The NHL all-star break doesn’t just benefit the players.
It’s been nice to shut our handicapping brains off for a few days and just take a breather. As much as we love doing this, and as good as the season’s been so far to our pocketbooks, the 7-day-a-week commitment (we generally take Sundays off from posting to the site, but start capping Monday’s games on Sunday night) can become a grind.
A four-day break in the NHL schedule is also a great time to look back on the first half of the season, evaluate what has and hasn’t been working, make a few adjustments to the way you’re doing things, and so on.
In this “mid-season report”, we’ll tackle 4 different subjects: 1) How our experiment on posting leans on every game has worked out; 2) Why we play so many team totals and first period lines; 3) Why our Best Bet record is so inferior to our overall record; and 4) Ways you can support us to keep all our picks free.
1. Posting leans on every game is working out GREAT
Back in early November, we decided to “experiment” by posting breakdowns and leans on every game on the board.
The reasoning was pretty simple: It seemed like the best way to benefit everyone. Under the old format of selectively posting just 2-3 picks per day, we were frustrated by the days we would post a couple of losers but go 5-2 personally.
Still, we weren’t quite sure how it would go posting leans on EVERY game. One of the cardinal sins of sports betting is betting on too many games, and it seems virtually impossible to find an edge on every game on the betting board.
After 3 months of posting leans on every game, 6 days a week, the results have honestly blown us away.
All picks record
November: 92-69 (57%), +16.5 units
December: 92-86 (52%), +3.3 units
January: 90-64 (58%), +20.2 units
Overall: 270-215 (56%), +39.9 units
Is it possible to find an edge on every single game? No, we still don’t think so. We track the record of every lean for our own purposes as well as yours. But we don’t bet all of them, and we continue to recommend that you don’t either.
However, by betting on more than just the full game moneyline, Over/Under and puck line, we believe you can find edges on more games than you think.
That leads us into our next point.
2. Team Totals and First Period Betting have led to more than half our profit
Betting stats from November-January
Team Totals: 67-57 (54%), +5.3 units
First Periods: 46-34 (57.5%), +15.6 units
We recently got a DM from a well-respected handicapper, asking us why we had taken a couple of underdogs Over their team total that night, rather than playing the underdog on the moneyline at fatter odds.
His point was a very valid one: In a “3-2 league”, as he put it, if you score more than 2.5 goals, you stand a very good chance of winning the game. So playing the dog at +130 odds, instead of the Over 2.5 at -110, might make more sense.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you might be wondering the same thing. So here are 3 reasons we like to play team totals so much.
- They seem easier to predict.
It seems like there’s a lot more consistency with teams scoring or allowing over/under 2.5 goals over an extended stretch than to win or lose games. A lot of offence and defence is about confidence, and teams seem to be really streaky when it comes to scoring and preventing scoring – whether it’s forwards or goalies getting hot or cold.
- You can avoid Overtime and shootouts as much as possible.
Since almost all Team Totals are set at 2.5 goals, the only times we see those bets decided in overtime or a shootout are when the game is tied 2-2 after two periods. It’s virtually impossible to predict the outcomes of OT/shootouts (some teams are better than others each season, but there doesn’t seem to be a consistent correlation between how good a team is in regulation and how good they are in OT), and it can set you on tilt to lose your bet on an underdog in a shootout – especially when they happily skate off the ice with a single point in their pocket.
- You can avoid betting Over 5.5.
Like the handicapper who DM’d us said, the NHL is a 3-2 league. There’s a HUGE difference between betting Over 5 and Over 5.5, and we believe a big factor in our success this year has been avoiding betting Over 5.5 more than ever before. If you like the chances of both teams scoring goals tonight, it can make more sense to just bet one of them Over 2.5, especially if the odds are comparable. After all, in order for the game to get to 6 goals or more, 1 team’s definitely going to have to score 3 goals or more, and it’s quite possible you’ll need both teams to.
We’ve also turned to first period betting a lot, and that approach has actually been even more successful. Here are 3 reasons we love first period betting (you’ll noticed 2 of them are similar to the Team Totals reasons).
- First period lines are basically based on the full game line.
