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What is a Futures Bet? Futures Bets Explained (May 2024)

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Futures bets, also known as outrights, are bets on a competition or tournament as a whole. They are called futures because they are generally long-term bets on what will happen at the end of a season. Bookmakers will open the futures betting markets before the season begins. You can place the bets at any time before the season begins or during the season. However, the odds will change throughout the course of the season.

How to Use Futures Bets

The most common futures bet is on which player or team will win a competition. When you open the betting market, you will see the odds for all the players and teams involved. You can then pick the player or team you think will win. But these are not the only types of futures you can find. There are lots of other statistics and events that make for intriguing futures bets.

Different Types of Futures Bets

The types of future markets that are offered depend on the sport and what type of competition you are betting on. In all cases, you can bet on which player, contestant, or team will win an event. Then, there are lots of other bets that relate to other competition statistics and team/player data, that offer interesting alternative futures markets.

Exciting Futures Bets in Different Sports

Soccer – Premier League

  • Premier League Champion
  • Team to Finish in Top 4
  • Team to be Relegated
  • Top Goal Scorer
  • Keeper with Most Clean Sheets

Basketball – NBA Regular Season

  • Division Winner
  • Eastern Conference Winner
  • Western Conference Winner
  • Team to Make the Playoffs

American Football – NFL Playoffs

  • Super Bowl Winner
  • AFC Divisional Champion
  • NFC Divisional Champion
  • Winning Conference

Horse Racing – Yearly Performance

  • Most Improved Performance
  • Eclipse Award – Horse of the Year
  • Eclipse Award – Trainer of the Year

Defining Structure in Futures Bets

Those futures markets leave a lot to digest. There are a lot of interesting picks, and they are quite different depending on the sport. You will not have promotion/relegation bets for the NFL, nor will you have Conference winners in soccer tournaments. The structure of each competition defines what types of futures betting markets bookmakers can provide.

Racing Sports

Races are quite unique in regard to futures. If you bet on which contestant or team will win a race, this is a race-winner bet. It will be offered in the pregame betting markets and not as a futures bet.

If you are betting on sports such as Formula 1, where there is a championship, this is different. The futures bets will relate to the championship as a whole. However, for horse racing, there is no championship or league structure. Instead, you can bet on a horse or a trainer to win a prestigious Eclipse Award, which is based on their feats in a calendar year. Then, there is the Most Improved betting market. With this bet, you can predict which horse will improve its performance the most  during the year.

League and Regular Season Sports

Most sports have leagues or regular season competitions. These are drawn-out competitions in which teams have to play a fixed number of games and the team with the best record or most points, wins. In soccer, the team that finishes with the most points wins the league, and they are crowned champions. Most American sports follow the regular season and playoffs structure. Here, clubs will play each other in a league, and the teams that finish in the top places will qualify for the playoffs.

This leads to a tonne of different types of betting markets. In addition to bets on the winner of the league, there may be bets on which teams place (or qualify for the playoffs), team statistics, and even relegation/promotion bets (where it applies).

Tournaments and Playoffs Sports

Tournaments are knockout competitions held in rounds of single leg fixtures or in a series. The winner of the round carries on to the next round, whilst the loser falls out of the competition. This opens up the possibility not only to bet on the team that wins the competition, but where other teams may finish. If the tournament has teams from different divisions, conferences or countries, then bookmakers can also offer markets for these too.

Other aspects of tournaments are more similar to leagues. You can have player futures bets and other bets relating to stats. However, these should be approached with more caution as your team can fall out of the tournament at any time. Then, the remaining teams and players have a chance to go ahead of your team in the stats you bet on.

Individual Performances

Player props are extremely popular amongst punters, as they can bet on their favourite player to achieve some remarkable feats during a game. It is no different in futures bets. Instead of betting on an individual game, you can bet on whether your favourite player will score the most, win an award for their performances, and even end up in the All-Star team. If your favourite player is at the peak of their career and only shows signs of improvement, you can be sure to find lots of intriguing futures bets on their achievements in the upcoming season.

Where to Find Futures Bets

Most sportsbooks will offer the standard futures such as the champion of a sporting event or the top player. If you are looking for other types of futures, you may have to look for bookmakers that specialise in specific sports. For example, if you want some thrilling NBA futures bets, then it is better to go straight to an NBA-specific sportsbook. They may offer more bets, and at better prices, than a general book.

If you are looking for specialist futures bets, you can check out our Best Betting Sites guides.

