Imagine this. You’re a point spread bettor, and you want to put money down on the Buccaneers vs. Lions game. You like The Bucs, but you’re not sure they’re going to be able to beat a -9.5 spread; you think they might blow the Lions out of the water, but you want to hedge your bet to be safe. You sit there, thinking to yourself “I wish I could bet on the Bucs at -3.5; then I’d be sure to win!”.
We’ve got good news and bad news, my hypothetical friend. The good news: you can change the point spread! The bad news? It may not be all that profitable to do so.
Welcome to NFL teaser bets.
What is a teaser bet?
A teaser bet is a specific type of parlay or multiteam bet in which the bettor is allowed to adjust the point spread (or, more rarely, the over/under totals) for the teams they’ve bet on.
In the NFL, you’ll generally see three types of teaser: 6 points, 6.5 points, and 7 points. The higher the teaser, the lower the payout (we’ll touch on that more when we discuss whether or not teasers are worth it).
NFL teaser example
Let’s say you decide that you do want to bet on that Bucs vs. Lions game, and you opt for a 6 point teaser. Remember, teasers are parlay bets, so you’ll need to bet on at least one other line, as well. You decide that you want to bet on the underdog Broncos against the Chargers. This is what’s called a 2-team teaser. Let’s take a look at the bet without the teaser:
|Buccaneers vs. Lions||Bucs -9.5|
|Broncos vs. Chargers||Broncos +3|
With a 6 point teaser, the lines become
|Buccaneers vs. Lions||Bucs -3.5|
|Broncos vs. Chargers||Broncos +9|
You think that with this adjustment, the Bucs and Broncos will both easily beat their spreads, and that you’ll be in the money. That’s the appeal of teaser bets – they give teams a much better opportunity to beat the spread, thus increasing the bettor’s odds of winning.
Note that you can also tease over/under bets – even though we didn’t use one in our example.
Of course, bookies aren’t exactly looking to give money away for free – if they were, the website you’re visiting right now wouldn’t exist. Teasers aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be – though they can be a part of your betting strategy. Let’s break it down:
Are NFL teaser bets worth it?
There’s a lot of math that goes into determining whether or not teaser bets are worth it. First, you have to figure out what payouts betting sites are giving for teaser bets of various kinds. From there, you have to establish what your win rate needs to be in order for teaser bets to match up to other betting strategies with similar payouts. Finally, you have to determine whether or not the adjusted point spread will improve your odds of winning enough that it matches or exceeds the win rate you need to reach.
We’re going to delve a bit into probabilities here, so get your math hat on.
First, let’s take a look at the odds you can get for a two-team six point teaser. Most books will
give you -110 odds – the same as you’d get from single-betting on either team.
Now, as you may (or may not) know, in order to break even on -110 lines, you need to win 52.38% of the time. Parlays are a bit trickier, since one loss means you lose the whole bet. In order to figure out how often you need to be right to be profitable, we simply calculate the square root of 52.38% – 72.38%.
In other words, for teasers to be profitable, you need to be right 72.38% of the time. That means that your 6 point spread adjustment needs to increase your win rate by 20%.
We can do this math for all kinds of different NFL teasers – and we did. Just figure out the odds, your break-even win rate on single bets with those odds, and the square (or cube for 3 teams) of that break even win rate. Here’s a chart of the break-even win rate required for standard teaser odds of various kinds:
|# of teams||Teaser||Odds||Win rate|
Note that whenever you find better odds than the ones we’ve posted here, the win rate you need goes down. That’s why it’s so important to scout various websites for the best odds before you bet.
Can teasing the point spread adjust your win rate enough?
Obviously, you need a pretty incredible win rate to make teaser bets worth your while. While this is difficult, legendary gambler Stanford Wong, not content with only being known for blackjack victories, developed this strategy for teaser bets in his book Sharp Sports Betting:
- Play two-team, 6 point teasers when the game total is 49 or less
- Tease underdogs at +1 to +2.5
- Tease home favorites at -9 to -7.5
While this technique isn’t always perfect, it uses data gleaned from thousands of football games – Wong was looking at margins of victory. Teams will often win by 3 or 7 points – note that teasing either the underdogs or the home favorites on these spreads by 6 points helps the bettor if they win (or lose) by either 3 or 7 points. 3 or 7 point victories account for about 23.7% of NFL games; you’re also capturing the less common (but still important) 4, 5, and 6 point victories by teasing the above point spreads by 6.
Now, we’re not recommending you use Wong Teasers every time – there are a wide variety of different factors that should influence how you bet. A 6 point two-team teaser might be the most viable strategy in these scenarios, but you might be better off single-betting – teasers are just one more tool in your arsenal.
A final note – totals teasers are almost never worth your while. The key numbers for NFL totals differ a lot from the key numbers for point spread totals. We’ll leave it at that for now.
As you can probably tell, evaluating whether or not you should bet on a given teaser is pretty complicated – it takes a lot of math, a lot of knowledge about the odds various books offer, and a deep understanding of the matchup between the two teams. Don’t want to worry about all of that? You don’t have to – Kyle’s got you covered. Check out our NFL picks.