By the time the MLB postseason begins in October, many baseball fans will already have turned their attention to the next campaign. Fans of even the worst MLB teams are already dreaming about how their beloved franchise will be hosting the World Series Trophy when next Fall Classic rolls around. And sportsbooks across the US and around the world are thinking the exact same thing. Even as the final World Series game is being played, it’s already time to look ahead to the next season, and for casual and hardcore gamblers alike, that means baseball futures betting is right around the corner.
What is baseball futures betting?
Baseball futures wagering isn’t like traditional forms of MLB betting such as runlines, totals and parlays, which all hinge on the result of a specific game or set of games. Rather, the futures bet is about the outcome over the course of an entire season. So, if you’re looking for instant gratification, this is not your kind of action. But if the long game appeals to you — as well as some pretty impressive odds that could lead to a huge payday — then the futures bet is right up your alley.
Baseball futures betting in action
The premise of baseball futures betting is actually quite simple. Shortly after the World Series concludes in late October or early November, sportsbooks put out odds for all 30 teams to win the next season’s title. The favorite — usually one or both of the teams having just played in the World Series — might have odds in the neighborhood of 6-to-1, essentially the same kind of odds you might expect for a favored horse in the Kentucky Derby.
From there the odds for each team get longer. Sides that reached the playoffs might see odds in the 12-to-1 range, while those that finished just outside start to creep into double-digit odds against. Teams with .500 or slightly worse records find themselves around 25- or 30-to-1. And the basement dwellers can see odds of around 999-to-1, if you believe in the impossible dream.
Much like over/under win totals, you will need to wait for the entire season to finish to see if your bet comes through. In this case, however, you are not rooting for any other outcome than the winning pennant or World Series team — it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
Why is baseball futures betting so popular?
What makes futures bets so intriguing, and so popular, is the odds involved. You bet an individual game, and you are wedded to the moneyline or runline. Even the biggest underdog bet, usually a +300, is only going to pay like it’s 3-to-1 odds.
But with a baseball futures bet, even on the favorites, you are likely to get 6-to-1 and double your money if your team wins the big one. And when the slipper fits? In 2011, you could have gotten the St. Louis Cardinals – 4 ½ games out of a playoff spot with two weeks to play — at 999-1. Thank you, David Freese.
The large variance in odds makes it easier for the bettor to take multiple shots at a big payout without crippling their bankroll. Five $10 bets on five different stages of odds — a clear favorite, a couple mid-range shots and two longshots — gives you an 18.8% chance of winning. Even if it’s the heavy favorite at 6-to-1 that wins, you’ve still turned a profit. And, like any prideful sports fan, picking the World Series winner before the season even starts brings some nice bragging rights to hammer your buddies with. “I told you so” … priceless.
Alternative baseball futures bets
Baseball futures bets aren’t limited to wagering on a World Series or American League pennant winner, and there are alternative aspects you can gamble on.
The over/under futures bet
Over/under totals asks the bettor to wager on the total wins a team will enjoy over the 162-game regular season for each team. A typical MLB over/under futures bet would look something like this:
Boston Red Sox 95 Wins
A wager on the over means you’d be backing Boston to achieve more than 95 wins in a season, while a bet on the under would be a punt on them doing the opposite. It’s important to note that, like any other bet, a total represented by an even number can result in a “tie,” or “push” which would lead to the bettor getting their original wager back.
Unlike a straight game over/under wager, where the specific teams and their strengths and weaknesses help inform the likely outcome, betting on a season total of wins requires a bit more research for the serious bettor.
Individual baseball futures bets
There are also futures odds on the major baseball individual awards. For instance, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player odds are available before the start of every season and can make rooting for your favorite players all the more interesting.
Baseball futures tips: Timing is all-important
Timing your baseball futures bets right is crucial. Wagering on the next season’s World Series winner prior to coaching changes, winter free agency and spring training is going to largely be a crapshoot. Even betting the big favorite is no guarantee for success, as baseball teams rarely win back-to-back World Series titles — the last side to do so was the Yankees in 2000.
But of course, the later you wait to make a futures bet, the more you will find the big odds possibilities have shrunk. Just as your knowledge of the league increases at each stage of the offseason, so does the sportsbooks’. Events like a key free-agent signing, a franchise-altering trade or a long term injury could all reset their season-long odds, as the number of teams with a legitimate chance to win the World Series starts to dwindle.
You will be more savvy about what you’re doing with each day that passes, but you will likely win less for waiting. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. More confidence in a team’s chances might lend itself to making a bigger wager, thus getting decent bang for your buck if that side fulfills its destiny.
When to make baseball futures bets
Perhaps the best time to jump on board is around the All-Star break. Teams’ identities will have been revealed by then, and it will be even easier to determine the contenders from the pretenders. Again, the odds on the favorites will tighten, but we also know that a Wild Card entry is just as capable of making a title run as the team with the best record. Taking a shot on a probable Wild Card entry likely means getting a team with double-digit odds and the chance for a nice payout.
When not to make baseball futures bets
Bets very soon after the World Series and before teams make coaching changes and free agency likely generates better odds, but the data informing those decisions is often incomplete or downright misleading. The most informed decisions will come in August, when teams have played over 100 games and their strengths and weaknesses are defined. Any major injuries or Minor League call-ups will be baked into any line movement by the sportsbooks, but can also save the bettor from a potential disaster by betting the over on a team that loses its best player before the season starts.
That said, sometimes betting early can lead to better value. The MLB popular teams will almost certainly see their odds diminish as the season draws closer, with more fans putting money on them. Grabbing a trendy pick early in the process means getting them at substantially better odds than if you bet the same team right before the season.
What else to take into account
How well you know a particular team and gauging things like their strength of schedule, signings and divisional foes can help you decide whether their odds are good value. For instance, the Red Sox get to play struggling teams like Toronto and Baltimore a combined 38 times, giving them a boost toward a strong season. Anticipating certain free-agent movements right after win totals are released, but before the moves become official, could give a bettor a nice edge against the field. That said, perhaps a team’s odds get longer because a competitor signs a flashy free agent, for instance, but your analysis convinces you that the team was just as championship-worthy at 20-to-1 as it is in its current 30-to-1 slot. That makes it a value to chase regardless.