense. That being said, I won’t bet an over if the bet is set above 5.5, it’s just too risky.

The three-way money line limits the game bet to regulation time. I like to use this for underdogs. Let’s say you think the Rangers are going win and you want to bet $100. If you put it on the straight money line and the Rangers won in regulation, you would get $110 in return. If you put it on the three-way money line, you would get $170 back. The problem is, if the game goes to overtime and the Rangers win, you still get $110 if you bet the straight money line, but you get nothing and like it if you bet the 3-way. The “draw” bet in this scenario only pays out if the game goes to overtime. Anyone can win after that and you still get paid.

Stanley Cup Playoff games also usually offer a wide range of prop bets. You can usually bet on whether a player will score, which of two players will have more points, etc. Sites can also offer alternative lines for both the puck line and over/unders, and they adjust the odds accordingly.

Alternate lines are risky, but can give you more bang for your buck

Regardless of your personal strategy, always gamble responsibly.

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