NFL Teaser Betting Strategy
Back in September 2006, a poker player known as Daliman introduced the sports betting public to basic strategy for betting NFL football teasers. The concept he brought to forums was not new. In fact, he disclosed in his first post he read about this strategy in a book published in 2001, Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong. In tribute to the author he called these "wong teasers". Amazingly so, he introduced these teasers to poker forums at the start of a season where they won at an ungodly clip and many talented gamblers literally bankrupted sports bookies that year.
The fact is, while Basic Strategy Teasers are still one of the best blind bets in NFL football, 2006 was just an amazing year. It was the height of the poker boom (UIGEA didn't go into effect until the season was about over) and with these running so well that year, many in poker started betting sports. Likewise, the name wong teasers stuck. Considering the best known writer behind the Stanford Wong penname didn't write the teaser chapter of Sharp Sports Betting, and the man that did was just sharing a strategy that had been around since at least the 1980's, in this article I'll refer to wong teasers by their original name "Basic Strategy Teasers".
What you're about to read is a comprehensive article that covers teaser betting strategy in great depth. No matter if you're a season gambling professional, or someone just starting out, learning the information in this article is near certain to lead to additional profits betting NFL football both this season and all future seasons to come. Although this article is long I encourage you to bookmark, read it and return in future seasons for updated information.
What is a Teaser?
In case you're not aware a teaser bet is a parlay that uses a modified point spread. For reason that you're given a better point spread than the board is offering these pay less than a parlay.
To explain, let's say in a given week there are two bets you're interested in making: Jets -8.5 -110 and Saints +3.5 -110. Your options are to bet them each straight risking $1.10 for each $1.00 of potential win (-110), to bet them together in a parlay risking $1.00 for each $2.65 you want to win (+265) in which case BOTH teams must cover or your bet is a loss, or bet these together in a teaser. For a teaser let's say we do the industry standard 2-team 6-point teaser at -110 odds. This would give us Jets -2.5 / Saints +9.5 as a single bet risk $1.10 for each $1.00 of potential win (-110).
As you can see from the above example, a 2-team 6-point teaser moves the point spread of each selection 6-points in our favor. Had we not moved the points the wager would have been a parlay with +265 odds, but for reason our bet is now much easier to win (due to a 6-point move on each selection) we're getting -110 odds.
Teaser Odds Vary
For football betting, teasers are available in all different shapes and sizes with the odds varying between betting sites, bookies and sportsbooks. For 2-teamers you can generally do 6-point teasers at -110, 6.5-point teasers at -120, 7-point teasers at -130 and at some sites (example BetOnline.com) 7.5-point teasers at -140. While 2-team 6-point odds are somewhat standard, 3-team 6-point teasers odds vary greatly. Bovada and 5Dimes offer these for +180, Intertops +170, Bookmaker, JustBet and TopBet +160 and BetOnline +150. As you can see the odds vary greatly and when doing 3-team 6-point teasers it would be foolish to use BetOnline.com and most ideal to use Bovada.
Worth noting is that many betting sites offer special teasers where rather than getting a larger payout you keep getting more points for each team added. Bovada is also tops for these; with them you'll find 3-team 10-point teasers at -110 and 4-team 13-point teasers at -120. Many other sites offer the same at much worse odds such as -130 to -160.
Introduction to Basic Strategy Teasers
Now that I've covered what a teaser is, let me introduce you to basic strategy teasers, also known as wong teasers. For reason that the most common margins of victory in NFL football are 3 and 7, basic strategy states that the most profitable teasers are those that fully cross 3 and 7 at the best odds possible. To hammer this point home, for the past 5-NFL season (2007/08 to 2011/12) all regular season games were decided by exactly 3 points 14.8% of the time, exactly 7 points 9.8% of the time and in the range 3-7 points 38.8% of the time. There's no other margin of victories that come remotely close to these percentages.
Getting the Best Teaser Odds is Key
There are two parts to basic strategy to be concerned with, fully crossing 3&7 and doing so at the best odds possible. When using basic strategy a lot of novice punters forget that "best odds possible" is as much a requirement as crossing the 3 and 7.
