Teaser Betting Strategy

Teasers are one the easiest bets to calculate value of, and then find +EV wagering opportunities. Even if you have no experience with sports betting math, and even if you’ve never heard of a teaser before, this article will tell you everything you need to know and more about teaser betting. I’ll start with intro topics such as “what is a teaser?” and then progress on to advanced teaser strategy. No matter what your skill level is I’m near certain you’ll find considerable value in this article.

What is a Teaser Bet?

Covering the most basic question first, a teaser is a parlay bet using a modified point spread. For example in a “3-team 6-point teasers” using Jets/Colts o43, Patriots -3, and Jags +4 what you end up with is a parlay on Jets/Colts o37, Patriots +3 and Jags +10 as each spread is modified six points. As you read this article you’ll learn how teasers work, who has the best odds, basic strategy for betting teasers, advanced teaser strategy and much more. Let me go ahead and get started on this topic by introducing you to basic teaser strategy, sometimes referred to as “Wong Teasers”.

Basic Teaser Strategy

Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong, a book first published in 2001, was the first place the term “basic strategy teaser” appeared in print. The author of this book (as Stanford Wong is a pen name) used push charts to show three and seven are the most common margins of victory in the NFL. His theory, which was well backed up by math, suggested teasers which fully cross the three and the seven are by far the best teaser bets. This means in a six point teaser the goal is to find and tease: underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 (to +7.5 to +8.5) and favorites -7.5 to -8.5 (to -1.5 to -2.5) because you’re going what would be a loss on point spreads three and seven, to a win; in other words you’re fully crossing the three and the seven. This concept is called “basic strategy teasers” or in recent years “wong teasers”.

To fast forward to the present day, the date I’m writing this article is May 31, 2011, and the most recent complete NFL season is the 2010/11 season that ended with the Packers winning the Super Bowl over the Chicago Bears. I’m going to use Stanford Wong’s approach to basic strategy teasers as a base, but will use more recent data as certainly things may have changed in the ten years since Sharp Sports Betting was written.

After using a historical database I determined over the past 5 completed NFL season the twelve most common margins of victory in order of most frequent first were: 3, 7, 10, 4, 6, 14, 2, 21, 17, 1, 8 and 5. The distribution between the early numbers and the later are not even close. Since the start of the 2006 season, 24.6% of games have been decided by “exactly 3” or “exactly 7” points and 38.1% of all games have been decided by 3 to 7 points. It obviously makes sense in theory that teasers that involve these spreads at the best odds possible will be the best of all teaser bets.

To test this theory, I went back to the 2006 season and determined that all possible point-spread (as opposed to: point-total) teasers combined for a record of 1446-702 (67.3%). While the sample size is small, as expected when limiting the sample to only underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and favorites -7.5 to -8.5 the cover rate improved to 113-47 (70.6%). It looks promising that teasing only “teams that fully cross the 3-7 point range” at “the best possible odds” are the best of all teasers.

To do any further analysis on these teasers I need to stray away from this topic for several paragraphs and cover “teaser odds”. While this next section might seem boring and simple-math intensive, understanding it is a perquisite to “profitable” teaser betting.

Understanding Teaser Odds

Teasers use fixed payouts and therefore it’s difficult for the average sports bettor to decipher the odds on individual teams. For example, a 3-team 6-point teaser that pays +180 is the same as a parlay bet where all three teams are priced at -244. Here the bookmaker let us purchase six points, but instead of the odds being -105 or -110, he gives us -244. Let me go ahead and show you quickly how I calculated the price was -244 per team.

The overall teaser was available at +180, using our *odds converted* I determined the implied probability (required break even percentage) on a +180 bet is 35.71%. This is how often all three teams must win to break even. To calculate how often each team individually must win I converted 35.71% to a decimal of 0.3571. I then need to know what number times itself three times equals this number. I can find this easily using a *root calculator* where I plug in 0.3571 and see the cubed root is 70.95%. What this tells me is I need each team to win 70.95% of the time in order to achieve the overall 35.71% (+180) win rate. I now go back to my *odds converter* plug in 70.95% under “break even %” and see 70.95% is the same as American odds -244.

The same math works for other teasers as well. Just make sure the root used matches the number of teams teased. For example a 4-team teaser uses the fourth root. Having run these already, here are the deciphered bets at “standard” teaser odds.

