NHL playoff betting requires mental toughness

August 25, 2020 12:02 AM

Playoff betting can really mess with your mind as a sports bettor. Take the series opener between the Vancouver Canucks and the Vegas Golden Knights. Oddsmakers set the game one moneyline odds at -170 and + 155 in favor of the Golden Knights. When I crafted my price for the game, there was no immediate edge. I estimated the Golden Knights would win the game about 61 percent of the time, which translated to a fair line of -155 in favor of the "home" team. However, as the drop of the puck approached, the betting market had shifted towards the favorite. Shortly before the game closed, the Canucks had reached + 170, and I found myself with a two percent edge and a bet on the underdog.

Now, make no mistake about it, this was a bet that I expected to lose about 39 percent of the time. I expected the Canucks to play like a + 155 underdog, though. What we saw was a team that played like a + 250 underdog and got the results they deserved based on the effort. The Golden Knights skated circles around the Canucks, owning over 70 percent of the expected goals according to Evolving Hockey. Heading into Game 2, it’s difficult to look at my projected game price and have the same confidence in it that I did prior to Game 1.

However, this is the same process that led me to price the Golden Knights as -350 series favorites against the Chicago Blackhawks after oddsmakers had opened the series at -230. It also led to a big series bet on the Canucks in their series vs. the St. Louis Blues who were priced as + 170 underdogs because I had estimated that their price ought to be closer to + 130. Therefore, if bookmakers are going to offer up the Canucks at an even bigger price (+ 180) in Game 2, I’m going to continue to have confidence in my process and back the underdog team from Vancouver again—whether I like it or not—at least for one more game.

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