By Jeff Fogle
One of the most popular betting options for pro football is the two-team six-point teaser. Longtime bettors know what those are. If you’re new to sports betting, a two-team six-point teaser is a bet in which you get to move the line six points in your favor on both teams — but then both teams have to cover those new spreads for you to win your bet.
If you see a pair of 10-point favorites, you could move both down to -4 in a two-teamer. But then both would have to win by five points or more for you to win the bet.
Easy, right? They’re not called “teasers” because they’re easy! They’re called “teasers” because they tease you into making poor choices. It’s harder to sweep two plays, even with six bonus points per game, than most bettors realize. In fact, those six points are almost never enough to make this a profitable approach over the long haul. And the nature of betting psychology leads too many bettors into very bad choices.
Most casual bettors want to bet on favorites because they feel more comfortable rooting for the superior team. Putting favorites in teasers makes these bettors feel even better. “Those 10-point favorites are going to kill the underdogs! I can get them both at -4. Lock City!” Big favorites don’t win by big margins as often as you think. And as you’ve probably learned by now from listening to VSiN’s oddsmaking experts, the lines are often edged a bit against the public. Sportsbooks have to defend against one-sided action. If you see a 10-point football favorite, the “true” line is probably more like -9 or -9.5 — and the point spread was lifted to charge a premium for betting the favorite. That matters for teasers, because you’re not really “getting” six points with the adjustment. You’re getting 5 or 5.5 — sometimes less when you’re talking about bigger favorites.
Most casual bettors like asking the “better” team to just win the game straight up. That means the public loves taking favorites around -6 and moving them down to pick-’em. “All they have to do is win the game!” Sounds easy. But this is the NFL. Do you know how often underdogs in that range spring upsets? It’s common enough to overcome the need to sweep both entries in a teaser. And if you’re the type who likes betting a lot of action, it can be a disaster to include that team in multiple two-team teasers. All those separate bets lose if an upset happens. We should mention there’s often a bit of price inflation in this range too. A 6-point favorite is likely to be a 5.5-point favorite at true odds. You’re not getting full value with the line adjustment.
Generally speaking, most new bettors or recreational bettors focus on those two losing strategies — trying to bring all favorites down so it feels safer to take them, and trying to ask favorites just below a TD to win straight up because superior teams are supposed to win. If somebody who’s never bet before is excited about using teasers this weekend, it’s almost a certainty that he’ll list for you a bunch of favorites he wants to use. “I can’t lay 10 points with that team, but I’m going to love laying 4 points with them.”
Quants have done studies on teasers since they were first offered, first by hand, then by computer. The general lessons from those studies were as follows:
— Teasers are a losing proposition on college football sides or totals.
— Teasers are a losing proposition on NFL totals.
— Teasers are crazy to even try to use in college or pro basketball.
— Teasers are mostly a losing proposition on NFL team sides, with a few exceptions.
The exceptions? It was realized very early that you could put the odds in your favor in the very tight window that allowed you to cross both the key numbers of 3 and 7 in one fell swoop. The success rate for teaser nominees that crossed both the 3 and the 7 was a moneymaker.
— Taking favorites of -7.5 down to -1.5.
— Taking favorites of -8 down to -2.
— Taking favorites of -8.5 down to -2.5.
— Taking underdogs of plus 1.5 up to plus 7.5.
— Taking underdogs of plus 2 up to plus 8.
— Taking underdogs of plus 2.5 up to plus 8.5.
If you use only teams that meet those parameters and use all the possible two-teamers they could create, that would put the odds in your favor. Sharps have been using this “basic strategy” for those price ranges for decades.
Why doesn’t -7 down to -1 work? A lot of games land right on the 7, and pushes lose (as always, check the house rules at your preferred establishment). What about -9 down to -3? Same thing with the 3 — you need to sweep both parts of your teaser to cash. The 3 and the 7 are the most common final results in the NFL. You need to focus on options that put both within the adjustment window.
One of the ironies of NFL betting is that confident team side and totals bettors attack soft lines early in the season. Then it gets more challenging later in the season as the lines better match on-the-field realities. But for teasers, the value of taking six points to put in your pocket gets stronger as the year goes on. Tighter lines add value to crossing the 3 and the 7.
Deeper in the season, moving dogs in the plus 1.5 to plus 2.5 range up to plus 7.5 to 8.5 is a great strategy because you’re attacking vulnerable favorites — not good enough to be favored by a field goal or more. And you’ll get some line inflation to boot, as you’re probably getting more like 6.5 to 7 points in terms of true odds when you move the number on underdogs. If you see a solid, widely available line of -2.5 in the NFL, that means that sharps did not immediately bet the game up to -3. Fading a disrespected favorite with a respected dog at plus 8.5 is a nice thing to have in your portfolio thanks to the power of the 3 and the 7.
If you’re in a sportsbook, you’ll see other options besides two-team, six-point teasers. You can move seven points and pay some extra juice. Three-team 10-point teasers used to be very popular with the public. The math doesn’t back any “basic strategy” beyond what we’ve discussed with the two-teamers. More advanced methodologies that include particular matchup dynamics might zero in on some options. But even then, taking the team at its normal price would likely be more advantageous than using it in a teaser.