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Golden rule on betting Knights and rest of NHL

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Do you like the Vegas Golden Knights to win it all?
© USA Today Sports Images

What’s the right way to bet the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup? Or any NHL team? The answer, plus an early market report for the greatest show on ice right now in VSiN City.

NHL: Rolling over “series” bets to maximize your Stanley Cup choice
Futures prices are still settling for the 16 teams about to go to battle in the 2018 National Hockey League Playoffs. There’s agreement on who the favorites are, though prices do vary from store to store. Some locations adjust numbers to defend their business against one-sided action. Others hope to increase traffic on a variety of teams so that the math works out in the big picture. 

Here are the Monday afternoon prices in Las Vegas at the Westgate and South Point…

Odds to Win Stanley Cup
Nashville: 4/1 at the Westgate, 4/1 at the South Point
Tampa Bay: 5/1 at the Westgate, 9/2 at the South Point
Pittsburgh: 6/1 at the Westgate, 6/1 at the South Point
Winnipeg: 8/1 at the Westgate, 10/1 at the South Point
Vegas Golden Knights: 10/1 at the Westgate, 6/1 at the South Point
Boston: 9/1 at the Westgate, 4/1 at the South Point

Those are the six main favorites, all priced at 10/1 or below at both locales. Postseason hockey can be greatly influenced by randomness, which means any of those six could catch some breaks and sweep their four series. Also, any could get knocked out early. Now, the more distant contenders…

Washington: 14/1 at the Westgate, 12/1 at the South Point
Toronto: 14/1 at the Westgate, 10/1 at the South Point
Anaheim: 16/1 at the Westgate, 18/1 at the South Point
Columbus: 20/1 at the Westgate, 25/1 at the South Point
Los Angeles: 20/1 at the Westgate, 15/1 at the South Point
San Jose: 20/1 at the Westgate, 20/1 at the South Point
Minnesota: 25/1 at the Westgate, 20/1 at the South Point
Colorado: 30/1 at the Westgate, 75/1 at the South Point
Philadelphia: 40/1 at the Westgate, 30/1 at the South Point
New Jersey: 40/1 at the Westgate, 50/1 at the South Point

You see some extremes in there…with New Jersey and Colorado both returning much more at the South Point. 

As we’ve talked about in the past, futures prices DON’T offer the most bang for your buck if you believe a team has a better shot to run the table than it’s being given credit for. You’ll score a superior return by betting your team to win each matchup as it comes along at the series prices…rolling over your investment each time

The Vegas Golden Knights provide a great example of this. VGK is currently -135 to win its first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. We don’t know what the later series prices will be. But we can show you the payoffs for various spots along the way. 

Let’s say that VGK catches some breaks, and turns out to be -135 in every series. Upsets take out those higher up in the West's regular season point totals, and a spoiler represents the East. Using a Parlay Calculator, you can see that a four-bet parlay consisting only of -135 prices would yield a return of 8.18 to 1. 

That’s already more than the South Point was returning as of Monday afternoon, and is just a shade under the Westgate payout. But the thing is…it’s EXTREMELY unlikely that Vegas will get that lucky. It’s assumed that VKG would be slightly less than its current price against the survivor of San Jose/Anaheim in the next round. Let’s look at a few different four-game scenarios based on that knowledge:

-135/-130/-110/-110: returns 10.22 to 1
-135/-130/-110/plus 130: returns 12.52 to 1
-135/-130/plus 130/plus 130: returns 15.29 to 1

If the Golden Knights are pick-em in the Western finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, they’d still return 10.22 to 1. If VGK is an underdog in just one of those (say to Nashville, or Tampa Bay), the return jumps to 12.52 to 1. If there aren’t upsets elsewhere in the brackets to help out VKG, being an underdog of plus 130 twice kicks the return up to 15.29 to 1. And it’s certainly possible that an opponent like Nashville and the Eastern survivor will be playing so well that VGK will be bigger than a plus 130 dog in both of those spots.

How do you do this in real-world betting? Very simple. Whatever your planned stake was for the futures bet…take that and bet it on your team to win its first series. Let’s say it’s just a $10 bet because you want to root for VKG as a fan. Instead of choosing between $10 to win $60 at the South Point, or $10 to win $100 at the Westgate…you find the best return on the first round series price. Let’s say it’s -135. Your $10 bet would win 7.41. When the clerk pays gives you $17.41 (your stake plus your profit), put all of that on VKG in the second round. Do the same thing in the Western finals and league championships…and the return on your initial $10 out of pocket will finish in the areas outlined. If VKG gets eliminated, you’re out the same $10 you would have been on the futures bet. 

