How Does Futures Betting Work?
Futures bets are exactly what the name suggests: A wager on a future event, usually involving a player or team to win a major championship in an event that is often months away. The bet is not decided until the event occurs.
Example: If you placed a $25 wager on Green Bay to win the Super Bowl at +1200 odds, then you would win $300 if Green Bay ends up winning the Super Bowl at the end of the year.
How to read futures odds
Odds for futures bets can be confusing at first, but it is easier to understand once you get the hang of all the basics.
First up, here is the lingo when talking about futures bets:
Stake: The money you spend on your bet
Winnings: How much you win — your net profit
Payout: How much you get back — winnings plus stake
Now let’s look at some examples of futures odds to help explain it even further.
Here are our Super Bowl odds for the 2021-22 season as of Dec. 13: — Tampa Bay +500 — Kansas City +550 — Green Bay +675 — Arizona +725 — New England +725 — Dallas +1200
In this example, Tampa Bay is considered the favorite to win the Super Bowl with 5/1 odds to do. Dallas, meanwhile, is sixth on the list and offers a 12/1 payout if they end up winning the championship in 2022.
Payouts for futures bets
Now that we understand the lingo and how to read futures bets, let's turn to the fun part of figuring out the payouts!
Every futures bet has odds and those odds factor in an implied probability of success. The favorites have a higher implied probability, which means a smaller payout. A team further down the board as a lower implied probability, which means a bigger potential payout.
Looking back out as the previous example of our Super Bowl odds for the 2021-22 season, here is the potential payout for a $100 bet on each team: — Tampa Bay +500: Stake $100 to win $500 — Kansas City +550: Stake $100 to win $550 — Green Bay +675: Stake $100 to win $675 — Arizona +725: Stake $100 to win $725 — New England +725: Stake $100 to win $725 — Dallas +1200: Stake $100 to win $1200
Types of futures bets
We've been using a Super Bowl example because that is pretty common, but there are many types of futures bets.
The most common types of futures bets are placed on championship results, which includes but is not limited to the following: — Super Bowl — NBA Finals — College football national championship — College basketball national championship — NHL Stanley Cup
This can be a great market to attract casual bettors, who are looking to have a rooting interest in a given team throughout the season. It even appeals to those who just want to bet on their favorite team to win their respective title.
That said, futures betting has expanded over the years to include many more markets like Over/Under season win totals for every team, players to lead the league in certain statistical categories, as well as individual honors and awards like MVP or the Heisman Trophy.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman award in 2021, and a patron could have had a decent payout by making that wager before the season. Young entered the year with 10/1 odds to win the award.
Pros and cons of futures bets
With futures betting growing in popularity, it is important to remember that there are both advantages and disadvantages to placing such bets!
Futures odds are usually plus-money, which means you can win more than you wager.
The futures market is up throughout the year, and you are typically not limited to when you can place such bets.
You are also not limited to how many bets you can have in a given market, allowing yourself multiple outs for a team to win a championship.
Only one result will be graded as a winner, which obviously puts you at a disadvantage. The NBA champion, for example, has a 1-in-30 proposition (3%) before factoring in anything else.
Depending on when you place your futures bet, that money is tied up for a long period of time until the market is decided.
Things can always change over that long period of time, meaning factors like injuries, trades and success of other teams can impact the market or your bet within a given market.
Futures betting strategies
There is no one way of cashing those futures tickets, but here are some of the best strategies to find success:
1. Don't be afraid to make multiple bets in a given market. We all know how hard it is to win a championship, so having multiple bets on a Super Bowl winner could prove to be an effective strategy. There is no need to go overboard, of course, but a team from each conference could increase your odds!
2. Buying low is the best way of finding value in this market. Odds on specific teams can be moved based on some bad results. There is often an overreaction to those struggles, forcing their futures odds to move and present a higher payout. The Chiefs, for example, entered the year as one of the favorite to win the Super Bowl. They struggled to begin the year, and their odds moved because of that. As of December, though, they are believed to be the AFC frontrunner yet again.
3. Do your research, such as analyzing upcoming schedules or playoff position. We know how important the bye is in the NFL, in terms of winning the Super Bowl. So taking teams that have a better chance of getting the bye in their conference tends to be the smarter play. Looking at schedules to figure out what teams will be in position to have a higher seed is important as well. Just make sure you have reasoning for your wager!