In hockey, sports bettors often have two choices when wagering on the outcome of a game: they may bet either the money line or the puck line. Generally speaking, neither type of wager is preferred over the other. A preference usually comes into play after you handicap the game and get a better idea about what you expect the end result will be. Let’s take a look at the money line, and then compare it to the puck line, seeing in what circumstances one might be favored over the other.
Money Line Basics
The money line is a sports bet where you pick which team you think will win the game outright. There is no spread involved. It costs more to wager on the favorite and less to bet on the underdog. Also with the money line, if the favored team wins, it pays considerably less than if the underdog gets the W.
With a money line, depending on how big the mismatch is perceived to be, you may have to put $160 down to win $100 on the favorite, while, taking the same game, you’d bet $100 to win $150 on the team that is not favored.
Take as an example the money line on the following game:
Pittsburgh Penguins -170
Montreal Canadiens +150
The Penguins, according to the bookie who made this line, are favored. The team with the minus in a money line is the one that is expected to win. Thus, with Pittsburgh at -170, you must wager $170 to win $100. If you decide to bet on Montreal, which as the underdog is listed with a plus sign, you would wager $100 to win $150.
Puck Line Basics
The puck line is basically the same as the run line in baseball, except it is not contingent on a particular player starting the game. With the run line, the starting pitchers who are scheduled must begin the game for the bet to be honored.
Here’s a typical puck line:
Pittsburgh Penguins -1 ½ +175
Montreal Canadiens +1 ½ -210
Although the Penguins are favored to win the game outright, with the puck line they become the underdogs in terms of the payout. That’s because Montreal is being given points. The money line is an accurate picture of how the odds makers expect the game to actually play out, while the puck line offers an edge to those who prefer a little spread action.
With the example above, if the Penguins cover, you would win $175 for every $100 wagered, but if the Canadiens win outright or lose by fewer than two goals, you would win $100 for betting $210.
Which to Bet?
There is no hard and fast rule about which to bet. It really depends on the results of your handicapping. However, if you have a very clear idea about the outcome of the game, then the safest bet is always the money line. If you really like the underdog, then the money line also makes sense. If you expect a one-goal game and you’re looking to bet the team least favored to win, then definitely go with the puck line. For blowouts by the favored team, the puck line offers the best payout.
An interesting aspect to remember is that with hockey there is no longer the chance of a push, as no games end in a tie. If the game is tied and it goes into overtime (or even a shootout), your fate as a puck line bettor is already decided since the line stands at 1.5 goals. Money line wagering can still go either way.
A Note on Totals
Totals are affected differently than puck line bets, and they may or may not change in overtime. Let’s say that your totals bet includes overtime, and the over/under is 6.5. If the game goes into overtime at 3-3, then you still have an opportunity to win. However, the shootout is not included in totals betting.
Many hockey totals stand at 5.5, as this assures no changes in outcomes for bettors if the game does go into OT. Often for hockey betting, bookies will adjust the amount of cash risked on either side of the wager, rather than the actual number of goals.
Making the Right Choice
In the end, it’s up to you what type of wager you make. Many people still feel that in most cases, the money line is the best bet. Still, there are times when a puck line wager certainly makes sense. This is especially the case if the team that is expected to win is formidable and the other club is a lot weaker.
The important thing to do is to bet after fully educating yourself about the game. Haphazard sports betting can lead to your losing a lot of cash.