Of Hooks and Wongs

by Dom

If you follow this site, you are undoubtedly familiar with the infamous “teaser” bets offered by most bookmakers.

For the uninitiated, a teaser allows a bettor to move the spread in his favor, but at the cost of taking an additional leg on the bet.  Bookmakers offer a variety of teasers, all with varying payouts, but the most common is a 6-point teaser.  For example, if the board shows Team A -7 and Team B +3, a bettor could create a 6-point teaser requiring both Team A -1 and Team B +9.


It’s called a tease for a reason.  These bets look easy to hit, but the human brain struggles to accurately estimate their probability.  You should hit a single fairly-priced spread half the time, but your success rate on a 2 leg teaser will be less (~47%).  The spreads on the teaser look much more appealing, but hitting both is a lot tougher than your pathetic human brain thinks.  To make matters worse, books pay teasers out at a shorter rate than a standard spread bet.  Where most spreads bets pay -110, teasers frequently pay -120.  You’re making a bet that hits less often and pays far less.

For those among us who enjoy a tease anyway, I encourage you to play with your Wong.  In his book Sharp Sports Betting, John Ferguson, better known by his obnoxiously intellectualized pen name Stanford Wong, outlined the advantage of teasers which crossed the critical 3 and 7 point thresholds in football.

Oftentimes, we at FirstAndThirty might pass on a bet that doesn’t cross these key thresholds, even if the model otherwise recommends it.  That case arose this week when we passed on PIT +2.5.  But that wager is a prime teaser candidate as it results in a spread of PIT +8.5, crossing 3 and 7.  It could be a sensible wager if line movement pushes another wager into the necessary territory.

To be clear, that “territory” means -7.5, -8.0, and -8.5 for favorites.  It means +1.5, +2.0, and +2.5 for dogs.  Teasing those spreads will result in crossing the key thresholds of 3 and 7.

To close out, take a look at this chart from Ravi Parikh’s website showing the distribution of games by win margin.  Notice how enormously important those 3 and 7 point barriers are.




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