What is Futures Betting in Sport? Complete Futures Betting Guide 2024

Futures sports betting is not only one of the most exciting ways to wager on sports but also one of the most lucrative. These bets often offer high-value odds and even a small stake can make you a large profit if your bet comes in.

In this article, we explain what futures betting is, how it works, tips on how to place successful futures bets, and cover a wide range of other aspects related to these types of bets.

What is Futures Betting?

Futures betting is when a wager is placed on an event, series, or award that will take place in the future. Typically futures bets are determined over a long period of time and many games are played before the result is determined.

Unlike most other bet types, you don’t usually place a future the day of an event or a few days before but rather weeks or months before the outcome will be known such as betting on what team will win the Superbowl in August before the season has even started.

Its also usually the case that there are multiple possible outcomes of a futures bet. If we look at the example above of the Super Bowl, at the start of the season there are 32 teams that could possibly win it. Sure some teams have a more realistic chance of winning but the possible outcomes are still 32.

Because of the number of possible outcomes and the unknown circumstances that can happen, future sports betting offers some of the best odds of all bet types, and even the favorite to win an event such as the Super Bowl will have positive odds and a $20 can easily net you around $100 or even higher for instance.

How Betting on Futures Works

The concept of a futures bet is rather self-explanatory in terms of the basics of the bet, you are betting on an outcome that will happen in the future.  However, the way futures bets work differ can from site to site.

Firstly, when you can place a futures bet is not always the same. There is no fixed rule for when a futures bet can be placed although most sites will have futures markets open at least a week before the event or league starts. Popular futures markets like the Super Bowl, The NBA Finals, March Madness, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup will go live months before a season starts and for some vents like the FIFA World Cup you can bet years in advance.

BetOnline how futures betting works

Although you can place futures bets before an event begins the ability to place futures doesn’t stop at that time. You can place futures throughout the course of a season or event and these are known as “live futures”. During the course of a season, the odds of the futures can change dramatically, based on a team or player’s performance, how many teams still stand a chance of winning, injuries, or a multitude of other factors that could arise.

When a futures bet is paid out is pretty standard across all sites and bets will only be paid out once the market has been settled. For example, if you were to place a futures bet on an NBA player to score over a certain amount of points over a season, most betting sites wouldn’t pay out until the season is over even if the player had scored said number of points with ten games remaining.

Cashing out early is a feature that many betting sites offer nowadays and involves cashing out your bet at reduced odds from when you placed the bet. While these are common on spreads and moneylines many sites do not offer early cashouts on futures.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Futures Betting

Futures bets are popular for a variety of reasons and are both fun and potentially very lucrative. One of the main benefits of futures is that in most cases the odds are well into the plus money. Longshot future bets payout a very substantial amount if they hit and even the favorites are well into the plus odds for example last year Kansas City Chiefs were the favorites at the start of the season with odds of +500 and they went on to win the Superbowl that year.

Longshots often offer astronomical odds and although by their very nature, longshots don’t often hit, they are possible, for instance, in 2023 a futures bet on UConn to win the March Madness pre-tournament was well into the +thousands and even at the sweet sixteen stage they were at around +900. One of the biggest ever longshots to hit was when Leicester won the English Premier League in 2016 and their pre-season future odds were +500,000.

There are also some negatives to future sports betting the first being your money can be tied up for a long period of time. If you place a bet at the beginning of a season then you will have to wait months before you collect the money if your bet turns out to be a winner.

Also while the fact that so many possible outcomes provide good odds that does make the probability of your bet winning lower.  Furthermore, the house also gets more of an advantage with futures. Most bets have two possible outcomes but futures have many, so sportsbooks are able to set the odds of teams/players winning, that they think will be advantageous to them.

Pros of Futures Bets:

  • Lucrative odds available for favorites and longshots
  • Hedging is a possibility
  • You get a lot of bang for your buck. Because the bets last for weeks, months, or even years it gives you something to keep an eye on for a long time.

