Some of the sportsbooks featured on this page are our partners. We may receive compensation if you sign up for one through our links, but this doesn't affect our ratings or opinions in any way. You can learn more by visiting our advertiser disclosure page.
Even when sports bettors consider their wagers to be nothing more than a casual hobby, it’s critical that they keep a close watch on their money.
Your bankroll in sports betting is how much money you have to bet with. Smart bettors use their bankroll amount to determine how much to bet on a single game or event.
It’s wise to view your bankroll as the amount of money that you can afford to lose on sports betting. After all, sports betting is risky, and you should always assume that you’ll lose the bet. This way, you will protect yourself financially, ensuring that you never compromise your rent money or other non-disposable income.
Many bettors use their bankroll amount to determine what their standard unit amount is, then use this unit amount as a bankroll management strategy, which we dive into further below.
Bankroll in Sports Betting Explained
As explained earlier, your bankroll is simply the amount of money you have to bet with, regardless of whether it’s in a sportsbook account or set aside for betting otherwise.
When you figure out your sports-betting bankroll you should understand that it won’t remain static.
As you win or lose bets, your bankroll will grow and shrink. However, you should set your initial bankroll as if it will only shrink. You should never lose sleep because you’ve lost your entire bankroll on a bloody Sunday.
When calculating the appropriate size of your bankroll, consider it within the context of your overall budget to make sure you are gambling responsibly. It may be easiest to determine your monthly disposable income, determine what percentage of that income you want to spend on sports betting, then give yourself a monthly or weekly bankroll.
Bankroll Management Strategies (and the Power of the “Unit”)
Once you determine your bankroll size, you want to spend you may divide your bankroll into units. Your unit is the standard bet you will make on the majority of games or events.
A common strategy is to set your unit value at 1% of your bankroll. So, if you have $1,000 to bet per month, you would peg your unit at $10. While it’s typically recommended to bet just 1 unit on each game/event, some bettors will often bet somewhere between 1 and 5 units, in this case between $10 and $50 per contest.
If you bet all 16 NFL matchups in a full slate of games at just 1 unit per game, you’d bet $160 per Thursday to Monday, or about $640 per month depending on how the weekends call on the calendar. This would fall well within your bankroll, meaning that you’ve set your unit price appropriately.
Many bettors don’t wager the same number of units per game, however. If you are not especially confident in the outcome of a match, you might bet a half unit for that game. If you feel you have a mortal lock on your hands, you might bet your maximum per-game units (in many cases, 5, though you might go even higher in rare instances).
As you win or lose, your betting strategy may change. The more you accumulate units, the more liberal you may be in your betting—though seasoned sports bettors will advise consistency, we tend to be looser with our bets as the bankroll gets fatter (and vice versa).
Project Sporting Events for the Month Ahead to Stretch Your Bankroll
Projecting the sporting events you plan to bet on in a given month can help you stick to your bankroll without needing to re-deposit for an unanticipated sporting event.
If you typically only bet on the NFL, then you may split your monthly bankroll 4 or 5 ways—one portion for each week in the month. If you bet on college football, too, then you may divide your bankroll 8/10 ways to account for college football Saturdays, as well.
If you bet on a variety of sports, or you find yourself in a unique betting month (March Madness, for example), you might use more nuanced projections to stretch your bankroll across every event. You might bet fewer units on April’s slate of English Premier League matches, for example, when you know that you also want to bet on the Masters that month.
By staying on top of the sporting schedule, you will allow yourself to manage your bankroll intelligently.