Betting NFL Teasers
A teaser is a popular type of football bet, and one that you should definitely consider including in your overall football betting strategy. Teasers are similar to parlays, in that they involve making multiple selections, but they are not quite as straightforward. They can be based on either point spread bets or totals bets, and the initial spreads or total lines are moved in your favor.
We provide a brief overview of exactly how teasers work in this article, and plenty of strategy advice too. We also address two major misconceptions regarding these bets.
Please note, what you're about to read covers teaser betting strategy in great depth. Although the material is long, we encourage you read it all if you want the best chance of making money from this particular bet. No matter if you're a seasoned gambling professional, or someone just starting out, learning the information is near certain to lead to additional profits betting on NFL football both this season and all future seasons to come.
This page focuses entirely on betting NFL teasers. We have written another article that deals with betting college football teasers.
Misconceptions Surrounding NFL Teasers
There are two commonly held beliefs regarding NFL teasers, and these are as follows.
Although teasers are rightly referred to as an advanced wager, they are not so complicated that you should avoid them unless you're an expert. So the first statement above is simply not true.
It's also wrong to think that they can't be profitable. If you can learn how to use them correctly, and in the right circumstances, then it's perfectly possible to make money from them. We're not saying it's easy, as it's not, but then no aspect of successful football betting is easy. The point is that it's plain wrong to just broadly label NFL teasers as sucker bets.
What is a Teaser?
In case you're not aware, a teaser bet is a parlay that uses a modified point spread. You're given a better point spread than the board is offering, and these pay less than a parlay.
To explain, let's say in a given week there are two games you're interested in betting on. The first is the Chicago Bears against the St. Louis Rams, and the point spread looks like this.
You like the look of the Rams at -8.5, and the odds are -110.
The second game is the Minnesota Vikings against the Oakland Raiders, with the point spread as follows.
In this one you like the look of the Vikings. The odds are again -110.
There are three ways you can bet on the two teams you like.
- A straight bet on each team. For each wager, you would have to risk $110 to win $100.
- Betting them together in parlay, at odds of +265. This would give you the potential to win $265 for every $100 wagered, if both selections win.
- Betting them together in a teaser.
For the teasers, let's say you do the industry standard 2-team 6-point teaser at -110 odds. This would cover both teams in a single wager, with the spreads moving six points in your favor. So you'd have the Rams at -2.5 and the Vikings at +9.5. The odds would be -110 for the single wager covering both teams, so you'd be risking $110 to win $100.
Basically, the teaser is the same as the parlay in that you need both selections to win in order to win the wager. Because the spread has been moved in your favor, though, the odds have been reduced.
As we mentioned earlier, teasers can also be placed based on total lines. However, for the purposes of this article we're concentrating on teasers based on point spreads.
This is only a very basic explanation of how teasers work, as this article is primarily about the strategy involved specific to football betting. We've also provided a more detailed explanation of teasers in our general sports betting guide.
How Teasers Can Vary
For football betting, teasers are available in all different shapes and sizes. You can choose the number of teams you want to include, and the number of points you want to move the spread by. The odds then vary accordingly.
For a 2-team teaser, you'll typically find the following odds available.
- 6 points: -110
- 6.5 points: -120
- 7 points: -130
Some bookmakers and betting sites also offer 7.5-point teasers at -140.
While the odds for 2-team teasers are somewhat standard, they can vary more significantly when you include three teams or more. It's worth noting that many betting sites offer special teasers where, rather than getting a larger payout, you keep getting more points for each team added. For example, one site offers the following.
- 3-team/10-point teasers: -110
- 4-team/13-point teasers: -120
Many other sites offer the same at much worse odds such as -130 to -160.
If you plan on placing a lot of teasers, then you should use a betting site or bookmaker that offers plenty of options and attractive odds for this type of wager. A good place to start is with our recommended football betting sites.
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 that he had 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, he introduced them 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. 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 people into poker started betting on sports. The name "Wong Teasers" stuck.
We should point out that, while these are still one of the best blind bets in NFL football, 2006 was just an amazing year. They are not always so successful, but if you follow the strategy advice we provide here then you can certainly make some money from them.
Considering that 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, we will refer to Wong Teasers by their original name – "Basic Strategy Teasers."
Introduction to Basic Strategy Teasers
Now that we have covered what a teaser is, and provided some background information on the basic strategy, let's look at how to use them.
The most common margins of victory in NFL football are three points and seven points, and basic strategy is essentially based on the following premise.
To be clear, fully crossing means going from a loss to win. Therefore, teasing -7 to -1 isn't 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.
To explain why the margins of three and seven are so important, let's look at some past data. Although this is a little outdated now, covering the seasons from 2007/08 to 20011/12, the principle still applies. We'll be providing some fresh data for more recent years soon, and it will probably be very similar.
- Regular season games were decided by exactly 3 points 14.8% of the time.
- They were decided by exactly 7 points 9.8% of the time.
- They were decided by the range 3-7 points 38.8% of the time.
There are no other margins of victories that come remotely close to these percentages.
