You’ve Got it All “Wong” on Teasers
There isn’t a betting term in the entire industry that rings truer than the “teaser.” Sports bettors have long been enamored with the teaser wager given its flexibility in manipulating the point spread. The most common football teaser bet gives bettors six additional points to work with on two separate games of their choice (commonly referred to as six-point teasers). Instead of getting the normal market lines of Bears +8.5 and the Cowboys -5, teaser bettors receive the Bears +14.5 and the Cowboys +1. You are essentially buying those points. Sounds pretty easy, right? The catch is that both legs of the teaser need to cover in order to win the wager and the price is typically set at -120 or -130. Still sounds easy, doesn’t it? Every game on the board is usually available for teasers, both for sides and totals. You could tease a total down from its market line of 46.5 to 40.5 when using the OVER or move it up to 52.5 when selecting the UNDER.
Let’s take a look at the Teaser odds at CRIS:
|Teaser Teams||6 points||6.5 points||7 points|
|2 Team NFL||-120||-130||-140|
|2 Team CFB||+100||-110||-120|
3 Team 10 Points is -120
Three-team football teasers can sometimes give bettors 10 additional points on all three games of their choice. Using the same games from above, the Bears adjusted line goes up to +18.5, the Cowboys +5 and we’ll add the Patriots -2 (bringing them down from their market line of -12).
I know what you’re thinking right now. How could these teasers ever lose? Teasers are available for basketball as well, with essentially the same concepts in play for sides and totals. Before you rush out to bet teasers, let’s take a step back and evaluate why they’re much more difficult than they seem.
Let’s go through the basic math for the common six-point football teasers before we get into the best way to play them. In order to calculate the odds of winning a teaser, we need to figure out the odds of connecting on each leg. We know that the market lines in theory should represent a 50% chance of covering the point spread for either side (same for over/under on totals). So how much does your probability of covering the spread increase when you’re given six additional points? The answer is it depends. Not every point spread or total is created equal. More on that in a bit.
If we look historically over all NFL games, six points adds roughly 20% to the probability of covering the point spread (for sides only). As a result, the odds of connecting on one leg of a teaser are 70% (50% + 20%). We can then multiply 70% by 70% to calculate the probability of covering both legs – or 49%. Translating that into odds, we arrive at a line of slightly higher than +104. Since six-point teasers are generally offered at odds of -120 or -130, the house edge is rather large. That house edge is even greater when dissecting totals, where additional points aren’t nearly as valuable as for sides. Given the math, it’s no surprise that sportsbook hold percentages for teasers are typically in the double-digits. Suddenly, teasers don’t sound so appealing.
Here are the breakeven win rates for two-team and three-team teasers based on various odds offered:
|+180 odds (9:5)||70.9%|
|+160 odds (8:5)||72.7|
|+150 odds (3:2)||73.7|
|+140 odds (7:5)||74.7|
|+120 odds (6:5)||76.9|
|+100 odds (even)||79.4|
The most common odds for two-team six-point teasers are -120, so bettors will need to connect on nearly 74% of their teaser legs long-term just to break even. Before you get too discouraged, that’s not to say that you can’t ever find value in a teaser. Remember, the math I went through above is all predicated on the value of six points over the entire population of NFL games. But the value of six points changes across the spectrum of point spread values. Getting six additional points on a side that’s +13.5 doesn’t hold as much value as getting six extra points on a game with a market line of +2.5. The +13.5 line gets bumped up to +19.5, but only 16% of games fall within that range at that spread. On the other hand, 22% of games fall within the range of +2.5 to +8.5 at that spread. That’s a big difference in additional probability gained in teasing these spreads.
The odds of connecting on a six-point NFL teaser featuring two teams with +2.5 market lines (teasing up to +8.5) are precisely 73.9%. That means that the bettor has an advantage over the house at odds less than -120. There’s a sweet spot that exists to maintain an edge for the bettor, and it includes only market lines of +1.5 to +2.5 and -7.5 to -8.5. In teasing those lines, the six additional points cross over both the key numbers of 3 and 7 – which are the two most common margins of victory in football. Any teaser that crosses over both of those key numbers, for either favorites or underdogs, will be +EV for bettors at odds of less than -120. Stanford Wong popularized this concept in his book “Sharp Sports Betting” and these teasers are now commonly referred to as “Wong Teasers.”
Unfortunately for bettors, sportsbooks have become wise to the Wong Teasers over the years. The standard odds were once -110 for six-point football teasers, but have now jumped to -120 or -130 at most shops. Some sportsbooks have even went as far as not setting market lines in the ranges of +1.5 to +2.5 or -7.5 to -8.5 to avoid getting hit on teasers that cross both key numbers. Instead, they will move a line of -8 to -9 or reduce +2.5 to +1 with less vig attached. For example, some sportsbooks will post +1 (+110) instead of +2.5 (-110) so that teasers only go to +7 (rather than +8.5).
There are still some places where Wong Teasers are available at playable odds. But they’ve been dwindling for years and you’re likely to run into some heat if you consistently are betting these +EV wagers for profit. If you find a shop that offers teasers at -110, protect like you do your first-born child. If you don’t have access to -110 odds, there are some higher EV opportunities to play Wong teasers when at lower totals. Low totals lead to less scoring and less variance overall. As a result, a small edge at lines of -120 do still exist. Things can get even better if you whittle down the Wong Teasers based on your own personal handicapping.
So what about the rest of the teasers – the 3-teamers, 4-teamers, college football teasers, basketball teasers or any teasers involving totals? Is there any value to be had? The short answer is no. Mathematically speaking, the Wong Teaser is the only teaser that gives the bettor the advantage over the house at times. That doesn’t mean you can’t value in other teasers, but 99% of bettors should avoid them.
What about teasers for games in which a bettor has handicapped the market line to be several points off? Wouldn’t those teasers offer value? In some cases, yes. But it’s almost always a better strategy to attack those games in other ways such as parlays or straight bets. The structure and odds of teasers alone simply destroys too much value for bettors. They’re called teasers for a reason!
Three-team and four-team teasers require too many things to go right and not enough points are offered to compensate for the reduced probability of connecting on multiple legs. Note that the house edge typically increases as the number of legs of a teaser increases. Go to the window with a six-team or seven-team teaser and the house welcomes you with open arms. It’s just not a fair shake for the bettor.
College football teasers are almost always a bad idea – including many Wong Teasers that cross over the 3 and 7. The totals are higher in college football and that means a wider distribution of scoring outcomes. We also see more missed extra points, more safeties and other fluke plays that reduce the probability of games landing on key numbers.
Totals should never be teased except for in rare cases where they are set extremely low. Those extra points on totals just don’t translate into enough additional outs for bettors. Basketball teasers are also a really bad idea both in the NBA and in college basketball. Key numbers aren’t as common in basketball, so there are no sweet spots that we see with the Wong Teasers in football.
One of the common misconceptions with teasers is that you should never cross through the number zero (going from the Packers -3 to Packer +3). It’s just not true. The historical data uncovers some solid situations where teasing through zero makes sense, but you have to be very picky (maybe I’ll cover these spots in another piece). Many of these cardinal rules of sports betting are flat out wrong, so it pays to do your own homework.
A true rookie mistake I’ve seen on teasers is throwing away your ticket after the first leg of the teaser loses. Many bettors discard that ticket without realizing that you can still earn a push and get your money back. If one of the legs of your two-team teaser pushes, the ticket is graded a push overall regardless of the outcome of the other game. Note that this is the most common sportsbook rule for teasers, but doesn’t hold true in every case. Some sportsbooks grade a teaser as a loss if any of the legs lose, but it’s not the norm. For teasers of three teams, one push and two winners on the card usually results in your teaser being graded as a winning two-team teaser with the appropriate odds paid out (the push is treated like it was never part of the card). The same usually holds for larger teasers of 4+ teams, with a push and the other winners simply getting reduced to the next level when a push is involved. The key is to know the sportsbook’s teaser results before placing your wager.
Teasers are fun for bettors because they appear to be beatable on the surface. Of course it’s easier to connect on a bet when you’re getting +10 instead of +4. But when you’re required to nail two or more games, it’s a lot tougher than it looks and the odds are usually against you. Stick with just the Wong Teasers at reasonable odds and your bankroll will thank you later.