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Futures bets are exactly what they sound like: a bet placed on something that is going to be determined in the future. More specifically, futures bets are usually on something that is going to be determined in the distant future.
So the winner of a game happening tonight would not count as a futures bet. The winner of the next Super Bowl, however, is a perfect example.
Futures bets are a variety of prop bet, short for proposition bet. Props are ways for the sportsbook to make special bets that deal with more than just which team is going to win a game.
On this page, you can find everything you need to know about futures. We will explain exactly how futures bets work, how to read futures bet odds, and how to figure out how much you can win.
We’ll look at examples of futures bets in NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and MLB baseball as well as other sports.
We’ll tell some of the most incredible success stories from the legendary futures bets in the past and we will even give you some tips, tricks, and strategies for how to win when betting on futures.
This page is everything you need to start successfully betting on futures. If you are thinking about getting into the world of futures bets, this page is your guide.
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So, a futures bet is a wager which is decided in the not-so-immediate future. Betting on a game happening tonight, tomorrow night or even in a couple of weeks is not considered a futures bet. A future tends to take a much longer period of time to be decided.
Here are some examples of futures bets:
We are going to get more specific and talk about how futures bets odds work a little later. For now, think about the one thing all of these examples have in common. They will not be decided until the end of the season.
For this reason, most people place futures bets before the season begins. It is possible, however, to place futures bets like this during the season as well. There are some important differences between these two approaches.
Since it is obviously more difficult to predict who is going to win the Super Bowl before a single ball has even been thrown, it makes sense that successful futures bets can be very profitable. As it becomes clear which teams have a better chance of winning big at the end of the season, the potential payouts on futures for those teams gets lower. This is one reason people like to place futures bets before the start of the season.
For example, imagine you are pretty sure the Golden State Warriors are going to scoop another NBA championship at the start of the season. Even though they are the favorite with the sportsbook, there is still a long way to go and anything could happen.
You decide not to place the bet just yet. Fast-forward a few months into the season, the Warriors are 29-1. They look like a lock for another championship. Well, with most sportsbooks it is still possible for you to place a futures bet on the Warriors winning the whole thing now, but because they look so likely to win you would stand to make a lot less money.
If you had trusted your instinct from the start and placed the bet at the beginning of the season, you’d stand to profit way more by winning your bet. This shows why it is a good idea to think long term in future bets.
Key Idea: Successful futures bets require long term thinking.
To understand futures bets, it helps to appreciate that regular betting often depends on one game, but futures bets are decided by many games. They take into account the overall outcome of a season, not the outcome of individual games.
The better you are at foreseeing outcomes over long periods of time, the more suited you are to future bets. As a general rule, the further away the outcome of your future bet is, the more money you are likely to make.
Let’s get back to some more examples:
Say you can’t decide who is going to win the NBA Championship, but you are pretty sure the Toronto Raptors are going to win the Eastern Conference. You can place a bet like:
Even though this is not the very final end result of the NBA season, it is still considered a futures bet. It may not be the last determining game of the season, but it is still determined by all the results of the Raptors throughout the season.
Futures bets are not limited to the overall winner of a competition or conference either. Remember, any bet that is determined over the course of a season or series of games can be considered a futures bet. Take a bet like this:
Here we have a bet that does not involve a team winning a championship. However, the outcome of this bet will also be decided over the course of the season.
Predicting who will be the MVP in any sport requires you to think about all the possibilities of the season, and take into account all the games that they may or may not play. The is the definition of a futures bet.
Here are some other examples of potential futures bets:
All of these bets are determined over the course of the season, so you’ll be able to find them in the futures bet sections of the sportsbook. Even though there are lots of options, the most common futures bet in any sport tends to be which team will win the championship.
Here are some common terms we’ll use to help explain how to read futures bets and odds:
Odds for futures bets can be confusing at first but once you get the hang of the basics they are very easy to understand. In the United States, odds for most bets including futures are shown in American odds, sometimes called money line odds.
