If you think of sports betting as a long-term investment opportunity, betting on “futures” will be right up your alley. Or, if betting on your favorite team to win a championship sounds like a fun proposition, this is the type of bet you’ll love.
In this guide, we’re going to explain futures betting, give you some valuable tips on how to make money, and teach you how to calculate the odds to help maximize profitability.
Futures betting is a great way to invest in sports betting. And, quite frankly, they are often some of the best bets at a sportsbook because you can win a bunch without risking a ton. But there is a slight downside to them, depending on your financial situation, which we’ll discuss in more detail later in this article.
What is a Futures Bet?
So what do we mean by “futures?” Exactly as it sounds. This is a type of wager on something that occurs in the future, typically beyond just one individual game. Different types of futures wagers include bets on which team will win a league or division championship, who will hit the most home runs during a baseball season, or which player will win the league’s MVP award. And there are many other types of futures bets.
Technically, a futures bet is a type of prop bet. In fact, when you look for a list of futures bets at your online sportsbook, you’ll find them in the prop bet section.
But there are some significant differences between futures bets and standard prop bets. Yes, technically every bet is in the “future.” After all, you can’t bet on something that already happened. Sportsbooks would go out of business in one day if their customers knew the outcome of sporting events before they happened.
In “Back to the Future II,” Biff Tannen got his hands on a Sports Almanac in 1955 that had results from sporting events up until 2015. So, he took that knowledge to the sportsbook and won a fortune. Unfortunately, that was just a movie and there’s no way for any of us to know the results of a game beforehand. We’d be filthy rich within a week.
But you can still try to predict the future and make a profit off what you think will happen. Futures bets are typically long-term investments. Many wager on how many games a team will win before the season even starts. You won’t be able to collect on your winnings, if you do in fact win, until after the season concludes.
That can be problematic for a gambler on a small budget. It may leave you with little to gamble throughout the season. But there are so many benefits to futures betting. You’ll get more favorable odds than traditional wagers on individual games. And this type of sports bet serves as a fantastic investment opportunity.
That’s how you should think of futures betting – a way to invest in the future. It’s similar to investing in the stock market. You buy a stock in hopes of in a year or two, or often even longer, that company grows exponentially and then you rake in the dough.
It’s similar with futures betting. Like stocks, you can’t be certain your bet or investment will come through. Often times it won’t. Even the best stock traders miss on a few investments. And you’re bound to lose some of your futures bets. But if you do your homework, you’ll end up ahead in the long-run.
Shopping Around for the Best Lines
Futures betting doesn’t just have a ton in common with the stock market. It’s also similar to shopping for car insurance. Confused? We’re going to explain!
When you purchase a new automobile, you must have it insured. But, if you’re like most people, you do a little shopping around to get the best rates. Often times, you’ll find a lower price with the same benefits from a different insurance carrier if you shop around.
The same can be said for sports betting. One thing many bettors underestimate is the importance of finding the best lines. And it ends up costing them dearly. This goes for all types of sports bets and not just futures.
Here’s a great example of what we’re talking about.
Let’s say the only online sportsbook you use sets the over/under on wins at 9.5 for the Minnesota Vikings, your favorite team. You like that bet so you put down $1,100 to win $1,000 (-110 odds). But the Vikings only win nine games, meaning you lose the $1,100.
Losing a bet always hurts but it would be even more of a kick to the groin if you found out another online sportsbook was laying the same odds but set the over/under at 9 wins. By simply placing your bet at the other sportsbook, you still wouldn’t have won, but you would have pushed and, thus, saved $1,100.
A half point or a half a win makes a world of difference. You’d be surprised how many futures bets sports bettors lose by a half a win or half a home run. Imagine now if your average wager is $100. By failing to shop around for the best lines, you could conceivably lose over $1,500, maybe even $2,000, each year if you only use one sportsbook.
So, what’s the solution? Simple: sign-up for and deposit on multiple sportsbooks. Our rule of thumb is to use three. But, at the very least, make sure you have access to and money on two separate online sportsbooks.
It doesn’t cost any money to join a sportsbook, so you really have no excuse not to use multiple apps. Plus, even better, by using different online sportsbooks, you’ll rack up additional free money with all the sign-up match bonuses you’ll get.
Always having access to the best lines gives you a significant advantage. Before placing a wager, make sure you check in on your other sportsbooks to ensure you’re getting the best line. What you’ll find out is that, often times, the better odds are elsewhere.
