What is a futures bet?
The vast majority of sports betting is done on single games occurring in the near future. Futures bets are wagers on future events and are decided by a large number of games rather than just one. Futures bets are usually on end-of-season results such as a team winning a championship or a player winning an award. It is difficult to win so odds are low and futures bets generally have large payouts.
Types of futures bets
Futures markets offer a wide variety of betting opportunities. They differ between sportsbooks but many sportsbooks offer at least a few of the same type of futures bets. The most common for college football are the National Championship winner, conference winners, and the Heisman. Sportsbooks also offer season-long win totals and specials such as who will make the college football playoff? The most popular NCAAF futures markets are the National Championship winner and the Heisman Trophy winner. These odds are released early in the college football offseason and fluctuate constantly up until the start of the college football season and after each week of games.
Oddsmakers have to assign a probability to every event in the futures market. They use a lot of strategies to do this and the process can be technical and objective or for a market such as “What school will Spencer Rattler transfer to?”, the process can be subjective and include a lot of guesswork. This provides opportunities to find value for bettors. For example, if Oklahoma has implied odds of 15% to win the National Championship, but you give them a 20% chance, then there is value on betting the Sooners in the futures market.
Strategy for NCAAF Futures
There are so many different ways to take attack the futures market. The futures market allows you to find edges in areas that single-game betting does not. It is important to assign probabilities to what you are betting and compare those to the implied probability the futures market dictates. Whether that is simply just using your own intuition, having your own power ratings numbers, or creating a model to determine the probability of events occurring, it is vital to do so. Before the 2021 college football season, the CJ Stroud was +1400 to win the Heisman trophy. The implied odds of that are around 7%. If you give Stroud a 15% chance to win the Heisman then there is some value to bet that. If you give him just a 3% chance, then you may want to look to bet a different player in that market. Futures markets often have heavy juice so there may be no value at all but if you consistently make futures bets with positive expected value, you will win in the long run.
Another strategy for betting NCAAF futures is by hedging. If you placed a bet on Michigan to win the Big Ten before the 2021 college football season at +500, then you had the opportunity to hedge against that bet throughout the season and in the Big Ten Championship game. If you had a Michigan Big Ten Champion ticket at +500, you could’ve hedged against that bet by betting the Iowa moneyline in the championship game to ensure that you will win regardless of the game’s outcome.
My favorite college football futures market is the win total market. It is much easier to go through a college football team’s schedule game-by-game and project records than it is for the NFL. With the wide gap in talent in college football, it’s easier to pick out the sure wins and losses. There is also a wider selection of teams to bet on and against which provides more opportunity to find value. Win total markets in college football can be beat in simple ways. Going through a team’s schedule and giving each game a win probability and then adding those probabilities up to create your own win total can help you find value among 130 teams. With so many teams, you can pick out only the ones you find a large edge on and give yourself a better chance at being profitable in your season-long win total bets.
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including How to Bet on Sports — or head to more advanced strategy — like 10 Tips to Become a Sharper Sports Bettor — to learn more.