Futures Betting Explained

Futures betting explained. Which team will win the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup, or March Madness? Learn all about futures betting including how to bet on futures and how to read futures odds. Know when to hedge your futures bet. Identify +EV and arbitrage betting opportunities with our handy guide.

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What is a Futures Bet?

A futures bet is placed on the outcome of a distant event. Popular futures bets include league championships, conference and division winners, and player awards. Sportsbooks will also offer futures odds for other events, most commonly the Triple Crown horse races.

Place a futures bet up to any point before the actual event begins, or the player award is announced. Odds will vary as the season progresses. For example, a team’s record, player injuries, or staffing changes will inevitably shift their odds of winning the league championship.

How does a Futures Bet Win or Lose?

Your futures bet wins if you select the correct outcome. The bet loses if you select the wrong outcome, or if the team, player, or result you selected is no longer eligible for the event. This often happens with championship futures when a team is eliminated from the playoffs. It also happens with player awards when a player gets injured early in the season and can no longer compete against rivals.

When does the Futures Bet Tie or Push?

Futures bets cannot tie or push. A sportsbook might refund your bet if the particular event is cancelled, modified, or adjusted in some way that makes determining a final result impossible.

How to Place a Futures Bet

  1. Review futures odds for your league’s upcoming events.
  2. Each outcome will have moneyline odds at American Sportsbooks.
  3. Make one or more selections and bet your desired amount.
  4. Your bet wins if you picked the correct outcome.

What do Futures Odds Numbers Mean?

Each possible future outcome will have moneyline odds at American sportsbooks.

The most likely, or favorite outcome, will have a minus value. The minus value indicates how much you risk to win $100. -125 futures odds mean you risk $125 to win $100.

All other outcomes will have plus values. The plus value indicates how much you win if you risk $100. +500 futures odds mean you win $500 if you risk $100. Similar +2500 futures odds mean you win $2500 if you risk $100.

Some futures bets will not have a clear favorite. In this case, all odds will have plus values. The lowest value is considered the most likely, while the highest is considered the least likely.

More About Betting Odds

SportsBetting3.com’s video and text tutorial “How to Read Sports Betting Odds” discusses how to read betting odds in detail.

How do Sportsbooks Grade a Futures Bet?

The sportsbook will grade the futures bet when the event has officially passed.

In the case of a championship event like the Super Bowl or Final Four, the bet will be graded when a winner is determined. Soccer leagues like the Premier League crown winners based on on a points system. The sportsbook will grade the Premier League Winner futures bet when the winning team is named. Similarly, the sportsbook will grade a player award futures bet when the winning player is announced.

Some sportsbooks will mark your bet as a loss if your team, player, or selection is no longer viable. This happens when a team is eliminated from league playoffs and can not win the Championship.

When do Futures Odds Come Out?

Sportsbooks will release odds on next season’s championship after the current season concludes. For example, 2023 Super Bowl Odds came out within a few weeks after the 2022 Super Bowl on February 13, 2022. Each league’s championship futures odds are usually the first to be released.

Odds for other league events like conference and division winners, or player awards, will typically come out about 2 months before each season begins.

Futures Betting Information

  1. Super Bowl Futures
  2. NCAA Football Championship Futures
  3. NBA Championship Futures
  4. NCAA Basketball Championship Futures
  5. Stanley Cup Futures
  6. World Series Futures
  7. MLS Futures
  8. Premier League Futures
  9. La Liga Futures
  10. Bundesliga Futures
  11. Champions League Futures
  12. Europa League Futures

Are Season Win Totals a Futures Bet?

A season win total is a prop and future hybrid bet. The sportsbook will set a line for the number of wins in the upcoming season. You decide whether the actual result will be over or under the sportsbook’s line.

Season win totals will have one minus and one plus moneyline value. These numbers assign odds to outcomes above or below a win total.

Sportsbooks consider the minus value the “favorite”. It is most likely. The plus value is the underdog. It is less likely.

Like a futures bet, season win totals don’t conclude until the end of the league’s regular season. The main difference between a win total and standard futures bet is when you can place the wager. Season win total betting closes after the season begins, whereas futures odds for league championships will remain open until that event starts.

Futures Betting Example

American sportsbooks will list futures odds as moneylines. Read more about betting the moneyline here.

Example Stanley Cup Futures

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning -110
  2. Nashville Predators +250
  3. Vegas Golden Knights +400
  4. Boston Bruins +600

Let’s say you choose 2 teams: Tampa Bay -110 and Vegas +400. You risk $110 to win $100 on the Tampa Bay Lightning. +400 for the Vegas Golden Knights means you win $400 for risking $100.

