Explaining Futures Betting

Explaining Futures Betting

What are future bets?

A future bet is a bet placed on a sports event that will take place in the future, as opposed to a specific upcoming game. Futures usually deal with season-ending events, ie. which team will win the championship, or who will win a specific division. For instance, betting the week before the NBA season starts that the Los Angeles Clippers will win the NBA Finals.

The most popular version of futures betting is when people place pre-seasons bets on which team will win a championship. So, if the NBA season is starting next week, there will be odds for all 30 NBA teams on their chances to win the NBA title. These odds could range from +275 for the favorite to win the title, to +8000 for a mid-tier, league-average team, to +50000 for the team or teams with the least chance of winning the NBA Finals.

The sports with the most amount of futures betting is generally the NFL and NBA, though all team sports are particularly conducive to futures betting. Futures betting on individual sports can be harder to find, especially combat sports like boxing or the UFC, since fighters don’t really have seasons or tournaments and generally only know their next opponent, as opposed to having an upcoming schedule.

In this article we will explain how to bet on futures, go over some of the pros and cons of futures betting, the difference between futures and props, how to read futures odds, go over some legendary futures bets, explain a good strategy for winning futures bets, and we will go over how to hedge futures bets.

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How to bet on futures

While the most common type of future bets involve picking a team to win an upcoming championship, be it a league title or a division title, you could also bet on players futures, such as which player will win MVP or Rookie of the Year, or team futures, like “will a specific NFL team go 0-16”, or coach futures like “which NFL coach will be the first to be fired next season.”

Suppose you want to bet on the futures of the upcoming NBA season. The favorite is the Los Angeles Lakers at +275, but you don’t think the odds are high enough for it to be a worthwhile bet. So, you place a bet on the Brooklyn Nets to win the title at +600. That means that if you bet $100 on the Nets, and they won the championship, you would win $700, or $600 in profit.

If you wanted to bet on a longer shot, suppose you pick the Dallas Mavericks at +2500. That would mean that a $100 bet would win you $2,600, of which $2,500 would be profit.

The odds for a future bet like that can go up to +50000. So, if you wanted to bet on the New York Knicks to win the NBA title, you would get +50000 odds, meaning a $100 bet would earn you $50,100. Obviously, the reason these odds are so long is that it would be incredibly unlikely in this pre-season scenario for the New York Knicks to win the championship.

You can still place future bets on a team during the season, but those odds are liable to change. So, if the Dallas Mavericks start the season with eight wins, their odds will likely go down, they may quickly jump from +2500, to say, +1200, if it becomes realistic that they are a championship contender.

You can also bet on player futures before a season. Those might range from Giannis Antetokounmpo trying to win his third straight MVP with +400 odds, all the way to Giannis’s teammate Brook Lopez, who has +100000 odds, meaning a $100 bet would net $100,000, however incredibly unlikely that scenario is.

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What are the pros and cons of futures betting?

Futures betting is often considered one of the more fun versions of betting. Why is that? For starters, it can be incredibly entertaining tracking a team for an entire season with the hope of them winning it all. If you place a bet on the Chicago Bears at +10000 before the season, you can sweat their entire season with the hope that your longshot bet pays off. Instead of betting on a team and knowing the answer in three hours, you can live and die with a team for an entire season.

The potential winnings can also be much higher for future bets than for individual games. The aforementioned Bears future of +10000 would be impossible to match with any particular NFL game. Even the worst team playing the best team will never have a number approaching that price in a single game. If you dream of a $100 bet turning into $50,000 then future bets are the fastest and easiest way to achieve that.

There is a downside to futures betting, however. If you deal primarily with futures betting you risk tying up your entire bankroll. Suppose, you have set aside a certain amount of money to bet on the upcoming NBA season, be it ten dollars or one hundred dollars, or ten thousand dollars. If you place all of your bets on futures, you will now be stuck for two reasons.

Firstly, that money is out of your hands until the NBA season is over, even if every one of your bets is a winner, that won’t pay off until seasons end. Secondly, if you see a bet that you like on a particular game during the season, you are out of luck, Here’s a futures betting tip: diversify your sports betting portfolio. Feel free to bet on sports futures, but don’t only bet on sports futures, so you can still play along during the course of the season.

What is the difference between future bets and prop bets?

There are many similarities between future bets and prop bets, to the extent that even experts often confuse the two terms. In general, future bets about who is going to win something in the future, like a championship or an award. Prop betting is generally bets about things that will happen in specific games, often in the near future, while future bets can often be bets about a season that has not yet started.

