When working with regular gambling partners, each person often assumes unofficial non-gambling roles that fit with their character. One person might be in charge of travel – booking flights and hotels. Another might take the lead in accounting – confirming the numbers are correct at the end of each day. And if you’re me, you have the job of reading terms and conditions.
Last year there was an uptick in the number of posts on social media that talked about teaser bets. Teasers are a combination of two or more bets in which the user can change the spread or total, thereby creating a parlay of alternate line bets.
Finding a teaser edge was possible, but no one was posting specifics. I didn’t know how to build a plus-EV teaser or where to look. I read between what lines I could and began to scout options at the sportsbooks which offered them. In doing so I found that teaser prices differed between sports and sportsbooks.
Quantifying a Teaser Edge
Having never bet teasers before, the Unabated Teaser Calculator was revolutionary for my partner and me. Once we populated the teaser tool with our picks it would generate an edge, negative or positive. It was that easy.
When we were educated on which sports books offered vulnerable pricing, our real decisions came in choosing how small of an edge we’d bet overall and how many times we’d use the same team in our teaser combinations.
Rather than relying on optimal combinatorial analysis, we only used a team twice if their individual edge in the equation was more than a percentage that we agreed on beforehand.
Did we leave money on the table by choosing a somewhat arbitrary approach? Sort of. We couldn’t afford to bet every combination with our account balances, and our system kept variance at bay. Our approach fit our situation.
My crew ran well off the bat. Our return was consistently in the range of 8 to 15 percent, This was from our first week of making non-standard teaser bets to our last. We finally ended at an ROI of 13.10 percent. Simply put, we were making money.
Too Many Choices
I’ve had a hard time in my gambling career turning down positive EV. It’s a problem that has seeped into my personal life. There were occasions when I passed on spending time with a significant other because I was on a good game, blackjack or poker. As I grew older, more experienced, and especially because I became a mother, my priorities changed.
I evolved from an advantage player always worried about missing an opportunity to an advantage player only sometimes worried about missing an opportunity.
As recent as a year ago I delayed a planned dinner with Captain Jack and another bettor because I was reluctant to leave an advantageous slot machine. I didn’t want to walk away from a plus-EV spot. But I pulled myself together and left the scene while the slot machine was still good. I was only 10 minutes late. Twenty years ago I would have been lucky to show up for dessert.
A few weeks into betting teasers I finally read the terms and conditions for our most frequently bet book. Their rules and regulations spanned 160 pages and I read them all. I scanned over some of the standard parts about account eligibility and locations but I closely read the majority of their fine print. It turns out that the sports book was not grading their teasers correctly.
Their rule was this: Concerning a two-team teaser, if one leg of the teaser was a push or void, the entire teaser would be voided and the entire bet would be refunded. This was not how the sports book was grading our bets. In our case, for two-team teasers, if one leg lost and one leg was a push or void, we lost the entire bet. On the flip side, if one leg won and the other leg was a push or a void, we won half of the bet. In no scenario was the entire bet voided as the rules stated.
What was the difference in expected value between their written rule and how they were grading our bets? I don’t know. I had less interest in the difference in positive or negative expected value than I did with doing combinatorial analysis when placing our bets.
My concern was with our results. At the time of my finding, the sports book’s incorrect grading was costing us a couple thousand dollars in actual value. If they had graded all of our two-team teasers in which one leg was a push or a void properly, we would have $2,000 more in our account.
Keep Your Powder Dry
My knee-jerk reaction as a young, short-sighted and EV-hungry gambler would be to bring the error to the sports book’s attention. I would argue for the $2,000 owed to us. As an older, more experienced, and less reactionary gambler, I knew that there were better ways of handling the situation. I would be remiss to not include that my partner’s conservative nature helps to keep me grounded.
Knowing that we had a good thing going with teasers, we didn’t want to bring attention to our account and results. Two thousand dollars wasn’t worth getting limited or shut down completely. We continued betting. Once the teaser party was over and our money was successfully in our bank accounts, we would consider bringing it to their attention. We could then argue for money owed to us according to their rules. We would exploit their error.
Teaser prices eventually changed and our edge diminished. We successfully withdrew our money and the account’s limits were still intact. The limits were less than they were when we started betting teasers but still big enough to do damage. Only 5 percent of our bets were graded incorrectly, and we came out slightly ahead because of it.
Leaving no stone unturned, we discussed notifying the sports book of only the mis-graded bets that worked against us. Possibly they’d refund those bets to our account without digging deeper into the issue. We quickly agreed it wasn’t worth it. Our 13 percent return was great and our account survived.
I want to believe that the younger version of myself would have played this situation the same, safe way.
In my blackjack days, most of the time that the casino discovered I was playing with an edge, it was because I made an avoidable mistake. I stayed on a game too long, won too much money, or walked on to a game that a competing player had just hit. I would be too impatient to wait a month until the dust settled. The casino was still paying attention to the game because of the other player’s win.
At its core, winning at sports betting is just math. But knowing when to color outside of the lines can make or break a play.