Futures Betting Guide

Trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the future is part of the fun of being a sports fan. Debates are constantly raging on all sorts of topics, such as who is going to win next year’s Super Bowl or which player is poised to take down the NBA MVP award.

Thanks to legal and regulated sports betting, fans can put their money where their mouth is while predicting all sorts of future outcomes. If they turn out to be correct, they’ll wind up with a whole lot more than bragging rights.

Futures betting is a big part of the wagering menu and one of the most popular features at sportsbooks. These are wagers that users can place on something that has yet to happen, such as the winner of the World Series or the golfer who will take down the Masters.

Odds are listed for all of the possible choices, ranging from the favorites all the way down to the long shots. The futures market is quite active and makes for a fantastic snapshot of the current lay of the land in all of the major sports.

We’re going to take a detailed look at everything you need to know to begin placing bets in this exciting marketplace.

What is futures betting?

A futures bet is a wager that can be placed on the outcome of an event that has yet to happen. It’s a popular and active marketplace with offerings to be found for all of the major sports.

Among the items that can be bet on are champions of the major team sports, and individual player events such as major tennis and golf tournaments.

For each of the listed markets, there will be odds for all of the possible choices. After one quick glance, you’ll quickly have a sense of the consensus on what may happen.

Favorites will be listed up top, long shots at the bottom, and the middle will be populated with everyone else. For bettors, the goal, naturally, is to choose the ultimate winner, but also to hunt for value in choices that may be undervalued by the betting community and oddsmakers.

In advance of a season or big event, the futures market provides a preview of how the field shapes up. For example, there are 130 teams playing at the highest level in college football.

It can be tough to understand the shape of all of them heading into a new season, but futures odds give you a quick sense of who the top contenders may be, as well as which programs could be in for a long season.

There’s something to be found in the futures market all year round, which only enhances the appeal. The market will stay active throughout the individual sport seasons and as major tournaments get underway.

Bettors can make long-term investments in advance and hold the tickets until the end, or they can just keep a watchful eye on the odds board to hunt for appealing opportunities along the way.

How do you place a futures bet?

At most online sportsbooks, you can find a dedicated link to the futures market for each sport. In general, there’s a menu that lists all of the sports the book has to offer.

Once you click on that, the offerings will expand and you should find a link to the futures market for that particular sport. Depending on the chosen market, you should see multiple listings for all of the current futures on the board.

For example, in advance of the MLB season, you’ll find futures for things such as the winners of the World Series, pennant, division and individual player awards.

After you examine the market and find choices that you like, you simply click on your selection. It’ll be added to your ticket from there. Once you enter the stake, you’ll see the potential return.

Futures wagering can be quite lucrative. However, there’s also a good chance of losses as not all of your selections will be correct.

Examples of futures bets

To further understand the futures market, let’s walk through a few examples using different sports.

Let’s say that you’re interested in placing a bet on the winner of next year’s Super Bowl. After glancing at the odds, you’re sold on one of the current favorites being the winner. Here’s what the odds look like:

  • Kansas City Chiefs +650
  • Baltimore Ravens +700
  • San Francisco 49ers +900

After doing your due diligence, you decide that it’s the 49ers’ year. You place your bet and hold your ticket throughout the year. Here’s what the potential return looks like:

  • $100 wager at odds of +900 equals potential total return of $1,000.

If you’re correct on your call of the 49ers winning, you’re looking at an exceptional return on your initial stake.

Next, let’s look at the odds for the MLB AL East Division in advance of the coming season:

  • New York Yankees -370
  • Tampa Bay Rays +400
  • Boston Red Sox +800
  • Toronto Blue Jays +5000
  • Baltimore Orioles +10000

After handicapping the division race, you come to the conclusion that the oddsmakers and betting public are right. The Yankees are stacked. You just don’t see a way they can lose the AL East, so you place your bet accordingly.

  • $100 wager at odds of -370 equals total potential return of $127.

While not exactly a stellar return, this wager gives you an additional rooting interest throughout the year. As another approach, you can just keep an eye on the odds board and wait until you can get the Yankees at a more appealing price, perhaps after they hit a rough patch during the season.

We’ll head over to the NBA now and consider the debate for league MVP. While there’s a ton of talent in the league, four players have separated themselves as the top favorites:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo -390
  • LeBron James +700
  • James Harden +1100
  • Luka Doncic +1100

You decide that you’re going to take your chances on the young Doncic as he continues to turn heads with his stellar play.

  • $100 wager at odds of +1100 equals total potential return of $1,200.