Now to be clear FULLY crossing means going from a loss to win. Therefore teasing -7 to -1 is not part of basic strategy nor is teasing +3 to +9. This is because in these examples you're going from a push to a win on one of the required numbers, not a loss to a win which is the key.
Basic Strategy Subsets
Considering we're required to get the best odds possible and most online betting sites start their teaser offers as 6-point teasers, we can now decipher there are two subsets to basic strategy. Subset 1: Tease all underdogs (+1.5 to +2.5) six points to (+7.5 to +8.5) and Subset 2: tease all favorites (-7.5 to -8.5) six points to (-1.5 to -2.5). No other subset would meet the criteria for the reason we're looking for the absolute best odds possible and must fully cross the 3-7.
Teaser Math: How Many Teams per Teaser?
The final challenge in getting the best odds relates to weeks when there are more than 2-teams with point spreads meeting basic strategy subsets. Here we need to know how many teams give us the best odds possible. To discuss this topic further I need to get into teaser math.
As mentioned earlier in this article, teasers are parlays that use modified point-spreads. The problem with this statement is we're not actually sure what odds we're getting for each individual team. For example we know on a 2-team 6-point teaser at -110 we're getting -110 that our teams will go 2-0 against the modified point spread. In order to analyze whether a straight bet, standard parlay or teaser is best, or to do any other analysis, we're going to need to figure out a way to break this down to odds per team.
What we do know, considering we can select any team as our teaser selection, is the odds must be the same for each team. So we're now asking what moneyline, parlayed with the same moneyline results in the overall odds -110. One method a novice bettor might use to solve this problem is head to parlaycalculator.com and put in random figures in an attempt to find the solution via trial and error. The good news is… there is a much easier way to calculate this.
To start we need to consider how often we need to win in order to average break even. Considering the odds are -110 what we need to know is the implied probability of -110. We can get this figure using our odds converter where plugging in -110 in the American odds field I see the implied probability is 52.38%. This tells me if both teams win (meaning I go 2-0) 52.38% of the time, I'll average break even over the long haul. To figure out how often each team individually must win… the magic trick is to change 52.38% to a decimal (0.5238) and calculate its square root. If you're confused how to do this, no problem, just Google search square root calculator, plug it in and see the answer is 0.7237 which is 72.37%. Go to our odds converter plug in 72.37% under implied probability and you'll see a 2-team 6-point teaser at -110 is a parlay where each team is priced -262.
To double check the math I just did, -110 means risk $110 to win $100. If you go to parlaycalculator.com enter in -262 parlayed with -262 with a $110 stake you'll see the math checks out. To be clear we now know that if each team individually wins 72.37% (-262) of the time, we'll got 2-0 52.38% (-110) of the time.
Allow me to go ahead and run you through this one more time, this time calculating the odds on a 3-team 6-point teaser at +180. I start by using our odds converter to calculate the implied probability of +180 is 35.71%. Because this time we're dealing with three teams I now calculate the cubed root of 0.3571 which is .7095 (70.95%). I now plug 70.95% back into our odds converter and see a 3-team 6-point teaser at +180 is a parlay where each team is priced -244.
Notice something? Remember basic strategy dictates that fully crossing the 3&7 AND getting the best odds possible are requirements. The later tells us that when there are three teams that meet our subsets of underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and favorites -7.5 to -8.5 we'll want to do 3-team 6-point teasers at +180 instead of 2-team 6-point teaser at -110. Remember Bovada offers the industry's best odds on 3-team 6-point teasers.
A Glance at Advanced Teaser Betting Strategy
In order to best illustrate why basic strategy teasers are often times +EV, it's helpful first spill the beans regarding advanced teaser strategy. In the previous section I calculated that 2-team 6-point teasers are parlays where each team is priced -262, and that 3-team 6-point teasers are parlays where each team is priced -244. The implied probability of -244 is 70.95% and of -262 is 72.37%. Now keep in mind implied probability is a fancy word for how often a team must win to break even.
