Wagering on sports is, for the most part, not known to be a profitable pastime for NHL bettors. It is generally believed that the house always has an edge, and even if a punter wins often, they are unlikely to make money in the long run. Although this is certainly the case for most ordinary punters, there are individuals who have managed to beat the sportsbooks and who continue doing so on a regular basis. In fact, these bettors regularly profit from the bets they place, and they are so successful that they make enough money to consider wagering on the NHL a proper second job. The bettors in question are known as professional punters, and one of the best strategies they make use of is known as value betting.
Value betting is centered around the expected value of a wager’s odds and whether it is positive or negative. When you wager in such a way, winning individual bets becomes a secondary concern, as it is the odds and their value that truly matter and dictate which bets are worth placing and which ones must be avoided.
How NHL Value Betting Works
Ultimately, the main goal of value betting is to ensure a profit in the long run, which is done by placing bets on odds that have positive expected value. Expected value, or EV, is how much a bettor is to win from the bet in question on average, and positive EV opportunities appear thanks to bookies assigning overpriced odds to markets. The actual probability of such events is higher than what the bookmaker suggests, giving you an edge.
Apart from positive value, there is also negative value, which is typical of the bets offered at conventional sportsbooks and something professional bettors try to steer clear of. Negative value suggests that, more often than not, the wager will result in a long-term loss of money.
Negative Expected Value
As always, gaining a better understanding of how math shapes NHL betting is best done when you can observe the process in and of itself. This is why we will first focus on negative EV, and we will examine a matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers.
- Carolina Hurricanes: 1.63
- New York Rangers: 2.30
Let us say we have decided we wish to wager $10 on the Hurricanes. In order to find the expected value, we will first need to see how much money we could win, i.e., our profit:
- Profit = (stake x decimal odds) – stake
- Profit = (10 x 1.63) – 10 = $6.3
Next, we need to find the real probability of this bet, which will also show us the chances of the outcome not occurring. The easiest way to do this without access to value betting software is by calculating the implied probability of the same bet on a sharp sports betting website.
The odds offered by soft bookmakers are never truly fair since the bookies also account for the vigorish, which is why we need the odds from a bookie that caters to professionals. In this particular case, we will use the odds of a fictional sharp sportsbook for simplicity, so let us say the true odds here are 1.8. This leads us to the following result:
- Probability of winning = 100/decimal odds
- Probability of winning = 100/1.8 = 56% (44% probability of losing)
Now, we have successfully converted the fair odds into probability. With this done, we can continue and use the formula that will give us the expected value and, thus, show us if this bet is worth placing or not:
- Expected value = (Amount won per bet x probability of winning) – (Amount lost per bet x probability of losing)
- Expected value = (6.3 x 0.56) – (10 x 0.44) = 3.528 – 4.4 = – 0.872
As established, EV is more or less what we will win over the course of placing many bets on this event. Here, we can see that the value is negative, which means that we will lose money in the long run. Since the goal of value betting is to find wagers with positive value, this means that the bet in question must not be placed.
Most sportsbook odds are like this, and it is largely due to the fact that the sportsbook accounts for its juice when it determines the odds. To take things a step further, you can find a sportsbook’s exact overround by combining the implied probability of both outcomes of a bet, and we will once again use the above example bets:
- Vigorish = (bet 1 implied probability + bet 2 implied probability) – 100
- Vigorish = (61 + 42) – 100 = 103 – 100 = 3%
This is the sportsbook’s so-called vigorish, that is, the percentage it stands to win regardless of which outcome occurs, provided the bets of a selection are spread more or less equally in terms of engagement. What all of this means is that if you do not account for a bet’s value, you will, on average, lose money by betting, even if you manage to win your bets fairly often. The odds in such situations are, quite literally, stacked against you.
Positive Expected Value
Thankfully, sportsbooks make mistakes sometimes and offer overpriced odds for an event. This can happen either due to a sportsbook’s slowness in updating its odds, its effort to ensure even action between the outcomes, and the like. Regardless, this presents you with an opportunity to make a bet in a situation where you are the one with the edge over the bookmaker.
There are a couple of things that characterize a value bet, the first of which is that it has a higher real probability than what is suggested in a sportsbook. Its expected value must be positive, and we will now use a coin toss bet to demonstrate how a value bet is formed.
The actual probability of a coin toss will always be 50% for either outcome unless foul play is involved, which means that if this bet were offered somewhere, the real odds would be 2.00. Now, let us imagine that, for one reason or another, a bookie has decided to give us odds of 2.5 on heads as opposed to 1.7, which would be a more realistic offer that includes the vigorish. Maybe it was due to an unbalanced market, but regardless of the cause, the implied probability of the 2.5 bet is 45%, 5% less than the actual chances of this outcome occurring. This 5% is our own edge.
