NHL Launch (2/13/12)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, February 13 at 11:00 PM ET

Today's blog will introduce our free hockey analysis and discuss wagering strategies for daily sports like baseball and hockey where money-lines (straight-up with a price) are the predominant focus.

NHL Picks
Daily money-line, over/under and puck-line (+/- 1.5 goal spreads) predictions for every regular season game is now available for free to all by subscribing for free in the shop. For this season, while we will be tracking and maintaining performance records from our published picks on a daily basis, hockey will not be incorporated into the Play Analyzer, TrendFinder database or Team/League Schedules. Baseball, which will launch its second full season in late March, will be the first money-line, daily sport that is included in these applications. NHL picks and predictions will be available every day two hours before for the first puck drops or 4:00 PM ET, whichever comes first, and can be found on the The Predictalator - Game Picks page and in the Customizable Predictalator. To know exactly when picks are published/available each day, please sign up for the NHL Pick Availability Alerts.

Unlike with football and basketball pick information, but like baseball, hockey wagering does not assume -110 odds on both sides of a wager. Instead, each picks table is ordered by value (best value to least). In this case, the normal Play Value Key percentages (i.e. 53% is "weak" and 57% is "normal") are not applicable. Since odds are typically not -110 for any hockey wager, value is dictated by the relative difference between our confidence in something occurring and the confidence that is necessary to justify playing it - as dictated by the expected profitability of a positive occurrence at the stated payout.

For instance, technically, 52.38% confidence is required to justify either side of a standard -110 wager. Because a loss costs ten percent more than a wager wins, winning 52.38% of the time or 100/(100+110), is necessary to be profitable. In hockey, where the main option for a game may be Ottawa +105 or Tampa Bay -125, 55.6% confidence, or 125/(100+125), is required to justify wagering on Tampa Bay because that is the accuracy rate necessary to be profitable on all -125 wagers. For Ottawa in that example, since five percent MORE is paid out in a win than is lost in a loss (i.e. Ottawa is an underdog), only 48.8% confidence, or 100/(100+105), is necessary to justify the play. The greater the relative difference between our confidence and confidence necessary, the greater the value. Utilizing the "Calc" feature next to each pick will populate the confidence and odds from the information into the Play Value Calculator. Adding the "Normal Play" (1-3% of bankroll depending on risk aversion) will calculate optimal play values from this analysis. To evaluate different odds, the Play Value Calculator and Customizable Predictalator allow for modifications of these numbers.

By far the most important thing to understand about this is that, oftentimes (and, in testing, more often than not - especially with puck-lines), the side with more value is not more than 50% likely to win. Because of this, far more so than with all other sports (besides baseball), a long-term approach is necessary for evaluating the performance of investing in NHL analysis. We may love the value in a couple of underdogs, but that does not mean we expect them to win. It just means that, over the course of time, that type of underdog will win enough to be profitable. This also means that there can be significant day-to-day volatility - even beyond what is seen elsewhere (fortunately, it's free to all). Furthermore, sometimes, the smart play may be 70%+ likely, yet not provide enough value to qualify as anything greater than "weak." And sometimes, because the books attempt to weight everything in their favor, neither side has value. All of this is indicated by the color-coded picks tables.

Testing over the last few months has produced results similar to what we ultimately saw in baseball. Money-line plays rarely provide much value and have barely been profitable in tests. Over/under plays can often be strong and have provided the highest overall profitability (though are not likely to reach the peak days of ML and PL plays). They will also typically be more consistent. Puck-line (whether the favorite will win by more than one goal or if the underdog will win or lose by just one goal) plays typically provide more value than money-lines and have generated higher profitability, yet, by nature (because sometimes we are laying -300 and sometimes we may only have 35% confidence in a play that generates as "normal" or better), are significantly more volatile.

One strategy that showed some success and generated an appropriate amount of daily plays (3-7) on a daily basis for baseball was to play games that warranted "half-bets" - where the recommendation for the Play Value was 25 or greater for a normal play of 50. In testing, while this strategy showed some promise, this has generated a few more plays on a daily basis than in baseball, which suggests that a higher threshold be used. That being said, as with all of our trials - and actually given the the way that markets evolve, at all times in all sports - we are all constantly learning more about the effective use of this information.

Personally, I am more excited for and intrigued by this approach to sports investing because I have absolutely no personal bias or preconceived notions regarding the NHL. I grew up with season tickets to Wisconsin hockey games, yet have never followed the sport professionally - other than as a vehicle for finding value and inefficiencies in its market. I have a feeling that I'm not the only one following our numbers that is in this position. Bias does not show up in the numbers for any of our other sports, but it's impossible to avoid a personal reaction to the picks for sports that I follow so closely and know so well (i.e. in the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Giants and Packers, I was rooting for the window where we could win New York +7.5 and still get a win out of Green Bay). In hockey, it's just the numbers. I think that actually makes it more fun and more intriguing. Given that, it's pretty cool that DirecTV is running its free trial of Center Ice this week (2/13-2/19, Channels 769-787) so that I/we can catch all of these games this week for free (as with the other packages, I'll probably get this one when it is complete, but that's just so I can follow along and speak confidently about the sport when we start looking at Stanley Cup projections).

As usual, if you have any of your own comments about this article or suggestions about how to improve the site, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We respond to every support contact as quickly as we can (usually within a few hours) and are very amenable to suggestions. I firmly believe that open communication with our customers and user feedback is the best way for us to grow and provide the types of products that will maximize the experience for all. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, comments and questions.