What is a Futures Bet?

Futures betting explained. Which team will win the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup or March Madness? Learn how betting season win totals can be profitable. Bet multiple teams in same futures market to diversify risk. Know when to hedge your futures bet. Identify +EV and arbitrage betting opportunities with my handy guide.

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Futures Betting Definition

Sportsbooks offer odds on distant events. Bet wins or loses after event has concluded. The most common future bets include picking season champions, win totals or player awards. Major horse races like the Kentucky Derby also have futures odds.

Method

  1. Visit sportsbook Futures page.
  2. Select sport or horse racing.
  3. American Sportsbooks list odds as moneylines.
  4. Some horse racing odds may be fractional.
  5. Make one or more selections and bet desired amount.

Specs

Exotic bet. Major events like the Super Bowl will have odds before the NFL season begins. The same is true for the NBA, NHL, MLB and college sports.

Sportsbooks post horse racing futures before major races. Kentucky Derby futures betting starts in September with the first prep races.

Odds

American Sportsbooks list futures odds as moneylines. Some horse racing odds will be fractional.

Sportsbooks often give futures with 3 or more selections all positive values. This typically happens until an obvious favorite emerges. Look for favorites once post-season play has begun.

Season Win Total – A Prop and Future Hybrid

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

Sportsbooks consider the negative value the “favorite”. It is most likely. The positive value is the underdog. It is less likely.

Duration

Futures bets last until the season or event have passed. This process may take weeks or months.

Odds will adjust as the event or season conclusion approaches.

Event Eligibility

Ineligible teams, individuals or horses will be removed from an event’s futures odds. Previous bets on these selections automatically lose.

This typically happens when a team does not qualify for the playoffs. The same is true for horses that are injured, disqualified or scratched.

Limitations

Some futures cannot be added to parlays. See sportsbook rules.

Futures Betting Example

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

Chicago Bulls Season Win Total

Decide if Bulls will win greater or fewer games than sportsbook’s line.

Note: Bet is like an over under total bet.

Over 42½ -130
Under 42½ EVEN

Bettor chooses under 42½ EV money. He believes Bulls will win 42 or less games. He risks $100 to win $100.

Kentucky Derby Futures Bet

Select the next Kentucky Derby Winner.

Note: Futures will contain all possible horses. Sportsbooks will add prep race winners as results become available.

  1. Bolt Doro +700
  2. Audible +800
  3. McKinzie +1000
  4. Justify +1200
  5. Good Magic +1400

Bettor chooses Audible. He risks $100 to win $800.

Stanley Cup Futures Bet

Select the next Stanley Cup Winner.

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

Bettor chooses 2 teams:
Tampa Bay risking $110 to win $100.
Vegas risking $100 to win $400.

How Futures Betting Works

Futures bet wins if prediction is correct. Bet loses if prediction is incorrect. Ties are not possible.

Sportsbooks refund bets for canceled games or events. Bets will also be returned if determining a result is no longer possible.

Moneyline Odds

Positive numbers indicate how much you win for risking $100.
Negative numbers indicate how much you risk to win $100.

Example Results from Above

Chicago Bulls Season Win Total – Under 42½ Wins

  1. Bulls only win 39 games.
  2. Bettor wins $100 for risking $100.

Kentucky Derby Futures Bet – Audible Injured

  1. Audible gets injured a week before the Derby.
  2. Bettor loses $100. Audible can no longer compete.

Stanley Cup Futures Bet – Tampa Bay Wins

  1. Tampa Bay wins Stanley Cup.
  2. Bettor wins $100 for risking $110 on Tampa Bay. He loses $100 on Vegas.
  3. Net Profit $0.

Stanley Cup Futures Bet – Vegas Wins

  1. Vegas wins Stanley Cup.
  2. Bettor wins $400 for risking $100 on Vegas. He loses $110 on Tampa Bay.
  3. Net Profit $290.

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Small minimum bet. Make one or more selections. Win big with longshot underdogs.
  • Sportsbooks list futures with moneyline or fractional odds.
  • Each sport has multiple future betting opportunities. NFL fans can predict the Super Bowl, NFC, AFC or Division winners.
  • Future betting establishes a long-term rooting interest. Selection must be successful throughout the season for your bet to win.

Cons

  • Futures bets are hard to win unless you choose an obvious favorite. Sportsbooks profit on these bets more than bettors.
  • Low probability selections often get eliminated from contention before playoffs begin. Risk is not worth the reward.
  • Sportsbooks use futures odds as marketing tools. They are usually sucker bets unless you are an expert handicapper.
  • Futures betting ties up bankroll for weeks or months.

Tips

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. NBA 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

Tables and Reference

Example Futures Bet Hedge

  1. You bet $10 the Bears will be Super Bowl Champions +1000. You risk $10 to win $100.
  2. The Bears make the Super Bowl. They are facing the Ravens -120 Moneyline.
  3. Bet $12 on the Ravens to win $10.
  4. Breakeven if the Bears lose. Profit $88 if the Bears win.
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

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

Finding Positive Expected Value Future Bets

BE% = Breakeven Percentage
NoV = No Vig

Sample $100 Bet AFC South Div 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%

Steps

  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. Sportsboook included juice if 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. Quotient is No Vig Win Probability.
    Jaguars = 45.45%/111.17% = 40.89%
  4. Add all no vig win probabilities together. 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.

Identifying 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!

References


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_betting
sportsbookreview.com/forum/handicapper-think-tank/26889-sizing-futures-bets.html
sportsbookreview.com/forum/nfl-betting/1555095-how-hedge-my-futures-bet.html
betfirm.com/nfl-win-totals/
thesportsgeek.com/sports-betting/strategy/future-betting/
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
bettingexpert.com/academy/betting-fundamentals/betting-odds-explained