A futures bet can bring a tournament alive, or make a whole season just that little bit more interesting.
They can be fun for the more casual bettor, though are often less attractive for sharper bettors.
What is Futures Betting?
A futures bet is made on an eventuality that won’t be decided for some time – in contrast to the immediacy of Moneyline, Point Spread or Total game bets.
Futures settle over a much longer timeframe and concern themselves with outright winners of competitions, tournaments, or titles and awards after a season-long effort. As such, you may also see them as Outright bets, especially in non-American sportsbooks.
Here are a few examples of outright bets across some of the most popular sports around the world:
- Atlanta Braves to go back to back in the World Series. To win Cy Young award: Liam Hendricks (AL); Julio Urias (NL)
- Kansas City Chiefs to win Super Bowl LVI. Mahomes to win MVP
- Toronto Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup
- Manchester City to win the UEFA Champions League
- Viktor Hovland to win The Masters
- Emma Raducanu to win Wimbledon
- South Africa to win the Rugby World Cup
Futures Betting – What you Need to Know
Because the timeframe that surrounds futures betting is so long, there is no possible way that a bookmaker can set odds that are as close to being as accurate as the odds on a game line.
Firstly, a bookmaker releases moneyline, spread and totals lines far closer to the start of the event. Secondly, it does so with enough time for sharp bettors to place their action, albeit at smaller limits, which helps signal to the book which way it needs to adjust the line. Third, as action comes in, moneyline odds, point spreads and the over/under are tweaked by the necessary point or half-point to help balance the action coming in.
None of that can be done with futures, so sportsbooks take a different approach to odd setting.
And there’s an important flipside to this – in that the books don’t have to be that accurate – for the same reason, in that time is on their side. (Of course, like any bet, if sharps see value in the odds, action will follow – quickly – which signals to the book a need to shorten them.)
So what does that mean for futures bets?
First of all, you usually see much longer odds on a futures bet than on a game line, because they are not framed as “favorite vs underdog”. There are a tremendous number of variables to account for in a futures bet.
Futures odds are an expression of the likelihood of that person or team winning. For individual sports like golf and tennis, factors such as world rankings will play a part, and in tennis also there is the seeding in a tournament to help. In both sports, form is important, but so too is a busy schedule.
The predictive nature futures betting is accounted for in the model when odds are set.
This also means you will often see groups of individuals or teams offered at the same odds as there may not be much to differentiate between them when looking bigger picture.
As such, Futures markets may therefore differ more than mainline odds will between books. If you’ve read our articles on the main line bets, you’ll realise that by and large these lines are similar across all books, with any variation in the odds usually being slight – though obviously enough to make it worth your while to shop the line.
To illustrate, take a look at the two sets of odds below – both futures markets on the 2022 Masters golf tournament. The first set of odds is from Fan Duel, the second from BetMGM.
Let’s briefly see what we can draw by comparing the two:
- The same 10 players make up the Top 10 at both books, with world No. 1 and 2021 US Open winner Jon Rahm favored at +900.
- Fan Duel (FD) puts Jordan Spieth second at +1000, followed by Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson in a group at +1200. MGM puts Spieth, Morikawa and Johnson all tied second at +1200.
- FD has Justin Thomas at +1200 and Rory McIlroy at +1400; MGM flips this, with Rory at +1200 and JT at +1400.
- Between both books, 4-time major winner Brooks Koepka, big-hitting 2020 US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, Olympic Gold-medallist Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantalay all carry odds between +1600 and +2000.
- Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama is +2200 at FD and +2500 at MGM to retain his green jacket.
So you can see how the odds are, first, much longer than on a game line; second, grouping of the odds around some players; third, how the order of players can change, though the same 10 names at the top are dominant; and fourth, how odds on a player can differ by some margin – that’s an extra $300 you’re giving up if you bet on Matsuyama at FD versus MGM.
