Sports handicapping advice and picks from a future professional sports handicapper.

Location: Lighthouse Point, Florida, United States

I am a corporate attorney with an MBA in finance. I've practiced since 1993. Currently I work for a high-tech company that focuses primarily on intellectual property development, technology licensing and venture capital transactions. In my spare time I am studying several so-called "advantage play" techniques as they relate to sports handicapping. I hope to someday pursue sports handicapping full time. Sportsbook managers, consider yourselves duly warned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Advice: Betting NFL "Teasers"

Let’s say that you are looking at betting the Bills -7 (-110) over the Dolphins. (Assume that you’ve evaluated the corresponding money line wager, but decided that money line isn’t offering any value and that it's better to play the point spread line.) You like the Bills in the game, and you think they’ll win, but you are afraid to lay the full seven points. First of all, you already know from reading past posts that seven is one of the dreaded “key numbers.” That fact alone makes it hard for you to lay -7 (-110). You’d much rather lay -6.5 (-110) if you can find it. What you’d REALLY like to do is bet the Bills -1, that would be great – and guess what - the sportsbook will let you do that, but there’s a catch. Let me explain.

The sportsbook will allow you to play something called a “teaser.” That is, the sportsbook will usually give you anywhere from 6 to 10 points to play with. You can use those points to add or subtract to any existing point spread. The catch is that in order to win a bet on a “teaser”, you have “tease” at least two games, and then you must get BOTH of them correct to win your wager. Using our example above, if you selected a 6-point teaser involving the Bills, you could play the Bills -1 … but you’d also need to select another game on that week’s schedule and also “tease” 6 points on that game as well. If the sportsbook was offering the Cowboys +2.5 over the Bears, you could then decide to use the second half of your 6 point teaser and select the Cowboys +8.5 over the Bears. Thus, your “2 team/6 point” teaser would look like this:

Bills -1 over Dolphins
Cowboys +8.5 over Bears

If you win one game and lose the other (or if you lose both games), you lose the entire teaser. If you win both games, your bet wins. Though payoffs on 2 team/6 point teasers vary somewhat, you should always try to find a book that pays off at even money.

As I noted, there are all kinds of these teasers available, involving all sorts of combinations of points and games. Luckily for you, you only need to remember one of them: the 2 team/6 point teaser. All of the other bets usually payoff at a rate that is very disadvantageous to the player (the vig is just too high), so you should avoid them. Leave the 10-point/4-team teaser to the knuckleheads who don’t read this blog; they are almost always horrible odds bets. The guys playing those odds should trade places with their wives at the slot machines.

Now that you know that 2 team/6 point teaser is the only kind of teaser you would consider playing; which of those 2 team/6 point teasers are the best? After all, it’s still very difficult to get both games right, even when you’re teasing 6 points on each game. There is a simple answer:

If you’re going to play 2 team/6 point teasers, find games that enable you to tease favorites DOWN through the key numbers (7,6,4,3) and underdogs UP through these key numbers. For example, Bills -7.5 vs. Dolphins and Cowboys +2.5 over Bears would be good teams to put in a teaser (if you like the Bills and Cowboys to begin with). They’re good because the 6 teaser points will tease the Bills -7.5 down through the key numbers (7,6,4,3), leaving you with Bills -1.5. Similarly, the 6 teaser points will tease the Cowboys +2.5 up through the key numbers of (3,4,6,7).

Historically, individual teams within 6-point teasers (not the entire teaser bet mind you, but each team within the teaser) have had the following results:

1. NFL home favorites of 7.5 to 8.5, when teased down, have covered 6 point teasers 79.8% of the time.
2. NFL home dogs +1.5 to +2.5, when teased up, have covered 6 point teasers 82.2% of the time.

Of course, historical stats don’t dictate future performance, but it can certainly serve as a good guideline.

So, the net/net of today’s lesson: If you’re going to play an NFL teaser, only consider playing 2 team/6 point teasers (preferably paying off at even money), and stick to teasing down home favorites of 7.5-8.5, or teasing up home dogs of +1.5 to +2.5

Good luck as always.

PS: There are also creatures out there called “reverse teasers” or “pleasers.” These work essentially the same as teasers, but in the opposite direction. That is, a pleaser is a wager that the favorite will cover more points that on the normal pointspread (or an underdog will require less points than it is getting on the normal pointspread) but I have not yet run the numbers on those, so I will save that discussion for a further post.