To be sure, we can calculate the EV and see how much we could win in the long run if we were to wager $10. Keep in mind that here, we are again using what we believe is the real probability of the outcome:
- Expected value = (Amount won per bet x probability of winning) – (Amount lost per bet x probability of losing)
- Expected value = (12 x 0.5) – (10 x 0.5) = 6 – 5 = 1
The expected value is positive, i.e., value that exceeds 0, and this is what we are looking for. The bet on odds of 2.5 is, therefore, perfect for a value bettor looking to profit long-term.
How to Find the Real Probability of an Outcome
- There are several ways of approaching real probability, and as we have established above, one of them involves using the odds of a sharp sportsbook. It is one of the easiest and fastest ways to determine true probability. This is a sound strategy, and it is, typically, a very reliable way to check if the odds offered at a conventional sportsbook are accurate enough to not offer value or if there is a value betting opportunity.
- The other method you could go for is determining probability based on your analysis of statistics pertaining to a match. Information such as recent team performances, team and player trends, who the starting goaltenders will be, player injuries, and pretty much anything useful which can give you an accurate estimation of an outcome’s probability. This is called creating a bet tissue, and it is all easier said than done, of course. Especially with hockey being as volatile as it is. In fact, this is the most difficult and time-consuming technique of them all, but it is nonetheless a valid option for those who have the expertise and time necessary.
- The last, and by far, the easiest method of finding value bets is letting software do all the work for you. Value betting programs essentially scan information from a vast number of sportsbooks and then determine which ones are offering bets that have positive value. They can save you hours of work, not to mention many of them will keep a log of your wagers, which is of great help in keeping things organized and betting responsibly.The one downside of this method is that it requires money, at least if you wish to make use of the best pieces of software there are. Moreover, the sheer number of people these free programs can be accessed by means that the bets they offer will often become suspicious in the eyes of sportsbooks. Attracting the attention of bookies is the last thing you wish to do as a skilled punter, so it is overall better to stick to paid value betting software.
Soft and Sharp Sportsbooks
Typically, choosing the one online bookmaker they will wager on is not exactly easy for recreational bettors. There are dozens of options, and there are many things that should be considered, such as how convenient the UI is for you, the quality of the odds on offer, and so on. The choice can be difficult when you know you will mainly stick to the bookie in question.
Things are different with value bettors, seeing as you need to create accounts at many sportsbooks if you wish to be successful. In a way, it is a bit easier since you will not be stuck at just one bookmaker. On the other hand, you still need to be careful with your choice and go for reputable bookies.
As a value bettor, you must also be familiar with the different types of bookies you will need to use. There are two major categories, the first of which is the soft bookmaker, which is the more prevalent of the two, while the second type is the sharp sportsbook, which caters to professionals.
Soft sportsbooks are something any NHL punter has come across because the vast majority of online and even brick-and-mortar bookmakers belong to this category. These bookies’ primary goal is to cater to recreational punters who wager for fun, and thus everything from the promotions they offer to the odds of their markets is made with the recreational bettor in mind.
Although these sportsbooks do make an effort to offer accurate odds, the vigorish, the biases of the punters, and the action between the options of each bet are all of greater concern. It is also common for these bookmakers to be relatively slow with updating their odds based on new info, at least when it comes to pre-match betting. All of this is why value bet opportunities are plentiful at ordinary bookmakers. Sadly, however, these bookies are not fond of sharp punters in the slightest. Limiting the accounts of professionals is common practice when they manage to catch someone who is arbing or value betting, which is why being careful is a must.
Sharps bookmakers are the very opposite of ordinary bookies. For one, they welcome professionals, and you will not be punished for arbing or placing large stakes. What is more, most of these websites themselves promote these practices, and some even provide betting calculators on their websites. They are incredibly fast yet meticulous when they adjust their odds, and said odds typically reflect the actual probability of an outcome.
Value betting opportunities appear at sharp bookies too, but they are rare compared to what you can find at soft bookies, and, usually, it will take a lot of effort on your part to find them. On the other hand, trying to value bet at a professional bookmaker once you are more experienced does have its benefits, as you will be able to wager large sums without worrying about account limitation. There is also a branch of sharp sportsbooks called betting exchanges, which are unique since they allow punters to take on the bookmaker role and lay bets.
Value Betting During Live Matches
Value betting opportunities are already plentiful when it comes to pregame markets, but the abundance of value offers is even more impressive if we take a look at the odds offered during in-play.
It is a bit difficult to take advantage of value opportunities while an NHL game is underway. The odds move fast, so much so that you might not always be able to place your desired bet on time before the opportunity disappears completely. Something else that makes this betting environment riskier is the fact that you are more prone to making mistakes when you are in a hurry.
Nonetheless, none of this erases the fact that the sheer number of value bets that pop up during in-play is quite impressive and can make for a very lucrative wagering session. All in all, if you are up for the challenge, value betting live NHL bets can be very rewarding.
How To Prevent Account Limitation
As any experienced skilled punter will tell you, getting one’s accounts gubbed can be the most frustrating aspect of value betting and professional wagering as a whole. Thankfully, you can avoid it and use your bookmaker accounts for quite some time if you are mindful of what you should avoid.
