What is Futures Betting?

As a new season of sports rolls around, the excitement is palpable. Part of the fun is projecting how games could play out among fellow fans.

Now that sports betting is officially legal and regulated in Illinois, you can put money on those predictions.  It’s called futures betting, and it affords you to peer into a crystal ball and make some calls on how games will play out.

We’re going to cover everything you need about the futures market here.

What are futures bets?

A futures bet is a wager on an event that won’t be final until a later date. These popular markets attract a great deal of betting volume and will stay active all year round.

Examples include the winner of the next Super Bowl, which team will come out on top in March Madness or who will win the next edition of the Masters Tournament. Sportsbooks typically will release odds well in advance of the competition date.

From there, the Illinois sportsbooks will have their say. A glance at the futures market can give you a read on the betting market’s perceptions of specific teams and players. Though you can’t cash in futures bets until the event is complete, they can be quite lucrative.

Latest futures odds

The futures market is active all year round, with the most popular markets attracting continuous betting action. As a result, the odds board can shake up often.

Staying on top of the latest numbers can be tricky, but our live odds feed makes it a breeze. You can customize it by sport and event to view the latest numbers from multiple operators.

Are futures bets available for all sports?

Futures are mainly for the biggest sports and events. At sportsbook apps and websites, the top team-based and individual sports attract the most wagering action. It’s the same story with futures.

If you’re a fan of the most popular options, the NFL, NBA, golf and tennis, you’ll find a fair amount of futures bets available. For those into niche categories such as cycling, cricket, etc., the offerings are scarce.

How to bet on futures in Illinois

The first step to place a futures bet is to locate the market you want to bet. You can often find future betting lines by clicking on the sport name from the list of options. There’s usually a tab for current futures offerings.

For example, let’s say you want to bet on the winner of the next Super Bowl. You’d click on the NFL link and look for the futures tab.

Among the listings will be the odds for the next Super Bowl. Once you expand that wager, the top few favorites might look like this:

Kansas City Chiefs +450
Baltimore Ravens +550
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +850

When you’re ready to place your bet, you have to click in the box with the odds for your selection. Then, the bet will move to your bet slip. Once you add your bet amount and verify everything is accurate, click submit to place the wager.

Futures betting odds explained

Odds for team-based futures come out during the offseason. In the biggest markets, such as the Super Bowl, the odds will come out for next year’s big game soon after the current edition is in the books.

With futures for an individual player event such as a golf major or tennis Grand Slam, the odds will come out well in advance of the competition. There will be numbers for all the players expected to compete.

Sportsbooks usually list odds board for futures in descending order. The favorites will be at the top, long-shots will be on the bottom and all other selections will be somewhere in the middle. As the betting market reacts, there will be some changes in the numbers in response.

Also, keep in mind that futures odds won’t be the same at each sportsbook. For example, DraftKings in Illinois may have one number on the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl, while FanDuel could have something different.

You can always shop around to find the best odds. When it comes to line shopping, our live odds feed can be a handy tool.

How to calculate potential returns on futures bets

The majority of futures market odds are positive numbers, so calculating the potential return is relatively simple. When the number is positive, you can read it as the amount that you stand to profit from a winning $100 bet.

For example, if you bet on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl at +450, a winning $100 bet gets back $450 in profit. Winning wagers on the Ravens at odds of +550 for $100 would return $550, and so on.

Here are formulas to figure out the potential return:

  • When the odds are positive: the amount of wager * (odds/100) = profit
  • When the odds are negative: the amount of wager/(odds/-100) = profit

There are plenty of handicapping calculators on the internet that are completely free. Also, you can see the amount of your potential return by simply plugging in your wager amount on the bet slip, but be careful not to click submit before you’re ready.

Illinois sportsbook rules for futures

Many betting rules are standard across the industry. However, there may be some nuances in which sportsbook operators handle certain circumstances differently. Here are the basics you need to understand about futures betting in Illinois:

  • Futures bets will not be settled until the outcome is determined.
  • In the event of the cancellation of a season or event, futures bets on those markets will be considered void and wagers will be refunded.
  • For wagers on season-long props or team win totals, the result is determined with official league data.

