Futures Wagers – What They Are and What to Do

Wherever sports betting is taking place, you will find futures wagers. So, it is vital that you understand how they work when you visit a sportsbook in Canada, either online or in person.

Futures tend to be popular because they can dovetail with your team or player fandom. They are not resolved immediately, and you can work up your emotions to go with the bet in the meantime. Futures also have the ability to pay out in large sums, so they can offer some significant excitement as the resolution of the bet nears.

However, there are some concerns about betting on futures that you need to know. So, here’s a rundown on how to bet these types of wagers in Ontario or wherever you are in Canada.

What is a futures wager?

Let’s start with the basics. A futures wager is a bet on the cumulative result of several games, rather than just one. 

Most of the time, futures are reserved for end-of-season results. Common futures wagers include bets on which team in a league will be its eventual champion or which player in a league will be named as an award recipient. 

You can also run across futures betting options for discrete series of games, such as tournaments. In fact, the main wager for most PGA events is the futures bet, as you simply choose the player you predict will be the winner of the tournament.

Futures bets are popular because their concept is quite simple. The end result is the only thing that matters, rather than any quibbles about how the result is achieved. As such, even casual bettors can “put some money on” their favorite team and be right in the mix with serious futures bettors.

How to identify futures listings

If you want to start betting on futures, the first step is to find the different listings that your chosen sportsbook has available. For the most part, futures are grouped together in a separate section of the app or the sportsbook’s display because their time horizons are so much longer than other types of wagers.

Each futures bet will be titled with the subject of its wager. You’ll see headings for “Stanley Cup Winner,” “World Series Champion,” or similar events. 

Below each heading, you’ll find options to bet on every single player or team eligible to win the season-ending prize. It is quite common to see opportunities for betting for every single team in a league. 

Beside each betting option, you will see the sportsbook’s offered payout for a successful wager. Typically, these payouts are notated in the moneyline odds format, but you may occasionally find them in fractional format. 

A brief explanation about the odds format

Now, if you’ve never bet the moneyline or are new to sports betting, the three-digit moneyline format may be a bit daunting. However, they are fairly easy to understand.

What you’re seeing is a ratio. The sportsbook is posting either how much you have to bet in order to win $100, or how much it will pay for a successful $100 bet.

Moneylines with negative (-) symbols next to them are the former. So, if you see a listing for -150, the book is saying that it will pay $100 in profit for betting $150 successfully.

Moneylines with positive (+) symbols are the latter case. A listing for +150 would mean that you would receive $150 in profit for betting $100 successfully.

Because these postings are ratios, they scale to the size of each bet accordingly. So, don’t feel like you have to match the number of the wager or always bet in multiples of $100. You will receive profit proportional to the size of your bet.

In most futures bets, nobody is the favourite

The reality of these moneyline listings, however, is that futures wagers rarely involve negative moneylines. Negative moneylines are reserved for the favourites to win, and it is quite unusual for any one futures option to be deemed the likely team to prevail. Even the top teams in the league are usually going to be no better than 2:1 or 3:1 underdogs.

It’s important to understand the meaning behind this fact. After all, the best team in the league is the likeliest to win the championship, so it doesn’t make any sense that it wouldn’t be the favourite overall.

The problem is that even though the favourite is, indeed, the likeliest of the teams to win it all, it is far likelier that someone else will win it. In other words, though the top team might be best, the collective chances of the other teams in the field outweigh those of one team. 

It also bears mention that teams ebb and flow over the course of a season. An absolute world-beater in the first half might suffer a key injury and find itself too shallow on the bench to keep playing at the same level. By contrast, a slow starter might catch fire coming down the stretch because the chemistry of the group finally clicked. Few teams are the best in the league for the entire length of the season, and some former top teams never recover from the speed bumps they encounter.

With so much uncertainty, it’s no wonder that oddsmakers are usually loath to judge any one team as a favourite against the entire field. If you happen to see a futures bet with a negative moneyline payout, it’s extremely likely to occur, but it’s never for certain, and you’re not going to get much money for the bet.

The stark truth about futures wagers

As you may have gathered, the reality of futures betting is that none of the wagers are likely to pay out to you. Unfortunately, this very unlikeliness is the reason that successful futures wagers on longshots end up generating a bit of fame for their winners along with the oversized payout. 

Let’s say you bet $1,000 on the Ottawa Senators to win the Stanley Cup at +6000 (60:1). There wasn’t much to suggest that the team would pull through, but you love the team and want to show your support. Lo and behold, the Senators end up winning it all, and you receive a whopping $60,000 for your faith and clairvoyance in your favourite team. 

That narrative would make for easy television and news reporting. So, in addition to basking in your unexpected windfall, your phone would start ringing off the hook with interview requests.

Don’t be fooled – it’s noteworthy and newsworthy precisely because it doesn’t usually happen. The 60:1 odds you enjoyed aren’t even the true odds of the Senators winning it all because the sportsbook’s oddsmakers include the book’s profit into the payout. The vast majority of the time, you’re going to end up $1,000 poorer and with nary a phone call from the press.