  • 2-team teaser at -110 = a 2-team parlay w/ each team priced -262
  • 3-team teaser at +180 = a 3-team parlay w/ each team priced -244
  • 4-team teaser at +300 = a 4-Team parlay w/ each team priced -241
  • 5-team teaser at +450 = a 5-Team parlay w/ each team priced -246
  • 6-team teaser at +600 = a 6-Team parlay w/ each team priced -261

As you can see 3-5 team teasers offer the best odds. Considering these are close and there are only a limited number of profitable teaser legs available to bet on a given day, you’ll most likely want to stick to 3-team 6-point teasers at +180 where the required break even percentage for each team is 70.95%.

An important warning: Betting sites use “fixed odds” for teasers. As a result, quite a few sites short the payout somewhere or another. For example Intertops gives only +170, Bookmaker +160, and www.BetOnline.com +150 for 3-team 6-point teasers. If you’re betting teasers at these sites over others it’s like giving away free money. The sites where you can find 3-team 6-pint teasers at +180 include www.5dimes.com, www.bodog.com and www.betdsi.com. When betting strictly basic strategy teasers in the 3-team +180 option, you’ll find (on average) BetDSI.com offers the best value.

Now that I’ve covered “teaser odds” let’s get back to the topic of basic strategy teasers.

Basic Strategy Teasers (Continued)

Even if the betting site you use offers reduced juice, such as -105 at 5Dimes.com as opposed to the standard -110, if you pick randomly on straight point spread wagers you’re going to lose over the long run. The expected loss randomly picking at -110 is 4.55% and at -105 2.38%. While I didn’t explicitly point it out earlier, the contents of this article have already uncovered that using basic strategy teasers a bettor can drastically cut the bookmakers advantage. Let me do some recapping in order to explain.

Earlier we calculated that since 2006, underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and favorites -7.5 to -8.5 when teased 6 points had a record of 113-47 (70.6%). We also calculated that in a 3-team teaser at +180 each team needs to win 70.95% to break even. As you can see, we’re within a mere fraction of the required break even rate when doing basic strategy teasers. Considering there are many professional bettors who make a living betting point-spreads straight at -110 and -105, with some capping and selection involved, basic strategy teasers can be quite profitable; there is only about a “one-third of one-percent” bookmaker advantage if we believe historical results are accurate.

Teasers Make Great Blind Bets

There are quite a few teasers that are great blind bets. The first I’ll give you is the ones I’ve already covered in this article, NFL underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and NFL favorites -7.5 to -8.5. If you use these in 3-team 6-point teasers at +180 and manage your bankroll well, chances are you won’t lose much over the long run, and might even come out ahead. These are by far better bets than betting against the spread, or spending time on casino gambling where even at optimal blackjack, or craps, the house has a much larger advantage. I’ll come back to this topic a few more times in this article after introducing other profitable teaser bets.

To Tease or Not to Tease (Advanced Strategy)

In theory the best way to calculate whether a teaser has more value in a point spread or in a tease is to create a push chart. Let’s say for example the point spread is -7.5 and you’re trying to decide if it makes more sense to bet the spread or to tease it six points. In the teaser option you are now winning where you would be losing should the favored team win by 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 or 2. The goal is to determine how frequent each of these probabilities occurs. One push chart already on the web is *this one* created by forum poster mikevegas.

Referring to mikevegas’s NFL push-chart, we see in the -4 to -9 favorite column that these teams landed within the related margins of victory as follows:

  • 7 points: 6.0%
  • 6 points: 3.1%
  • 5 points: 2.2%
  • 4 points: 2.6%
  • 3 points: 9.7%
  • 2 points: 2.1%

If we add these numbers together the team improves their win rate by 25.7%. Considering you’re already interested in betting at -7.5 you’re likely giving it a greater than 50% chance of winning, but to play it safe we’ll take 50% + 25.7% and call them a 75.7% probability to cover -1.5. As a reminder a 3 team teaser at +180 requires a 70.95% win rate. Obviously teasing this -7.5 favorite would be massively +EV if the push chart we’re using is correct.

Challenges with Push Rate Data

First off never trust someone else’s push chart. The proper way to do this would be to find as much related data as possible and then develop a push chart based on your own calculations. Free NFL data is available at both sportsdatabase.com and goldsheet.com but it takes quite some time to harvest and place into a useable format. Another way to get free data is to open up an account at www.bmaker.ag, save up 2100 BetPoints (not hard to earn) and then cash these points in for a free subscription to ATSdatabase.com. Here it’s very easy to harvest data during your free trial. During this trial period just copy and paste all results into notepad and then import them to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Challenge #1: Free data sources are only good for getting rough numbers. To actual get advanced data you’d likely want to hire a programmer to regularly scrape closing lines from PinnacleSports.com, and results from NFL.com. This would ensure you’re working with the best data possible.