Same risk better return. 

NHL Playoffs: First-Round Series and Game 1 Prices
There’s a belief in some circles that playoff lines for the full series will often be the same as the line in the opening game. There are ranges where that’s generally true in the NHL and NBA. But the more one-sided series is expected to be…the more that couldn’t possibly be true. Let’s run the Eastern numbers and you’ll see how that works out. 

Eastern Conference
New Jersey at Tampa Bay: TB -340 in the series, -230 in G1
Toronto at Boston: Boston -150 in the series, -155 in G1
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh -250 in the series, -185 in G1
Columbus at Washington: Washington -130 in the series, -145 in G1

A dominant team playing a borderline entry will be priced as a big favorite in Game 1 …but is an even BIGGER favorite to get to four wins first. Those advantages pile up in a series. So, Tampa Bay is-230 to win the opener against New Jersey, but -340 to win the full best-of seven. Similar story on a slightly smaller scale with the Penguins over the Flyers. 

Western Conference
Los Angeles at VGK: VKG -135 in the series, -135 in G1
San Jose at Anaheim: Anaheim -125 in the series, -150 in G1
Colorado at Nashville: Nashville -600 in the series, -260 in G1
Minnesota at Winnipeg: Winnipeg -240 in the series, -170 in G1

Only the Golden Knights had the same Game 1 and series price as of late Monday afternoon. You can see that bigger favorites Winnipeg and Nashville are more prohibitive favorites to advance than they are to win their openers. 

We hope you caught Andy MacNeil (@pucktails) on “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander Monday morning. You can watch the replay by clicking here. A lot of hockey talk on the Monday show! Here are Andy’s “no juice” prices for each series based on his methodology.

Nashville -332 over Colorado (well below high market price)
Tampa Bay -260 over New Jersey
Pittsburgh -198 over Philadelphia
Winnipeg -169 over Minnesota (below high market price)
Boston -163 over Toronto
Vegas Golden Knights -131 over Los Angeles
Columbus -115 over Washington (underdog with 53.4% win probability)
San Jose -114 over Anaheim (underdog with 53.2% win probability)

The playoffs start Wednesday night. We’ll have our first batch of boxscore reviews Thursday morning here in VSiN City. 

NBA Monday: OKC clinches playoff bid as Miami tries to finish seventh in East, plus stats from Denver’s must-win effort vs. Portland
At first glance, it looked like we might have a very interesting Monday night matchup featuring Oklahoma City at Miami. OKC still hadn’t locked up a playoff spot yet (though was a prohibitive favorite to do so in short order). Miami was safely in, but the lower part of the Eastern brackets were still very much in limbo entering the evening.

Unfortunately, Miami decided it had better LOSE to give itself the best shot of finishing as the #7 seed lined up against shorthanded #2 Boston. That led to a 39-12 fourth quarter debacle in favor of the Thunder. Hey NBA, how about an integrity fee for THAT?! No reason to run boxscore stats from that kind of game. 

Portland and Denver were paired up in a game that mattered to both teams. Let’s run those numbers…

Denver (-4.5) 88, Portland 82
2-point Pct: Portland 39%, Denver 44%
3-pointers: Portland 7/33, Denver 6/26
Free Throws: Portland 13/18, Denver 20/26
Rebounds: Portland 57, Denver 52
Turnovers: Portland 16, Denver 12
Pace: 95.5 (slow)

That was a defensive struggle. Playoff basketball! Denver needed to win to maintain a shot to crack the brackets. Portland is trying to lock down the third seed so Utah doesn’t swipe it. Intensity from both, particularly on the defensive end. Portland led a grinder 48-42 at the half, but only scored 33 points after that (just 13 in the fourth quarter). 

The game stayed Under by 51 points! Remember this when the playoffs start this weekend. Not that every game is going to stay Under by a mile. But that we’re going to see more intense defense once everyone’s playing for real again…and paces that may cluster below the regular season average. Three-point shooting will blow hot and cold (like this one). Effort is much less likely to. 

