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How to Bet on Hockey

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How to Bet on Hockey

The National Hockey League may rank a distant fourth of the four major sports in the United States, but that hasn't stopped sportsbooks from posting lines on the NHL. Bettors who are willing to put some effort into handicapping the National Hockey League are often rewarded by the public's nonchalance to the sport, as oddsmakers don't spend the same amount of time creating NHL odds as they do a more popular sport, such as football or basketball.

Hockey bettors will find lower betting limits on NHL games than they will in the NFL or NBA, something which is generally an acknowledgment by the sportsbooks that they are less comfortable accepting bets on the NHL than they are in the other two sports.

NOTE: This article pertains to the National Hockey League. For information on betting European hockey, see How to Bet on European Hockey.

Betting the National Hockey League

Before a person can start to bet the NHL, it's important they have a solid understanding of the money line. If the money line is a new concept for you, read Understanding Money Lines.

The money line is the most common method of betting the NHL, although there is also a puck line, which we will discuss a bit later, as well as totals. A number of sportsbooks also offer the "Grand Salami," which is the combined total of all the games that are played on a particular day, and we'll discuss that a bit later, as well.

Nearly every sportsbook uses a 20-cent line on the National Hockey League. The 20-cents refers to the difference in the odds on the favorite and the odds on the underdog. But as with other sports, such as baseball, the odds on an extremely large favorite will often be greater than the 20 cents.

The odds on a typical National Hockey League game may look like:

Calgary +110
Vancouver -130

What that means is that Vancouver bettors are asked to risk $130 to win $100, while Calgary bettors risk $100 to win $110.

But the odds on a game with a larger favorite are more inclined to look like:

Toronto +250
Detroit -300

The larger difference in odds is typical in all sports, not just hockey, so it isn't as if hockey bettors are being singled out.

The Puck Line

While betting on the winner of the game, as shown above, is the most popular method of betting the NHL, there is also the puck line, which baseball bettors will recognize as being quite similar to the run line. When betting the puck line, bettors can either lay 1.5 goals with the favorite or take 1.5 goals with the underdog. The puck line used to be .5 goals, but the shootout eliminated the possibility of a tie game, so the oddsmakers bumped the puck line up to 1.5 goals.

Using the two games above, the puck lines odds will be something like:

Calgary +1.5 (-240)
Vancouver -1.5 (+200)

Toronto +1.5 (-110)
Detroit -1.5 (-110)

Now, Calgary bettors will win their wagers if Calgary wins the game or losses by one goal, while Vancouver bettors can only win their wagers if the Canucks win by two goals or more. But Calgary bettors are now asked to risk $240 to $100 and Vancouver bettors are risking $100 to win $200.

Likewise, Toronto bettors will win their bets if the Maple Leafs win or lose by one goal and Detroit bettors will only win their bet if the Red Wings win by two or more goals.

Totals Bettors also have the option of betting on the total number of goals scored in a game. The sportsbooks will post a number, generally between 5 and 6.5 and bettors can wager the number of goals scored in the game will be greater (over) than the posted number or less (under) than the posted number.

There is one primary difference in betting hockey totals as opposed to betting basketball and football totals. Because scoring in hockey is so much lower than in football or basketball, the bookmakers are reluctant to change the number of a total and instead will often adjust the odds.

Example: If the over/under number on the Red Wings and Penguins is 6 and a bettor places a $500 wager on the over, the bookmaker is unlikely to raise the total to 6.5. Instead, he will make bettors who wish to wager over 6 risk $120 to win $100, which is written as -120. Those wishing to bet the under would then be able to wager at even money or +100, as totals nearly always use a 20-cent line.

If people continue to bet the over, the bookmaker will continue to adjust the odds upward and eventually bettors may have to risk $145 to win $100, or -145. In this case, an under bettor would risk $100 to win $125. The bookmaker will generally raise the odds up to -145 before raising the total to the next number, which in this case would be 6.5.

So totals can take on several different forms, but will nearly always look like one of the two following examples:

Detroit vs. Toronto over 5.5 (-110)
Detroit vs. Toronto under 5.5 (-110)

Detroit vs. Toronto over 5.5 (-135)
Detroit vs. Toronto under 5.5 (+115)

In the first example, bettors are asked to wager $110 to win $100 regardless if they bet the over or the under. This is sometimes referred to as "5.5-flat," meaning it is -110 on both the over and the under.

In the second example, bettors who wish to wager on the over will have to risk $135 to win $100, while under bettors will risk $100 to win $115. This is commonly referred to as "5.5-Over.

Grand Salami The Grand Salami is practically an institution for hockey bettors. The Grand Salami allows hockey fans to have a rooting interest in every game being played on a particular day for the cost of one bet.

How the Grand Salami works is the sportsbooks will let bettors wager over or under the total number of goals scored in all of the games played on a particular day. If there are 10 games on a given day, the Grand Salami total will generally be around 53 to 60, depending on the particular games. Just as with regular totals, there will be times when bettors are risked to give higher odds on betting the over or the under.

Now you're ready to place a wager on the coolest game on ice.

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