Parlays and teasers may be 'sucker bets' but they scare the crap out of bookies

Mar 28, 2017 |
Parlays and teasers are feared among bookmakers around the world. Especially small sportsbooks where just one moderate parlay payoff can kill their day.
Photo By - USA Today Images
Parlays and teasers are feared among bookmakers around the world. Especially small sportsbooks where just one moderate parlay payoff can kill their day.
Photo By - USA Today Images
Longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker Peter Korner is debunking some of the most popular myths and common misconceptions in the sports betting industry, helping educate bettors by shedding light on the oddsmaking process and what really goes into the overnight lines.
 
Parlays and teasers: sucker bets or profit opportunities?

It’s interesting to hear bettors who don’t play them, consider them a joke and a waste of money. Yet, they continually bet -110 on straight bets. The state of Nevada pulled in $20 million in February, 90 percent of it on straight bets. Now really, who’s the sucker?

Parlays and teasers are feared among bookmakers around the world. Especially small sportsbooks where just one moderate parlay payoff can kill their day. Yes, percentages of winning decrease with every team you add to your ticket, and yes, the payouts are designed to hold anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of such plays. But the wise bettors know where the cracks in the seams are.

It’s widely known that betting two-team football teasers have been a decent winner for the bettors. Teasing 7-point favorites down to -1, where all you’re asking the favored team to do is basically win the game, has proven to be very risky for bookmakers. Their defense: lowering payouts, of course.

So let’s break down the strategies of each.

When it comes to parlays, you’re facing a tough task to come out a winner. Moving a 50/50 probability to a 25/75 risk where the payout is 2.5 to 1. Let’s face it, that’s a tough road to hoe over the long and short run. Keep adding teams to the ticket combined with higher theoretical hold percentages and you’re asking for a life reserved to begging for money to play the keno machines.

Teasers, as mentioned earlier, are a quandary for those who deal them and those who decide to play them. Remember, a pointspread is based on perception and is not an exact science. You thinking a team favored by seven points is a deal when teased down to -1 may in fact be a bad number if that number was bet down to -4 before the game starts and you’re stuck with a number that probably should have been lower from the start. 

Bettors know the art of not only using the tease to lower a team to basically a win/lose scenario, but they also know when to tease a spread above or below key numbers. You don’t just tease a number to change a spread from a negative value to a positive one. You want to land on a +3.5 in football not just +1.5 and be satisfied you’re no longer subtracting from your final score. 

You have to make the tease, basically a gift with a price, to work to your advantage. In football, wiseguys look to lower a favorite from the -11 area to -5 where they hop over the three key numbers of -10, -7 and -6. They don’t apply a 5-point tease to an NBA total. 

The situations are fewer on a daily basis and, of course, anytime you are riding the risk if multiple arms on a ticket, no matter what great numbers you have, your probabilities of winning are lowered. 

The good thing for bookmakers is that there is very little money at stake on their daily books dedicated to parlays and teasers in general. A place like Stations casinos in Nevada may beg to differ as they get voluminous amounts of local money on parlays and teasers. But remember, with that kind of volume, a huge percentage cancel each other out and the occasional “big” winner’s share is absorbed by the losers. 

So is the parlay and teaser arena worth the risk? By and large, no. It’s the highest hold percentage in the sportsbook. Can you make a smart play with either? Yes, but the scenarios have to present themselves and you have to know how to take advantage of them.

Now, if you’re a bettor in it for the long haul and profit is the bottom line every time, I would say that if you play, let’s say, the occasional four-team parlay (a 16-1 shot that pays 10-1), stretch out the games to different time zone starts. Because if you win your first two games (1 in 4 probability) you should definitively hedge your parlay to assure a profit on games three and four in case you lose your parlay. 

Some would say not to and I understand why: the cost/benefit of lowering a potential payout at that point to the probability of where you stand after two wins cancels out the benefit of a small return, I get it.

So, parlays and teasers: sucker bet or profit opportunities? As a longtime oddsmaker, I can tell you it’s all an uphill climb with your money. Be it at odds of 11/10 or 10/1. Theoretically, you decide the rate at which you want to lose your money.

--

Peter Korner is a long-time Las Vegas oddsmaker and analyst, working at the Las Vegas Sports Consultants and operating his own odds service, The Sports Club. Find out more about Pete and his storied career in the sports betting industry here. 
Desktop View: Switch to Mobile View