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To Tame a Teaser

Money line and point spread betting gets plenty of shine, especially on NFL Sundays. But let’s talk about what you need to know about teasers — and how they often end up being more appealing options.

With the legalization of sports betting across the United States, novice bettors get in touch with several types of bets. Spreads, totals, money lines, props, parlays, and teasers are standard terms. Today, we want to focus on teaser bets — particularly for the NFL.

Teasers allow you to combine bets on one, two, or more different games in exchange for buying points on each bet, usually 6, 6.5, or 7. For example, if the spread for team A is -14 and for team B it’s +3, you could tease them for six points each to produce these odds:

Team A: -8
Team B: +9

Team A must win by 9 or more points to win this hypothetical teaser bet, while Team B must win or lose by eight or fewer points. The odds for teasers are usually fixed and can vary between sportsbooks. The teaser above could be priced at -110, meaning bettors pay $110 to win $100.

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Bettors need to check the rules for teasers at the sportsbook they play at. The reason is that the way books handle pushes is not an industry standard. Some sportsbooks count pushes (team A wins by precisely 8) as pushes, so you get your money back. But some sportsbooks count them as losses – you’ll lose if one teaser leg pushes. Some books offer both options and charge bettors different prices for either.

Key Numbers Are Important

Today, we’ll focus on six-point teasers to keep things simpler.

When it comes to professional football, not all six-point-teasers are created equal. Teasing six points could mean a completely different value, depending on the spread we want to tease. The goal is that the expected probability of our teaser hitting is higher than the implied probability by the price we are paying. When the odds for the teaser are -110, our teaser should hit more than 52.4% of the time long-term.

I’ll save you the research: we want to bet teasers that cross those key NFL numbers we call 3 and 7.

In 2001, Stanford Wong introduced this teaser concept in his book Sharp Sports Betting. Therefore, bettors often refer to these teasers as “Wong teasers.” Another common name is also “advantage teasers.” We want to tease teams six points up from +1.5, +2, or +2.5, or down from -8.5, -8, and -7.5.

Another condition? We want to avoid games with high expected points totals.

Over the years, the golden number of 49 has sifted out. The reason is that games with high totals indicate – you guess it – an increased chance for scoring opportunities. If that’s the case, the variance in the final scoring margin is increased. But we want to narrow that down when teasing six points.

10 Years of Teaser Legs

To get a clue about the empirical probabilities of Wong teaser legs, I simply scanned the past 10 NFL seasons since 2010 on the closing spread of the sharp sportsbook Pinnacle. I asked the following question: When a game closed in the Wong teaser range, how often did the hypothetical teaser leg hit?

Here’s the data:

Home favorites of -7.5, -8, or -8.5, teased down six points, with a total below 49 (or 47.5, for that matter, n = 128): 74.22% of the time.

Combining two teaser legs with an empirical probability of 74.29% will result in a combined chance of 55.09%. That equals fair odds of -123.

When we exclude the condition of the total, the combined probability drops to 52.32% and ‘fair odds’ of -110.

Home underdogs of +1.5, +2, or +2.5, teased up six points, with a total below 49 (n = 129): 76.74% of the time.

If you combine two teaser legs with an empirical probability of 76.74%, you will arrive at a combined probability of 58.89%. That equals fair odds of -143.

Road favorites of -7.5, -8, or -8.5, teased down six points, with a total below 49 (n = 29): 82.76% of the time.

Combining two teaser legs with an empirical probability of 82.76% will arrive at a combined probability of 68.49%. That equals fair odds of -217. 

Teasing road favorites sounds like a no-brainer. However, it should be noted that we are talking about a sample size of only 29 games over 10 seasons. These opportunities are rare.

Road underdogs of +1.5, +2, or +2.5, teased up six points, with a total below 49 (n = 159): 79.25% of the time.

Combining two teaser legs with an empirical probability of 79.25% will arrive at a combined probability of 62.8%. That equals fair odds of -169. 

Spread, money line, and over/under odds for Sunday’s NFL conference championship games at FanDuel Sportsbook (as of Jan. 28)

Conclusion

If you throw all the results together and randomly pick a Wong teaser leg from the past 10 seasons, the average empirical probability of those hitting is 77.3%. When you randomly combined two legs on the closing spread, the observed probability is 59.75% and equals ‘fair odds’ of -148. What’s the conclusion?

In theory, you should have plus expected value on Wong teasers that are priced below -148 – based on empirical probabilities of closing spread from the past 10 years.

However, there are some issues. Sportsbooks know about Wong teasers, too. Nowadays, they make it incredibly hard for customers to bet them. Some books simply don’t let you bet them; others charge steep prices or limit you (or kick you out) for exploiting that advantage.

For instance, even though the Chiefs are laying 7.5 points at home against the Bengals this week, Pinnacle only allows you to tease the Chiefs down to -3.5. That’s no joke. They let you tease only four points in their website’s “6 pts teaser” category.

If you find a sportsbook that lets you bet Wong teasers for the odds of -120 or even -110 at decent limits, you should keep that relationship as long as possible.

Critical Thoughts

The data I have provided goes back to 2010 and everything is based on the closing spread prior to kickoff. In practice, when you tease two games, you will usually not wait until kickoff. Furthermore, when two games kick off at different times, you cannot wait either. Unless you play open teasers. In practice, you also don’t want to wait until kickoff to bet a teaser. Usually, you want to bet earlier and beat the closing line. When you accomplish that, your teaser would have even more value.

The data is about 10 NFL seasons. I have not checked any trends that might have occurred in recent years. Home-field advantage in the NFL is declining, so it’s possible that road teams have been performing even stronger in recent seasons. A final parting thought? Scoring has been increasing, which could have an impact on the total.

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