What is a futures bet? Pros and cons

Longshot odds can lead to huge payoffs.

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Overview

Futures bets are among the most popular sports betting types, especially for leagues such as the PGA and the NFL. One of the main draws of futures is the high payouts connected to the long odds that come with predicting something well in advance of the results. Futures wagers are most commonly placed before a season or an event begins but can be placed at any time through the entirety of the season or event – with odds changing fluidly based on gameplay results on a day-to-day basis.

How Futures Betting Works

Futures Odds

Future bets are paid out based on the exact odds at the time the wager is placed with the bookmaker. For example, if a bettor wagers $100 on a +1500 futures bet that cashes, they will receive $1500 plus the $100 wagered. 

One of the major incentives for future bets is the longshot odds and the enticing payoffs that come with them. While they are obviously unlikely to hit, some future bet odds can extend past +10000 on major underdogs over a season, or longshots in a tournament. Futures odds calculators are readily available and are excellent resources for bettors when placing these wagers.

Juice 

Juice or vig in futures betting is normally higher than on a standard wager. The sportsbooks routinely spread out their liability on a standard wager by manipulating money lines, in order to attempt to balance the handle on both sides of a game while collecting their 10-15% vig. 

In futures betting, this is achieved by setting the odds so that the implied probabilities of all possible options is somewhere at 110% or higher. Online sportsbooks or betting sites will at times have these combined probabilities between 120-140%, which helps to ensure that the sportsbook will realize a profit on the totality of the wagers. This increased vig helps to protect the sportsbook while at the same time giving the bettor the opportunity for increased payouts. 

Pros and Cons of Futures Betting

Pro: High Potential Payouts

As previously mentioned, future bets simply allow for higher upside payouts than standard wagers and even most parlays. When bettors are faced with trying to beat -110 odds wagering on individual games over the long term, futures bets can be perceived as an avenue to easier winnings. Most bettors will tell you there are not many things more satisfying than cashing a longshot futures bet. This opportunity for high multiplier payouts is definitely a major upside of futures betting.

Pro: Long-Term Entertainment

This is the futures betting advantage with the most weight in my opinion. One wager that is made prior to a season, no matter the amount, will provide for countless days of entertainment. Placing several futures bets on a league, then following along as the season unfolds, adds another level of interest to the sport that a bettor would not have without these types of wagers in their portfolio.

For example, prior to the MLB season beginning, a bettor takes out wagers on a few season-long awards, picks a World Series winner, wagers on the major regular season award winners, and places half a dozen over/under win total bets. Just by placing a handful of wagers, this bettor has guaranteed a season’s worth of sweating as he follows his portfolio of future bets as the season unfolds.

Con: Liquidity of Funds

This is the most common drawback for futures betting that is discussed. The inverse of being able to sweat a wager for months on end is that your funds are tied up for that entire length of time. This restriction can be detrimental to a bettor’s bankroll if too large an allocation is made toward futures betting. Always keep in mind that funds used toward future bets will be unavailable until the bet is scored.

Con: Tough to Win

This is the more underrated flaw of futures betting. It’s really hard to win. The inherent nature of the wager is that you are betting on something that is difficult to predict, which is why the oddsmakers are comfortable offering long odds.

Take an NFL season for example. Before the season you submit a handful of future bets on the Dallas Cowboys. You bet on them to win the Super Bowl, to win the NFC East, and try to correlate the bets you also wager on Dak Prescott to win the league MVP award. Leaving aside the difficulty of a team winning a Super Bowl, there are other events that can occur that could torpedo your future bets. If Dak Prescott were to get injured, all of your bets are likely losses, to give one example.

Dec 21, 2019; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) drops back to throw against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Finding Futures Betting Opportunities

Reacting to News

There are some key ways in which bettors can find advantageous futures betting opportunities after the odds open. Reacting quickly and decisively to news is one of these avenues. When news breaks on a major trade or injury that changes the landscape of the league, or even the prospects of one team or player, acting instantly before the oddsmakers have time to adjust betting lines can lock a bettor into a favorable futures number. 

