In the gambling world one of the most exciting sports to have action on is hockey and in this guide we’re going to explain everything you need to know about betting on the NHL, step by step.
Fans love the speed and physicality of NHL hockey and it makes it one of the most exciting pro sports to watch. Add in a few legal and well-researched wagers and things only get better.
In this article we take you through all the important aspects of NHL betting including:
- How NHL betting works
- How to read NHL odds and betting lines
- The most common kinds of NHL bets
- How to bet on NHL hockey online
- NHL draft betting, live betting and round robins
- Tips and strategies for how to place winning NHL bets
A lot has changed in the sports gambling world in recent years. Not only have the internet and online casinos completely revolutionized the sports betting industry, we’ve also seen recent changes in federal laws that are paving the way for sports gambling to become legal in every state in the country.
Is NHL Betting Legal?
Whether betting on the NHL is legal for you depends on which state you’re in.
Click here for a full guide to legal US sports betting state by state, and find the specific page for the state you’re in. We update the pages whenever something major happens so checking your state’s page is the easiest way to find a quick and accurate answer.
Ever since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in 1992, sports betting had been illegal across all of America with a few exceptions. Nevada being the big one.
However, things changed in a big way in May of 2018 when the state of New Jersey successfully appealed the law. The Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of overturning PASPA and giving each state the authority to govern its own sports gambling industry.
While the decision didn’t instantly make sports gambling legal across the US, it does mean that each state now has the option to decide for itself whether to allow sports gambling in their state and how they wish to legislate it.
With New Jersey leading the way, many other states have already begun the process of regulating and licencing sports gambling including Delaware, Montana, and West Virginia. We anticipate that this list is going to continue growing and we recommend you follow your own state’s legislature closely as the landscape is changing quickly.
How Does NHL Betting Work?
Betting on NHL games can take lots of different forms. In this section we’ll walk you through all the popular kinds of bets and then in the next section we’ll explain how the odds and betting lines work in detail.
NHL Moneyline Bets
This is the most popular and most basic form of hockey bet. All you need to do is pick the winner of the game. Choose correctly and your bet wins.
Moneyline bets are always posted with American odds. Here’s an example of a money line:
- Winnipeg Jets +230
- Detroit Red Wings -170
We’ll explain American odds in more detail in the next section but the most important things to remember are:
- The plus symbol means that team is the underdog. The plus symbol tells you how much profit you will win if you bet $100. In this example a $100 bet will win $330 ($100 original bet + $230 profit).
- The – symbol means that the team is the favorite. It tells you how much you have to bet to win $100 in profit. In this example a $170 bet will win $270 ($170 original bet + $100 profit).
When you’re betting the money line be sure to pay attention to the betting type you have chosen because hockey wagers are offered as Regulation Time bets or as OT included bets.
- OT included bets on the money line are wagers that include overtime or a shootout so once you select a winner you simply must be right at the very end of the game.
- If you are in the Regulation Time category it means that the result after 60 minutes of play is the only thing your ticket is concerned with. Overtime or shootout goals don’t factor into play.
In some cases, you will be given only two options to bet on: Which team wins and which team loses. This is called a 2-way money line. If the game is tied after 60 minutes of play your ticket is considered a tie (called a “push” in gambling parlance) and your bet is refunded.
Another moneyline category within the Regulation Time category is called a 3-way money line which means you can choose a tie in addition to which team wins and which loses.
NHL Point Spread Bets
A point spread is a margin of victory that oddsmakers predict the favored team will win by.
The casino sets the margin and the favored team must win by at least that many points in order for spread bets on them to win. Conversely, the underdog team can lose by the same margin, or win the game outright in order to “cover the spread” and provide a winning result for bettors.
In the modern NHL, you’ll almost always see point spreads that range from (+/-) 0.5 to (+/-) 2.5 goals.
