Analysis | The smartest way to create NFL teaser bets

The rise in legal sports betting has spawned an overwhelming menu of betting options, and for casual bettors, having so many choices can be both dizzying and treacherous. Here’s one narrow possibility that often makes sense on NFL Sundays.

Playing NFL parlays — bets that link multiple wagers together, for bigger potential payouts but a smaller chance of winning — is rarely a successful long-term strategy. But playing NFL teasers — wagers similar in design but with a twist — can be lucrative in the right scenarios.

In a teaser, bettors can move the point spread a fixed amount of points in their favor, generally 6, 6½ or 7 points. Let’s use the 6-point variation as an example; a team favored by 7 would only need to win by more than 1 point to cover the spread — bettors are “given” an additional six points — while an underdog getting 4 points would instead get 10. The number of legs — or wagers — in the teaser bet determines the odds of the parlay, and all of the wagers involved must win in order for the teaser bet to cash.

Parlays are big business for sportsbooks — and big trouble for bettors

Two-team teasers typically pay -120 odds — bettors need to stake $120 to win $100 — and three-team teasers usually pay +160 — bet $100 to win $160. Not all oddsmakers adhere to that payout structure, so be sure to shop around to get the best price and odds, a simple piece of advice that applies to all bets.

However, you don’t want to blindly play any and all teasers. Instead, you should focus on a strategy that has proven profitable over time, called the Wong teaser.

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Named after Stanford Wong, the author of the book “Sharp Sports Betting,” the strategy involves using the 6-point teaser to move past the key football numbers of 3 and 7. How? By focusing on underdogs getting between 1½ and 2½ points, point spread that can be teased up to 7½ and 8½; and on favorites giving between 7½ and 8½ points, which can be teased down to 1½ to 2½.

Since 2015, such line movements have resulted in bets covering an astounding 77 percent of the time in NFL regular season games, enough to provide value no matter how many legs you use in a teaser parlay.

Six tips for becoming a sharper sports bettor

Here’s the math behind that last point, and why many sharp bettors use Wong teasers as a part of their overall strategy. A generic two-team 6-point teaser pays -120, which implies a 55 percent probability the bet will cash. Since there are two events in this case, using the Wong teaser, each bet is implied by those odds to have a 74 percent chance of converting (.74 times .74 = .55).

Remember, Wong’s strategy involves events that have been covering 77 percent of the time since 2015, giving you an edge over the odds on each bet. In fact, if you played all available Wong teasers each week from 2015 to 2021, you would be up 34.4 units.

(For several reasons, the strategy does not apply to college football betting.)

The 77 percent cover rate is the aggregate of all the opportunities described by Wong, but you should perhaps be wary of teasing a favorite at -8 on the point spread. These covered just 64 percent of the time since 2015, significantly lagging the other point spreads in this group.

The biggest challenge, though is finding at least two games on the weekly slate with which you can build a Wong teaser. As you can imagine, sportsbooks are well aware of how lucrative Wong teasers have been in recent years and now act defensively, limiting the number of such opportunities available to bettors each week.

Last year, 14 of the 17 weeks during the NFL regular season had opportunities to implement a Wong teaser; however, that’s based on the consensus closing lines. Not all books will offer two games at ideal spreads at the same time. And unlike with straight bets, you generally want to wait until the last possible moment to place your teaser bets because that’s when the lines are most efficient. Don’t stress too much about not teasing an early afternoon game with a later one. Just make sure at least one of the legs is kicking off sooner rather than later.

Whatever you do, to make this strategy work, do not force it. If the opportunity isn’t there, wait for a time when it is rather than experimenting. This strategy is specifically tuned to 6-point teasers with very specific characteristics to overcome the house’s take and provide a small edge. Any deviation, even by as little as a half point, could eliminate your edge completely.

Illustration by Lily LK for The Washington Post.

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