Futures Betting Explained: How to Bet on Futures

Learn the basics of futures betting and how futures odds work and the potential payouts. Plus get some basic strategy, including how to hedge your bets!

Apr 11, 2024 • 07:56 ET
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What is futures betting?

Futures bets are wagers placed on events such as which team will win the championship or who will win the MVP. These bets are decided by longer-term results and outcomes that are usually settled at the end of a season or tournament.

How futures betting works

Futures betting odds can open before the start of a season and take bets throughout the year, with bookmakers adjusting those odds in reaction to season results, injuries, and trades, as well as the amount of money wagered on certain teams or outcomes.

Whatever odds the futures bet is placed at are locked in for the bettor, regardless of what happens throughout the schedule or how sportsbooks adjust their futures odds thereafter.

How to bet futures

How to read futures odds

Futures odds are read in list form, showing each option and its odds. These are most often ranked from best chances to win to worst.

As an example, the opening 2023 Super Bowl odds have the Kansas City Chiefs set as the favorites to win, listing them at the top of the futures odds at +600 (win $600 on a $100 bet).

The Indianapolis Colts, on the other hand, have much longer odds to win the Super Bowl and are listed near the bottom of the futures odds at +28,000 (win $28,000 on a $100 bet).

You can calculate the implied probability and potential payouts for your futures bet with our odds calculator.

Payouts for futures bets

Every futures bet has odds and those odds have an implied probability of success. The higher the implied probability, the smaller the risk, and therefore the smaller the potential payout.

Futures bets with a slimmer implied probability hold a much greater risk of losing but due to that, the potential payout is greater.

Stake Odds (American) Implied Probability Potential Payout (Profit)
$10 +120 45.45% $12
$10 +500 16.67% $50
$10 +1,000 9.09% $100
$10 +5,000 1.96% $500
$10 +10,000 0.99% $1,000
$10 +50,000 0.20% $5,000

When do you get paid for futures bets?

Futures bets are paid when that event or occurrence has been completed and graded by the sportsbook.

Futures bets on championship results are often paid shortly after a winner has been decided. However, some futures, like Over/Under season win totals won’t be paid out until the end of the regular season, even if the bet has been decided before the final game of the schedule.

Types of futures bets

The most common types of futures bets are placed on championship results, such as the team to win the Super Bowl, NBA Finals or March Madness. Futures bets are extremely popular with casual bettors and sports fans and draw more and more wagers at sportsbooks every year.

Here we can see current futures odds to win the Super Bowl:

Futures betting has expanded in recent decades to include markets like Over/Under season win totals, players to lead the league in certain statistical categories, as well as individual honors and awards like MVP, Cy Young, or the Heisman Trophy.

Check out the live futures betting odds for:

•    NFL Futures
•    NBA Futures
•    MLB Futures
•    NHL Futures
•    College Football Futures
•    College Basketball Futures

Where can I make futures bets?

You can make futures bets at all online sportsbooks and casinos. Odds and options vary book to book, so shop around for the futures bet you want to make.

You can find the best sportsbooks for futures betting here.

Advantages of futures bets

Futures betting continues to grow in popularity, especially among casual bettors. Here are some of the advantages of betting into futures markets: 

  • Futures odds often offer a plus-money return, so you can win more than you wagered.
  • Many futures bets can be placed throughout the season, so you're not limited as to when you can get bets down.
  • Futures bets vary from book to book, offering you a chance to shop around for the best odds for your bet.

Disadvantages of futures bets

There are, however, some disadvantages for the bettor when wagering on futures markers:

  • There’s a huge house advantage for sportsbooks with futures odds, as only one result is graded as the winner. For example, the Super Bowl winner is a 1-in-32 proposition (3.03%) before calculating for team strength and other factors.
  • Depending on when you place your futures bet, that money is tied up for a long period of time until the market is decided.
  • Futures bets have more factors influencing the outcome throughout the period of the bet, such as injuries, trades, and the success of other teams.

Futures betting strategy

Some of the best strategy for futures betting includes:

  • “Buying low” when talented teams or players aren’t playing up to their expected potential, most notably early into the season.
  • There is often an overreaction to those struggles, forcing their futures odds to move and present a higher payout. Many times, those struggles are short-lived and talent takes over, leading the team to overcome those issues and play to their expected high level.
  • Different sportsbooks will offer the same futures markets, but the odds often vary from operator to operator. If you have the option to bet at multiple books, shop around for which one is giving the best return on the futures odds you want to bet.

Hedging futures bets

Hedging futures bets is one of the more popular strategies as the list of contenders starts to shrink throughout the regular season and postseason.

If you were able to bet on a team with larger odds to win the championship and then that team played its way up the futures board into one of the favorites, you may have an opportunity to lock in a profit by betting on the other side.

For example, the Kansas City Chiefs had +1,200 odds to win the 2020 Super Bowl after losing four of six games between Week 5 and Week 10 of the NFL season. If a bettor placed a $100 bet on Kansas City at those odds, they were in line to win $1,200 if the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.

When Kansas City made it to the Super Bowl, that same bettor could have wagered $100 on the San Francisco 49ers at +110 to win $110, guaranteeing their original $100 bet back with a $10 profit.

Another hedging strategy would be to bet half of the potential payout on Kansas City ($600) on San Francisco +110, which would pay $660. If the Chiefs won, the bettor would win $600 ($1,200 win on Chiefs - $600 bet on 49ers) and if the 49ers won, the bettor would win $560 ($660 win on 49ers - $100 bet on Chiefs).

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