How To Bet On NHL Alternative Markets

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How can you bet on exotic and alternative markets to enhance your NHL profits? What are the best strategies for betting on NHL alternative markets? In this article we discuss alternative markets and how they can help you in betting on the NHL.

John Marks has been betting the NHL professionally for 3 years having bet it recreationally for 10 years prior with mixed results. In 2007 he began to document results and compare them to different wagering options available. What he discovered had a profound impact on how his future NHL betting, increasing his use of both exotics and handicaps, to create inflated returns on investments. Here's how you can do likewise when betting on the NHL.

Setting The Odds In The NHL

NHL betting is similar to wagering on MLB or boxing. The basic wager offered is known as a money line (head to head betting). For those not familiar, a moneyline is a price that is assessed for each competing team based on what the bookmaker feels is reflective of that team's chances of winning the game. Most everyone is familiar with the children’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” in which a turtle and a rabbit are going to have a foot race. Clearly anyone setting odds for this event would assume the rabbit is the more likely winner. If bookmakers were offering the betting public a chance to wager on the race, the betting public would have to pay an extremely high fee or price in order to win what would be considered “easy” money by betting on the rabbit to win. The rabbit would indeed be at very short odds to win. Of course, if you know how the race ends, the punters who would have bet that the rabbit would not bring his “A” game and grossly underestimate his opponent’s consistent and steady effort, would be rewarded handsomely with a huge return for a very small wager.

In reality most bettors are not comfortable with risking large sums of money to secure small profits or taking extreme risk in betting on underdog teams that have a long shot chance of getting the win. This is why bookmakers have created what is known as a handicap. In NHL wagering that handicap is known as a puck line. Generally in NHL betting this handicap is set at a static amount of 1.5 goals. The team that is favoured is offered with a handicap of -1.5 goals while the underdog is offered with a handicap of +1.5 goals.

Alternative NHL Betting Markets

Nowadays there are several propositions and exotic betting options on the betting board for NHL bettors. Let’s look at four of them, all of which you should utilise on a regular basis, to increase profits when your analysis provides you with specific information in these areas.

#1 – Betting Puck Line Handicaps

While the handicap of plus/minus 1.5 goals is the standard handicap, many bookmakers such as Unibet are now offering alternative handicaps and assessing different returns. Now it is commonplace to get handicaps of 1, 1.5, and 2 goals plus/minus for both teams, in many cases offering bettors returns of 4.00 and higher.

Many bettors make the mistake however of taking a team that is a heavy favourite and betting them on the handicap rather than betting them at short odds in the head to head market. This is not a winning move in our opinion. Just as in the fable described above, sometimes teams that know they are superior to another may not have the motivation of blasting the weaker team out of the building. They may have a game coming up that diminishes their attention or any variety of reasons that may not have them at their sharpest in this match up.

We suggest a set minimum return for betting these handicaps of 2.85. Based on long term statistics, favourites win by 2 or more goals approximately 30% of the time. To us nothing is more frustrating than to take a very small return on a -1.5 handicap and have that team only win by 1 and realising that if I really liked that team I should have just bet them on the money line with the short odds. If you don’t like taking short odds to bet a team enough to take them in the head to head market, then maybe you don’t like them to win as much as you thought. Taking only returns at 2.85 or higher, one’s winning percentage only has to be in the low 30 percentile to break even. Being selective in these markets and taking teams at -1.5 goals, John Marks has a win percentage in excess of 40%. When it comes to betting underdogs at +1.5 goals, hs he told us:

“I must also say that taking a team with the +1.5 handicap has to be one of the worst bets on the betting board. The bettor has to risk a large vigorish and they are risking it just in case that team loses by 1 goal. If you think the underdog has a good chance of being in the game and winning it then take them at the odds offered on the money line.”

#2 - Three-Way Betting

A very popular way of betting European football is being offered to those betting the NHL. Taking teams to win games in regulation is an excellent way to increase returns because the bettor is narrowing the possible scenarios in which they can win thus increasing the risk. If your assessment shows that the risk is lower than the assessed odds by the bookmaker, then playing teams to win in regulation is a viable wager.

Playing games to be tied at the end of regulation is a great exotics play as with the higher frequency of goals in hockey, as compared to soccer, it makes the returns on investment higher than those in soccer. The lowest return one could expect in a NHL game for a draw is about 3.50. When it comes to selecting a game to end in a regulation draw, John Marks told us:

“When assessing a match up, I use a scoring analytic and if I see two teams that have a very similar average in both offensive and defensive categories then I look long and hard at betting it to be tied at the end of regulation time. It's worth noting that the higher pay outs occur when one team is heavily favoured over the other. One example was when the San Jose Sharks hosted the Washington Capitals. San Jose was nearly a 1.50 favourite over the Capitals on the money line but both teams showed very similar scoring stats. The result was the game being a draw, tied at 2-2, with the Capitals winning the game in a Shootout at a hefty price of 4.25 for the draw!”

#3 - Alternative Totals

We’ve discussed betting NHL totals in another article, so we won't elaborate at length again, but several bookmakers such as Unibet and Bwin are now offering various totals at different prices, giving bettors a chance to assume higher risk for instances where their handicapping says a game is going to be either very low or high scoring.

One essential piece of advice is to avoid betting flat numbers such as 5 or 6 goals. If you believe the game is going to be low scoring then playing under 4.5 offers a much better reward than paying for the safety of the game ending on 5. Be very careful with this though as a very high percentage of games are tied at 2-2 which means that with the game going into overtime that under 4.5 is a loss. With games where your handicapping says a high scoring game is likely, avoid taking over 6 and take over 6.5 instead.

#4 - Period Wagers

Many books such as Pinnacle are now offering betting on individual periods. Some bookmakers offer betting on all 3 periods but almost all books offer at least betting on the first period. The over/under totals are always at a static 1.5 goals with higher juice assessed in cases where one or the other seems likely.

Keep track of every team’s record in both going over and under that 1.5 goal total in all three periods. It helps to reveal trends that often fly in the face of the static 1.5 total. Two examples in recent seasons were games involving the Ottawa Senators and games involving the New Jersey Devils. Ottawa Senators games had gone over the total of 1.5 at a 67% clip. The Devils games have gone under the 1.5 at a 70% clip. Odds of 1.67 were offered on the Devils first period total being under the 1.5 and odds of 1.74 on the Senators going over 1.5 goals. These were both very good value bets that deserved a long look every time those teams took to the ice.

Another good 1st period wager is whether or not a team will be leading at the end of the first period. This is another trend that you should track for every team as well, as there are always a few teams that overachieve or underachieve.

If your current bookmaker isn't offering alternative markets for NHL handicaps or goal totals, our advice is to find a bookmaker that does. If you are serious about increasing your profit potential than you need to have plenty of options from as many books as you can. Don’t limit yourself to a book that only offers a small betting menu. It is only costing you money making opportunities in the long run. 

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Head of Localisation at bettingexpert