Cons of Futures Bets:

  • Your Money can be tied up for a long time
  •  Lots of unknown factors can affect the outcome
  • The house has more of an advantage as they are setting odds on more than two outcomes

Types of Future Markets

All futures involve placing a bet on an event that will happen in the long-term future and most will play out over weeks or months. However, not all futures are exactly the same and they can be split into three main categories that we cover below:

Team Futures

Team futures are the most widely offered futures bets available at online sportsbooks. These futures involve betting on a team to win a league, tournament, group, or competition. For example, you can place a future bet on the Buffalo Bills to AFC East, win the Eastern Conference, or even the Super Bowl.BetOnline Futures Bets to make playoffs

It’s also possible to bet on teams to make the playoffs or not and with these bets there are often two options a “Yes” option meaning they will make the playoffs or a “No” option meaning they will not make the playoffs.

Individual Futures

As well as betting on teams to win certain leagues or competitions golf futures betting, NASCAR futures betting, and other individual sports have plenty of future bets on offer.Bovada Individual future awards

Even in team sports, there is also the opportunity to bet on individuals for example you can bet on what player will win the MVP award, defensive/offensive player of the year, rookie of the year, golden boot winner, etc. Even betting on coaches and managers is possible such as who will win the coach of the year.

Novelty Bets

Many sportsbooks now offer up a variety of novelty bets that are also types of futures. Novelty bets are bets on non-sports-related outcomes. Popular novelty bets are available on things like political events, the winner of entertainment shows like X Factor and The Voice, award ceremonies such as the Oscars, and events in popular culture like which sports league will Logan Paul and KSI’s drink brand Prime sponsor next.

What is Futures Betting in Sport? Complete Futures Betting Guide [cur_year]

Best Sports for Futures Betting

Futures bets can be placed on any competitive sport but certain sports have more opportunities and are more popular amongst sports bettors. We have listed the best sports for futures betting below:

Football Futures 

Popular NFL futures bets and the ones most commonly found at online sportsbooks, allow fans to bet on conference and division winners as well as what team will win the Superbowl. You can also place bets on if teams will make the playoff or not. Individual futures such as MVP, rookie of the year, comeback player of the year, and coach of the year are also widely available.NFL futures betting BetOnline

NCAA football also offers plenty of future betting opportunities such as championship winners and Heisman trophy winners. Betting on who will go first in the NFL draft is also essentially an NFL future bet.

Basketball Futures

NBA futures betting is similar to NFL futures betting and wagering on conference, division, and finals winners in addition to betting on if a team will make the playoffs is possible. Multiple player futures can be placed including MVP and Rookie of the Year.

Collegiate basketball has multiple future betting options with the most popular being the winner of the March Madness tournament every year.

Soccer Futures

With hundreds of different soccer leagues and tournaments happening every year around the world, there is a diverse range of futures available for soccer. From betting on what team will win a league or tournament to betting on the golden boot (what outfield player will score the most goals in a competition) or what goalkeeper will win the golden glove (keep the most clean sheets in a competition).

The most popular leagues and tournaments to place futures on are the English Premier League, the MLS, La Liga, the Champions League, and of course the FIFA World Cup.

Baseball Futures

Plenty of baseball future betting options are available at the best online sportsbooks. The most popular are MLB betting futures and of course, betting on the World Series winner. You can also bet on pennant winners. There are individual awards that some sportsbooks may offer futures odds on but these are less common at sportsbooks than for basketball or football.

MLB futures betting Bovada

Tennis Futures

Tennis is a sport that lends itself well to futures betting as there are multiple leagues and 9 high-profile tournaments that take place in a year. Each tournament usually also features at least 4 champions for men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, and women’s doubles.BetOnline tennis futures

Wimbledon, The US Open, The Australian Open, and The French Open which are the four tournaments that make up “the Grand Slam” are the tennis events that draw the most futures bets and most online sportsbooks will have early odds up months in advance.

Hockey Futures

Hockey futures follow the common theme of other sports as you are able to bet on division, conference, or championship winners. NHL futures betting is the most popular in the USA and the highlight is betting on the winner of the Stanley Cup.

Golf Futures

Golf is another sport that is well suited to futures bets. With multiple major golf events that take place over the calendar year plenty of golf futures betting markets are on offer. The Masters, the PGA Championship, the OPen, the US Open, and the Ryder Cup are just a few of the events with futures on offer.

