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Future bets are proposition wagers on outcomes that are never decided in a single game, match or race. Common examples include which team will win the league championship, conference, or division as well as MVP races and regular season win totals. There are several reasons this form of wagering greatly appeals to fans. First off, who wouldn’t love the shot at a big payday should their favorite team win the Super Bowl? Also, once the fan makes it to the sportsbook, other bets, such as over/under on regular season wins (RSWs) for teams they both love and hate often get placed. If you’re not well versed in future betting strategy and are tempted to make bets, continue reading this article where I provide helpful future betting advice followed with a breakdown on how to handicap regular season win totals (RSWs).
The Most Important Factor is Line Shopping
It doesn’t matter if you’re betting based on gut feel, systems, handicapping or predictive modeling, no matter what your skill level is shopping to get the best odds possible is vital to future betting. To illustrate this point I’ll share an actual example from last season when I was shopping NFL divisional odds. Taking only the best odds available for each selection (using multiple sites to find them) here is what I found for the NFC West:
ARIZONA CARDINALS +1700 (Bookmaker)
Seattle Seahawks +120 (Sportsbook)
Rams or 49ers +145 (TheGreek.com)
Notice I had to use three betting sites to find these lines, which covers all four teams in the division. At TheGreek, this wager covered BOTH the 49ers and Rams as a single bet, meaning it wasn’t +145 per team, but rather a situation where it was +145 and if either made it the bet was a winner. What’s amazing here is if you were to make the following three wagers you’d be guaranteed a win.
Bet One – $500 on Seahawks +120
Bet Two – $448.98 on the Ram/49ers +145
Bet Three: $61.11 on Cardinals +1700
If you add up $500 + $448.98 + $61.11 you’ll see you’ve made $1010.09 in wagers. Now go do the math on the three other wagers and you’ll see, no matter which of those wagers wins the return is $1,100. For example Bet One was $500 @ +120 which is risk $500 to win $600, if it wins you get your $500 stake + $600 win back yielding a $1100 return. It works out the same for all the other wagers as well – $448.98 @ +145 is $448.98 to win $651.02 which totals $1,000, AND $61.11 @ +1700 is $61.11 to win 1038.89 which also totals $1,100. Considering we’ve only risked $1010.09 and we’ve covered all 4 teams in the division we’re profiting $89.91 profit (8.9011% ROI) guaranteed no matter which team wins.
This situation was only available because of line shopping. Even though arbitrage opportunities such as this one happen only a few times a season, you’ll still get a far better payout when shopping lines instead of betting on the first offer you find. It’s not uncommon to find Colts +750 at several sites and then find another that has them at +1050. If you’re betting $100 per wager that’s an extra $300 you’ll make when your bet wins, just because you took a few extra minutes to shop the odds. The sites I suggest shopping are www.5dimes.com, www.bodog.eu, www.intertops.eu, and www.bookmaker.eu prior to making any bets. The more you shop the better, but never place a future bet without first comparing the odds you’re looking at to odds from three other sources.
Future Betting Strategy
Future Betting is generally considered a novelty form of wagering meant for sports fans, so beyond line shopping not too much has been written about future bets in the way of strategy. There are however some fundamentals many casual bettors lack understanding of that could be helpful in analyzing future bets. The first is the ability to calculate how much advantage a bookmaker has built into the lines. You see, when betting points spreads, if we have the options of Team A +7 -110 or their opponent Team B -7 -110 it’s easiest to spot that the -110 on each side is the bookmakers advantage. After all, this is a 50/50 bet so $1.10 risked would pay $1.10 if the odds were fair. Considering we lose an extra 10 cents half the time, the bookmaker has a 5 cent advantage for every $1.10 risked. So $0.05/$1.10 means their advantage is 4.55%. When looking at a future line that looks like this:
Which Team Will Win The AFC East?
New England Patriots -175
New York Jets +175
Miami Dolphins +900
Buffalo Bills +4000
Here’s a situation where spotting the bookmakers advantage is not visible to the naked eye. In order to calculate that advantage, we need to convert the money lines into implied probabilities. The math for that risk divided by return, so for example a -175 line is risk $175 to win $100 so the return is $275 ($175 stake + $100 win), for an underdog +900, the wager is $100 to win $900 so the return is $1000. I’ll do the math here quickly for each.
