What is a teaser bet?
The teaser is one of the most popular alternative wagering options available to sports bettors. Specific to basketball and football, a teaser bet is a multi-leg wager that allows bettors to buy points in their favor. Generally, teasers involve anywhere between two to ten different wagers rolled into a single bet. The size of the teaser (the number of wagers rolled into the bet) will dictate the terms of the payout. In other words, a five-team teaser will pay out more than a two, three, or four-team teaser. More on this later. In order to win a teaser, all individual bets must be successful. Hitting on two out of three games is impressive, but it won’t get it done with this type of bet.
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Why would I do a teaser bet?
Before trying your hand at a teaser bet, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to sports betting, “How To Bet On Sports,” to understand all of the different types of bets at your disposal. A significantly modified point spread slanted in a bettor’s favor is an enticing proposition, hence the term “teaser.” In football teasers, the standard teaser is six points, but many sportsbooks offer 6.5, 7, 10, and 14-point teaser modifications. In theory, this diminishes the risk of wagering against the standard point-spread. Bettors have the ability to add points to the spread if they want to bet an underdog, or subtract points from the spread if they wish to bet a favorite. Let’s take a look at Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season as a basic example:
Here, the Eagles are a 5.5-point favorite over the Falcons and the Steelers are a 6.5-point favorite of the Browns. Let’s say you like the Eagles and Steelers to win, but aren’t sure about either team’s ability to cover the point spread. In this case, a six-point teaser on both favorites eliminates the dangers of the point-spread. Here are the modified lines:
Now, when Steelers dick around for 57 minutes before marching 80 yards to bang a 54-yard field goal as time expires, thus delivering Cleveland an inevitable soul-crushing 24-22 loss, you can celebrate the cover of your two-leg, six-point teaser instead of lamenting the fact that the Steelers failed to cash on the original point spread. It’s a beautiful thing.
Using this same example, a bettor can also buy the Browns up to a 12.5-point underdog and the Falcons to an 11.5-point underdog. Or they can mix a favorite and an underdog.
Additionally, teasers can be applied to game totals. Let’s again use the Week 1 Eagles-Falcons and Steelers-Browns matchups as an example:
Bettors can lower these game totals in their favor if they wish to bet the “over,” and they can raise the totals if they wish to bet the “under.” Here are the modified totals on a six-point teaser:
How do teaser payouts work?
This depends on the sportsbook you are utilizing. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s take a look at Bovada’s NFL teaser payouts:
Typically, this is on par with industry standards. A two-team, six-point teaser often requires a $120 risk to win $100.
When does it make the most sense to play teasers?
Most experienced bettors will tell you that it makes the most sense to utilize teasers when bringing a spread down beyond the most frequent margins of victory. Historically, three, four, six, and seven points are among the most frequent margins of victory, so a tease of a favorite that brings you below these numbers is generally accepted as the most efficient use of your purchased points. Conversely, I’m a big proponent of playing home underdogs, so anytime I can identify a live underdog and push the points over these numbers to give myself some breathing room, I try to do that. I can’t stress enough that blindly bringing every 6 to 8-point spread down below a field goal is a bad idea. Like with any type of sports wager, picking good spots and understanding contextual factors and trends is key.
One additional thought, and this seems obvious, but it needs to be established here: Make sure you understand the terms of your teaser bets. Certain sportsbooks will grade a bet as a push if one leg wins and the other leg pushes, but the majority of books will grade the play as a loss under this scenario. For this reason, whenever possible, I recommend avoiding your purchased points landing directly on common margins of victory. For instance, teasing a 9-point favorite down to a 3-point favorite is dangerous because that particular margin of victory so frequently occurs. Imagine winning the other legs of your teasers only to take a loss because the other leg pushes. That’s a nightmare scenario, and it should be avoided whenever possible.
What are the potential problems with betting teasers?
First, let’s start with the math. These concepts can be rather complex, but I want to keep this as simple as possible. Because most standard teaser bets start with a -120 price ($120 wager to win $100), simply breaking even on your teaser bets means a bettor will lose money on juice alone. Therefore, in order to make money, one has to hit at above a 50% clip to win. Furthermore, because a bettor needs to hit on each leg of the bet in order to cash, one can conceivably have a 50% success rate picking individual games in a teaser, yet lose the vast majority of bets. The popular sports gambling book “Sharp Sports Betting” notes that for 6-point teasers to break even over a given time period, bettors must hit with over a 72.3% success rate.
This is important to understand because even with added points it is still difficult to correctly hit on multiple legs of a teaser bet. Just because something should happen doesn’t mean it will. That 6-point favorite that can’t possibly lose outright often does. That 4.5-point underdog that you think can’t win outright often does. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times it works out where one side of a two team-teaser easily wins and the other side busts. For instance, take the Eagles-Falcons and Steelers-Browns games mentioned above. Let’s say the Eagles roll 31-10, but the Browns win outright. The games split, but you lose the bet.
I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like every week there are two games that paired together look like an easy score on a teaser bet, and, inevitably, one side of the proposition completely busts. It’s fresh bait for green bettors. While sometimes betting down favorites below a field goal works, just remember—like many things in life, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.