Summer Futures 2020 Edition (MLB, NBA, NHL)

I remember years in the past where I was talking MLB futures in July, but I can honestly say, this is the first time I remember seriously breaking down NBA or NHL futures in the summer. Needless to say, we have an interesting year in 2020 (putting it mildly). I thought about it, but then I realized it is very tough to quantify the futures from an algorithmic standpoint in 2020. I wanted to do an algorithmic view, but there are so many unprecedented variables this year that I think any algorithm would be lacking in a proper calculation of probability. So, why bother if the calculation is going to be missing key elements. Elements that have never been quantified in these sports before (neutral fields, no fans, shortened seasons, expanded playoffs, living in a bubble, etc.). Instead, let’s see (and hope) the sharp money has figured it out. So, let’s take a look at where the sharp money has been going in the upcoming futures markets.

Let’s start in the NHL… the sharpest bet I have witnessed in the NHL markets was a bet on the Edmonton Oilers at +2200. Why? Well, it’s because I placed the ticket. LOL! Seriously though, I thought the price was excellent on Edmonton and given the nature of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, I think it is wide open for a lot of teams (more than usual). Due to all the never before experienced situations in 2020, I think it could set the stage for a lot of surprises in all three leagues, not just NHL. For me, when I bet the NHL futures, I looked beyond the first tier teams (Boston, Tampa, St. Louis, Washington). I felt the first tier teams would be slammed by the public (and they are). I thought the public attacking the first tier teams would open the door to value on the second tier. By second tier, I mean those teams with prices +1500 to +2500. I am a big fan of Connor McDavid. He’s that Crosby type player that has the potential to carry an entire team through the playoffs. Will he? I don’t know, but I priced (mentally, not with algorithms) that the Oilers should be around +1500 to win the Stanley Cup given setup this year. So, when I saw Edmonton at +2200, I couldn’t help myself. I think the Oilers have enough talent spread out to make a decent run at the Cup this year. Just my opinion though. So, taking myself out of the equation, where am I seeing sharp money in the NHL Futures Market? The highest concentration is on Toronto at +1500 or better and the second highest is on Tampa at +700 or better. After those two it gets a little spread out, and I would not consider anything having material value based on the level of action beyond Toronto and Tampa. The Maple Leafs are an interesting angle as they have all the tools to get the job done, but they usually can’t figure it out when it matters. Tampa is always worth discussing in the NHL as they are a clear powerhouse. Usually Tampa finds a way to blow it though and that may have kept their value up this year. When it comes to Tampa, maybe the setup this season will work for them. Tampa can come in, get on one of their runs and this year the run could end with them raising the Cup. Regardless, sharp money thinks Tampa and Toronto were worth a look at the prices listed above.

Now let’s visit the NBA Futures Markets… I did not make any NBA futures bets for myself. So, I don’t have any real personal comments on the NBA. I think, like the NHL, the NBA is a total coin toss among all the teams. So, let’s see what the sharp money is looking at for the NBA Championship this year. Currently, I am seeing decent sharp action in the NBA on the Toronto Raptors at +1500 (Leafs, Raptors… sharps love all things Toronto this year). The Raptors got slammed with sharp money when the odds were posted. Since then some nibbling has continued on the Raptors. It’s an interesting angle with the Raptors. The Raptors could definitely put it all together, but I think it will be tough to get around the Lakers, Bucks and Clippers. Problem is that those three teams I just mentioned have negative value in their futures prices. Which is why sharps are looking deeper into the market. The next team seeing decent sharp buying after Toronto is Philadelphia at +2217. After those two, a long distance away in third is Boston +1775, but the action is very small. So yes, sharp money in the NBA is targeting long shots. Of course I could see really any of those three (Toronto, Philly, Boston) since I think the NBA will be the most volatile league this summer. There are so many potential issues being reported for NBA teams and players heading into this Disney World bubble setup. All these unknowns and potential issues up in the air could leave the door wide open to a long shot. At a minimum, the NBA Futures Market is being priced as though it is a normal season and this year is anything but normal. So, shop around and take some shots. It’s probably the best year for having a chance at cashing a long shot ticket.

Lastly, it’s time for MLB. Of the three leagues, the MLB has the most normal schedule and season layout. However, I still think standard pricing models leave some calculation gaps due to the other variables involved this season. So, let’s see what the sharp money is doing for MLB too. Right now, the team seeing the most sharp action is Tampa at +1800 with Washington +1800 a close second. Tampa and Washington are then followed by Oakland +2229 and Atlanta at +1650, both of which (Oakland/Atlanta) are tied for a distant third in terms of sharp money. Once again, here in the MLB the sharp money is looking to those mid-range long shots to try and catch some juicy numbers. The Yankees, currently at +360 were also seeing some sharp buying, however most of that buying was at +450. I am not aware of that number being available anywhere at this time. Obviously, like the other two leagues (NBA and NHL) the favorites have a calculated superior chance of winning the World Series too. So, in this case it would be the Dodgers, Yankees or even Astros. However, the value in the current prices for those teams is non-existent, so why bet them? At least that is the way sharp money analyzes a market. It is always nice to cash a ticket, but if you consistently cash tickets at bad prices, it is only a matter of time before your luck runs out and the mathematics of negative value catches up to you! 

One thing you have to remember is sharp betting is about value betting. Perhaps there is a high probability that the Bruins +640 win the Stanley Cup. Let’s assume they do. People would then say the Bruins were the value because they won. It is one of the most flawed gambling arguments that can be proposed. I constantly hear on Twitter how because something won, it was therefore the value. Tickets win every day that are not values. Consistently betting things that are negative values will result in winning tickets, but not long-term winning. Someone who bets Bruins at +640 may win the bet and at that time they won’t care that the Bruins true value was +925. However, if you consistently take bets at +640 that have a fair value of +925, you are a books dream. It doesn’t mean you won’t cash tickets, but the likelihood of you turning a profit long-term is slim to none. Turning a profit based on betting negative values is due to luck, not skill. Books love when you cash tickets, it keeps you hooked. What the books don’t want is for you to have long-term profits. The long-term profit portion of betting is for the books, not you the bettor! So, to illustrate what I mean about value betting, I bet the Oilers in the NHL at +2200, not per se because I think the Oilers have a strong chance to win. Huh?? Why waste my money then if I don’t think the Oilers have a strong chance? It is because I feel the Oilers chances are better than the +2200 price the books are offering. I feel the Oilers have a fair value of +1500. It still means that for every 16 Oilers bets I make, I would expect to win only 1. However, if the book is hanging +2200, that’s a tremendous, almost 50% bonus on the fair value price! I might not win this type of bet 15 out of 16 tries, but that one time out of 16 that I win a bet paying +2200 (that should have been +1500), I have made a nice ROI and a long-term profit. It’s all about the value! Just like poker players who bet based on “pot odds”… betting sports should be based on the same theory… you bet when the prices are in your favor, not the book’s favor. Have some fun doing your futures shopping and cash those tickets!!

Good luck in your action!
~ The Sharp Plays