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How to Build a Futures Gambling Portfolio

Sports Betting Futures
In a recent blog post, I described a new idea for “stock market” sports futures and win-total gambling. Instead of bettors taking all-or-nothing risks with their wagers, the “stock exchange” sportsbook would offer scaled payouts based on a club’s level of success throughout the season.

In other words, if you wanted to bet on the L.A. Clippers in the NBA playoffs, you would simply buy $100 worth of “stock” in the basketball club. No matter what happens you still get a payoff in the end. The book would simply advertise different payoff odds for every possible outcome, say the Clippers’ eventual # of series wins, or total # of wins in the postseason.

Everybody would get something back. No one would just lose the $100 altogether. No single outcome would pay off the bet with all other outcomes losing. If the Clippers were swept in 4 games by the Golden State Warriors in the 1st round (which won’t happen after Monday’s amazing comeback) then the pay-back on the gamblers’ investment would be tiny, like a stock you bought for $20 a share that shrank into single digits and hurt the old wallet.

But there would still be a returned sum of cash, especially for an #8 seed like Los Angeles.

CEOs of sports betting sites don’t read my blog and are unlikely to start offering “stock” futures any time soon. Put bluntly, it’s a pipe dream until someone more influential than me has the same idea.

Until then, if bettors want to produce a stake that operates like a stock portfolio, the only answer is to make a whole bunch of small wagers that each have a chance to pay off in the long run.

Futures – and win-total markets – are the best odds on which to build your coffers.

Planting and Harvesting a Garden of Bets

I grew up watching PBS often, since there was no cable TV in my rural household. The cast of characters wasn’t bad – Pasquale, the Italian cook who sang folk songs while stirring and whisking. Carl Sagan, the stoner astrophysicist who made “Billions and Billions” a catch-phrase decades before the White House was a gleam in Donald Trump’s eye. Fred Rogers – what more needs to be said? Fred McFeely “Mr.” Rogers, who taught most of America how to tie its shoes.

Then there were the gardeners. Most of the gardening shows on TV have always been incredible bores, and not just because of the nerdy voice-overs. A gardening host can only grow her plants in a few specific locations at most, and what are the chances that the viewer’s climate and soil are the same? You can stare at the pretty flowers from Miami – good luck growing them in Michigan.

But PBS’s “Square-Foot Gardener” Mel Bartholemew always caught my attention. For one thing, he taught viewers how to make their own growing soil from scratch, which negated some of the problems of trying to grow Rocky Mountain grapes in red Ozark clay.

Mel wasn’t exactly a fashion king:

Mel Bartholemew

His planting-and-harvesting tactics, however, are relatable to our sports gambling blog.

Because a square-foot garden doesn’t rely on Mother Nature for 100% of its conditions, seeds can be sown at various times in various “squares” for the same vegetables. Instead of planting 200 potato plants in May, going without potatoes for several months, then digging up an immense truckload of spuds in October, Bartholemew advised “staggering” the planting dates per-square/week so that small harvests occur throughout the late summer and fall. As opposed to a warehouse full of surplus vegetables you can’t use, square-foot tactics give the homemaker a steady stream of fresh produce.

How can the gambler produce a sports futures “portfolio” that doesn’t have to sink-or-soar with one outcome in the Champions League?

Easy. Create a staggered calendar of wagers and potential payoffs, one “square unit” at a time.

Small Investments With Potential Year-Round Profits

Gamblers often divide their units-per-deposit by 10 or 50, for instance, if putting $500 in the sportsbook stake, they’ll wager in units of $50 or $10.

For a year-round futures betting system, I recommend chopping up your stake in even smaller pieces. Maybe $10-per-unit on a $1000 stake. That gives you plenty of flexibility to operate.

Next, begin charting out when each futures-bet outcome will be decided throughout the calendar year in your favorite sports. (I recommend Top End Sports Calendar, but there are many such pages on the world wide web.)

Note that only the dates of the outcomes are important. The art of making futures bets is cogent on how the Las Vegas lines are posted and change over time – it might be best to gamble on Manchester United in January or it might be better to wait until March. It all depends on the circumstances.

The outcomes, of course, coincide with payoffs. You want to create a steady stream of potential payoff-dates that come around every week or every month.

Next, notice any futures lines you see at (+450) or shorter and discard them from consideration unless you’re absolutely sure that the club or college is undervalued and mispriced. It’s fine to earn a few bucks from a good pick on a favorite, but it’s not a good habit if you want to make a year-round strategy work with a positive ROI.

Value tends to hide in the longer lines, since sportsbooks know how to use the practical elements of betting to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the client.

Don’t Emulate Lucky Crackers in the News

One of the biggest frustrations of gambling on outright-winner futures is that some of the long-shot bets provide the very best value.

For instance, Phil Mickelson is likely to be a (+4000) or (+5000) wager to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach this year. Mickelson is aging, but he knows the Monterrey Peninsula like most of us know our own backyard. If a perfect golf computer simulated 50 straight U.S. Opens at Pebble, Phil would likely win more than once.

The practical value of stand-alone bets on 50-to-1 futures lines is wanting, however.

Bettors are looking to pick a likely champion the week before a tournament begins. Even if Mickelson’s line is technically a decent value, the chances of it actually paying off are slim.

Look at the punter who just made headlines with a successful $81,000 futures bet on Tiger Woods to win The Masters. Parts of his story have already turned out to be a little sketchy. Sharks are counseling other lucky high-rollers to quietly go “to the cage” and collect their riches and go home, instead of hamming it up and giving the press a fishy tale about your good fortune.

I know that a 1.2 million dollar payoff is tantalizing. But don’t be that guy.

