Bankroll Management in Sports Betting

One of the most important skills sports bettors can have is to be disciplined with their bankroll management. Regardless of how good you are at picking games, keeping control of your bankroll is key. There are different ways to manage your bankroll, but the best is a method that you will stick to, no matter what that looks like.

For new bettors, bankroll management can be one of the most difficult skills to learn. Being able to control your emotions is important. Continue reading for a breakdown of why bankroll management is so crucial and how you can master it.

Why bankroll management is key for bettors

Bankroll management is key because of how it can affect your betting. Given that running through your entire bankroll will mean you have to stop betting, we want to avoid that scenario.

While many may see entertainment as their primary reason for betting, turning a profit is always a goal. By having a bankroll management system that you stick to, you can increase the chances of turning a profit over a longer period. While anyone may be able to make money over smaller time frames, only those with a plan are likely to profit in the long run from online sports betting.

How much of your bankroll should you bet?

The most important part of a bankroll management system is determining how much you should be betting on each selection. Novices will often make this decision based on how they feel about each game, but working off a gut feeling is not a good strategy.

Instead, try to develop a system that helps you determine how much money you’re going to wager. The good news is that this system can be as simple or complex as you like, as long as it makes sense and is something that you will stick to.

As you read about different systems online while trying to find one that fits, you will find that they often use units to stand in place of real dollar amounts. If this is your first time learning about units, we will go over them below.

What is a unit in sports betting?

Bankrolls are different sizes, and that can make comparing bets difficult. For example, betting $100 on a game can mean different things to different people. Someone with a bankroll of $20,000 may think of that as an insignificant amount, while someone with a bankroll of $500 may think of that as a massive bet.

Thus, it’s very difficult to communicate confidence in a bet when using raw dollar amounts. For that reason, bettors will often talk about their bets in terms of units. One sports betting unit is how much you bet on average for a game, with one unit commonly representing around 1% of your bankroll.

This makes it much easier to communicate. For example, if someone bets five units on a game, then that indicates the bettor is very confident. On the other hand, a bet size of half a unit indicates much less confidence.

Understanding bet units is a crucial step to discussing and managing your bankroll. Take your total bankroll and divide it by 100 to find a recommended bet size, though you can adjust in either direction depending on your risk tolerance.

Bankroll management sports betting systems

While there are plenty of bankroll management strategies (you can find various options with a simple Google search), there are some that are more popular than others. We’ve listed four common options below. These range from basic to more advanced and entail different amounts of work. Try out a few options before deciding what works for you.

Fixed unit

This is the most basic bankroll strategy and is very simple and easy to understand. The fixed unit system simply means that you bet one unit on every game, no matter your confidence or the odds. This makes it easy, as there are no calculations before you place your bet.

However, the simplicity of this system also makes for some weaknesses. Because your bet size never changes for any of the variables, you end up with suboptimal stakes for many of your bets. It’s a more efficient decision to adjust based on a variety of factors, including the gambling odds associated with your bet and the potential return. Because of that, this is often a system that people move on from quickly, though it is better than nothing.


The percentage bankroll management system is similar to the fixed unit system but allows for slightly more flexibility. Instead of it being a fixed dollar amount that you wager on each bet, it’s a percentage of your total bankroll. This means adjusting your unit size after every game. For example, you might say that you’re going to bet 2% of your bankroll on every game.

This means that when you win a few bets in a row, your bet size will go up. And, if you lose a few bets in a row, your bet size will go down. This can help you take advantage of hot streaks while also limiting the effects of cold streaks. In addition, if you can consistently grow your bankroll to larger levels, then you will have a unit size that continues to reflect the same level of aggressiveness.

Potential return

The potential return system focuses on the outcome of the bet to determine your stake. You must examine the odds and then pick a bet size from there. Most people start their potential return bankroll system by classifying the different odds into groups. As an example, you might say that for any bet on a favorite, you’re going to wager one unit.

Your next group might be odds from +200 to +500. On these games, you decide to wager 0.5 units. For your next group, you might pick +500 to +1000 and bet 0.25 units. Finally, for anything with odds above +1000, you might bet 0.1 units.

This is an easy system to follow because it doesn’t take too much work to figure out how much you’re going to bet. In addition, it also ensures that you adapt your bet size to the risk level of the wager.


Last but not least, we have confidence-based bankroll management systems. Most famously, the Kelly criterion has been the backbone of many bettors’ approaches for many years. This is a math formula that will help you determine how much you should wager based on how likely your bet is to win. This is best with a probability model for your bets, but it can work as a stand-alone, as well.

After determining the potential win as a decimal, multiply by your confidence percentage. If you’re using a probability model, it will have given you a confidence percentage. If you are not, then you will have to find another way to create one. Once you’ve done that, you should subtract the potential loss percentage and divide that number by the decimal of the potential win. This will spit out what percentage of your bankroll you should be betting. There are plenty of helpful examples online.

Keeping track of bets

One of the best habits you can get into is keeping track of your bets. This can give you insights and help you determine how much you are winning or losing when betting.

It’s a smart idea to keep a spreadsheet with your past bets so that you can identify trends and capitalize on them. You will also be able to get an idea about your strengths and weaknesses as a bettor. This can help you turn a profit as you start to realize what sports and bets you do best at wagering on. For example, you may notice that you are much better at predicting UFC fights than NBA games.

Unit size changes and withdrawals

Whenever you withdraw from your sportsbook account, the first thing you should do is congratulate yourself. Withdrawing may mean that you are making money, but now come the questions about what to do with the money left in your account. You must readjust your unit size to reflect the new balance, not the old balance.

Your unit size may have increased as you continued to win bets and your bankroll grew. You’re going to want to keep it at the same level because you believe that you can be profitable with that level and have shown it in the past. Still, if your unit size is massive compared to your bankroll, then you are very exposed. A small cold streak could result in a massive loss of capital.

A common strategy is for bettors to withdraw their original stake and then continue to play with their winnings. The issue is that they often keep the same bet size and lose their winnings quickly. Remember to examine your bet size as a percentage of your bankroll and reevaluate often to make sure that it never leaves your desired sweet spot.

The importance of discipline

All this talk about bankroll management systems is helpful, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t remain disciplined. It’s one of the most common attributes among successful bettors, and it’s the reason why the most successful bankroll management system is one that you can stick to.

It doesn’t matter what system you’re using if every time you lose a few bets in a row you start chasing. Patience and discipline are two of the most crucial skills, as well as being able to control your own emotions. Picking a bankroll management strategy and sticking to it is a great way to train these characteristics.


To sum up, bankroll management is an umbrella term that can describe a variety of approaches to selecting your bet size. We listed some of the most popular above, but there are others out there, as well.

When choosing a bankroll management sports betting strategy, it’s important to pick something that you will stick to. By doing this, you can see the results of the strategy. Too often, bettors will start changing their losses after a few bad beats and completely disregard their bankroll management system. The discipline to stick with it is one of the things that can separate good bettors from bad ones.

Try out a few of the strategies above, and find one that works for you. From the advanced options like the Kelly criterion to something more simple like the fixed unit model, there are a variety of options to pick from.