How to make a futures bet
The Rams proved to be a great futures bet after Matthew Stafford led them to a Super Bowl victory. Photo by Frank Franklin II/AP.

The futures market is a completely different way of betting than the day-to-day plays that many indulge in.

Each game night, there are several betting markets available to wager on from the moneyline to the point spread, as well as player props and game totals. Those bets are settled the same night once the contest comes to a close. You either win or lose once the final game stats are recorded.

But a futures bet, unlike those other markets, isn't settled the same night you make your wager. It's more of a long-term play on season-long outcomes, like championship winners and individual awards such as MVP winners. 

How to bet on futures

Many futures markets become live at the end of a league’s season and stay open throughout the duration of it. That gives bettors plenty of chances to enter the market.

An example of a futures bet would be placing a wager on the Super Bowl champion. Upon the conclusion of a season, sportsbooks will set odds for the following year and allow you to bet on who you think will win the next Super Bowl. 

This market will then remain open throughout the NFL draft, free agency, and right into the next season. But a certain team’s odds could change drastically depending on how its offseason shakes out or how successful it is throughout the following campaign. 

Odds are constantly moving, sometimes from week to week, based on factors like performance and injuries.

How to bet on futures examples

The Los Angeles Rams, the reigning Super Bowl champs, jumped the futures odds board last offseason after trading for Matthew Stafford.

That means you would have profited more if you placed a bet on the Rams to win before they got him. Sportsbooks and gamblers, who influence lines based on who they wager on, deemed the Rams as a better bet to win with Stafford in the fold. Turns out they were right.

Let's stick with the NFL and look at another example. The New England Patriots became contenders by Christmas (around +1000 at many sportsbooks) after opening as a +6000 long shot.

If the Patriots won the Super Bowl, a bettor would have made $5000 more on a $100 bet had they taken the Pats at +6000 instead of +1000. 

While you're likely to get any player or team at plus-money odds before a season, the best will shorten their odds as the playoffs inch closer.

Some will become heavy favourites and this is when you will see a minus (-) sign before their odds. This was the case when players like Connor McDavid and Shohei Ohtani pulled ahead down the stretch of their MVP seasons.

Ohtani was +3000 to win MVP at some sportsbooks during last spring training. That means a $100 wager would have returned $3000 in profit. The two-way star became such a heavy favourite by August and into September that a futures bet on him to win at that point had essentially no value.

At -2500 to win, which he was at times during that stretch, it would have taken a $100 wager just to win $4.

A futures MVP bet on Ohtani ahead of last season proved to be a great investment. Photo by Elaine Thompson/AP.

Searching for value and knowing when to strike in the futures market is key. It's also a more difficult market to have success in. That's because you are placing bets when all or most teams/players have a chance at winning. Or, as in the Ohtani example, at a time when the favourites have little value.

While we focused on the NFL, the Big Four sports all have similar futures options.

Futures markets

You can place a bet on who you think will win the NBA championship or Stanley Cup.

The futures market also allows you to place bets on the winner of each sport's major awards. Think the Cy Young Award in baseball or the Rocket Richard Trophy in hockey.

You can also place a futures bet on a player's individual output. That includes how many goals they will record in a season or how many home runs they will hit.

These futures bets can be more team-specific, too. Popular options include betting on division and conference winners as well as how many wins a team will get.

Futures betting isn't limited to the Big Four — it's a market offered in everything from golf to soccer.

NorthStar Bets editorial Insiders have no influence, direct or otherwise, over the setting of odds advertised on our platforms.