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Futures Betting – How to Bet and Win on Futures

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Futures betting is one of the most exciting bet types that you can access. These bets tend to be ones that offer the most value and allow players to apply their knowledge on specific sports or markets to get the best possible price as early as possible.

Throughout this article, we’re going to look at what futures betting is, how it works, how best to make money from futures betting and answer questions that commonly arise regarding this bet type. On top of this, we will outline the best futures betting sites along with their welcome bonuses.

Best Futures Betting Sites

Not all betting sites are made equal, and some are better for futures betting than others. Below we’ve created a list of what we think are the best betting sites for futures sports betting.

What is Futures Betting?

To put it simply, futures betting is where you bet on an event or market that is going to take place in the future. The “future” is not a set period, but most of these bets tend to be ones that might take place a few weeks, months or even years ahead of when you place the bet.

Markets tend to be relatively vast in that, you’ve usually got a lot of options to pick from. This is not always the case, but popular future bets include the Superbowl, NBA Championships, MLB World Series and the Stanley Cup. You’d pick the winner from one of these markets before the season starts and that would constitute a futures sports betting market.

Futures bets differ from other types of bets in that, betting odds are produced way ahead of time. Let’s use the NFL as an example.

A futures bet would allow you to bet on the winner of the Superbowl up to a year in advance. Some sportsbooks will have their markets go live the following day for the season ahead.

This differs massively from regular-season games where sportsbooks put up betting lines just a few days ahead of when a game might take place. Each betting site is different, but some will wait until after all games have been completed for a game week before publishing lines for the following game week. This can mean that odds are live after Monday Night Football, ready for the Thursday Night Football game that’s about to take place later that week.

How Futures Betting Works

The name is relatively self-explanatory in terms of the basic concept of the bet. However, futures bets will differ between betting sites as to how they might work.

The first thing to note is when you get a chance to place the bets. This is essentially just when the betting site gets the markets live and soon as they are live, you can place the bet.

Timing will vary between each site. There is no fixed rule for this, but most future bets should be live at least a week before that event starts. Things like the Superbowl, Stanley Cup, NBA Championships can be live for months before the season starts.

Once your bet is placed, the market will be live for the duration of that event. You’re still able to bet on these markets as they’ve turned live and with it, will still be classed as a “futures” bet.

They never close, but they will change from futures bet to a straight bet. For example, if you’ve bet on a team to win the Superbowl, you can still bet on that market up until the game starts. The market will change in terms of the teams left in, but the market is still classed as a future.

This market will eventually close or change to be integrated with markets open for that game. This means it’s no longer a future and now an in-running bet.

Payouts for futures bets will only occur once that market has been settled. This will include bets like spread bets or over/under bets as well. For example, if you’ve bet on the over for the total number of points scored by a player in the NBA over the course of a season and they reach the target with ten games left, the market will only be settled once the last game has been completed.

There are no early payouts with futures bets.

Most betting sites will not allow you to cash out futures bets. We’re not sure the reason why, but we would assume that because these types of bets can be so lucrative and odds higher than head-to-head games, it limits their exposure somewhat to bets that can make large gains from small adjustments.

Futures Betting Strategy

There are several strategies that you can apply to futures betting. Betting basics don’t change with these types of bets, and you still need to research your picks as best you can. This is generally a given for all bets, so we aren’t going to dwell too much on this.

We wanted to look a little deeper into real-world strategies that will not only aid you in understanding how betting sites set these bet types up but also then to make money from them as well.

Line Shopping

Line shopping is the most important part of futures sports betting. If you only going to apply one bit of futures betting strategy, let it be line shopping.

What you’ll find is that most futures betting markets include a lot of potential picks. The NBA has 30 teams all competing to try and win the NBA Championship at the end of the season.

Setting a line for each team is almost impossible at the start of the season and it’s only as that season progresses where betting lines start to become a little less blurred.

You’re going to find that futures betting odds for teams outside of the top 2 or 3 picks will range massively from site to site. Here is an example of prices for the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers compare between three of the best sportsbooks in the country, in BetOnline, BetUS and MyBookie.

  • Utah Jazz – BetOnline +800, BetUS +900, MyBookie +920
  • Dallas Mavericks – BetOnline +3300, BetUS +4000, MyBookie +3100
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – BetOnline +20000, BetUS +10000, MyBookie +24900

The odds for each of these bets range massively and these were just three random teams that we took with no consideration about who or what we were picking.

