What Are Futures Bets

By Phil Simon

This one is fairly simple. Just read the name of the bet again. A futures bet is a wager made for sometime in the, well … future. Typically it spans a season for whatever sport your team is playing and you’re risking money on a specific outcome after the action closes. Most futures are related to winning something: a total number of games, a division title or a league championship. Again, the key is to remember you’re not wagering on a specific game or series, rather on the entire season until the outcome of your bet is decided.

Understanding Futures

Prior to the start of a specific season, sportsbooks will post futures odds. However, a number of shops will continue to offer the bets as the season and playoffs progress. Over the course of a season the odds will change. For example, let’s say the Bears were +350 to win the NFC North title before the season began. They win their first three games improving their chances of winning the division. As a result we’ll see the payout drop as the Bears’ odds of winning increase.

There are other factors that would force a change in futures odds. Besides the wins and losses there are injuries, trades, etc. If the odds change for one team they are likely to shift for competing teams. While we tend to look at futures odds as a sort of crystal ball into what oddsmakers are thinking, that’s not always the case.

Futures odds at a particular sportsbook may change based on the amount of money wagered on a certain team. Just like a straight spread bet, books want to spread the money evenly and if the numbers get out of alignment a shift is made to correct the money flow. If you’re looking for immediate gratification from your sports wagering experience, futures are not for you. Again, this is a wager where the outcome will not be decided for some time.

Using the National Football League as an example, let’s take a look at some of the most common futures bets offered at sportsbooks.

*Season Win Total (whether a team will go over or under the number set by sportsbooks) *Division Winners (whether or not a team wins its division) *Conference Champions *Super Bowl Champion

These are just a few examples of the most wagered on futures at sportsbooks. The bets are also offered in other sports such as Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL, college football, and college basketball.

Placing a futures bet isn’t rocket science. This particular bet is often one of the first made by new sports bettors. The popularity of futures has forced sportsbooks to increase the number of bets available. We are seeing more player-specific futures offered. You can throw down on who you think will win the MVP of a certain league, which player will lead the NFL in touchdown catches, who will win the Rookie of the Year in MLB. Those are just a few examples.

The Pros of Futures

Throwing down a bet gives you a vested interest for the entire season. As long as your team performs you have a chance to cash that ticket at the end. The bet stays active until your team or player is no longer in contention. This can provide a seasons-long dose of enjoyment. How? Let’s say you risk $100 on a +2000 bet. That gives you a bunch of games to watch with a potential payday of $2,000 at the end of the season. That chance at a big payout is always appealing to gamblers, providing they correctly predict the final outcome. You can wager small sums of money for a potentially whopping return.

The Cons of Futures

One of the disadvantages of futures bets is that given the number of potential outcomes it’s extremely difficult to predict a winner. And if you place a wager before a season starts there are countless variables that can damage your bet that you have no control over.

Also, considering the number of outcomes sportsbooks are challenged in their goal of getting equal action on each side. In order to account for this and maximize profits, shops have higher vig attached to each wager. On some bets your payout might not be as high. One way to avoid the increased juice is to shop around. There are plenty of places to make a wager and you are not obligated to use just one.

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