Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck
- Should you use teasers when betting the NFL? If so, when and how? Here are five rules to be sure to follow when you're placing NFL teasers.
- I will also look at a few other factors to consider before ever finalizing a teaser.
- We will then apply my personal teaser rules and guidelines to this weekend's wild card games.
With four NFL playoff games each having relatively close spreads, bettors will inevitably place their fair share of teasers this weekend. And contrary to popular opinion, teasers can be a very valuable tool to bettors — but really only in the NFL as long as you follow a few basic rules of thumb.
There are five in particular that I would like to highlight for the novice bettor:
Rule 1: Don’t ever tease across zero. I see this way too often, but you are giving up too much edge by crossing over a dead range from -0.5 to 0 to +0.5 (and -1 and +1 if you play at a book where ties lose).
This is even crazier in the playoffs since games can’t end in a tie. You are essentially paying for points that don’t matter. Just don’t do it!
As a result, don’t even consider teasing the Ravens, Cowboys or Texans this weekend.
Rule 2: Cross at least two key numbers. I personally consider 3, 4, 6, 7, 10 and 14 key teaser numbers, as those are the five most common margins of victory in the NFL. However, 3 and 7 are Kings, as games end on those two numbers at a significantly higher clip than the rest.
From a purely mathematical standpoint, you can give yourself an edge without taking anything else into account by simply crossing 3 and 7 with both parts of a teaser at -110. You may hear some bettors refer to doing this as the good ol’ Wong teaser (in reference to gambling author Stanford Wong).
In order to breakeven on a 6-point teaser at -110, you need teams that have a greater than 72.4% chance of covering after being teased. If we look back in our Bet Labs database since 2003, all NFL spreads would have covered only 69% of the time (5503-2521) if teased six points. Nice, but not nice enough.
Well, the story changes if we filter for all teases that would’ve captured both the 3 and 7. NFL underdogs between +1.5 and +2.5 covered a 6-point tease 74% of the time (292-100). And favorites between -7.5 and -8.5 covered at a 76% clip (170-54). That’s a total of 462-154 or exactly 75%, which clears the 72.4% hurdle rate.
Now, those results are for all teams in those specific spread ranges. If you consider a few other factors (which we’ll get to), you can potentially improve that percentage. Again, this analysis is only intended for those dead-set on teasing NFL sides.
Rule 3: Don’t tease totals. NFL totals simply don’t fall on certain numbers or within a specific range enough to justify the math. There are key numbers to be aware of when betting over/unders (example: 43 after the extra point rule change), but they don’t hit frequently enough to justify a tease.
The one exception is if you are teasing a side and total in the same game that you believe are correlated (usually underdog/under and/or favorite/over). But that’s a conversation for another day.
Rule 4: Price matters. Make sure you shop around! Don’t pay -120 for a 6-point teaser (which would significantly increase your long term hurdle rate) when there are books out there that offer -110.
Everything I am saying is predicated on the fact that you have access to a reasonable teaser price. The breakeven point for a 6-point teaser at -130 suddenly jumps from 72.4% to 75.2%.
Price focus shouldn’t just be the case for teasers, but for all types of betting. You need to hit 52.4% just to break even at average odds of -110, but 54.6% at -120.
5. Know your book’s rules. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your book’s teaser rules, as they can vary significantly from book to book.
I suggest generally using 6-point teasers, as each additional half point teased away from the original spread becomes marginally less valuable to the bettor. However, it can make sense to use a 7-point teaser, but only if you are teasing a 9 or 9.5-point favorite down to 2.5 (in order to cross the almighty 3 and 7) — or a 6.5-point teaser to get an underdog you like from +1 to +7.5
Some books have a “ties win” option, which means you can pay a little extra to win if one part of your teaser pushes. So, why tease a team 6.5 points from +1 to +7.5 for -120 when you can tease that same team 6 points to +7 and paying -115 (instead of -110) for ties win?
That five cent differential might not seem like much to a recreational bettor, but it adds up.
Here are some other considerations (some minor) that I at least think about before finalizing an NFL teaser:
- Lower scoring games: Naturally, teasing a side becomes more valuable in a game where points will come at a premium. Teasing a team in an underdog with a low total is inherently more valuable than doing so when the total is high over the long run.
- Backdoorability: How will the opposing defense play late and/or how much do you trust your quarterback to drive down the field late for a touchdown?
- Coaching: Do you have a competent coach who will understand kicking down 10 with under two minutes to go is smarter than trying to score a touchdown in the final seconds?
- Special teams: Do you have a special teams edge overall and, more importantly, a kicker you trust? This becomes even more important with the recent extra-point rule changes.
My Wild Card Weekend Teaser Rankings
Since we aren’t teasing totals or crossing zero with our sides, that only leaves five potential teaser options.
In order of strength, here are my rankings for those five: