What Is Futures Betting? How to Bet on Futures

Patrick Lynch
By Patrick Lynch
Sports & Casino Expert
Updated Jan 11, 2023
Read time 15 min

If you’re looking for a wager that gives you genuine value, betting on the futures market is potentially ideal. As the name suggests, futures betting involves wagering on events in the future, usually weeks or months away. Once you place a bet, it will likely take months for the bet to get settled.

You could find bets at outstanding odds when you know what to do because the odds on the futures betting market change repeatedly. If you get involved early, you could benefit from a significant edge.

This article investigates sports futures betting and offers examples of it in action. It also looks into the pros and cons of betting on futures and provides tips on getting the best out of this form of wagering.

Futures Betting – A Quick Overview

A majority of wagers relate to a single upcoming event. For example, you may decide that the Houston Astros will defeat the Oakland Athletics in their next Major League Baseball (MLB) encounter. The bet is settled once the game finishes. Bettors can also risk money on parlay bets, which involve combining two or more bets into a single wager.

With these standard bets, you know the outcome relatively quickly and either lose your stake or earn a profit.

Futures betting is different because it is a market with a medium- to long-term outlook in mind. It usually features wagers on sports teams to win major championships or players to win individual awards. For instance, you can bet on a Super Bowl winner before the new NFL season begins.

Other examples of futures betting include:

  • The World Series winner in MLB
  • The NBA Finals champion
  • The winner of the English Premier League in soccer
  • The winner of the Stanley Cup in the NHL
  • The winner of golf’s British Open

When betting on futures, however, you must realize that the odds will fluctuate; also, they won’t always be in your favor.


How Does Betting on Futures Work?

Suppose you place a bet on the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl before the beginning of the regular season. At this early stage, the available odds may not necessarily represent a true picture of the probability of success. The price you took on the Niners will change as the season progresses, with the team’s results determining whether the odds increase or decrease.

Furthermore, things such as injuries to key players and the performance of other teams favored to win the Super Bowl will impact the odds. For instance, if the Niners lost their starting quarterback for the season in the early weeks, the team’s odds of winning the Super Bowl would get longer. Likewise, if the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles both looked strong in the regular season, it could cause the odds on the Niners to drift even further.

If San Francisco starts the season poorly, the odds of the team winning the Super Bowl would soon be bigger than when you placed your initial bet.

Also, the price changes because bookmakers will adjust it to react to these different events. Bookies also change the odds depending on how much money is wagered on an outcome. They do this to reduce their liability if a certain team/individual wins an event.

For example, if a huge sum of money is wagered on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, bookies will react by slashing the price of this outcome happening. They may also lengthen the price on other teams near the top of the betting market to tempt punters into backing these franchises. This practice enables bookmakers to balance their books.

Ultimately, the odds on futures bets change rapidly, and if you make the right play, you could put yourself in a strong position to earn a profit.

Sports Futures Betting in Action

Let’s check out three examples of betting on futures.

Example #1 – NFL

At the beginning of the 2023 NFL season, you believe the Chicago Bears will offer a far better effort than during their previous season. Here are the available odds for selected markets:

  • To Win the Super Bowl – 101.00
  • To Win the NFC Championship – 51.00
  • To Win the NFC North – 17.00

With the Bears picking up strong players in the draft and others returning from injury, you believe the team is overpriced. Especially with the Minnesota Vikings flattering to deceive last season. Here is how much profit you would make with a successful $100 wager on each market:

  • To Win the Super Bowl – $10,000
  • To Win the NFC Championship – $5,000
  • To Win the NFC North – $1,600

Example #2

Manchester City is the recent dominant force in the English Premier League. Therefore, no one is surprised when the bookmakers release the following odds on teams to win the title:

  • Manchester City – 1.50
  • Liverpool – 4.00
  • Manchester United – 34.00
  • Arsenal – 41.00
  • Chelsea – 41.00
  • Tottenham Hotspurs – 101.00

However, you suspect that the favorites may not have the same intensity as in previous seasons. You may also like what Arsenal has done in the transfer market. In your opinion, the odds of 41.00 are too long for a team likely to start the season strongly. In this scenario, a $100 bet returns $4,100 and a profit of $4,000 if the Gunners produce a big upset.

Example #3

Rather than focusing on a team to win an event, you prefer to look at individual performance. As such, the NBA MVP market is appealing, and the odds look like this at the start of the upcoming season:

  • Jayson Tatum – 3.75
  • Luka Doncic – 5.00
  • Nikola Jokic – 26.00
  • Kevin Durant – 34.00

In your opinion, the Brooklyn Nets will likely make the playoffs, with Durant sure to play a major role. Therefore, his odds seem way too long. With a $100 wager yielding a $3,300 profit if he wins, you find it impossible to turn the price down.

Pros and Cons of Futures Betting

The sports betting futures market is becoming extremely popular, especially amongst casual bettors. However, before getting involved, here are a few pros and cons.

The Pros

When you know what to look for, futures betting is fun and lucrative.

