If you could predict the future you could be a very rich sports bettor. Even without a crystal ball, though, an astute bargain shopper can often find attractive potential profits through futures betting. Futures betting is pretty much what it sounds like - you bet before a season starts on how it is going to end. In the NFL, for example, you could bet on which team is going to win the Super Bowl, or the AFC or NFC, or even each division. The same goes for any of the other major sports, including NASCAR. The major sports let you get more specific as well, choosing which players will have the best stats, or virtually anything else. You can bet on who will win the Kentucky Derby while the horses are still just two years old. Basically, if there is eventually going to be a winner at some point in the future, some book somewhere will let you make a futures bet on it.
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The allure of future bets is obvious - the payouts can be gigantic. Every time a team comes from nowhere to win it all, the stories of instant riches spread like wildfire. Based on the payouts, few people expected the St. Louis Rams to win it all with former grocery clerk Kurt Warner at the helm, and practically no one saw either of the Florida Marlins' World Series victories clearly six months in advance. Just a couple of dollars could have turned into thousands if you had bought a winning ticket on those teams or any of the other big surprises that sports can provide us.
If you want to be successful in futures betting you have to go into it with a sound approach. Here are a few tips you will want to keep in mind:
1. Look for extreme value. When you make a bet your money is going to be tied up and of no use to you for several months. That only makes sense if there is the prospect of a serious payoff waiting at the end of the line. If you think that the futures odds that are being offered are pretty much reflective of the likelihood of a particular event happening then you should stay away from the bet. You only want to make this kind of bet if the price is a significant overlay in your mind. Say, for example, that you think the Pistons have about a one-in-10 chance of winning the NBA Finals. At 30/1 you would have to seriously consider a wager, but at 12/1 it wouldn't be worth the investment.
2. Limit your exposure. You don't want to be in a situation where a significant part of your bankroll is tied up in futures bets. That will limit the action you can have during the season, and it will make for a pretty dull year. Set aside a specific amount of money you want to invest, and then find the best places for it. Strategically choosing the number and amount of your bets will help you succeed when it comes time for your bets to pay off. You especially want to make sure that you aren't making bets on so many different possibilities that you can't make a significant profit even if you do win. If you think that 10 different teams stand a good chance of winning the Super Bowl then you probably shouldn't be making futures bets because you'll lose so many bets that your profits will disappear.
3. Shop around. Many futures bets aren't bet particularly heavily, so the odds or terms offered by different books will often vary widely. Books will sometimes make odds more attractive than their competitors to get more action. Spending the time looking around for the best price at different books can often earn you an extra few points on each bet and can lead to significantly bigger profits if and when your bets pay off.
4. Strategically consider which sports you play. In the NBA you almost always see the best teams emerge through the playoffs, and serious upsets are rare past the first round. NBA futures betting, then, is mostly a matter of choosing between favorites. The NFL and MLB change more often and teams can emerge from nowhere, so it can be more reasonable to back a well-researched longshot. In the NHL teams can surprise, but for the most part Cup winners are teams that have previously made the playoffs in recent years, so a complete dark horse is a risky bet. You need to look at what kind of teams have emerged victorious in recent years, what if any characteristics they share, and which teams have similar traits in order to make bets that make sense.
5. Have fun. Though futures betting can be lucrative and some people do very well at it, it is by nature an incredibly risky bet, and it doesn't always make a lot of sense. If you are a reasonably sound handicapper then you probably stand a better chance of making a profit over the season by betting the money on sides or totals during the season instead of tying it up on one bet. If you are going to make the bets, then, it is important that a big part of your motivation is to have fun. It can be very exciting to have a cheering interest through the year, especially if the big payoff looms closer as the season draws to an end. Make futures bets smartly, and use sound logic, but make sure you enjoy them, too.