Based on the current spreads (which could obviously change), it looks like a logical week to do the annual refresh of my NFL teaser guide.
I’ll go over the math behind the highest value teasers you can bet by reviewing five rules every bettor should consider, plus five additional tips to look out for.
As always, price matters, which I’ll detail below. So if you are betting teasers at -130, find a new sportsbook.
Rule 1: Cross Key Numbers
Historically, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10 and 14 are the six most common margins of victory in the NFL. However, 3 and 7 are kings since games end on those two numbers at a significantly higher clip than the rest. Therefore, you almost always want to cross both when teasing a side. Here’s a list of key numbers for NFL spreads — games end at 3 or 7 a combined 25% of the team.
From a purely mathematical standpoint, you 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 break even 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, all NFL regular season spreads since 2003 covered only 68.7% (6,638-3,026) of the time if teased six points over a sample set containing just under 10,000 data points. That obviously doesn’t clear the hurdle rate of 72.4%.
The story changes if we filter for all teases that would’ve captured both the 3 and 7.
NFL regular season underdogs between +1.5 and +2.5 covered a 6-point teaser 75.2% of the time (374-123). And favorites between -7.5 and -8.5 have historically covered at a slightly higher clip of 76.8% (218-66). That gives us a total of 592-189 or 75.8%, which easily clears the 72.4% hurdle rate.
Those results capture the closing lines on all teams in those specific spread ranges. If you consider a few other factors (which I’ll explain shortly), you can potentially improve that percentage. Again, this analysis only applies to teasing NFL sides.
Rule 2: Don’t Ever Cross Zero
On a related note, don’t even consider teasing teams from -3 to +3, -1 to +5, or anything else that “crosses zero.”
Recreational bettors make this mistake far too often. You’re simply giving up too much edge by crossing over a dead range that will only include a maximum of one key number.
This is even crazier in the playoffs since games can’t end in a tie. You’re essentially paying for points that don’t matter. Just don’t do it!
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, but they don’t hit frequently enough for a tease to make any mathematical sense.
The one possible exception: teasing a side and total in the same game that you believe are correlated (usually underdog/under and/or favorite/over), but that rarely comes up. Bottom line: you’ll be a much better bettor once you completely stop considering totals for teasers.
Rule 4: Price Matters
Make sure you shop around!
We put together a list of teaser prices at every U.S. sportsbook, though they change frequently.
Don’t pay -130 for a 6-point teaser (which would significantly increase your long term hurdle rate) when there are still books out there that offer -120. DraftKings still offers -120.
Everything I’ve said is predicated on the fact that you have access to a reasonable teaser price (-120 or lower). The break-even point for a 6-point teaser at -130 odds suddenly jumps from 72.4% to 75.2% — which is right at the historical rate (75.8%) I illustrated above. Paying anything greater than -130 heavily tilts the edge in the book’s favor and I personally wouldn’t go above -120.
Price focus shouldn’t be the case for only teasers, but for all types of betting. You need to hit 52.4% just to break even at average odds of -110, but that threshold jumps to 54.6% at -120.
Rule 5: Know the Rules
Make sure you familiarize yourself with your book’s teaser rules and payouts, as they can vary significantly from payout structure to rules for ties.
For example, Caesars in Las Vegas refunds your entire bet if one leg of the teaser pushes and the other leg wins (but not Caesars in the rest of the country).
I recommend only using 6-point teasers, as each additional half-point teased away from the original spread becomes marginally less valuable to the bettor. I’d only ever consider a 7-point teaser if you stumbled upon -130 odds or better and are teasing a 9.5-point favorite down to 2.5 in order to cross the almighty 3 and 7.
Five or 10-cent differences might not seem like much to a recreational bettor, but they add up. Every cent and half-point matters if you want to take this seriously.
Lastly, I’m only referring to two-team teasers in this piece. Depending on the price, it could make more sense to do a 3-team teaser at odds of +180 or better, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Here are five other factors (some minor) that I at least think about before finalizing an NFL teaser:
- Lower-scoring games: Naturally, teasing an underdog with a low total is inherently more valuable than doing so when the total is high since points are more valuable in the former.
- “Backdoorability”: How will the opposing defense play late and/or how much do you trust your quarterback to drive down the field late in the game for a “meaningless” touchdown?
- Coaching: Do you have a competent coach who will understand kicking down 10 with under two minutes left 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 critical with the recent extra-point rule changes. As a result, it makes teasing an underdog from +2.5 to +8.5 even more valuable, so make sure you shop around as always!
- Parlay payout: If you’re teasing two favorites down from -7.5 to -1.5 or something similar, check the payout for a moneyline parlay. It could pay out more for essentially the same bet.
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