Sports book futures bets are an increasing popular and potentially profitable way to wager on the outcome of a full season. There’s a few common mistakes that novice players make that can be easily avoided by paying attention to the following:
Don’t bet at the first place you look: In other words, shop around for the best price. This is essential to all aspects of sports betting, but especially important with futures wagers. You’ll find more disparity between prices from book to book on futures than any other betting proposition. From a theoretical standpoint, a little work can yield much better value. From a practical standpoint, that means a higher payout should you win. The reason for this is that individual sportsbooks’ aren’t as worried about what the other guys are doing as they are with most other bets. Once the futures “market” is set books move the lines almost exclusively on their own financial position. The market simply doesn’t respond as quickly to futures wagers as it does to individual game lines so it is essential to do the extra work to get the best price on your proposition.
Don’t fixate on picking the winner from a competitive field: This may sound like strange advice, but from a theoretical standpoint it makes perfect sense. As with every other element of sport wagering its crucial to always focus not on winners and losers, but on the value you’re getting on individual bets. For example, in most years there are several teams with a realistic shot of winning at the start of the NCAA basketball tournament. The problem is that these top teams invariably offer low paybacks that are less than their ‘true odds’ of winning. Every team is subject to the same variables like injuries, slumps, bad matchups but backing teams that are ‘under the radar’ at higher prices offer more compensation for these ‘risks’.
To put this in more theoretical terms, the “true odds” of Duke winning the NCAA Championship are almost certainly higher than the price we’re getting. Obviously, determining the “true odds”, or actual probability of a future event is an inexact science but think of it this way: if the NCAA tournament was played 100 times would Duke wind up winning 50 of those? Given the number of other good teams and the propensity for upsets along the way, its doubtful. For the sake of argument, lets say that Duke has a 33% chance to win the tournament. That means that I wouldn’t consider a bet on Duke to be a good value unless I was getting a price that a) accurately reflected the true probability of their winning and b) gave me some compensation for assuming the “risk of the unknown” inherent in taking the position so far in advance. At +500 I might be interested, but at +200 the value just isn’t there.
In a less competitive field, there can be instances where even a big favorite is a good value. For example, lets say a book was to take action on a bikini contest between a Victoria’s Secret supermodel and three members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The model would essentially be a 100% probability to win the contest, meaning that even a high chalk price would be a good value. Risking a lot of money to win a little is a tough thing to justify, however, even if the math makes sense.
Don’t get seduced by big underdogs: Sports betting is not a place to make the “big killing”. It may happen occasionally, but more often it doesn’t. While a sports book might offer a huge price on a cellar dwelling team to win the World Series, the big payback does not mean its a good value. On a practical level, there’s probably nothing wrong with throwing a few bucks on a wager like this with a huge payback if the impossible occurs. My only problem with this is that making too many bets like this just perpetuates bad sports betting habits. If you’re strictly a recreational player, no big deal. If you aspire to bet professionally, or at least want to pursue it with some degree of seriousness I’ve always maintained that you need to develop discipline that’s not situational. In other words, if you want to be a serious sports bettor you need to approach it with a consistent level of seriousness at all times. If you want to chase a huge, life altering jackpot go to Las Vegas and play the Megabucks slots or buy a Powerball ticket.
Simply stated, the concept of value works the same at the bottom of the wagering ladder as it does at the top. Even if you’re betting a big underdog at a huge price make sure that it accurately reflects the ‘true odds’ of the event occurring.
Don’t bet one-sided futures or propositions: Though many of these are not futures per se, a lot of sportsbooks offer silly propositions on nonsport events as a way to get publicity, or just to be funny. Its important to make a distinction between this type of silly bet and more realistic nonsport propositions which frequently present good wagering value. Im talking the really outlandish stuff here. Not too long ago, a sportsbook posted a line on Martians landing on earth and painting the White House red by the end of the year. The “YES” was +2500 or thereabouts, which is far from reflective of the “true odds” of this unlikely event. Even if you’re the type that collects classic Art Bell shows on tape and believes in UFOs you wouldn’t place the probability of this happening at more than a fraction of a percent. The book only offered the “YES” side of the proposition, meaning that you couldn’t lay even a huge price on the more likely outcome. Another book had a futures offering for what would happen first with Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis. All of the options were very unlikely–Ashton and Bruce fighting on PPV and my favorite–and the longest odds–Ashton, Bruce and Demi hopping in bed together and releasing a porno video documenting the event. You’d receive a sizable payback if any of the events ever transpired, but I’m not exactly sure how to compute the “true odds” on “when pigs fly.
Ross Everett is a widely published freelance writer and respected authority on sports betting odds comparison. He writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sportsbooks and betting odds portal sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and a kangaroo. He is currently working on an autobiography of former interior secretary James Watt.
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