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Handicapping Sports Betting Futures Plays

by on Jul.31, 2010, under Travel

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Many serious sports bettors consider the futures wager the province of rank amateurs trying to go for the big killing. They’re the sports betting equivalent of the wanna-be stock investor who always gripes if only I had bought Microsoft when they went public. They’re not the type who’ll do the work to grind out profits in the market, nor are they forward thinking enough to find the next big company to go public. They’d rather lay some money on a high priced dog and hope for the best, which seldom (if ever) occurs. Right now at some sportsbooks a $100 bet on the Cincinnati Bengals to win the 2010 Superbowl will pay back $10,000. The problem is that the true odds of Cincinnati winning the Superbowl are probably in the range of 50,000 to 1 which makes the +10000 you’re getting in this bet a bad value from the get-go.

For the more serious bettor, there’s a number of obvious problems with futures wagers. They require that your wagering ‘capital’ be tied up for months. Furthermore, once you’ve placed your bet you’re at the mercy of injuries, suspensions, trades and the other numerous factors that can spell defeat for a sports team. It’s no simple task keeping up with these variables on a day to day basis, and predicting them over a longer term is the province of psychics and not sports handicappers.

So why bet futures at all? More so than anything else, its essential to think of sports wagering not in terms of who wins or loses, but in terms of value. Properly utilized, future book wagers are often a great source of value. Below are some of the ways I like to use future wagers:

Futures can be a good way to leverage value on propositions where your knowledge is greater than the bookmaker’s. For example, many sports books offer betting propositions on entertainment oriented events like the Academy Awards. A handicapper who pays close attention to the movie industry and Hollywood news can stay one step ahead of the linesmaker.

With many books taking bets on awards like ‘Best Picture’ before nominations are even announced, a bettor has a great opportunity to find overlay situations. By staying on top of the entertainment news and accurately predicting which films will be nominated, its often possible to get substantially better prices than will be available after their announcement.

The nature of the film industry makes using a future wager in this manner very attractive. The release schedule of films is established in advance and is publicly known. The cut off date for award consideration is the end of the calendar year, so nothing can pop up and become a surprise after that. Of the hundreds of films that are released each year only a handful are legit Oscar contenders and with some work its easy to narrow those down further. After that its just a matter of finding the value.

Futures wagers are also effective for finding value in a sports betting paradigm. By its very nature, sports presents more variables to deal with than does the movie industry. The top teams are well known by both the linesmakers and general public, and seldom can be found at a value price. For example, you can already bet that the New England Patriots will win the 2010 Superbowl but you can be sure that you’re not going to get a good value price on such a well known ‘public’ team.

The place to find value in this sort of proposition is to look at the less obvious teams. A few years ago an associate of mine took positions on several teams NHL that started slowly, including the Calgary Flames at 40/1. By the end of the regular season they were down to prices as low as 5/1 or 6/1.

This play wasn’t based on any sort of certainty that this team would win the Stanley Cup, but rather on the value they presented. In other words, the true odds of this dark horse Cup win is more in the range of the current price so the 40/1 is a clear overlay. Once the playoffs begin, this sort of positional play offers a lot of options to hedge and to lock in a profit.

Also, don’t forget to consider ‘the field’. Many futures wagers lump a number of teams or competitors together as ‘the field’ and offer a single price to bet them all. Occasionally, the quick thinking handicapper can find unique value situations. For example, after Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death in 2001 some sportsbooks continued to offer a ‘field’ position on rookie of the year. A bettor who followed NASCAR closely would have quickly realized that Kevin Harvick–who replaced Earnhardt in his Richard Childress racing Chevy–qualified for the ‘rookie of the year’ award and could have bet the field at prices as high as 15/1. After he won his first race, the price for ‘the field’ dropped to 2/1 and by midseason ‘the field’ was a -250 favorite.

Clearly the Harvick play was a ‘best case scenario’ but there are other instances where value can be had on ‘the field’. While sportsbooks have learned a lot about NASCAR in recent years, up until a few years ago it was frequently possible to find a ‘field’ bet on road course races that included the ‘specialists’ that teams frequently hire for these events. In other words, it was possible to bet a group of road course ‘ringers’ such as Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett and Robbie Gordon with one wager. Again, you have to keep your eyes open and be ready to act quickly to take advantage of these rare opportunities.

Don’t forget to shop around for the best wagering value. This is true with any sports bet, but particularly so with futures wagers as the prices you find will vary much more than a typical pointspread. A little bit of effort can easily reveal a more advantageous price, meaning greater line value.

Ross Everett is a well known writer specializing in sports handicapping, drag racing, travel and fencing. He is a staff handicapper for Anatta Sports where he is in charge of providing daily free sports picks to a number of websites and broadcast media outlets. He lives in Southern Nevada with three Jack Russell Terriers and a wombat.

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My name is Harry Delgado and I am a full time Internet and Small Business developer and marketer. Over 30 years in the Computer systems development, programming, hardware installations and support. Currently making a living from blogs like HJDS Computer Services , HJDS Investment Group and HJDS BlogBiz. You can connect with me via social media sites at Facebook - LinkedIn - Twitter - YouTube.

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