Lisa Simpson once made the astute observation “gambling makes a good thing even better” (“Lisa the Greek” season 3 episode 14). The drawback to betting on sports, however, is that while gambling may make a sporting event more entertaining in the short term, your probability of winning money in the long term is almost impossible.
The “responsible” casual sports bettor is only prepared to gamble with money that s/he can afford to lose. Thus, wagering on a single game is not a realistic option for casual gamblers unless they have a significant amount of disposable income. For most people, betting $5.50 to win $5 does not provide the excitement they desire by betting on sports. Often, in an attempt to achieve a meaningful payout, the casual sports bettor resorts to making parlays.
Parlays increase the amount of games you require to win your wager. The more games you require to win your wager, the less likely you are to win that wager. As the likelihood of winning your wager decreases, your payout will increase. For example, winning a $5 standard four game parlay will pay you $50. The downside, of course, is that winning a four game parlay is more difficult than winning a single game. In the long run, though you will have a large payout once in a while, your $5 losses will add up.
Thus the responsible sports bettor is left with a difficult problem: “how do I maximize my ‘fun’ while minimizing the damage to my bankroll?” One potential solution to this problem comes in a type of wagering known as futures wagering. Futures wagering is exactly what it sounds like: betting on something that will happen in the future. You can bet on someone to win a league championship, conference, and division.
Futures wagering maximizes fun in two ways. First of all, you are able to get odds on a team you would not be able to get in single game wagering. For example, the Anaheim Ducks, last year’s Stanley Cup winner and this year’s favorite to win the Stanley Cup are available at odds of 8/1. You would be lucky to get a wager down at odds of 1/1 on Anaheim to win a single game. Second of all, for people without a favorite team, futures wagering provides a vehicle for a person to follow and cheer a specific team for a season. Occasionally a person can find a “longshot” team that is exceeding expectations. For example, the Pittsburgh Penguins were available early in the season for the generous price of 100/1. Though they lost in the first round of the playoffs, a $10 bet bought you a new favorite team and a chance to win $1000.
There are three main drawbacks of futures betting. First of all, for those interested in the immediate gratification aspect of gambling, your wager will not be settled until the season is over. Second of all, because the wager will not be settled until the season is over, the money you wager will be tied up for a period of months. Finally, to find value in a futures wager you will sometimes have to place wagers at sportsbooks that are not in the top tier of sportsbooks. Be very careful when placing a wager at a sportsbook, as it doesn’t matter how much money you win until the cheque from the sportsbook is in your hand!
Lets take a look at some futures highlights from last year:
– The best price on the Anaheim Ducks to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the 2006-2007 season was 16/1 (http://www.betandgame.com).
– As late as January, the Ottawa Senators could have been selected to win the Cup at odds of 20/1 (http://www.stanjames.com).
– Last year’s long-shot of the year was the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens were as high as 100/1 in early November after a slightly above average start (http://www.betfred.com). Even after a torrid second half where they challenged New Jersey for the Atlantic Division and were prevented from finishing fourth and knocked out in the playoffs by a Senators team that went 31-7-8 in their last 46 games, the Penguins were still available at 25/1 as late as March (http://www.centrebet.com).
– The runner up for long-shot of the year was the New York Islanders. Until the Chris Simon incident and Rick DiPietro concussion sent the Islanders into a late season tailspin, they were gelling as a team and firmly in control of a playoff spot. Throughout the season they were available at odds of 80/1 and 66/1 (http://www.stanjames.com). The high point for the Islanders’ season came at the trade deadline, when a team already exceeding expectations acquired gritty performer and bona-fide good Canadian kid Ryan Smith. On that day, they were still available at odds of 60/1 (http://www.canbet.com)!
Over the course of the hockey season, I will provide advice on buying and selling futures bets in a way that maximizes “fun” while minimizing damage to your bankroll. Next week, I will provide essential advice with respect to choosing the right sportsbook and explore the NHL divisions futures market.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Ari Baum-Cohen
About the writer: Ari Baum-Cohen’s first sports betting victory came in 1989 when he won his father’s office pool at age 8. Since then, he has been interested in many different types of sports betting. His first major futures win came in November of the 2001-2002 hockey season when he selected “field” (field included Jarome Iginla) at odds of 30/1 to win the National Hockey League goal scoring title (http://www.wagerstreet.com).