NFL: Let’s talk about teasers (Week 5)

6-point Teasers

Our methodology for playing 6-point teasers is similar to Blackjack expert Stanford Wong’s strategy:

  • Tease the underdog when the line is +1½, +2, +2½, or +3;

  • Tease the favorite when the line is -7½, -8, -8½, or -9.

The reasoning behind this methodology is that games are frequently decided by a final margin of 3, 6, or 7. So we play teasers in such a manner that we gain these numbers in the teaser movement.

In my week 1 post, I did a mathematical dive into whether we should be playing games at exactly +3, whether home teams are more reliable than road teams, and whether the total of the game matters.


Sweetheart Teasers

10-point teasers are often called “sweetheart” teasers. I’m grateful to u/hyperkinesis247 for inquiring if there’s an edge regarding sweethearts. After looking at a small sample size in 2017-2019, I’ve decided to track 10-point teasers according to the following methodology:

  • For 10-point teasers, tease the underdog when the line is +1½, +2, or +2½;

  • Do not take sweetheart teasers at +3;

  • Do not take sweetheart teasers on favorites.


Previous Results

The plays last week were:

Off-the-board spread 6 pt 10 pt
Chicago +3 Win
Denver +1½ Win Win
Detroit +3 Win
San Francisco -8 Loss
Tampa Bay -7½ Win

I’ve been using the closing line at Bovada to determine which games qualify as Wong bets. For example, Carolina and Las Vegas both closed at +3 with many books and both covered. But they’re not included in the list above because Bovada closed them at +3½. (You can verify the lines at sbrodds.com.)

I’m a Blackjack player. I didn’t know the first thing about sports or sports betting when I started this tracking. In hindsight, I’ve learned that Bovada was a terrible choice. Nonetheless, Bovada was the choice and switching now seems statistically unethical.

Assuming a -120 payout for 2-team teasers, we must demonstrate better than 73.9% probability on each leg to show we have breakeven-or-better EV. For a -130 payout on 3-team sweethearts, that threshold is 82.7%. Including last week, the results since 2017 are listed below.

Teaser Year Team Record
6 pt 2017 +1½ thru +3 61-23 72.6%
6 pt 2018 +1½ thru +3 63-19 76.8%
6 pt 2019 +1½ thru +3 52-16 76.5%
6 pt 2020 +1½ thru +3 16-2 88.9%
6 pt 2017 -7½ thru -9 27-10 73.0%
6 pt 2018 -7½ thru -9 16-9 64.0%
6 pt 2019 -7½ thru -9 17-7 70.8%
6 pt 2020 -7½ thru -9 7-2 77.9%
10 pt 2017 +1½ thru +2½ 22-1 95.7%
10 pt 2018 +1½ thru +2½ 24-5 82.8%
10 pt 2019 +1½ thru +2½ 23-4 85.2%
10 pt 2020 +1½ thru +2½ 5-0 100.0%

The chart above counts pushes as losses. You should strongly consider betting at a book that has a “pushes reduce” rule instead.

The reason why my results only count the last three years (2017-2019) is because that’s all the time I’ve had to look at so far. There’s no real reason why I’m actively avoiding 2016. I’ll be making an effort to look at the 2016 data soon.


Advice

Once upon a time, Wong’s strategy was reliable. Bookmakers used to routinely pay -110 for teasers and games tended to be lower-scoring in the past.

But in 2020, the payouts are stingier and NFL offenses are stronger. It would be irresponsible to automatically assume Wong teasers are still a winning strategy today. This post is not a suggestion to bet. Merely, this is an experiment to see if this strategy is still favorable in today’s environment.

Before last week, I expressed concern over the fact that our selections were 16-5-1 against the un-teased spread. This is good news if you had bet real money on these games in the past. However, it was a red flag in terms of sustainability moving forward. We have no reason to believe that our win percentage against the un-teased spread should be higher or lower than 50%.

Last week’s results helped alleviate those concerns a little bit. The picks were 1-4 against the un-teased spread but still 4-1 in our teasers. It’s a step in the right direction, but one week isn’t enough of a sample size for me to consider flipping my advice.


This Week

As of the time of this post, the Bears number in today’s game is all over the place depending on which book you look at. For my opinion on how I think this situation should be handled, see the Line Shopping section of my post last week. For the purposes of tracking the results, I remain steadfast in using Bovada’s closing line.

As of now, the unofficial list of Wong teasers this week is:

  • Buffalo +1½

  • Arizona -7½

  • Los Angeles Rams -7½

  • New Orleans -8

My recommendation is to use the closing line whenever possible, but this is especially true for Buffalo. Changing the time of game doesn’t usually cause any problems with your bets, but changing the day of game could create headaches. Without getting into the exact details of all of the possible scenarios, let me just succinctly say that betting the Bills game before you know the exact day of game could create controversy.

For the purposes of tracking, Bovada’s final line according to sbrodds.com will be used except in cases where that number is obviously and egregiously wrong.


Teasing Totals

There’s two ways that a teaser bet can win:

  • Method X: you can beat the regular un-teased number, or

  • Method Y: the game lands among the range of 6 points you gained via line movement (“teaser window”).

We’ve talked about needing a 73.9% hit rate on our teaser legs. This means that if your probability of X is around 50%, then your probability of Y needs to be about 24%. This means that 24% of the results need to fit inside your teaser window.

You can’t use teasers as a security blanket. You can’t use them defensively. A lot of people treat teasers in the sense that, “I like this pick but let me just give myself a few extra points of wiggle room in case things go wrong.” With this logic, it’s very hard to get your Y probability up to 24%.

You need to intentionally seek out games that will land in the teaser window. You need to make a deliberate effort to win some games via Method Y. Here is a histogram of all of the final margins in 2017-2019. You can clearly identify the peaks at 3 and 7. (And the numbers in between 3 and 7 are all not-too-shabby either.) If you’re intentionally trying to win via Method Y, you’d do well to put 3 and 7 in your teaser window.

Now look at this histogram of all of the final totals in 2017-2019. Where’s the peak? What’s the “sweet spot” that you want in your teaser window? How are you going to aggressively attack that option?

People have been claiming that they’ve been successfully teasing totals with their method. Something like “tease the Over when both teams have an 0-2 record” or other equivalent bullshit. I encourage those people to provide real statistics instead of anecdotes. How often are you winning via Method X and how often are you winning via Method Y? First of all, I’m not convinced it’s a winning strategy. But even if it was, I can guarantee the long-run results are because X is really large and Y is still rather small. If your X is really large, just bet it straight.

On a normal parlay, two different selections each at -283 parlayed together pays you -120 for the whole ticket. Let’s understand that’s what a teaser is: it’s a parlay with each leg at a -283 price. So if you’re going from the straight -110 price (un-teased number) to the new -283 price (teased number), you better make sure that the 6 points you’re getting are damn well worth it.

Those interested in teasing totals should look at your book’s alternate lines to see what the true cost of 6 points is. (Hint: it’s not even close to -283.)

I never said don’t play totals. I never said don’t play alternate totals. But teasing them is unequivocally wrong.

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