NFL Teaser bets have been a known sharp play for the last 20 years. However, as markets tend towards efficiency they have become increasingly harder to beat. In this article, we’ll recap why NFL teasers are beatable, how you can beat NFL teaser bets, some teaser pitfalls to avoid, and also some new ways to approach teaser betting.
What is a Teaser Bet?
A teaser bet is a type of bet where the bettor is given extra points on each game of a parlay wager. The extra points increases the implied probability of winning the bet compared to a standard parlay, but the odds reflects those extra points with a lower payout. Similar to a parlay, the player must win all legs of the teaser to win the bet. Teaser bets are commonly offered at US sportsbooks, especially for the NFL and college football season.
When first introduced it was typical for a 6-point teaser bet on football to pay +100 for a two-team wager and +180 for a three-team wager. Let’s breakdown that wager. The player bets the two-team teaser and gets an extra 6 points added to each leg of their bet.
- Cowboys +7 becomes Cowboys +13
- Patriots -3 becomes Patriots +3
If the bet pays +100 we know that the implied probability is therefore 50%. This also means that the square root of 50% is the implied probability of each leg of the teaser. In this case, that’s .7071 or 70.71%. Cowboys +13 has to win more than 70.71% of the time for this to be a profitable wager. Same with Patriots +3.
Why NFL Teaser Bets Are Beatable
In 2000, noted blackjack author Stanford Wong published Sharp Sports Betting. In it, he devoted a large section to his analysis of NFL teaser bets. What he found is that some point spreads when teased definitely exceed that 70.71% threshold. Furthermore, the scenarios were pretty easy to identify. If your tease passed through the 3, 6, & 7, it was a positive expectation (+EV) teaser.
Plus-1.5 to +2.5 teased up to +7.5 to +8.5 was profitable. Conversely, -7.5 to -8.5 teased down to -1.5 to -2.5 was also profitable. Wong calculated that the teams teased through these key numbers won 76.1% of the time collectively in his backtesting. Within a short amount of time bettors everywhere were betting these profitable subsets. The bets became known as Wong teasers.
How Sportsbooks Prevent Profitable Teasers
Naturally, the sportsbooks began to react. Their first knee-jerk reaction was to short the price of 6-point two-team teasers. Plus-100 payouts became rare, the payouts were now -120 or worse. -120 = 54.55% implied probability, so taking the square root of that implies a .7385 or 73.85% break even point for each leg.
While -120 was still passable according to Wong’s data, some books went even further, lowering the payouts to -150 (60% or 77.46% breakeven per leg). Sportsbooks viewed Wong teasers as a threat and reacted accordingly.
More recently, sportsbooks such as Kambi managed books, counteracted teasers by removing the fixed payout component of a teaser. Instead it is simply a parlay of alternate line prices. Take two -8.5 favorites and find the alternate line price for -2.5, which might be -310 each, and parlay those together producing a payout of -133. That would be the price offered by the Kambi managed book.
Are Wong Teasers Dead?
If sportsbooks have caught onto the Wong teaser, is it still a viable sports betting angle? That depends on what you have access to. There are sportsbooks that still offer decent odds on NFL teaser bets requiring three or more legs. Creative sports bettors can find two-team 6-point teasers. More on that later in this article. You can also find sportsbooks looking to block two-team teasers, but still offering advantageous payouts on three, four, five, or six-team teasers. Figuring out the per leg break even point of any teaser is as simple as taking the implied probability of the payout and then finding the square root to the power of how ever many legs are in the teaser.
For instance, if a three-team teaser paid +160 you would convert that to probability (38.46%) and then take the third root (or cube root) of that probability. If you’re using Excel or Google Sheets, the formula is:
p = the implied probability of the teaser line
n = the legs of the teaser
= 0.7272 (72.72%)
… a four-team teaser paying +250 would be 0.7311 (73.11%)
… a five-team teaser paying +450 would be 0.7111 (71.11%)
… a six-team teaser paying +600 would be 0.7230 (72.3%)
You can do the exercise to find which teaser setup affords you the lowest necessary break-even point for the wager. These are all 6-point teasers. You’ll want to do the exercise for 6.5- and 7-point teasers as well.