Odds more likely to differ from book to book
As the above also illustrates, there will be differences between books on the futures odds offered on different players. If you’ve read our articles on the main line bets, you’ll realise that by and large they are similar across most books, with any variation usually being slight. This isn’t the case with futures, so if you have your eye on a player you like, as ever, be sure to shop around for the best odds you can find.
Odds can change quickly
Remember that a futures market is based on the chance that something might happen, rather than reflecting an absolute prediction (unlike main line bets). They deal with a slightly vaguer likelihood, than a game line. Point spreads and Totals are very absolute; future by their nature are far less so.
As a result, bettors must also expect odds to shift as time progresses. Perhaps this is more pertinent when looking at season-long bets in football, basketball and baseball than over the course of a two-week tournament, but nonetheless a host of factors may move odds.
A team’s win-loss record, injuries, trades – these can all cause odds to move, in both directions. Plus, what happens at any one team may have a direct impact on one, or many other, teams.
Think, for example, what a serious injury to a star quarterback, or point guard, means to his team, and all the futures bets related to players on that team. Then think of how beneficial his loss is to all the other teams in the division, or conference.
One event can have a greater ripple effect across many futures bets in the sport. What’s more, a sharp bettor will know to review all outstanding outrights with the potential to hedge his bets.
Vig on futures is usually much higher than on mainline game bets.
If you take the spread or the over/under, not always but often you’ll be placing $110 to win $100. With odds of -110 on each side, this works out to be 4.5% juice.
However, some futures bets could be charging you a lot more – maybe as much as 20% or 25%.
Odds are based on the implied probability of an event happening. Sportsbooks, however, will set odds that are reflective of something other than true probability. The question is, how far different? – and futures markets provide a good opportunity to widen the margin significantly.
That said, it’s unlikely that this will put off a fair-weather fan from placing a season-long bet to keep engaged. Or indeed the die-hard fan wanting to fully commit.
This year, it’s gonna be your year, right? So why not throw a few bucks behind that conviction.
And with that, let’s look closer at some of the more popular top-level futures available on the most popular sports.
NFL Futures Bets
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the immense popularity of the sport, NFL futures are extensive from the get go. Sharing many similarities with game-day prop bets, season-long futures in team sports are divided into team and player bets.
Odds here are from Fan Duels, the week of December 12, 2021.
NFL futures team bets
- Super Bowl winner – Best odds on the Bucs at +500, Chiefs at +650, with the Cards and Packers at +750.
- Conference champs – Chiefs (+300) and Patriots (+350) in the AFC; Bucanneers (+240), some way ahead of the Cardinals (+350) in the NFC.
- Divisional champs – the Pats are -220 favorites to take the AFC East, while the Cowboys are practically a given at -700 favorites to win the NFC East.
- Win totals – Over/Under games per regular season won (the Cards top the market at o/u13.5, followed by the Bucs and Packers both at o/u12.5).
- Most/least points scored and Most/least points allowed.
- Last team to go undefeated/winless.
NFL futures players bets
- MVP – Tom Brady at +140, Aaron Rogers +550, Kyler Murray +700, Patrick Mahomes +1000.
- Offensive/Defensive Player of the Year.
- Offensive/Defensive Rookie of the Year (Current favorites: Mac Jones, QB Patriots, -500; Micah Parsons, Cowboys, -2000).
- Most Passing / Rushing / Receiving yards/TDs in the regular season/League.
- Most sacks in the regular season/League.
- And finally, projected NFL draft picks are also popular futures bets, especially who goes first.
NBA Futures Bets
There are also a ton of futures markets on the NBA, but we’ll stick to the main ones again:
- NBA Finals champion.
- MVP awards – Finals, Season, All-Star game.
- Win totals – as in football, this is a regular season over/under Totals.
- Rookie of the Year.
- Coach of the Year.
- Sixth Man.
- Playoff series totals. Due to the best-of-7 format, you can bet on how many games are required for the win. Odds on 4, 5, 6 or 7 games will be available.
We also can’t ignore NCAA basketball and March Madness. Is this the most-loved bracket competition in all of US sports?