There are two parts to the basic strategy to be concerned with. Fully crossing the margins of three and seven is one. Doing so at the best odds possible is the other. When using basic strategy, a lot of novice punters forget that the best odds possible is as much a requirement as crossing the three and seven.
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 the two subsets to basic strategy.
No other subset would meet the criteria for the reason that we're looking for the absolute best odds possible and must fully cross the 3-7.
The final challenge to 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 the best odds possible. To discuss this topic further, we need to get into teaser math.
As mentioned earlier, teasers are parlays that use modified point-spreads. The problem with this statement is that 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. We want to analyze whether a straight bet, standard parlay, or teaser is best though. To do this, or 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 that 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 to try to find the solution via trial and error. The good news is that there's a much easier way.
To start, we need to consider how often we need to win in order to average breakeven. 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. Plugging in -110 in the American odds field, we see the implied probability is 52.38%. This tells us if both teams win 52.38% of the time, we'll average breakeven 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 a square root calculator, plug it in, and see that the answer is 0.7237, which is 72.37%.
At this point, you can go back to our odds convertor and plug in 72.37% under implied probability. You'll see a 2-team 6-point teaser at -110 is a parlay where each team is priced -262.
Allow us to go ahead and run through this one more time, now calculating the odds on a 3-team 6-point teaser at +180.
- First we need to calculate the implied probability of +180
- This is 35.71%, which we convert to a decimal of 0.3571.
- We're dealing with three teams, so we must calculate the cubed root of this decimal.
- This is 0.7095, or 70.95%.
- We plug this 70.95% into our odds convertor.
- This tells us that 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 three and seven and getting the best odds possible are requirements. The latter 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.
Using Historical Data
In order to best illustrate why basic strategy teasers are often times +EV, it's helpful to look at historical data. In the previous section, we 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 that 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 where 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 to win by 20.95%. This is because we went from a 50% proposition to a 70.95% proposition, and the 20.95% is the difference.
Although this isn't the best method, to keep things simple, let's take a look at how all basic strategy teasers have fared over the five seasons from 2007 until 2012.
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 at the fact that if point spreads actually were covering at the 50/50 rate intended, these basic strategy teasers are +EV.
Basic strategy teasers have been a hot topic in betting forums for years now. In the past, road favorites weren't doing well, and many bettors tried claiming they were no longer a basic strategy subset. However, in the period following those claims, road favorites went 11-4 (73.33%).
There was then a period when people suggested avoiding home underdogs, due to poor results in that subset.
In fact, if you look at the discussion on teasers over the years, there has always been one subset or another trailing behind. This circulates 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 means basic strategy teasers are either +EV or they are not. There's no "all basic strategy teasers except (insert subset) are +EV". This results-oriented thinking is similar to the failed logic that says patterns appearing on roulette wheels or a baccarat score cards are helpful in knowing the results of the next spin or hand.
For more on the topic of 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. The overall consensus of the sharpest bettors in the world is: if you can find three NFL teams just before game time 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, then you'll be making a +EV bet.
Teaser Bets Can Be Sucker Bets
Earlier, we touched on the fact that teasers can be used on the over/under betting total of any game as well the point spread. We don't believe this is something you should do though. To show why totals are a bad idea, let's look at the historical results from the same five year period as before.
- Over bets went 651-606-23 (51.79%)
- When teased by six, they went 881-382-17 (69.75%)
- The increase is just 17.96%.
- Under bets went 606-651-23 (48.21%)
- When teased by six, they went 828-434-18 (65.51%)
- The increase is even lower at 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 exists. It would be a rare occasion if this were ever +EV; and at times, the betting sites will circle the game to indicate that it's not allowed.).
Earlier we shared the results from a five season period 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 results would have been.
- No Teaser: 207-213-11 (49.29%)
- Teased +6: 291-133-7 (68.63%)
- Increase = 19.37%
- No Teaser: 433-388-23 (52.74%)
- Teased +6: 576-260-9 (68.90%)
- Increase = 16.16%
- No Teaser: 388-433-24 (47.26%)
- Teased +6: 552-271-22 (67.07%)
- Increase = 19.81%
- No Teaser: 213-207-11 (50.71%)
- Teased +6: 281-137-13 (68.04%)
- Increase = 17.33%
As you can see, all figures fall short of our minimum at the 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 that these numbers are inflated as they include both basic strategy and non-basic strategy subsets.
No matter how you slice it, non-basic strategy teasers bet at random are very poor sucker's bets.
Be Careful of the Line Shades
This is an important final lesson. Remember, it wasn't long ago that many bookies went bankrupt over basic strategy teasers winning at an epic clip. The online betting sites fared better than the independent locals for the reason that 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.
When teasing the point spread is all that matters and not the price, betting sites often post lines such as +7.5 +105 / -7.5 -125. If you understand buying half points, you'll know that -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 the 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.
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.
This means that the bookmaker with the best teaser odds is not always the best one to use. They might be shading the lines to make the odds worse for basic strategy players, in the hope of trapping bettors into making –EV bets.
Author: Jim Griffin
Updated: November 2015
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