A future bet is a wager that is placed on an event that usually takes place several weeks or months later. Like other betting markets, future markets have exploded since the rise of online betting.
Unlike betting on a game via point spread or total, future markets have finality to their results. Pushes aren’t possible and gamblers will either lose their stake or profit. Most commonly, future wagers are bets centered on the champions of prospective leagues, such as the NFL’s Super Bowl Winner, or winner of the English Premier League, but have expanded to loads of other markets.
While futures are normally bets on events to happen later in the year, they update throughout the season and postseason based on recent play. If there’s a key injury or a crushing loss or string of wins, the futures’ markets will respond. Depending on when you wager, your price on each team can be drastically different.
If there’s a league available, there’s likely at least one futures market available. We can even find futures in lesser known sports such as Japanese Soccer, European Handball, and the WNBA.
Once only centered on league championships, there are futures for conference, divisional, and their equivalents. Just about every sporting league in the world has at least one futures market.
One of the most common futures markets is betting on who will win the Super Bowl We’ll take that down a level for the sake of brevity and offer another smaller, but similar, example; NFL Divisional betting.
Odds to Win the 2014 NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles -125
Washington Redskins +400
Dallas Cowboys +450
New York Giants +450
Above are the odds listed for each team to win the NFC East. One important aspect to remember when betting futures is that sportsbooks have an advantage through vigorish. Just like they charge -110 (10% vig) on straight wagers, there is a price to pay for betting futures, and in many cases, they have a much larger house edge than the 10% charged on straight wagers.
Before you wager on futures, calculating the house edge on the market is crucial is maximizing your edge. Since we’re using money line odds, calculating our edge on each bet is simple.
For the Eagles at -125, we’re risking $100 to win $80, which means we’re dividing our amount risked by the total payout to get our no-vig line.
100/180 = 0.55 or 55%
Let’s figure out the rest of the percentages:
Redskins: 100/500 = .2 or 20%
Cowboys: 100/550 = .18 or 18%
Giants: 100/550 = .18 or 18%
When we add these numbers up, we uncover the bookmaker’s edge on this particular futures’ market. When these percentages add up, we get a number of around 111%. The bookmaker’s edge on this part is a little above the standard 10 % vig and stands at 11%.
To figure out the no vig win probability and remove the juice, we’ll divide each of these percentages against our breakeven percentage of 111%.
Eagles 55/111 = 49.5%
Redskins 20/111 = 18.0%
Cowboys 18/111 = 16%
Giants 18/111 = 16%
Added up, these numbers equal 95.5%, but since we rounded down some of the decimals above to make this example easier to understand, we’re basically at 100%. Our true, vig-free money line odds for this future would look something like this:
Compared to the bookmaker’s odds, the Eagles actually provide the best odds compared to the true line. We’re only 23 cents away from the true Philadelphia line of -125 at our true line of -102. The bookmaker’s line for the Redskins was +400, but the true odds are about +455, a 55-cent difference. The Cowboys and Giants are both listed at +525, compared to the +450 odds listed above.
Removing the vigorish is important to determining if a futures’ market isn’t too one-sided when it comes to the bookmaker’s edge. It also allows players to determine where the best odds lie with each individual team.
While future betting is extremely popular, many bettors shy away for the mere fact that it occupies parts of their bankroll for months. While this is a valid concern for those with smaller bankrolls that would rather use them for daily wagering, it’s shortsighted for most everyone else.
Bettors should do their best to make futures a part of their wagering arsenal. There can be some excellent values and inefficiencies to spot between sportsbooks. It’s rare that bettors can hit it big without the odds stacked against them, but futures are a market where that’s more than possible. Hitting it big on an underdog that pays 10/1 is more viable when it comes to betting futures, compared to betting parlays, teasers, and host of other markets.
One area that players can lock in a profit betting futures is hedging. This involves locking up a profit by betting the opposite side of the wager at another sportsbook.
For instance, if I have the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series at +400 for $500, my bet would pay out $2,000, including my original stake of $400. I can also bet on the Cardinals’ opponent, guaranteeing myself a profit.
Some bettors may choose to hedge exactly down the middle or favor their original bet. This is a great way to lock up a profit when a wager has come down to the final leg. Hedging is a crucial part of futures wagering, and is an absolute must-do when the situation calls. No player should ever walk away from a guaranteed profit when that option is on the table.