Always a thrill, last year’s competition also had a ton of spills. After the first day – as in, only half of the first round played – only 108 out of the 14.7 million brackets entered in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge survived unscathed.
The combined total of the Sweet 16 team seedings came to 94 – the highest in NCAA tournament history (exceeding the previous record of 89 in 1989).
UCLA went from First Four to Final Four, beating No.1 Michigan in the Elite Eight, only to go out to Gonzaga, who then lost to Baylor in the final.
Baylor’s Jared Butler – now at the Jazz – took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
MLB Futures Bets
Baseball also has a multitude of futures, but with a focus on the popular:
- World Series winner.
- National League and American League Pennant winners.
- Cy Young award winners.
- Rookie of the Year.
- Win totals – regular season over/under.
- “First to…” races. With such a long regular season, MLB betting lends itself to a bunch of “first to…” futures bets. For example, “First to 90 wins/losses”, with incremental markets from then on (first to 100, 110.)
Golf Futures Bets
While PGA Tour events attract sizeable viewership, it is usually the four major tournaments that attract more betting attention. Each of the majors – starting with The Masters at Augusta, the US PGA, US Open and Open Championship – poses a different test of a player’s game.
Usually these markets are made based on a combination of rank, form and performance stats. There are also valid arguments around a player’s game and style making them better suited to one tournament, or course, over another (think Tiger at Torrey Pines).
- Tournament winner.
- First/Second/Third Round leader.
- Place bets for Top 5/10/20 finishes.
Tennis Futures Bets
Tennis futures are similar to those in golf in that the four Grand Slam tournaments also take the spotlight. Of course, with the different surfaces in tennis, each major also poses different challenges to players’ games.
Naturally, we know some are better suited to specific surfaces. Rafa’s supremacy on clay means his record at Roland Garros is an astonishing 105 wins to only 3 losses. He’s won an outstanding 13 titles there.
- Tournament winner.
- Predict stage of exit (which round a player exists the tournament).
Think to Parlay
If you think you have what it takes to predict the winners of the four major golf tournaments, and the four major tennis tournaments – or even eight, if you include the women – then why not consider a parlay?
An 8-leg, or better yet, 12-leg parlay would land you one hell of a windfall.
Discover all you need to know about parlays here.
Can I parlay a futures bet?
Yes. Check your sportsbooks rules, but most bets can be worked into a parlay, especially if they are unrelated.
Moneyline, spreads, totals and prop bets can all be parlayed, along with futures bets.
However, be aware that some sportsbooks may restrict correlated parlays, or, if they do offer correlated and/or same game parlays, take the correlation into account when setting the odds.
What does the ‘moneyline’ mean on sports gambling websites?
The moneyline is a bet on the winner of an event. It is perhaps the simplest bet in sports as it usually has only two potential outcomes – Win or Loss, although in some sports like soccer, there is a third, in a Draw.
Here you can find The AllStar’s guide to the moneyline bet.
Should I bet the Over/Under, the Moneyline or the Spread?
If a market is sharp – meaning seasoned pros have bet – the likelihood is that the Totals line is as close to the most probable outcome as suggested by all the information available to the sportsbook – including the views of the betting public because it reflect the action taken.
But even then, the sportsbooks don’t always get it right.
Totals, moneylines and spread bets all offer bettors something different. Finding value in any particular set of odds offered on an event is a major key to being a successful sports bettor.
What does +7 point spread mean?
This means the team is a 7-point underdog. If you back a team at +7, for your bet to win they must cover the spread by either winning, or losing by fewer than 7. If your team loses by exactly 7, your bet is a push and your stake is returned. To avoid these pushes and force a result, sportsbooks often set the spread with a half-point. At +7.5, a 7-point loss would be covered.
You can read all about point spreads here.
What happens to my underdog bet if the favorite wins?
That depends on the type of bet you placed. If it was a moneyline bet and the favorite wins, your bet loses.
If you laid a spread bet, and the favorite wins the game, be sure to check against the points spread because a favourite can win the game but fail to cover the spread. In baseball, this is also true of +1.5 run lines.