Denver will be in the 2018 playoffs if it can beat Minnesota heads up in Wednesday’s season finale. Portland will face Utah that night to see who finishes #3 and #4. That could be important if Steph Curry can’t make it back for #2 seed Golden State by the second round. 

Let’s take a quick peek at the playoff races with two days left…

Eastern Conference
1…Toronto 
2…Boston 
3…Philadelphia has a half-game lead on Cleveland
4…Cleveland will finish no worse than fourth
5…Indiana 
6…Milwaukee has a half-game lead on Miami
7…Miami has a half-game lead on Washington
8…Washington is safely in the playoffs

Toronto, Boston, and Indiana are locked into their spots. Philadelphia plays a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday at Atlanta, then at home against Milwaukee. Not going to worry about the musical chairs down at the bottom. Those last three all want to face Boston. Only one will. 

Western Conference
1…Houston 
2…Golden State 
3…Portland 
4…Utah is a half-game behind Portland, ahead of San Antonio
5…San Antonio (tie-breaker over OKC with same record) 
6…Oklahoma City (clinched playoff spot in Miami)
7…New Orleans
8…Minnesota (must beat #9 Denver Wednesday)

The Western brackets are certain to be loaded pending the final details. The 3-6 and 4-5 matchups will be wars.

More on how to find betting value in the first round later in the week. 

MLB Monday: Hello Halos! LA Angels move to 8-3 with 8-3 win at Texas 
We’ve been devoting the bulk of our early baseball coverage to “The Magnificent Seven” teams that were projected to win at least 90 games in Regular Season Win totals. The Los Angeles Angels have been crashing headlines thanks to Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. Monday night, the Halos crushed Texas without him to move to 8-3 in the AL West standings, 4-1 on the road. 

LA Angels (-135) 8, Texas 3
Total Bases Plus Walks: Los Angeles 19, Texas 18
Starting Pitchers: Richard 4.1 IP, 1 ER, Fister 5 IP, 3 ER
Bullpens: Los Angeles 4.2 IP, 2 ER, Texas 4 IP, 4 ER

Not nearly the blowout that the scoreboard suggested. Timeliness was everything here. Both offenses had one double and one solo homer. Both left eight runners on base. Texas was just 1 of 11 with runners in scoring position, while the Angels were 4 of 15. LA did pick up an unearned run.

There’s room for the LA Angels to post a big record in the AL West (even with 9-2 Houston) if Texas, Oakland, and Seattle aren’t going to amount to much. Texas fell to 4-8 with this loss. Oakland is 4-7. Seattle is right at .500 after losing 10-0 at Kansas City Monday night. Definitely a team to keep an eye on for fans and bettors. 

Also knocking on the door to create a “Great Eight” or a “Newsworthy Nine” are the New York Mets at 8-1. They won at Miami 4-2 Monday evening. 

NY Mets (-235) 4, Miami 2
Total Bases Plus Walks: New York 12, Miami 14
Starting Pitchers: Syndegaard 6 IP, 1 ER, Urena 5 IP, 3 ER
Bullpens: New York 3 IP, 0 ER, Miami 4 IP, 0 ER

Good result considering the Mets had to travel after winning an extra-inning game Sunday night at NL East power Washington. New York stays 3.5 games ahead of Washington (5-5) who shut out Atlanta Monday. Miami won the “football score” from offensive bases, but the Mets got more to cross the plate. 

New York has won six straight, winning scoreboard 27-13. Miami is 1-5 its last six games, getting outscored 43-14.

The key for the Mets is always pitching health. So far, so good for the four men who have made starts through nine games. 

Mets Starting Pitchers
deGrom: 1.03 WHIP, 12 K’s, 4 BB (2 starts)
Syndegaard: 1.19 WHIP, 22 K’s, 4 BB (3 starts)
Harvey: 1.20 WHIP, 7 K’s, 2 BB (2 starts)
Matz: 1.33 WHIP, 12 K’s 5 BB (2 starts)

Matz isn’t necessarily missing bats, and Harvey isn’t the strikeout machine he used to be. Those are red flags that should warn against too much enthusiasm. That said, sweeping a huge weekend series at Washington and then surviving the jet-lag letdown spot speaks very well for the team’s mindset out of the gate. 

See you again Wednesday morning for more NHL, NBA, and MLB talk.

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