Futures Betting

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Some of you might be wondering just what a futures bet even is, so I’m going to start out with an explanation before moving on to the details.  Hopefully after reading this article you’ll be able to figure out if future bets are a wager you should be considering for growing your bankroll.

Definition of Futures Betting

In sports, a futures bet is a long-term wager on the outcome of a season or special event.  Most of the time you’ll find the odds on futures listed before a season begins.  For instance, you can bet on who is going to win the World Series almost as soon as the previous Fall Classic ends, you can bet who is going to win next year’s college football national title moments after the BCS is finished, and you can bet on the following Super Bowl champion as soon as the timer reaches zero on this year’s big game.  You can also bet on the NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby, PGA Majors, and just about anything else that the books think will draw bettors’ interest.  Futures bets aren’t limited to teams either, as you can also place wagers on individual player accomplishments.  Some sportsbooks offer these wagers only before the season begins, while others have them listed all season long, up until the season is almost complete.

What factors should you consider in futures betting?

Of course when making futures bets you have to handicap the teams and put a number down relating to what you think each team’s chances are to win whatever event it is you are wagering on.  Now that you have your predicted percenatages it’s time to look at these four factors to see if there is enough value to make your prediction a wager.

1.  Time Value of Money

Some people think that you just look for value and if you think you have spotted a positive expectation you should pounce on it.  However, with futures betting you also have to consider the time value of money.  This means how long is part of your bankroll going to be tied up in the wager.  If you are betting on an outcome that won’t be decided until eight months from now, you are going to need a higher return than a game that will be played tonight.  How much do you make each year from gambling?  Let’s just use an example of 10%.  If the result is eight months away, that means you need 8/12 (months in a year) * 10%, or a 6.66% expected return.  So this means you have to look for a little bit more value with futures wagers than you do with your daily bets.  It also means that you need a big return.  Is it worth betting $10 to win $20 for the Yankees to win the World Series?  I think it’s more worth it to bet $10 on a team like the Devil Rays at 50/1 when you can turn that $10 into $500.

2.  Shop Around

Different sportsbooks are going to have widely different odds available on futures bets.  The reason is that they know the sharps aren’t going to kill them with these bets because professionals do not want to have their money tied up for that long.  This means that books will intentionally set more attractive odds in order to increase their handle, and also to entice new visitors to deposit in their book in the hopes they will lose over the course of the season.  We always recommend shopping around before making your bets, but with futures it can be even more beneficial.

3.  Know Your Sports

If you are looking for a long shot, then you have to love betting on teams to win the Final Four, World Series, or the Super Bowl.  The reason is that the playoff system is set up for upsets.  You aren’t going to see the best teams finish the year as the champion every year like you are in say, professional tennis.  Likewise, I have found the NBA and college football to be more reliable.  In those two sports I tend to focus more on the favorites than I do long shots.

You also have to factor in more variables with futures.  Injuries play a big role in who is going to win in the NFL.  In 2008, the Patriots were the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl, but Tom Brady goes down in Week 1 and they do not even make the playoffs.  Devastating to anyone who took the Patriots to win it all.  If a team loses a star pitcher in baseball, that is really going to put a hamper on their chances of winning as well.

4.  Fun Factor

You should also factor in fun with futures bets.  If you do not have a very large bankroll and do not like to wager a lot on individual games, then futures bets can give you the most bang for your entertainment buck.  Notice I said entertainment, because they might not be the smartest bets for professional or serious gamblers, putting $10 on your teams win total to go over can give you a reason to root for them game after game, and will save you some money than if you bet $10 individually on each game and only hitting around 50%.

To make a long story short, futures can give you a cheap rooting interest covering the long term, but not the best tool for increasing your bankroll.

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