Let’s look at some examples of futures odds so we can explain it in detail. These are all different ways that you can read futures bets. These are money line odds on which team will win the NBA Championship:
The first thing you’ll notice is that some numbers have a plus sign and some have a minus sign. This is how you tell which bets are favorites to win and which are underdogs.
Since favorites are more likely to win, they pay out less. The opposite is true for underdogs.
Take a look at our guide on how to bet on the underdog.
In our example from above, because the Golden State Warriors are such heavy favorites, they have a minus odds number. The odds of the Warriors in this example, -162.50, meaning that if you bet $162.50, you will win $100. You would also get your original stake back, so if you bet $162.50 and the Warriors win, you would receive a $262.50 total payout ($162.50 + $100).
As for the Celtics, +600 means that if you bet $100 you will stand to win $600. Add your original stake, and you would receive a total payout of $700.
You can bet any amount you want but the easiest way to think about the odds is to imagine you are betting $100 on underdogs or trying to win $100 in profit on favorites. For example, if you bet $100 on each team, here is what you would get back:
Sometimes odds are shown in different formats. In addition to American odds, a bet can be expressed in both fractional and decimal form. Here are the same odds on which team will win the championship, expressed as fractions:
These odds mean exactly the same thing as in our last example. In this case, if you bet the number below the dividing line, you win the number above the dividing line. So, if you bet $1 on the Boston Celtics, you win $6. Meaning your payout will be $7.
If you bet $13 on the Warriors, you win $8. Meaning your payout will be $21.
To determine how much you would win from a bet, simply divide your stake by the number below the line, and then multiply by the number above the line.
Again, these odds mean exactly the same thing as in the money line format. They are just different ways of expressing the same information.
The final format you may come across is decimal odds, which looks like this:
In this case, simply multiply your stake by the number, and that is your potential pay-out.
For example, if you bet $5 on the Warriors, you will stand to receive $8.10 ($5 * 1.62)
If you bet $5 on the Celtics, you will stand to receive $35 ($5 * 7)
Again, all of the odds on this page are the same. These are just different ways of expressing them. It may seem a little complicated at first, but once you get the hang of them it becomes very easy to understand.
When you’re betting online you can just enter how much you want to bet, or how much you want to win, and the sportsbook will automatically calculate it for you. You can also sometimes choose which style you want all the odds on the site to be shown in.
In this section, we’ll show you lots more examples of bets, lines, and odds of futures bets in a number of different major sports. We are going to look at football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, as well as a few examples of futures in other sports.
We’ll explain the most common futures bets in each sport and how to read them.
Betting on the NFL is amazingly popular and there are loads of futures bets available in football.
Let’s start with the most obvious: the Super Bowl winner. This is a classic futures bet. It takes the whole season to be determined. It requires you to think about lots of different possibilities for how the season will unfold. And no matter how well you know your sport, it will require a bit of luck.
If you can correctly predict the Super Bowl winner from the beginning of the season, you can expect to cash in big.
An example futures line for betting on the winner of the Super Bowl might look like this:
Sometimes sportsbooks will only show the favorite teams, but you can generally get odds and place a bet on any team you like. As you can see, because there is a long season ahead with a lot of variables, there is plenty of value in predicting who will win.
In this example, if you bet $100 on the Philadelphia Eagles and they went on to win the Super Bowl, you would be taking home a cool $1,000. Even though they are the second-favorites! This gives you an idea of how profitable futures can be.
You can get much more specific if you want as well. If you think you know who is going to face off against each other in the Super Bowl, you can bet on which two teams make it to the final. You can expect even more attractive odds on that since there are two components of the bet you have to get correct. For that bet you don’t even have to predict who wins.
Of course, if you don’t want to bet on the overall winner you can just bet on the winner of either conference. You can expect the odds of picking the winning team for that to be a little shorter, but still, offer a big payday.
