Updated Updated: August 29, 2019

Futures Bets

Futures bets are a variety of special bets that bookmakers offer to increase betting options for punters. Futures bets have their share of advantages and disadvantages.

Some punters will refer to futures betting as a ‘sucker’s bet’ and will advise others to stay as far away from them as possible. Other bettors will swear by futures bets and proudly show you their winning betting slip.

It is important to have an in-depth understanding of how they work before you can decide on your own if you want to try futures bets. One thing is for certain if you are short-term oriented and looking to make some quick money, this betting market is not for you.

What Is A Future Bet?

A future bet is exactly what it sounds like: a bet placed on an outcome of an event that will be determined in the future. Obviously, all types of bets are on a future outcome. Bookies would cease to exist if we could bet on something that already took place.

futures betting

Futures bets are on an outcome that will take place in the distant future, it could be weeks but more often than not months away. So from the very start, it is a long-term investment bet that you have to be patient to wait on its return. Similar to stock markets or cryptocurrency trading, where you buy something at a certain price and hope that in one year it will have increased its value to earn you a nice profit.

These bets are most commonly used in sports betting but they can also be found in other markets, such as entertainment, politics or virtual sports (eSports). Futures bets are available before the start of a sporting event or competition. In some cases, depending on the length of the event, you can also find futures bets once the event has started. Odds will fluctuate pretty drastically depending on participants’ performances along the way.

Some practical examples of future bets would be:

  • Sports Betting – Manchester United to win the Premier League 2019/2020 edition
  • Entertainment – Spain to win the Eurovision 2020 song contest
  • Political – Ireland to leave the European Union by 2022
  • eSports – team Astralis to win the 2020 Intel Extreme Masters

While betting on the winner of a sporting event is the most popular form of futures bets, there are also other markets available depending on the bookies and event. For example in the Premier League, you could also bet on who will be the top goal scorer, the number of games a team will win, team to be relegated and many others.

How Are Futures Bets Paid?

Futures bets are paid once an event has finished and the outcome of your bet has been determined. Most bookies will only pay out at the very end of the competition, even though the winner is known prior to that. This is an important rule to be aware of when you put together your futures bets strategy and budget.

The odds that are paid out are the odds offered at the time of your bet. If you bet £100 on Barcelona to win La Liga at 4/1 odds, you will be paid £500 as long as Barcelona does win.

Odds before the start of a competition can drastically vary from those available during a competition. It is up to you to be vigilant and find value bets at the best opportunity.

The Pros Of Futures Bets

  • Potential for bigger wins – odds on future bets are higher and more appealing than on other markets. While a 7/1 odd will be 7/1 no matter if it’s in-play, pre-match or pre-season, it does look more attainable in futures bets. When you combine several futures bets, you can see how the odds can quickly jump. You have the potential to win big with relatively small stakes.
  • Cost-effective – because of the high odds and long time period it takes for the outcome to be determined, futures bets are considered by many as the most cost-effective betting option.
  • Long term interest and fun – if you bet on Manchester United to win the next Premier League edition, you will have 38 matches to follow that will each influence the final outcome. That’s a lot of football for one bet. But it does keep you interested in the long season and makes it more entertaining to watch them play match after match. If you are a Manchester United fan, this futures bets combines pleasure with a chance of winning some money at season’s end.

Converting Futures Bets To Implied Probabilities

Implied probability is crucial in finding value futures bets. It converts traditional odds into a percentage form, taking into account a bookmakers juice’ or ‘vig’. It represents the probability of an outcome occurring. If you think the probability of an outcome is higher than the ones reflected by the bookmaker’s odds, you have identified a value bet.

First of all, the ‘juice’ or ‘vig’ is the bookmaker’s margin. It is a necessary evil in order for the bookies to keep operating. When you take into account the ‘juice’ or ‘vig’, the implied probability of a futures bet will go above 100%. The number that goes over 100% is the sportsbooks’ fee.

To convert futures bets to implied probabilities it can be a little tricky, especially if math is not your friend. But there is a formula you can follow by simply inputting the values where needed.

Let’s look at the formula for converting futures bets from fractional odds, as they are the most common in the UK, into implied probability:


Implied Probability =
(Denominator) x 100
(Denominator + Numerator)
implied probability

Let’s take a look at a real-life example to get a better understanding. Paddy Power has the top 4 favourite teams to win the new Premier League season set at the following odds:

●       Manchester City      8/13 ●       Liverpool                  23/10 ●       Tottenham      16/1 ●       Chelsea           25/1

Using the above formula, we can find the implied probability of each futures bet as follows:

Manchester City: (13/21) * 100 =
Liverpool: (10/33) * 100 =           
Tottenham: (1/17) * 100 =           
Chelsea: (1/26) * 100 =    
61.90%
30.30%
5.88%
3.85%

If you add up all the implied probabilities you will see the total adds up to 101.93%. The 1.93% is the ‘juice’ or ‘vig’ of the bookmaker, their cut.