Suppose Tampa Bay doesn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. You would lose your $110 bet. Fortunately, Vegas wins the Stanley Cup Finals. You win $400. If you subtract the $110 you lost on Tampa Bay, your net win would be $290.

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Futures have small minimum bets. Win big on a longshot underdog with a minimal investment.
  • Bet on one or more outcomes at once.
  • Each league will have multiple futures betting opportunities. Bet on multiple events to diversify your risk.

Cons

  • Futures bets are hard to win unless you choose an obvious favorite. Sportsbooks make substantial profits on these bets despite the occasional lucky winner.
  • Low probability selections often get eliminated from contention before league playoffs begin. The risk of taking a longshot is not worth the reward.
  • Sportsbooks use futures odds as marketing tools. They are usually sucker bets unless you have expert sports handicapping knowledge.
  • Futures betting ties up bankroll for weeks or months. Money could be better spent elsewhere.

Tips

Shop Odds

Multiple sportsbooks will have lines for the same futures. Search for the sportsbook offering the best odds for each selection. Bet each selection at separate sportsbooks if necessary.

Calculate the Overround

Calculate a future market’s overround to determine whether Expected Value or Arbitrage bets exist. Combine lines from multiple sportsbooks. See example in Tables and Reference below.

Bet Midseason to Decrease Risk

Assess each team’s likelihood of wining a championship event after a few weeks have passed. Betting before the season begins is risky. Wait until you have more information. Sportsbooks will adjust futures odds on a weekly basis.

Season Win Totals Are Safer Bets

Bet Season Win Totals when in doubt. Place these bets before the season begins! Experienced bettors prefer win totals to futures. It is easier to predict one team’s performance against a sportsbook’s line. Predicting championship potential is more difficult.

Hedge Your Futures Bets

Consider hedging your futures bet if your selection makes the championship event. Place a moneyline bet against your team to breakeven if they lose. See example in Tables and Reference below.

Bets to Try

  1. Super Bowl Futures – Pick the next Super Bowl Winner. Choose multiple teams to manage risk.
  2. Final Four Futures – Pick the next NCAA Basketball Champion.
  3. Season Win Totals – Decide if a team’s season win total will be over or under the sportsbook’s line. Bet on multiple teams to diversify risk.
  4. Stanley Cup Futures – Pick the next Stanley Cup Champion.
  5. Kentucky Derby Futures – Pick one or more horses to win the next Kentucky Derby.

Futures Betting History

Prediction markets date to 1503 when people bet on who would become the next pope. Wall street made its first election bets in 1884.

The first electronic prediction market opened during the 1988 Presidential Race. The University of Iowa created its own “Iowa Electronic Markets”. Others subsequently created various prediction markets for speculation and corporate research.

Many believe prediction markets are more reliable than polling and research. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis drives valuation. The EMH theory asserts asset prices fully reflect all available information. Thus analysts can derive a probability from market prices. Investors are more careful when money is involved. They less willing to take big risks and more likely to hedge.

Sports futures are an outgrowth of traditional prediction markets. Online sportsbooks have offered futures odds since online sports betting began in the late 1990s.

Similar businesses have also capitalized on prediction markets. Ireland’s now defunct TradeSports.com once served as a popular futures broker. Customers could buy and sell contracts on any number of events. These markets would often accurately predict many outcomes.

Other Names

  • Outright Bet

Similar Bets

Futures Betting Case Study: Hedging Your Bet

Hedging your futures bet can protect wins and limit losses. Stock traders use similar strategies to manage their trades. Deploying these same methods to sports betting can produce consistent positive returns.

Always ask yourself if there are ways to make a smaller win at less risk. Decreasing risk and disciplined money management are two key strategies that successful sports bettors rely on year after year.

Hedging a Futures Bet with a Single-Game Moneyline

Suppose you take the Chicago Bears to win the Super Bowl at +1000. You risk $10 to win $100. Luckily, the Bears make the Super Bowl. They’re underdogs versus the -120 favorite Baltimore Ravens on the moneyline.

How can you limit your risk? Take the Ravens on the moneyline. Risk $12 to win $10 on the Ravens..

If the Bears win the Super Bowl, you win $100 on your futures bet. You lose $12 on the Ravens moneyline bet. Your net win is $88.

However, if the Bears lose, you lose your $10 futures bet. You win $10 on the $12 -120 Ravens moneyline bet. Your net win is $0. You end up breaking even.

In this case, breaking even is better than a $10 loss. You live to fight another day.

