Written by:
Damjan Jugovic Spajic
Fact checked by:
Alex Windsor
July 5, 2024

Sports Betting Bankroll Management

Sports Betting Bankroll Management

Sports betting bankroll management involves creating a plan on how you will use your betting funds. It involves deciding how much you will risk per wager, how much you can afford to lose, and what you will do when your bankroll increases or decreases by a certain amount.

It’s important to note that bankroll management won’t turn you into a winner and doesn’t create an edge. Bankroll management is a sports betting budgeting tool that prevents you from suffering losses that have a negative impact on your life.

In this guide, we are going to explain how sports betting bankroll management works in practice and how you can use it to enjoy gambling responsibly.

Understand Units in Sports Betting

A unit in sports betting is your standard stake. You calculate a unit by multiplying your total bankroll by the amount you are willing to risk on a single wager. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000 and you’re comfortable risking 1% per bet, then one unit is $10 (1,000 x 0.01). Typically, a unit should be between 1% and 3% of your bankroll. If you are new to sports betting, start with a 1% unit.

Units in Sports Betting

Units are used to measure your betting success without revealing the $ amount lost and won. By measuring wins and losses in units, you can compare bettors who have different bankrolls. For example, Sports Bettor A, who has won $20,000 over the last year, may be a superior handicapper than Sports Bettor B, who has won $100,000 as Sports Bettor A may have a much smaller starting bankroll and has won significantly more units than Sports Bettor B.

How Much You Should Be Betting?

Typically, you want to risk between 1% and 5% of your bankroll on a single sports bet. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000, you should bet between $10 and $50 per bet. The amount you wager should be determined by the odds and your confidence in your prediction. If you’re making use of sportsbook bonuses, keep an eye on wagering requirements and factor them into your calculations before proceeding.

Tracking Your Betting Progress

If you don’t track your bankroll management strategy, then you don’t know how effective it is. We recommend keeping a spreadsheet of every single bet you make. Go into detail and write down the game you bet on, bet types, odds, the amount you wagered, and the result. At the same time, you should keep a tally of your bankroll as it moves up and down.

After every month, you can calculate your return on investment (ROI). All you need to do is divide your profit by the amount you wagered and multiply the result by 100. For example, let’s say in November you made total wagers of $1,000, and your profit is 50, your ROI would be 5% (50/100 x 100). A good yearly ROI for a sports bettor is a surprisingly low 5%, it’s a slow grind!

Sports Betting Profit Formula

By tracking your betting progress, you will clearly see if you are betting too much or too little and the impact your decisions have on your bankroll. You will also see what betting markets you are having the most success in.

You can then use this information to alter both your betting strategies and bankroll management. For example, let’s say you calculate all of your bets for the month and realize you were actually risking 4% of your bankroll on an average wager rather than your desired 3%. You may also discover your win rate for moneyline NFL bets is 45%, but your win rate for NBA spread bets is 54%.

Strategies to Manage Your Betting Bankroll

There are different approaches to bankroll management. These are the most effective strategies that you should try out today:

Flat Betting

Flat betting is a simple and effective bankroll management strategy. You simply set your unit size and then make a one-unit wager for all bets. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000 and you use a 1% unit size, then you stick to strictly $10 bets no matter what.

When using the flat betting system, remember to keep an eye on your bankroll changes. If it has moved up or down significantly, you may consider adjusting your stake. For example, if you have gone on a heater and your bankroll is now $1,500, you can increase your stake to $15, which is the new 1% unit size. Continuing to flat bet the same amount if your bankroll has taken a big hit is risky, but at the same, it’s easier to recover losses.

Percentage Model

If you can’t be bothered calculating units, then just stick to the percentage model. With this technique, you choose a percentage of your bankroll that you are willing to risk on a wager, and that becomes your standard wager size. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000 and you are ok risking 3% on each wager, then your standard stake becomes $30.

The great thing about the percentage model is that your wins compound aggressively as you increase your bet size as your bankroll grows. On the flip side, recovering losses becomes even more difficult as your stake size and your potential wins decrease along your bankroll. For example, if your bankroll has shrunk to $500, then winning back that $500 with $15 (500 times 0.03) wagers is going to be a long road!

Kelly Criterion

Kelly Criterion

The Kelly criterion model is the most scientific approach to bankroll management and is used by professional bettors. The Kelly criterion’s goal is to compound your bankroll as quickly as possible while at the same time protecting you from blow up. Unfortunately, it’s only effective if you can accurately assess your chance of winning. Also, if you don’t have an edge, which is the vast majority of sports bettors, the Kelly criterion recommends you bet nothing!

The Kelly criterion will tell you exactly how much of your bankroll you should bet based on your chance of winning and the odds the sportsbook is giving you. Let’s say you have a 60% chance of winning, and the sportsbook is giving you 2 to 1 odds, then you should bet exactly 10% of your bankroll (0.6 – 0.4/2).

You Are Your Bankroll’s Biggest Enemy

It’s all well and good to come up with a super in-depth bankroll management strategy, but it’s a completely different thing to actually implement it. This is because we aren’t robots, and our decision-making is clouded by emotions and cognitive biases.

To practice bankroll management effectively, you really need to keep a cool head and learn to keep your emotions in check. For example, after suffering a bad beat, it’s advisable to exit the sports betting site, step away from the screen, and take some deep breaths. If you still can’t control your emotions, then you should quit betting for the day.

You should have a very good reason for deviating from your betting strategy and your bankroll management plan. Before you make any decision, you should ask yourself, “Am I thinking logically? “Is this the optimal decision, or am I letting my emotions get the best of me?”.

If you’re unable to keep your emotions in check, then we recommend taking advantage of the sportsbook’s responsible gambling tools. You can set a max bet and loss limit, which will physically prevent you from making ill-advised bets.

Monthly Net Loss Limit

Don’t Let Money Sit in Your Account Forever

If you leave a large chunk of your bankroll sitting in your account, you can be tempted to overbet, especially after you suffered a loss. To avoid the temptation to ramp up your stake and make hasty wagers, only keep a small amount of cash in your betting account because then, even if you do go on tilt, you can’t seriously damage your bankroll and go on a losing streak.

Another major reason to limit the amount of cash you keep on betting sites is to reduce counterparty risk. By having money sitting in your account, you are entrusting the betting site with your cash. You are essentially wagering that the site will continue operating smoothly and will honor your future withdrawal request, which is not always the smartest bet!

Bankroll Management vs Gambling Addiction

It’s important to realize that bankroll management is not a cure for gambling addiction. Bankroll management is a tool for professional players to effectively manage their business and keep growing their capital while reducing their risk of blowup. Recreational players can also use bankroll management to limit losses and to help them enjoy gambling responsibly but it won’t magically turn them into a winner.

Gambling addiction currently has no cure, and professionals advise that problem gamblers immediately stop all betting rather than try and control their betting habits. If you are unable to control your gambling habits, then we recommend pausing all sports betting activities and seeking professional help immediately. Your healthcare professional will be able to diagnose your condition and advise you on the best plan of action to solve your gambling problem.

Betting Bankroll Management Recap: Dos & Don’ts

Before you come up with your bankroll management strategy and put it into action, here are some key takeaways:



Damjan Jugovic Spajic

A soccer and eSports fan who always roots for the worst possible teams, Damjan is a resident writer and contributor at Minimum Deposit Betting Sites. With over 5 years of experience in the online casino and sports betting industry, he largely focuses on writing reviews and testing out bookmaker transaction processes.