One of the biggest differences is that of MyBookie and BetUS for Cleveland to win. At the prices stated, the chance of them winning the Championships is slim, but even still, if you were betting, then you literally get more than double the amount with MyBookie for the same bet as you would with BetUS.

This is free money and line shopping should be done with every futures bet that you place.

Why do odds range so much between each betting site?

There are several reasons why this might occur, but the most common is the volume of money that’s been placed for that bet.

Let’s take the Cleveland pick as our example. Granted, they are very much outside picks for the Championship, but lots of people like outside bets.

The fact that MyBookie has over double the odds than BetUS is crazy. What has likely happened here is that BetUS has taken several bets at a higher price that has unbalanced their books. It’s also possible they have taken a single huge bet, which at these odds, doesn’t need to be all that much.

This means that they are over-exposed should Cleveland win. To help rebalance the books, they have made betting on Cleveland less attractive by lowering the price and potentially also bumping other prices, which is the case for the Dallas Mavericks bet in the example above.

Given there are so many picks, and the betting futures odds are long for most, small bets can have big implications for odds.

Line shop until you drop!!

Use Vig/Juice to Find +EV Bets

For those not familiar with vig (or juice), this is a term used to highlight the profit margin that bookmakers take from a market. They do this by manipulating the odds to create a market that will always favour them.

Future bets are some of the most popular with recreational bettors. Often, they bet on teams they might follow just as a bit of fun, as much as anything. It’s rare that you find professional bettors taking on US futures betting markets with any serious vigour.

What this means that the juice that is charged for these bets is substantial. They are some of the highest margins for a bookmaker, mainly because of the possibility of a long shot winning and potentially wiping all profit.

Margins are much lower than they used to be. Many Vegas bookies used to have huge margins, around 40%, but online they are much smaller and can be as low as 5-20%.

The way to overcome this is to shop around for the best lines. If you took the best possible price for each team in a market, then you’re going to drastically reduce the juice, usually to less than 5%.

Where are we heading with this?

The goal is two-fold. The first part is to find bets that offer the lowest margins. The second is to try and find +EV bets that we can eventually use to arbitrage.

It’s important to understand how to calculate juice to make this work. Don’t worry, the maths is very simple and the more you do it, the easier it gets. There are also many calculators that will do this for you, and we highly recommend using those. We’re going to walk you through the old-fashioned way first.

We’re going to take the market from the NBA and more specifically, the winner of the Atlantic Division.

The table above shows that there are five teams in the division with their price on winning next to the name. All we need to do to calculate the juice is to divide the risk by the return. The risk would be your bet and then return the total amount you get back (bet and profit).

So, for the 76ers priced at +425, $100 would be the risk, $425 the profit and $525 the total return. The juice for this bet would be 19%. Let’s apply this to the rest of the market to get our break-even percentages:

  • Brooklyn Nets -300 = 75%
  • Philadelphia 76ers +425 = 19.05%
  • New York Knicks +725 = 12.12%
  • Boston Celtics +2200 = 4.35%
  • Toronto Raptors +4000 = 2.44%

By adding these numbers together, we get 112.96%. This means that the juice applied to this market by BetOnline is 12.96%. We now need to remove the juice to see the no-vig win probability. To do this we simply divide the break-even probability by the juice (112.96%).

  • Brooklyn Nets = 75%/112.96% = 66.4%
  • Philadelphia 76ers = 19.05%/112.96 = 16.9%
  • New York Knicks = 12.12%/112.96 = 10.7%
  • Boston Celtics = 4.35%/112.96 = 3.9%
  • Toronto Raptors = 2.44%/112.96 = 2.2%

This number now makes 100%. This is now the probability of the result of the chance that each team has of winning the division in this case. They are referred to as no-vig win probabilities. We can now convert these percentages back to American odds.

  • Brooklyn Nets = -197
  • Philadelphia 76ers = +491
  • New York Knicks = +834
  • Boston Celtics = +2464
  • Toronto Raptors = +4445

We’re now at a point where we know the true value of each bet. In the simplest terms, it’s all about finding betting lines that are as good or better than these odds. This would equate to a +EV bet.

At this point, we are happy with any price above those listed as no-win vig odds. However, the holy grail is to get this market to a point where we can apply an arbitrage bet. This is where we can use multiple bookmakers to place a series of bets that will guarantee us a profit on all these US futures bets.

