Futures Bets Have Great Risk And Reward

Futures Bets Have Great Risk And Reward

Unabated Staff
Line Shopping
Odds Explained
December 7, 2021

Sports Crystal Ball

A Futures Bet is a wager on an outcome which will be decided in the future. This could be days, weeks, months, or years from the date of wager depending on the event type. Understanding the various types of futures bets, hedge mechanics, and inherent house edge associated with long-term future bets is essential to develop sustainable strategies and bet responsibly. The goal of this piece is to help you learn what a future is and the positives and negatives associated with future bets. Let’s dive in.

Future bets are offered across both individual sports like golf, NASCAR, and tennis, as well as team sports like football and soccer. For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on some examples from the NBA market. 


Some NBA Futures Bets Examples

There are future bets on both the player and team side which span the course of the entire regular season, the entire playoffs, or over the course of a playoff series. As the season carries on, these odds fluctuate based on performance, injuries, transactions, and odds-maker sentiment to ensure the market remains efficient. 

For instance, the Brooklyn Nets are currently the favorite to win the 2021-22 NBA title. However, a season-ending injury to Kevin Durant or James Harden would plummet these odds. Here are some other examples of NBA future bet types:

Regular Season FuturesNBA MVP Trophy

  • Win Totals
  • Most Valuable Player
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Most Improved Player
  • Sixth Man of the Year
  • Coach of the Year

Playoff Futures

  • NBA Champion
  • Conference Champion
  • Series Winner (Best of 7)
  • Finals MVP

The allure of futures are their generally longer odds and larger payouts. This is due to the lower implied probability given all the possible outcomes. If the team or player wins the event associated with the bet placed, the bettor wins the wager and is paid out accordingly.


Why Make Futures Bets?

Futures offer the shot to chase lightning in a bottle to casual bettors. One can wager a smaller amount for a significantly larger payout in return. It is an attractive way to stay engaged in the results of a season for a player or team. Futures bets generally have a negative expected value. Sportsbooks have significant theoretical hold percentages on future bets, upward of 15-25%. This is a way for oddsmakers to protect themselves against the uncertainty of multi-way markets. Sportsbooks structure these markets to ensure they realize their bottom line and protect themselves, even if a longshot hits. 

However, there are some ways to increase your likelihood of success when playing futures. Let’s explore a few of those strategies. 

Line Shopping

One of the sharpest things that any bettor can do to increase their chances is to line shop. This is the process of browsing your options across every available sportsbook to find the best return for a given future. Some states have few operators to choose from while others have over 20. Taking advantage of the best prices and odds is key to trimming the house edge. You don’t need to have an account to view odds at most sportsbooks. It is worth your time to check the odds at every available operator you can access. 

For example, let’s take a look at a theoretical NBA MVP futures market. Here are the current odds to win the Eastern Conference at 3 major US sportsbooks:

Futures Odds Compare NBA

As you can see, the odds vary at these three books. The best price depends on which team you’re looking to bet. At these three books, the hold on this market ranges from 13.5% to 15%. However, by taking the best number, you cut the Synthetic Hold to 9.1%, and that’s just three books. Synthetic Hold is a concept from Ed Miller & Matthew Davidow’s excellent book, The Logic of Sports Betting.

High-Upside Payouts 

Futures present an entertaining option for a fan of their hometown team or favorite player to enjoy following the ups and downs of a season with some skin in the game. For highly engaged sports fans, the futures market can allow fans to elevate their interest and enjoyment throughout the season with potential financial reward. 

For example, as a die-hard fan of a team, one can find opportunities to take advantage of inefficient odds by following every beat reporter closely and staying on top of the news cycle at a high-level. This could mean anything from reacting to a high-profile trade or significant injury, both of which could dramatically shift the landscape of a market. Markets are incredibly fluid and fans who are engaged with high-signal content and news could find opportunities reacting before the market.

Betting A Narrative

You can use futures to bet according to how you think a narrative plays out. Perhaps a star player is due for a breakout year. Or perhaps an injury on another team could lead to a dark horse emerging in a division. There is tremendous upside to using futures as a potential parlay-type payout to stars aligning.

Risks Associated With Futures Bets

Tying Up Funds

Sportsbooks love futures. They possess a significant edge over the bettors and they allow the book to hold bettors’ money for a while. However, that’s also a downside for books because bettors aren’t able to access their capital for other wagers during that time. Bettors need to realize that without those funds in their liquid bankroll, they may need to adjust their bet sizing downward. 

Remaining liquid enough to take advantage of shorter term events and inefficiencies in the market is key to being successful. Avoid overextending your bankroll and ensure you’ve educated yourself to understand the risks to your bankroll before diving into a futures bet.


Theoretical Hold Percentage

As mentioned earlier, the hold percentage on futures is larger than normal wagers because the book must protect against uncertainty. Wagering on futures can be a way to extend a sweat over a longer period of time, but be careful not to wager blindly on future. Practice discipline and use all tools are your disposable to understand the markets and gain your edge. Among those available tools is the Unabated Hold Calculator, which will help you to determine what theoretical hold you’re betting into. As well as help you determine how much you’ve trimmed that edge by line shopping. You can also use the Unabated Futures Odds Screen for the NFL, and soon for other sports as well. 


Key Takeaways

  • Futures offer season-long value for your betting dollar.
  • Know what you’re up against in the market.
  • Always line shop to get the lowest Synthetic Hold.
  • Be cognizant of tying up your bankroll.
  • Use Unabated’s tools to help you make more intelligent wagers.