NFL teasers have been a real tease this season

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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Survivor contestants weren’t the only ones looking on in disgust as the New England Patriots lost to the Chicago Bears 33-14 on Monday Night Football to finish Week 7. Teaser bettors were also repulsed by what took place. Taking New England down from -8 to -2 seemed like the world’s most obvious teaser leg of the season against Chicago and Justin Fields with evil genius Bill Belichick up against a first-year head coach in Matt Eberflus.

Because the Bears absolutely rolled the Patriots, another Wong Teaser leg went down in flames. Teasers sure are living up to their name this season, as many of them have looked too good to be true. That is a major byproduct of a lot of outright upsets like we’ve seen this season.

Teasers are a bet type in which you “improve” a team’s line by adding or subtracting points to the spread. For football, the predominant teaser options are 6, 6.5, 7 and 10 points, so you would lower a favorite’s line by that number of points and increase an underdog’s line by that number of points. Teaser bets require two or more teams on one bet ticket. The Wong Teaser is the most popular of these bets.

Wong Teasers were explained in Stanford Wong’s book Sharp Sports Betting and the strategy is to tease favorites of -7.5, -8 or -8.5 points down to -1.5, -2 or -2.5 or underdogs of + 1.5, + 2 or + 2.5 to + 7.5, + 8 or + 8.5. The idea is to get the equity of the key numbers of 3 and 7 with your spread bet by putting a favorite or an underdog that fits the criteria into a teaser.

There are some additional layers that bettors do apply, such as a maximum total or a strategy to only tease home or road teams, but the basic definition of a Wong teaser is teasing favorites of -7.5 to -8.5 down or underdogs of + 1.5 to + 2.5 up.

Those bets have not worked out well this season. If we assume -110, which is no longer the industry standard, the break-even rate is 52.38%, which means that teaser legs need to hit about 72.5% of the time. With a lot of books now dealing -120, the break-even rate is 73.85% for each teaser leg. Books that are dealing -130 or higher require an even greater win rate. To make matters worse, some sportsbooks have even instituted “Ties Lose Teasers”.

Washington Post writer and data analyst Neil Greenberg tweeted out on Tuesday that Wong Teaser legs are only hitting at a 68% clip this season, which would mean that the fair value of a Wong Teaser is + 116. You certainly don’t have to be well-versed in betting odds to know the difference between -120 (or higher) and + 116.

When Wong wrote about his teaser strategy, sportsbooks were offering + 100 (even money) on 6-point teasers. At -110 or even -120, they still had a place. Nowadays, as sportsbooks engage in teaser protection lines and continue to increase the vig, the teaser seems to be something of a dying art. This season is an outlier with how infrequently the legs have won, but bettors have gotten badly burned.

Ironically, there are several teams that fit the Wong Teaser for Week 8 as of Tuesday, including the Buccaneers, Broncos, Saints, Jets, Texans and Rams. How many of them will come through this week?

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