Challenge #2: While this method works well for basketball where there are a lot more games, NFL has so few games that sample size is always going to be limited. The actual sportsbooks create their push charts using advanced NFL game simulators, which gives them more accurate numbers.

For the average person you’ll want to go free data and just realize your push charts are not exact.

To Tease or Not to Tease & Basic Strategy Teasers (Continued)

Knowing that our push charts are not accurate let’s go ahead and examine another method to decide whether a 6-point teaser is a better option than a straight point-spread wager. Considering we’ve already determined the best teasers are underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and favorites -7.5 to -8.5 we’ll dig deeper into those subsets.

Again using only “regular season” games the past 5 season here were the results for basic teaser subsets:

Home Favorites -7.5 to -8.5
Against the Spread: 17-16 (51.5%)
Teased Six Points: 26-7 (77.8%)

Road Favorites -7.5 to -8.5
Against the Spread: 7-9 (43.8%)
Teased Six Points: 11-5 (68.8%)

Home Underdogs +1.5 to +2.5
Against the Spread: 17-29-1 (37.0%)
Teased Six Points: (59.6%) 28-19

Road Underdogs +1.5 to +2.5
Against the Spread: 26-38 (40.6%)
Teased Six Points: 48-16 (75.0%)

The sample sizes are quite small, but consider this: if a point spread is a 50/50 proposition each team’s chance of covering the spread is 50%. In a 3-team teaser at +180 you need each team to win 70.95% of the time. Therefore if teasing a team six points increases their win rate by greater than 20.95% the bet should be profitable over the long term. Taking a look at the sample data: all four subsets, when teased 6-points, had their cover rates improved by more than 20.95%. This evidence suggests that if these teams were actually winning 50% of the time against the spread (most haven’t been) then basic strategy teasers would make a killing.

The one other thing worth commenting on is: home favorites -7.5 to -8.5 and road underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 teased six-points have a combined record since 2006 of 74-23 (76.3%), well over the 70.95% break even rate. While I’ve seen some authors suggest sticking only to these subsets, this is results oriented thinking that is similar to “keeping score in baccarat” or “looking for patterns on the roulette wheel”. If that’s your thing, use it; but, more likely than not what you’re seeing is data-mined variance.

Importance of Line Shopping

Basic Strategy teasers are one of the best blind bets in sports betting, but with that said, line shopping is still critical. Let’s say for example 5Dimes has the Jets -8.5 +105 and 2BetDSI has the Jets -7.5 -110. If you use the Jets in a 6-point teaser at 2BetDSI you’re getting them -1.5, at 5Dimes you’re getting -2.5. The fact that the original point spreads were priced +105 and -110 is of no importance to teaser bettors; you get 6 points regardless of the spreads pricing and the payouts are the same. Obviously in this example, teasing -7.5 at 2BetDSI would be the better play.

Remember basic strategy teasers are likely +EV, but if not, there is only extremely marginal bookmaker advantage to overcome. In order to recoup some of this advantage, bookmakers will often shade their lines. The comparison I gave above is a perfect example. 5Dimes listed the line as -8.5 +105, rather than -7.5 -110 as a shade against profitable teasers. What’s even more common is for a site to list a -7.5 -110 line as -9 +110, making it no longer possible to cross the three in a six point teaser. There is nothing wrong with this; bookmakers are not in the business of giving out free money. They set the lines and then punters look for angles to beat them.

In this article, most of my focus has been on 3-team 6-point teasers at +180. The odds at 5Dimes for teasers are “technically” better than this. At 5Dimes you’ll find 728 different options for betting teasers. The break down is 2-15 team formats (14 options) times 26 point spread options (every half point increment between 5 and 17 points and plus a 20-point teaser option), times two options for each on how ties are handled. To give an idea here are some of their teaser options:

  • 2-team 5 points “ties reduce” at +107
  • 2-team 5 points “ties win” at +105
  • 2-team 5.5 points “ties reduce” at +103
  • 2-team 5.5 points “ties win” at +101
  • 2-team 6 points “ties reduce” at +100
  • 2-team 6 points “ties win” at -105

This is only a small sample of the odds; again there are 728 teaser options at 5Dimes.com. To put this in perspective, the majority of online betting sites offer only 22 options. The reason 5Dimes has so many is they believe in their ability to shade lines and block ones that are +EV. At the same time they make it inviting for sharp bettors to find angles to beat them, and with 728 options I can tell you there is not a week that goes by I don’t find at least one +EV teaser bets at their site. If you’re well versed in teaser strategy, 5Dimes.com is a must have out.

If you’re a recreational bettor, you’re far better off sticking to sites such as bodog.eu and betdsi.com which both offer 3-team 6-point teasers at +180. These sites don’t shade their lines nearly as much as other, so great value can be had using basic strategy at these two sites.

