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Sports Betting 101: Futures Bets Explained

Matt Brandon Jan 7th 5:46 PM EST.

When placing wagers on spreads and totals, the potential profit is often less than the original wager unless you link multiple bets in a parlay. This is because sportsbooks take out “vig” (often referred to as the juice). Wagering on moneylines can result in even smaller payouts, especially when betting on massive favorites. If you are looking for wagers with much bigger rewards but aren’t all that successful with parlays, futures bets are a potentially great way to maximize the return on your investment.

What Is A Futures Bet?

Futures bets aren’t for the inpatient bettor. These wagers often take days, weeks, or even years to come to fruition. Unlike a bet on a single game that pays out as soon as the clock runs out, a futures bet often depends on multiple games or an entire season.  

There are many different types of futures bets. One of the most common is betting on which team will win the championship. However, if you aren’t quite confident that the Kansas City Chiefs will win the Super Bowl, you can place a futures bet on the Chiefs winning the AFC West. These wagers are decided by longer-term results and outcomes that are usually settled at the end of a season or tournament. Since picking a team to win the championship or their respective division is more difficult than picking the winner of any given game, the odds are much lower, which results in a bigger payday should your pick be correct.

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Player Specific Futures Bets

Although the examples above are all team-centric, sportsbooks offer futures bets relating to specific player performances. For example, a bettor can bet on which player will win the MVP award, Rookie of the Year, who will lead the league in passing touchdowns, etc. The same applies to all the other major sports (NBA, NHL, and MLB). 

Non-Team Sports

Futures bets are also available in individual sports such as golf and tennis, and the rewards are still prolific. Bettors can wager on who they think will win a golf or tennis tournament. In golf, many sportsbooks offer futures on whether a player will finish in the Top 10 or who will lead the pack after the first, second, or third round. Tennis tournaments obviously have bets for who will win the tournament, but they also offer odds on who will win each quarter of the bracket.

How Futures Betting Works

Futures betting odds usually open before the start of a season, however, sportsbooks don’t stop taking futures bets once the season begins. Instead, bookmakers adjust the odds depending on various factors throughout the season such as records, injuries, trades, etc. If you take the Chiefs at +600 before the season begins to win the Super Bowl, your bet is locked in at those odds. Perhaps Patrick Mahomes suffers a season-ending injury in Week 3, sportsbooks will adjust the odds to something like +2500. Bettors can still take the Chiefs, but most would stay away from that situation since Mahomes is such an integral part of Kansas City’s success. Due to all the things that can happen throughout a season, futures often require at least a little bit of luck.

Benefits Of Futures Bets

The main benefit of a futures wager is the astronomical odds that a bettor cannot get from wagering on a single game. For example, let’s say you had a gut feeling about the Tennessee Titans heading into the 2021 NFL season. Perhaps they were listed at +2500 to win the Super Bowl. If Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry lead the Titans to that ever-so-elusive Lombardi Trophy, you would win $2,500 on a $100 bet. If you bet more than $100, you would win 25 times your initial wager. That’s a pretty amazing payout!

Another benefit of a futures bet is that it keeps a bettor locked in and interested for a long period. Many bettors also prefer futures bets to single-game wagers because it keeps their spending down, while still giving them a rooting interest.

How To Read Futures Odds

Futures odds are usually in list form. Sportsbooks rank the teams or players with the shortest odds to the longest odds. For example, let’s say you wanted to bet on who would win the NFL MVP. Below is a hypothetical look at what you would see on your sportsbook:

  1. Aaron Rodgers +500 
  2. Patrick Mahomes +600
  3. Tom Brady +1000
  4. Josh Allen +1200
  5. Lamar Jackson +1600
  6. Matthew Stafford +1700
  7. Dak Prescott +1900
  8. Justin Herbert +2000
  9. Kyler Murray +2000
  10. Russell Wilson +2200
  11. Baker Mayfield +3000
  12. Ryan Tannehill +3200
  13. Carson Wentz +4000
  14. Matt Ryan +4000
  15. Kirk Cousins +4500
  16. Christian McCaffrey +5000
  17. Derrick Henry +5000
  18. Joe Burrow +5500
  19. Dalvin Cook +6000
  20. Tua Tagovailoa (+6000)

Last season, Rodgers rallied to win his third Most Valuable Player award. For that reason, Rodgers was listed as the top contender or a close second at most sportsbooks before the 2021 NFL season. As you can see, this list is stacked with quarterbacks because quarterbacks dominate this award. The last player to win the MVP award who did not play the quarterback position was Adrian Peterson back in 2012. A whopping 13 of the last 14 MVPs were quarterbacks.

Live Futures Bets

You can also make futures bets after the season has started, even once the postseason has commenced. Let’s take a look at the current odds of each team winning the Super Bowl.

NFL Super Bowl LVI Futures Odds

Team

Record

Open

Current

Green Bay

(13-3-0)

+1,000

+375

Kansas City

(11-5-0)

+500

+500

Tampa Bay

(12-4-0)

+1,200

+700

Buffalo

(10-6-0)

+1,000

+800

L.A. Rams

(12-4-0)

+2,000

+900

Dallas

(11-5-0)

+2,000

+1,200

Tennessee

(11-5-0)

+3,000

+1,200

Arizona

(11-5-0)

+3,000

+1,800

New England

(10-6-0)

+6,000

+1,800

Cincinnati

(10-6-0)

+10,000

+2,000

As you can see, had you made the wager before the season, your potential payout would have been much greater than if you made the bet today. That is because all of these teams have already clinched a playoff berth. Before the season, there was no guarantee that the Green Bay Packers would make the playoffs, which is why the odds are now shorter than they were a few months ago. Still, placing a futures bet on the Super Bowl winner now can still result in a big payday. But instead of getting 100 times your bet if the Bengals win it all, you now would only get 20 times your wager. 

Learn more about the basics of sports betting!

Futures Betting Strategies

Research, Research, Research

It is always critical to research before placing a wager and futures are no different. It is important to be aware of offseason acquisitions and trades. Maybe a team’s odds are devalued because injuries plagued them last season. But perhaps you expect them to bounce back now that they are healthy. Were there any coaching changes that may affect the team in the upcoming season? Does the team have the financial flexibility to potentially improve midseason? These are all important questions to ask yourself before placing a futures bet.

What about individual sports? In a golf tournament, what is a particular golfer’s current form? Maybe you like a certain player because he has performed well on this specific course and has been on a hot streak. Certain courses favor certain styles. If the tournament is at a very long course, you may be more inclined to pick a golfer with a huge drive. 

In any tennis tournament, it is critical to analyze each quarter of the bracket. Bettors should look at each player’s potential opponents and draw. Does “your guy” have a solid head-to-head record against his potential opponents? How well does he play on this particular surface (hard court, clay, grass, etc.)?

Buying Low

When talented teams or players aren’t living up to expectations, especially early in the season, you may get better odds at a discounted price. For example, the Green Bay Packers were smoked by Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. After that loss, sportsbooks likely devalued the Packers. However, seasoned sports bettors know to jump on an opportunity like that. Now, Green Bay is the favorite to win it all.

Shopping Lines

Different sportsbooks offer the same futures markets, but the odds can vary. If you live in a state where multiple operators allow you to open accounts, shop around for the one that is providing the best return on your investment.


Futures bets are tough, similar to parlays. That said, there is no greater feeling than cashing in on a huge long shot. Yes, luck is often more involved in futures than single-game wagers but sometimes, it. is better to be lucky than good.


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#sportsbetting101

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