For example, if the Washington Capitals are favorites and the point spread is listed as Washington -1.0 then they will need to win by 2 or more goals in order to cover the spread. If they win by exactly 1 goal this bet would be a push. Most often point spreads are non-whole numbers to avoid a push result.
Let’s look at another example:
If the underdog is +1.5 in another game and loses by just one goal they still cover the +1.5 spread even though they lost the game.
NHL Puckline Bets
A puckline wager combines aspects of money lines and point spreads. Also called the Canadian Line, pucklines will always be listed as -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.
Puckline bets also incorporate American odds that tell you how much a winning bet on each team pays out.
Here’s an example puckline:
- Detroit Red Wings -1.5 (-140)
- Winnipeg Jets +1.5 (+180)
In this example, Detroit must win by two or more goals for bets on them to win. Using what we learned earlier about American odds we can see that you must bet $140 on Detroit to win $100 in profit.
Winnipeg, on the other hand, can lose the game by one point or win outright for bets on them to win. The American odds of +180 tells us that if we bet $100 on them and win we’ll make $180 in profit.
NHL Over/Under (Point Totals) Bets
In addition to betting on which team will win, you can also bet on how many total goals you think will be scored in a game. This is called betting on the point total, also called Over/Under betting.
The most common Over/Under line in today’s NHL is 5.5 goals. If you think a game will have 6 or more goals bet on the Over. If you think the game will have less than 6 goals place your wager on the Under.
Unless otherwise stated, point total wagers always include Overtime and shootout goals.
Sometimes totals bets show the payouts using fractional odds. Here’s an example of an Over/Under bet with fractional odds.
- Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vegas Golden Knights: O +5.5 (1.87), U -5.5 (1.95)
This means a winning bet on the Over will payout at 1.87. To calculate your payout just multiply the amount wagered by 1.87. This will give you your total payout (original wager + profit).
In this example, a winning $100 bet on the Over pays out $187 ($100 original bet + $87 profit).
How Do NHL Betting Lines Work?
Now that you know the basics of NHL betting, the next step is figuring out what the betting tables mean and how to read them. They can look a bit strange at first but it isn’t as complex as it might seem. We will explain it all in terms that are really easy to understand.
Once you’ve seen a few different lines and learned what they mean, the same concepts can be used across lots of different varieties of betting. Here are some key points to get you started:
- Odds and bets for different games will be posted along two rows of information; one for the home team, one for the visiting team. The home team will almost always be on the bottom. Many online sportsbooks will post the favorite in bold lettering or with a star next to their name.
- You can see the categories (columns) listed at the top. These are the different types of bets we described in the section above: from left to right it is usually listed as Moneyline, Point Spread, Over/Under (Total).
- Each column will have numbers posted and some will have a plus (+) or a minus (-) written beside it.
- A minus sign represents odds for the favorite.
- A plus sign represents odds for the underdog.
How Do NHL Betting Odds Work?
It’s now time to combine everything we’ve learned so far to see how we go
Whether you want to bet money line, point spread, puckline, point total, or any other sort of bet, you will be shown the odds for the wager. Moneyline bets tend to give the largest disparity in odds since most games have a favorite and an underdog.
The underdog will have longer (better) odds with a bigger payout while the favorite will have shorter (worse) odds and a smaller payout. That means a correct wager on a favorite will pay less than a successful bet on an underdog. This should be pretty obvious since we expect the better team to win most of the time.
American Odds in NHL Betting
With American odds we might see a typical NHL line looking something like this:
- Pittsburgh Penguins -185
- Detroit Red Wings +170
The best way to start your thought process is by looking at the plus (+) sign and the (-) sign.
- The (+) represents the team that is the underdog.
- The (-) represents the team that is the favorite.
- A (+) before a number means you will win that amount of profit on a $100 wager.
- A (-) before a number means you must bet that amount in order to make $100 profit.
In the example given we know that the Penguins are the favorites and the Red Wings are the underdogs.
- A successful $185 bet on the Penguins would pay $285 ($185 initial + $100 profit).