Betting on futures responsibly

Now, despite the longshot nature of many futures bets, they are not necessarily a bad type of wager for you to pursue. If you bet them wisely and responsibly, you may be able to profit over the long haul. We have some tips for ways to improve your performance below, although it’s important to note that none of these tips guarantee any results. They’ll simply put you in a slightly better position to benefit.

One thing to realize, however, is that your winrate on futures bets is likely to be much lower than it will be for other types of bets. Wagers like spreads and totals are usually a point or two north or south of a 50/50 proposition, and some people successfully win 55% – 60% of these types of wagers over the long-term.

Because your best option is likely no better than +200, you have to expect to lose more often simply based upon the mathematics of the situation. So, it’s best to make your peace with the lower percentages of success if you’re going to make a habit out of betting on futures. Here’s how to approach this type of betting.

Look for value

If you can find a situation where the stars align and your favourite team is a good futures wager, that’s terrific. However, the reality of being a smart futures bettor is that you must be a tireless hunter of value.

Value, at least as it relates to futures betting, is finding perceived discrepancies between the offered payouts and what you believe the actual chance of the bet’s success to be. What you are searching for are indications that a team may be undervalued. If you estimate a team’s chances to win it all to be 5:1, but you are only seeing options to bet them at 8:1, you may have found a good option to bet.

This concept may be easier to understand with an example. Let’s say you see the following listing:

Major Championship

  • Team A +200
  • Team B +250
  • Team C +500
  • Team D +600
  • Team E +1000

Now, let’s say that Team E’s biggest star has been out of action for some time with an injury. His injury is one that puts his return to form in serious doubt. Were he to be active, Team E would likely be the best team in the league. At this point, the official word is that his return this season is uncertain.

Suppose that you, the intrepid sports bettor, have a connection to a local blog or news source with ties to the big star. You find out that the big star’s rehab is going much better than anyone could have expected. In fact, it’s looking more and more likely that he will both return this season AND he will be at full strength.

Furthermore, you know that in games where Team E had the big star before his injury, they beat the other four top teams handily. So, the notion of Team E’s chances residing at +1000 (10:1) may be faulty, provided that your information about the big star is correct. Thus, a bet on Team E might make sense.

Obviously, in this era of information, it’s much harder to find clear situations like this. The reality is that you’re likely going to have to rely a bit on your own hunches and studying the recent performances of each team in the league to suss out where you may find value.

Oddly enough, you’re not actually looking to pick winners, per se. As we mentioned, futures bets offer odds that are rarely better than 2:1, meaning that you’ll lose twice for every three times you bet. However, taking advantage of wagers for value is the best way to make sure that you capitalize on the opportunity and are rewarded for taking the risk with your bet.

Listen to the crowd

The odds on a blackjack table or a roulette wheel don’t change, no matter what anyone says about them. Sports betting is a unique activity in that its odds actually vary based upon public opinion.

So, if you’re hearing whispers or buzz from other sports bettors or people who are knowledgeable about the teams in a league, it may give you some insight about the accuracy of the payouts offered on futures boards.

Don’t follow – necessarily

With that said, don’t automatically follow the buzz. In fact, the rumour mill might pull certain teams one direction, but make other teams value bets for you.

So, whatever you hear, it’s best to check it out before you make a decision. Bear in mind that even the best sports bettors in the world are usually right only 6 out of 10 times. Furthermore, the loud talking heads on TSN or other sports channels are never guaranteed to know what they’re talking about.

Shop around before you commit

The smartest rule to follow for any sports betting you do – futures or otherwise – is that once you’ve decided how you want to bet, you should shop around for the best odds and option for you. 

In the case of futures, you’re looking for higher moneylines on the value picks that you’ve made. If you’re already prepared to take a team at +1500, you should grab the chance to take them at +1600, even if it’s not with your preferred sportsbook.

This admonition is especially true for futures betting. You want to maximize your payout potential as often as you can, as doing so will help you overcome the higher percentage of losses you’re going to experience.

Remember the truth about futures after you bet

Speaking of those losses, it is critical that you remain in a good headspace about futures betting when you put money down. You cannot expect to win any particular futures wager because, all things equal, a win is never the likely outcome.

If you are a person who cannot handle balancing the occasional win against a sea of losing, futures may not be for you. Almost every time you bet on a futures wager, you’re going to end up lighter in the wallet. Make sure that you keep calm and levelheaded about that reality.

Be very careful about going too far

Finally, it bears mention that you should be quite vigilant against unhealthy gambling habits if you’re betting on futures. 

At no point should you wager money on a futures bet that you need in any other part of your life. Not only are they high-risk propositions, but they also tie up whatever funds you bet for their long duration. You lose the utility of the money right away, and may only receive it back days, weeks, or months down the road – if at all.

Futures don’t pay out very often. Make sure that you don’t need whatever you have riding on them.

There is one other cost to betting futures that you should also mind. The time you spend preparing, studying, and analyzing data to make ready for a futures bet is time you didn’t spend at work or with the people you love. Losing needed money to sports betting is not a good thing, but missing out on key experiences with the people in your life or jeopardizing your work performance is equally damaging or worse.

Regardless of your level of monetary success on futures wagering, be aware of the time you’re spending on the activity. If you’re blowing off your spouse or children for it, the cost is too high.

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