These rules will cover the vast majority of instances that may come up; however, we must stress that books can handle particular situations differently, e.g., player injuries, etc. You can review the house rules for futures at the book you are playing for specific details.

Examples of futures bets in sports

The futures market is ripe with betting opportunities, but it’s a good idea to know how it functions before picking your wagers. Let’s look at some additional examples for the major sports.

NFL futures betting

The futures betting market for the NFL is popular. You’ll find several opportunities to consider, including:

  • Teams to win the Super Bowl, conference or division.
  • Regular-season win totals for each team.
  • Individual player awards and statistical accomplishments.

If you wanted to bet on which player will win the league MVP at the end of the season, here’s what the odds could look like:

Patrick Mahomes +200
Russell Wilson +400
Aaron Rodgers +600

For bettors who wager on Wilson at +400, a winning $100 bet would return a total of $500, which is the amount of the wager plus a profit of $400.

NBA futures betting

There are plenty of NBA futures to consider in advance of the season, and the odds board will give you a sneak peek at how the betting public views the upcoming year. Here are some bets you may see:

  • Teams to win NBA Finals, conference or division.
  • Regular-season win totals for all teams.
  • Player award winners and stat leaders.

If you wanted to bet on an NBA team to win the Western Conference this season, the favorites could have numbers that look like this:

Los Angeles Lakers +150
Los Angeles Clippers +350
Denver Nuggets +500

For those who think this is the Clippers’ year to reach the NBA Finals, a winning bet of $100 at the listed odds would return a profit of $350. The odds may shift as the season moves along so that you can check back often for the latest prices.

MLB futures betting

The MLB offseason is full of “hot stove” chatter. MLB bettors have the chance to make their picks on how all sorts of things will shake out via the futures market, for instance:

  • Teams to win World Series, league or division.
  • Over/under on team regular-season win totals.
  • Individual player award winners and category leaders.

Fans of the Chicago Cubs may want to have a little additional rooting interest for the upcoming campaign. A wager on the team’s regular-season win total is one way to make that happen:

Over 5 (-120)
Under 5 (+110)

This wager works just like a totals bet. Oddsmakers set the bar, and you then get to choose over or under. Keeping a close eye on the odds for these wagers could point you toward which side is seeing more betting action.

NHL futures betting

You can bet on the NHL at virtually any time via the futures market. Here’s a handful of the most popular markets that you’ll have to explore:

  • Teams to win Stanley Cup, conference or division.
  • Regular season win and point totals.
  • Player award winners and top performers.

The biggest driver for NHL futures is which team will win the next Cup. The odds for a few favorites might look something like this:

Vegas Golden Knights +700
Colorado Avalanche +800
Tampa Bay Lightning +900

If you time your bet right and the team you pick goes on to win, you could be in line for a nice return. For example, a $100 bet on the Avalanche to win the Cup would return a profit of $800 if the team sealed the deal.

College football futures betting

The college football season can go by in a flash, but you can stay active all year from a betting perspective with futures opportunities:

  • Team to win the national title, make College Football Playoff or win its conference.
  • Regular-season win totals for all teams.
  • Heisman Trophy and other award winners.

There’s always a ton of interest in the national title picture and which squads will make the playoffs. You’ll see odds come out in the offseason with favorites to win it all looking something like this:

Clemson +200
Alabama +300
Ohio State +400

As with all futures markets, you can go with one of the favorites or pick a dark horse. For example, Notre Dame may have odds of +4,000 to win it all. A winning $100 bet at those odds would return $4,000.

College basketball futures betting

March Madness is one of the biggest betting events of the year, but there’s much more to college basketball. The futures market stays active year-round. These options occur annually:

  • Team to win the national title, make Final Four or win its conference.
  • Regular-season win totals for all teams.
  • Player of the Year and other award winners.

As you would expect, which teams will make the Final Four is one of the top choices. Odds for a few favorites could look like this:

Gonzaga +150
Villanova +200
Baylor +250

Winning $100 wagers will return a nice score if you pick the winner. However, it’s important to remember that futures betting requires a long-term perspective. Wins and losses won’t be determined until the outcome is final.

