Football Futures Bets Strategies
A great way to diversify your bets and find value when betting football is with futures bets. A futures bet is a wager that is typically decided by more than one game. In the NFL, this can be who will win the Super Bowl, who will make the playoffs, or who will win the division. In college football, this is often who will win the BCS Championship and who will make the college football playoffs.
These bets are usually made at the beginning of the season, but you can certainly make them at any point as long as the sportsbook is offering action. Below, our experts will walk you through everything you need to know to give yourself the best opportunity to make a profit betting football futures. We’ll give you the best approach to futures bets, the strategies, and tips to beat them, and the pitfalls you need to be careful to avoid.
Be Aware of the Lack of Liquidity
Before we dive into the strategy section of this guide, we want to make sure that you’re fully aware of one of the potential drawbacks to football futures bets. If you’re new to betting and have a limited bankroll, you might want to steer clear of these bets. Why? Well, when you make a futures bet, you’re betting on something that will not be decided until weeks or months down the road.
A sportsbook can’t pay out a bet until it has been decided. This means that the sportsbook is going to hold onto your money for those weeks or months until the end of the season. For example, if you bet on the Super Bowl winner at the beginning of the NFL season, even if you win, you won’t see that money until the end of the Super Bowl months and months later.
This certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make futures bets. They’re a great source of profit for a lot of experienced football bettors. But just be aware that once you make that bet, you won’t be seeing any of it until the end of the season or until what you’re betting on is decided.
Convert to Implied Probabilities
A great way to approach football futures is to convert your possible payouts into implied probabilities. An implied probability tells you the percentage chance that the sportsbook thinks something is going to happen based on what they are going to pay you out. The less likely something is to happen, the more that the sportsbook will pay you out.
For example, if something is 20% likely to happen versus something that is 60% likely to happen, you’ll get paid out much more money if you successfully bet on the 20% occurrence since it is less likely. By themselves, implied probabilities don’t tell you much. But when you compare them with the likelihood that you predict something to happen, you are able to see if there is value in a particular bet.
If you think something is more likely to happen than the sportsbook’s implied probability is, then there is value in that bet. For example, if the sportsbook is paying you out as if the team only has a 20% chance to win, but you think they actually have an 80% chance to win, that’s obviously a smart bet to make. You’ll be getting the extra money from the sportsbook because they think it’s unlikely, but you’ll win the bet more often because you think it is 80% likely to happen. All of this is, of course, contingent on the fact that your prediction is correct. Also, don’t ever expect to see this big of a difference in percentages; we just wanted to exaggerate to make a point.
Let’s take a look at some futures bets from before a recent NFL season. These are the odds for which team would win the AFC West.
- Los Angeles Chargers +125
- Kansas City Chiefs +275
- Oakland Raiders +350
- Denver Broncos +500
Using an implied probability calculator (which you can find anywhere on the web), we can convert these odds into the percentage chance the sportsbook thinks each has to win (based on the line they have). Remember, this is not their actual prediction, but just what the line dictates the percentage chance at. If you want to see the real percentage chance the sportsbook thinks a team has to win, check the opening lines only.
So, we convert these to implied probabilities and get this.
If you add all of these percentages up, you get 110%. If you’re confused, that’s okay. What you are seeing is the juice the sportsbook has worked into these picks. Remember they pay out less the more unlikely something is to happen. The fact that these add up to over 100% means the sportsbook is paying these bets out slightly worse than they “really” should be. This is how they work their profit in.
If you want to find the actual percentage chance that these numbers represent, you can divide each percentage by the total possible percentage points. So, to convert the Chargers 44.4% to the no-juice percentage, we take 44%/110%, which equals 40%. Here are the numbers converted for you in case you are curious.
If you add up the percentages now, they come out to 99.63%, or basically 100% (we rounded a few of the numbers). While this is good information to know, remember that you’re still going to need to beat the sportsbook juice to turn a profit, so continue using the implied probability with the juice included to make your calculations.
As we stated, these implied probabilities really do you no good with your futures bets by themselves. What you need to do now is calculate the percentage chance that you think each team has of winning the division. If that percentage is higher than the implied probability, you’ve found value and a bet that you should make.
For example, let’s say that you think the Chargers have a 50% chance of winning the division this year. Since 50% is greater than 44.4%, you would want to make this bet. Let’s say you were able to make this bet (or a similar value bet) 10 times in a row for $100 each time and that you were correct on the 50%. Let’s look at what that would look like for profit/loss.
Your total profit on these 10 season bets would be $125. Because you were correct, and the actual percentage the Chargers would win the division was higher than the implied probability, you turned a profit.
So, now that the math is out of the way, let’s talk about the takeaway. The approach you should be taking with football futures bet is to calculate the percentage chance you think each team has of winning and then compare that with the implied probabilities. If the percentage chance you predict is higher than the implied probability (with juice), then there is value, and you should make the bet.
Don’t Forget About Hedging
To understand the power of hedging, we’re going to choose a futures bet to work with. The opening odds for the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl in a past year were +3500. Huge underdogs, but anything is possible in the NFL. Let’s say that you feel the Chiefs are going to come out and shock the world, and you anticipate they are going to go all the way.
You decide to put your money where your mouth is and make a $100 bet on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. This means that if they pull it off, you will win $3500 in profit. The season carries on, and the Chiefs make the playoffs. Before you know it, they’ve won the AFC Championship and are headed to the Super Bowl to play the Los Angeles Rams.
Now, if the Chiefs win one more game, you win $3500! If they lose, though, you make nothing and lose $100. For a lot of you, this would probably make you sick. You feel like you went from someone who bet $100 to someone who is now betting $3500. Thankfully, there is a way to mitigate some of this risk and lock up a guaranteed profit. This is where hedging comes in.
