What are Futures and Outright Bets and How do I Place Them?
A futures bet is a type of sports bet wager where instead of betting on the outcome of a single game, you are betting on the outcome of an entire competition or season. These bets can be incredibly fun as you can typically enjoy them for most of the competition or season. An example of a futures bet would be betting at the beginning of the season that the Seattle Seahawks would win the Super Bowl. For you to win this bet, the Seahawks not only have to make the playoffs, but they also have to make it to the Super Bowl and ultimately win the game. As you can assume this can be challenging, the payouts on these bets reward you much more handsomely than a bet on a single game typically would.
An outright bet is just another name for a futures bet. They are fully interchangeable and mean the exact same thing. The term future bet is more commonly used in the United States while the term outright bet is used in most areas in the rest of the world. For the sake of this article, we will refer to them as futures bets but know that we are referring to both.
Benefits of Futures and Outright Bets
More Entertainment Bang for Your Buck
One of the best things about futures bets is that you get to enjoy your betting experience for more than one game. If you were to just bet on a single game, once that game is over your bet is also over, and you'll have to place another one for more action and excitement. Futures bets, on the other hand, can be enjoyed as long as your team is still in the competition or still has a shot to win.
Let's say you bet on the Seattle Seahawks as a futures bet at the beginning of the season to win the Championship/Super Bowl. Every regular season game is now important to you because they need to make the playoffs for you to win your bet. If they make the playoffs, you now technically have a bet on every playoff game they're in until they lose or make it to the Super Bowl. If they make it to the Super Bowl, you now have a huge bet you can win if they pull off the victory. You'd be getting 20+ games of excitement off of one bet if the team you selected made it to the Super Bowl.
This futures bet example would only be over when your team no longer had a chance to make it to the playoffs or the Super Bowl. This means that at the very least you will be able to enjoy this bet for six or seven games, but hopefully a lot more if you picked wisely. The bottom line here is that you're going to get to cheer for a bet for a lot more than one game in most situations.
As you can probably already tell, futures bets take a lot of things to go right to win your bet. Because of this, the sportsbook pays out so much more for making these bets. Typically, the more games that need to be won and the more teams that have a shot to win, the higher the payout is going to be. Also, the casino factors in odds of how likely they think it is that the different teams or participants are to win. All of this just means that if you happen to hit on a futures bet, you're going to be a happy camper.
This is a bit more than we like to bet (ok, it's a lot more), but here's the story of the largest futures bet payout in history. "Vegas Dave" bet $100,000 on the KC Chiefs to win the World Series and collected a $2.5 million dollar payday for his pick!
Most futures bets take place at the beginning of a competition or the beginning of a season. When you place your bets at this point, you are most likely going to have the most options and the best payouts as it is the furthest from the time the bet will win. If you've missed the beginning of the season of your favorite sport, you are not completely out of luck. A lot of sportsbooks offer futures bets throughout the year with adjustments to the odds being made based on how the team or person is doing and how close they are getting to actually winning.
- The better off the team or person is doing, the lower payout you will be offered on the bet.
- The worse off the team or person is doing, the higher payout you will be offered on the bet.
- The closer to the end of the season or event, the lower payout you will be offered on the bet.
- The longer to the end of the season or event, the higher payout you will be offered on the bet.
These odds will change much like a company stock would. If you "get in" before certain good things happen, you'll be rewarded more for taking more risk.
A Few Examples of Futures Bets
Futures bets are quite straightforward, and most new sports bettors are able to pick up on them very quickly. What helps to make the small nuances and the general idea of these clearer is to look through a few real world examples of futures bets offered. We've pulled three different examples of screenshots of actual futures bets for you to take a look at here. We are going to walk you through how to read the information on the board, the criteria you need to fulfill to win your bet, and how to calculate the amount that you will win with your bet.
Example 1 - NFL Football
Here we have a screenshot of futures bets offered at the start of the regular NFL season in 2015 for the winner of the Super Bowl. As you can see, each team is represented with the respective payout odds depicted in moneyline format. The lower the payouts, the less likely the bookmakers think that the team will have to win the Super Bowl. Let's say at the beginning of the season you think that the New England Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl. Spoiler alert, they do win the Super Bowl in 2015 which is why we picked them for this example. You decide to place a $100 wager on this. Here are a few outcomes that can happen and what you would get paid on this bet.
