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Last Updated: February 3, 2017

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Pleaser bets in the NFL

Introduction

Disclaimer

The analysis on this page is based on the 4450 NFL games between the 1994 to 2012 seasons. I started with 1994 because that was the year the two-point conversion rule was introduced. Besides sample size variation, I also had to make assumptions about how point spreads were created on pleaser cards. The reader should assume there is some margin of error on any statistic on the probability of winning and expected return anywhere on this page. At the end of the day, sports are ultimately played by human beings, not statistics, so always take any predictions of future results, based on past results, with a grain of salt.

Introduction

For those who know what a teaser bet is, a pleaser (also known as a reverse teaser) works the same way, except the bettor gets negative points. Obviously, that means a lower probability of winning each leg, so the bettor is compensated with a higher pay table.

For those who don't know what a teaser is, with a parlay, teaser, or pleaser bet, the bettor makes at least two selections against a list of games. The player must win every selection to win the bet. The more selections made, the lower the probability of winning, but the higher the win if every selection does win. Rules vary on what happens in the event of a tie. With a parlay the bettor goes against a point spread with no extra points. With a teaser the bettor gets extra points, but stands to win less. With a pleaser, the bettor gives up points but stands to win more.

Pleaser bets are apparently not very popular, as evidenced by the fact that only three Vegas sports book families offer pleaser cards, as follows:

  • William Hill — 7-point pleaser
  • Stratosphere — 7.5-point pleaser
  • MGM — 9-point pleaser

I have never heard of an off the board pleaser bet.

Following is my analysis of each one.

7-Point Pleaser

The 7-point pleaser card is available at William Hill sport books and the Aliante only. All point spreads end in a 1/2, thus there can be no ties. The following table shows the win (on a "for one" basis), probability of winning, and expected return for 3 to 8 picks, assuming a random picker. The probability of each leg winning is 28.65%.

To following table is based on the William Hill pay table. The right column shows the house edge ranges from 39% to 73%.

7-Point William Hill Pleaser Card — Random Picker

Pick Pays Prob. Win Exp. Value
3 26 0.023508 -0.388796
4 80 0.006734 -0.461266
5 240 0.001929 -0.537016
6 700 0.000553 -0.613166
7 2000 0.000158 -0.683388
8 6000 0.000045 -0.727906

To following table is based on the Aliante pay table. The right column shows the house edge ranges from 39% to 73%.

7-Point Aliante Pleaser Card — Random Picker

Pick Pays Prob. Win Exp. Value
3 23 0.023508 -0.459319
4 70 0.006734 -0.528608
5 210 0.001929 -0.594889
6 600 0.000553 -0.668428
7 1700 0.000158 -0.730880
8 5000 0.000045 -0.773255

The smart gambler could cut down these house advantages by playing situations where he gives up less than 7 points and/or stays away from giving up key margins of victory. However, the random-picker house edges are so high to begin with that I wouldn't touch this pleaser card, even utilizing everything in my bag of tricks.

7.5-Point Pleaser

The 7.5-point pleaser card is available at the Stratosphere family of sports books only. All point spreads end in a 1/2, thus there can be no ties. The following table shows the win (on a "for one" basis), the probability of winning, and expected return for 3 to 6 picks, assuming a random picker. The probability of each leg winning is 27.38%. The right column shows the house edge ranges from 64% to 81%.

7.5-Point Stratosphere Pleaser Card — Random Picker

Pick Pays Prob. Win Exp. Value
3 17.5 0.020534 -0.640647
4 50 0.005623 -0.718844
5 170 0.001540 -0.738230
6 450 0.000422 -0.810251

As with the 7-point pleaser, we could chip away at these enormous house advantages via gaining extra half points by carefully comparing the spreads on the card against those on the board. By waiting as long as possible, the bettor can take advantage of line movements. Even with no line movements, if the point spread ended in a half to begin with, then the card maker would have to move the point spreads on each side by 7 and 8 points to keep the pleaser spreads ending in one half. The bettor will improve his odds giving up 7 points only, compared to 7.5. However, it is all a losing battle against house advantages starting at 64%.

9-Point Pleaser

The 9-point pleaser card is available at MGM sports book only. All point spreads end in a 1/2, thus there can be no ties. The following table shows the win (on a "for one" basis), the probability of winning, and expected return for 3 to 8 picks, assuming a random picker. The probability of each leg winning is 24.17%. The right column shows the house edge ranges from 75% to 94%.

9-Point MGM Pleaser Card — Random Picker

Pick Pays Prob. Win Exp. Value
3 17.5 0.014123 -0.752850
4 55 0.003414 -0.812244
5 180 0.000825 -0.851471
6 500 0.000199 -0.900272
7 1500 0.000048 -0.927682
8 5000 0.000012 -0.941732

A 94% house edge? Are you f#*&ing kidding me! Fair odds for a 8-leg MGM pleaser, for a random picker, would be 85,810, and they are playing 5,000 only. Lottery tickets are an outstanding value compared to this.

For a second, I thought this was the worst casino bet I've ever seen. However, that honor still goes to the Harrah's Las Vegas keno room, where the house edge on their "pick-10 stimulus ticket" is 96.63%.

Summary

Let me make this loud and clear. Pleasers are a sucker bet! If you must bet one, the best odds are on the pick-3 pleaser at William Hill sports books, with a 39% house edge. As mentioned before, you can cut down on the house edge by betting as late as possible to give up as few points as possible, compared to the market lines on the board. Even if you could cut down the house edge in half, it would still be an awful bet.

Forget the pleaser cards. Your odds are a lot better with ordinary parlay cards.


Written by: Michael Shackleford

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