Tease Me, Please Me

I trust everybody had a great Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll try not to let my turkey overdose affect my writing. Over the last two weeks, I have tried to explain some of the mathematics behind parlays to help you understand why the payoffs are set where they are. This week I want to cover Teasers and the good news is there is no math to discuss today.

According to the dictionary there are many definitions for the word Tease. However there were a couple of definitions that I think are appropriate for the word in the context it will be used in today.

1. to annoy or pester
2. to arouse hope or desire without affording satisfaction

These aren’t the most positive definitions we could hope to start with but anybody who has lost a teaser would not argue that they are accurate.

Let’s start with an explanation of teasers for those that are not sure (I skipped this part in my first discussion of parlays and received a ton of emails. I learned my lesson). A teaser is a combination of two or more football/basketball spreads/totals where you get a better line on each pick in exchange for a lower payout. It is similar to a parlay where you buy points on your picks but with a teaser you get the same amount of points for each pick. There are an incredible number of variations in how teasers are offered (we’ll discuss why later) but generally you can tease your football lines 6, 6.5, or 7-points and your basketball lines 4, 4.5, or 5-points. For example if you like the Eagles -8 and the Chargers +2 but aren’t sure the Eagles will win by a Touchdown or the Chargers will keep it close you could tease both these picks. If you teased 6.5 points you would have a 2-team Teaser with Eagles -1.5 and the Chargers +8.5. I think you can clearly see that making Philadelphia only have to win by 2 to cover (instead of 9) makes this bet easier to win. Also, the Chargers can now lose by 7 and still cover. The tradeoff is the payout is only 10/12 (this varies from book-to-book but will serve for our examples today) instead of 13/5 as a parlay would be. If you risked $60, the teaser pays $50 but the parlay pays $156! You must decide if the greatly improved chance of winning is worth a 2/3 reduction in payout.

With 3+ team Teasers, a Push on any leg reduces the Teaser to the next lowest level. A 4-teamer where one leg is Push would payout at 3-team levels, etc. Note that a 2-team Teaser with a push is not reduced to a 1-team Teaser as there is no such bet. Be sure to check with your book to see how 2-team teasers with a push are handled (some settle Push/Loss as a Loss, others make it a Push) so you are not surprised.

Why are Teaser payouts so much lower? Simple, it is the only bet type a book offers where balanced action can still result in losses. How can that be? Let’s look at either the Sunday Night or Monday Night games from this past weekend to show how this happens. Sunday Night had Tampa Bay -2.5 over the Saints and a total of 40.5. Monday had the Raiders -6.5 over the Jets and a total of 48. Bettors liked both the favorites and the Raiders game to go over the posted total so the results were good for the House (Saints 23-20 and Raiders 26-20) but yet we lost EVERY teaser placed on just those games! Taking the Monday Night game as an example, there are four possible 2-team Teaser combinations (we’ll use a 6.5-point teaser for this example):

Oakland Pk/Over 41.5
Oakland Pk/Under 54.5
NY Jets +13/Over 41.5
NY Jets +13/Under 54.5

Every one of these was a winner last night because the final score was within 6-points of the spread and total. If there was $120 to win $100 on each of these plays, the House just lost $400 on $480 in handle for an 83.3% loss when action was balanced! The same can be said for the Sunday Night game. In fact 11 of the 16 spreads in the NFL this weekend finished within 6-points of the closing number. Books had a good weekend on straight wagers and parlays but didn’t fare very well at teasers.

However, don’t feel too bad for books (and I am sure you don’t). Even though it is possible to have every Teaser be a winner, it is also possible for the House to earn over 50% with balanced action. Look at the Cleveland/Carolina game for this example. The spread was Browns -7.5 and the total was 35. Here are the four possible 2-team Teaser combinations here (again teasing 6.5-points):

  • Cleveland -1/Over 28.5
  • Cleveland -1/Under 41.5
  • Carolina +14/Over 28.5
  • Carolina +14/Under 41.5

We see only the last one was a winner (final score was Panthers 13-6). If there was $120 to win $100 on each play, the House collected $360 but paid out $100 for a profit of $260 on $480 in handle (a 54.2% gain). Any game where both the spread and total fall outside teaser range will be good for books. There weren’t many games like this last weekend!

The third possibility is where either the spread or total pays both ways but the other line does not. For example, there was the Packers/Bears game this weekend. The spread was Green Bay -9.5 and the total was 38 so the final score of 30-20 Packers meant teasers on the spread were all winners but only teasers with the right total were winners. Again, lets look at the four 6.5-point, 2-team Teaser options:

Green Bay -3/Over 31.5
Green Bay -3/Under 44.5
Chicago +16/Over 31.5
Chicago +16/Under 44.5

In this case, the two teasers with the Over are both winners so the House makes $40 on the $480 in handle for a decent profit of 8.3%

So, now that we understand the different possible outcomes, it should become apparent that there is no equation that can be run to calculate the Theoretical Hold Percentage for Teasers like we can for straight wagers and parlays. The only way to set up Teaser payouts is to comb through the actual results and adjust accordingly. If more games fall closer to the spread and total over time, payouts on teasers will have to be lowered. If fewer games pay both ways, payouts could be raised. Also, because Teasers can be multiple picks from multiple games, it is impossible to even come close to balancing action anyway. Over the years, teaser payouts have ebbed and flowed. In years where Teasers have been very profitable, payouts have increased as books fight for clients and profits. In other years, payouts get lowered and some books even stop offering them (this happened in the NFL a couple of years ago and some books still won’t take teasers on NFL spreads!). In fact this year, we are holding a higher percentage on NFL parlays than we are on teasers.

The fact that there is no math behind teaser payouts makes the options very different from book to book. Be sure to shop around for the best combination of points, picks and payouts to suit your needs. Also be sure to ask how a 2-team Teaser with a Push and a Loss is handled.

I also want to touch briefly on a couple of other types of Teasers, namely Sweetheart Teaser and Pleasers. Sweetheart Teasers give you even more points in your Teaser (say 10 or 13), but you must pick more teams, the payouts are fourther reduced and pushes make your bet a loser. Pleasers (or Reverse Teasers) are Teasers where you give up points in exchange for a better payout.

That should just about do it for Teasers but before wrapping up, here is Kent’s Line Move of the Week. Kent is Bodog’s top bookmaker and each week he discusses a game of note with us from his unique perspective. His thoughts this week are from the Sunday Night game:

Rob told me he wrote a lot this morning so I will keep it short. The Sunday Night game had the Buccaneers at the Saints. We took a ton of action on Tampa Bay and I found it very surprising. Yes, Tampa Bay had the best record in the NFC and was looking to avenge the week 1 loss to the Saints but the closing line of Tampa Bay -2.5 seemed very high. We opened at Pick and the line was simply bet up all week long. A little trick I use to analyze a line where the road team is the favorite is to add 6-points to the spread to see if the line would seem high should home field be switched. It would have helped players on Sunday Night. Being the home team usually gets a team 3-points from bookmakers so switching home fields should add 6-points to a road favorite’s spread if they were at home!.right? In this case, there is no way the Bucs would be an 8.5-point favorite over the Saints, the spread would probably be around 6, so I knew we were on the right side and I let players bet heavy at -2 and -2.5. Home dogs tend to bite big and they did that night.

Thanks very much as always Kent. I will be back next week with a look at the world of professional Handicappers.

The enjoyment of your wagering experience with us is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bodog experience.

Good luck with your wagers!

I always welcome comments, questions and suggestions via email at rob@Bodog.com
Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino