In recent years, futures betting has become increasingly popular due to the opportunity it affords bettors to win big on small bets. The St. Louis Blues were the worst team in hockey on January 3, and a $400 bet on them to win the Stanley Cup won one lucky man $100,000 (that’s 250/1 odds). Prior to the NBA season, anyone who bet the Raptors before they acquired Kawhi Leonard found themselves getting odds of up to 45/1. Once Toronto signed Leonard their odds dropped drastically because everyone knew that the acquisition made them legitimate contenders. But 45/1 odds on a team that was just one player away from possibly winning a title: that’s a future bet worth looking at.
While all of this sounds great, and most people see nothing but dollar signs when talking about futures, the truth is betting futures isn’t easy. It’s a great way to win big, but it’s also a great way to lose big. After all, if you’re betting on a champion there is only going to be one team that ultimately pulls it off. Some bettors like to spread their money around to a couple of underdogs in each sport. This sounds like a great idea until every one of those underdogs loses and you find yourself in a hole.
So what is the best strategy to ensure you create the biggest return on investment when betting futures? Let’s dissect.
Futures are one of the main areas in sports betting where lines are destined to vary greatly from one sportsbook to another. If you love a future bet, look around and make sure you’re getting the best odds. The last thing you want to do is be the person who bets on a team at +400, then a day later finds them at +600 elsewhere. Big gaps like that are common in futures betting, so do your homework before you place your final bet.
Don’t Simply Chase Odds
For every Leicester City there are a million other teams that finish exactly where they’re supposed to. Don’t simply look for the biggest odds and chase, think about why the odds are the way they are. For instance, the Indiana Pacers are currently +7000 to win the NBA championship. Why? Because the most recent thing bettors remember about them is that they were swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
But they also had to play that whole series without Victor Oladipo, who will be back for the second half of next season. I’m not saying the Pacers are going to win the NBA title next year, I’m just saying their odds are certainly skewed. This is something you need to take into account when placing futures bets.
Consider the Sport
Which sports tend to lean themselves to bigger future upsets? NCAA basketball has plenty of options due to “Making the Final Four” being a very popular future bet. If you had Loyola Chicago coming out of the bracket of death in 2018, then you probably made quite a bit of money. The NHL also tends to leave opportunity for big return on investment due to the unpredictability of the sport. Despite the fact that the Raptors just knocked off the heavily favored (especially at the beginning of the season) Warriors, the NBA does not offer much in terms of championship futures.
The NFL can go either way. While betting on a big underdog to win the Super Bowl may not always work out, there are other futures to take into consideration, such as division champions. Other than the AFC East, divisions have a lot of parody throughout the NFL, which means there are plenty of opportunities to find an underdog that is able to knock off a heavy favorite. See the 2018 Chicago Bears.
Gauge Public Reactions
Remember when Carson Wentz went down and the Eagles went from Super Bowl favorites to just lucky to even be in the playoffs? Well, joke was on every bettor who doubted them, because they turned around and rode Nick Foles to their first-ever Super Bowl championship. The public tends to overreact to injuries and suspensions. Sometimes big reactions are warranted, but think about how integral the person is to their team and who their backup is before losing faith. While the public is panicking, they could be making you very rich.
This is more for single-player bets, but avoiding hype can be very useful. Jimmy Garopollo was projected around 4,000 yards last year in over/unders, and yes he got hurt, but in all likelihood, he wouldn’t have hit that number anyway. Don’t get caught up in public hype if there is no reason to.
Sometimes the public is flat out wrong. That isn’t to say they always are, so you must research a bit yourself. The public loved Saquon Barkley and they were spot on with that when he went on to win Rookie of the Year. Baker Mayfield’s projections are through the roof this year. Are you on the hype train or are you watching it blow by?
Think About It
Every point thus far this leads me here, and this is probably the most important piece of advice that I can offer to someone looking to place futures bets. Don’t just start blindly throwing money around because you like a team or read one article that tells you they can win a championship. Sit back and think about the likelihood that they actually can be a league champion, a conference champion, or division champion. Think about all the obstacles in front of them.
With individual player bets, think about how often they get injured, if the public is overreacting because of one good season, or if they’re in a new system that is poised to cause a decline in their stats. If you really do your research than you could be one of the lucky people who sees a high return on investment through futures betting.