Betting Intelligence Guides

The Pros & Cons Of Futures Bets

Sports betting content has become deeply integrated in the mainstream media in recent years and that’s led to the number of mentions of futures bets to shoot up exponentially. Almost any mention of a significant sports story opens the door for outlets to tie in how the futures odds have been impacted by the news. Player injury? Here’s how a team’s regular season win total has dropped. Coach fired? Here’s how the team’s odds to win their division have moved. Big trade deadline acquisition? Here’s how their odds to win the championship have changed. 

Futures have their pros and cons, though, and bettors have to weigh whether it’s worth it in the long run. Let’s take a closer look at when futures actually make sense and when they’re best to be avoided.

Pros & Cons Of Futures Bets
The Pros & Cons Of Futures Bets

The Pros Of Futures Bets

Big Payouts

The biggest pro to futures is the payout. The numbers are tantalizing as who wouldn’t want a taste of a payday ranging at 5/1, 15/1 or 35/1. Championship futures are a frequent focus on broadcasts and online articles these days as this has become one most talked about bets. It’s as if they’re beyond constantly advertised. It’s in our nature to get excited about the prospects of being right with these props as everyone wants a slice of the big jackpot.

The other reason people love futures is because it strokes their ego to be right. As unproductive as that is for sports bettors, the truth is that ego is one of the main reasons why people like to bet. If you can be the one to predict that the Cincinnati Bengals will come out of nowhere and win the AFC, you have complete cover to gloat afterwards. And there’s a lot of that these days on Twitter and Discord and Whatsapp groups as people love to show off all their successful tickets where they bet small and won big. 

They’re Entertaining

If you’re someone who gambles for recreational purposes, there are few better options to get engaged than futures. With just one bet, you can get great entertainment value as you’ll stay tuned for months. You don’t have to keep coming back on a nightly basis to make more wagers as you’ll still have something riding on the games. 

The other point here is that you can get a lot out of your investments without betting a lot. Even if you place just one small bet, you’ll be engaged with a team for a while. If you’re diving into the nightly action, you’re likely wagering a lot more over time.

While these reasons are more for recreational players than those who win for a living, it’s still reasonable to logic if that’s what you’re after.  

Good For Hedging

The one pro that sharps are likely to go for is the hedging opportunity with futures. Sure, it’s not easy to predict who’ll win it all in a league but those who study up and do their homework can make a good guess. While there are still going to be plenty of hurdles to jump, done right, you should have an opportunity to hedge down the road for a very good payday.

A good example of this might be the Philadelphia Eagles entering the 2022 NFL season. Sharps were buying into their futures to win the division, NFC and Super Bowl early. They accomplished two of those three things but for a hedge, all you needed was a good start to have an opening. As the Eagles did make their rise, sharps had great opportunities to hedge along the way. If you were so inclined, you could have hedged with other teams or a yes/no prop to win the NFC East or the NFC at different times. And if you waited it out until the Super Bowl, you had a great opening to hedge by betting the Kansas City Chiefs. 

In this scenario, you’re not necessarily banking on a team to win it all. What you do need is for them to have a good start or a better-than-expected season, and you might find yourself in position to hedge it off and make some coin.

The Cons Of Futures Bets

They’re Quite Risky 

The biggest downside of betting futures is that they’re risky. Everyone loves the possible payout but let’s be reasonable: the chances of you being right on the money are quite low.

Think about betting on a team to win the Super Bowl. Even if you do your homework, know the sport inside out and understand the odds, you’re still basically just throwing a dart. There are 32 teams in the league and you’re still trying to hit that one-of-32. There are all sorts of moving parts that can derail your futures bet.

Injuries are an element of the game that can’t really be handicapped but they can surely handicap your bet. You might think that the Philadelphia Phillies are the best bet to win the World Series but if they lose a star pitcher to Tommy John surgery halfway through the season and their top slugger has a ligament sprain in September, their chances of winning it all will be disrupted.

There’s also the factor that teams don’t gel or no longer have chemistry or the head coach’s message just no longer resonates. How is one to predict that? When the Brooklyn Nets acquired Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, they became among the most popular bets to win the NBA Championship. Nobody expected the end result to be what it was with James Harden eventually being out of shape and pushing for a trade, Kyrie Irving missing time due to a COVID vaccine and Kevin Durant getting hurt. On paper, everything looked great. In reality, it never panned out.