To put all this to good use, you want to make sure the actual probability of an outcome is greater than the bookmakers’ implied probability. You determine the actual probability by how likely you think an outcome will be when you take into account all your betting criteria (statistics, line-up, budget etc.).

From the example above, if you determine Liverpool has an actual probability of 40% at winning the Premier League, you have identified a value bet as 40% is higher than the bookmaker’s 30.30%.

There is also a formula to determine value bets:

Value Bets = (Actual Probability/Implied Probability) – 1

As long as the result is positive, higher than 0.00, you have identified a value bet. In the Liverpool example, there is a .33 value on for it to win, or 33%.

Futures Bet Tips And Strategies

Strategy Hedging Bets

The most lucrative strategy on futures betting revolves around the concept of hedging. Hedging your futures bets is a strategy to secure profits. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Hedging is most successful when your original bet is doing well. As a rule of thumb, you will normally find better value odds before the start of a sporting event or competition. Once it starts, the odds will go higher or lower depending on the results. When your futures bet is doing well and its odds drop as the competition progresses, that’s where the hedging opportunity comes in.
  2. Hedging is most commonly used at the end of the competition, especially in the final round. However, you can use hedging at any time during the season when the odds change sufficiently.
  3. To identify the right opportunity for hedging your futures bet, you have to monitor how the odds change for the duration of the season.
  4. Hedging usually requires a higher stake than the one placed on the original futures bet.
  5. Hedging is a trade-off between a high payout and a guaranteed payout. 

Let’s put all that into a practical example to see how it works:

  • You bet £500 on England to win the World Cup before it starts, at 10/1 odds. Potential profit £5000.
  • England makes it all the way to the final against Croatia. England now has 3/5 odds while Croatia 2/1.
  • You’re hedging your futures bet and stake £1000 on Croatia to win. Potential profit £2000.

There are obviously two potential outcomes. If England wins, you make £4000 profit (£5000 profit – £1000 from your lost hedge bet on Croatia). If Croatia wins, you make £1500 profit (£2000 profit – £500 the original stake England).

Either way, you walk away with some profit and that’s what makes hedging futures bets so powerful when used right.

Other Futures Betting Tips

  • You need to have a long term mentality when using futures bets. Don’t get disappointed if your team loses over the weekend, don’t get too excited if they win. It is a marathon and not a sprint, the end result of the season is what counts.
  • Shop around at various bookmakers to find the best odds for your futures bet selection.
  • Pick multiple winners to increase your chances at winning some profit. Some people overlook the fact that you can pick multiple teams, players or participants to win and still make some money so long as one of them wins. This works because futures bets have higher odds than normal betting markets. Using multiple winners decreases your profit as one bet will be a winner while the other will lose. However, at the end of the day, profit is profit.

The cons of futures bets

  • Unpredictability – futures bets are risky and uncertain. It is hard enough to predict the outcome of a single match, where so many unpredictable things can happen in 90 minutes of play time: injuries, red cards, bad weather. These uncertainties exponentially increase when you look at a team’s performance in the overall season rather than a single match.
  • Money tied up – futures bets outcomes are settled in the distant future from the time you place the bet. If you do choose a winning futures bet, you will have to wait weeks or months until you will be able to receive your payout.

Futures Sports Betting Examples

 Premier League

Remember when Leicester City sent a shock wave in the world of football when it won the Premier League in 2015-2016? It was quite the Cinderella run as they were definitely not seen as favourites by the bookies.

In fact, before the start of the Premier League that season, you would find Leicester City with futures bets odds of 5000/1 at most bookies. A measly £2 stake on them would’ve returned you £10,000. The popular UK bookmaker Ladbrokes wasn’t too thrilled with this results, as this cost them almost £30 million in payouts.

This is a fairy tale example but it does show the huge potential of futures bets.

Q&A

  1. Where can you find futures bets in online bookies?
    Most online bookies won’t have a dedicated futures bets section. Instead, you will find futures bets under their “Outright” markets. You still have to navigate to your chosen sport, then the chosen league and you will find their outright betting options. Futures bets and outright bets mean the exact same thing. 
  2. Are futures bets only used in sports betting? 
    No. It is true that they are most popular in sports betting: football, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, American football etc. However, you can find futures bets on politics, entertainment and others depending on the bookies. Most UK bookies have a novelty & special bets section where you will find such bets. For example, betting on who will win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award is a futures bet.
  3. If I miss the chance to place a futures bet before the beginning of the season, am I out of luck?
    Luckily no, most bookmakers will continue to offer futures betting throughout the season/competition. The odds will be adjusted according to the results of each round. While usually there are better odds before the start of the season, you can still find some value bets even close to the end of the season.
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