If you've ever felt maybe, just maybe, that when it comes to picking a winner on any given night, hockey represents a tougher challenge than other pro sports, then you're not alone. Whether you're trying to beat the odds on a game, or simply trying to figure out which goalie to start, choosing correctly isn't easy, and it turns out there's evidence suggesting that hockey fans have it harder than most.
Beating the Odds
The famous (and infamous) Bob McCown of The Fan 590 and Roger's Sportsnet teamed up with David Naylor of the Globe and Mail a while back to produce McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments. When it comes to predicting the outcome of a hockey match, the long-time radio host, hockey's "odds are by far the worst on any board."
McCown explains that most sports offer a '10-cent line' which means that in order to win $100, a wager of $110 needs to be placed. Thus, "the bookmaker who collects one bet on the Maple Leafs and another on the Canadiens would take in $220 in total. He would then pay out $210 to the winner, leaving himself a profit of $10." And, "when betting with a 10-cent line a gambler must win 52.4 percent of his bets to break even. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually difficult to achieve." Anyone who follows this site likely understands the amount of work that goes into Dobber's seemingly humble and half-serious goal of being right at least 52 percent of the time.
Now here's the kicker. According to McCown, "in hockey…the bookmakers almost always post 20-cent, 30-cent or even 40-cent lines. With a 20-cent line, you've got to bet $120 to make $100…[and] in order to beat a 20-cent line you'd need to win 55 percent of the time. And with a 30-cent line, that rate grows to almost 57 percent. Anything higher than that and you're talking about lottery-type odds of taking home any money."
The reason for the stacked odds? McCown argues that "there's no real market for hockey betting, which is why the casinos aren't interested in doing the work necessary to produce a 10-cent line."
So betting on hockey while taking in the draft in Vegas doesn't sound like a solid retirement plan – it sounds a lot more like playing chicken with a Via train. That said, if you follow folks like DobberHockey's Marty Kwiaton, at least you're not alone. While I haven't met Marty yet, I picture anyone who publically makes these sorts of predictions week after week looking like a character who just walked off the set of Guy Ritchie movie. Fearless and kinda scary. And