The Proper Way to Play NFL Teasers
T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions
If you know how to properly bet teasers then they can be a fun and profitable way to get some action on the NFL. If you're not using them properly, however, you might as well just put your money in a big pile and burn it. The result will be the same and it won't take up as much of your time or cause you as much frustration. By their structure, teasers give bookmakers a significant edge (much bigger than on a regular bet). In order to take advantage, then, you have to both identify that edge and find ways to overcome it.
A teaser is a bet in which you take two or more teams and add a set amount of points to the lines of each team. In the NFL the most common teaser is six points, and 6.5 and seven point teasers are also standard. Say you liked Dallas, which was favored by eight, and Minnesota, which was a three-point underdog. On a teaser ticket, the lines would become Dallas -2 and Minnesota +9. In order for you to win the bet both of those results would have to occur. A push in either game would result in a void ticket and a returned bet. Because of the greatly advantageous spreads, you obviously get a much lower payout than you would betting the teams in a parlay at their full spread.
Teasers give the bookmakers such an edge because of the difficulty of hitting them often enough to make a profit. If you shop around you can find two-team, six-point teasers that pay out at even money. Even at that generous level of remuneration you still have to be correct in choosing the winners by the adjusted spread in 70.7 percent of games to break even over the long run (.707 x .707 = .5 - If you are right on the individual games 70.7 percent of the time then you will be right on both games half of the time). Teasing a random sample of NFL games by six points doesn't provide accuracy at that level - favorites don't either cover or fail to cover by less than six points more than 70.7 percent of the time - so the expectation over the long term is for a loss. It gets even worse for seven point teasers. Though more games will be covered by the larger change to the spread, bookmakers charge a higher price for the bets, so the expectations of loss can be even higher.
In order to profit on betting teasers, then, you would have to find a situation that allowed you to pick more than 71 percent winners over the long term. One such commonly known situation is called a basic strategy teaser, or a Wong teaser. These are teasers that move the spread across two key numbers - the three and the seven. For example, a spread of -8.5 is teased to -2.5, meaning the favorite now covers the spread if they win by either a field goal or a touchdown, two of the most common margins of victory. You lose your advantage if the spread is teased right to one of those two key numbers, because that would make a push more likely, voiding your ticket. Playable spreads for this type of teaser, then, are from -7.5 to -8.5 and +1.5 to +2.5. Historical data shows that playing teasers that fit these requirements is profitable over the long term, though a large bankroll is required, because fluctuations can be extreme.
If teasing a spread to cover two key numbers in that case makes sense, then does it make sense to tease a spread to cover both 3's? You could tease a spread of -3.5 or -3 to be +3.5, thereby covering the most common key number regardless of which team wins by three. The simple answer is no. Over the long term, your expectation for this bet would not be positive. The main reason for that is not because of the key numbers, but because of the numbers that fall in between. When you tease over the three and the seven, you also win games that are decided by scores between those two numbers - four, five and six points. Those outcomes aren't as common as three or seven, but they still occur fairly frequently, adding to the number of bets that are correct. Between the two threes, on the other hand, you have two and one, neither of which are as common as four or six, and zero, which virtually never occurs. When you buy a teaser you are essentially buying more numbers that the score can land on. When you tease from -3 then you are just buying a bunch of junk. The other problem you face, as well, is that you need at least 6.5 points to properly tease -3, which makes the bet more expensive.
As with any type of bet, the fact that a bet isn't advantageous over the long run doesn't mean that it can't make sense in a specific circumstance. For example, a teaser could make sense if you are confident that two teams are both going to win the game straight up, but if a parlay of their morning lines doesn't pay out what a teaser would. A teaser could also be used to take advantage of a group of lines that you sense are soft. As long as you understand the bet, and know its limitations, then the teaser can be a powerful tool.