Of all the endless ways to bet on sports, futures betting requires the most patience. Not only is it challenging to wait several months while your bankroll hangs in the balance, but the variables that are encountered during the season are a reminder that sports is largely unpredictable.
With all of that being said, I believe that futures bets provide some of the best opportunities to win money. You don’t need to have psychic powers to be successful – just some risk-tolerance and a good strategy.
In this article, I’ll lay out the 4 most common futures betting mistakes and explain what to do instead.
1 – Not Thinking of Value as a Priority
While the idea of betting with value in mind should be the way you approach betting whether it’s live betting a quarter of an NBA game or betting on next year’s AFC North division champion in the NFL, it’s especially important when making futures bets.
The reason value is so important – even more so than with any other bet – is that you can “package” several bets together which gives you a much better chance to end up being profitable.
When looking at odds for the upcoming year’s NFL season, the futures odds for eventual Super Bowl winner are (these are fake numbers, by the way) Buccaneers +500, Seahawks +700, Patriots +800. Now, obviously if you bet on any of these teams and they win, you’re going to have a nice payday. But if you only choose one, you only have one way to win.
It’s important to understand value so you can make multiple picks, while making sure that if one of your teams wins, you’ll be able to cover the losses from your other bets. Additionally, you don’t want to “overpay” on any bet, even if it seems like a likely outcome.
It varies from bet-to-bet, but there are a few hard rules that should exist when looking at futures bets. First, stay out of any play that requires you to risk more than you stand to win. Whereas in a regular single-game bet it’s okay to accept -110 odds, the same can’t be said for futures bets.
It should be noted that if a bet has worse odds that +100, that’s the sportsbook’s way of saying that outcome is extremely likely. In my opinion, the best play in a situation like that is to simply lay off. The value just isn’t there.
2 – Not Looking at the Schedule
Accurately predicting what a team’s final record will be is a challenge in any sport. With injuries, trades, and all the other unexpected occurrences that happen during the course of a season, sometimes you really are just guessing. But shouldn’t you be trying to at least make a more educated guess?
This doesn’t apply to the MLB or NBA because the volume of games is too much to break down (although there is some strength of schedule data in the NBA that can be used – even before the season starts). But, if you’re betting NFL futures, you should be looking at the schedule before you put any money on the line.
It’s been said that when NFL players get the schedule for the upcoming year, they go through it and mentally (or sometimes literally) mark down games as “W’s,” L’s,” or undetermined. If you want to have any success betting NFL futures, you should be doing the same thing.
If you’re thinking “doesn’t the sportsbook take the schedule into account when setting the odds?” The answer is, of course they do. However, they’re also taking into account the fact that many bettors won’t look at the schedules for themselves, and are going to bet “over” or “under” simply based on the number the sportsbook provides.
It’s not a complicated concept – before making a futures bet on a team’s success, check out the schedule and see if the path is evident.
3 – Ignoring the Underdogs
When thinking of futures betting in terms of value, the most overlooked option is the mid-range underdog. For the sake of laying out the point, I’m referring to the teams that have between the 10th and 20th best odds in whatever futures betting category you’re looking at playing.
Because it’s the most popular sport to bet in America, I’ll stick to the NFL. The teams that the sportsbooks have deemed most likely to win it all are going to be around 10 to 1. This isn’t bad, you should be giving yourself the opportunity to win big.
This probably goes without saying, but don’t waste your money betting on teams at the bottom of the league. I suppose an argument could be made about making a bet on a longshot to win a division title or even a playoff game, but if you bet on bad teams to go any further than that, you’re giving money away.
Though betting on some of the bottom-tier teams isn’t a good idea, the value that’s found in the 15 to 20th-best odds range is hard to ignore.
Let me be clear, when I talk about betting on the teams in this range, I’m doing it with the idea of “taking a flyer” in mind. It’s not worth risking a significant amount of money on these plays, but any time you can put yourself in a low-risk, high-reward situation, it’s good to jump on the opportunity.
Heading in the 2021-2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the 18th-best odds to win the Super Bowl. In this case, that means you can bet $10 to win $300. Even if you don’t really think that the Steelers have a chance to win, you have to admit, those odds are enticing.
The bottom line is that when you bet with value as a top priority, you realize that betting isn’t so much about predicting the outcome with perfect accuracy. Instead, it’s about giving yourself the most possible options to be successful while minimizing the risk it takes to get there.
4 – Only Looking at One Sportsbook
With the legalization of gambling happening in dozens of states across the U.S., there’s no longer an excuse to stick to one sportsbook simply because you know it works and you’re comfortable with the platform.
I understand the argument that says sportsbooks usually have the same odds in terms of point spreads for sporting events. While that’s not exactly true, it’s an argument for another day. When you’re talking about the odds on futures events the variance is significant across different betting sites.
If you’re of the opinion that it doesn’t really matter which site you choose, think of it this way: If you’re shopping for the newest iPhone and one website has it listed for $899 and another site has it listed at $849, it seems obvious that you’d go with the cheaper option. Yes, it’s still very expensive in both cases, but it just doesn’t make logical sense to buy the same product at a more expensive price.
Sure, it’s not a massive difference, but if one site gives you more value, don’t ignore that.
It can be hard to recognize it at the time, but over the course of hundreds of bets it all starts to add up. The margins between losing money and winning money are often very slim, and finding the best odds for your plays is one way to ensure you’re not losing more money out of sheer laziness.
To reiterate once more, if you’re not shopping around for the best odds on futures bets because the odds usually don’t differ on single-game plays, you need to change your mindset. The extra time and effort is what separates winning bettors from losing bettors.
Futures bets are hard to win, but if you take the time to do your homework, and have the patience to wait for the results, there’s serious money to be made. The odds are typically very favorable, and in terms of risk vs. reward, futures bets are hard to beat.
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