Futures bets are quickly becoming one of the more popular markets at our list of sportsbooks, with a wider range of offerings each and every season.
Football bettors, for example, can not only bet on which team they think will win the Super Bowl and conference championships, but they can also wager on division odds, season win totals, individual team and player props, and NFL MVP. And that’s just naming a few of the futures markets open for betting this summer.
Futures bets do have a stigma, known more as “sucker bets” or public bets. The appeal of having a long-standing ticket on the Cubs to win the World Series is as much a conversation piece as it is an investment. To wiseguys, though, most futures are about as appealing as rat poison.
Here are some pros and cons for betting futures odds:
Pro: Big payouts
Most futures markets are created and priced to diminish liability for the bookie. Championship contenders rarely pay out more than 4/1 to start the season and those odds only shrink as the schedule plays out.
There is the opportunity to score big with a live long shot. The most recent Cinderella to come cashing in for futures bettors was Leicester City, who infamously won the English Premier League title in 2016 after being pegged as a 5,000/1 underdog. Even when the club started the season on a hot streak, books didn’t make any knee jerk reactions and happily took money on them at those incredible odds.
As mentioned above, once the season starts the value is constantly draining out of the futures odds. So, if you’re going to get involved, do it early.
Con: Long wait
The majority of futures bets are $100 or less – more of a novelty for the every day fan. Sportsbooks in Las Vegas take massive futures money on the Cubs to win the World Series each and every year, and that was happening before the team turned it around.
For everyday bettors, it’s tough to toss a substantial amount of money – the amount needed for a big score – and leave it tied up in the futures bet for an extended period of time. A season-long championship futures bet can leave money locked up for seven months, and a lot of sharp players don’t like that.
Shorter futures have more appeal, like odds to win the NCAA tournament once the field is set for March Madness or futures plays on tournament winners in golf and tennis, which would see your cash tied up for two weeks max. If you see the value there, it’s worth the wait for a big payoff. You just have to know how valuable that time is.
Pro: There is value
Not every futures market has the same value to the bettor. Super Bowl odds are almost idiot proof in terms of making the books profits. But select markets like season win totals have been a favorite of smart bettors for years – so much so, many books just aren’t offering them anymore or they’re waiting until a few weeks before the season starts to open betting.
Season win totals are often a loser or breakeven proposition for sportsbooks, and other futures options like individual honors can set bettors up for big pay days as well. Heisman and NFL MVP betting has produced some long-shot winners in recent years, and even props like Cy Young and Rookie of the Year can be ripe for the picking if you know what you’re after.
Con: Lower limits
For the casual sports bettor, lower limits on futures markets aren’t an issue. But if you’re trying to get a sizable wager down, you may have to either get approval from the sportsbook managers or stomach putting less on your favorite futures plays.
Some books are strict with how much they allow on certain markets: Super Bowl odds may have a $5,000 bet limit while NBA MVP may be $500 max. That said, it does pay to shop around at different books. Some shops are notorious for their stingy limits and others welcome the risk.
Limits often fluctuate too, so books may open a college football futures market with a dime limit ($1,000) in March but extend that to five dimes ($5,000) in the weeks leading into the season. Don’t be afraid to reach out to customer service agents and get the skinny on sportsbook bet limits and policies.