To those unfamiliar with the sport, curling comes across as one of the oddest games in the Winter Olympics. But “the roaring game” has become one of the more popular events to watch every four years, and the sheer number of matches means there’s both a lot of coverage and plenty of opportunities to place bets on curling in PyeongChang.
This time around, there will be three different curling events on the program. Men’s and women’s events return, which have been contested for medals at every Winter Olympics since 1998. This year also sees the introduction of the faster-paced mixed doubles format as a medal event.
If you’ve never seen curling before, it can look a bit confusing. The standard version of the game is played with teams of four players who work together to slide rocks down a 150-foot sheet of ice towards a 12-foot round target known as a “house.”
The teams alternate throws, with each player throwing two rocks (eight total per team). The 42-pound smooth granite boulders are given a rotation using a handle, causing them to “curl” down the ice. Two players sweep the ice to warm the pebbled surface, causing the rocks to slide further and affecting how much they curl. The fourth player stands at the far end of the sheet, determining strategy and directing the sweepers.
Once all rocks are thrown, the team with a rock closest to the middle of the house gets the points: one point for every rock closer than the best rock for the other team (similar to bocce). That constitutes a single “end” of play. Games at the Olympics are contested over 10 ends, after which the team with the most points wins.
The new mixed doubles format changes things up a bit. Just two players are on each team: one male, one female. The game starts with two rocks in play, and the teams only throw five shots each in an end. With fewer rocks and only eight ends of play, the game is faster, while other rule changes promote a more offensive-minded game.
Gambling Opportunities, TV Exposure
Each competition is a full round-robin, with the top four teams moving on to the medal rounds. That means plenty of opportunities for betting on either the overall gold medal winners or single matches. Individual game wagering can also include over/under totals and point spreads along with straight money line betting.
There are plenty of other explainers out there to help new fans or gamblers learn the game, including this two-minute video introduction to the sport developed by Curling Canada. Curling is a popular televised spectator sport in Canada – which helps explain why the Canadians are favorites to bring home gold in each of the three disciplines – but remains a niche sport elsewhere around the world.
That’s changing, though, as more countries pick up the game and television coverage of the sport expands in places like the United States and Europe. That makes the Olympics the perfect venue for exposing curling to a larger audience and potentially growing the sport further.
“Usually, hockey is the biggest sport among the ice sports,” Niklas Edin, the skip (or captain) of the men’s curling team for Sweden, told the Edmonton Sun. “But without the NHL players and with the hours curling will be on TV, this Olympics will give us a bigger opportunity to show what we can do as well.”