If you live south of the Canadian border, you probably don’t pay a lot of attention to ongoing developments in the world of curling.
But every four years, there it is, in all its glory, on our TV screens. A man or woman grips the handle of the big, metallic puck — known as a rock — gets a running start, and crouches while he or she slides with it down the ice. The thrower eventually releases it, letting the sweepers go to work.
It’s fun to picture somebody with only a glancing familiarity with the sport living and dying with a sizable bet on one of the many curling matches soon to fill our screens live from the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“OK, let it go!”
“Not too much. … Easy, buddy! Yes, nice. … There we go.”
Bang, bang! The rock dislodges a couple of the opponents’ rocks, settles into the center circle, and a small hit of dopamine enters the bettor’s brain 7,000 miles away.
These are the kind of moments those who like to wager on the Winter Olympics will live for in the coming weeks. Opening ceremonies are Friday night and, if you were wondering, yes, you can bet on the Winter Olympics in many states and with many online sportsbooks. (Check here to see what the situation is in your locality.)
So for those who want to get in on the action while watching some skiing, hockey, curling, bobsledding, biathlon, skeleton, or any of the nine other sports at these Olympics, we offer this humble guide to smart betting on the competition:
Best Sports Bonuses in
Let’s talk about mixed-doubles curling
The sport was actually invented in Scotland, but the Canadians — who don’t lack for ice to practice on — have adopted it and have tended to dominate the medal stand every four years.
Probably the easiest way to get your curling groove on is to pick a team to win the gold medal. That way you don’t have to sweat out each individual match and can root for your squad as long as they last. Each team plays nine round-robin games, so you’re getting a lot of action for one bet.
Let’s start with mixed doubles, where the Canadians have a little company as the chalk.
Odds to win gold in curling mixed doubles (note: all odds courtesy of DraftKings):
Great Britain +230
The Brits are the reigning world champions, but they face a tough start against bronze medalists Sweden and then, 13 hours later, versus the co-favored Canadians. This also is the first time the British duo of Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat will be competing together in the Olympics.
Team Canada (Rachel Homan and John Morris) has won 45 of its last 49 games together, so they may be the smarter play if you like one of the favorites.
If you’re shopping for a better price, Switzerland has won seven gold medals in its last 14 entries in the world championships. If you’re feeling patriotic, sure, take a chance on Team USA or, if you think home ice means something, throw some money on China. Just know that this is a sport that tends to be dominated by a few national teams and those aren’t the ones.
All right, time to talk men’s hockey
Do you believe in miracles? Well, if you’re old enough to remember the “Miracle on Ice,” perhaps you’ll see lightning strike twice in your lifetime. The Team USA men’s hockey team, once again made up of mostly college players, is a heavy underdog to the Russians, who are filling their team with pros from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Note that the NHL barred its players from competing in China, so these games won’t have the name-brand appeal of previous Olympics.
Odds to win gold:
Russian Olympic Committee +160
Czech Republic +900
The ROC won gold at Pyeongchang in 2018 and heads back to East Asia with another loaded squad. The KHL is widely considered the second-best pro league in the world, and this Russian squad is big and physical and led by the likes of defenseman Slava Voynov and forward Mikhail Grigorenko.
If you’re rooting against the Russians, you’ll be heartened to know they’re in a tough group with the Czech Republic and Switzerland. But it would be stunning if these guys don’t at least qualify for the gold medal game.
Team USA opted for experience when it named 33-year-old Brian O’Neill to the team. O’Neill, a veteran of the 2018 Olympic Games, is taking a break from playing his sixth season in the Finnish professional league. The squad also has seven players with previous NHL experience in Nick Shore, Steven Kampfer, Aaron Ness, David Warsofsky, Kenny Agostino, Andy Mielse, and O’Neill, but the rest of the roster is made up of college players.
The fact that this team is better-positioned for a victory than that 1980 team tells you just how much of a miracle that actually was.
If you’re looking for value, don’t overlook the Swedes, who won gold at Albertville and Turin. They no longer can bank on greats like Henrik Lundqvist, but Oscar Lindberg, who plays for Dynamo Moscow in the KHL, will lead a dynamic young squad that could make some noise in Beijing.
Slide face-first down an icy track at 80 mph
Skeleton is the third and newest sliding sport at these Olympics. It looks terrifying. It will also make for fierce competition, as only six medals are up for grabs. Here are the top contestants on the men’s side:
Martins Dukurs, Latvia +200
Alex Jungk, Germany +500
Christopher Grotheer, Germany +500
Evgeni Rukosuev, ROC +600
Alexander Tretiakov, ROC +600
Vladisov Semenov, ROC +800
Alexander Gassner, Germany +800
It’s clearly Dukurs’ competition to lose. The six-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist has the most World Cup titles in skeleton history. His fellow competitors call him “Superman.” Sounds pretty hard to beat.
Grotheer is coming off a first-place finish at the 2021 World Championships, an event he also won the year before, so it’s easy to see why he’s viewed as a potential challenger.
On the women’s side, it looks like this:
Kimberley Bos, Netherlands +250
Tina Hermann, Germany +400
Janine Flock, Austria +450
Elena Nikitina, ROC +450
Valentina Margaglio, Italy +700
Yulia Kanakina, ROC +900
Kim Meylemans, Belgium +900
Great Britain dominated this event for a while, but the retirement of two-time defending champion Elizabeth Yarnold has opened things up considerably. The next great British hope is Laura Deas, but the bookmakers aren’t sold yet. They have her as a +5000 longshot to win gold.
Hermann is coming off the 2021 World Championship title, her third consecutive skeleton victory, so she might be a good hot-hand bet. Bos secured her favorite status by winning the inaugural overall World Cup, which she accomplished with a second-place finish in St. Moritz. Bos also won the European Championships, besting Flock by 0.74 seconds.