No matter if you’re extremely sharp, or are just getting started on sports betting strategy, you’ll need to shop multiple betting sites to find the best teaser odds.

Using Moneylines to Analyze Teasers

I’ve already covered several ways to gauge the profitability of a teaser bet. Another method, and perhaps the most effective, is to use moneylines as the starting base for analyzing favorites. To give an example let’s say the New York Giants are -7.5. Many sports bettors teasing them to -1.5 would go add all the push probability of points 2-7 together to calculate a cover rate. This method is silly; the better way would be to calculate the no-vig moneyline and then a push probability of them winning by exactly one point.

Here’s an example. At Pinnacle Sports the game between the Lions and Giants has the following lines.

Point Spreads: Detroit Lions +7.5 -104 @ New York Giants -7.5 -104
Moneylines: Detroit Lions +264 / New York Giants -300

To calculate the chances of the New York Giants winning the game (no point spread involved) I go to the Intense Gambling *odds converter* and plug in each team’s moneyline.

Here I learn:

  • Lions +264 = 27.47% required break even
  • Giants -300 = 75% required break even

These two numbers equal 102.47%. This is because the bookmaker has a profit (vig) built into each line. To remove vig we simply divide each teams required break even percentage by 102.47%.

  • Lions 27.47%/102.47% = 26.81% no-vig win probability
  • Giants 75%/102.47% = 73.19% no vig win probability

You’ll see these numbers now total 100%; the vig has been removed. In case you’re interested: if you plug each team’s probability back into our odds converted you’ll see the no-vig moneylines are Lions -273 / Giants +273. The only number important to us for this analysis is that the bookmakers have the Giants chances of winning (with no point spread involved) at 73.19%.

Considering we have the Giants -1.5, the only thing left for us to do is calculate how often we expect the Giants to win by exactly one point. Earlier I covered methods for developing a push chart, but for now let’s refer to the number from the push-chart of mikevegas. His chart tells us the expected push rate on -1 is 2.0%. Therefore the expected chance of Giants cover -1.5 is 73.19% minus 2.0% which equals 71.19%. Considering we need teams placed in a 3-team 6-point teaser to win 70.95% of the time, we’ve now calculated teasing the Giants -7.5 to -1.5 is a +EV bet.

Here are two tips for using this method:

    1. PinnacleSports.com offers the highest betting limits AND operates on the lowest margins. If you’re using no-vig win-probabilities to calculate the value of a teaser bet, no matter where you might make the actual bet, use Pinnacle Sports lines as the basis for the math.
    2. The best time to run math on moneylines is as close to game time as possible; this is when lines are the sharpest, meaning they represent closest to each teams true chances of winning.

A tip for recreational gamblers: Generally speaking basic strategy underdogs (so +1.5, +2.0, +2.5) are good bets when the Pinnacle moneyline is +130 or less. If its higher these are marginal basic strategy teasers you’ll probably be best served avoiding them.

Basic Strategy Applied to Sweetheart Teasers

I’ve seen the topic of sweetheart teasers come up on forums dozens of times, yet have never heard anyone answer if basic strategy is profitable on these. For example is a spread of -10.5 profitable as part of a 3-team 10-point teaser at -110 or -120? To find the answer, read my article on sweetheart teaser strategy.

Basic Strategy Applied to College Football

I’ve heard countless times on forums that college football teasers are horrible, or quite hilarious… “It’s not a Wong teaser, so therefore it is a horrible bet”. To look at it at the broadest level first: over the past 5 years all “basic strategy teasers”, meaning underdogs +1.5 to +2.5 and all favorites -7.5, went 348-154 (69.3%) when teased six points. While this still short of the 70.95% break even rate, if you’re outside the US PinnacleSports.com offers 2-team 6-point college football teasers a +100, which inches closer to profitable with only a 70.7% required break even rate.

Using simple logic one might guess, the reason NCAA football is generally not included in basic strategy, is because college games score a lot more points. This results in fewer games being closely contested, and also increases variance. Interesting though is approximately 1/3 of college games have a betting total (over/under line) of 48 or less. With these games being more comparable to NFL in terms of points expected, let’s take a look at how they fared.

Home Dogs (+1.5 to +2.5)
Against Spread: 25-27 (48.1%)
Teased 6 Points: 41-11 (78.8%)

Road Dogs (+1.5 to +2.5)
Against Spread: 28-29 (49.1%)
Teased 6 Points: 44-13 (77.2%)

Home Favorites (-7.5 to -8.5)
Against Spread: 23-30-1 (43.4%)
Teased 6 Points: 35-19 (64.8%)

Road Favorites (-7.5 to -8.5)
Against Spread: 11-11-1 (50%)
Teased 6 Points: 20-3 (87.0%)

Sample size is of course an issue here, though anyone digging further into this topic will likely conclude: “any college football line meeting the subsets of basic strategy teasers and also having a low total is far better to include in a teaser bet, than to bet it straight or as part of a parlay.

