11/30/2001 1:00AM

It's okay to tease if you do it right

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In the middle of week 13 of the National Football League season, it's getting harder to outsmart the linemakers, who by now have a solid handle on the NFL teams.

Add in a dose of NFL parity and the point spreads often boil down to a flip of a coin. In that case, what is a pro football bettor to do? Bet teasers off the board.

A teaser is a parlay in which the player is given extra points beyond the point spread in exchange for lower odds than the parlay normally would return. Teaser bets off the board are not the same as the popular teaser parlay cards, which typically comprise many games. A typical teaser off the board is a parlay of two or three games with the line "teased" 6, 6 1/2, or 7 points off the point spread. These extra points give a bettor a safety net.

"The teaser cards get more handle," said Jeff Stoneback, race and sports book manager for the Excalibur. "People like to play 10-, 15-team teaser cards and go for big odds. The cards are a lot of small action. Teasers off the board are much larger action. They're usually played as two- or three-team teasers with an average of about $200 a play.

"Everybody around Nevada had to change teaser odds. Maybe seven or eight years ago it seemed every NFL game fell within the six points. The sports books got crushed. A two-team teaser used to be even-money and a three-team teaser was 9-5. Now everything has dropped."

Payoff odds differ among the sports books. A player betting a two-team,

6-point teaser will lay 6-5 to 7-5 on the NFL.

Sports analyst Andy Iskoe believes teasers off the board are a useful play in a sports bettor's arsenal.

"Teasers work because the lines get better and better in the NFL," said Iskoe. "If the lines were so good that every game ended up in a push, you'd never lose a teaser."

Iskoe said he recommends playing only a two-team, 6-point teaser on the NFL. His research showed that adding a third team or using 6 1/2 and 7 points swings the percentages too much in favor of the house.

Also, Iskoe discourages teasers off the board for college football.

"In the colleges, it's not as good a play because the points don't come into play as often," said Iskoe.

Stoneback concurred. "In colleges, there isn't as much advantage [to playing teasers off the board]," he said. "The lines are tighter in the pros, and with colleges there are more double-digit favorites."

Stoneback said teaser parlay cards make up 60 percent of the total teaser handle, with teasers off the board accounting for 40 percent. For teasers off the board, bets on the NFL outhandle bets on college games by 3-1.

"We probably hold between 10 and 15 percent on a teaser off the board," said Stoneback. "There are houses in town that stopped taking them completely or take only three teams or more."

What Stoneback sees big bettors do is "get a home favorite down to less than a field goal. Those are spots where you just want that team to win."

Bill Cimini, race and sports book supervisor at the Plaza, advised caution with teasers, though.

"The 2-point conversion has taken some of the edge off," he said. "In the old days, games consistently landed on the key numbers, which are good for teasers."

Here are some NFL teams that Iskoe found have a good record in 6-point teaser play: San Francisco, 10-0; Chicago, 10-0; Cleveland, 9-1; Pittsburgh, 9-1; Oakland, 8-2; Tampa Bay, 7-2-1.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up Show.