As you well know by this point, every wager type is designed to give the house an edge. That is no different with teaser. Hey, it’s called “teaser” for a reason! The goal behind the teaser for the books is to entice bettors by the prospect of adding six, 10, or even 13 points to a spread. The natural inclination of a bettor is to think, “If I like the team at the current spread, then they should be close to a lock with the extra points.” It goes without saying that this is exactly what the books want you to think.
Now that’s not to say there isn’t value in betting teasers. Before we get into that, let’s start with when not to bet teasers. When betting a teaser, you need to cross key numbers in order to actually gain value. Those numbers are: 3, 7, 10, 6, 14, 4, 1, 17, 13 and 2. When betting a teaser, you want to cross as many of these key numbers as possible.
The biggest fail I see when novice bettors place teasers is they ignore the math and focus exclusively on “well I just need the team to win.” They use this logic to justify teasing a team through zero. Never tease through zero. Also note, when I say never tease through zero, that doesn’t mean you can’t tease a team that was -5.5 down to +0.5. If a team is favored between two and four points, you cannot tease that team because you are giving away too much value. There is little to no difference between being -3.0 and +3.0 for the purposes of a teaser. Teasing a team from -3.0 to +3.0 is the single worst move you can move in a teaser. Pushes are losses and over 90% of NFL games are decided by more than three points, making your “value gained” minimal, at best.
When betting a teaser, you want to go through as many significant numbers as possible. In a two-team teaser, going from a six to eight point favorite down to a pick ‘em to two-point favorite is one example. In a three-team teaser, going from a 10-12 point favorite down to a pick ‘em to two-point favorite is another example. When betting underdogs, going from +4.5 to +14.5 is a great example of going through multiple significant numbers. The reason for this is that more NFL games are decided by those exact amounts of points. Using the last 20 or so years of statistics, here is a brief breakdown of margin of victory:
1 point: 4.25%
3 points: 15%
4 points: 5.5%
6 points: 5.5%
7 points: 8%
10 points: 5.75%
14 points: 4.5%
These are the most common margins of victory. As you can see, when you are able to tease a team through both three and seven, you are gaining the most value.
Three team, six-point teasers, at +180 are the most common. You will need to win each leg of your teaser at about a 71% clip in order to be profitable. The problem with teasers is that most bettors overestimate how much an extra six points improves the likelihood of a particular team covering the spread. If you are not teasing through significant numbers, there is a chance you will not increase your odds of winning each leg by enough to justify betting the teaser.
When compared to other types of wagers, know that a straight bet is always the most profitable bet. The advantage the books have on a straight bet is lower than on a parlay or a teaser. If you are betting to make money and for no other reason, from a pure value standpoint, you should almost exclusively be placing straight bets.
If you want to have a little more fun/increase the excitement/have some action on multiple games with a reasonable shot at winning, then teasers are better than parlays in that regard. Your odds of winning a teaser are obviously quite higher than winning a parlay. The drawback is in both scenarios, you have to be correct on multiple wagers and the parlay payout is much better than the teaser payout. With a teaser, you are trading payout for increased odds of being correct. On a six-point teaser, the books have anywhere from a 17% to 34% advantage. If you read my article on parlays, you know that the house edge on a two-team parlay is 10%, but by the time you get to a five-team parlay, the house edge is up to about 35%. Depending on what you put in the legs of a parlay or a teaser, one can be more valuable than the other. But any way you slice it, you are sacrificing a ton of value by doing anything other than a straight bet, where the house has its lowest advantage of just 4.5% on a standard -110 bet.
Teasers are fun, and, in the right circumstances, profitable, but should not be something you do long-term to try and profit.
Jason Katz is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Jason, check out his archive.