The National Hockey League (NHL) produces tons of arbitrage opportunities each year while the ice hockey season is running.
31 teams participate in total, meaning lots of matches and lots of markets to bet on. However, ice hockey arbs are known for being somewhat complicated, largely due to the different rules that the bookies can adopt regarding overtime and shootouts.
We’ll cover that in more detail in a minute.
If you have stumbled across this page without any knowledge of sports arbitrage betting and surebets, I recommend that you read my introduction to the topic via the link below.
Brand New to Sports Arbitrage Betting?
Read my introduction to the world of arbitrage betting!
For those who understand the basics of sports arbitrage betting and are interested in adding hockey to their library of potential sports to arb, read on!
Ice Hockey Betting Markets
The following betting markets are commonly available for ice hockey:
- Money Line (1X2) - Bet on Team 1 to win, Team 2 to win or the draw. The simplest betting market.
- Handicap - Line betting where you bet on a team to win after an imaginary headstart is given to one side before the beginning of the match.
- Total score (over/under) - Bet on whether the total match score (combined from both teams) will be over or under a particular number).
Ice Hockey Betting Rules - Overtime and Shootouts
The main way beginners mess up their ice hockey arbs is by not confirming the overtime and shootout rules adopted by their bookmakers.
In ice hockey, if the total score is tied at full time, both teams play a 5 minute overtime period where the first team to score wins immediately.
If no one scores at all during the overtime period, a shootout is played to determine the winner. Each team gets 3 shots in the shootout. If the score is still tied, the shootout enters a sudden death phase (much like soccer).
Note that some exhibition and playoff matches do allow for draws, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
Now, the issue for arbitragers lies in the fact that bookmakers can adopt one of 3 different betting rule sets when it comes to ice hockey overtime and shootouts.
Click on each of the rules below to read more about them.
If the score is tied at full time, the match will be deemed a draw. All bets on a team to win the match will be considered a loss.
If the score is tied at the end of overtime, the match will be deemed a draw. All bets on a team to win the match will be considered a loss.
If overtime and shootouts are allowed in the match, there is no possibility of a draw.
The even more confusing part is that bookmakers use different rule sets for US and Canadian ice hockey compared to European and international ice hockey.
In the arbitrage example below, I will show you how these rule differences can catch you out.
Ice Hockey Arbitrage Betting Example
Imagine a hypothetical NHL match between the Canucks and the Rangers. Bet365, Coral and Pinnacle are offering Money Line markets for the match.
Fantastic, a 2.3% arb! You decide to quickly place your bets with each of the bookmakers, assuming total winnings of $500.
So it would appear that you are staking $488.51 to win $500; a guaranteed net profit of $11.49.
However, what happens if the scores are tied at full time, resulting in an overtime period? Say that the Canucks manage to win the match in overtime.
Well for NHL, Bet365 and Pinnacle do not include overtime and shootouts as part of their bets. They will consider the tied scores at full time as a draw, meaning that neither of them will pay out.
However, Coral does include overtime and shootouts as part of their bets, meaning that in their eyes, the Canucks won the match. As you backed the draw with Coral, they will not pay out.
Therefore, you have entirely lost your stake of $488.51 with nothing to show for it. This can be absolutely devastating for a new arbitrager with limited capital.
For this reason, I do not recommend engaging in ice hockey arbitrage betting until you have cut your teeth on the other more arbitrage friendly sports.
Want to know how to calculate the stakes in the table above?
Read my article on arbitrage betting calculations!
Ice hockey provides a large number of fairly profitable arbs, particularly while the NHL season is running.
However, it is not recommend for first time arbitragers as the potential for rules mismatch between bookmakers is very high, and can lead to your starting capital being heavily damaged.
For those that wish to arbitrage bet on ice hockey, I recommend that you keep a very close eye on the rules that the various bookmakers adopt.
Look up the rules for your preferred bookmakers, categorise them into one of the 3 rule sets that I outlined earlier and print off a cheat sheet for you to consult before placing any ice hockey bets.
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