In sports betting, just as in life, patience is rewarded. While nobody wants to wait days, weeks, or months for a payout, sometimes the return on your initial investment makes it worth the delay.
Futures bets, if you aren’t familiar, are bets made on events that will happen, well, in the future. Some examples might include betting on who will win the NFL’s MVP award while the season is still going on, betting in January on which NBA teams will win each conference, who will finish at the top of their division in MLB—the list goes on.
In this article, I’ll explain five tips on how you can make better futures bets, regardless of the sport. At the end of the day, futures wagers work the same in all sports.
1 – Understanding Value in Sports Betting
You may have heard that the three most important things in the real estate market are location, location, and location. When it comes to futures betting—no matter if it’s MLB, the NFL, or betting on reality TV show—the three most important things are value, value, and value.
To state the obvious, there’s a heavy degree of unpredictability involved when betting on something that isn’t going to happen for some time. When so many variables (many of which are unforeseen) are involved, you don’t want to overpay when the risk of something going wrong is so high.
When I talk about value in terms of futures betting, it can essentially be boiled down to one term: the risk to win.
In betting, “risk to win” means how much money you have to bet (risk), and how much money you stand to gain from that bet (win). For a futures bet, the second number (win) should always be higher than the amount you have to risk. It’s hard to make a blanket statement in regards to sports betting, but I would recommend staying away from any futures bet that requires you to risk more money than you stand to win; it’s just not worth it.
Because the value of a certain pick is always based on the likelihood of it happening (which is always a guess by the sportsbook) it can feel like it’s a challenge to get something that’s actually “good” value. When it comes to this determination, there are other factors to consider. Most notably, what is the public thinking?
Sportsbooks don’t just set lines based on what they think is going to happen. Betting markets are dictated by public money. If the public action is going too heavily on one particular play, the value is in doing something different.
2 – Be Realistic in Gambling on Sports
Nobody makes a bet that they think has a zero percent chance of hitting; that just wouldn’t make any sense. However, some bettors do have inflated expectations that rise to the level of unrealistic.
When looking over your futures bet options, it’s important to ask yourself the obvious question that all too often goes overlooked: “Does this actually have a chance of happening?” If your answer is something like, “Probably not, but for those odds it’s worth the risk,” you might just be throwing your money away.
I suppose you could make the argument that taking a longshot futures bet choice is like paying for a lottery ticket. It’s cheap and unlikely to hit. But if it does, the payout would be massive. Now, if you’re using this to justify your betting decision, I would ask you to consider whether or not a lottery ticket is a good use of your money. The only difference is that with a lottery ticket, you at least know somebody has to win and you can’t say that about a longshot futures bet.
The bottom line is that there’s simply no amount of value that can justify betting on something that has almost no chance of happening.
3 – Seek Out Things You Know
If you’ve spent some time in the world of sports betting, you know that if you look hard enough, you can find a way to bet on just about anything. For some, this can be overwhelming as the number of choices makes it too hard to focus on just one. Not to mention, some of the odds on obscure events happening, sports or not, are pretty enticing.
Most sports fan have a particular sport that they know at a greater level than the others. Within that sport there are usually specific areas (think teams, stats, players, etc.) where there’s a greater knowledge than in other areas. These should be the focus of futures bets.
For example, if you’re an NFL fan and have a favorite team that you follow religiously, something like a NFL futures bet which focuses on the over/under win totals for the upcoming season might be a good futures betting opportunity. If you’re an NBA fan who closely follows all of the league’s storylines (and there are many), betting on which player will win the MVP award is a popular option.
If you’re really into the player transaction side of sports and consider that your area of expertise, there are a number of free agency or player trade futures bets for you to capitalize on.
Remember, it’s not necessarily about how much you know when it comes to seeking out a specific play. Rather, it’s about how much more you know than the average bettor.
4 – Remember Public Bias in Sports
As I mentioned in the previous section, it’s not necessarily how much you know about a particular topic that’s going to give you an advantage, it’s how much more you know than everyone else.
Although the initial odds are set by oddsmakers who put tons of time, research, and technological resources into making what they think are the best opening odds, these usually don’t last.
As money comes in, the lines are adjusted accordingly so that the sportsbook can remain profitable regardless of the outcome. It’s true that they will lose if a huge amount of money comes in on one side sometimes, but typically, betting markets are efficient in keeping the house highly profitable.
The main takeaway to this point is that you should be wary of making the same bet as everyone else because the odds aren’t going to be as favorable, or even as “true” as they should be. For example, if LeBron James is +150 to win the MVP but everyone is betting on him, it might be good to simply lay off that particular play.
5 – “Package” Bets
One of the best things about working with odds that are consistently +300 or higher—as is the case with many futures bets—is that you can choose several different options and still come out profitable if you’re able to get one right.
Here’s a hypothetical example: Going into the MLB season, the Cardinals enter the season at +500 odds to win the World Series, the Cubs are at +700, the Yankees are at +850, and the Braves round out the top four favorites at +1000. If you bet $100 on each of these options, you’d win money if any one of them wins the championship.
If you’re thinking that the example above has unrealistic odds, they’re actually a little under-inflated. For reference, heading into the 2021 MLB season, the teams with the third, fourth, and fifth-best odds to win the championship are at +900, +900, and +1000. The value to be enjoyed on futures bets is truly unmatched.
Futures bets are the long-term investment of the sports gambling world. They might take some time to mature. But when you guess right, the payout is almost always worth the wait.
Doing your research before making a futures bet can give you a tremendous advantage over the public who is betting based on bias or the general public sentiment (which as I’ve mentioned, is often wrong).
It’s not a stretch to say there’s an art to putting together a successful futures betting portfolio. Keep these tips in mind, and you could see a windfall of winnings down the road.