Betting on Futures

Futures bets may seem like a sort of misnomer. After all, every bet is on an event that hasn’t happened yet.

However, futures bets are an important type of wager. Those who make a successful futures bet often find themselves the subject of stories and news coverage.

So, Coloradans who are new to sports betting need to pay attention to this type of wager. Read further to find out all the details about the futures bet.

How futures bets work

Futures bets are wagers on events far into the future. They usually relate to season-ending achievements or awards.

There are two main types of futures bets that bettors can make. Futures generally pertain either to individual achievements, or team milestones.

A sportsbook with a player futures section might offer betting on the eventual winners of the following awards:

  • Most Valuable Player
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • Most Improved Player

There may also be wagers available for the following team achievements:

  • League champions
  • Conference champions
  • Division champions
  • Highest number of wins
  • Conference to which eventual champion belongs
  • Tournament seeding

There’s really no limit as to the different permutations of futures bets that a sportsbook could offer. The defining criterion for one of these wagers is simply that its result depends on the cumulative efforts of the entire season.

How futures wager payouts work

Strictly speaking, futures bets use the moneyline format to express their payouts. In other words, the payout for a successful futures bet is denoted by the negative or positive three-digit (or longer) number next to the wager.

As is the case with moneyline wagers, a negative number next to the team name indicates the amount a bettor must wager in order to win $100. A positive number, on the other hand, is the winnings that a $100 bet will acquire.

These numbers serve to inform bettors and sportsbooks as to the proportion that a book will use in payouts. If this format is unfamiliar to you, click here for a discussion on moneylines , or look to the examples below.

However, unlike moneylines, it is quite uncommon to find negative payout amounts in futures wagers. To be honest, there is a vast amount of uncertainty and variation in predicting the outcome of an entire season of play.

A quick check of many futures wagers will show that even the team or player favored to win the award is still an underdog to the field. In other words, even if the athlete or team has the best chance to win, an outcome where he, she, or it does not win is far more likely.

Examples of real world futures bets

If futures still seem a bit confusing, we hope that the following examples can help to clear the haze. Each example listed below is a real futures bet that DraftKings Sportsbook offered at one time.

Please note that futures bets often contain many different options for betting. So, for the sake of clarity and succinctness, we will identify the ten heaviest favorites for each bet and the odds associated with the biggest underdog.

Team Futures: NBA Championship 2019/2020

Top Ten Favorites

  • Milwaukee Bucks: +275
  • Los Angeles Lakers: +300
  • Los Angeles Clippers: +320
  • Philadelphia 76ers: +1400
  • Houston Rockets: +1600
  • Utah Jazz: +1800
  • Boston Celtics: +2000
  • Denver Nuggets: +2000
  • Miami Heat: +2000
  • Toronto Raptors: +2000

Biggest Underdogs

  • Charlotte Hornets: +80000
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: +80000
  • New York Knicks: +80000

Comment: The competition for the NBA championship is fierce every year, and this one is no different, in that regard. There are three frontrunners that DraftKings has identified – the Bucks, the Lakers, and the Clippers. No other teams are listed at less than +1400 to win the championship. In terms of straight odds, that means that all the other teams are at least 14:1 underdogs to winning it all.

With that said, notice that the Bucks, who are the favorites to win, are still only listed at +275. In other words, the best chance that any team has to win is nearly 3 to 1. Incidentally, if you’d prefer to consider these payouts as straight odds, you can divide any positive moneyline by 100 in order to find it. So, for instance, the Houston Rockets are 16:1 underdogs to win the championship, because 1600 divided by 100 equals 16.

The three lowest teams on the board (Hornets, Cavaliers, and Knicks) are 80:1 underdogs. Save your money if you’re thinking about betting on those.

Player Futures: MVP Winner 2019/2020 (NBA)

Top Ten Favorites

  • Giannis Antetokoumpo: -305
  • Luka Doncic: +500
  • James Harden: +800
  • LeBron James: +800
  • Anthony Davis: +2500
  • Damian Lillard: +3300
  • Nikola Jokic: +5000
  • Kawhi Leonard: +5000
  • Jimmy Butler: +15000
  • Joel Embiid: +15000

Biggest Underdogs (all at +50000)

  • Bradley Beal
  • Devin Booker
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Andre Drummond
  • Rudy Gobert
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Chris Paul
  • Kristaps Porzingis
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Trae Young
  • Brandon Ingram

Comment: Even though most futures bets have no favorites, there can be exceptions. The NBA MVP race for 2019-2020 is one of them, due to the sterling performance of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokoumpo. Unusually, the “Greek Freak” is a whopping -305 favorite to win the MVP. In other words, a successful $100 bet on him to win the award would only pay $32.79 in profit.

Cases like these might be worth a bet on the players in the other top positions. If any of them were to catch fire in the second half of the season, you could find yourself with a very high-value position.

Futures and 15 minutes of fame

Futures bets often have entire fields of longshots. The NBA example above isn’t even that extreme – the favorite for the NHL Stanley Cup at the time rated odds of +700.

However, within the NHL’s futures, the Detroit Red Wings’ chances of a championship run stood at a whopping +500000. So, were the team from Motor City to bring home the cup, somehow, each dollar wagered would now be worth $5000.

Proud dad gets prouder

This potential for outsized payouts has sometimes resulted in both fortune and (brief) fame for futures bettors. One famous example of a successful futures bet is Gerry McIlroy, father of PGA Tour star Rory McIlroy.

In an inspiring display of fatherly confidence, the elder McIlroy bet £400 (about $683) in 2004 that his 15-year-old son would win the British Open within 10 years. Rory made good on the bet in 2014, and at 500:1 odds, Gerry McIlroy pocketed roughly $342,000.

The Spirit of St. Louis

In another example, a St. Louis resident (who has remained anonymous) made two $250 bets on his hometown Cardinals in 2011. His wagers were that the baseball team would win the National League Pennant (500:1) and the World Series (999:1).

When the team sealed the deal, he collected a cool $375,000 for his show of faith on the hometown boys. Even though he has remained nameless, the tale of his mettle will live on forever.

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Futures bets are fun, not work

However, this story also illustrates another point about futures betting. Many futures bets are not cool, calculated decisions that come from weeks of estimations and investigations.

Instead, the futures bet is often the province of the casual sports bettor, who follows his or her gut above else. Truth be told, they are usually too tough to cash to be worth serious study.

So, if you’re looking for a wager to make with your heart, the futures bet is likely the right choice.