Calculating the Juice (Vig)
When we talk about juice in gambling, we aren’t talking about a fruity drink. The juice, also referred to as “vig,” is the price a sportsbook charges a gambler on a bet. And that is how the house makes its money.
The most standard juice is a 10 percent markup on an even money bet. Or, as you’ve probably seen it listed at a sportsbook, -110. What that means is the house is taking 10 percent off your cut, essentially. They have to do that or they’d never stand a chance to turn a profit. And if the casino doesn’t win, we’d have nowhere to bet on sports.
Assuming a -110 line, you have to bet $1.10 to win $1 (or $110 to win $100, $1,100 to win $1,000, etc.). If your bet comes through, you’d collect $2.10 which is your initial $1.10 wager plus your $1 profit.
One thing many inexperienced sports bettors fail to understand is that just because the house wins doesn’t mean you can’t also. So, even though there’s a vig added to the bet, you can still turn a nice profit. You have to understand that most sports bettors lose. But not everyone does. In fact, there are literally millions of gamblers out there who make a living beating the casino.
They win by outsmarting the bookmakers. The house still wins in the long run because they make their money off the losing players. In the end, because of the juice, the sportsbook will win, but so can you. We’re going to show you some valuable tips on how to make money betting futures later in this review so that you can be on the winning side of things.
Futures Bets and Implied Odds/Probabilities
When betting on futures, you must take into consideration your implied odds. And what those are is the chance you have at winning big. When you’re contemplating a bet, you should first think about the true potential of the wager. Can you realistically expect to turn a nice profit or are you just throwing money away?
Let’s start with basic odds calculations. For this example, we’re going to use a hypothetical scenario in which the top seeded team (Duke) enters the NCAA Tournament as a 3/1 favorite to win the national title. You’ve watched Duke play and feel they are the best team. But anything can happen in March Madness.
In a one-and-done tournament such as the NCAA Tournament, the best team often doesn’t come out victorious. Take 1997 as the perfect example. Virtually every pundit predicted Kansas would cruise to the championship. Nearly every bracket had the Jayhawks winning it all. But they were upset in the Sweet 16 by the eventual champion, Arizona.
So, from a betting perspective, we can’t just assume any futures bet on the team we think is going to win is a smart play. Virginia was a popular pick to win the title in 2018 but they became the first #1 seed to lose in the first round to a #16 seed. The next year, they surprised everyone and won the national title.
In 2019, Duke was the top seeded team and 19 percent of all futures bets were placed on the Blue Devils to win the national championship heading into the NCAA Tournament. But the favorite didn’t even make the Final Four, so all those bettors lost money.
When it comes to betting on futures, you don’t have to win every time. In fact, you’ll often lose. But so long as you are taking calculated risks, you’ll profit in the long run.
Going back to our hypothetical example with Duke being a 3/1 favorite to win the national title. You might consider them to favorite, but do you believe they’d win better than 1 in 4 times? If not, that’s a bad bet. Here’s the breakdown.
Assume for this example you bet $100 each time. The first time you win at 3/1 odds and get a $300 profit. The other three times you lose and give back that $300. So it’s a break-even bet which is why you should handicap Duke, in this hypothetical scenario, to win better than once ever four tries.
Pros and Cons of Futures Bets
It would be a lie to tell you that there isn’t a downside to betting on futures. With that said, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Let’s take a look.
- You can win bigger on one bet than a wager against the spread on one game while risking the same amount. Many times you’ll get 10/1 odds or better on futures bets, which means you’d turn a 1,000 percent profit if you win. Against the spread, you get less than even-money odds unless you’re playing parlays and teasers.
- Keeps you interested throughout the entire season. Especially when it comes to sports like hockey and baseball, the season sort of drags on for months. You might otherwise get bored until the playoffs if you didn’t have money riding on the outcome of the season.
- Great long-term investment opportunity. We like to think of futures bets, especially ones that are based on the outcome of an entire season, as a smart investment just like stocks or real estate.
- Can win a bunch with a small investment. You don’t have to bet $1,100 just to win $1,000 with futures bets like you do a straight against-the-spread wager. Instead, you might win $1,000 with just a $100 or less investment. You simply can’t beat the value.
