Gambling on National League Hockey games can be both fun and exciting, but mastering how to choose the winners is only part of the puzzle. The NHL can be a difficult gambling landscape to master. 

There are 31 different teams comprised of rosters with more than 20 players that almost all play at some point during the game.  It’s not difficult to suffer from information overload and gamblers can sometimes find themselves lost, unsure where to start or how to begin to make better picks.  Understanding the fundamentals of NHL gambling and the different types of wagers will help gamblers improve their game.

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One of the best ways, whenever possible, to learn how to place sports bets is to rely on a mentor, someone who has already “been there, done that.”  An expert who is willing to show what they are betting, why they are betting and how they decided on that particular bet will go a long way toward converting a novice bettor into a seasoned professional.  However, there’s a problem.  Just like a company doesn’t want to share its trade secrets, many expert gamblers don’t like to share their inside scoops and don’t like to teach others their tips and tricks.

Ice hockey is one of those sports that appears simple on the surface but becomes more intricate as the game is broken down.  The goal, of course, is to put the puck in the net, but there is a lot of strategy involved in trying to reach that goal.  Because of this, many new NHL gamblers will find themselves struggling to develop a winning strategy.  One thing is for certain, though – the best way to get started is to glean as much knowledge about all the players, all the teams and betting terminology before digging in. 

The Point Spread

The point spread, also referred to as the spread or the line, is a margin used to handicap the team favored to win the game.  Oddsmakers predict that the favored team will take the victory by a certain number of points, the spread, and indicate this by a minus sign: -4.4, for example.  The underdog, on the other hand, will be indicated by a plus sign: +4.4.  When betting on the favorite, the gambler wins if the favorite wins and the margin is greater than the spread.  When betting on the underdog, the gambler can win if the team wins or ties, or if the favored team wins by fewer points than indicated by the spread.  Generally speaking, spread bets often assume a bet of $110 to win $100.

Money Line

A money line, which is found in hockey and baseball, can be seen in lieu of the spread.  A money line bet is one that is placed on the outcome of the contest at a certain price, rather than taking into consideration the spread.  If the gambler bets on a team and that team wins, regardless of the score, the gambler wins.  Just like with the spread, a minus sign is used to indicate the team favored to win and the amount needed to be wagered in order to win $100.  For example, -130 means that a bet on the favorite team to win would need $130 to pick up $100.  The same principle also applies to the underdog, but with the use of the plus sign, instead. 

The Puck Line

The NHL puck line is similar to a money line bet in that it looks at the winner and loser of the game.  However, it also makes the odds a little more interesting by requiring the team to win by 1.5 goals or more, or lose by 1.5 goals or less. In a money line bet the payout odds are the only thing that is changed – a gambler wins no matter what the final score.  In a puck line bet, the gambler’s team better win by at least 1.5 goals (or lose by 1.5 goals or less) or the money goes down the drain.

Over/Under Bets

The over/under in hockey is the total number of points that sportsbooks predict will be seen during the game.  It takes into account the amount of goals scored by both teams during both regulation play and overtime, and the bet is placed dependent on whether the total score will be greater or lower than that number.  The same general betting guideline applies as it does with other types of wagers – a win of $100 is possible with a wager of $110. 

With both spread and money line betting, these wagers are often referred to as betting “sides.”  This is just another way of indicating that the wager is based on one team, or side, winning.  In contrast, over/under bets are often referred to as “totals.”

The Grand Salami

There is one bet that is particular to pro hockey and isn’t found anywhere else.  The Grand Salami is an Over/Under bet that is tied into all contests on a particular day.  Oddsmakers will establish a number each day, which is based on the total number of games available that day, and gamblers can wager over or under this total, the Grand Salami total.  It has no action if any of the games is suspended or cancelled before the regulation time ends.  In addition, independent of the number of goals scored during a shootout, the final score recorded for the game will see the winning team have just one goal tacked on to the score it had at the end of regulation play.

Parlay Bets

A standard bet in hockey typically involves the options already discussed, the money line, the puck line and over/unders.  There also exists the parlay bet, which allows the gambler to combine different wagers into one.  If all separate components win, the gambler wins; if any part fails, however, the gambler loses.  Payouts are calculated against the individual money lines of each component when the wager involves multiple teams, and the greater number of teams involved leads to greater potential payouts. 