New England Patriots -175| $175/$275=63.64%
New York Jets +175 | $100/$275 =36.36%
Miami Dolphins +900 | $100/$1000=10.00%
Buffalo Bills +4000 $100/$4100=2.44%
If you add up all four implied probabilities you’ll see these total 112.44% meaning the bookmaker has massive advantage here. Chances are with this large of overround the bookmaker is not spreading the juice equally. If he was, we could calculate the true probabilities by dividing each team’s implied probability by the same 112.44% overround.
You see these now total 100%. To explain the Patriots are only going to win 56.6% of the time, yet betting them at -175 we’d need them to win 63.64%; once again, this why line shopping is important. Beyond that what’s important, when offered a multiway bet it’s a good idea to calculate the percent’s market, the higher the number is over 100% the larger the bookmaker’s advantage is, and the less chance value can be found.
Regular Seasons Win Totals
If you’re not burnt out yet with math, NFL Regular Season Win totals is a future bet solvable with simply math and logic. The starting point is to look not at a team’s win and loss record from last season, but rather to adjust and see how many games they would have if there was no luck involved in the season. To do this we use what’s called the Pythagorean Theorem for football which is (PF^2) / (PF^2+PA^2) * 16 = expected season win total, where PF is points for and PA is points against. Taking the 2010 New England Patriots who scored 518 and allowed 313 the formula solves as (518*518) / (518*518+313*313) *16 = 11.72. The Patriots actually won 14 games last season so their Pythagorean record of 11.72 wins suggest they had some luck and won 2.28 games more than expected.
Now this data is only a very basic starting point and needs adjustments. For starters most projections should be adjusted for regression towards the mean, because each season all teams in the league are doing their best to rebuild for a winning season, bad teams improve and dynasties eventually fade. As a general rule of thumb, teams with a record last season of 5.5 to 10.5 wins should be moved half a point toward an 8 win season (50/50) and really good or really bad teams should be moved a full point. So with that we’d move the Patriots expected wins to 10.72 games, unless we had a reason not to, which imo we do.
The 2011 Patriots actually improved this year, with the signing of Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. They also had young defense last year which has matured and should be well improved, everyone’s healthy and their losses are far offset by their gains. Considering all this, that one game adjustment for regression towards would be foolish. Patriots are well coached, have one the best QBs in the league, and have assembled an amazing team. With this I’m going to give them an extra half a game bringing their 11.72 to 12.22 wins.
The final adjustment to make is for their schedule. Their eight non divisional games are Chargers, Cowboys, Giants and Colts @ home, and Raiders, Steelers, Eagles, and Denver on the road. The one plus side with the Steelers games that takes place week 8, is the Patriots are at home Week 6 and then have a bye Week 7. The Steelers will not have had their bye week yet, and Week 7 are on the road playing a later game on the West Coast. That’s actually quite a significant added edge to the Patriots for the Pittsburgh game. Still this schedule is considerably tougher than last, and with that I’m going to take 1 win away from the Patriots and predict them to finish the season with 11.22 wins.
To give a rough rule of thumb every ½ game is worth about 50 cents on a Regular Season Wins betting line. So over 11 -110 is the same as over 10.5 -160. So with my predicted wins in tact here I’m going to set the lines at Patriots o11.5 +128 / u11.5 -128 and I’m going to set them at o11 -128 / u11 -128. Having entirely freehanded this article and not yet looked at regular season wins I went to Pinnacle Sports just now and see the line for the New England Patriots is o11.5 +108 u11.5 -126. There’s obviously no value here from a +EV perspective on the over as I set the fair price at +128. For the under I had -128 as the fair price and right now could take -126. This is too small of edge gain my interest, so I’ll check back in a few days shopping www.5dimes.com and other sites, and if I don’t find a bet worth making as a consolation I can take pride if the fact my analysis was near spot on with the market price; who know maybe someday I’ll be a bookmaker myself.
Conclusion on Future Betting
In this article I gave you some tips and write ups that will hopefully be instrumental and getting you to think like a winning sports bettor. Now if you’re just a fan having fun backing your favorite teams, the important point I’ll remind you is that line shopping is critical. Prior to making a bet always compare lines at www.5dimes.com, www.intertops.eu, www.bodog.eu, and www.bookmaker.eu. Other than that I hope this article had some value to you, and I wish you the best of luck this betting season.