As part of the test to see if this could be possible on this market, we search dozens of sportsbooks to get the best prices for each pick. They were as follows:

  • Brooklyn Nets = -100
  • Philadelphia 76ers = +550
  • New York Knicks = +1000
  • Boston Celtics = +3500
  • Toronto Raptors = +6000

We now need to use the exact same math (or calculator) to get the implied probability for each price. There are as follows:

  • Brooklyn Nets = -130 = 56.5%
  • Philadelphia 76ers = +550 = 15.38%
  • New York Knicks = +1000 = 9.09%
  • Boston Celtics = +3500 = 2.78%
  • Toronto Raptors = +6000 = 1.64%

Bingo! The overround for this market is now just 85.39%. Anything under 100% here will allow us to create an arbitrage for this market. The lower the number, the more we can make.

The easiest thing to do now is use a arb calculator to see how much you need to bet on each result and these odds to lock in a profit. Let’s assume we are betting $100, this is where the money would need to go:

  • Brooklyn Nets = $66.18 @ -130
  • Philadelphia 76ers = $18.01 @ +550
  • New York Knicks = $10.65 @ +1000
  • Boston Celtics = $3.25 @ +3500
  • Toronto Raptors = $1.92 @ +6000

The total payout from this is $117.07. This means that we’ve got a guaranteed profit of $17.07 for every $100 that we wager or an ROI of 17.07%, whichever way you want to look at it.

These sorts of bets are tough to find for any other market than futures. You need to the scope to find lots of odds, and you need to variables to see big discrepancies. For game week bets, these generally aren’t available or are at least a lot less common.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to make an arbitrage bet to find value from futures. All of these odds were offering great value (+EV) it just so happened that there was an arbitrage to be had. If only one team was +EV and all others -EV, then this bet as a single would still be worth playing.

Hedging Bets

Hedge betting is where you place a series of bets on multiple outcomes to either lock in a profit or limit a loss. Futures sports betting is set up perfectly for this as the odds can move massively.

We’ve written a full article on hedge betting that would be highly applicable to futures betting strategy. Click the link to find out more about how it works.

The article goes into a huge amount of detail but wanted to still include an overview of the strategy here.

One of the easiest ways to hedge your bets on US futures is by placing bets on multiple phases of a season. For example, let’s assume that you wanted to place a bet on the winner of the NBA Championships. To get there your team must win both their Division and Conference.

A hedge bet would be to not only place a bet on them to win the Championships but also to win their Division and their respected Conference as well. That way, if they were to get to the final and lose, you’d still have two winning bets along the way.

Let’s run through a quick example.

We want to bet on the Brooklyn Nets to win the Championship. Here they are priced at +275 to do. We place a $100 bet on this.

To win the Eastern conference they are priced at +150. We placed a $25 bet on this.

To win the Atlantic Division they are priced at -350. We place another $25 on this. We are now invested into this bet for $150 total, with the following scenarios.

  • Brooklyn Nets win the Championship = ($100 x +275) + ($25 x +150) + ($25 x -350) = $469.65
  • Brooklyn Nets win the Eastern Conference = ($25 x +150) + ($25 x -350) = $94.64
  • Brooklyn Nets win the Atlantic Division = $25 x -350 = $32.14

The ideal scenario here is that the Nets win it all, which bags us a return of $469.65. If they don’t win then we limit our losses on the other two scenarios. A conference win would mean just a $55.36 loss and only a division win would mean just a $117.86 loss.

One of the best things about the hedge bet is that you can move your stake around to increase or decrease exposure on all results. You could easily make this bet a lot more top-heavy for the Championship win, especially given that the Nets are strong favourites to win it.

Another way to hedge your bets on futures is to simply back a team the start of the season and then hedge during individual games. For example, you might back a team to win the Superbowl at the start of the season and then when they get there, back their opponent to win to guarantee a profit on both results.

Again, we talk much more about how this works along with working examples in our hedge betting guide.

Futures Betting in Sports

You can place futures bets with a ton of different sports. Bet types will vary for each sport that you can bet and some offer better value than others. Below we’ve included a range of sports that you can place futures bets on and what sort of markets you’re going to expect from these.

NFL Futures

The NFL is one of the most popular sports to bet on for futures. You’re going to find that futures bets are split into three categories:

  • Conference winner
  • Division winner
  • Superbowl

Betting on the winner of the Superbowl is by far and away from the most popular futures bet for the NFL. It’s here that NFL futures odds are most competitive for each betting site, so it’s well worth taking the time to find the best odds possible for Superbowl winners.

Some betting sites will have prop bets that you can access as futures as well. These tend to include MVP for the Superbowl, and some quarterback rating bets as well.

