What Is Futures Betting?

February 20, 2020


Sports betting isn’t that complicated and that’s very much the case with a futures bet. This kind of wager is one of the first wagers that many new bettors make when they’re first introduced to sports betting.

A futures bet is a wager on an event, series or an award that will finish in the future. This is different than a wager on the outcome of a single game, but almost as popular.

The result of a futures bet is for an event or season that is completed in the future, not the day the wager is placed. Many bettors enjoy these bets because it’s a single wager that has a long life. Single-game wagers are often reconciled within a day or week. Futures bets allow a gambler the ability to have money at risk for multiple games without having to spend time researching each of the individual games.

New sports bettors may be more familiar with a futures bet as the kind of wager on their favorite team to win a league championship. For example, New York Jets fans could place a $10 wager on the Jets to win the Super Bowl at 80-1 odds (+8000) in a New Jersey casino. A winning result would pay the bettor a cool $800 for the wager that will last from the first game of the season to the final play of the Big Game.

How futures odds work

Futures odds may change often. During the season futures odds may change with wins, losses, injuries, trades and so forth. During the off-season, futures odds may change with free agent acquisitions as well. The odds changing for one team often lead to odds changing for other competing teams.

Futures odds at a sportsbook tend to be based on the chance that something will happen. However, futures odds aren’t specifically intended as a prediction of what will happen. When released, the odds may be set more on the likelihood of a team winning but that’s not always the case.

The predictive nature of a futures bet is part of the model built into making the odds but there’s a bit more information used. Futures odds may change at a particular sportsbook based on how much money is wagered on a specific team. Additionally, a sportsbook may also hedge odds based on expected wagers. This allows the sportsbook operator to limit their liability on a specific team winning.

In Las Vegas, sportsbook operators at local casinos located around town may see more wagers placed on teams from the west coast. Meanwhile, casinos on the Vegas Strip may see more wagers on teams from large markets. Most wagers at casinos on the Vegas Strip come from tourists visiting from around the world. Each of the casino groups may have different futures odds based on how much money is wagered (or what they expect will be wagered) on a specific team.

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More futures odds

Super Bowl Futures
NBA Finals Futures
World Series Futures
Stanley Cup Futures

How to place a futures bet

Placing a futures bet in a casino is fairly simple. When placing a wager in person the bettor just tells the ticket writer in the casino the rotation number listed next to the team name and how much they’d like to risk. It’s that simple.

At an online sportsbook, futures bets can be found within a specific sports section. Team futures and player futures will have their own tabs in the mobile app. They are typically easy to navigate and find.

The payout based on the odds will be printed on the ticket. If the wager wins, the bettor will be paid the winning amount based on the odds posted at the time of the bet plus the original bet. It’s important to remember that even though the odds on futures may change, the wager is only good for the odds listed on the bet ticket.

Futures bets growing in popularity

Futures bets aren’t made on a single game but they are no longer only on teams to win a championship. Sportsbook operators continue to created new futures betting options. Not only can bettors wager on the result of a season or series but they can wager on awards. There are even proposition-like bets available on whether or not a specific event will happen.

New futures bet examples:

  • Division or Conference Winners
  • Tournament Winner
  • Award Winners (i.e. Heisman Trophy)
  • Will a team make playoffs – Yes or No
  • Season win totals – Over/Under

Potential downside of futures bets

All bettors are different and futures bets aren’t for everyone. Futures bets allow a bettor to have an event or season-long wager. This long-term wager helps a bankroll last a longer time than with a single wager. However, this may not be the best bet for everyone because futures bets sometimes have a larger house edge.

When placing a wager on a single game the bettor is laying $110 to win $100. This works out to be a 4.5% house edge. Futures bets work differently. Not all futures bets have the same house edge. Some futures bets for a championship or tournament could have a house edge as high as 20% or 25%. Like all wagering opportunities, it helps to do a little math to see if the wager is worth the risk.

Plenty of sports bettors enjoy having wagers throughout the season. In that case, having part of the gambling bankroll tied up for an entire season may not be the best use of money. Gambling is entertainment for the vast majority of gamblers and it’s important to manage budgets accordingly. Even if a futures bet has a positive expected value, the lack of in-season wagering might offer less enjoyment to those who prefer having action often.