It feels like there’s a major sporting event pretty much every month of the year these days.
There’s the Super Bowl in February, March Madness, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup in June, and the World Series in October – not to mention Golf’s Masters in April, the culmination of the European soccer leagues in May… and so on.
So there’s opportunities for sports bettors throughout the year to wager on tournament futures, making their predictions as to who will lift the most prestigious trophies.
But what are futures in sports betting? And how do you wager on them?
Reading the Brackets
A futures bet is simply wagering on which team you think will win a specific tournament or league, with the wager placed in advance of the competition or even once it is up and running.
Many tournaments have a bracket phase to them, particularly the postseason playoffs in many American sports. Reading these brackets to see which teams have a favorable draw is one savvy way to gain something of an advantage with your bets.
Take the ICC World Cup odds, for example. This cricket tournament is being played in India, and the hosts have also been the best team – they topped the league phase. So they will go into the semi-finals as the number one seed, meaning that the team finishing fourth in the league (probably New Zealand) will have an almighty job on their hands to make the final. The futures odds reflect that, with India the -104 favorite and New Zealand the +1100 outsiders to lift the trophy.
It’s true that shock results happen all the time in sport, but by playing the percentages and getting a good read of the bracket draw, you can gain something of an edge in your futures sports bets.
In some tournaments, the team that performs the best during the regular season will be handed home advantage during a key playoff game.
In some sports/countries, the advantage of playing on home soil can be negligible. But in others, getting to play in front of their own supporters in familiar conditions can be a significant edge.
Take American football, for example. Road games can require travelling huge distances for away teams – even across time zones – to play in weather and conditions that may be alien to them.
The data suggests that the home team in NFL games has an advantage before a ball has even been thrown – confirmed by the proximity of the home/away splits during the pandemic, when games were played behind closed doors without a crowd.
When placing your futures bets, be mindful of how significant a factor home advantage will be during the playoffs.
One ‘mistake’ that newcomers to futures betting make is to only wager on one team.
It’s not an error, per se, if you have complete confidence in a team, but you can increase your probability of a return by ‘Dutching’ together multiple teams in your futures wagers – that’s the smart way to go about it.
NIKOLA JOKIĆ IS AN NBA CHAMPION AND YOUR FINALS MVP. pic.twitter.com/2hBGcFqNVh— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 13, 2023
So, if you wagered on two teams to win the NBA Championship at odds of +500 and +800, you could secure a return of $3.60 for every $1 wagered no matter which team won by betting $0.60 on the +500 shot and $0.40 on the +800 chance.
The same process can work with three or even four team if their odds are juicy enough, and in a competition like the NFL or the NBA, that means you can Dutch two or more teams in the Eastern Conference and the same in the West to spread your risk and increase your win probability.
By following these simple steps, you can add some smarts to your futures sports betting.