Moving along, we already know that for point-spreads when both sides are priced the same (example +1.5 -110 / -1.5 -110, not +1.5 -105 / -1.5 -115) these bets are designed to be 50/50 even money propositions. If a selection in a teaser needs to win 70.95% of the time to break even, which is the rate for 3-team 6-point teasers, then moving the spread 6-points must increase the chances I win by 20.95%. This because we went from a 50% proposition to a 70.95% proposition, the 20.95% is the difference.
Although not the best method to go about this, to keep things simple let's take a look at how all basic strategy teasers have fared over the past 5-seasons (ending with the season that concluded in Feb 2012, where the Giants won the Super Bowl). During this time all favorites -7.5 to -8.5 went 22-20 (52.38%) against the point spread; when teased six points they went 33-9 (78.57%). Also during this time all underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 went 49-60 (44.95%) and when teased six points they went 74-35 (67.89%).
You'll notice the win rates for the favorites increased 26.19% and for the underdogs they increased 22.94%. In a 2-team 6-point teaser at -110 we needed the increase to be 22.37% and in a 3-team teaser 6-point teaser +180 we needed the increase to be 20.95%. We've reached that increase in both cases, which hints if points spreads actually were covering at the 50/50 rate intended these basic strategy teasers are +EV.
The Danger of Data Mining
Basic strategy teasers have been a hot topic of betting forums for six years now. In the past road favorites were not doing well and many bettors tried claiming they were no longer a basic strategy subset. However since then road favorites have gone 11-4 (73.33%). I suspect due to poor recent results you'll have people saying avoid home underdogs for reason the underdog results for the past 5-seasons break down as:
Home Underdogs +1.5 to +2.5
No Teaser: 21-25 (45.65%)
Teased +6: 29-17 (63.04%)
Road Underdogs +1.5 to +2.5
No Teaser: 28-35 (44.44%)
Teased +6: 45-18 (71.43%)
If you look at the discussion on teasers over the past 6-years and then go back even further to the limited conversations that existed late 1990 decade to early 2000 decade there has always been one subset or another trailing behind. This rotates around every few years and is simply caused by variance. For the same reason that all four subsets cross the two most common margins of victory they all should have an equal win probability. This mean basic strategy teasers are either +EV or they are not. There is no "all basic strategy teasers except (insert subset) are +EV". This is results oriented thinking similar to the failed logic that patterns appearing on a roulette wheel or baccarat score card are helpful in knowing the results of the next spin or hand.
For more on the topic basic strategy refer to the book Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong and then search the sports betting sub forum of twoplustwo.com if need be. What the overall consensus of the sharpest bettors in the world is, if you can just before game time find three NFL teams that are +1.5 to +2.5 or -7.5 to -8.5 and tease them in a 3-team 6-point teaser at +180, you'll be making a +EV bet. I'll discuss teasers a little further in this article to reinforce some points, and to provide some warnings, but this will be the end of the strategy discussion.
Most all Other Teaser Bets are Sucker Bets
As you might be aware it is possible to tease either or both the over/under betting total or the point-spread of any game. To show why totals are a bad idea let's look at the past 5-years historical results. During this period over bets went 651-606-23 (51.79%) and when teased six went 881-382-17 (69.75%) for an increase of just 17.96%. On the other side under bets went 606-651-23 (48.21%) and when teased six they went 828-434-18 (65.51%) for an even lower increase of just 17.30%. Remember we need to increase by between 20.95% and 22.37% to find a +EV teaser bet. Simply put, teasing totals is a bet for suckers, unless somehow the outcome is correlated (meaning a 2-team teaser using the point spread and total of the same game where a correlation exist. It is a rare occasion this will ever be +EV, and in the times it is the betting sites will circle the game to indicate it is not allowed.).
