The vast majority of sports bets revolve around individual games, which is probably not too surprising. Bettors want action, and what better way to get it than by betting on — and watching — a game?
But individual-game betting is certainly not the only option for sports bettors. For those looking to put stake in a team or player over a longer period of time, enter future bets.
What is a Futures Bet in Sports Betting?
A future bet, as it sounds, is a bet on an event that will be decided in the future (beyond just the current day or week).
Generally, such a bet comes on an end-of-season result. Examples include …
- Betting on a team to win a championship
- Betting on the number of wins a team will record over the course of a season
- Betting on a player to win an award
If that team or players wins the event on which the bet was placed, the bettor wins his/her bet.
Futures are usually associated with big payouts — it’s hard to win the Super Bowl or NCAA Tournament, so even the best teams will be plus-money.
How Are Futures Odds Determined?
First, oddsmakers must come up with actual projected probabilities for each of the outcomes they’re offering to bettors. Then they can use those probabilities to convert to betting odds, and from there decide the odds they’d like to post.
Take the following as an example:
Say that oddsmakers think the Yankees have an 18% chance to win the upcoming World Series. That percentage converts to betting odds of +456 (or in other words, winning $456 on a $100 bet).
However, oddsmakers are in the betting business themselves, and would like to ensure that they’re offering odds that they feel still give them a slight edge, while at the same time being fair enough to encourage action from bettors.
As such, you might find the Yankees listed at your sportsbook around +400, which implies a probability of 20% — slightly higher than the chance oddsmakers actually think they have.
How Do You Hedge a Future Bet?
Hedging is a sports betting strategy that involves taking the opposite side of a bet you’ve already made once the likelihood of winning your original bet has already increased.
For example, say you’ve bet on Kansas to win the NCAA Basketball Tournament at +1000 ($10 to win $100) prior to the tournament’s start, and it’s now early April and the Jayhawks have found themselves in the Final Four. Your +1000 bet is now looking very good, because that price no longer exists in the market.
In fact, Kansas might now be listed at something like +180 to win the national championship.
At this point, you’ve got options. You can either let your bet ride (i.e. do nothing), or hedge.
In this case, hedging would mean betting on Kansas not to win the tournament — a bet that may be offered at, say, -250 (risk $25 to win $10).
The hedge allows you to guarantee that you’ll return a profit no matter the outcome, but will cut into your maximum potential profit should Kansas go on to win.
If you don’t hedge …
- and Kansas wins: +$100
- and Kansas loses: -$10
If you hedge (bet $50 to win $20 on Kansas not to win) …
- and Kansas wins: +$100 – $50 = +$50
- and Kansas loses: -$10 + $20 = +$10