A line for betting on the Outright Winner of the AFC Championship might look like this:
Once again, if you want to get more specific you can also pick the two teams to play in the AFC Championship Game. Any time you bet on the winner of a conference or a division when there is still a long way to go, you are making a futures bet. Here are some more futures bets in the NFL:
You can pick whatever conference you like. Futures bets in the NFL give you lots of options for betting. Remember that a futures bet is anything that is determined over the course of the season, so the sheer number of things to predict in the NFL means that you can win a lot of money if you can get them right. Here are some other, more varied futures bets available in the NFL:
Basically, anything that you can predict which takes the entire NFL season to determine, you can make a futures bet on. Remember that in general, the earlier you bet on any outcome the more money you stand to win. To start futures betting on the NFL you’ll first need to know if your state allows sports betting, check out our guide on states that have legal NFL betting to find out.
Just like the NFL, the long season of the NBA gives plenty of opportunities for futures bets. Again, let’s look at the most common futures bet on the NBA: the winner of the NBA Championship. Once again, the earlier you think you can predict the winner, the better your payout will usually be.
A typical betting line for the NBA winner might look like this:
This time, the Golden State Warriors are such big favorites that they have negative odds. Here, if you bet $162.50 on the Warriors, you will take home $100 in profit if they win. If you bet $100 on the Celtics, you stand to win a total of $700 ($600 in profit + your original $100 bet). Because the Warriors are such heavy favorites, there is not a huge amount of value on them even though this example could be available at the beginning of the season.
Let’s look at a different futures bet in the NBA, where you might find a little more value. This is what the line might look like to predict the winner of the Atlantic Division:
In this case, there are fewer possible teams that can win, so a smaller pool means smaller odds. However, there is also a lack of consensus for a clear favorite, in contrast to the Warriors in our previous example.
In this case it is pretty reasonable to think that the Celtics, the Raptors or the 76ers could win the Division, so all of their odds are similar and all of them have some value. In this case, betting $100 on each would win $400, $500 or $700 respectively. All pretty good returns if you think one is a clearer favorite than the bookmaker’s odds indicate.
Just like with NFL betting, there are loads of futures bets in the NBA to choose from, so don’t feel that you are limited to picking the overall winner. Here are some other futures that are common in betting on the NBA:
As you can see, you can pick the winner of any division to make a futures bet on. Don’t know much about the teams in the Central Division? Forget about them and bet on the Division you feel you know the most about.
Again, if you want to get even more specific you can bet on the two teams that will play in the playoffs final. You can even bet how many games it takes to win.
And don’t forget, it is not just the winning teams that you can bet on. You can make a futures bet on anything that will be determined over the course of the season, including individual awards and stats. For example:
To score the most points
To win Rookie of the Year
To win NBA Coach of the Year
To win NBA Defensive Player of the Year
To score the most three-pointers in a regular-season
With 82 games for each team in a regular NBA season, there is a lot of action to bet on and a lot of things that can go right or wrong. The better you are at predicting how the season will pan out, and the earlier you can do it, the more money you can make from futures bets on the NBA. Before you start placing futures bets on the NBA you will need to find out if it is even legal to bet on sports in your state. Check out our guide on legal NBA betting to find out if your state is legalized.
If you thought the 82 game NBA season provided a lot of futures betting opportunities, wait until you get a load of the 162 game MLB season. A good thing to keep in mind with futures betting is the more games there are to be played before a bet is decided, the higher the payout. The trade-off for a big potential payday is that your risk goes up too.
Let’s take the most common futures bet in the MLB: the winner of the World Series. The line may look like this at the start of the season:
This is just a selection, but bookmakers offer odds on any MLB team winning the World Series, so you can bet on whoever you like. As you can see, with so many teams and games over the course of the season, there is a lot of value in predicting the winner of the World Series from the start.
In fact, this could be a great spot to hedge your bets. If you can’t choose between the Red Sox, the Astros and the Dodgers, why not bet on all of them. They have such attractive odds that you’re still guaranteed to make money if one of them wins.
Say you bet $100 dollars on each of the Red Sox, Astros and Dodgers, and the Dodgers end up winning the World Series. Well, you would still be up $700, even though two of your bets lost.
We’ll talk more about hedging later in our tips and strategies section.