Random Teasers are Suckers Bets

I’ve spent a lot in this article showing teaser bets quite often have positive expectation. If this is true though: why do so many sites knowingly offer these bets? The reason for this is simple, generally speaking unless someone knows the information contained in this article (which most people don’t) teasers are a great bet for the house. Let me go ahead and illustrate that using some results from the past 5 NFL seasons.

      • All Teams Teased 6 Points went: 1446-702 (67.3%)
      • All Totals Teased 6 Points went: 1670-815 (67.2%)

As a reminder in 2-team 6-point teasers at -110, each team needs to win 72.4% of the time to break even, and when betting 3-team 6-point teasers at +180 (available at betdsi.com) each team needs to win 70.9% of the time to merely break even. As you can see from the above illustration randomly betting teasers is a losing proposition great for the house. Do realize though, going against the norm and making only +EV bets, will often cause betting sites to reduce your limits. Small and mid-stakes punters can easily “get away for a while with” making ONLY +EV bets when using trustworthy outs such as bmaker.ag, betdsi.com, 5dimes.com and bodog.com.

Advanced Teaser Strategy

In this article I’ve covered the simple math behind advantage teaser betting. If you spend time looking at all the various betting options sites offer, shopping the lines, pulling data and running simple math a lot of profit can be made. To give an example: 5dimes.com offers 2-team 6.5 point “ties-win” NFL teasers at -115. If there were two teams -3.5 would teasing them to +3.0 “ties win” which is the same as +3.5 be a bet with positive expectation? Let me go through and recap how to go about this.

Our first step is translating the teaser terms into parlay terms. We start with going to our odds converter and finding out -115 has a required break even percentage of 53.488%. To find out how often each team must win to achieve this beak even percentage we convert to a decimal (.53488) and calculate the square root, which solves to 0.73135. Plugging this figure as 73.135% into our odds converter we’ve now deciphers, a 2-team teaser at -115 is a 2-team parlay with each selection priced -272.

Assuming the original line of -3.5 was a 50/50 proposition, what we now need to know is if gaining a win instead of a loss on +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2 and -3 increases our win probability by 23.135%. If it does we can assume because the market is efficient this teaser is a +EV bet.

Again an extremely advanced bettor would use simulations to calculate this. For us we can a gauge using a push chart as well as past result. For the sake of simplicity lets again refer to the push chart mikevegas posted (here – http://www.roughingthepunter.com/showthread.php?p=20240). If we refer to the -1 to -6.5 columns and add up all figures between and including 3 and -3 we see these total 25.3%. This means teasing a -3.5 line 6.5-points “ties win” which is essentially 7 points, increases the chances of winning by 25.3%. Considering this is 2.165% more than the 23.135% we needed it to increase by, if his push chart is correct, what we’ve found is a +EV bet.

The final step is to do some back testing.

      • Past 5 Seasons all teams -3.5 went 58-74 (43.9%) Against the Spread
      • Past 5 Seasons all teams -3.5 went 90-42 (68.2%) when Teased 6.5 Points “Ties Win

The limited sample here tells us teams -3.5 covered 24.3%more often when teased 6.5 points “ties wins”. Again this is a limited sample and we could back test it further with primers etc. I’ll save that for a future article. A novice sports bettor might start with only the back test, find 68.2% and rule this sample out. Let me remind you though markets are efficient and what we’re looking for is how much the win percent increased as a result of the tease, that’s all that’s significantly important here.

Knowing advanced strategy you can dabble in all sorts of simple-math and find the most profitable bets based on current lines. Another example, 5Dimes.com offers 2-team 5-points teasers at +107. Would it be more profitable to bet a team -7.5 in this 2-team 5-point teaser at 5Dimes, or would it be more profitable to include them in a 3-team 6-point teaser +180 at another betting site? Well at this point I’ve given you all the simple-math required to calculate this. If you’re lost at how to go about it go back and read this article until it becomes clear you’ll be glad you did.

A couple other articles I’ve used teaser math include NBA Teasers, Pleaser Betting, and Sweetheart Teasers. Reading and following these articles should help you master “advanced teaser betting strategy” which at first might sound intimidating, but truly is just simple math and not all that hard to figure out.

As always, we at IntenseGambling.com wish you the best of luck this betting season.