Golf Futures BetUS

In addition to having multiple tournaments to bet on the odds on golf futures offer particularly good value as the field in these tournaments have over a hundred players. While this does make it harder to pick a winner the odds are pretty much guaranteed to be well into the plus numbers and even a third favorite that has a good chance of winning may have odds of +1000 or higher.

Strategy for Futures Betting

Most futures involve selecting from a wide field so having a strategy is essential to increase your chances of placing a winning futures bet. Read on to discover our top strategies for sports futures betting below:

Research

This is a basic of betting and you should be researching information before any sports bet. For futures bets, it can be a little harder as they can run for such a long time a lot can happen but if you are betting preseason look at any player transfers that could change the dynamic of a team or changes in management or coaching staff.

For individual sports for example tennis, check things like what type of courts the tournament is happening on and how the player usually performs on the court, etc.

Line Shopping

With most sports and most bet types, the odds offered across the different sites don’t differ by a substantial amount. Spreads and totals are pretty much always -110 give or take and moneylines may differ slightly but not usually more than +/- 20.

In contrast, futures bets can differ by a huge amount from site to site depending on what player or team you are betting on, so shopping around sportsbooks to find the best lines is incredibly important for futures sports betting.

Sportsbook BetOnline Bovada BetUS
Houston Astros +700 +750 +800
New York Mets +1100 +900 +900
Texas Rangers +2200 +3500 +3000

As an example we have taken baseball futures betting market odds on winning the World Series from 3 random teams from our top 3 sportsbooks and as you can see there can be huge differences between the sites. If there is a specific team you want to bet on then spend some time seeing what site has the best odds.

Alternatively, even if you haven’t made your mind up on what team you want to bet on researching the odds at the different sites will help you find bets that you think offer the best value.For example, you may see odds with an implied probability at 10% but you think that the team has a 30% chance of winning thus you are getting good value.

Buy low with Live Future Betting

While futures are available before a league or an event even begins, you can still place bets well after they have started. These are known as live future bets and this strategy can work well especially if a favorite team starts of slow.

Let’s say the favorites to win the NBA championship before the season starts are the Boston Celtics at +600 if they have a rocky start and lose a few of their opening games then this opens up the strategy of buying low as their odds would likely have gone up.

There is the possibility of the odds going lower if the team gets of to a great start and this is where you will need to implement your knowledge and research as you can look at historically if teams take a while to get going on what kind of opponents they are facing early on.

Hedge Betting

Futures betting lends itself incredibly well to hedge betting, which is where you place a series of bets on multiple outcomes on the same event that either ensures a profit or limits your losses. The reason that futures betting and hedge betting go well together is that the odds for futures are often so high and that they can move massively over the course of a season or event.

One way to hedge your bets is by placing bets on different phases of a season. Let us take an NFL futures bet as an example. Let’s say you want to place a bet on the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl in order to achieve this they will have to win the AFC championship in order to get there and most likely have to win their division.

You could hedge your bet by placing a bet on them to win their division, their conference as well as the Super Bowl. That means that if they make it to the Super Bowl and lose, you’d still have two winning bets. Let’s take a look at the numbers below.

Betonline hedge betting on futures

The odds on Bill’s pre-season to win the Superbowl are set at +950. The odds on them to win the AFC championship are +525 as seen in the table above and to win the AFC East division are +140.

Instead of placing $100 on one bet of them winning the Super Bowl you split it into three bets, for instance, a $25 bet on them to win the division, a $25 bet on them to win the conference, and $50 to win the Super Bowl. Your winnings would be:

  • Win the Division: $25 x +140 = $ 60 including stake
  • Win the Division and Conference: ($25 x $140) + (25 x525) = $216.25 including stake
  • Win the Division, Conference Super Bowl: ($25 x $140) + (25 x525) + ($50 x +950) = $741.25 including stake

While your overall winnings if they win the Super Bowl are less than if you’d placed the full $100 on them winning are lower you would only lose $40 if they won the division and you would have made $116.25 if they won the conference but lost the Super Bowl.

Another way to hedge your bets would be late in the season if your team is still in the running. For example, if you had placed a $50 bet on the Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII at the start of that season at the average odds being offered at the time of about +4000 you would have won $2,050 if they won. But we know they lost that game so you would have just lost your $50.

