Greg DePalma’s futures primer: Strategies

Futures Strategies: Whether dealing with a heavy favorite or a championship-caliber team going through a slide, there are ways to turn the odds in your favor.

By Greg DePalma, PSN Executive Producer

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A sports future is the closest type of wager to stock trading you can find.

Short-term futures include winning events as in a weekly golf, tennis or NASCAR event; while long-term futures include winning a championship from any sport as in the Super Bowl or World Series.

My No. 1 goal in providing this data is to provide you with our findings from the collective research we accumulate and to inform you on when is the opportune time to take advantage of a future with the classic “buy-low” philosophy.

Keep in mind the amount of money to invest for each wager will vary depending on how much confidence you have with that particular team/athlete.

Here are two examples on how we were able to turn a profit…

Example 1

This is how we were able to take advantage of a heavy favorite winning a championship.

On March 15, 2013, the Miami Heat had a record of 49-14 and entered a game that evening at Milwaukee on a 20-game win streak with even-money odds to win the NBA Title. It was becoming increasingly evident that barring a catastrophic injury to any of their ‘Big 3’ (James, Wade and Bosh) they would be a more substantial favorite come playoff time, which was less than 30 days away.

We decided it was worth the risk to wager on their title chances as soon as possible before the odds dropped any further. It turned out to be a good move, as the Heat turned into a 1-5 favorite on the eve of the playoffs.

Here is how we wagered on futures that season starting with the Heat…

March 15

  • Miami: Even

April 20

  • San Antonio: 12-1

April 27

  • Indiana: 52-1
  • New York: 19-1

May 7

  • Chicago: 35-1
  • Memphis: 18-1
  • Oklahoma City: 15-1

Investment strategy

In order to turn a profit when you take a team with even-money odds, the strategy is simple. You have to wager higher amounts on the favorite and fragments on the others.

So for this exercise, we’ll wager $1,000 on the Heat and breakdown the rest as follows…

  • San Antonio: $85
  • Indiana: $20
  • New York: $55
  • Chicago: $30
  • Memphis: $60
  • Oklahoma City: $70
  • Total Additional Investment: $320
  • Profit = $680

Keep in mind we thought very highly of the Spurs when we wagered on them during our pre-playoff program that season. Our feeling was if the Heat didn’t win the title the only legitimate team who could upset them would be San Antonio.

In the end, since both teams made it to the finals, no matter who won the title we were set up with the same return either way.

Example 2

This is a good example too because the odds were more in our favor here (which is actually where most of our future wins come from) and this also demonstrates how to take advantage of a championship favorite when the chips are down.

We waited until halfway through the season before taking our first team during the 2013 NHL season and entered the playoffs with six, mostly longshot teams.

Jan. 10

  • Los Angeles: 18-1

April 5

  • San Jose: 25-1

April 11

  • N.Y. Rangers: 30-1
  • Vancouver: 14-1

April 23

  • N.Y. Islanders: 30-1

April 29

  • Washington: 19-1

May 24

  • Chicago: 10-1
  • Detroit: 6-1

Investment strategy

Chicago was our pre-playoff pick to win the Stanley Cup, but since they were heavy favorites (3-1) we did not advocate a futures play unless the odds turned more in our favor.

We also hesitated to take the Blackhawks because historically the NHL playoffs are more unpredictable than any sport and President’s Trophy winners had only won seven championships at that point since the award was created in 1986.

To our pleasant surprise the opportunity we had hoped for would in fact come up in the Western Conference Semifinals versus Detroit. With Detroit leading the series 3 games to 1, we decided to invest in both the Red Wings and the Blackhawks.

The thinking here was if Detroit held on to win the series, they would be a very hard team to beat the rest of the way. Of course, my real hope was that the Blackhawks would come back to win three straight and I would have acquired a 10-1 wager with the top team in the league.

It also helped that I had not wagered on any teams that were single-digit picks to win the Cup.

For this exercise since we did not invest in our top team until very late, let’s hypothetically wager $100 on the Blackhawks and break down the rest as follows…

  • Los Angeles: $25
  • San Jose: $20
  • N.Y. Rangers: $15
  • Vancouver: $35
  • N.Y. Islanders: $15
  • Washington: $25
  • Detroit: $100
  • Total Investment: $335
  • Profit = $665

Final Analysis

Our objective is to not only pick the winning future for each sport, but to profit from it. Sometimes our profit will be large and sometimes we’ll barely break even, but as long as we correctly pick the champion in every sport we’ll always come out ahead.

If you have a question regarding a future or a specific strategy please e-mail us at To see our futures history in every sport, click the Futures tab above and scroll to the one you’re interested in.