Teasers and Sweethearts

How many times have you lost a bet to a last-minute field goal, fumble or bad call? The extra 7 points you get with teasers suddenly looks very reassuring, doesn’t it?

In 2001 NFL teasers made up 11 percent of the book’s handle. That number has since jumped to 17 percent of the book’s handle so far this year. It would appear that more and more bettors are warming up to the idea of teasers.

I decided to talk about teasers after watching Monday’s game between the Packers and the Rams. The house would have preferred the dog and the under, but what good could possibly be made from the favorite running away with the game and the under? Well, it was so far out ahead and so over in totals that it wiped out three out of four teasers placed on this game. Keep reading to find out more!

What is a teaser exactly?

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. There is 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 7-points you would have a 2-team teaser with Eagles -1 and the Chargers +9. 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 10/13 (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 $65, the teaser pays $50 but the same two picks in a parlay would pay $169. You must decide if the greatly improved chance of winning is worth a 2/3 reduction in payout.

With teasers involving three or more picks, a push on any leg reduces the teaser to the next lowest level. A 4-teamer where one leg is a 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 where balanced action can still result in losses for the book. How can that be? Here is where last weekend’s football game between Jacksonville and Minnesota comes into play. The spread was Minnesota -6 and the total was 46. Using 7-point teasers and only this one game, there were four plays that could have been made:

Jacksonville +13 and Over 39
Jacksonville +13 and Under 53
Minnesota +1 and Over 39
Minnesota +1 and Under 53

The final score was Minnesota 27-16 and so every one of these teasers was a winner because the final score was within 7-points of both the posted pointspread and total. If there was $130 to win $100 on each of these plays, the house just lost $400 on $520 in handle for a 77% loss.

However, don’t feel too bad for books (and I am sure you don’t) because even though it is possible to have every teaser be a winner on balanced action, it is also possible for the house to earn over 50% from the same position. Look at the St. Louis/Green Bay game as an example of this. The spread was Green Bay -7 and the total was 51. Here are the four possible 2-team teaser combinations (again teasing 7 points):

St. Louis +14 and Over 44
St. Louis +14 and Under 58
Green Bay Pick and Over 44
Green Bay Pick and Under 58

The final score in that game was Green Bay 45-17, so the only win was the Green Bay/Over teaser. If there was $130 to win $100 on each play, the house collected $390 but paid out $100 for a profit of $290 on $520 in handle (a 55.8% gain). Any game where both the spread and total fall outside teaser range will be good for the books, or as in this case, at least get us to even when we don’t get the side or total we need.

The third possibility is where either the spread or total “pays both ways” but the other line does not. This case was more typical of what happened several times last weekend. For example, let’s look at the Washington/Pittsburgh game. The spread was Pittsburgh -10 and the total was 35. Here are the four possible 2-team teaser combinations, typical of any given Sunday:

Washington +17.5 and Over 28
Washington +17.5 and Under 42
Pittsburgh -3.5 and Over 28
Pittsburgh -3.5 and Under 42

The final score was Pittsburgh 16-7, so both plays with the under were winners. In theory, the house makes $60 on the $520 in handle for a decent profit if the action was balanced. However, spreads get more teaser action than totals, so we didn’t do as well as the theory would indicate on this game.

What’s the math involved?

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 because of the competition between books. In other years, payouts get lowered and some books even stop offering them (this happened in the NFL a few years ago and some books still won’t take 2-team teasers on NFL spreads!).

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, as I stated before, be sure to ask how a 2-team teaser with a push and a loss is handled. The difference doesn’t sound like much, but it can have a big impact on your bottom line.

You may also be interested in another type of teaser called a sweetheart teaser. Sweetheart teasers give you even more points in your teaser (say 10 or 13), but you must pick more teams, the payouts are further reduced, and pushes make your bet a loser.

So there you have it. For something a little out of the ordinary, teasers may add a little reassurance and whole lot of satisfaction to your sports betting experience. My final thought is that a “teaser” is not a great name for a bet type is it? Being teased is not much fun!dating a tease is even worse. The name implies that it is not as easy to win as it appears, and on some weekends, that is certainly the case.

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