A “teaser” is a wager where the bettor combines two or more selections, like a parlay, and moves the line a certain number of points in his favor on each selection. So it is the equivalent of buying points on a parlay.
For example, assume you have three bets you like on the NFL this weekend: Patriots -8, Panthers +3, and Buccaneers +1.5. One option you have is to combine them into a teaser. Let’s say for the sake of this example that you decide on a 7 point teaser. This means you get 7 extra points on each of the games.
So you would have Patriots -1, Panthers +10, and Buccaneers +8.5. But like with a parlay, you then have to win all three legs. And because you’re getting all those extra points, the odds are not nearly as good on a teaser. (A three-team 7 point teaser pays about +180 at most sportsbooks, whereas a three-team parlay generally pays +600.)
The two sports where you will most often find teaser wagers offered are football and basketball, both college and pro. Occasionally a sportsbook will offer some kind of novelty bet kind of like a teaser on other sports, but mostly it’s for football and basketball.
For football, almost all sportsbooks offer 6, 6.5, and 7 point teasers. Next most common is 10 point teasers. All others are fairly rare, though you will occasionally see teasers where you get to move the line 20 or even more points on all your selections. (That’s not as generous as it sounds. Because you get so many points, you have to pick-and win – more games, plus the payoff is a lot lower. You may have to win 15 out of 15 teaser legs to win your wager, and even then get less than even money for doing so.)
Teasers are almost as frequently offered for basketball, with the most common being 4, 4.5, and 5 point teasers.
As with parlays, teasers generally “reduce down” when a leg ties (pushes). In other words, if you bet a four-team teaser, and one of your selections lands exactly on the spread with the extra points, that game is ignored and the wager is treated as if you had bet the other three selections in a three-team teaser. If ties result in your teaser being reduced all the way down to one team, then the teaser as a whole is voided or considered a tie (on the grounds that there’s no such thing as a one-team teaser for it to reduce to).
But there are some complications and variations to be aware of with ties in teasers. The rules differ from sportsbook to sportsbook, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the rules on ties where you’re playing.
For one thing, whereas almost all sportsbooks “reduce down” for ties on standard teasers (which generally means the 6, 6.5, and 7 pointers in football, and the 4, 4.5, and 5 pointers in basketball) the way I described, it’s fairly common for them to use harsher rules on any other “special” teasers they offer (such as the football 10 pointers). Specifically, they treat all ties on the latter teaser legs as losses.
The other rule variation is an interesting one, because it highlights an implicit contradiction in the standard rules for grading teasers.
On the one hand, there’s the rule that says if you lose any leg of a teaser then you lose the teaser. On the other hand, there’s the rule that says if you tie any leg of a teaser then that leg is ignored, and if that leaves you with one or fewer remaining legs, then the whole teaser is a tie or non-bet.
OK, so what if you play a two-team teaser, and one leg loses and one leg ties?
Well, according to the first rule, you lose your teaser, since your teaser lost at least one leg. According to the second rule, you tie your teaser, because the tied leg drops out, leaving just one selection, and there’s no such thing as a one-team teaser, therefore it’s irrelevant if that remaining leg won, lost, or tied.
And in fact you’ll find sportsbooks going both ways with this. The conventional way of handling this (perhaps surprisingly), from back to the early days of Las Vegas, was to regard the second rule as taking precedence, and to grade a two-team teaser with a loss and a tie as a tie, so the player neither wins nor loses and gets their money back. Over the years, though, more and more sportsbooks have switched to interpreting the first rule as taking precedence, and so they grade that wager as a loss. Obviously that’s the interpretation that’s less favorable to the player.
So, again, you’ll want to find out in advance which version of the “tie rule” your sportsbook uses.