How to Bet Futures – NFL, MLB, NHL and more
Calling something a futures bet might seem strange since all bets ultimately relate to an event yet to happen. But a futures bet is a specific type of bet you’ll soon find in every Virginia sportsbook’s menu.
Futures bets occupy a unique place in the sports betting universe. On the one hand, of the five major types of sports bets, they may be the least frequently bet. But they’re also one of the most frequent bets for casual sports bettors.
Whichever side of the sports betting spectrum you fall on, futures bets will soon be available in VA online sportsbooks. And if you’re a new sports bettor, you’ll want to know how to handle futures bets.
Here’s a complete guide to what to consider when making a futures bet.
What is a futures bet?
A futures bet is a bet on an event that occurs at the end of the season or after the playoffs. In most cases, they’re not single-game bets. Futures bets tend to fall into one of two categories:
- Team achievements
- Individual milestones
You’ll typically see the following team achievements up for futures betting at any VA betting app:
- Conference/Division champion
- Team with most wins in a season
- Conference of eventual champion
- Team to get #1 seed in a tournament, etc.
Individual statistical milestones or awards you can make futures bets on include:
- Most Valuable Player
- Rookie of the Year
- Defensive Player of the Year
- Most home runs
- Most goals scored
There’s a ton of flexibility for sportsbooks when it comes to futures bets. If you can come up with a statistic or award that requires the season to play out for its resolution, you can probably find a sportsbook that has a futures bet for it.
Failing that, you might even be able to ask a sportsbook to design one for you.
How do futures bets pay out?
Futures bets, like many other options in the sportsbook, rely on the moneyline format to display odds to potential bettors. The moneyline format makes another appearance here because of its versatility, so let’s quickly refresh you on how moneylines work.
Moneylines are shown by a three-digit number beside the team name, individual, or bet. Moneylines can be positive or negative, depending on the type of bet for which you’re using the format.
What these numbers represent is a payout ratio. The sign of the number determines what message the sportsbook is sending you about what it will pay.
Positive moneylines mean that the event is less than likely to happen. The number listed is the amount the sportsbook will payout on a winning $100 bet.
So if you see a future bet listed at +800 odds, that means you will receive $900 ($800 + your original $100) back for a winning bet. Note: You don’t have to bet $100. The amount is scaled up or down depending on how much you bet. So a $10 bet at +800 will return $90 ($80 + your original $10).
Conversely, negative moneylines are an event deemed more likely to occur. The number you see is how much you must pay to realize a $100 profit on a winning wager.
By and large, sports futures bets will feature positive moneyline payouts. It’s quite rare for them to advertise an event that is likely to happen.
Futures tend to be longshots because of the high chance that something other than the offered event will occur. The likelihood that the favorite or “best” team in a league will win the championship is less likely than the chance some other team will win it.
This idea is particularly true at the beginning of the season before there has been any chance to see how the teams play, which teams were misranked, and what injuries factor into the outcome of the season. The unpredictability makes even the most likely outcome unlikely to be true.
One thing to bear in mind about the moneyline format is that it is relatively easy to convert them into straight odds. So, if you prefer to think about payouts in terms of a proportion (2:1, 3:1, 5:1, etc.), you can do so. If a moneyline is positive, simply divide the number by 100 and you have your straight odds. So, +200 becomes 2:1, +300 becomes 3:1, and so on.
Real examples of sports futures bets
You may feel like you have a decent idea about sports betting futures now. However, with so many details, you’re forgiven if you’re still trying to puzzle them out. So, we’ll walk through some real-world examples of futures bets.
These bets were, at one time, legitimate bets at DraftKings Sportsbook, so you can rest assured that they are realistic cases of the types of bets you may see.
MLB: World Series Odds
Top 10 teams
- Los Angeles Dodgers +390
- New York Yankees +390
- Houston Astros +1,100
- Atlanta Braves +1,300
- Minnesota Twins +1,500
- Tampa Bay Rays +1,700
- New York Mets +2,000
- Oakland Athletics +2,000
- Washington Nationals +2,000
- Chicago Cubs +2,200
Bottom five teams
- Baltimore Orioles +30,000
- Detroit Tigers +30,000
- Kansas City Royals +30,000
- Miami Marlins +30,000
- Seattle Mariners +30,000
According to these World Series odds, the Dodgers and the Yankees were the clear frontrunners for the season. Both were listed at +390, or just under 4:1 underdogs to win the championship.