What you do is you place a new bet on the team opposite of your futures bet. In this case, that would be the Los Angeles Rams. Let’s say for simplicity’s sake that both teams are equals and the odds on the Super Bowl moneyline are the following.
- Los Angeles Rams -110
- Kansas City Chiefs -110
If you wanted to guarantee yourself a win, you could make a bet on Rams for half the size of what you stand to win from the futures bet. So, half of $3500 is $1750. You would make a $1750 bet on the Rams. Now, this might sound crazy to you, especially because the point of this is to lower your risk and guarantee a win. But that is exactly what you’re doing. Let’s look at what happens if the Rams win or if the Chiefs win.
If the Chiefs win the game, you will get paid $3500 in profit on your futures bet, but you will lose $1750 on your Rams bet. Still, you come out with a profit of $1750.
If the Rams win the game, you will lose your futures bet. But you will win your $1750 Rams bet at (-110), which would pay a profit of $1590.91. In this scenario, you come out with a profit of $1490.91 ($100 taken out that you lost on your futures bet).
So, no matter which team wins, you are going to walk away with a huge profit. If the Chiefs win, you get $1750, and if the Rams win, you get $1490.91. By betting against yourself, you guarantee yourself a smaller profit. Sure, you aren’t going to make the full $3500, but you are guaranteeing a win. For a lot of people, a couple thousand dollars of guaranteed money is better than risking walking away with zero.
You don’t have to bet exactly half of what you stand to win on your futures bet, either. You can change this amount up or down if you have a prediction on who you think is going to win the game. If you think the Chiefs are going to win and want to bet some on that, just bet less on your hedge bet. If you think the Rams are going to win, bet more on your hedge.
You can also hedge when there are more than two teams left like right before the AFC and NFC championship games. Keep in mind, though, that the more teams you hedge with, the less profit you’re going to get. If you do choose to hedge, make sure you triple-check your math and have a friend look over your bets. The worst thing you could do is make a large hedge bet and it not be on what guarantees you a win. This is rare, but make sure you fully understand your futures bet and your hedge bet to avoid any mix-ups.
Bet Multiple Teams to Win
While it may seem like a common-sense tip to some of you, there are many football futures bettors that don’t realize you can bet multiple teams for the same bet and still turn a profit if one of them wins. Yes, the more teams you bet, the lower your potential winnings would be, but the higher the likelihood you would win.
Here’s an example we pulled from the beginning NFL season futures bet odds on who would win the Super Bowl. We picked out the three biggest favorites to win.
- Patriots +500
- Rams +600
- Steelers +800
If you bet $100 on each of these three teams, you would win as long as one of them won the Super Bowl. These were not the bottom-of-the-barrel longshot teams. These were the three biggest favorites.
If the Patriots were to win, you would get $500 in profit from that bet minus the $100 you lose on the Rams bet and minus the $100 you lost on the Steelers bet. Your overall profit would be $300.
If the Rams won, you would get an overall profit of $400, and if the Steelers won, you’d see a healthy $600 in profit.
Sure, if you only bet the Steelers, and they won, you would make an extra couple hundred dollars. But if you were wrong about them, would it be worth giving up the potential for $200 extra to have the two odds-on favorites be winners for you, too? Some sports bettors might refer to this as insurance. Regardless of what you call it, it’s an effective strategy if you’re looking to lower the variance on futures bets. You aren’t getting yourself any “better odds,” but you may be more interested in the lower-variance approach to futures bets.
Don’t Ignore Changes in Coaching Staff
A lot of times, futures bets are made prior to the beginning of the football season. This can make it challenging to pick winners, as there are going to be so many variables that are undecided. While this makes your job as a bettor more challenging, it does create a lot of opportunities to get value. If you’re able to successfully predict the effect of some of these unknown variables, you’re going to do very well at futures bets. If you can turn uncertainty into certainty, you’ll see a nice profit.
One of the biggest changes you might see take place during the off-season is a change to the coaching staff. When a team gets a new coach, you can expect there to be a lot of changes. NFL and college football coaches aren’t historically the kind to come in and leave the status quo and wait to make changes. They typically come in the door guns blazing ready to get things turned in the other direction. This is because teams usually aren’t firing their coaches when things are going well. There are some instances when coaches leave, and things are great, but they’re rare in the NFL (more common in college football).
What you need to do when deciding on your futures bets is figure out what sort of an impact this coaching change is going to have on the program. Is it going to give the team the boost they need to move back in the direction of winning, or is it going to torpedo the program and create a year of more uncertainty? This is a big decision you’re going to need to make when you’re getting into football futures before the season starts.
You can make the argument to wait until after the season starts to place your futures bet, but that might not be advised. If the team comes out hot, and the coaching change seems like a success, the odds are going to change. You won’t be able to get as good of odds (probably not even close) once the books see the quality of the new matchup. Sports betting is about making predictions before they happen, not chasing uncertainty that has already been decided.
Is that you should not only be looking at head coaches but also coaching and staff changes around the team. Changes in offensive and defensive coordinators can have as big of if not a bigger effect than a head coaching change. Even smaller coaching changes like WR/QB/RB coaches can have a big effect on a team’s success or failure throughout the season.
The takeaway here is to make sure you aren’t just looking at the players on each team. Remember that the coaches play a big role as well, and this needs to be factored into your futures bet predictions.
Futures bets are a great way to take advantage of your longer-term predictions for the football season. Whether you make your bets before the season or mid-season, you still have a lot of opportunities to turn a nice profit. As long as you are okay with a longer-term investment (the loss of liquidity), football futures bets could be great for you. If you use the tips our experts compiled here, you’ll be on your way to crushing football futures bets in no time.