- A successful $100 bet on the Red Wings would pay $270 ($100 initial + $170 profit).
The $100 values are simplified examples. You are free to wager any amount on your own personal ticket. If you are wagering in person at a sportsbook you’ll get a ticket with your exact payout printed right on it.
Most online sportsbooks will even show you how much you’ll win on a bet before you make it. In fact, many sites will have two different fields to fill in such that you can either input exactly how much you want to wager or, alternatively, you can type in a precise amount you would like as profit and it will auto-fill the amount necessary to wager for said amount of profit.
Examples of NHL Bets
Now it’s time to use put everything we’ve learned so far together to see exactly how to bet on NHL hockey.
When sportsbooks list hockey odds they do it by game. They’ll list both teams and usually show the odds for the three main kinds of bets: moneyline, puckline, and Over/Under point totals.
Note: For this example, the bets will fall into the OT Included category which means the outcome for any wager includes goals scored in overtime or shootout.
- Vancouver Canucks: Money line (+210) | puckline +1.5 (-115) | Over 5.5 (-110)
- Florida Panthers: Money line (-265) | puckline -1.5 (-105) | Under 5.5 (-110)
You are simply wagering on who you think will win the game. Since the NHL added shooutouts in 2005-06, every game has a winning team.
The (+) in from of Vancouver’s number means they are the underdog in this game. If you bet $100 Vancouver and they won, you would make a $210 profit. If you bet $265 on the Panthers to win and they did, you’d make $100 profit.
In hockey, every game will have a puckline spread with is -1.5 goals for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.
This means the favorite has to win by at least two goals or the underdog has to lose by less than 2 or win the game out right.
Betting $105 bet on the Panthers would win $100 profit if they win by at least 2 goals. Betting $115 bet on the Canucks would win $100 profit if they lost by less than 2 or won the game straight up.
Over/Under (point total) bets
These bets are strictly based on how many total goals are scored in a game.
A $110 bet on the Over would make $100 profit if the six or more goals are scored.
A $110 bet on the Under would win $100 profit if less than six goals are scored.
These are the basic bets but there are other forms of NHL wagering available like Futures Bets, Prop Bets, and Live Betting.
- Live bets are a form of in-game wagering where punters can bet on outcomes within a game that are available after the game has started.
- Prop bets, also called proposition bets, are wagers asking specific questions about how a team, player or game, like “will there be a power play goal in the game?”
- Futures bets are long term versions of prop bets that ask how you think a player or team will perform over the course of a full season. For example, before the season begins you can make a futures bet on one team to eventually win the Stanley Cup.
NHL Fantasy Sports Betting (DFS)
Betting on daily fantasy sports is a fantastic way to put some action on hockey, especially if you live in a state that doesn’t allow traditional sports betting.
Sites like DraftKings and FanDuel operate in almost all US states and offer tons of NHL contests.
Fantasy sports is also great practice for other forms of sports betting that will be coming soon to your state. From analyzing stats to learning bankroll management strategies, hockey DFS is definitely worth checking out.
NHL Parlay Betting
Once you understand how to place single bets and you have a handle on all the different varieties of wagers, you are ready to consider parlay betting. A parlay bet combines two or more bets into one ticket. It allows you to to keep your costs down while multiplying your potential payouts.
It’s a tradeoff. You increase your risk but also increase your potential winnings. Just remember, if any part of your bet is incorrect, the whole thing loses.
From a mathematical standpoint, if you were to parlay a series of even-money outcomes (like flipping a coin), these are the odds most sites would pay for a winning parlay ticket:
- 2 Teams 2/1
- 3 Teams 6/1
- 4 Teams 10/1
- 5 Teams 27/1
- 6 Teams 40/1
- 7 Teams 75/1
- 8 Teams 150/1
- 9 Teams 300/1
- 10 Teams 750/1
- 11 Teams 1,100/1
- 12 Teams 1,800/1
Almost anything you want to combine into a parlay is available so long as the bets are not correlated with each other. Correlated wagers are when one outcome is directly connected to a subsequent outcome. An example would be betting a point total for the first period and then trying to parlay it with the full game point total.