However, any of the four teams that come after the two frontrunners are expected to be playoff contenders, and anything can happen in the postseason. For that matter, any of those teams in the top tier could catch fire and see their stars quickly rise in the odds.
Meanwhile, the bottom five teams are likely fodder for most of MLB. Each was listed as a 300:1 underdog to win the World Series, and honestly, betting MLB futures on those teams is likely money in the bank for the sportsbook.
PGA Championship Odds – Winner
Top 10 players
- Justin Thomas +900
- Brooks Koepka +1,100
- Bryson DeChambeau +1,500
- Rory McIlroy +1,500
- Jon Rahm +1,500
- Xander Schauffele +1,800
- Dustin Johnson +2,300
- Patrick Cantlay +2,500
- Daniel Berger +3,000
- Tiger Woods +3,300
- 19 players +30,000
The first thing that stands out about this list of PGA Championship odds is how difficult it is both to predict and to win a golf tournament. The separation between the top golfers in the world is often so small that any of the top 25 players in the world could rise to the top of the leaderboard in any given week.
It’s particularly telling that the golfer recognized as being the best in the world at the time, Jon Rahm, only tied for third-most likely to win the tournament and was a 15:1 underdog against the field. A win by Justin Thomas, the hottest golfer in the world at the time, would still only occur 11% of the time, according to DraftKings.
Even more shocking is the fact that there were 19 players in the field listed at +30,000. To put it another way, 19 professional golfers were 30,000:1 longshots against winning. It’s great if you can pick one of these out, of course, but the chances against it are almost impossible to overcome.
The eventual winner, Collin Morikawa, wasn’t listed in the Top 10 so any golf bettors who took a shot on the 23-year-old before the tournament started earned a very nice return on their bet.
Famous futures bets that paid off big
Futures bets are in an unusual spot for the betting public. They might be the least-wagered of the major types of bets (point spreads, moneylines, totals, props, and futures).
The truth is that futures bets are rarely the province of the serious and serial sports bettor. They’re much more likely to be the wager of the casual player, who wants to put some money on his or her favorite team or player.
Because many futures bets are outright longshots, they don’t come through very often. However, when they do, their bettors often enjoy a dose of brief fame. Many news programs like to use human interest stories like a person beating incredible odds as a button for their broadcasts.
So if you’d like to see your face on the television, hitting a futures bet might be the way to do so. Here are a few recent futures bettors who celebrated big fortune and a bit of fame.
2011 Cardinals at 999/1
Five back with 15 to go? No problem!
Late in the 2011 baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals looked unlikely to make the playoffs, much less win the World Series. On September 12, the Redbirds were five games out of a wild card spot with 15 games to go.
At the time, oddsmakers placed their chances of making and winning the World Series at 500/1 and 999/1, respectively. For one St. Louis fan, those numbers sounded right, and he put $250 on his hometown baseball team to take home the gold that year.
Less than two months later, he collected both wagers. He put $125,000 into his pocket for the first bet and nearly twice as much for the second. That means he turned $500 into just under $400,000 in less than two months.
2016 Leicester City at 5,000-1
In 132 years, the Leicester City Foxes of the English Premier League had never won the league championship. So, it looked like money in the bank for a sportsbook when Leigh Herbert placed a £5 wager on the team at 5,000-1 in 2016.
A season later, Leicester City was celebrating its first victory over the top soccer league in the UK, and Herbert collected more than £20,000 for his efforts.
He told The Globe and Mail that he planned to use the money to buy a house, proving that gambling can put a roof over your head. You just have to pick the one time out of 5,000.
How to Bet on Sports
Futures = longshots
Futures can be one of the most exciting types of bets that you can make, in Virginia or elsewhere. However, whether you are looking to place futures bets on the NFL, MLB, NBA, or another major sport, they are also longshots most of the time.
Practice smart bankroll management and don’t bet any money you can’t afford to lose. Just remember— futures are supposed to be fun. Make sure they’re never anything more than that.