Newbies to the world of gambling have a lot of questions. And understandably so—there’s so much opaque lingo and so many esoteric guidelines in sports betting that your typical sportsbook might as well be written Greek as far as your average novice bettor is concerned.
Adding to the confusion that many new bettors experience is the sheer variety of bets they can place. Sports betting offers an array of betting odds and options to put your money behind your favorite teams, from futures and prop bettings to the wild world of the special teaser bet. But to win big, you have to keep them all straight.
So, what is a teaser bet in sports betting?
In short, it’s one of the riskiest games in the sportsbook. But with great risk can come great reward, as many a kamikaze bettor has discovered when selling points on teaser odds. If you’re someone who places gutsy bets like a sportsbook Evel Knievel, teaser bets might be for you. Here’s why.
A Beginner's Guide to Teaser Betting
When you place a teaser bet, you’re essentially exchanging a certain number of points for volume. In exchange for those teaser points, you must parlay bet at least two selections. They’re high-risk propositions that heighten the excitement for some bettors. And when they hit, they can offer a handsome payout.
Teaser bets are made across an array of sports and leagues, but they’re most popular in sharp markets with stiffer competition, like NFL and NBA. Although it can depend on the sportsbook, you should expect to sell the following amounts of points:
- Football – Betting on teasers in football generally means you’ll sell six points per teaser bet. That said, for some NFL teaser bets, there are seven-point teasers. An additional point is added to the spread or total to increase your chances of winning.
- Basketball – For basketball teasers, most sportsbooks will require you to sell four points per basketball teaser bet.
So, how does a teaser bet work?
Teaser bets are fairly simple. Once you sell your points on a teaser bet, you’re then asked to tie at least two selections together in a parlay. For the bet to have a teaser payout in your favor, you have to win each leg.
To illustrate, let’s take an example using two NBA selections. Hypothetically, suppose these teams were valued as such:
- New Orleans Pelicans (-6.5) vs. Utah Jazz (+6.5)
- Los Angeles Lakers (-3.5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (+3.5)
Remember that the standard teaser bet for NBA games is four points. In this scenario, a teaser bet on the Pelicans would raise their odds to -2.5, which looks a lot better than -6.5. Likewise, those four points are going to bring the Lakers out of the negative to a positive 1.5, which might make the bet worth it.
Understandably, parlaying your selections in this way increases your chances of losing the bet. That’s a big part of what makes teaser bets so risky and one reason why so many bettors avoid them.
Difference Between a Parlay and a Teaser
It’s at this point that many bettors start to think, “But wait, you’re basically describing a parlay bet.” And it’s true that teaser bets are very similar to your standard parlay—in both cases, you’re hedging your bets on multiple wagers and crossing your fingers that they all pan out.
But there’s a crucial distinction between betting teaser odds and parlays. With teaser bets, you’re able to move the line in your favor. Adjusting the point spreads on each leg to better suit your teaser bet helps balance the risk of linking the legs together.
How Often Do Parlays Hit?
Because a teaser bet is so similar to a parlay, it’s worth understanding how often parlays hit. Knowing your point spread odds is a crucial aspect of any sound betting strategy, and knowing the odds when it comes to parlays can help you decide whether or not a teaser bet is worth it.
That said, the odds on parlays are pretty variable. They shift one way or another, sometimes drastically, depending on the odds of the individual teams in question. Here are two rules of parlay odds that you should keep in mind if you’re considering placing a teaser bet:
- Favorites parlays – If you’re running a parlay on two or more teams with good odds and a solid record of wins, you face better chances. In some cases, the odds could be as good as 1/1.
- Underdog parlays – When both teams come with poor odds, the likelihood of the parlay hitting is similarly diminished. Parlays of this sort have seen odds as risky as 5/1 or worse.
Keep in mind, however, that parlays and teaser bets are not the same. You’ll still get to move the line in your favor when you place a teaser bet.
How Does a Three-Team Teaser Work?
Most of the time, teaser bets feature just two teams. But depending on the sportsbook, you could see one that features as many as ten teams. However, it’s more likely you’ll see a teaser bet involving three teams.
Three-team teasers work pretty much the same as a two-team bet. In both cases, you’ll have to win on each leg to have your total wager graded as a winner. As an example, let’s look at the spread on three fictional NFL matchups:
- New England Patriots (+4.5) vs. Miami Dolphins (-4.5)
- Buffalo Bills (+7.5) vs. New York Jets (-7.5)
- Baltimore Ravens (+5.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)
Although you can play seven-point teasers for NFL games, for this example, let’s pretend you’re playing a traditional six-point teaser. Let’s also suppose that you’re putting your money behind the underdogs in each game. Just like in a two-team teaser, your six points will raise the point spread. You’ll end up with a line that looks like this for the unfavored teams:
- Dolphin (+1.5)
- Jets (-1.5)
- Steelers (+0.5)
Is a Teaser a Good Bet?
For some people, betting teasers is an opportunity to manipulate the odds in their favor and rake in big wins. For others, it looks like a guaranteed way to hand over your life savings to the sportsbook. But as with most things, the truth about teaser bets is closer to the middle between those two views.
Generally speaking, teasers are not a good bet, despite their potentially large payouts. Mostly, this is because of how the parlay works—you’re linking your bets together. In other words, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket and increasing the chance of breaking all of them.
That said, there are a few situations when a teaser bet is a good option. Here’s when they could be a winning strategy.
When Should You Bet On a Teaser?
There are two situations in which teaser bets could be worth the play, despite the fact that you’ve tied your legs together.
In the NFL, you sometimes have the opportunity to play what’s known as a “Wong” teaser. These teasers are named for Stanford Wong, the author of many gambling books. Unlike standard teasers, Wong teasers offer a positive expectation that you’ll win the teaser payout.
Another reason you might choose to go with a teaser bet is because of the price. Teaser bets tend to be a little more expensive than your average spread bet or total bet. It can depend on the sportsbook you’re using, but you’re unlikely to find a two-team, six-point teaser bet less than -120. Some can go as high as -150. But if you happen to find one that's closer to -110, it might be worth the gamble
For reference, here’s what you can expect from teaser bet pricing, depending on how many points and legs you’re playing:
- Two teams – For a two-team teaser bet, expect to see six-point listings starting at -120. Six-and-a-half and seven-point listings will come in around -130 and -140, respectively.
- Three teams – Six-point teasers with three teams start at +150. For six and a half points, that number drops to +130. At seven points, you’re looking at +110.
- Four teams – Four-team teaser bets start at +255 for six points, +230 for six and a half points, and +205 for seven-point bets.
Of course, you might simply place a teaser bet simply for the fun of it. Perhaps you’re feeling confident in the game outcomes you’ve parlayed and want to make enjoying those victories a little sweeter. Or, you love a good underdog—who doesn’t?—and making a bet adds some more thrill and stakes to whether they emerge victorious.
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