NHL Round Robin Betting
If you’re looking to make a really big parlay with a bunch of teams but you’re not fully confident in all of them, there is a way to reduce the risk.
Any parlay of more than two games can be broken down into smaller parts. This option is called round-robin betting. Essentially you are taking all of the smaller pieces of a parlay and buying tickets for each of them.
It is more expensive because your one big parlay is now broken down into many smaller, individual tickets. The trade-off is that you are also reducing your risk because if one part of the bet is wrong, you don’t lose everything.
Let’s look at an example for a parlay with three bets and then one slightly bigger one using four bets.
3-Bet Round Robin Ticket
Colorado puckline, Boston moneyline, Oilers/Flames Over 5.5
A normal parlay requires all three games to be correct. This would be one ticket for one price.
Purchasing this parlay as a round-robin ticket separates the bets into smaller parlays and requires only two of out three games to be correct to win. There are three possible outcomes and so you must pay for all three wagers separately. The ticket now has three possibilities to win and they are:
- Combination 1: Colorado puckline, Boston moneyline
- Combination 2: Colorado puckline, Oilers/Flames Over 5.5
- Combination 3: Boston moneyline, Oilers/Flames Over 5.5
If you are correct on all three, you will win all three combinations. However, If any of the three games is incorrect (while the other two are wins), you will still win some money back.
NHL Betting Rules for Overtime
With NHL betting, sometimes overtime factors into your bets and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on what type of betting you choose; Regulation Time Bets or OT Included Bets.
If you stick to Regulation Time betting you only have to be correct about the outcome of the game at the end of the third period.
Within this category, you’ll find 2-way bets and 3-way bets.
You pick whether the home team will win after 60 minutes or the visiting team will win after 60 minutes. If it goes to overtime your bet is a push and refunded.
Some sportsbooks offer the ability to bet on a tie after regulation time. Therefore there are three wagers to choose from: home win, visitor win, or tie.
If you are wagering on OT Included Bets, it means the bet includes overtime or shootout goals. Totals bets are included in this category as well.
How Does Live NHL Betting Work?
Live betting allows you to make bets while the game is playing out. It’s a style of betting that’s evolving fast thanks to advances in technology. Also called in-game or in-running betting, live betting lets you bet on props or traditional wagers like moneylines, pucklines, and totals.
Oddsmakers watch the game live just like you and set betting lines on the fly according to how the game is developing.
Since these oddsmakers are working quickly, they have to rely more on instinct than math and proper calculations. Since they have less time to work, they’re more likely to make mistakes that you can capitalize on. You can find great value with live NHL betting if you know where to look.
When diving into live betting on NHL games, here are some factors to consider:
- Right down the pre-game lines and compare them to the early shifted live lines. This movement indicates what the bookies perceive is transpiring in the game. If you disagree there might be value in the bet.
- Compare the time remaining in the game to how much has the line moved. Don’t get too swept away by early game momentum swings.
- Have any important players been injured?
- Did the game have a surprising start? Don’t let this cloud your judgement too much too soon.
- Were there any bad calls? Do you suspect the referees will soon blow the whistle on some make-up calls? This happens quite often and if the team who is likely to get the next power play has a good man-advantage percentage, look to find a good “next goal” line.
Successful NHL Betting Strategies
Any time you approach a sport to place bets, you need to do research and study everything you can get your hands on.
That goes for player and team performance but there are also lots of other factors to consider. The NHL has a grueling 82 game schedule with a lot of travel. Some teams deal with longer distances than others and it affects their success on the road.
Pay attention to how teams deal with road trips, injuries, who their back up goalies are, and how they fair on the road compared to at home.
Important factors to look for:
- Identify teams playing back-to-back games or three games in four nights. Is either team starting their back up goalie? How has the back up been performing?