- Long-term investments can hold your bankroll back. The biggest issue with futures betting is that you have to wait sometimes months before collecting your winnings. If you wager too much on futures bets before the season starts, you might have a sizable portion of your bankroll locked up which could make it difficult for you to gamble on individual games during the season.
- You might forget you even placed a bet. Many times, bettors place a small wager or two on the outcome of a regular season before the season starts. And when that bet is so small – say $100 – you might forget all about it. Hey, it happens.
Futures Betting Strategy: 5 Tips to Help You Win Big (Consistently)
Since you’ve made it this far in our betting guide, you’re obviously interested in betting on futures. And that’s a good thing because this is one of our favorite types of bets. So, to help you make some money, we have provided five useful tips that will always be effective.
Tip #1: Don’t bet too many units on one wager
We’d all like to think a certain team is a “lock” to win the NCAA Tournament or the World Series, but there’s no such thing as a lock.
If you ever find a supposed sports betting “expert” try to sell you on a lock, walk the other way.
Anything can happen in sports. Some of the weirdest, most improbable outcomes will occur when you’re least expecting it. In 2014, the Kansas City Royals came out of nowhere to win the American League pennant after 29 consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs. No one saw it coming. Heck, the players on the team probably couldn’t have envisioned making the World Series that year in Spring Training.
For that reason, it’s very important that you don’t go crazy on futures bets. Duke had three lottery picks in 2018-2019 and still only made the Elite Eight. You just never know. If you bet too many units on one or two futures wagers, you won’t have much money leftover and will have far too much at risk on just one or two bets.
Tip #2: Go for value, which may or may not be the favorite
You might think one team is the best in the league. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should bet on that team to win it all when it comes to futures betting. If most of the general public is hopping on the bandwagon and betting on that team to win, you’ll likely find better value elsewhere. You’d be surprised at how often the heavy favorite, a team that everyone expects to win it all, fails.
Remember, you don’t have to win every bet. You just have to win enough to turn a profit. So, if you bet $100 20 times on 5/1 odds and win half of those bets, you’ll turn a $4,000 profit ($500 per win x 10 – $100 per loss x 10). Although you lost half the time, you still won big.
Now, that doesn’t always mean the best value isn’t to bet on the favorite. There will be times when you’re just so certain the favorite is going to win that you can throw the mediocre odds out the window.
Tip #3: Consider betting on multiple teams and players
Betting futures is sort of like roulette except you can actually beat the house in the long run if you’re skilled. In roulette, there are 36 numbers plus the 0 and 00. Most who bet on individual numbers in roulette place chips on multiple numbers. And why not? It increases your chances of winning. If you put $10 on five different numbers – all at 36/1 odds – and one of your numbers hit, you’ll get paid out $360 while losing $40 for a $320 profit.
That’s often the smart play when it comes to futures betting. Like we’ve already mentioned, you can’t ever be sure a certain team is going to win. So, why not bet on multiple teams or players so that your odds of winning increase?
Sure, you’re putting more at risk this way. But you’re also increasing your chances of winning so it’s a smart play. If you bet on a 6/1, 10/1, and 12/1 to win and one of those teams comes through, you are guaranteed a profit, assuming you evenly split your wagers.
Tip #4: Don’t bet on a team because you’re a fan
We all have teams we live and die for, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cheer on your favorite team when they play like you have a million bucks riding on the game. But it’s usually best to refrain from betting on teams you can’t objectively analyze. If you aren’t passionate about any team, you can go ahead and move on to Tip #5.
For the rest of you, we can’t stress this enough. It’s simply not a smart decision to put much money, if any at all, down on a team you are emotionally connected to. The reason for that is because you probably aren’t going to be objective. If you want to put down $20 just for fun on your team to win it all, be our guest. Losing $20 isn’t going to crush your bankroll or put you out on the streets.
Just make sure you aren’t wasting too much money because you have a “hunch” your team is due. That’s all we’re saying.
Tip #5: Put in effort researching
Before placing any futures wagers, make sure you’ve done your homework. That means researching trends, analyzing the talent on the roster, and comparing that team to others in the league. The more effort you put into this, the more money you’ll make.
Betting on sports isn’t easy. It requires research and getting to know the teams involved, unless you have no interest in winning money. You can’t just throw darts and expect to win big.
The best handicappers know more about the teams than the average fan. And that’s why they win. They find value where most can’t and are always researching trends, watching games, and finding spots where they have an edge. If you put in the work like a top handicapper, you’ll win big.