You can now place a bet on Illinois, Northwestern, DePaul or Loyola Chicago in the state, but only in person at retail sportsbooks. It is still prohibited online.

Golf futures betting

Golf continues to grow in popularity in betting circles. On the futures side, the biggest markets have to do with the winners of one of the four major tournaments:

  • British Open
  • Masters Tournament
  • PGA Championship
  • US Open

If you were looking ahead to the next edition of the Masters, you might see that the odds on the favorites look like this:

Bryson DeChambeau +800
Jon Rahm +950
Rory McIlroy +1,100

It’s important to remember that there will be movement on the odds board from when the odds are released until the event takes place. If you find a good sleeper before the rest of the market catches on, you’d be in for quite a haul if that golfer wins the Masters.

Tennis futures betting

Tennis is the same as golf because both see a rising interest, especially when it comes to what moves the futures’ needle. The winners of the Grand Slam events are subject to speculation all year:

  • Wimbledon
  • US Open
  • French Open
  • Australian Open

You’ll find tennis odds for men’s and women’s matches for all the potentially competing players. Favorites on the women’s side at Wimbledon might look like this:

Ashleigh Barty +700
Serena Williams +900
Bianca Andreescu +800

In addition to being potentially lucrative for winning bettors, the futures market also makes for an excellent research tool. As you prepare to handicap a regular tennis tournament, the futures odds board can give you some insight into which players are the favorites to win.

What other futures markets are available?

The markets we outlined are the biggest movers in the futures market, though other opportunities attract a good deal of action. In NASCAR, bets on the winner of the Daytona 500 or season-long championship are quite popular.

For soccer, you’ll find markets for the winners of the MLS Cup, Premier League, World Cup and various other international competitions. In short, there’s a little something for everyone to be found in sports betting futures.

How to handicap a futures bet

Handicapping futures wagers is a bit different from breaking down single games and events. You have to take a long-term view on how a season as a whole will play out. Or consider what the results of a competition will be that’s not happening for several months. Here are a few tips:

  • Look for Sleepers that Could Surprise: The futures market odds board may have some clear favorites, followed by midrange contenders and then everyone else. There’s fantastic value to be found, so be sure to study up on sleepers who may surprise. A winning ticket at four- or five-digit odds can pay off.
  • Don’t be Shy about Spreading Out the Risk: When looking at futures betting odds, it can help to break the board down into tiers: favorites, possibilities and long-shots. As you research, try to pick out a few choices from each category. When it’s time to bet, choose your favorites from each group. It’ll give you both extra rooting interest and chances to profit down the road.
  • Be Sure to Shop Around: Futures odds at major operators may be in the same range upon release, but they won’t always stay there. You can find some extra value by taking the time to look at the prices at different shops. As a reminder, our futures odds feed pulls together the latest numbers from multiple books in a single spot.

As you begin betting on futures, there are a few things you shouldn’t do. Here are a few to avoid.

  • Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket: While it’s good to have strong convictions about your picks, it’s important to remember that there are no guarantees with sports betting. When betting on futures for a specific market, spread out the risk a little bit.
  • Don’t Tie Up Funds that You Would Miss: Futures betting requires a long-term perspective. The funds you use for wagering in these markets shouldn’t be part of the bankroll you need for regular wagering purposes. You should only bet with amounts you are comfortable with at all times. Always bet with your head, and never over it.
  • Don’t Get Caught in the Hype of Preseason Darlings: Each offseason, some teams and players capture the imagination of the sporting press and, by extension, the general public. Sometimes the hype is warranted, but it’s also often way off the mark. Don’t feel obligated to place a futures bet on the “hot” team or player unless your research also justifies it.

What to remember about futures betting

The futures market provides bettors a chance to stay engaged with the sports they love all year. These are wagers on an outcome that won’t be known until much later, such as the next NBA Finals winner or the tennis player to win Wimbledon next year.

Odds come out in the offseason, with the market staying quite active from there. You’ll see lots of movement in the numbers as a result. Shopping around for the best prices is always a good idea. A well-timed futures bet can deliver some exceptional returns.

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