Hedging

Futures bets allow for hedging opportunities as the event wagered on moves towards a conclusion. Hedging provides bettors with an opportunity to lock in guaranteed profit at the expense of losing out on the full payout from the originally placed wager. This strategy is often utilized in the investment and wealth management arena and the dynamics are the same here with futures betting on sporting events.

Shopping Sportsbooks

This is an important piece of advice for bettors, not just in the futures betting market but for all sports wagers: Always try to find the best price for your future bets. Odds are quite fluid and sportsbooks often post varying numbers, especially in the futures market. This strategy is a simple way to help ensure you are getting the best number on each of your wagers, helping to boost your overall profitability in the long term.

Betting During the Season

Just because a bettor did not like the odds on a certain future bet prior to the season, does not mean that a wager cannot come onto the radar once the season has begun. Some bettors prefer to wait and see how a team or player begins a season performance-wise before investing in a future bet on them. Opportunities can change drastically from when a bettor passed on a future wager before the season, to any time after.

Common Futures Betting Events

Super Bowl Champion

Futures betting is popular among NFL fans, as bettors can place wagers throughout the calendar year on who will win that season’s Super Bowl. Sportsbooks will offer odds on the chances of each team taking home the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of the NFL playoffs. Many bettors will flock to Las Vegas in order to place futures wagers prior to the season kicking off.

Current top-five NFL futures odds to win the Super Bowl for the 2020 season:

Kansas City Chiefs +750

Baltimore Ravens +800

New Orleans Saints +1200

San Francisco 49ers +1200

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1200

Stanley Cup Champion

Along the same lines as futures betting in other leagues, NHL bettors love to place wagers on their favorite team to bring the Stanley Cup home to their city. With the changes instituted for the 2020 NHL playoffs, Stanley Cup futures betting should be fast and furious. As the playoffs progress through each round, odds for the teams that advance will lower, providing an incentive for wagering before the playoffs begin.

Current top-five NHL futures odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup:

Boston Bruins +650

Tampa Bay Lightning +650

Colorado Avalanche +700

Vegas Golden Knights +800

Philadelphia Flyers +850

World Series Champion

Futures betting for MLB has historically skewed toward the most popular franchises, and it just so happens that two of the most adored teams in the league are also currently two of the best. The truncated 2020 MLB season should present unique opportunities to bet on underdog or long shot teams. A shorter season will keep less talented teams in playoff contention as there will not be as many games for the top talent teams to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. 

Current top-five MLB futures odds to win the 2020 World Series:

Los Angeles Dodgers +375

New York Yankees +450

Houston Astros +1200

Atlanta Braves +2000

Minnesota Twins +2000

NCAA Basketball Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is annually one of the biggest events on the sports calendar. Fans of schools from around the country storm Las Vegas to place bets on their alma maters to win the Big Dance. Historically, sportsbooks are packed during the NCAA Tournament and future bets are quite popular, especially for the blue blood college basketball schools.

Current top-five NCAA futures odds to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament:

Gonzaga +1000

Michigan State +1000

Virginia +1000

Kansas +1200

Kentucky +1200

PGA Tour

The PGA Tour holds weekly tournaments that provide a vast amount of opportunities for bettors to place futures wagers on who will win each week. Oddsmakers will provide futures odds for each tournament that is played, which condenses what is normally a long future bet sweat into one action-packed weekend. The PGA Tour provides bettors with a plethora of weekly longshot betting options.

Win Totals

For those fans who might root for weaker teams, or sports bettors looking for additional action, sportsbooks offer regular season win total futures bets. In each major sport, every team will be assigned a win total and bettors can place over/under wagers on that designated number. As the sportsbooks take in over/under wagers on these numbers, they will adjust the win totals accordingly.

NBA top-five Win Totals for the 2020 Season:

Milwaukee Bucks: 57.5 wins

Philadelphia 76ers: 54.5 wins

Utah Jazz: 53.5 wins

Houston Rockets: 53.5 wins

Los Angeles Clippers: 53.5 wins

End of Season Awards

Prior to every season, there is much discussion within the media and among fans of all the major sports, as to who will take home the major awards like MVP at season’s end. Bettors can make this discussion actionable by wagering on who will win these awards. Like other future bets, the odds for each player fluctuate throughout the season as the public has more results on which to base their conclusions.

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