Some prop bet examples:
Will Luke Doncic have a triple-double in his next game? Will Tom Brady throw for more than 300.5 yards in his next game? Which player will score the first touchdown of the Alabama-Florida game?

Some future bet examples:
Which team will win the next Super Bowl ? Betting before the season on which NBA team will win the Eastern conference. Who will be the MLB Rookies of the Year next season?

How to read futures bets and odds

From an actual betting perspective, futures bets are exactly like traditional betting lines. As an example, before the NFL season you scour the NFL odds to find a bet to place, then calculate how much your futures betting odds will pay off if you were to win.

So, if you wanted to bet on the favorite, the Kansas City Chiefs, to win the next Super Bowl before the NFL season begins, you might get +275 odds. That means that if you bet $100 on the Chiefs you would stand to win $375 if they win the Super Bowl, $275 of which would be profit.

However, what happens if the Chiefs get off to a cold start, losing two of their first three games. Their futures odds would likely change to a higher number, say +650. However, your bet that you placed before the season is locked in at +275, regardless of if the odds move during the season. This works both ways, however. If the Chiefs win their first eight games, theid odds might go down to +175. You would still have their odds locked in at +275 in that scenario.

That was an example of betting on the favorite, but what about betting on a longshot, which many futures bettors like to do?

If you place a bet on the team with the longest odds, you might get astronomical odds compared to the Chiefs. Hypothetically, before the NFL season the Jacksonville Jaguars have +50000 odds. That means that for every dollar you bet on the Jaguars, you are hoping to win five hundred dollars. So, a $100 bet on the Jaguars would net you $50,000 in the hypothetical scenario that it happened.

What are the riskiest futures bets made?

When long-shot futures bets pay off, they tend to get a lot more publicity than a traditional single-game bet. This makes sense, sports betting futures can have 1,000 to 1 shots. It’s rare for a specific game to even have a 10 to 1 underdog. Additionally, every single game in history has action split on both sides- even the longest shot team to win a single game will have people taking a flier on their odds. But sometimes, longshot teams overcome huge, seemingly impossible odds and the people who bet on those longshot teams can win incredible sums of money.

One of longest odds future bet winners in the internet era was the 1999 Rams who won the Super Bowl despite starting the season with 300 to 1 odds after losing their starting quarterback in the preseason. Few people had ever heard of the Rams starting QB Kurt Warner, before he helped the team set the record for points scored in an NFL season, before winning the Super Bowl.

The longest odds for a future bet winner in modern memory is Leicester City, which overcame nearly impossible odds of 3,000 to 1 to win the English Premier League in 2016. In fact, while 3,000 to 1 were the odds in many books, some fans found 5,000 to 1 odds for Leicester before the season. A $100 bet, even on the lower number of 3,000, would have earned you $300,000.

The most famous future bet on a player was Patrick Mahomes in 2018. Having only started one game during his rookie season in 2017, Mahomes was considered a serious long-shot for the awards, with odds generally in the +10000 range. Two weeks into the season, the odds of Mahomes winning MVP was already down to a +800; he was already second to the favorite Aaron Rodgers after two games. Bettors who placed a $100 bet on Mahomes at +10000 were rewarded with an incredible $10,000 payout. Even a ten dollar bet would have yielded one thousand dollars.

What is a good strategy to win futures bets?

Even amongst expert bettors, there are many varying strategies as to how to properly bet futures. Some bettors like picking players futures, say betting Kevin Durant to win NBA MVP at +1200 before the season. The thought process is that if Durant gets off to a hot start, his odds will immediately almost halve, he could be +750 after one especially good early season game.

Other experts have a futures betting strategy that revolves around picking undervalued teams to win the championship. Of course, the most popular futures bets are betting on teams to win the Super Bowl, followed by betting on teams to win the NBA Finals and the World Series. Before the 2020 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers were +3500 to win the Super Bowl. By December, that number had gone down to +650, so if you are holding a +3500 ticket from August it has already increased about 450% in potential value over betting the Packers now.

The best strategy to try
As with moneyline or single-game betting, the oddsmakers are very good at what they do. While there is value to be found occasionally, like with the Packers above, more often than not the odds fall in line with a team’s potential chances of winning it all. There is one way to beat the oddsmakers with futures betting. The way to do it is to predict major player movement and bet on that team before the superstar player arrives. For example, the Miami Heat are +1800 in most books to win the NBA finals before the season starts. But, rumors have been swirling that Giannis Antetokounmpo wants out of Milwaukee and he desires a trade. If you predict that Miami is his most likely landing spot, you might want to grab those +1800 odds right now. If the Heat do end up trading for Giannis during the season, they would immediately become the favorites, sporting odds in the +300 range. So, your bet would immediately increase in current value by a factor of six. If Giannis stays in Milwaukee or gets traded elsewhere, there’s no harm done. You still have the Heat at +1800 which is what their non-Giannis odds were anyway.

