Puck Line in Hockey Betting: Definition, NHL Examples

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Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid

Jul 31, 2020, 10:06 AM EDT

When betting on a major sport, you’re typically presented with three standard betting options: the spread, the moneyline and the over/under.

Hockey is no different, although it is one of a few sports where betting the moneyline, as opposed to the spread, is the most common wager. You can still bet the spread in hockey, but it’s generally not referred to by that name.

Instead, it’s called the puck line.

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What Is the Puck Line in Hockey Betting?

The puck line is the term for the spread betting option in a hockey game. The puck line is -1.5 goals for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog in every game because hockey is so low scoring, with varying juice on each side depending on how even the teams are.

The favorite must win by two goals, and the underdog can either win or lose by one goal.

By betting the puck line, bettors can either take a favorite at an increased payout, or increase the likelihood of winning their underdog bet.

Take the following as an example from January 2020.

Team Moneyline Puck Line
Capitals -114 -1.5 (+185)
Flyers +104 +1.5 (-225)

The Capitals are favorites to win the game at -114 on the moneyline, meaning it would take a $114 bet to win $100. The +104 odds on the Flyers, on the other hand, indicate that a $100 bet would win $104. But with both prices fairly close to an even return, this game is seen as a near toss-up.

However, in the next column — the puck line column — you have the option to bet on whether the Capitals will win by more than one goal (or, on the other side, whether the Flyers will keep the score within a goal or win outright). And since a win by 2+ goals is obviously a more strict  than win, the Capitals puck line comes at a payout of +185 ($100 wins $185).

The Flyers puck line, meanwhile, is listed at -225 ($225 wins $100), as keeping the game within one goal greatly increases the chance of winning the bet.

Here’s another example from a game in January 2020.

Team Moneyline Puck Line
Jets +200 +1.5 (-115)
Bruins -240 -1.5 (-105)

In this case, the Bruins are heavily favored, as it would take a $240 bet to win $100 on the moneyline. By taking the puck line, though, Bruins bettors would have to risk only $105 to win $100; of course, they’d need Boston to win by two or more to cash that bet.

On the other hand, the Jets — as +200 underdogs — aren’t likely to win this game or even keep it close. The puck line offers Jets bettors a chance to increase their chance of winning the bet, though, as they can win $100 on a $115 bet if Winnipeg can keep the game within a goal.

Should You Bet Puck Lines or Moneylines?

As with most such questions, there isn’t an answer to this one that’s going to lead to any long-term profits on its own. However, there are some interesting figures that may be worth keeping in the back of your mind.

Here’s a comparison between all puck line and moneyline bets over the past 15 seasons (since 2005) in terms of their return on investment (ROI).

Team Moneyline Puck Line
Favorites -1.6% -2.8%
Underdogs -2.4% -1.8%

Obviously, none of the returns are positive, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given that it’s such a large sample. But interestingly, favorites and underdogs tend to perform inversely based on the bet type.

Favorites have lost less money as moneyline bets, whereas underdogs have performed better on the puck line — which may not be what you were expecting.

Since bettors tend to be attracted to greater payouts, you’d expect to see more puck line bets used on favorites and moneyline bets on underdogs. History, however, suggests that the opposite strategy may be slightly more optimal.

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