Just like that, you have an additional rooting interest in how the rest of the regular season plays out, not to mention the chance for a fantastic return.

For our final example, let’s consider one of the signature golf events of the calendar year, the Masters tournament. While the tournament remains a ways away, the futures market is weighing in on how it sees things playing out. Here are the three favorites:

  • Rory McIlroy +750
  • Jon Rahm +1100
  • Tiger Woods +1100

You’re a huge Woods fan, but you also think he has a real chance to win on top of the sentimental reasons. As such, you place your wager and look ahead to the greens at Augusta with some skin in the game.

  • $100 wager at odds of +1100 equals total potential return of $1,200.

If Woods manages to snag another green jacket, you’re going to be quite the happy camper. The futures market offers a great opportunity to get some serious bang for your buck, and it also enhances rooting interests for sports and events that you already love.

Futures betting odds and line moves

Once futures odds are released, the betting public gets a chance to have its say. You’ll start to see the odds shift as action comes in. Players or teams that see a significant amount of betting action could see their odds lessen, while it’s the opposite effect for those that don’t see many wagers.

The lines will also move based on team performance, or individual performance in the case of other major sports. If one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup gets off to a horrid start, then their odds will rise, for example. To the other extreme, a long shot that burns up the ice with a start that no one saw coming could creep its way up toward the favorites.

Futures odds will also adjust if major news breaks. For example, an NBA team that gets decimated by injuries can plummet quickly. If one of the favorites for Wimbledon suddenly drops out, the whole market will see some adjustment.

While you can treat the futures market as a set-it-and-forget-it bet if you choose, there’s a lot to be said for paying attention to the odds board all year long. You never know when appealing opportunities are going to pop up.

The top sports for futures betting

The hierarchy of the futures betting market is pretty similar to the overall sports betting landscape. The NFL is king and betting on football attracts tons of action. NFL futures betting can definitely pay off if you’re patient.

Other major team sports such as MLB and the NBA will also see plenty of activity. College football and college basketball are incredibly popular. The NHL and soccer have loyal and devoted followings and are in the next tier.

For the team sports, you’ll generally find a whole host of choices, such as:

  • League champion
  • Conference and division winners
  • Regular season win totals
  • Individual player award winners

The individual sports are also active when it comes to the futures market. A good deal of interest is placed on the major tournaments for tennis and golf, as well as big races for NASCAR.

In terms of which sports are best for futures betting, it really comes down to a matter of personal choice. Sticking with what you know is always a good call, but there’s also nothing wrong with taking a shot on a small scale with sports you’re unfamiliar with.

How to handicap futures bets

Handicapping futures bets is a different process than approaching individual games or player props. As opposed to one single day at a time, your focus is on how an entire event or season will play out.

While that can sound like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be so complex. First things first, gain an understanding of what the futures market is telling you.

Favorites are where they are on the odds board for a reason, as are the long shots. Be realistic with your thinking, but don’t be shy about taking a shot on a dark horse that you have a good feel for.

One approach that can be very helpful is to split the odds board into three tiers: favorites, mid-range and long shots. After you have it split up in that manner, you can then examine each tier to find potential opportunities.

Let’s say you go through that exercise for the NBA with an eye on the league winner. There aren’t any teams in the long shot category that you view as having a chance, so you immediately scratch them off the list.

In the mid-range, you see a few potential sleepers, while you have some definite preferences among the favorites. You now have a shortlist to consider. For these choices, you can now do a deep dive on each and determine which ones are the most realistic wagers.

After going through your process, you determine you have a clear team from the favorites, and an intriguing sleeper from the mid-range. You decide to place wagers on both and enjoy the upcoming season.

That’s just one approach that you can use. There are plenty of possibilities to consider with the futures market, so you should be able to find a tactic that works best for your bankroll and strategy.

The bottom line on futures betting

Futures betting revolves around placing wagers on events that have yet to happen. The marketplace is active, and you’ll find opportunities for all of the major team and individual sports.

For the team sports, you can place bets on things such as the outright winner of the league or the player who will win an individual award. In individual sports, the markets are most active on signature events such as major tournaments or big races.

Handicapping futures is a different approach than single-game betting. The odds board is filled with choices ranging from favorites to long shots. The goal is to identify the choices you find most appealing, whether they be favorites or dark horses.

Returns can be great in the futures market, but there’s also high chance of loss; after all, being correct on every choice isn’t realistic. Additionally, futures betting provides a little extra rooting incentive for the sports and events that you already love.

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