Just like in NBA and NFL, if you don’t want to predict the overall winner in MLB you can bet on the winner of the individual leagues, which might look like this:
You can also get more specific, by betting on which teams make the playoffs, the final positions of each team in their respective leagues, or even who will finish bottom. The more specific you are able to be with your predictions, the more money you will win if you are correct. Before you get started betting on MLB games you need to know if it is legal in your state. Our guide on legal MLB betting states is your one-stop shop to start wagering today.
You are not limited to teams either, the MLB has many individual awards and stats that you can bet on over the course of the season. Some examples might be:
The NHL season contains plenty of futures betting potential. The winner of the Stanley Cup is the most popular futures bet in the NHL and you can expect a betting line to look something like this:
Early on the in-season, with such a deep pool of teams, there is plenty of value to be gained from betting on the Stanley Cup winner. If one of these teams starts doing significantly better than the rest over the start of the season, you can expect their odds to change accordingly.
In this example, betting $100 on the Toronto Maple Leafs would potentially earn you $600 should they win. Not bad for betting on the favorite.
If you don’t want to bet on the Stanley Cup winner, you can bet on the winners of either of the conferences or the winners of the divisions. Potential further bets on the NHL might look like this:
As with any other sport, you can more value by getting more specific with your predictions, for example predicting the exact finishing positions of a team in their conference. You can pick the team that you feel you know the most about and find a futures bet about their season to suit you.
As always, it’s not only team and championship winners that are the subject of futures bets. There are lots of individual records and statistics that you can bet on over the course of a season. Here are a few more NHL futures bets that you can consider:
The NHL has a host of player awards that are handed out at the end of every year, and you can place a futures bet on all of them.
Soccer has such a big presence in so many countries that there are endless futures bets available at the start of every season. You could bet on the winner of the Premier League in England, Serie A in Italy, La Liga in Spain, the Bundesliga in Italy or MLS in the US.
Just like all the other futures bets we have looked at if you’re betting on a favorite, the earlier you get your money on a winning team the more you will usually stand to win.
Soccer also has regular international tournaments for you to bet on, such as World Cup Winners or the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Not only that, but soccer has loads of futures betting possibility on individual stats, like the top goal scorer in each league or the goalkeeper who conceded the fewest goals.
Take a look at our comparison of championships between the Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup.
Tennis has four majors throughout the year and picking the winner of them before anyone has picked up a racket is a pretty popular futures bet. If you think you know who will win on grass, you can bet on the winner of Wimbledon. If you know whose specialty is clay, you can pick the winner at Roland Garros.
Golf is another great sport for futures betting due to the size of the field. There are so many potential winners before the beginning of a golf tournament that if you can pick the right one, you stand to make a lot of money. Not even Tiger Woods in his prime was a negative money line odds at the start of a tournament. Making a futures bet on the winner of the Masters or the Open is a great way to add a bit of extra excitement for the weekend.
Really, almost any sport you can think of will have the possibility for futures betting. Any bet that you can put on which is determined over the course of a season, tournament, or multiple matches means it will be more difficult to predict and therefore more valuable. Futures can really add value to watching any sport.
Like we said, depending on how far out your prediction is, futures bets can be worth a crazy amount of money. Often, even betting on the favorite team to win a Championship at the start of the season is likely to return a very healthy sum. That is just the nature of a long season with so many variables.
Once you appreciate that, can you imagine how much money can be made when you bet on a major outsider that ends up winning it all? The amounts of money involved can be genuinely life-changing.
Take the guy who bet $250 on the St Louis Cardinals to make the World Series and another $250 to win it in 2011. Not such a crazy-sounding bet you might think. But this guy did it in the middle of September when the Cards were five games off a wild card spot with just fifteen games to play.
The bookmakers (and let’s face it, most people) thought this was a one in a million shot. Nevertheless, the Cardinals made the playoffs and eventually won the World Series, earning the punter $375,000. Now THAT is a prediction.