By making many futures wagers in small units throughout the year, you can overcome 2 major problems facing the average gambler.

First, you won’t have an entire year’s success or failure riding on one game, match, or round.

Second, you can take advantage of long-shot futures values without losing your stake in practice.

Here’s a quick seasonal overview of wagers and outcomes from January 1st through New Years’ Eve.

The College Football Playoff

The Georgia Bulldogs have been sitting at longer than 5-to-1 odds to win a national title in January 2020 despite having came within a dog’s hair of beating Alabama in each of the last 2 seasons.

Clemson may turn out to be a terrific short-term (or long-term) wager to win another CFP in the same time-frame, but if the Tigers run through another undefeated season and an ACC championship, we shouldn’t expect to see very long odds on Dabo Swinney’s team to prevail in the postseason.

Alabama and Clemson remain the best bets for casual futures gamblers looking to “pick the winner,” but a long-term betting strategy involves weighing payoff odds against chances. Look down the board for other contenders when lining-up a possible jackpot to begin the year.

Super Bowl Shuffle

Super Bowl futures can be divided into 2 categories at this point – the New England Patriots and everyone else.

While the NFL’s 32 teams exhibit so much parity that no Super Bowl future is a dead market (right now the longest-shot Super Bowl LIV-winner market at MyBookie is the Miami Dolphins at (+12500)) it almost seems like the Pats are unstoppable unless and until Bill Belichick and Tom Brady leave the scene in Boston.

The good news? So many teams and so many lines cause bookies to have to divide their “market chips” thinner than in some other sports. The Patriots are a (+700) bet to repeat as champions.

Playing the Ponies

If you’re going to gamble on a favored Thoroughbred for the Grand National in April or the Kentucky Derby in May, it’s best to do so early.

Long-shot horses are often shrouded in obscurity until the month of the race, when it becomes apparent that they’re going to qualify. While that means the odds are more potentially-lucrative long before that, it’s also nearly impossible to pick a “sleeper” and win unless you know something about their current form, and unless they’re actually confirmed as taking part in Louisville or Churchill Downs.

Tiger Roll has won 2 Grand Nationals in a row, but the veteran racer was still more than a 10-to-1 bet in February before winning again this year. That’s the kind of sound, high-payoff futures market that the long-term investor should always consider putting a few bucks on.

Pond Shinny in Spring

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun by now, and there are plenty of surprise upsets taking place in the opening quarterfinal round. Futures bettors on the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues have to be feeling pretty excited after watching their clubs in the first 4 games.

But I’ve always been a proponent of looking to Europe for value picks. It’s easier to “fade the public” on Bovada Sportsbook’s futures lines for leagues like the National League in Switzerland and the KHL in Russia. NHL fans tend to be so arrogant about their favorite organization housing “all of the world’s best players” that they look at KHL rosters, add up the numbers of ex-NHL standouts, and make wagers on the teams with the most Canadian and American names.

That’s silly…and opens the door for high-payoff futures on European clubs that build from within.

Summer Soccer

I recently penned a blog post about the top 10 summer gambling sports and left out the Premier League. I hope nobody was too offended. I like the Premier League a lot and often try to predict the outcomes from week-to-week or season-to-season.

But again, it’s just a matter of being aware that there’s a broader sports universe out there. Especially when it comes to The Beautiful Game.

Your gambling stake doesn’t know that the Premiership is the deepest league in the world. If you could gamble on a Pee Wee tournament and get favorable odds and a nice high-payout winner, then despite almost nobody watching for the outcome, the money you receive is still legal tender for all debts public and private.

It’s fun to gamble on the most popular league in the world and cheer for Liverpool along with millions of fans. But there’s value elsewhere in soccer, and having knowledge of leagues in Australia, Eastern Europe, North America and the Middle East gives the bettor plenty of options – and lots of “staggered outcome” markets to take part in – not just in summer.

The World Series

One of my favorite quotes of the 1990s came from Colin Cowherd, who laughed that a budget-rental Kansas City Royals roster was not all it was cracked up to be in May. The Royals had gotten off to a “miracle” hot start in early spring and were the talk of the baseball media in the Midwest.

“The Royals are 10 games in 1st place in the division,” said Cowherd, “and they’re done. Finished. Kaput. I’m crossing them off, they’ll be in the middle of the pack by August.” And so it happened.

Things have changed since then, and underdog baseball clubs are capable of great success in the MLB regular season and postseason.

But the best futures values in hardball often occur in the same fashion that the NFL’s best values do – on strong clubs that aren’t given short odds in March thanks to the large number of franchises.

The 2019 Boston Red Sox are off to a terrible start, sitting in the cellar after a handful of games. That’s helping to keep their betting line-to-win the upcoming World Series at a nice long number – currently (+800) at MyBookie.

College Football Win Totals

Finally we come full-circle and back to the gridiron. Though I promised an overview from winter to winter (i.e. from the beginning of a calendar year to the end), futures markets on the FBS and NFL won’t pay off until early next year. How can the “square unit” gambler earn a potential payoff in December instead?

Look for the sportsbook’s posted win totals instead of just futures markets. Last season, we predicted at that the Army Black Knights were playing such an easy schedule, it was ridiculous for Vegas bookmakers not to give them a 9 or 10-win total. But service academies are often underrated by sportsbooks and gamblers alike.

Army played well and beat the weaker teams, but also played so well against good teams that the College Football Playoff was almost affected when Jeff Monken’s squad took Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners to OT.

The team would go on to prevail in 10 regular-season games and beat Houston in a bowl.

Win totals are a nice kind of “futures” bet in that a single loss late in the year doesn’t always stamp-out your chances altogether.

What’s more? The payoffs – at least for the FBS – arrive in time for Christmas.