Juice is a sportsbook’s best friend.
We’re not talking about apple, orange or pineapple, either.
In sports betting, the juice is the tax you pay to place a wager. It serves as the built-in commission to give the house that precious edge over the customers. Standard juice is -110 or 10 percent. So a bet at -110 means you have to risk $11 to win $10 or $110 to win $100.
In a sport like hockey where there is no point spread, bookmakers will often shade their juice to account for recent performance or to slow an expected wave of money. The Boston Bruins’ first two games of the 2020-21 NHL season are the perfect example of how a sportsbook will adjust the juice to try and stay ahead.
Heading into the Bruins’ season opener against the New Jersey Devils, most sportsbooks opened the total for goals at 5.5o-20. The “o” stands for Over and the -20 means the bet is juiced at -120.
Still with me?
We talked at length about taking Under 5.5 at +100 in the opener. The two teams combined for just one goal in the first two periods, and even with a flurry of scoring in the third, Boston beat New Jersey 3-2 in overtime.
Under 5.5. Cha-ching.
Sportsbooks opened Saturday’s Bruins-Devils total at 5.5o-15, so they made an adjustment, albeit an extremely small one. It was another defensive slugfest, with two goals after two periods. New Jersey squeaked out a 2-1 win in overtime to split the season-opening series.
Guess what the sportsbooks did for Monday night’s game between the B’s and the New York Islanders? They completely flipped the script and are now taxing the Under. The total is currently 5.5u-125, and some books have 5.5u-130!
So you now have to risk as much as $130 to win $100 on the Under when you only had to risk $100 and $105 in the first two games. That’s quite the shift within a matter of days.
Jan. 14: Bruins-Devils 5.5o-120/u+100
Jan. 16: Bruins-Devils 5.5o-115/u-105
Jan. 18: Bruins-Islanders 5.5u-130/+110
“Boston is pretty disjointed on offense right now,” one Las Vegas bookmaker told NESN. “They’re missing (David) Pastrnak’s production and the power play has just been OK. We really respect both of their goalies, too. You could see those 5.5s turn into 5s if this keeps up.”
The books will continue to monitor the situation because they’re in the business of making money. If the B’s continue to play low-scoring games in the early going, those totals will drop to 5o-130 or so. Eventually, they’ll hit a stretch where the goals come from all directions. It’s inevitable. The guys behind the counter will make the necessary adjustments all along the way.
As for Bruins-Islanders, I have the slightest of leans to Under 5.5. But the Isles are still without goalie Semyon Varlamov, so rookie Ilya Sorokin gets the call between the pipes. Sorokin gave up five goals Saturday against the New York Rangers. I’ll also gladly pass on laying -130 juice on a hockey total. No thank you.
It’s hard enough to beat the house at -110.