by Rob Gillespie, President of Bodog.com
"What are the odds that David and Victoria Beckham will divorce before Christmas?" "Who will win the Super Bowl this year?"
Props: Sometimes serious but always good fun, props are unusual betting opportunities that can add a new level of excitement to whatever it is that you're watching, be it a major celebrity, sports or television event.
Futures: Odds posted in advance on the winners of various major sporting events, including the World Series, NBA Championship, Stanley Cup, and Super Bowl, and can also be a valuable source of entertainment.
Here's how you can use both props and futures to get more bang for your betting buck.
Betting on Futures
Many bettors simply do not have enough of a bankroll to tie their funds up for months at a time betting futures, but those bets can be very profitable. For example, bettors who took the St. Louis Rams to win the Super Bowl at the start of the 1999 NFL season were getting them as high as 300/1. In addition to the potential for a big pay day, there really is no more rewarding win than cashing in a winner on your favorite team that was placed months ago.
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Here are my thoughts on the best ways to play futures. First, the general rule is the earlier you bet, the higher your payoff. Predicting the Red Sox would win the World Series after the Yankees signed A-Rod might have gotten you 7/1 or 8/1 odds. Betting them a month into the season paid only 4/1 to 6/1 and betting them in September was closer to 2/1.
So, if you think one particular team is going to have a really big year, have a look before the season and you might see some value there and choose to bet on that team, especially if they are not one of the top favorites.
The lines on heavy favorites won't move much early in the season, so you can probably wait a little while to make sure you don't get stung with a big injury in the early weeks. You may even get lucky with a good team that struggles early and get some extra value. The Packers were not a heavy favorite to start the year, but they did go from 15/1 to 65/1 after their rough start. Now, after 3 straight wins, they are 30/1 on the futures board, but those that got them at 65/1 are pretty happy.
Be careful betting hot teams early, such as the Seahawks or Falcons. Lots of people jump on the bandwagon and the odds can be driven way down. Seattle is at 15/1 now, but had lots of takers at 6/1 after their 3-0 start. Hot teams like that can be a bit overrated so there's no real way to capitalize on these teams, other than knowing that by being somewhat overpriced they may drive down other prices and give value to other teams in their division or conference.
The odds for futures bets depend almost entirely on action at the book in question, so the lines will vary widely. If I take a bet for $5000 on the Raiders to win the Super Bowl, my line for Oakland will be very different than the next book you check. This means the key to winning a big payout with a futures bet is to shop around for the best lines. Keep in mind that bookmakers in Vegas can be influenced by geography; very frequently their odds on the Raiders, 49ers, Broncos, etc. are lower than any of the Internet sportsbooks. That's largely because they get a lot of drive-up traffic from people living nearby in the bordering states, all wanting to bet on their favorite teams to win the championship.
Also, be sure to check your team's immediate schedule before betting. If they have 3 really tough games coming up that you think they might struggle with, you might want to hold off and see if you can get a higher price. However, if you think they are about to rattle off 5 straight wins, you will want to get your bet in ASAP.
One last strategy point on futures is that if your team makes it to the Super Bowl, World Series, etc. be sure to have a look at locking in a profit.
For example, let's roll back the clocks on this year's World Series. Let's say that back in April, at 18-1, you bet $100 on the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. Now, when the Series started you could have put down $800 down on the Red Sox to win $500. If St. Louis had won you would have lost that $800, but you would have still been up $1000 overall. On the flip side, you would now be up $400 instead of out $100. The World Series would have been a no-lose bet for you, unless of course you are a Yankees fan.
Betting on Props
Props, on the other hand, are something that you can bet on in the short term. A prop bet is a wager that is not directly related to the final score of the game (or event). For example, if your favorite baseball team is playing and you don't really have a feel for the outcome of the game, you might still have a feel for the pitchers or some of the players. You could place a prop bet or two on how those pitchers or players might do and that make watching the game more exciting.
Fantasy sports is booming right now and by placing wagers on players who you feel may have a good game, props are also a great way for you to profit on your fantasy team.
I don't have any real tips for props as there are so many different ones out there, but make sure to do your homework.
I've seen bettors jump on the over for a running back where the over/under rushing yards is 90.5 thinking, "this guy is a 1000-yard rusher, 91 yards is no problem," without stopping to think that 1000 yards is only 62.5 yards per game! Be sure to check both sides (the player you are betting on might be hot, but what about the opposing team or player?). And make sure you shop for the best line as well.
Props are growing very quickly, but still make up just 1% or so of our business. The next step will likely be play-by-play betting in football and baseball, but because of the limited amount of time involved (for books to post lines, for bettors to select a bet and then to place their wager and confirm their bets), there is still some work to be done.
The enjoyment of your wagering experience with us is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bodog experience.
Good luck with your wagers!
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Also, read last week's Frontline article on NFL halftime point spreads.