Futures Bets Strategy

Futures can be extremely difficult to predict, especially in regard to bets on the season as a whole. You cannot predict aspects such as breakthrough youth talents, injuries, and whether they will start the season on the front foot or not. All you have is the statistics from the previous seasons and the schedule of the fixtures in this season. The results in the previous season and during the offseason (or friendlies) can give indications as to how a team is preparing for the upcoming season. The schedule for the upcoming league games will also give you insight into what may happen as a team may have an easier start or they may have back-to-back games against tough opponents.

However, there are still too many unknowns, especially considering how futures bets relate to an entire season. In a way, futures bets can feel like blind bets.

Early Bird Prices

The same can be said for the traders who have to generate the odds. They are just as much in the dark as you, so they may undervalue or overvalue certain teams, opening several betting opportunities. The champions of the previous season or tournament will usually be the favourites to win the next.

For example, if the LA Lakers win the NBA Finals, then they will have shorter odds to win the following year. In this case, the odds for other potential title contenders may be quite inflated. If the Lakers have extremely short odds, maybe you can look at bets on teams such as the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, and so on. The margin between favourites and underdogs in futures bets is never quite as clear as in pregame betting markets. Though the Lakers are favoured to win at the beginning of the season, this may swiftly change in the first few weeks.

Cashing Out a Futures Bet

Most bookmakers offer cash outs on futures bets. How much they offer depends on how well your chosen team is faring. If you placed a bet on the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals and they sit at the top of the Conference by mid-season, a good cash out offer may await you. If they make the playoffs and reach the Conference finals, your offer will be far more generous. On the other hand though, if the Celtics have a terrible start to the season and are sitting mid-table come the middle of the season, the cash out will be far lower.

Therefore, you need to sum up your options and decide whether it is worth waiting out your bet or taking the bookmakers cash out offer. The ideal situation is that you have caught some really generous early bird odds, and your team begins the season with a string of wins. This will create a generous cash out offer.

Parlays and Combos for Futures Bets

Aside from the fact that they are long-term bets, futures are different from other betting markets in another aspect. Most bookmakers will not let you make futures parlays. You cannot pick the winner of the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A. Nor will you be able to bet on one English team to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in one season. Unless that is, you have found a bookmaker that can generate the odds for your bet and allows you to place it.

Combo futures bets are ready-made parlays, or combination bets with multiple preselected single bets. Combo futures bets are not very common, and will only be offered for special cases. They are offered for the team or player that is most likely to pull off winning multiple competitions. These can be Grand Slam in tennis, Majors in golf, domestic and international competitions in soccer, or anything else.

Forecast and Tricast Futures Bets

These bets are not offered at all bookmakers, and you may need to do some digging to find them. They are horse racing bets where you have to pick the first two or first three horses to pass the post. Some bookmakers offer forecast and tricast futures bets for leagues.

With a forecast futures bet, you can pick which team will win the league and which team will finish second. A tricast futures bet lets you pick the team that finishes third too. The odds will increase tremendously, even if you are picking the two (or three) top teams.

Special Tip: Look for Bookmaker Offers

Bookmakers do not offer odds boosts or early payouts on your futures bets as these would be counter-productive for the book. However, there are a lot of other types of futures bonuses they can offer. The most common futures bet promotions that bookmakers give are free games. For example, if the soccer World Cup is coming up, you may find forecast games on the Group Stage and further tricast games on the competition as a whole. These may win you cash prizes, free bet credits, or other kinds of giveaways.

Conclusion

Punters who only dabble with pregame and live betting markets may not instantly see the appeal of futures bets. Let's face it, they take an extremely long time to pay out and can be notoriously difficult to predict. Also, frequent bettors will not get their weekly buzz of betting on weekend games. However, you should never rule them out. You may pick out some generous odds, and winning a futures bet is an extremely satisfying feeling. Just think, that prediction you made half a year ago or more, has finally come through and you have emerged a winner.

There are also some amazing stories about futures bets winners who have turned a massive fortune. Soccer fans may remember the 2015-6 Premier League season, which was won by Leicester City. The team were heavy underdogs, but there were still some fans who put futures bets on them to win – at odds 5000/1. Towards the end of the season, bookmakers were offering some of these fans colossal cash outs, but some saw their bets out to the end. One punter cashed out a £50 outright bet in March for a staggering £72,000. If he had left it running, the bet would have gone up to £250,000. Another cashed out £2 from a £5 future for £5,600 in the middle of the season. He left the remaining £3 in the future to keep running. When Leicester City won the title at the end of the season, the remaining £3 in the futures bet brought an extra £15,000.

Whilst that was a one-in-a-million season, you can never know what will happen over the course of a season. Futures can bring a lot of excitement, and a win can give you bragging rights over all your friends.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.