Many non-betting sports fans are generally aware of “the line” – the market price on a sporting event. But, the idea of one line misrepresents how betting markets work. Lines are fluid, shifting around as they move toward the closing number. Furthermore, a bettor can buy (or sell) points from the book. One way to do so: a teaser bet.
What is a teaser bet? How do they work? Should you bet teasers, and if so, how? We’ll go over all of that and more in this primer on teaser betting.
What is a teaser bet?
A teaser involves an exchange of points for volume. The bettor buys some number of points, and in return, must parlay two or more selections.
Usually, the standard teaser calls for the bettor to get six points per football game and four points per basketball game. In return, they must pick at least two teams, increasing the chances of the bet failing by at least one leg. Like a parlay bet, all of the legs in a teaser must win for the bet to grade as a winner for the listed amount.
Often, teasers involve two teams, but some sportsbooks allow up to 10 bets in a teaser.
It sounds a little complicated, but it’s fairly simple in practice. Let’s look at a recent Super Bowl – the 2021 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The consensus market numbers wound up as Chiefs -3 with an over/under of 54.5 according to Pro Football Reference.
Teasing the Chiefs and the under would yield the following bet:
- Chiefs +3
- Under 48.5
While under 48.5 came home easily since the game landed on 40, Chiefs +3 fell well short as they lost 31-9. Therefore, this teaser lost, since the legs went 1-1.
Here are a couple of hypothetical examples from NFL Week 1, which we’ll go more in-depth on a little later. The lines below come from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Teaser Bet Example 1: Tampa Bay (-7.5) + Indianapolis (+1.5)
If you like the look of the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers but you’re a little nervous about laying -7.5 against Dallas in Week 1, a teaser could allow you to get to a price with which you’re comfortable. In this instance, the -7.5 changes to -1.5 – remember, you’re getting six points.
And maybe you want to fade the Seattle Seahawks, but +1.5 doesn’t excite you on the Indianapolis Colts side. Again, add six points to that and you now have a more comfortable margin of +7.5.
So, the bet:
- Tampa Bay -1.5
- Indianapolis +7.5
Teaser Bet Example 2: Buffalo (-6.5) + New England (-3)
Again, maybe you like these AFC East home favorites in Week 1, but you’re not too happy with the points they are laying on the spread. Starting with the Buffalo Bills, they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a teaser here moves the line to -0.5.
New England hosts the Miami Dolphins in an important early game between two teams that figure to be on the playoff bubble. They are sitting -3 but you can flip that from giving a field goal to getting one at +3 with a teaser.
- Buffalo -0.5
- New England +3
Should you use teaser bets?
The answer, as with most things betting-related, is “it depends.”
In most cases, teasers will not be a good option for the bettor. Similar to parlays, tying multiple bets into one wager in which they all must win just increases the chances of the sportsbook scooping up your money. You’re not getting compensated enough for the compounding risk.
However, there does exist a specific type of two-team teaser, known as a “Wong” teaser – so named for gambling author Stanford Wong – that can produce bets with positive expectation (+EV).
They only work in the NFL. Due to the sharpness of the markets and the general close nature of NFL contests, buying points has more value compared to, say, college football. College markets contain far less certainty. Therefore, paying for numbers makes less sense.
Buying the right numbers in the right games
Wong teasers revolve around purchasing important numbers. In football, you want to buy three and seven since those are the most common winning margins.
So, backing up a bit to the examples we went over earlier, notice that the first one satisfies these requirements. In the case of the Bucs, a teaser bettor bought the numbers 2 through 7. For the Colts, the bettor did the same, except the positive numbers instead of negative.
Margins in football games frequently land in this range, particularly in the highly competitive NFL. Notice that for standard teasers, you’ll want favorites laying 7.5 through 8.5 and underdogs getting 1.5 through 2.5.
It’s not as simple as always buying these key numbers, although that’s certainly the most important factor. Totals play a role too. Generally, the lower the total, the better the value of teasers. The points you buy are just more likely to matter in a lower-scoring environment.
If the price is right
One major factor we haven’t discussed thus far: price. That’s where things can get trickier still.
Pricing on teasers has evolved over the years thanks precisely to the +EV bets outlined above. Simply booking some Wong teasers and waiting for the profit to roll in may not work anymore. That’s because printing on teaser bets was far easier when -110 pricing was widely available.
Unfortunately, the sportsbooks eventually caught on and largely closed this avenue to winning. If you can find -110 on teasers, great. You’re in business. But that has become increasingly difficult. Here’s how the pricing breaks down on two-team NFL teaser bets at several legal US sportsbooks that we checked for this article:
- Caesars -120
- DraftKings Sportsbook -120
- BetMGM -120/-130
- Circa -125
- FanDuel Sportsbook -134
Changing from -110 to -120 nudges the breakeven point from just over 72% on each leg of a two-team teaser to almost 74%. It may not seem like a huge difference, but remember, 2% is pretty much the difference between flipping coins (while laying the book some vig) and winning at sports betting. It’s pretty massive.
Opinions vary on how beatable -120 teasers are, but shop cautiously and explore all outlets to see if you can find a profitable one.
Naturally, if the sportsbook allows you to buy points, it follows that they also allow you to sell points. A parlay bet involving two selections or more in which you “sell” six points to the sportsbook is known as a “reverse teaser” or a “pleaser.”
Perhaps the latter name stems from finding yourself mighty pleased at the hefty payout when you manage to win one. Or, maybe from how pleased the sportsbook operators become when you fire them.
In any case, payouts vary, but just know going in that pleasers are very difficult to hit.
As for strategy, the opposite principles from teaser bets naturally apply. The sharper the market, the more likely the handicap between the two teams is accurate. Therefore, you rate to profit more by betting pleasers in something like college football or basketball than the NFL.
What happens to my teaser bet if a leg pushes?
Many bettors have questions about some of the mechanics surrounding teaser bets. For instance, what happens in the case of a push – say you teased the Patriots in example No. 2 above and they lost by 3.
Most books treat teasers like parlays. That is, they simply drop off a push or canceled game and treat it as a teaser with one fewer leg.
That’s not always the case, though. For example, FanDuel’s terms say they simply cancel a two-teamer if one of the legs pushes and the other wins. Check your sportsbook’s terms and conditions for relevant policy.
Relevant rules about games that get canceled, moved or delayed also may apply. Again, refer to your sportsbook’s house rules.