Much like futures investing, futures betting entails wagering on an event that will be decided in time. Like betting on the winner of the World Series or taking a position on a team’s season-long win total. These types of wagers aren’t for those in search of instant gratification. Those types of bettors should stick to traditional types of sports betting, such as point spreads, money lines and totals that are determined on a daily basis. If you get involved with a future bet, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s a long haul and one that will encounter numerous bumps along the way.
This guide will walk you through how to bet futures, what to look for and what you can expect as the season progresses.
Because futures odds are set so far in advance, the rates of return are very attractive to sports bettors. With that in mind, it’s crucially important to keep an ear to the ground and make it a point to stay in the know for all teams in whichever sport you’re looking to cash a futures bet in. What’s the injury front look like? Did one team make a trade to dramatically improve its roster? Is the team hot or cold?
You should consider all of those parameters regardless of when you plan on making an investment.
Think it was easy for the Washington Nationals to win the World Series in 2019? At the end of May, the Nats found themselves 12 games under .500 through 50 games and only ahead of the Miami Marlins in the NL East. When it was all said and done, the Nationals won their first-ever World Series title and became only the third team over the last hundred years to punch a ticket to the Fall Classic after being 12 games down in the loss column at one point in the regular season. Astute MLB bettors were able to take advantage of the situation. How, you ask? Keep reading!
The Nationals opened the 2019 baseball betting season at +1700 to win the franchise its first-ever World Series title; a $100 wager would’ve netted $1,700. Two weeks into the season, the offering fell slightly to +1600, but then bottomed out dramatically. Due to a number of sustained losing streaks, the Nats’ World Series odds climbed to as high as +5000, meaning a $100 wager would’ve gained you a return of $5K! The team then went on a winning streak, trimming the return on investment down to +3500, but another losing streak followed, and it was back up to +5000. See what I’m talking about? The ups and downs when sports betting futures can drive you mad!
But once the calendar turned to July, Washington couldn’t be stopped. Though the Nationals failed to catch the Atlanta Braves for division supremacy, they still entered the 2019 postseason at +1425 to win the World Series. After scoring three runs in the 8th inning to shock the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL wild card game, their rate of return fell to +1100. The late-game voodoo resurfaced in Game 5 of the NLDS when the Nats battled back to tie the game before disposing of the Los Angeles Dodgers in extra innings due to Howie Kendrick’s heroics. The Nationals’ odds immediately fell to +750 and then to +160 after busting out the brooms on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
Then it was on to the World Series, where the Houston Astros were installed as series favorites. That, however, didn’t last long after the Nats took a 2-0 series lead at Minute Maid Park. Returning home to D.C. for three games, Washington was a -120 favorite to win it all. Shockingly, it went on to drop three straight and returned to Houston as +570 underdogs to seal the deal in enemy territory. Wouldn’t you know it, but the Nationals pulled it off, becoming the first team in MLB history to win all four of its World Series games on the road. Those who got in early reeled in a nice return, while those who took a stab at the end of May took in a huge haul, one they’ll likely be telling their grandchildren about in years to come.
The purpose of the timeline is to convey just how much things can change over the course of a full season when getting involved with futures markets. Lines fluctuate almost daily, so you need to be on top of your game to get in at the perfect time so as to reap the benefits of the greatest return.
That’s exactly what astute MLB futures bettors did when things weren’t going well for Washington at the end of May. At the +5000 price point, the team’s implied probability of winning the World Series checked in at less than 2%, meaning the Nats would have to win the World Series only 2% of the time for their backers to break even on the bet. With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin helping to form arguably the best starting rotation in the league, the +5000 futures offering simply reeked of value, regardless of the fact that Dave Martinez’s squad was buried in the standings and had numerous injuries at the time.
Some of the most common type of futures bets include odds to win the Super Bowl, NBA title, Stanley Cup, World Series and both the college football and basketball national championships. Futures odds are also available to win the NFC, AFC, Eastern Conference, Western Conference, American League and National League, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, etc. Breaking it down even more, you can place futures bets on odds to win respective divisions like the NFC North, AFC West, NBA Atlantic, NBA Pacific, NHL Metropolitan, NHL Central, NL Central, AL East, ACC Coastal, Big 10 East, Pac-12 North, SEC West, etc.
You can also bet on something called “win totals,” which are the expected number of wins accrued over the course of a regular season for a respective team. For example, the New Orleans Saints currently own a 10.5 game season win total at DraftKings Sportsbook. Dating back to 2017, Sean Payton’s squad has produced 11-, 13- and 13-win campaigns. That makes 10.5 seem like a bargain when you take into account the fact that linemakers expect them to win the NFC South a fourth straight time.
Even so, -115 vigorish — the percentage bookmakers charge you to make the bet — is attached to the under, meaning you’d need to lay $115 for every $100 wagered should you believe the Saints win 10 games or fewer in the upcoming season. Over bettors get to pay reduced -106 juice, which brings with it a 51.4% implied probability of occurring. The under’s implied probability of 53.5% paired with the over at 51.4 has the bookmaker’s hold checking in at 4.9%. Now do you see why those setting the lines never lose?
Win totals are readily available for wagering on the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and, depending on your sportsbook, college basketball and football.
Should win totals not be your cup of tea, there’s always futures odds to win championships, conferences, divisions, series or leagues, or odds to make the playoffs as well as division finishes. Take for example the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes and company are the current +650 favorites at FanDuel Sportsbook to hoist the Lombardi Trophy a second straight season. With that, the reigning champs have an implied probability of 13.3% to win it all in back-to-back seasons. A $100 bettor would take home $650 in profit should the Chiefs go on to win the Super Bowl a second straight season. The last team to pull off that feat was the 2003-04 New England Patriots!
Professional sports bettors mostly steer clear of betting on futures due to the obscene amount of juice sportsbooks charge for their customers to place those types of wagers. Futures markets are catered to recreational and amateur bettors who are simply looking to bet on their favorite team to win it all or the perceived favorite in the eyes of the oddsmakers. With it darn near impossible to book balanced action like it is on any given Sunday, extra juice is built into the futures market offerings.
There’s also very low betting limits. On a typical Sunday, sportsbooks regularly allow for upward of $10K to be wagered upon sides, totals and moneylines. You’d be hard pressed to find a book with limits higher than $1,000 for futures bets. That said, the sports betting futures market isn’t nearly as sharp as daily or weekly sports betting, so there is value to be had. With that, make it a point to calculate the juice in futures markets to find an edge and then go line shopping. If you don’t shop around at various books when placing futures bets on the NFL, NBA, MLB or any other sport, you’re not doing it right! The markets are already heavily juiced to limit your rate of return, so get the most bang for your buck should you decide to get involved.