Futures betting is exactly what it sounds like; betting on an event that is set to take place in the future like a championship or an award instead of just on an individual game. Unlike most sports bets that are short-term plays, futures bets are generally long-term plays that can take months or even years to be graded. These types of bets are popular among bettors who enjoy looking at the big picture and are okay with being patient as their futures bets are decided over the course of a season.
Betting on who will win a championship or tournament
The most popular and common type of futures bet is a bet on which team will win the upcoming league championship. Odds on who will win the Super Bowl, NBA Championship, World Series and Stanley Cup are available year-round, often being posted for the following year just mere days after this year’s championship has been decided.
Before the season begins, every team in the league is given odds to win that league’s championship. Needless to say, some teams are far more likely to win the championship than others. A team like the New York Yankees might be listed as the favorite to win the World Series at +400.
Reading odds on futures bets is the same as reading odds on the moneyline. Numbers with a “+” in front of them indicate how much money you would win if you placed a $100 wager. So in the example above, a $100 bet on the Yankees to win the World Series at +400 would pay $400 if the Yankees were to win the World Series. This ratio of 4-to-1 stays the same regardless of the bet amount as a successful bet on New York of $20 at +400 would pay $80 and a bet of $250 at +400 would pay $1000.
While the likelihood of an elite team like New York winning the World Series is quite high, a team projected to finish near the bottom of the standings like the Miami Marlins will virtually never make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series. Their odds might be going off at something like +50000, or bet $100 to win $5000.
The same type of futures bet is also available for individuals in sports like motor racing, tennis, and golf. Futures odds will be listed on who will win the US Open in golf, who will win at Wimbledon in tennis and who will win the Daytona 500 in NASCAR. Due to the nature of sports like golf and racing that don’t have one-on-one competition, futures betting on events is the most common way to bet on these sports.
Season win totals are also set for each team at the start of each season. For example, say that the Ohio State Buckeyes have 12 regular season games scheduled and have their season win total set at 10.5 wins. Bettors can place a futures bet on whether Ohio State will go OVER 10.5 wins or UNDER 10.5 wins. This type of futures bet is generally only available before the season begins.
Championship and tournament futures betting, on the other hand, is virtually always available. This means that the lines are constantly changing based on how a team is doing, trades, injuries, and other factors. Keep in mind that the number that you bet your futures bet at is locked in; regardless of whether the odds on your selected team get better or worse as the season progresses, you will be set with the number that you bet on it at.
Individual player futures
Futures bets don’t only apply to teams and championships. Bettors can also wager on individual players to earn awards. Perhaps the most popular individual award to bet on is the Heisman Trophy in college football. There is often value to be found outside of the favorites when it comes to this award as dark horse contenders often play their way into the mix as the season progresses.
Pay close attention to players who string together a few strong statistical performances early in the season, especially when these players are currently under the radar playing for schools outside of the traditional powerhouses. If you believe that this player is capable of keeping his early success rolling over the course of an entire season, you could bet on them to win the Heisman Trophy at long odds before everyone else catches on as well.
This same logic and strategy can be applied to other individual awards across all sports, as well. In baseball, bettors can wager on which pitcher will win the Cy Young award in the AL and NL as well as which player will win the MVP in each league. Given how statistically driven these awards often are in baseball, you can get a pretty good feel for how the race is going early in the season.
Popular NFL awards include the NFL MVP award and the defensive player of the year award. In the NBA, there is often plenty of debate around who will win league MVP and who will be anointed rookie of the year. In the NHL there are a handful of trophies handed out at the end of each season highlighted by the Hart Trophy for league MVP and the Vezina Trophy given to the league’s best goaltender.
Awards are also available in futures betting on individual events. For example, during the World Cup or the UEFA Champions League in soccer, bettors can bet on which player will finish as the tournament’s top goal scorer and MVP. Similarly, odds are made available on who will win Super Bowl MVP and NBA Finals MVP during the postseason.
Future betting strategies
In addition to wagering on teams to win their league’s championships, there are other futures betting options for a team’s success. These include betting on a team to win its division over the course of the regular season, or to advance into the championship by winning their conference.
These types of bets can be beneficial if you are confident that a team will enjoy some success this year but don’t anticipate them winning the championship. An example of this might include betting on your favorite team in the East to win the Eastern Conference in the NBA. Given how much stronger the Western Conference is with the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets than the East, a bet on the Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA title might be too ambitious. A bet on them to win the Eastern Conference however is much more attainable.
Veteran futures bettors look at futures betting like the stock market. As the saying goes, you should look to buy low.
For example, if a young team in the MLB that wasn’t expected to be a contender suddenly goes 18-2 over a 20-game stretch, the odds on this team to win the World Series might sky rocket from +4000 all the way up to +1600. Bettors who bought in early on this winning streak when the team was still at +3600 or +3200 to win the World Series got in at the right time. But with the price now below 20-to-1, it probably isn’t worth buying high on a team like this.
On the other hand, say that a preseason World Series favorite dealing with injury issues is struggling in the first half of the season with an 18-22 record through their first 40 games. As a response, this team’s odds fall from +600 at the start of the year down to +1200 now.
This could make for an excellent buy-low opportunity. If you believe that this team can turn things around when it gets healthy, it may be worth taking a shot on a futures bet on them while other bettors are not paying attention to them. This assures you of getting a good price on your wager.
Scoring big wins on futures bets is all about taking calculated risks. There is nothing wrong with betting a heavy league favorite to win the championship, but there also isn’t much money in it either. On the other hand, say that you see a hockey team that has won 10 of its last 11 games to just barely sneak into a playoff spot. At a price like +2500, even a $20 bet on this team to win the Stanley Cup would pay $500. It may not hit often, but if this team is peaking at the right time and might be able to ride that momentum into a successful postseason run, it could be worth a flier.
Just keep in mind when betting on futures that your wager amount will be tied up until the event is resolved, which could take months. This can be beneficial in that you get to root on a lot more games for your money than you would betting on individual games, but it can also be frustrating to have your bankroll tied up for so long. Consider keeping a separate bankroll for daily bets and futures bets, treating daily bets like short-term investments and futures bets like long-term ones.