Earlier I shared the past 5 season results of teasing underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and favorites -7.5 to -8.5 and showed these all increased by more than the 20.95% and 22.37% needed to be +EV. Had we just picked at random here is what the result would have been:
All Home Underdogs (Regardless of Spread)
No Teaser: 207-213-11 (49.29%)
Teased +6: 291-133-7 (68.63%)
All Road Underdogs (Regardless of Spread)
No Teaser: 433-388-23 (52.74%)
Teased +6: 576-260-9 (68.90%)
All Home Favorites (Regardless of Spread)
No Teaser: 388-433-24 (47.26%)
Teased +6: 552-271-22 (67.07%)
All Road Favorites (Regardless of Spread)
No Teaser: 213-207-11 (50.71%)
Teased +6: 281-137-13 (68.04%)
As you can see, all figures fall well short of our at minimum 20.95% increase required to break even, and extremely short of the 22.37% needed when doing 2-team teasers at -110. Also keep in mind these numbers are inflated as they include both basic strategy and non-basic strategy subsets. To show an example over the past 5 seasons non basic strategy subset underdogs went 591-541-34 (52.21%) against the spread and when teased six points went 793-358-16 (68.90%) for an only 16.69% increase. No matter how you slice it non-basic strategy teasers bet at random are very poor sucker's bets.
Teaser Betting FAQ
Are the exception? Yes, in fact I've found in rare weeks there are 3 teams priced -10.5 to -12.5 Bovada teasers of 3-team 10-points at -110 are sometimes +EV. These are very easy to gauge if you're a bit savvy and understand handicapping the betting market. Here you'd calculate the odds per team for the teaser, remove vig from the moneyline and then adjust for whatever point-spread remains.
How about College Football? It's a good thing you asked, while generally these are -EV, there are exceptions. For this topic refer to my article on college football teasers.
When is the best time to bet teasers? If you're not savvy bettor, for sure betting only just before game time when the lines are sharpest makes the most sense. Talented bettors often will tease early lines when they expect the opening line is off and locking in the teaser now will give them max value.
Are pleasers ever +EV? There are extremely rare occasions where they might be, but these take far too much effort to find. In the same time spent you could find many +EV football prop bets, but if you're sincerely interested read my article on pleaser betting.
Final Important Lesson - Be Careful of the Line Shades
Remember it wasn't too long ago that many bookies were bankrupted over basic strategy teasers winning at an epic clip. The online betting sites fared better than the independent locals for reason they were far more aware of the risks. Many betting sites combated basic strategy teasers by simply changing the payouts. For example 3-team 6-point teasers were +180 for years and nowadays only a small handful of sites offer better than +160. Another tactic many betting sites use today is line shades for both the purpose of blocking +EV teasers and to trick novice bettors into making -EV teaser bets.
For reasons that when teasing the point spread is all that matters and not the price, what betting sites often do is post lines such as +7.5 +105 / -7.5 -125. If you understand buying half points, you'll know -7.0 -110 and -7.5 -125 have about the same expected value. The betting site is simply moving the point spread and charging the fair price for that move. What they're doing here is tricking novice bettors into thinking this is a -7.5 point spread worth teasing when really the correct odds are +7 -110 / -7 -110.
My advice: Make sure you're dealing with consensus prices. When betting basic strategy teasers be sure to glance at the odds offered by several betting sites to make sure the team is at least a consensus 7.5 favorite or at the least a +2.5 underdog before making your bet. For the favorites, if you see any other site offering -7 or better this is a no bet. For the underdog if you find any other site offering +3 or better this is a no bet UNLESS +3 is priced -130 or greater.
A final tip: www.5dimes.com actually has the best teaser odds in the industry including 2-team 6-point teasers at +100. The reason I barely mentioned them in this article is because they are masters at shading the lines. For example teams that should be -7.5 -110, 5Dimes will list as -9.5 +105. These guys do everything possible to make the odds worse for basic strategy players as well as to trap players into making -EV bets. Now if you're sharp you can find value here, but it requires using the information in this article, plus push charts to think outside the wong so to speak. For novice bettors you'll do best playing basic strategy teasers at Bovada.lv.
Editor's note: If you enjoyed this article you can find others like it linked from our hub article on football betting strategy.