Futures bets are a fun and profitable way for you to make money sports betting on your longer-term predictions. From our experience, though, a lot of newer sports bettors have never heard of futures bets or have and don’t quite understand what they’re all about.
In this guide, we’re going to tackle everything you need to know about futures betting in any sport. We’ll talk about what a futures bet is, how they pay out, what sports they’re available in, how to hedge if you’re close to winning, and some killer tips for beating futures bets. By the time we get done with you today, you’re going to be an expert on futures bets and will be more than qualified to start employing them in your betting strategy if you want to.
A futures bet by definition is a wager on something that is going to happen in the future and is usually not decided by one game or contest. For example, if you bet at the beginning of the NFL season on who the Super Bowl champion will be, that is a futures bet. If you bet mid-season on who the winner of the NBA Championship would be, that’s a futures bet. If you placed a bet at the beginning of the PGA playoffs on who the champion would be, that would be a futures bet.
While futures bets are popularly made at the beginning of a season or the playoffs, they can really be made at any point before the bet has been decided. If that’s the case, why would you not just wait until right before the bet is decided to make your futures bet? Well, when we get to the next section and discuss how futures bets pay out, you will understand the incentives for betting at different times.
In order for you to win your futures bet, the criteria is simple. The team or person that you picked to win need to win. If you picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl, all you need to happen is for them to win the Super Bowl. If you picked the Mavericks to win the NBA Championship, they just need to win the championship. It does not matter by how many points, games, or whatever they win. It doesn’t matter if looks pretty or it’s an ugly win. All that matters is that they win what you bet for them to win during that season.
When you look up a futures bet you’re interested in making, you will see moneyline odds on each possible winner. If there are a lot of possible winners (like in a golf tournament for example), you may see odds on most of the players and then what is called the “field” bet which just means anybody and everybody that is not listed already.
As a futures bet can be challenging to predict, you should expect to get pretty good odds on most bets. The payout odds you’ll get will be dependent on how great or small of a chance the team or player has of winning that particular championship or award. If they’re a huge underdog to win, you’ll get way better than even money. If they’re a favorite, you might still get better than even money (depending on when you bet), but it won’t be as lucrative as the underdog payouts.
If your team or player wins the championship or award that you bet on, you’ll get paid out at the odds when you made your bet. Even if the odds change after you make your bet (and they probably will), you are locked in at the odds when you bet. If the odds change and are worse than what you bet, you’re still locked in at the better odds. If the odds change and are better than what you bet, you’re unfortunately also still locked in.
So, why would the odds change on a futures bet? Well, remember we said that the odds are released based mainly on the likelihood of the team or player winning that championship or award. After the odds are released, they will change based on what the public bets on them. This means that as the team or player gets more likely to win the championship or award, more people will bet on them and the odds will get worse. If the team or player gets less likely to win the championship or award, fewer people will probably bet on them, and more people will bet on the other teams or players. This will cause the payout odds to get better and more appealing to try and keep all the action as balanced as possible.
In reality, it might look like this. Let’s say that you place a futures bet on the Dallas Cowboys at the beginning of the season to win the Super Bowl. Let’s say that you get those odds at 45 to 1 meaning that it’s fairly unlikely that the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl. But, let’s say they come out and start dominating and win their first five games. Their chances of making the playoffs are now better, and they were obviously underrated by the sportsbooks and the betting public. This all means they are now more likely to win the Super Bowl. You might see the odds shift to something like 20 to 1 now.
If you had made your bet at the beginning of the season, you’re feeling pretty dang good about yourself right now. You haven’t made any money yet, but you’re definitely on the right track to realizing some value. Let’s say the Cowboys then go and win the division and make the playoffs. You might see that 20 to 1 drop down to something like 6 to 1. Again, if you made your bet at the beginning of the season, you are feeling pretty awesome.
The goal with a futures bet is to try and buy low and sell high. Obviously, you can’t sell off your betting tickets, but we will talk about a strategy where you can effectively “sell high” in a minute. The point is, though, you want to make your bets when you think they have value. If at the beginning of the season you think the Cowboys are way better than 45 to 1 to win the Super Bowl, that’s a smart bet. If you think that’s about right or they’re worse off than that, it’s a bet you would want to avoid.
Futures bets are available in pretty much every major sport that has a tournament or end of season champion. You’ll also see futures bets for any sport where an award is given like the Heisman Trophy in college football or even the Walter Payton Man of the Year in the NFL. Basically, anything that boils down to one team or person as a culmination of a season, tournament, or voting that is unknown to the public until it’s completed can have a futures bet.
Futures are extremely popular in basketball, baseball, football, hockey, soccer, the Olympics, rugby, auto racing, golf, and a whole lot more. The only sports where you don’t see futures bets as often are fight sports like boxing and MMA where there aren’t usually tournaments, and each fight or match is a one-off contest. We are starting to see more MMA contests that are tournaments, though, so you would be able to make futures bets on those contests.
It’s safe to assume that just about any sport out there will have some form of a futures bet you can make.
There’s something that you’re going to hear about when you get into futures bets that you may or may not be interested in. It’s not something that increases your odds of winning or gives you a better chance of winning, but it is something that can help you to control a little of your variance and lock up a guaranteed profit when things are going well with a futures bet that you made.
We’re talking about hedging your bets. Hedging is a tactic used by sports bettors where you make a wager or wagers against yourself in order to lock up profit. Basically, you give up some of the total profit you can make to guarantee that no matter who wins you walk away with locked up money.
Again, this is something that is completely personal preference. Some sports bettors think that it’s giving up value while others like to say that it is important to lower your variance when possible and it’s okay to sacrifice some potential profit for that cause.
Here’s a quick example of why hedging might be something you’re interested in. Let’s say you took that 45 to 1 Cowboys futures bet to win the Super Bowl that we talked about earlier. Let’s say that you put $100 on it. Now, let’s say that the Cowboys crush the world and make it to the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This is obviously a phenomenal situation for you! But, you haven’t made any money yet. If the Cowboys win just one more game, you’re going to walk away with $4500! But, if they lose to the Steelers, you get $0 and are down $100. For some people, they’re okay with letting this ride. But, if you’re someone who just made a $100 bet, you’re now staring down what is effectively a $4500 swing on just one game. That might be a little more than what you’re comfortable with.
What if someone said that you could walk away with a guaranteed $2150 no matter who wins the game. Would you take it? Well, a lot of you probably would, and we wouldn’t blame you. That’s a killer return on your bet, and you take away all the risk locking up several thousand dollars in profit.
The way you do this is through hedging. You would place a large bet on the Steelers to win the Super Bowl. Let’s say the Steelers were even money to win the game for simplicity purposes. Yes, you are betting against yourself. Let’s say that you bet $1500 on the Steelers to win at even money. Let’s look at what happens if either team wins.
If the Cowboys win, you win $4500 from your futures bet! But, you lose $2250 from your Steelers bet. You still walk away with $2250 in profit, though. If the Steelers win, you would lose your futures bet and be down $100. But, you would win your Steelers bet for $2250 meaning you’d walk away with a profit of $2150. So, no matter who wins the game now, you’re getting $2150 or $2250. You literally cannot lose.
Now, hedging can be a little tricky to wrap your head around, and it gets trickier if you want to start hedging earlier than just the last game. There are also logistical concerns that you need to take into account and some tips that you must follow to protect yourself. If you’re going to be getting into futures bets and think you might be interested in hedging when things go well, check out our dedicated guide to hedging linked below. It’s a great read, and definitely, a must read.
While a lot of the strategy in picking winning futures bets is going to be sport-specific, there are some things that are universal across the board that can help you to succeed betting futures. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite tips for new and seasoned futures bettors.
Often, people don’t realize that you can select multiple teams, players, or entrants to win a futures bet and still be profitable as long as one of them wins. Because futures bets often payout way better than even money, you can usually get away with multiple selections. Yes, this will lower your profit ceiling some, but it will also lower your variance making you much more likely to score a win that season or tournament.
If you’re going to do this, make sure you calculate out exactly how much you have at risk total and how much you stand to win with each selection. Make sure that you’re not going to lose money or that you don’t pick too many choices that your potential profit is low. Also, keep in mind that if you make extra bets, you will be betting more money unless you lower your bet size. It will be up to you what you want to do, but do keep in mind that even with multiple selections, you can still lose all of them if someone else wins.
The purpose of making a futures bet is to get value. You can’t expect to make money if you make your futures bets after the good things have happened for a team, player, or entrant. The only exception to this is if something great happens and the line is slow to react (which does happen from time to time).
So, make sure you are not out chasing the hype. For example, let’s look at our Dallas Cowboys example from earlier. If you wait to bet them until after they’ve won five games, a lot of the value is going to be gone in that bet because everyone and their mother is probably jumping on it. But, let’s say you see in the first game that they look pretty good. You can probably still get quite a bit of value because the betting public might be slower to realize what you see.
The bottom line is this. You won’t make any money betting futures if you just react to positive things happening. You are going to have to make predictions on what you think is going to happen and it will require you to take a bit of a chance if you’re looking to make some money. If you can beat the hype to the punch, you can make a lot of money betting on futures in any sport.
We talked about it earlier, but we wanted to make one more point about it. Hedging is certainly not necessary, but we find that a lot of bettors love the idea of locking up guaranteed profit. The tip here is that you shouldn’t be reactive when it comes to hedging. Before you make your futures bet, have a plan about it and when you might want to hedge your bets.
You don’t have to know for sure how much you want to bet and on who and all of that. But, you should have a general idea on if and when you might want to do it so that you can be prepared when the time comes. For example, if you were making the Cowboys futures bet we were talking about, you would want to know if you were planning on hedging when it gets down to the conference championship games (4 teams left) or just when it gets to the Super Bowl (2 teams left). That way, when it starts getting close to that time frame, you can start making any arrangements you need to in order to properly be able to hedge your bets.
People love to bet their favorite team when they make futures bets. While this is completely fine from an entertainment standpoint, it’s usually not smart from a profit standpoint. We won’t beat a dead horse here because you’ve probably heard it before, but make sure that you define what your betting goals are with futures bets. If you’re betting just for entertainment, then bet on whoever you want. But, if you’re betting to make a profit, you need to make bets based on where you think there is value and where you can make money.