Another option would be to guess the two or three teams that Giannis might be traded to and place smaller futures on all of them. That way, ,your bases are essentially covered if Giannis, or another superstar gets traded.

This strategy works particularly well in basketball where one player can swing the odds in a major fashion. Only the top five or ten quarterbacks would cause a significant odds swing in the NFL, and there is no one baseball player, who could move a team’s odds from +1800 to +300.

How do I hedge a futures bet?

Futures bets see more hedging than any other kind of bet. So, what does hedging mean? Hedging a futures bet is a strategy that allows you to mitigate the risk of a current futures bet by betting on the other side that you currently have, or to guarantee winnings by ensuring you have both sides of a bet.

For example, you place a $100 futures bet with +2000 odds on the Denver Nuggets to win the NBA championship. Fast forward to June and the Denver Nuggets are in the NBA Finals playing the Boston Celtics. Your current position is that if the Denver Nuggets win the series, you stand to win $2,000. However, if the Nuggets lose you will win nothing, even though your bet has come so close to chasing. So, if you want to lower your risk and ensure that you will win something, you have the option of hedging your bet, by betting on the Celtics.

For this hypothetical scenario, suppose that the odds are close to even for both teams and the Celtics are +110 to win the series. So, if you place a one thousand dollar bet on the Celtics, you are ensuring that you win approximately one thousand dollars, regardless of who wins the series. If the Nuggets win, your original futures bet is a winner, and you win $2,000 minus the $1,000 you bet on Boston. If the Celtics win the series you win close to $1,000 which would make up for the fact that your Nuggets bet was ultimately a loser. No matter what you are a winner, though some people would rather chase the $2,000 bet than be satisfied with guaranteeing winning half of the original bet.

What factors should you look out for before placing a futures bet?

Futures bets often have far more potentially complicating factors than a traditional single-game bet. Because you might be placing the bet on a team before the season starts, a whole plethora of things can affect your bet- both negatively and positively.

Imagine that you place a futures bet in August on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at +250 to win the NFC South. One week after you place the bet, the team’s starting quarterback suffers a season-ending injury during practice. Now, your bet hasn’t officially lost but Tampa’s +250 odds might have already jumped to +400 before the season has already started. Your bet is already headed in the wrong direction.

Obviously, there is no way to predict injuries months in advance, so there is no foolproof way to avoid a situation like this but if you are placing bets before the season you should be considering a team’s depth before you bet. Ask yourself: can this team still succeed if a key player gets injured. If the answer is no, you should second guess the bet. If a team has excellent depth then they are more likely to weather the storm of a long season and that’s what you are asking them to do with a futures bet.

One excellent futures betting tip is to shop lines harder than with traditional bets. What does that mean? For single game bets, the spread of a specific game is unlikely to differentiate more than one half point between various sites. If the Vikings are 7 point favorites over the Packers on the first site you visit, it’s incredibly unlikely that you will find the number as 6 or 8 on any site. But with futures betting there can be tremendous variance since each site might predict the upcoming season much differently.

For example, you want to place a futures bet on the Los Angeles Clippers to win the next NBA Finals. You know the Clippers aren’t the odds-on favorites but they should be one of the top four or five teams per most odds books. The first site has the Clippers listed at +575, which feels like decent enough odds for you. You see +575 elsewhere, but then you spot another site that has them at +600, and you are willing to make that bet.

If you placed that bet at +600 you would be content, but if you keep looking you will find Clippers odds on multiple sites at +550 (no thank you) and even a site that lists them at +650. So, for one bet, there are four totally different sets of odds. For almost every future championship bet, you will find at least three different sets of odds, your mission should be to find the best one and place your bet on that number.

Time to place your bet

It’s important to know the differences between sports when you are betting futures. One crucial futures betting fact to know is the disparity between the longshot teams in different sports. Before an MLB season, no team will have longer than +10000 odds. For an NBA season, where there are a decent number of teams which truly are close to hopeless before the season even starts, you will see odds of +50000. The NFL also rarely sees numbers above +15000 these days because a new or improved quarterback can change the fate of a team, ala Patrick Mahomes with the Chiefs.

The most important thing you should know is that even though futures bets are fun, they require a lot of work. Research each of your bets exhaustively and then go place your bets.

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