Or how about little Leicester City in the English Premier League. In 2016 they pulled off the greatest tournament win in the history of soccer, and maybe even all of sports. That year, even though they were playing in the lower divisions only a year earlier, they beat the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea to lift the Premier League Trophy having been an incredible +500000 or 5000/1 to win it at the start of the year.
That means that if you put $200 on them to win that year, you would have been a millionaire by the end of the season. Plenty of people got in on the action too, as Ladbrokes, a popular sportsbook in the UK announced that Leicester winning the League had cost them around $33 million in payouts.
These bets show that, while predicting the big one is pretty hard, it’s not impossible. Futures bets are unique in sports betting, in that if you get them right, you have the potential to win some seriously big money without needing a huge stake.
There are a few key sports betting strategies for betting on futures. One idea that we have emphasized is that, in general, the earlier you place your futures bet the better odds you will receive since odds change throughout the season. Since the odds change, it presents an opportunity to do something called “hedging”.
This is a very important concept to understand in order to bet on futures successfully. Hedging your bets is a way to lock in profits when things are going well. The best way to understand it is with an example.
For all our following examples, we’re going to use this imaginary line for the winner of the Super Bowl. Imagine these are the five favorites:
Now imagine at the start of the season here, you bet $300 on the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have a great season. In fact, they make it all the way to the Super Bowl, where they will face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now, you are just one game away from taking home $3,300. But if the Packers lose, you take home nothing. Pretty big sweat on one game right?
Well, there is a way to make sure you take home a profit regardless. At this stage of the competition, the odds on a straight money line bet on the winner of the Super Bowl might look something like this:
Now, let’s see what happens if you bet $700 on the Steelers. If the Steelers win, you take home $1,995 for an overall profit of $995. If the Packers win, as you originally suspected, you still take home $3,300 for a profit of $2,300. Regardless of which team wins, you still make a profit. This is called hedging your bet and it’s a really powerful strategy.
Hedging futures is possible when the odds on your bet change in your favor as the season progresses. Any time the odds of the team that you made a futures bet on get lower, it means you can bet elsewhere to spread your risk around.
Hedging is most common in the final game, like in the above example, but you can also do it any time throughout the season if the odds have changed enough.
To be successful with hedging, you need to keep an eye on the odds throughout the season as they change. One final thing to remember is that with hedging you’re always sacrificing a potentially larger profit for a GUARANTEED profit.
If you REALLY want to gamble, or you are really confident in your outcome, you can always just stick with your original bet. Just remember, you might walk away with nothing.
One of the great things about futures bets is, since they are pretty hard to predict, they tend to be worth a lot of money when you get them right. You don’t need to put down a big stake to be a big winner.
A side effect of this is that making more than one bet can be a good option to give you an even bigger chance of winning. Let’s look at the Super Bowl futures odds again:
Now, all of these teams could have a decent chance of winning the Super Bowl. But maybe you think the Eagles, the Packers, and The Rams are really good bets this year. You don’t have to choose between them. Just place a bet on each of them. Let’s see what happens when you bet $100 dollars on each. If you bet $100 on each:
No matter what happens, you’re making a profit. Even though you have lost two of your bets, the odds on the one that you won were so attractive that you still made money overall. This is why multiple picks can be such a good strategy.
Here are a couple of final things to remember about futures bets.
If you think you can call who is going to win a championship before the season even kicks off, futures bets are for you. Futures are different from regular bets. They are determined not in a day or a couple of hours, but over weeks and months. There are generally many more variables with futures and more possible outcomes. But, they also tend to be much more valuable.
Futures are a great way to bet because they add a little spice during the season. Any sports bettor will tell you that keeping an eye on a competition like the NFL over the course of the season is just that little bit more exciting when there is some money riding on it.
There are plenty of futures bets across all the major sports. Being successful with futures requires smart analysis and long term thinking.
If you live in a state where sports betting is legal, you have everything you need to know to start betting on futures right now. If you live somewhere where sports betting is not currently legal, chances are it won’t be that way for long. Check out our state by state guide to keep an eye on the situation in your state.
This page has plenty to think about for you to start making some profitable futures bets. You can thank us at the end of the season.
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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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