Betting NFL Pleasers: Tips and Strategy
by Trevor Whenham - 09/18/2007
Are you a particularly daring sports bettor? Are straight bets too boring? Do you find teasers and parlays too easy? If you do, then I want to know your secret. Whether you tell me or not, though, you might want to check out pleasers. Pleasers are quite likely the most challenging bet you can make on an NFL game. Winning them can be very lucrative, but only if you are correct, and that is far easier said than done.
A pleaser is essentially the opposite of a teaser. If you bet a six-point NFL teaser then you get to take six points off of the spread for the favorite, and add six points to the line for the underdog. If you do a two team teaser on Detroit at -7 and Dallas at +3 then the spreads become Detroit -1 and Dallas +9. That makes it much easier to win. In a pleaser you are taking on more points instead of giving them away. The same two teams in a pleaser would see the spreads change to Detroit -13 and Dallas -3. Obviously, then, you have to have a very sharp eye to not only find games where the line is beatable, but ones where, in your mind, it is off by a touchdown or more. There aren't that many of those each week. If you are right you are rewarded for your hard work, though. A two team, six-point teaser would normally pay 1/1, while a six point, two-team pleaser would pay 6/1. A three-team pleaser jumps to 17/1, compared to 1.7/1 for a teaser. A six-team pleaser is a whopping 300/1.
Pleasers aren't a particularly common bet, though an increasing number of online books are making them available. They are only widely available on NFL sides. That's a bit of a shame because it would seem like there would be much more room to play within college lines, or even in a lot of NFL totals.
Before you get too excited about the prospect of instant riches, it will help to look at just how hard the bet is to win. In the first week of the 2007 NFL season there were only six favorites that won by enough to pay off a pleaser bet. None of the three heaviest favorites on the week came anywhere close to paying off. In fact, the biggest longshot on the board, Tennessee at +7.5, won their game outright and would have paid off as a pleaser bet despite being so out of the public favor. Two other underdogs also would have paid off as pleaser choices. That leaves seven out of the 16 games that would have been losers as pleasers regardless of which side you chose.
Week one of 2006 was slightly easier, but still very challenging. Only five favorites were big enough winners to pay off a pleaser, but eight underdogs covered by more than six. That means that 13 of the 16 games had the potential to pay off if you choose right and you liked a lot of underdogs. There was no consistency in the relative number of favorite and underdog pleaser winners, though. In week two five underdogs and seven favorites were pleaser winners, while in week three it was just three favorites and seven underdogs.
What that all means in simple terms is that the bet is very hard to win. In none of those cases was either the underdog or the favorite a pleaser winner in the majority of the games, so you are forced to make very precise decisions with many pitfalls along the way. It's not a wonder that they pay so much.
Betting pleasers is a relatively new and rare pursuit, so little is written about strategy. Though I can't profess to be an expert, and I don't even find the bet particularly attractive, I can see some cases where it could hold some appeal:
1. To leverage strong opinions. If you have been handicapping for a while then you have come across those situations where no matter how you look at it the line seems completely out of whack. The public is favoring one team, but you don't see it that way at all. In your view the number is way, way off. In the rare situation that that were to happen twice in the same week, the pleaser could be a way to leverage your opinion. Since a two-team pleaser pays 6/1, you could make significantly more by betting half a unit on the pleaser than you could by betting a unit on each of the two games. Your risk is greater, but the cost is much lower and the potential reward is higher.
2. As an alternative to money lines. Depending on where the money lines are sitting, you may find a pleaser more attractive than a money line parlay if you like two or more underdogs to win outright. If the two teams pay less together than 6/1, then the pleaser may very well be the better choice. Depending on the original lines, you may even get an extra point or two. If the two teams were at +7.5, for example, then the pleaser would pay off if the teams lost by one, while the money line parlay would require a win. Because of that, the pleaser may be attractive even if it pays a little bit less than money line parlay would.