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Futures betting is one of the most popular types of betting on sports there is, as it allows bettors to wager on bigger picture, longer-term outcomes. By betting on what will happen over the course of a season, a playoff run, or a particular tournament, bettors can find a great deal of value by placing effective futures bets.

How Futures Bets Work

Futures bets are very simple: sportsbooks lay out a simple proposition, for example “NHL Stanley Cup – Odds to Win” with a number of options below it. The bet will usually cover a long period of time, thus the name “futures,” and generally covers a large-scale outcome, like a championship, division title, or tournament championship.

For an example, let’s look at the chase for sports’ most illustrious trophy, the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup. Before each season, sportsbooks will set the odds on the likelihood that each of the 30 teams in the league will win the Cup come June. Those odds will be expressed as prices that indicate how much value a bettor will receive if they successfully predict the eventual winner.

A few of futures odds for Lord Stanley’s mug in a given year might look like this:

Boston Bruins +400
Pittsburgh Penguins +800
Philadelphia Flyers +1,200
Edmonton Oilers +8,000

In this example, the Bruins (typically a contender in the NHL’s Eastern Conference) are the favorite to make the playoffs and then survive four gruelling series to win it all, while the Edmonton Oilers—a far cry from the team that dominated hockey in the 90’s—are considered extremely unlikely to win the Cup.

The value of each bet is based on the number next to the + sign, and relates to the amount a $100 wager would pay out. For example, a $100 bet on the Flyers in this example would pay out $1,200 if Philadelphia won it all.

Futures Odds Change

An important characteristic of futures odds to understand is that they are constantly shifting. As the season goes on, linesmakers will adjust the odds based on the way a team is playing, what injuries of trades have happened with the team, etc.

Get ‘Em While They’re Down

Because odds adjust to a team’s fortunes, a good time to bet a team’s futures odds is when they are suffering a bit of a drought…so long as you are confident they will rebound when it matters most.

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