How Hedging With NFL Futures Presents Value

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Astute bookmakers (most other types soon are wearing paper hats at fast food joints) realize that the greater the number of wagering choices in a betting equation, the more vigorish that can get passed along to the gambler. That's the secret in the sauce with NFL futures.

So, while the traditional football wager requires a bettor to risk $11 to win $10, a reasonable 4.5 percent cut for the house on what basically is an even-money proposition, the wagering percentage number on Super Bowl odds usually is equivalent to Tony Siragusa's cholesterol count.

Plenty Of Vig With NFL Futures

With all that vigorish, it might seem that betting on futures is like playing a crooked wheel and that no serious gambler, especially one who bets for a living, would ever commit substantial sums in the year-long gimmick, right?

That's what we believed too, until a few decades ago when we met a professional gambler in Las Vegas. The player, whom we'll call “Mike”, certainly understood the concept of value but was willing to endure a swallow or two of rancid future book juice because he claimed the wager gave him “options”.

Where Is the Value With Futures?

The first recollection we have of Mike's quest for these options began in the spring of 1995 when he wagered $10,000 on the Cowboys to win Super Bowl XXX in January of 1996. Dallas had captured NFL titles in 1993 and 1994 but had been eliminated by San Francisco the following season. The 49ers had crushed the Chargers in the championship game in 1995 and were favored to repeat. Mike readily accepted odds of 5/1 on the Cowboys, placing his robust wager at a major Strip hotel.

The point here is not that the Cowboys prevailed in Super Bowl XXX and that Mike won $50,000 on his future book bet but that by merely making the NFL Playoffs, Mike gained his cherished options.

In fact, once Dallas was in the playoffs, it became difficult for Mike to lose.

The Cowboys began their Super Bowl journey by hosting the Eagles in an NFC semi-final in Dallas. The Cowboys closed as 13 1/2-point favorites, meaning that Mike had two options for hedging against his future book wager.

  1. Wager $11,000 on Philadelphia, plus the points. If the Eagles beat the spread, he had recouped his initial future book bet of $10,000 and had essentially, a free ride on the Cowboys the rest of the way.
  2. Save some cash and bet the Eagles on the money line at plus $5.50. In this scenario, he'd have to lay a little under $2,000 to recover his future book bet of $10,000.

Frankly, we can't recall which option Mike chose. In a perfect world maybe he would have bet the Eagles plus the points and the birds would have covered without winning outright, keeping his future book bet alive, too.

That didn't happen though as Dallas covered the 13 1/2-point betting margin, 30-11.

The Cowboys faced the Packers in the NFC Championship the following week. Playing at home, Dallas was an 8-point choice. Again, Mike had the option of protecting his future book wager by betting on Green Bay plus the points or accepting plus $3.00 on the money line. Once more, the Cowboys covered, winning 38-27 and advancing to Super Bowl XXX against the Steelers.

Dallas was a 13 1/2-point Super Bowl favorite over Pittsburgh. Either a wager on the Steelers at plus 13 1/2 or a money line play on Pittsburgh at plus $5.50 was available to Mike. This time, the Cowboys failed to cover the spread, winning 27-17. In this case, the side bet option on the Steelers would have been the far more profitable choice.

So, Mike won $50,000 on his future book bet and, depending on how he played it, lost anywhere from about $7,400 in money line bets to $12,000 (two losing sides at $11,000 each, minus one winning side wager at $10,000) on his “options”.

Given what was riding on the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl, that seems an acceptable price to pay on a future book wager.

Futures Give You Opportunities To Hedge

One of the most appealing aspects about hedging on the Super Bowl is that you're never too late to get in on the action. Even now, four months after the start of the season and with the playoffs beckoning, players still can wager on futures, in the process providing themselves with additional options for betting on the final four weeks of the NFL season.