MLB Futures

MLB futures betting is another that allows you to bet on the conference, divisional and then the World Series. The World Series is very much the highlight of the year and it’s here that you’ll find the widest range of futures bets to access.

MLB futures odds will range depending on the betting site that you use. Take the time to shop around and get the best price as they can differ massively. Juice applied to these bets can be higher than other American-based sports, so use the sections above to help work out which bets are +EV and which you need to avoid.

NBA Futures

For NBA futures betting you will likely get one of the biggest range of markets to bet on from any sport on that betting site. Championship betting is the most popular and this is picking the overall winner from the season.

Other bets include conference and division winners. Like NFL, this is one of the most competitive sports to place future bets and you’re also likely to find player specials, such as MVP and top points scorers for playoff games.

NHL Futures

The NHL futures section follows a common theme for futures betting as you get access to divisional and conference bets throughout the season. The highlight is betting on the Stanley Cup and these markets are going to be the biggest in terms of bets taken for sportsbooks.

A higher volume of bets on Stanley Cup futures means that NHL futures odds can change massively from one site to another. Take the time to line shop and use hedge betting with conference and divisional markets to limit exposure.

How to Read Futures Odds

Most sportsbooks will be set up by default in American odds. This means that you have a plus and minus number that represents your return.

The plus is the amount you will win should you place a $100 wager. The negative number is the amount you need to stake to win $100.

The image above shows the betting for the winner of the Central Division in the NHL. As you can see, the favourite here is the Colorado Avalanche, priced at -105. This means that you need to place a $105 bet to make a profit of $100.

If you decided to bet on the St. Louis Blues as an example, then you get the price of +600. This means that for every $100 you wager, you make a $600 profit.

You don’t have to place bets of $100 and up, but this sum is used to highlight how much you would win. Most sports betting sites allow you to place bets as low as $1. So, if you were to bet $1 at odds of +600, then you would win $6 assuming that bet was successful.

How to Place a Futures Bet

Placing a futures bet is incredibly easy. Most betting sites will have sections that are dedicated to futures markets, making them easy to find.

BetOnline is widely regarded as one of the best for futures betting, so we will use them as our example.

Once you’ve logged in, you need to pick the sport that you want to bet on. You can use the menu section down the left. For this, we’re going to bet betting on the NFL.

You need to find “football” in the menu and then this will open a range of leagues and markets to bet on. You will see a section called “NFL Futures” that you need to click on.

Now you get to choose between the conference, divisional and Superbowl betting options. These are all markets for the winners of each futures betting market.

We’re going to select the Superbowl, and this opens the market in full. All you need to do now is click on the odds to add your bet to your bet slip. Now you need to select the amount you want to stake and place your bet.

Top Futures Betting Sites Reviewed

Futures bets make up a large part of most of the top betting sites. Below we’ve included a look at the best betting sites for futures bets and explain what makes them a good as they are.

Before we jump in, we wanted to highlight that each of the overround percentages was taken as an average from a range of futures markets accessible with all betting sites. They were the same markets tested for each site.

1 – Bovada – Lowest Futures Betting Overround/Juice at 9.75%

Bovada is one of the most established betting sites in the United States and they are number one for futures betting. The site looks incredible, with a clean, modern feel making it function great both online and on mobile.

In terms of future betting odds, they came out on top with nearly all our tests. They charged an overround of just 9.75%, which is almost half what some of their closest competitors charged.

Coverage is huge, with football, basketball, hockey, and baseball having a massive range of markets to bet on. Basketball is a particular standout, not only covering bets such as divisional, conference and championship bets, but also massive college basketball following and European leagues as well.

New accounts to Bovada can get a welcome bonus that’s worth up to $250 and comes as a 50% match of your first deposit. Turnover linked to the bonus is just 5x, which is about as low as you will find.

Pros

  • Lowest overround charge of just 9.75%
  • Great looking sportsbook online and mobile
  • One of the most trusted brands for US players
  • Huge college futures coverage

Pros

  • Smaller welcome bonus than some

2 – BetOnline – Biggest Range of Sports for Futures Betting

BetOnline is another great option for futures betting and to be honest, there’s not a lot between them and Bovada. The brand is another that is highly trusted and well established, making them an easy recommendation for futures betting.

From our futures odds testing, we saw BetOnline finish just behind Bovada, charging on average a 12.2% overround. This highlights that their odds offer incredibly good value and we found that for shorter priced bets (favourites in particular) they were better valued than Bovada.

