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Sports Betting 101 - How to Bet on Hockey


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How to Bet on Hockey

Hockey betting in the United States is far from the most popular sport in the land, but ever since the gambling capital of the country – Las Vegas – got a team in, the Golden Knights, in 2017, interest in hockey betting markets has picked up.

Betting on hockey is similar in concept to that of baseball lines, as hockey is predominantly a moneyline based sport with standardized point spread prices of -1.5 goals – like baseball is with -1.5 runs. Hockey betting odds are offered at every sportsbook, so finding the game you like is never tough, and if money lines aren't your thing, over-under totals in hockey are offered on every game as well, among other wagering potential.

Understanding Hockey Odds

As a money line based sport with so many similarities to baseball betting, understanding hockey odds follows a similar format. For example, you can have a game between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins where the Penguins would be listed as a -165 favorite on the money line. That means that a bettor would have to put up $165 to win $100 if they were to back Pittsburgh, and the total for that game would be somewhere in the range of 5.5 to 6.5 goals.

One key difference from baseball betting does focus on the point spread – otherwise known as the “puck line” in hockey odds – as the -1.5 number still offers juicy plus-money odds if it connects. That same Pittsburgh line might be +150 range on the -1.5 puck line, but the key difference comes with a fundamental strategical way in which hockey is played. A team that's losing a game late in the 3rd period will pull their goalie at some point with a minute or two left, giving the team that's leading an easy shot at adding another goal. That suggests that puck line bets do hit more often then run line bets do in baseball as it's not like the fielders come off the field in baseball late in games. Something to definitely consider when you are learning how to understand all the nuances with hockey odds.

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NHL Future Wagers

Future wagers in NHL betting exist in a similar format to that of other professional sports offered at sportsbooks, as outcomes like who will win it all, who will win their division/conference, and season point totals are offered for hockey. Season point total wagers are essentially what other sports would classify as season wins – over-under props – but with the point system in the standings for hockey being a little different, a point-based system is just an all around better way to do things on the ice.

Stanley Cup futures odds are the ones that are posted the earliest leading up to an upcoming season, and the ones that are discussed frequently. However, with hockey being a sport where numerous upsets happen each year during a playoff campaign, and random luck being more of a factor in the sport then in other professional sports, staying away from the favored teams in the futures market isn't necessarily a bad idea in hockey. It's not like the favorites don't win, but considering the team that wins the President's Trophy – awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points in the league, ie the best team – eight times in a 33-year existence, and only twice from 2002-03 through 2018-19, going a bit down the odds board in the futures market can be lucrative.

How to Bet the Stanley Cup Final

Stanley Cup Finals betting is one where bettors can treat the final series like that of the World Series or NBA Finals whereas they can look towards taking action on the series price – which team will hoist the trophy – and/or a game-by-game approach too. Stanley Cup Finals odds for the series price will change after each game is completed, so bettors should keep that in mind as well should their desired team fall short in Game 1 of the series. More of an underdog price on said team will be posted then, but there is always the fear of said team winning Game 1 and missing out on the pre-series line if you are to wait. It's a delicate balance that gets easier with experience.

NHL playoff odds throughout the spring are ones that offer plenty of wagering opportunities, and ones that culminate in the Stanley Cup Final line getting posted. Bettors with future wagers still live at that point have a question about “hedging or not” at that point – hedging would be to take the St Louis Blues to win the Finals when a bettor already has a previously placed bet on their opponent in the Finals – to assure themselves profit, but again, that's another situation that can be more easily addressed with betting experience.

How to Bet the NHL Playoffs

Betting the NHL playoffs can be done on a game-by-game or series price basis, and there are even prop wagers related to which team will win in how many games, and how many games a series will have.

With a full season of regular season data already in the stable by the time the NHL betting lines are released for the playoffs, bettors have to be aware that these numbers that the oddsmakers put out for their hockey betting lines during the postseason are theoretically as sharp as they've been all year. Sure, there are still things like luck and bounces to consider that seemingly derail at least one of the NHL's best teams early on in the playoffs, but NHL hockey odds during the playoffs need to be dissected thoroughly if success is to be had.

And for those bettors that live for the underdogs pulling off upsets, going for bigger scores on the hockey point spreads in the alternative lines and other variations of hockey odds that are offered during that time of year can prove to be bankroll boosters as well. Below are some of the best betting sites to begin your NHL betting career.

Given that it is the least bet North American professional sports league in the general US betting market, NHL odds tend to have limited popularity outside of the normal money line and total wagers. Puck lines are an extension of money lines in theory, so that's another popular betting option, but in a general sense, hockey bettors prefer to stick the staples of who will win the game (money lines) and how many total goals will be scored (totals) with their wagers on a given night in the NHL schedule.

NHL Money Line

Exactly as it sounds, a moneyline bet is a wager on who a NHL bettor believes will win the game outright. Money line prices are listed in the normal odds range that they are in any other sport where you'll see a team listed as a -140 favorite going up against a team that's listed as a +120 underdog. No spreads are needed to be worried about here as you just want to be backing the team that gets the win in the regular sense of the word.

NHL Over-Under

For years hockey totals were consistently released as a 5.5 number, but as scoring increased league-wide in the latter half of the 2010's, totals numbers have found a more consistent home at 6 and 6.5 for games on a nightly basis. All that means is whether or not you believed the combined score between the two teams will be over or under the posted total, it's as simple as that. For example, a game between Washington and Philadelphia that finishes 4-3 would cash an 'over' ticket on a total of 6.5, while a final score of 4-2 would see 'under' bettors smiling.