- First and foremost, you will need to get used to the idea of mug betting. Mug bets are the types of bets associated with recreational punters. As you know, unlike professionals, recreational bettors rarely wager based on the value of the bets or some sort of mathematical advantage, like in arbing. You will typically lose your stakes when you make such bets, but generally, you should be treating such bets as investments that help protect your overall account balance.
- The first such bet type is the accumulator. These bets are the very opposite of what an average skilled punter would wish to wager. They are very fun to place, but that comes at the cost of the vigorish being quite large. Furthermore, these bets carry far more risk than usual since you are wagering on multiple outcomes and banking on all of them coming true without fail. If just one does not win, then the entire parlay is considered a loss. All of this, however, makes them perfect for disguising yourself as the very recreational punter these bets are aimed at.
- You can also start following one NHL team and make a point to wager on these players somewhat often. This is also typical of ordinary punters, and bookies are unlikely to limit your account if they notice you have a “favorite team”.
- It is also important for you to be careful with the amount of money you wager, both when you do so professionally or when you are mug betting. The occasional large bet is acceptable, but in general, you should try to stick to modest sums of money to avoid raising suspicion. Large wagers and frequent withdrawals can be a sign of a sharp punter, after all. Instead, opt for small-stake bets and place many of them to reach your desired profit goal. If you also place a few mug bets here and there, you will be very difficult to detect.
- Avoid decimal numbers when it comes to the size of your stakes. Bets the likes of $9.45 or $3.27 are bizarre and very unlikely to be placed by a recreational bettor. Instead, whole number sums such as $5, $10, $50, and the like are far more common due to convenience. Strange stakes are a hallmark of professionals, so this is, once again, something you will need to avoid.
- Last but not least, make sports betting accounts at as many bookies as possible. If this is an option for you, utilize betting exchanges, too. The more bookies you can choose from, the merrier. Value betting opportunities can appear across the entire scope of online bookies, and, most importantly, this will mean that a few gubbed accounts will not affect you too negatively. Do not go overboard, of course, but it is good to strive for having as many accounts as you can reasonably manage.
The Pros and Cons of Value Betting
Like all betting strategies, value betting has its pros and cons, and they are all quite significant. It is a sound technique that can be of great use to skilled punters, but there are things you should take note of before you try it out so that you can avoid any potential setbacks.
Benefits of Value Betting
It bears emphasizing that the first and most crucial aspect of value betting is the fact that it makes it possible for bettors to earn money from wagering on NHL matches. Strategies that can help you achieve this are few and far between, which makes value betting quite special.
It even offers the perk of your individual bets only requiring you to place a bet at just one sportsbook, as opposed to needing a second bookie or a betting exchange to lay the bet. This more streamlined approach makes it more beginner-friendly than arbitrage betting and matched wagering.
You could also take advantage of value betting in the long run. So long as you are careful enough, you can avoid account limitations for the most part and continue value betting for quite a while. Moreover, value betting is not reliant on the availability of promotions, and it can be done at ordinary bookies as well as sharp bookmakers and betting exchanges.
Lastly, value betting is not too difficult once you manage to get the hang of it, at least if you opt for utilizing value betting software. It does take some getting used to, seeing as the main goal of value betting is often difficult for many punters to wrap their head around, but with time it can become second nature for you to look for and prioritize value when you place NHL bets. As mentioned above, it is also a bit more straightforward to work with than other betting techniques.
Drawbacks and Risks
Despite its upsides, value betting is not an absolutely flawless strategy. If your main goal is to turn value betting into a proper side hustle, you will need to invest a fairly substantial amount of time in placing bets.
The profit margins with value betting can be pretty small at conventional bookies since you need to avoid raising suspicion, which entails that lots of small bets will need to be placed on a daily basis. Value betting at sharp bookmakers is an alternative that will allow you to make far larger bets, but this will also up the difficulty quite a lot. In general, gaining an edge over a bookmaker that caters to professionals will require expert knowledge of the NHL on your part.
As suggested, sticking to ordinary bookies will mean that gubbing is a constant risk. You can do a lot to mitigate it, of course, but that adds to the number of things you need to micromanage as you are wagering. In addition, you will also need to invest in recreational bets so as to avoid getting caught.
Speaking of extra expenses, one of the fastest and most efficient ways to value bet by far is through the usage of value betting software, but it will come at a cost. The free solutions are not all that desirable and somewhat put you at risk since the amount of traction they invite towards specific bets can make sportsbooks suspicious. Therefore, good value betting software is something you will likely need to invest in.
For the most part, value betting is one of the best ways to see what the world of professional sports betting has to offer. If you are confident in both your experience and your reflexes, you can even try this strategy out during a live NHL match. Value opportunities are plentiful and quick to appear and disappear in such situations, so it will be a challenge but, hopefully, rewarding one.
Apart from knowing how to look for value bets efficiently and care to hide your status as a skilled punter, you should also remember that some standard sports betting considerations should also apply here. Namely, it is imperative that you remember to manage your bankroll well too. If you are not careful and disciplined with the way you use your money, it can spell trouble for you no matter how good a potential strategy can be for your success as an NHL punter.