Coverage is excellent across the main US-based sports. The conference, division, and championship bets were accessible throughout. It was coverage for the likes of golf, soccer and tennis that were most impressive, with events up to 12 months in advance all accessible and with good market coverage.

New accounts to BetOnline can get a welcome bonus that is worth up to $1,000. The bonus is a 50% match of your first deposit and comes with a 10x wagering requirement attached to clear it.

Pros

  • Best range of sports for futures betting
  • Low overround charged for bets at just 12.2%
  • Great for sports like golf and tennis
  • Strong welcome bonus worth up to $1,000

Cons

  • College coverage for futures betting no as deep as Bovada

3 – BetUS – Best for Horse Racing Futures

Another iconic US sportsbook and another great option for futures betting. BetUS has been online since 2004 and they are a great alternative to the two betting sites that site above them.

One of the reasons why they are ranked where they are is that they charge a little more in terms of their juice than the other two. An average overround of 14.5% is far from expensive, but it is higher. However, we will state that for betting on longer odds for futures bets, BetUS is a must-try as they offer amazing value with some bets.

Coverage overall is very good, and they are right up there with BetOnline in terms of the market and sports that you can access futures markets. A worthy mention must be the horse racing section (dedicated racebook!) where you can bet on a series of races from around the world up to 12 months before the start of that race.

New accounts to BetUS get access to a massive welcome bonus worth up to $3,125 and is split between sports and casino play. The sportsbooks side of the bonus comes with a 15x rollover attached and 14-day expiry date.

Pros

  • Massive welcome bonus
  • Low overround at just 14.5%
  • Best for horse racing futures

Cons

  • Limited in terms of the overall number of futures bets compared to some

More Examples of Futures Bets

Not all futures bets are dedicated to sports or at least the results of sports fixtures. In fact, there is a huge market for bets outside of game-day markets that a lot of bigger sportsbooks provide for their players.

What you can access depends on the sport, but Bovada is one of the best for this. For example, in the NBA you can bet on who will be the next MVP, coach of the year, defensive player of the year and offensive player of the year.

NFL and NHL markets follow a similar trend with these types of bets. The NHL also has future props like the exact player to lift the Stanley Cup or even the next manager to be sacked in the league.

You’re not limited to just sports with futures bets either. Politics is a great example of a section within a sportsbook where you can bet on the next US president or the winner of general elections around the world. Some markets are held open for years before they are settled.

Are Futures Bets Worth It?

For us, the overall censuses are that futures betting is worth it. You need to know what to bet on and the time your bets, but overall, they can be highly lucrative.

Like all betting markets, there are pros and cons, which we have outlined below.

Pros

  • Great Value – Betting early on a team to win is likely going to be the best value you get at any point of the season. As a team keeps winning, the price for them to win a Superbowl or an NBA Championship is only going to decrease.
  • Competitive Odds – Futures odds vary massively from site to site. You can find huge swings in terms of the odds on offer and this means that you can get much better value with some betting sites over others. Make sure you take the time to compare betting lines before placing any futures bets.
  • Timing – You’re able to place futures bets a long time before the start of the season and as the season is taking place. We like to assess teams after a few games to see how they start and then dive into futures betting markets such as championship or divisional winners. The flexibility of when you can bet is one of the strongest assets of futures betting.
  • Great for Hedging Bets – Early success with futures bets means that you can hedge bets and lock in a profit. The flip side is that, if results start going against, you can use hedge betting strategies to limit losses as well locking in profits.

Cons

  • High Juice – Futures betting markets are synonymous with high overround or juice. The betting sites cut is much higher than most betting markets.
  • Long-term Investment – Your money could be tied into bets for a long period of time. If a betting site does not have a cash-out function, then it could be months before you see a return from your bet.

Futures Betting – Conclusion

Futures betting is one of the most lucrative bet types that you can access. The ability to get into markets early and get the highest possible odds makes for some of the best value you’re ever going to get from a betting site.

Not all futures betting sites are made equal and our number one pick is. Bovada, who has the lowest overround percentage of just 9.75%, making them the best value for futures betting.

Futures Betting FAQs

Can you cash out futures bets?

Where should I place my futures bet?

When do you get paid for futures bets?

When do futures betting markets open?

Jonathan has been working within the iGaming sector since 2007. After graduating with a BA Hons in Marketing from Northumbria University, he's been able to set up his own online content business, working with some of the biggest brands in the iGaming sector. Outside of work he enjoys any type of sports, especially cricket, golf, football and darts.