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Debating different philosophies about sports futures

There are different schools of thought among sports bettors when it comes to futures wagering. Some avoid making futures bets, theorizing the opportunity cost of keeping their money tied up for months is too great. Others find value in futures and say that investing in these long-term markets allows them to get out of the day-to-day grind many gamblers endure.

To exemplify these philosophies in NASCAR, if a bettor with a $2,000 bankroll placed a $100 wager today on Chase Elliott to win the 2021 Cup Series Championship (7/1 odds at BetMGM), the upside is a nice $700 payday in November. The opportunity cost is that the $100 will be held by the sportsbook for the next five months, depriving the bettor of the chance to invest that 5% of his bankroll.

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For many professional bettors, the money required for a meaningful futures bet could instead be turned over many times during the season, creating more opportunity for profit. If baseball or basketball are among the sports they bet, for example, they could wager the amount of their forgone futures bet on a daily basis. Even the sharpest bettors have very small edges against the market, so betting at a high volume is necessary for these pros to make a living.

“I generally stay away from futures markets, just for the opportunity costs, locking up money for a long period of time,” sharp bettor Blake Phillips told NASCAR.com.

Zack White, though, is one pro gambler who has had plenty of success playing futures. White and his partner Mark DeRosa famously made a big score on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win Super Bowl LV, and he stands to cash in again should Alex Bowman win this year’s Cup title at long odds (an outcome NASCAR.com’s Pat DeCola gives a realistic chance). White, in fact, is currently cheering on his futures position on the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup.

Not only has futures betting been profitable for White, but it also allows him a more enjoyable lifestyle.

“I’ve done really, really well with futures over the past several years,” White said. “There was a time when I worked every single day of the week, betting all sorts of sports. Now, I’ve got (a family), and I’m not living in Vegas full time anymore. Honestly, futures are a way for me to get down a substantial amount of money at a big edge and only work a few days (laughs) and just wait until (the bets are) graded. So if I’m betting hockey futures and football futures and basketball futures, then I have stuff grading pretty regularly throughout the year, but I only spend a few days actually executing the bets instead of a whole season.

“I’d rather have a 30% edge on a futures bet that I don’t have to think about for a few months until they’re graded, because in a lot of those cases, it’s not like I would be using the money daily like some people would.”

Futures for recreational bettors

For the casual gamblers among us, betting on futures can be fun. And remember, for casual bettors, that’s what this is supposed to be about.

We shouldn’t worry too much about not being able to wager a certain part of our bankroll and exploit our edge.  That’s because there are very few instances where we actually have an edge.

For recreational gamblers, the value in futures betting comes in the form of entertainment. A $100 bet on your favorite driver to win the Cup championship, for example, lasts all season. The value of a $100 bet on the same driver to win Sunday afternoon’s race is likely zero by Sunday evening.

So go ahead and make a futures bet or three. You’ll get a season’s worth of excitement for a relatively small amount of money.

Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.