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The Complete Square's Guide to Sports Wagering: Teasers...By Jay Graziani

Teasers are a widely available, yet often misunderstood betting option, that can be profitable under the right conditions. Teasers allow the player to get an extra amount of points on a game spread or total, at the penalty of reduced payout. The most common type of teaser is the 2-team, 6-point teaser in the NFL, in which a player chooses two sides or totals and receives an extra 6 points against the line on each leg, but must cover both legs in order to receive a payout of even money (or worse, depending on the generosity of the sports book in question).

Teasers are simply hybrids of two separate wagers: buying points and parlays. A two-team, 6-point teaser in football is the same as buying 6 full points (12 half points) on each bet and parlaying them together. For a 2-team teaser that pays even money (which is becoming harder to find), you are buying 6 points on each side, but paying the equivalent of -240 per leg. In other words, instead of having to stay above 52.4% winners to break even (at -110 odds per side), you now have to win at nearly 71% against the "teased" lines on each leg to break even over the long term.

Is it worth paying an extra 130 "cents" (from -110 to -240) to get those extra six points? More importantly, are those 6 points on your 2-team parlay worth taking even money instead of the +260 you could get just by parlaying the teams together without the extra points? This, of course, requires an estimate of how much each point you are buying is worth. Players will often tease, for instance, a small NFL favorite, e.g. -2, to a small underdog, e.g. +4. The team was supposed to win anyway and now we're getting more than a field goal buffer - how bad of a bet could that be? But while buying through the "-3" is certainly valuable, buying the 1's and 2's are worth significantly less. Of course, buying through the "0" is completely worthless, but you are paying for it anyway as part of the teaser. All of this makes the -4 to +2 teaser a significantly bad bet. So it's important to consider what points you are buying so you can pick up as many "key numbers" as possible

A database of past results can assist in determining whether the extra points are worth the lower payout. Looking at historical results in the NFL, teasers are not a good bet in general. Betting random teams, even with the extra points from the teaser, still results in long-term losses. However, narrowing the results down can provide some specialized situations where teasers are profitable. Six point NFL teasers which capture both the "3" and "7" have been historically profitable, due to the higher frequency of games landing on those key numbers. So teasing only favorites of -7.5 to -8.5 (down to -1.5 to -2.5) and underdogs of +1.5 to +2.5 (up to +7.5 to +8.5) should produce profitable bets. In general, home teams in both these favorite and dog subset tend to outperform road teams. Teasers of 6.5 points and 7 points are also profitable when capturing the 3 and 7, at least at the commonly available odds of -120 and -130, respectively.

Unfortunately, sports books have caught on to the utility of teasers as well. For that reason, odds on teasers have been slashed at many sports books, often making them marginal or poor plays. A win percentage of 70.7% per leg is required to break even with 2-team, 6-point teasers at even money. If that teaser is priced at -110, as is the policy at many sports books today, the necessary win percentage increases to 72.4%, a significantly worse bet. Paying attention to the price you are paying on teasers can be the key difference between profit and loss.

The payoffs for various teasers which require a winning percentage "around" 71% (between 70.7% and 71.1%) are as follows:

2-team: +100
3-team: +180
4-team: +300
5-team: +400
6-team: +700
7-team: +1000

You should try to get those odds or better to maximize the value of your teasers.

Never tease through "0" in sports that cannot end in a draw. You are buying two half points that are completely worthless, and two half points that are only good for moving on or off a push. Those 4 half points are only as good as two half points through any other number. By including them in a teaser, you are paying entirely too much for the other points that actually mean something.

Never tease both sides of the same line, for example over 41 with under 53, or Team A -1 and their opponent +13. Stanford Wong explained this concept in his book, Sharp Sports Betting. Let's say you think both teams in a particular game are good teaser selections, with a 75% chance of covering the teased line. That means Team A will fail to cover 25% of the time, and Team B will fail to cover 25% of the time. In this case, the results are not independent - there is no chance of both legs losing. Since one of the teams has to cover, doing the math means you must lose that teaser 50% of the time (25% Team A fails to cover plus 25% chance Team B fails to cover). That makes your "advantage" teaser a break-even proposition against +100 odds, and a long-term loser if your teaser payouts are worse.

If instead, you pick 75% teaser teams in different games, each has an independent chance of covering. That gives your 2-team teaser a 56.3% chance of covering (75% X 75%). That's enough for a nice profit at +100, and will let you break even at 2-team teaser odds of up to -125. You increase your odds of winning by choosing teams playing in independent games.

Teasers, often seen as a "sucker bet", can be one of the most consistently profitable wagers for a sports bettor. Always make sure to get the best teaser prices, and only pick games where it makes sense to buy the extra points. In the NFL, this has historically meant buying through both the "3" and "7". To find profitable situations in other sports, you'll need to do some research yourself. Teasers are a very beatable wager, assuming you have done your homework.

"The Complete Square's Guide to Sports Wagering" is a recurring series aimed at educating novice sports bettors. The next article will take a look at hedging strategies.

Jay Graziani

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