And think about those underdogs that come out of nowhere too. You can eye a division early and think that your team has a clear path to winning it, but then a team surprises to the upside out of nowhere. It’s fairly rare that a team that’s favored is right there at the end. It happens but more often than not, there are all sorts of unforeseen circumstances. That’s part of why we enjoy watching and betting on sports.

These are some of the reasons why futures can be a risky. It’s also why many sharp sports bettors avoid them.

Opportunity Cost

One of the most overlooked aspects of money is the opportunity cost of doing nothing with it. There’s no question that there are all sorts of risks with investing money. There are risks with stocks, bonds, real estate, cryptocurrency and more. While most people recognize the possible gains and losses that come with that, few recognize the lost opportunity cost.

When you bet on a future, you have to factor that your money will be locked into a bet for a period of time. If it’s a day or a week, it’s probably not something you’re going to sweat so much. However, some bettors will start putting money into next year’s Super Bowl futures the second that this year’s Super Bowl is over. When you start to bet on futures like that, you have to consider the opportunity cost of your money being tied up and not doing anything else for you.

Let’s say you’re going to place a $1000 bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl in February or July or even September. Your money is locked in for that period of time. Could you have done something better with it? Even if you put it into a high-interest savings account, your money would have returned a rate of some kind. In a bet, it’s locked up. 

Typically, you want to do what’s most efficient as possible with your money. You want to take care of it and make more. When tying that into futures, you want to make sure that you’re factoring that your money is locked up and not possibly doing something better. That will often lead sharps to avoid futures sometimes or – in some cases – focus on futures that don’t take so long to be decided.

A Few Futures Tips

1. Bet Negatives Like Unders

The logic here is that if it takes a lot to hit the bullseye on a futures bet, doing the opposite might actually be a smart bet (depending on the odds). We know that it takes a lot to go right for a team to win it all but the flip side of that is that it takes little to go wrong for a team to miss the championship mark. That’s why betting things like the ‘No’ option on whether a team will win their division, conference or championship can make a lot of sense.

In terms of regular season win totals, unders can – in many cases – be the easier decision to make. For a team to have a great season, a lot of the stars have to align. For a team to miss projections and go under the number, it might only take one injury. You have to evaluate if there’s value in terms of the betting line but logically, betting against these types of futures is sound.

2. Wait To Bet Overs, Rush To Bet Unders

When you’re playing futures, you have to consider the timing of it. If you’re placing bets on ‘success’ futures like overs for regular season wins, you want to wait until as late as possible. If you’re betting on ‘failure’ futures like unders or a team to NOT achieve something, you’ll want to bet those early.

The thinking is quite straightforward: what’s the benefit of betting the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl as soon as the odds come out in February? Or why would you bet over on a regular season win total if the lines come out in late July? You’re exposing yourself to a lot of downside. If a key member of the Kansas City Chiefs gets hurt in preseason football or training camp, there goes your bet. If Shohei Ohtani suffers a freak injury during the World Baseball Classic or spring training, do you really want to be holding any Los Angeles Angeles futures? All you had to do to protect yourself was to wait.

The other side of this coin is that if you’re betting on unders or a team NOT to achieve a goal, then you’d rather bet these early. Then all of those x-factors like injuries work for you rather than against you. 

3. Regular Season Win Totals Offer Value

Of all of the common futures on the board, regular season win totals tend to be one of the best options on the board. That’s because this is more of a 50/50 proposition than a 1/30 or 1/32. To have a direct hit and predict if a team will win it all is a tall order. Making an accurate (and winning) assessment as to whether a team goes over or under a set number of wins is much more doable.

A lot of bettors will spend hours in the offseason doing research. They’ll track free agency and draft and delve into how a college football school is recruiting. If you’re plugged in, chances are you’ll have a good read on whether a team’s arrow is pointed up or down. Then when you cross-examine the regular season win totals to see what the oddsmakers are saying, you can generally find some good value. The difference is that projecting a team to slightly outperform or underperform enough to win you a regular season win total is a good bet to make. Trying to use that same inform and hope a team is on course for perfection to win it all is a much riskier proposition to make.

Outlier Team
April 1, 2023
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