If a team is favoured to win the game, they’re almost definitely favoured on the first period moneyline. But there are a lot of team tendencies that the full game line doesn’t take into account, with one big one being fast or slow starters. The Penguins, for example, have actually been outscored in their first periods this season – yet they’re favoured to win almost every first period they play. The Maple Leafs have outscored their opponents 52-38 in the first period this year, yet were usually small favourites or even underdogs on first period lines in the first half. (You can find each team’s period-by-period stats here.)
- You don’t have to worry about your bet being decided in OT or a shootout.
Like we said earlier, OT and shootouts are practically impossible to handicap. But by just betting on the first period, you don’t have to worry about that. If you take a team on the first period moneyline and the score is tied after 1 period, you don’t have to sweat out 3-on-3 overtime or a shootout skills competition deciding your bet – you’ll just get your money back. Or you can shoot for the big score by taking the -0.5 on the puck line, which usually pays +150 odds or higher.
- You can avoid betting Over 5.5.
Again, there’s a massive difference between betting Over 5 and Over 5.5, with so many games finishing 4-1 or 3-2. But if all signs point to a high-scoring game, you can bet the first period Over instead, where you’ll need just 2 goals to cash your bet. And the Over 1.5 is almost always at plus money. A key is to find two teams that either score or allow a lot of goals in the first period (ideally both).
3. Our Best Bets have been surprisingly mediocre
It is baffling how our overall numbers are so strong, yet our Best Bets (the bet we feel the strongest about on a given day) have been so average.
Losing our last two Best Bets before the all-star break actually dropped us into the negative when it comes to profitability on those this year.
Best Bet stats
November: 8-12 (40%), -4.9 units
December: 13-6 (68%), +6.1 units
January: 8-10 (44%), -3 units
Overall: 29-28 (51%), -1.8 units
Here are 3 things to keep in mind about our Best Bets:
- It’s a small sample size.
Even at 57 plays, it’s pretty difficult to draw significant conclusions from a sample that small. If we were to win our next 5 Best Bets, for example, we’d be 34-28 (54.8%) for approximately +3 units of profit and those numbers would look a lot better. We still expect Best Bets to perform as well, if not better, than our other leans in the long term.
- They started slowly.
Our Best Bet record in November was 8-12 for nearly -5 units. Part of that may have been that there wasn’t as much data to draw on when making picks (teams had only played a handful of games by that point), but our overall record in November was good (57%, +16.5u) so that doesn’t make much sense. Another reason might be that we limited Best Bets to full game sides and totals until early December, when we started including Team Totals. Since the start of December, they’re 21-16 – so hopefully they’ll continue to turn around.
- Maybe we’re just not good at determining which bet is the best.
If anything, the fact that the bets we feel strongest about have done worse than our overall leans just reinforces the importance of wagering the same amount on every bet you make (otherwise known as flat betting). One thing we’ve always struggled to do is determine how much of an edge we have on a certain bet. Once you can confidently determine one pick has a much higher chance of winning than another, you can start varying your bet sizes accordingly (like the Kelly Criterion). But if you can’t do that with any certainty, we strongly recommend you bet the same amount per game.
We’ll continue to highlight a Best Bet, especially on days when there are 4 or more games and you might need some help narrowing down your betting card. But the numbers this year don’t indicate they have a greater chance of winning than any of our leans, so we suggest you consider any of the picks we post and just go with a few that you like the most.
4. How You Can Help Support Us
We are committed to offering daily picks and analysis absolutely free. But it is very time consuming and a business at the end of the day – it’s pretty much a second job.
If you’re benefiting from our advice and interested in helping us out you can do any of the following to say ‘thank you’ for the hours we put into this each week.
- Support our sponsors.
Ultimately it’s sportsbook referrals which pay our bills and enable us to put in the time on the daily tips. By joining any of our recommended NHL sportsbooks below you will be helping us out. We’ve bet at more online sportsbooks than we can count and we know which ones are the best.
Need help choosing or just have questions? Get in touch with us here.
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- Spread the word.
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That’s a wrap for the first half of the season, hopefully the second half is even better!
Jon and Derek