A hockey parlay bet involves a single bet on two or more teams and are often referred to as “accumulators.”  If one of the games is tied, or gets canceled, the parlay drops down a number.  In other words, if the parlay bet involved eight teams (four games) and one game is cancelled, the bet would become a six-team parlay and the odds are adjusted accordingly.

Parlay bets offer some of the highest payouts because of the odds of all parts turning positive for the gambler and the greater amount of risk.  As with any type of gambling, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.

It’s extremely important to understand the terms and conditions of the parlay before placing the bet.  The gambler also needs to be aware of what will take place if one or more of the bet’s parameters aren’t fulfilled – a tie game is a perfect example. The majority of bookmakers will look at a tie as a reduction, as mentioned; however some will view it as a no-win and the wager is lost.  Check the rules before making the bet – advice that needs to be followed for any wager.

Prop Bets

A prop bet, or a proposition bet, is any action that has a wager tied to it.  A bet that a certain individual will trip while walking down the stairs is a prop bet.  Prop bets have been around for years and have gained considerable attention lately in sports because they’re an excellent source of entertainment and, in many cases, can lead to substantial profits. 

Sportsbooks provide a wide range of prop betting choices on NHL games and are divided into two categories – skilled and unskilled.   A skilled prop bet centers on the incorporation of knowledge and expertise that can increase a gambler’s chances of winning, while unskilled prop bets are those that  completely rely on chance – falling down the stairs, with no other variables to consider, would be an example of an unskilled prop bet.  Regardless of the amount of sports knowledge, data analysis or skills, an unskilled prop bet can be equally won by a professional sports gambler or a complete rookie.

If becoming profitable is the goal with sports gambling, skilled prop bets definitely need to be considered.  Unskilled prop bets can be exciting, but ultimately only exist for their entertainment value.  It’s important to keep in mind that sportsbooks won’t make this distinction – it’s up to the gambler to realize what is a skilled prop bet and what is basically the flip of a coin. 

NHL prop bets also come in all forms. The options, when gambling online, most often depend on the site where the bet is made and what the site decides to open for each game.  On most sites, though, a popular NHL prop bet is one that involves which side will score the first goal.  In this case, the wager only involves that single action, regardless of which team ultimately wins the contest. 

Futures Bets

In the NHL, a futures bet is a bet that is placed early in the season, or possibly in the playoffs, against an action to take place later.  For example, the season is just getting started and there’s a bet that the Florida Panthers will make it to the playoffs.  This is an example of a futures bet.  These types of wagers offer incredible payouts since the odds of getting them right are extremely long.   Accurately predicting long-term rink action can make hockey futures betting extremely lucrative for the right gambler.

Futures bets aren’t just seen when the season kicks off or when the playoffs get underway.  Many sportsbooks will offer futures bets throughout the season; the difference is that the betting lines will change as the likelihood of that action becoming a reality increases or decreases.  If the Panthers are on a winning streak and seem like they’ll clinch a playoff berth, the betting line will shift so the odds are not as long. 

It’s also important to remember that futures bets can impact bankroll liquidity, the amount of money that is allocated for gambling.  A disciplined sports gambler will determine a certain amount to be spent on gambling and stick to that amount.  If the goal is to only spend $500 and $400 is put into futures bets, there isn’t much left to place on other types of wagers.  Since futures bets look far off into the future, the return on investment cannot be expected for some time. 

Ultimately, this means that the money won’t be accessible for several months.  It used to be that keeping money in a bank resulted in a decent return through interest and gamblers had to determine if the risk of wagering that money outweighed the value of keeping it in the bank.  These days, though, it’s more about whether or not that money might be needed in an emergency. 

Futures bets can be an awesome addition to the gambling portfolio and can offer incredible returns of the right picks are made.  However, they shouldn’t be a major part of the lineup unless the gambler can afford to forego those funds for long periods of time.

Betting Rules

For gambling purposes, a hockey game is considered official after fifty-five (55) minutes of play and the game must be played on schedule and in its previously designated venue.  Wagers will almost also include regular play, overtime and a penalty shootout (if required).  If the shootout occurs, only one goal is awarded to the winning team when calculating the final score for wagers. 

In the event a game is suspended before the minimum play time of 55 minutes, all bets are refunded.  However, if the contest reaches the 55-minute mark, or more, before the game is suspended, the score at the time the match stopped will be used in calculating the final betting result. 

Hockey bets don’t have to be overly cumbersome for new gamblers.  By exploring the options offered by sportsbooks and watching how the action moves, it’s easy to figure out the system and, with practice, become a master sports gambler.