- Is the game nationally televised? Does that change either team’s stats?
- Are there favorable matchups with one team’s top line(s) vs. the other team’s top lines and top pairing defenders?
- Is either goalie heating up? Check recent performances in relation to shots saved and save percentage.
- How often do the teams win in regulation compared to overtime? This is especially important for Over/Under betting and puckline bets.
- Learn the tendencies of the coaches in terms of late game strategy when they’re down by one or two goals. Some coaches will pull their goalie earlier than others. This makes an enormous difference to point spreads and totals bets.
- Forget about emotions and superstitions. Focus on stats, real data and anything else you can back up with sound reasoning.
NHL Betting Markets
The three main betting markets for the NHL are moneyline, puckline, and totals markets as well as a special group of alternative markets. Sometimes totals markets will be referred to as Over/Under.
The simplest form of market. Simply wager on who you think will win. Total goals or margin of victory are irrelevant to the result.
A point spread of 1.5 goals is used to equalize the outcome of a game such that the favorite needs to win by 2 or more goals and the underdog needs to lose by less than 2 or win the game out right.
This market is based on total number of goals scored in a contest regardless of which team wins or how much they win by.
3-Way Betting Markets
If you wish to bet on outcomes for regulation time only, then you may find sportsbooks offering three results instead of two. You can bet on home team to win, visitor to win, or tie after 60 minutes.
Alternative Totals Markets
While similar to regular totals markets, these wagers are specific to one specific portion of the game (first period only, for example) or one team’s performance either per period or for full time with OT and shootout included.
NHL Playoff Betting Bracket
The Stanley Cup playoffs are an exhilarating grind and it offers a special opportunity for people gambling on the NHL.
The goal of playoff bracket betting is to pick the winner of each first round series and then all subsequent series winners in each round all the way up to the Stanley Cup finals.
The rules of playoff bracket betting for the Stanley Cup players are simple.
- Select a winner for each of the eight first-round series. With the current set up of NHL playoffs, teams are reseeded for the second round. If you are doing your bracket online, most websites will automatically reseed your choices accordingly.
- Continues selecting through second round, third round, and finals.
- Eventually you will be left with two teams in the Stanley Cup finals, one from the western conference and one from the eastern conference.
- Most brackets will also ask you to predict how many games each series will take to complete. Since all series are best of 7, your chose is any number from 4 to 7.
- The winner of the pool is determined by scoring the brackets. Brackets are graded with points for correctly predicted the outcome of each series in every round.
From a strategy standpoint, it is wise to mix up your selections rather than picking the highest seed in each round because you want to differentiate your bracket from other people’s brackets.
NHL Draft Betting
These days people can get their NHL gambling itch scratched in June even after the playoffs are over. In the last week of June, usually about a week before the July 1st free agency frenzy, the NHL holds its entry draft and sportsbooks take action on a multitude of bets.
The most popular wager is who will get selected first overall but sometimes, when first overall is an obvious choice, the action floods in on other bets. The lines can come in many forms. Typical examples include:
- Whether a certain player will be taken higher or lower than a certain round number. These are posted as Over/Under bets where the bettor’s job is to predict where they expect to be chosen.
- An Over/Under bet on how many trades there will be in the first round.
- You will find straight moneyline wagers on which players a certain team will select. You can choose from a list of eligible player likely to be picked in that spot. The odds will reflect how likely the expectation is.
- Some bets will put two players against one another and ask which one will be selected first.
As always, doing your own research is a prudent move. The most common question we hear on NHL draft day is whether a team should pick according to its specific needs or if they should take the best player available. Sometimes these conflicting factors can lead a team to make drastic moves. They can decide to trade the pick or even trade a current roster player to make way for the new up and coming young star.
We recommend heading to some of the major NHL forums a few weeks before the draft to see what the fans of each team are discussing. They usually have their ear closest to the ground and finger on the pulse of their respective franchises.