Hedging a $10 Super Bowl Futures Bet
Win Lose Risk Free
Result
Bears Futures
$100
Ravens ML
$12
$100 – $12 =
$88 Profit
Ravens ML
$10
Bears Futures
$10
$10 – $10 =
$0 Profit

Tables and Reference

Largest Futures Bet Wins

Largest Futures Wins of All Time
Year & Bettor League & Bet Bet & Payout
2015
Vegas Dave
MLB World Series
Kansas City Royals +3000
$100,000 Bet
$2,457,200
2016
Leigh Herbert
To Win Win Premier League
Leicester City +500,000
£5 Bet
£20,600

How to Find Positive Expected Value Future Bets

Calculating the overround to find positive expected value is an advanced futures betting strategy. The following formulas and table could be used in a spreadsheet to compare different futures betting opportunties.

Key Fact: Overround closer to 100% indicates higher +EV. Anything under 100% represents high +EV and arbitrage potential.

BE% = Breakeven Percentage
NoV = No Vig

Sample $100 Bet AFC South Futures
Team Odds BE% (IP) NoV W% NoV ML
Jaguars +120 45.45% 40.89% +145
Titans +180 35.71% 32.13% +211
Colts +400 20.00% 17.99% +456
Texans +900 10.00% 9.00% +1012
Total 111.17%
Overround
100.00%

How to Calculate the Overround

1. Calculate each team’s breakeven win percentage. Divide $100 Bet by Payout. ($100)/(Bet + Win).
Jaguars = 100/(100 + 120) = 45.45%.

2. Add each team’s numbers together. The Sportsboook included the juice if the sum >100%. This number is the called the Overround. Numbers closer to 100% indicate higher +EV. Numbers under 100% represent high +EV and arbitrage potential.

3. Divide each Breakeven Win% by the Overround. The quotient is No Vig Win Probability.
Jaguars = 45.45%/111.17% = 40.89%.

4. Add all no vig win probabilities together. The sum should be 100%.

5. Convert each percentage to Moneylines. Use a calculator. The following formula is for probabilities <50%:
Jaguars No Vig ML =((100-(40.89% x 100))/(40.89%*100)) x 100 = +145.

Products are each team’s no vigorish Moneylines. An efficient betting market means each ML is a fair price.

Better lines at competing sportsbooks represent Positive Expected Value +EV Bets.

Bet each team at sportsbook offering best odds. See if any sportsbooks have moneylines greater than each team’s No Vig ML.

Always Calculate the Overround

Overround isn’t specific to one sportsbook’s numbers. It can be calculated from multiple sportsbook lines. This process identifies profitmaking opportuntities.

How to Find Futures Arbitrage Bets

  1. Compare futures at multiple sportsbooks.
  2. Choose the most favorable line for each team.
  3. Combine each line into one futures market.
Sample AFC South Futures Arbitrage
Team Odds BE% (IP) NoV W% NoV ML
Jaguars +180 35.71% 37.14% +169
Titans +225 30.77% 32.00% +213
Colts +550 15.38% 16.00% +525
Texans +600 14.29% 14.86% +573
Total 96.15%
Overround
100.00%

Overround closer to 100% indicates higher +EV. Anything under 100% represents high +EV and arbitrage potential.

Arbitrage bets always profit. Size wagers carefully using an arbitrage calculator. Place correct bet amount on each team. Realize a modest guaranteed return.

  1. There are 4 possible outcomes. Make 4 separate bets.
  2. Bet desired amount on the most lowest ML.
    Ex. $100 Jaguars +180
  3. Enter MLs for each remaining selection.
  4. Calculator figures for each bet’s size, total risk, profit and % profit.

Example Arbitrage Bets & Profit

Example Arbitrage Bets & Profit
Item Amount
Bet 1
Jaguars
$100
Bet 2
Titans
$86.15
Bet 3
Colts
$43.08
Bet 4
Texans
$40.00
Total $269.23
Profit $10.77
% Profit 4.00%

You are guaranteed a $10.77 on $269.23. It doesn’t matter which team wins!

Required Reading

References


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_betting
betfirm.com/nfl-win-totals/
georgemasonlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/14-1_Pickens.pdf
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prediction_market#Milestones_in_development_of_modern_electronic_prediction_markets
wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient-market_hypothesis
lasvegassun.com/vegasdeluxe/2015/nov/02/vegas-dave-wins-25-million-from-100000-bet-royals-/
dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4064846/Leicester-City-fan-won-20-000-5000-1-bet-jokes-professional.html