Tips for Live Wagering the NHL
by Alex B. Smith (@axsmithsports) our premium NHL specialist
“You called it, they scored!”
“How the hell did you guess that would happen?”
I wish I had $20 every time I watched a game with someone while I was live betting or even just out at a bar with no skin in the game, but would say to my friends or a random patron seated next to me, “Team A is gonna score here on the Power-Play” or “Team B is about to tie this game up late”
I wish I could tell you that I’m clairvoyant and that I’ve amassed some giant fortune with this talent, but that’s certainly not the case. I’ve watched an insane amount of hockey in my lifetime, and have been betting on the sport intensely for the last decade. I’ve noticed a few patterns that no matter the length of season or whether or not it’s two non-playoff clubs playing for exercise in February or it’s Game 7 of the Conference Finals in May, that can help bettors do well in live wagering.
Every sporting event tells a story, but betting in-game is like a puzzle. You work with the pieces that are given and sorted into a pattern, then look for remaining open spaces. That’s my view on live wagering, especially with a tempo-driven sport like Hockey. Here are a few pointers that I utilize when betting the sport while in progress.
Who Got Next? – When betting on the prop of “Team to Score Next”, look for teams that are “Buzzing” – meaning they are getting quality shot chances, but also picking up rebounds off saves, taking their time to cleanly pass the puck and reset their positioning and keeping the puck onside within their opponent’s zone.
Ch-Ch-Changes – Watch the first period closely and look at how teams are changing lines on the fly. Are guys dragging their feet back to the bench from fatigue? Maybe a club is struggling to clear pucks out of their zone, causing extended shifts and disrupting their timing patterns. Also, in the second period of games, teams switch sides of the ice, meaning longer strides to get to the bench and even some cross-player traffic at times. Things like this can lead to penalty calls for Too Many Men or Interference. Fade a team that’s moving too slow on changes or having difficulties with puck clearance in their own zone.
Be Prepared, Watch the Game and Pay Attention – If you are going to Live Bet the NHL, you have to be prepared. For starters, know what amount of your bankroll you want to play with for live action. For novice bettors, I would recommend no more than 2 Full Units set aside, and then break down plays by quarter-sized units or even eighth-sized units to stretch out over the course of the contest. Secondly, make sure you don’t have any distractions, because time is of the essence. Have your beverages already close by, make sure the kids and pets and S.O. aren’t going to be vying for your attention between TV timeouts. Also, know when the TV timeouts are going to happen. In every period of every NHL regular season game, there are at least 3 TV timeouts, after 15 minutes of play is left in the period, then at the 10 minute mark, and finally, the 5 minute mark. This is important because coaches have the time to make some small adjustments and also books will have their full list of wagers open during that break. I will give you an example of a play opportunity below:
We’ll use the Blackhawks and Wild for example teams
There’s 15:35 left in the 2nd period of a 1-1 game, the Wild take a penalty, and it’s delayed because the Blackhawks still have possession inside the Wild’s zone. You want to bet that the Hawks score the next goal in the game. Put your wager amount into the box now. It will be “Frozen” at the moment, meaning you can’t enter the wager right away, but as soon as the game goes to a commercial, that box will unlock and you can enter your play. DON’T BLINK, JUST CLICK!, because that line can change within 5-10 seconds, so you have to be fast, hence no distractions.
Be Bold, but Bright – When Live Betting on Hockey, the way to turn a profit has to be looking at underdog prices. Bettors often use the term “Live Dogs” for reasons exactly like this. Look at betting against teams that when they have a lead, they tighten things up so much defensively, that they forgo keeping their offensive presence and now their opponent can take more risks to create scoring chances. See a team getting blown out, but still putting up an effort? That’s a club that could score the next goal, giving them a moral boost knowing they finished strong in the contest, despite a losing outcome. Also look for teams who have weaknesses in their Special Teams units, be it the power-play or penalty kill.
On To The Next One – Once you’ve made a bet, it’s in. Whether it wins or loses, you have to make sure not to get too hung up on that result. Take the previous example into consideration. The Blackhawks scored that next goal to make it a 2-1 score, pay attention to everything like it’s a brand new slate. Maybe the Hawks clamp down defensively with the lead, or could the Wild push the tempo more now that they are trailing? How much time is left? If it’s past the five minute mark before the end of the period, teams may try to just avoid any mistakes or turnovers and skate out the time. Also important to note, most books will lock Live Betting once down towards the 2 minute mark unless a game is tied, and even then, certain wager options could be unavailable. This changes from game to game, book to book, so you will have to make a note of those patterns as well.
Watch the Game, then Re-Read It – After a game is over, check the box score, and then dive into some of the basic advanced stats, using a site like Natural Stat Trick (naturalstattrick.com) to look at individual player stats like Time on Ice, and for goalies, a breakdown of shots faced from High Danger, Middle Danger and Low Danger chances. Also their site, as well as others, have Shot Charts that read like heat maps. Those are also helpful when reviewing exactly how teams scored goals or missed chances.
These six tips and rules should give you an edge to add in-game wagers to your hockey betting arsenal, allowing yourself to turn some extra profit along with any pre-game plays you may have in your pocket.
Alex B. Smith has been a Sports Handicapper since 2011. He has emerged as one of the top up-and-coming Handicappers in the business. Cut from the old school. Alex B. specializes in College & Pro Football, as well as College Hoops and the NHL. Smith is a firm believer in looking at the intangibles. Key game situations. momentum, scheduling and weather as well as breaking down the important numbers and following strict bankroll management. A big fan of obscure college teams, His plays suit the long-term investors who play to win consistent money, as well as the causal bettors and action players. Alex is in this business to win and help every one of his clients win as well.
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Smith has been heavily featured in Print and Radio Media over the years, Doing various interviews with WagerTalk on SB Nation Radio, PreGame.com, SportsXRadio on the Yahoo Sports Radio Network, Against The Number Radio on Sports Byline USA and on ESPN 1100 Radio in Las Vegas, Nevada, KDWN 720 in Las Vegas, Nevada, The Score 670 in Chicago, Illinois and 93.7 The Ticket FM in Lincoln, Nebraska along with interviews & articles published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.
He was also the co-host of “The Box Seats”, a betting podcast with Bob Sullivan on LateNightSportsRadio.com from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, Alex was the original co-host of “Puck Time” on WagerTalk TV with Lawrence “The Prez” Prezman, Carmine Bianco, Andrew McInnis & Dave Cokin. He is an original member of “The Ice Guys”, a daily video show on The Hockey Podcast Network, along with Ian Cameron, & Jimmy Murphy. Alex has also previously done some freelance writing with BleacherNation, Mile High Sports, Elite Sports NY, Pittsburgh Hockey Now, and with Bleacher Report during a brief stint as a Cutman’s Assistant in Boxing. Alex currently Co-Hosts on The Ice Guys and works with Against The Number as a Football & NHL specialist