However, if before the game you had placed at least a $200 bet on the moneyline for Kansas to win (which was around +105) you could have guaranteed a profit of over $100 and if the Eagles had won you would have still made $1,850.

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Bet on Multiple Teams in the Same League or Competition

This is similar to hedge betting and increases your chances of winning but it involves slightly more risk than hedging your bets in the ways we discussed above. It simply means picking 2 or more teams/players competing in the same league or competition  to win and placing the bets at roughly the same time

By placing your futures over a few teams or players at the start of a tournament or league. As the odds are so high if any of the bets you’ve placed come in you will most likely still make a tidy profit. It’s best to place the before the league begins or early on in the season when the odds for the most likely teams to win will probably be higher.

Let’s take a look at baseball futures betting below.

BetOnline baseball futures betting

If you have $100 to bet you could place that all on one team or you could pick 3 or 4 teams and split your stake. For example, you could wager $40 on the favorites Atlanta Braves at +600,$30 on The Dodgers at +850, and $30 on the Tampa Blue Rays at +900 and your potential winnings would be as follows;

  • Atlanta Braves win: $280 payout -$100 stake  = profit of $180
  • Los Angeles Dodgers win:$285 payout – $$100 stakes = profit of $185
  • Tampa Bay win: $300 payout – $100 stake= profit of $200

You increase your chances of winning as you have more than one horse in the race and as long as the odds work out you will make a profit if any of your picks come in.

Is Futures Betting Legal in the US?

Whether or not domestic futures betting is legal depends on what state you are in. Since the Supreme courts ruling on Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association which overturned the previous PASPA ruling that criminalized sports betting in the USA, 33 states plus D.C. have operational legalized sports betting, and four more states have legalized betting that is not yet operational. Futures bets are legal in all these states but local laws differ meaning that certain future bets are not allowed in some of these states.

For example, in New York futures bets on sporting events that are determined by votes not allowed such as coach of the year or MVP. In addition, you can’t bet on drafts in NY as the state does not classify it as a sporting event that athletes compete in.

Another aspect that state laws may differ is betting on collegiate sports. Some states permit almost unrestricted betting on college sports, others ban betting on in-state teams and games and others place even more restrictions. This has an effect on placing collegiate sports futures bets and it’s always best practice to check the laws in your state.

Futures Betting Terms

Early Cash  Out Sportsbooks may offer the opportunity to cash out a bet before the outcome is determined but at reduced odds. This is usually offered when the outcome looks likely to happen.
Early Cash  Out Sportsbooks may offer the opportunity to cash out a bet before the outcome is determined but at reduced odds. This is usually offered when the outcome looks likely to happen.
Favorite The team/player with a higher implied win probability. The favorite is signified by a minus sign (-) on the moneyline in American odds.
Fixed Odds The traditional form of betting where a sportsbook will offer odds on a specific outcome in a match or event.
Hedging  Hedges an be used to reduce your risk on an event or guarantee a win by betting on the opposite side of your original wager. Also known as insuring your bet.
Implied Probability The overall likelihood of a betting outcome in relation to the listed odds
Juice An amount or cut a sportsbook charges bettors for taking a bet on an event or game.
No Action A game or event that is no longer taking place and bets are refunded.
Novelty Bet Uncommon bets sometimes offered by sportsbooks such as Pscar winners, the next Pope, and Election winners.
Odds An odds-based value that a sportsbook sets for a team or player’s probability of winning. It determines a player’s potential win based on the stake they wager. Odds can be displayed in a variety of ways including American odds, fractional and decimal odds.
Overround Overround is the total of all the odds added together on the outcome of an event. The probability of each result adds up to 100%, however, in betting bookmakers make a profit by adding a margin to the odds so the overground is always above 100%.
Parlay Two or more bets grouped under one staked wager and each bet must be a winner for a parlay to be paid out. 
Payouts The amount of money paid by a sportsbook to a winning bettor. 
Pick ‘Em A game where both teams or players are thought to be evenly matched and there is no favorite or underdog.
Stake The amount of money risked or invested in a sports bet or casino game.
Underdog The team/player with a lower implied win probability. The underdog is signified by a plus-sign (+) on the moneyline in American odds.
Wager Another name for a bet

 

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