NHL Betting: 5 Tips For Success


How can we succeed betting on the NHL? As the NHL season gains momentum, today on the blog John Marks gives us 5 tips to help us succeed with our NHL betting this year.

San Jose Sharks

Every year, at the beginning of every season people ask me, “What should I do to be a successful bettor when wagering in the NHL?” Today I am going to provide the answer to that question, and lay out a solid plan of attack to increase the reader’s ability to profit long term when wagering on National Hockey League games.

Before I begin with specifics, I want to point out one aspect of success that not only matters in NHL betting, but all sports wagering, and that is money management. I could write a whole piece on this topic alone. One should set aside a bankroll that is 50 times whatever the amount you would like to bet per wager. This is often the first criterion that distinguishes whether you’re an amateur or a professional. Professionals have monies set aside strictly for investment and are not taking funds out of it to finance their daily lives. If you are planning on devising a plan to help pay your expenses, you will be robbing yourself of valuable assets that could be used to increase your profits during the season. Once the season is finished is when you can take care of treating yourself to the fruits of your labour and buying that vacation you wanted or invest in other ventures. Your per wager size should increase as your bankroll increases but again I stay only at that 2% threshold of my bankroll for the entire season.

Here are the five keys that will help the average bettor increase their success long term if utilised regularly:

#1 - Mark Your Schedule Early

When the seasonal schedule is released in late July I print out the entire season for every team. I then go through each team’s schedule identifying the following:

  • Every time teams play on consecutive calendar days. You want to also note whether those consecutive games are at home or away on both legs of it.
  • Every time teams play a game started at an unusual time. Generally teams may play a matinee on weekends or holidays. These games often conflict with teams internal body clocks.
  • Every extended road trip for teams. You also want to focus on Western teams playing in Eastern Time zones and vice versa for Eastern teams.
  • Groupings of games where teams play 3 games in 4 days, 4 games in 6 etc. These can also drain team’s stamina on the end of these groupings as well as leave benches thin due to nagging injuries that can’t be overcome with rest.

If one does this step in full, you should realise games in which teams may not be able to bring their best effort and look for spots to indicate when teams may have a clear stamina advantage over a tired one.

Teams may also be focused on games against division rivals more than another team in these spots as well. Be sure to move fast when lines come out on these games to beat the market if it looks like a good spot to back or to fade someone.

#2 - Know Who is Starting In Goal

I’m not a fantasy guy, but one individual position that is extremely important to winning wagers is goaltending! Be sure to use a reliable source to determine who is getting the start for each game you are wagering. Two websites that are helpful are dailyfaceoff.com and goaliepost.com.

This step kind of ties into the previous step because when teams play on consecutive days, often the starter will not play both of them. You should know each team’s depth at goal and have the separate stats for each goalie as this will often change power ratings for teams. One current example is with the defending champs the Chicago Blackhawks. They lost last year’s backup Ray Emery to free agency and signed Edmonton Oiler’s castaway Nikolai Khabibulin. His current stats are 4.73 GAA with a .818 SV%. Starter Corey Crawford’s numbers are 2.23 GAA with a .916 SV%. That’s a HUGE drop off with the backup in!! It definitely pays to know who is starting.

#3 - Make Your Own Lines

This may not be easy for some, but it is essential if you want to be ahead of the market to know when you are getting “value”. The term “value” gets used way too often in my opinion, but one would never know if they had value unless you’ve priced it yourself first. If you have no idea how to do this, and it takes time to learn, track what the prices are for every game. Print the odds each day when they are released as well as at closing. After about a quarter of the season is through you should be able to see what odds makers believe is the correct price (openers), as well as what the betting public believes is a good price (closers). Neither, by itself, is good exclusively but you should be able to see a range of prices for each team in a variety of situations.

Honestly this step may take a full season before you feel confident in betting the differences between your numbers versus books but it is essential if one is to beat the market. Often amateur bettors forget that you are not betting teams versus other teams but betting against odds that the books put out. I hear people say things like “Team A is playing great hockey” or “Team B is horrible right now.” That doesn’t mean team A is a must bet and team B is a bet against! Most likely the books know both teams and price them accordingly. A great example this season has been the San Jose Sharks. Out of the gate, many had them as a good, but not great, team. I had them as a better team than most, and was rewarded by getting some really nice prices in return for backing them.

#4 - Avoid High Juice On Totals

Hockey totals are generally lined with the same static numbers, these being 5, 5.5, and sometimes 6. Rumors before this season that games were likely to go over, due to a rule change pertaining to goalie pad sizes being reduced, has not affected the books from issuing totals using these same static numbers so far this season. Books have the advantage in most cases with this by being able to use these numbers and assigning higher juice should stats indicate the scoring to lean one way or the other. When the playoffs come the books tend to go to the flat 5 and then heavily juice either over or under sometimes as high as -150 (I.e European odds of 1.67)! This always favours the books and the books alone.

Historically about 30% of games land right on the total of 5. Games going over 5 occur about 44% and that leaves the under at about 25%. If one looks at scenarios where 4 or less goals are scored it is a very small set of results. These are: 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 2-1, and 3-1. Most under bettors don’t notice this because they win or don’t lose about 56% of the time! But they only win within that very narrow window of scenarios listed. Once a game goes 2-1 the team losing cannot score anymore or it will result in at least a push and possibly a loss. For myself I avoid betting totals when the game is lined at 5. Bettors pay a premium for resting on that key number and with the juice or vigorish assigned it makes long term profits extremely difficult. Books place a price of at least 85 cents to sit on that number versus betting 4.5 or 5.5 totals. In the playoffs it gets even more pricey based on the premise that defence wins championships and scoring becomes limited. We will look at this more deeply in a future piece where I can bring firm statistics.

#5 - Keep Records

No professional bettor would be considered professional without this step. If one didn’t track every wager made, as well as all wagers and games not bet, would the bettor be able to reveal where their strengths and weaknesses are. This ties into step 3 when making your own lines. Track team scoring, team goals allowed, as well as different scenarios so that when teams are in an adverse situation you won’t be baffled by lines that don’t seem quite right. Tracking how teams perform in different price scenarios can reveal spots where the betting public or the books are giving too much or too little credit to a team and you may find great spots to bet on or against them.

I personally track in spread sheets the items above and update them daily. I have numbers from previous seasons going back 2 years. Going back any further often doesn’t apply as well because of rule changes and personnel moves made by teams. I avoid tracking such general things like all favourites or underdogs, and overall over/under stats. I do however do that for each team because some teams behave differently due to talent in goal or other positions. This will help you much more than hearing “under is hitting at 63% league wide.”

As the reader can see this is something that will take a bit of your time to utilise. Being a professional, or striving to be more like one, is a serious commitment. For me the rewards have made it enjoyable because I feel I have much better capabilities to avoid making bad wagers, which most definitely increases long term profits. Take control of your wagering and the work needed to make those wagers and I certainly can attest it will be much more rewarding and profitable in the long run.



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Sharing information on how to profit from wagering National Hockey League USA. Follow me on Twitter @NoJokeNHL and watch daily video blog on YouTube.com at the NoJokeNHL channel.