NHL betting has two primary ways to bet on a side (team) to win. There is the straight money line, in which a gambler lays odds on the favorite or takes odds on the dog. This wager is the same type of odds used for boxing, MMA matchups, and baseball money lines. But there is another popular alternative that gamblers can also employ. The puck line is where bettors can lay the hockey equivalent to a football pointspread at a reduced price on the odds. This method is just like the run line used in Major League Baseball. Let's look at the puck line, how it compares to the money line, and why gamblers use it.
Puck Line Sample and Comparison to the Money Line
On Sunday, February 21, 2021, the Philadelphia Flyers met the Boston Bruins in the Honda NHL Outdoor Sunday game from Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Because of the setting, this game drew considerable betting interest.
Gamblers had their choice of two alternatives for the Flyers and Bruins matchup at Lake Tahoe. To bet on Philadelphia to win, a bettor would wager $100 to win $170. Or the Bruins were available for $200 to win $100.
However, for gamblers not liking those prices, there was the puck line alternative. Boston was available at -1.5 goals and +132. If Boston won the game by two goals or more, gamblers would be paid $132 for every $100 wagered. However, if Boston only won the game by one goal or lost the game outright, the bet would be lost.
This brings up the interesting scenario of if Boston won the game by a single goal. In that case, the Bruins would payout for those who bet the money line but would lose for those who bet the puck line. This situation is similar to when a football gambler loses a pointspread bet on a team that still won the game straight up.
By contrast, the puck line odds on Philadelphia were +1.5 goals -157. These odds mean that if the Flyers lost by two goals or more, they would lose the puck line bet. If Philadelphia won the game outright or lost it by just one goal, they would pay $100 for every $157 wagered.
Why do Gamblers Play the Puck Line?
In our Flyers vs. Bruins example, many gamblers wanting to take Boston would be hesitant to lay $200 to win $100 against a good Philadelphia team. This situation is where the puck line offers potentially better value. If you are willing to sweat out that 1.5-goal margin, you get a much lower price.
For gamblers taking power favorites, the lay can often be well over $200 to win $100 in most games, especially against weak teams. A loss can be a severe blow to a gambling bankroll. And against a hot goaltender, such losses are not unusual in hockey. This means that the puck line is the way to go.
The puck line also offers some cushion for a gambler betting the underdog. A team can still lose the game and win the bet, much like a plus-points football or basketball team. However, the money that 1.5-goals costs is often not worth it in many gamblers' eyes, and they would instead go for the big plus-money odds on the money line.
As it turned out, Boston won the Lake Tahoe Outdoor game 7-3, winning both the money line and the puck line bets.
A Matter of Preference and How One Defines Value
Value is a word that has become so overused that it has lost a lot of meaning to gamblers. However, the importance of wagering value remains the essence of sports gambling. Overpaying for a loss is the biggest mistake a gambler can make and is often fateful to a gambling bankroll's long-term survivability.
On the other hand, there are few things worse for a sports bettor than to pick the right straight up side of a game but lose the pointspread. Ultimately this is the tradeoff that a gambler must make.
When you look at the NHL line, you'll have to determine what you can or cannot live with on the money line vs. puck line issue and bet accordingly.