1 – Longevity and Excitement

It is a bet that gives you potential months of ‘interest,’ with thrills guaranteed if your selection performs well. For instance, if the Chicago Bears are within one game of the division leaders with four matches left, and you bet on the team to win the NFC North, you’ll likely look forward to the upcoming fixtures.

Imagine you backed the Bears to win the Super Bowl, and the team made it to the NFC Championship game. You would doubtless have an immense level of nervous excitement in the lead-up to the game. Now, suppose the Bears win and make it to the biggest game of all!

 2 – Massive Profit Potential

It is possible to win significant sums of money with far longer odds available than in typical single-event markets. For example, Leicester City was briefly 5001.00 to win the 2015/2016 English Premier League. A small $10 wager on this unlikely outcome would have yielded an incredible profit of $50,000.

Finding odds of over 51.00 during single events is rare, in contrast.

 3 – You Can Cash Out

If the odds on your bet begin to fall during the season, you have the option of cashing out. For example, if you were concerned that Leicester would collapse in the final weeks of the 2015/16 season, the option to cash out for a large profit would be available.

The Cons

Although it is hard to downplay the stimulating and potentially profitable nature of futures betting, there are some downsides to consider too.

1 – Things Can Go Wrong Quickly

It only takes a moment for your season-long bet to unravel. Suppose Patrick Mahomes picks up an injury before the NFL playoffs. Suddenly, the chances of the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl will drop rapidly now that its star quarterback is on the sidelines.

Also, if you choose a team to win a championship that involves elimination rounds, it only takes one bad performance or unfortunate play to finish a season.

2 – Large House Edge

The house edge on futures bets is usually significant. While single events may have a house edge of around 4-6%, the average sports betting futures market can give the bookmaker an advantage of anywhere from 30% to over 100%!

3 – Cash Flow

Having your bankroll tied up for months is not always ideal. If you place a wager on the Super Bowl winner in June, you must wait until February the following year to collect if successful. Cashing out alleviates this problem, but bookmakers rarely offer value-for-money hedging options.

How To Win With Futures Betting

Here are three ways to get the most out of sports futures betting.

1 – Be a Contrarian

Back a high-quality team struggling early in the season at long odds. You can make the most of a market overreaction, particularly in NBA futures betting, as the season is long and arduous with many momentum switches.

One famous example, outlined in Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise, involved Haralabos Voulgaris, a professional gambler. He bet $80,000 on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 1999/2000 NBA championship at odds of 7.50. The odds on the Lakers drifted from the pre-season price of 5.00 after bookmakers bought into media skepticism of the team’s chances. Ultimately, Voulgaris was correct and earned a profit of $520,000.

2 – Consider Hedging

The process of “hedging” involves betting against your original selection once the odds make it profitable for you to do so. For instance, if you bet on the Bears to win the NFC North at odds of 17.00 and it became a two-way fight between them and the Vikings, you could back Minnesota to guarantee a profit.

Suppose Minnesota’s odds to win the division are 1.80 at this stage, with Chicago at 2.20, and you had bet $100 on the Bears at the beginning of the season. You could risk $1,000 on the Vikings winning the NFC North to guarantee a profit. Here is how much you would win in this scenario:

  • If the Vikings win, you earn a profit of $700 because you wagered $1,100 and will receive $1,800 back
  • If the Bears win, your profit is $600, as you receive $1,700 back from $1,100 worth of wagers

There is often the option of cashing out, although you should calculate the payout to ensure it is the same as what you’ll get from hedging. Often, bookmakers offer poor-value cashouts.

3 – Focus On Low-Scoring Sports and Shorter Tournaments

If you aim to select a big-priced sports betting futures winner, stick to low-scoring sports like soccer and hockey because it’s easier for underdogs to win big championships. This is especially the case when the tournament is relatively short.

Although Leicester City bucked the trend, it is incredibly difficult for an outsider to sustain a high level of performance over a long period. Therefore, it is arguably easier to find a 34.00 winner of the European Championship in soccer than Spain’s La Liga title. After all, winning the Euros involves navigating seven matches compared to the 38 games a team must play in La Liga.

Get Bang for Your Buck With Futures Betting

If you want the possibility of a big win and potentially months of value from your bet, futures betting is a good avenue to explore. You are far more likely to find a long-odds winner in sports futures betting than in the standard single-event markets. Furthermore, you will probably feel excited as your selection exceeds expectations and moves closer to glory.

Shop around to see which bookies offer the best value, as there is often a large disparity in the available odds. Overall, with futures betting, you can profit from a well-chosen dark horse or a true underdog story.

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Patrick Lynch
Patrick Lynch
Sports & Casino Expert

Patrick has been a professional writer since 2009. He knows the issues players face when trying to find reputable casinos and performs forensic analysis on every site he reviews. Since joining in 2021, Patrick has had his eyes opened by the potential of the cryptocurrency market. With a background in sports betting, he realizes the possibilities afforded to successful bettors when using digital currency.