- The Patriots don't make the playoffs. You win $0.
- The Patriots make the playoffs but lose before the Super Bowl. You win $0.
- The Patriots make it to the Super Bowl but lose. You win $0.
- The Patriots make it to the Super Bowl and win! You win $800.
The above outcomes may seem a little redundant, but we wanted to make it very clear that the only way you get paid on a futures bet is if the team you selected actually wins the entire event/season the bet is for. There is something we will talk about in the strategy section called hedging where you can "lock up" some money earlier, but that has nothing to do with your original bet.
If you look at some of the other odds that are offered, you will see that if you bet on one of the less likely to win teams and they pull it off, you can make a lot of money. If you were to bet $100 on the Jaguars and they were to win, you would make $20,000 on your $100 bet! Even if you bet $5 on the Jaguars and they won the Super Bowl that year, you would still win $1000! Granted, it's extremely unlikely that would happen, but you never know.
Example 2 - Premier League Soccer
This is a screenshot of the futures bets available on the 2014-2015 Premier League soccer season. As you can see, it is quite similar to the first NFL example except the payout odds are shown in fractional form instead of the moneyline format. Everything else about these bets is exactly the same. You will notice that the payouts are a bit lower than the NFL examples. This is because there are fewer teams involved and it is usually easier to pick the season winner of the Premier League at the beginning of the season. The payouts are still great though and a lot higher on the long shots.
Let's say you place a $100 wager on Newcastle to win. If they do anything but win the entire league, you get $0. If they do win, though, you will get $100,000! If you place $100 on the favorite Chelsea, you will get paid $187.50 profit on that bet. Not as big as the NFL payouts, but much more likely to be hit.
Example #3 US Open Tennis
This screenshot is from a UK sports betting site on the winner of the 2014 US Open Men's tennis singles competition. Everything may look the same here, but there is one small difference that we wanted to highlight here. These odds actually came out during the quarterfinals of the competition. Futures bets are not always only available at the beginning of the competition but are usually offered throughout.
These pay out exactly the same as the previous examples. You might notice that the odds are a bit lower on these, but that is because there are only eight players left with a shot of winning, so it becomes a lot more likely that you will be able to pick the winner. Remember, the riskier and tougher the pick is, the more the sportsbook is going to pay you for making a correct pick. Some sports bettors will never make futures bets right at the beginning of a competition but will wait until the competition begins to try and analyze and get a better feel for how everyone is playing. They will forfeit the best odds by doing so, but if that means they are going to be able to make a more educated pick, it could be worth it.
Futures Bet Strategies and Tricks
While futures bets are one of the simplest bets you can make in the sportsbook, there are still a few things that you can do that may help you to be more profitable. Ultimately, the ability to pick the winners and losers will be the key to being profitable at futures bets, but these tips can definitely help you along the way. The tips range from basic betting strategy ideas to some advanced concepts that you may not have heard of yet.
One of the best ways to take advantage of futures bets is to make more than one of them. Let's pull up our NFL example from earlier to help us explain what we are talking about here.
In this example, let's say we are confident that the Seattle Seahawks are going to win the Super Bowl. We place our bet for $100 and the season begins.
- If the Seahawks win, we make $650 and are happy campers!
- If ANYONE else wins, though, we lose and are out $100.
Now, this is a perfectly normal bet to make and one you are more than welcome to make. But let's say you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of the potential profits to give yourself a better chance of being an overall winner. What you can do is place bets on multiple teams and give yourself a much higher chance of coming out a winner. This doesn't work in a single game because if you try and bet on both teams involved, one bet will win and one will lose, and you will ultimately lose because of the house juice. Because of the nature of futures bets having multiple teams involved that pay out at higher amounts, you have the option of betting multiple of them and still being a winner. Here's what we mean:
Let's say you still think the Seahawks are going to be the winners. You decide, though, that you want to cut your risk down a little bit and give yourself more opportunities to win. You decide to pick two more teams you think might win - the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. You place a $100 wager on all three of these teams. Now let's look at some possible outcomes and show you what you have done here.