NHL Puck Line

The puck line has already been mentioned here, as it's a point spread for a hockey game that is almost always marked as a +/- 1.5 for the game. All that means is whether or not you believe the favorite on the money line will win the game by two goals or more (-1.5), or if the underdog will keep it a one-goal contest or even potentially win (+1.5). With the way goalies get pulled late in games for teams trailing, puck line bets can be a bit tricky to have consistency with – especially if you are backing the underdog at +1.5 – but at the same time, the underdog price (plus money) that's offered on the favorite to win by 2+ goals can be very rewarding.

NHL Grand Salami

The Grand Salami in hockey wagering is really simple and it's a great way to have action on every single game on a given night. Simply put, the “salami” is an over-under number posted on the total goals scored in all the games for a particular day. These numbers are based on how many games are being played that day and what the individual totals are for those contests. On a night where you've got six NHL games going all with individual totals of 6.5, the Grand Salami number would be somewhere around 40 total goals (6.5 X6 is 39).

How do I Bet Hockey Parlays

Hockey parlays are the same as parlays in any other sport, as bettors combine at least two selections on the money line, total, puck line, or any combination of that and potentially other wagers, to try and score on a bigger payout. Perhaps there are two huge favorites listed at -265 or higher on the money line and bettors who are confident those particular teams will win but don't want to risk nearly $265 to win just $100 can parlay the two options together to get a price something much closer to even money to mitigate their risk or dollar value put up.

Again, all selections within a parlay have to be graded as winners (or pushes) for a parlay to be considered a winner – ones with pushes are graded at a reduced price as if that game wasn't even there – and that's the trade off with using this form of a wager.

What are NHL Prop Bets

Proposition bets in hockey can include a wide range of topics, from team results in a particular game/season to individual player statistical results in a specific game. For instance, every game will have individual prop bets available for the bigger names on the teams involved for things like goals scored, assists earned, points earned, and even combination bets of statistical categories like that.

Fantasy players that live and die by these individual statistical outputs with their fantasy teams each day/week will likely naturally gravitate towards these plays, but they can be a tough nut to crack long term given the randomness that the game of hockey brings overall.

NHL Live Betting and In-Game Wagering

In-game wagering for hockey is another betting avenue that's gained plenty of traffic in recent years and rightfully so. More and more live betting options are being offered on a wider scale at sportsbooks all across the country no matter what shop you use, and hockey betting is no different. From the first game of the season to the NHL playoffs, and all the way through the Stanley Cup Finals, in-game wagering can be an important tool in the tool box of a hockey bettor.

All sorts of in-game odds are offered for pretty much any particular hockey game, so if it's a Saturday Night with the featured Hockey Night in Canada games on, or those novelty outdoor games like the Winter Classic or Stadium Series rivalry games, there is never a shortage of live betting opportunities for hockey bettors to sink there teeth into. Heck, with the explosion of in-game wagering in the industry on the whole, even big time amateur hockey events like the Frozen Four or IIHF World Junior Championships offer plenty of in-game betting opportunities for hockey fans and bettors alike.

NHL Period Betting

Breaking down an individual hockey game through period betting is another betting avenue in the hockey marketplace that has gained plenty of traction in recent years, especially with the 1st period betting odds on the money line and total getting more and more time devoted to content pieces.

All those are are individual money line prices for the 1st period and the first period only, with over-under total numbers for the opening 20 minutes of play typically being set at 1.5 goals. If you believe a particular team is in a great spot to get off to a fast start, looking at backing them on the 1st period ML and/or 'over' 1.5 1st period goals is another way to diversify your portfolio on a particular game too.

FAQ - Hockey Betting

In this section, we’ll answer a few common questions from our readers regarding how to bet on NHL and NCAA hockey matches.

Is it legal to bet on hockey in the United States?

That depends on your state. For several decades, the Professional & Amateur Sports Protection Act effectively banned sports betting everywhere in the US. However, Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware had betting legislation that was grandfathered in.

The Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018, following a lawsuit from New Jersey. This decision opened the floodgates for states to introduce their own sports betting legalization.

Since then, several US states have legalized and regulated sports betting, including plenty of hockey betting markets. A handful of states have passed bills to legalize sports betting, but are still designing their regulatory framework. Check your local legislation to find out more.

Can Americans bet on Canadian Hockey League matches?

Yes, absolutely. In states that have legalized sports betting, bookmakers offer action on markets the world over. Hockey fans can bet on NHL matches, Canadian Hockey League matches, and much more. Betting on Canadian hockey is as easy as signing up with an online sportsbook.

The Canadian Hockey League combines three separate Canadian hockey leagues. They’re the Ontario Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. These leagues host some of the most talented hockey players in the entire world.

Where can I bet on college hockey games?

Betting on college hockey isn’t much different from betting on professional NHL games, in theory. However, owing to lobbying pressure from the NCAA, the law doesn’t always treat college and professional sports betting the same.

In certain states, like New Jersey, users aren’t allowed to bet on college hockey. However, many other states have no such laws. In these states, you can easily bet on NCAA hockey matches, including the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament.

Can I bet online on live NHL matches?

Yes, of course. Betting on live hockey matches is wildly popular, and for NHL games, even more so. All the major American bookmakers offering NHL betting offer live betting markets. Some sites incorporate live-streaming features, allowing live betting fans to keep up with the action.

That said, not every US state with legal sports betting allows you to bet online. For example, the state of Delaware only allows in-person sports betting at licensed sportsbooks. No online betting sites or mobile betting apps can lawfully offer their services to Delaware state residents.