Some books allow open legs in teasers (that can be filled in later), others don’t. If you have a book that allows open legs, the higher variance longer teasers can be both the best EV and the best way to disguise a sharp action.
The fastest and easiest way to calculate whether your teaser bets are plus-EV is to use Unabated’s Teaser Calculator. This Premium feature allows you to choose books, number of legs and payouts. Choose individual legs and the calculator will show you which legs have a positive expectation, and whether your entire teaser is plus-EV.
You can even manually edit lines if the books/prices available to you aren’t available in our interface.
Do-It-Yourself NFL Teaser Bets
As I mentioned, two team teasers aren’t necessarily dead if you can find a more creative way to play them. You can use our Alternate Line Calculator at Unabated to analyze alternate lines to determine if they are worth parlaying together to create do-it-yourself teasers.
First, we can determine the target price using the Alternate Line Calculator. You can enter in the pre-teaser line with the vig removed and seek the teased line as the alternate line as shown in this example:
The calculator tells us that for a game lined at +2.5, if we can find a better price than -282 on +8.5 (in other words -281 or lower), we’ll have a good situation to make our own teaser. You also don’t need to be constrained to just traditional Wong teasers with this approach.
For instance, what if we found +8.5 -275 on a Sunday night game but the only thing we have to pair it with is the Monday night game that is lined firmly on +3? You could use this tool to see if there is any value in the alternate lines stemming from +3. That might include going only from +3 to +7.5 -205. If you entered +3 +100 as the primary line and +7.5 as the alternate line, you’d find the calculator suggests -214.
Combine this with a sportsbook that offers a bonus amount on parlay payouts (perhaps a 5% bonus on three-team parlays) and you may find that do-it-yourself teasers can end up with some teaser payouts that rival what we saw in the industry before Wong’s book hit the market.
Just a brief word of caution, this tool currently doesn’t accept home/away inputs for the NFL lines. That is a revision coming in the future. Be mindful that based on historical inference teasing the home team has been more profitable than the away team. It’s also worth pointing out that the home field advantage in the NFL has been steadily declining over the past decade.
Beware of Bad Teaser Bets
“With great power there must also come great responsibility.”
— Peter Parker Principle
Utilizing Unabated’s tools to find good teaser bets also gives you the ability to identify bad teaser bets. I’ve long felt that sportsbooks overreact to teaser play. The majority of bettors don’t use them wisely. That majority far outweighs the sharp action on any given Sunday.
Most recreational bettors fall in love with teasers and extend their use to anything they can. Here are the Top 5 Mistakes people make with teasers. I would encourage you to run these numbers through the Alternate Lines Calculator to see how bad they really are:
- Teasing Through The Zero — The 0 is a dead number in the NFL because there is very little probability that the game will end in a tie. Therefore, you’re wasting one of your 6 precious points on a point with no value.
- Teasing Totals — Building on points with no value are points that have very little value. Compared to spreads, totals have very little value. Teasing a total from under 56 to under 62 might seem like it has value, but run it through the calculator and you’ll see.
- Teasing College Football — Similarly, the value of spread points in CFB is much lower. This is due to the wide distribution of outcomes. While it is rare in the NFL to have a game line much beyond -14, in CFB point spreads can exceed -40. The value of each point is diminished and not worth the tease.
- Teasing Other Sports — People try to carry over their teasing ability to other sports such as NBA or CBB. It doesn’t usually translate. Mostly due to the same reason it doesn’t work in CFB.
- Super Teasers — If 6 points is good, then 10 points must be great! Well, they can be, but a common play for losing bettors is to 10 point tease all the favorites on the board. Just like parlaying all the heavy favorites on the board, this method works until it doesn’t.
Key Takeaways for Teaser Betting
- Teasing through the 3, 6, & 7 is still viable, but sportsbooks largely adjust to it.
- Knowing the math of to calculate teaser break-evens can help identify value.
- Use the Alternate Lines Calculator to build Do-It-Yourself teasers.
- Most bettors will continue to use teasers poorly. Identify what makes them poor uses.