If the Seahawks win, you will be paid the same $650 as if you only made that one bet. However, this time your other two bets lost and you lose $200 on those. This gives you a final profit of $450 which is still a pretty good day.
Let's say the Seahawks lose. In the first example, you're out of the game. There is no way that you can win any money. But, in our second example, we would still have two other teams that could pull off a win for us. You've successfully given yourself some more options to win your bet.
Let's take a look at what really happened in 2015. The Broncos did not make the Super Bowl so you would have lost that bet. However, the Seahawks AND the Patriots made the Super Bowl. In our first example, you would still need the Seahawks to win to make any money. In the second example, you would be guaranteed to make money no matter who won the game as you had bet on both of these teams.
- If the Seahawks were to win, you would make your $450 total profit that we discussed above ($650 -200 in lost bets).
- If the Patriots were to win, you would be paid out $800 for winning that bet and lost $200 for the other two bets. This would give you a profit of $600 total.
Ultimately, you would probably be rooting for the Patriots in this game as you would make more money, but you wouldn't be that upset if the Seahawks pulled it out. This strategy does cut a little bit off the top of the maximum you can make but gives you a heck of a lot more wiggle room to walk out the door as an overall winner. It's up to you what betting style you'd like to take with futures bet, but this is a great way to lower your variance.
Hedging Your Bets
Let's continue with the NFL example to discuss this concept. Here's a fictitious scenario for you to imagine. You get this crazy feeling that the Jacksonville Jaguars are actually going to be amazing and the sportsbooks are all terribly wrong. You decide to bet $100 on the Jaguars, and they have the most incredible season and post season and somehow miraculously find themselves in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. Here are the two outcomes of the game:
- If the Jaguars win, you win $20,000.
- If the Broncos win, you win $0.
We don't know about you, but this would probably make us pretty sick if our normal bet size were around $100. We would probably need to win our bet just to cover our hospital bills from the heart attack we have sweating the game. Thankfully, there is an option that can be utilized that works particularly well with futures bets. It's called hedging your bets.
Let's say the above scenario happens and $20,000 is way more than you'd like to be risking on one game. What you can do is bet money on the other side to "lock up" a win. For example, let's say you would be more than happy to walk away with $10,000 and not have to deal with caring about who wins the Super Bowl. If you placed a $10,000 bet on the Broncos to win the game, you would accomplish this. Bet $10,000????!!!! Sounds crazy, but you actually can't lose in this scenario. Let's look at the outcomes to demonstrate.
- You bet $100 at the beginning of the season as a futures bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- The Jaguars have made it to the Super Bowl, and if they win, you make $20,000.
- To hedge, you bet $10,000 on the Denver Broncos.
- If the Jaguars win, you will get paid $20,000 and lose $10,000 on your Broncos bet. You will profit about $10,000.
- If the Broncos win, you will lose your futures bet and get paid none of the $20,000. But, you will win your Broncos bet and make somewhere around $10,000 (depending on the odds). You will profit somewhere around $10,000.
Basically, you will set yourself up to win no matter who wins the game. Your futures bet will continually be gaining value all season long the further along your team makes it. Technically, you can start hedging earlier than the final game; it just gets a bit more confusing because you have to place more bets as there are still more teams. For example, if you wanted to bet during the NFC and AFC Championships on the above bet, you would have to place three additional bets as there would be four teams remaining. You would be cutting down the total amount you could win even more, but would still be locking up a nice profit.
Keep in mind that you need to pay attention to the odds on each of these hedging bets to make sure you are betting the right amounts to lock up your investment. Also, most importantly, make sure that you fully understand what you are doing before you look into hedging on a bet. If you make a mistake and bet the wrong way, it would be extremely costly and put you in a world of hurt. Ask for help if you are confused and make sure you fully understand and are comfortable with everything before you do it. This is definitely a more advanced betting move, but a great one that can help you lock up some winnings with some less risk.