How To Manage Your Sports Betting Bankroll

The goal of any sports bettor is to win more money than you lose, and increase your betting bankroll over time.  Of course, winning bets is the most important factor in becoming of a profitable sports bettor, but another factor that is often overlooked and can be the achilles heal of otherwise winning bettors is poor bankroll management.  To be a profitable bettor long term you need to understand that losses will come, and limiting these losses will allow you to bet another day.

In this article I will outline a basic sports betting bankroll management strategy that you can follow.  I will also touch on how even winners will sometimes “bet to go broke” and that this style of betting more than your means will almost always result in your sports betting accounts ending up at $0.

Bankroll Management Strategy

There are a lot of different ways to manage your sports betting bankroll.  Below I will outline how I manage mine and provide you with certain criteria that you really should follow.

The first thing you need to do is decide how much money you will start your bankroll with.  Losing the entire amount is the worst case scenario, but by following the strategies outlined below, this is unlikely if you’re a winning bettor.

***Remember that your bankroll does not have to all be at one site.  In fact I recommend splitting up your betting bankroll across multiple betting sites in order to take advantage of the various sign up bonuses and also to compare odds between sportsbooks to make sure you’re getting the best return on each bet you make.

Now, on to the betting.  I personally bet around 2% of my bankroll on most bets and never more than 5% on any single bet, even if I think it has great value.  When you read about betting and picks around the internet I’m sure you’ve seen the term “unit” used.  This typically means 1% of bankroll.

I strongly advise you to never bet more than 5 units on any single wager because a loss on one of those big bets is what typically starts the downfall of a betting bankroll.

Let’s look at these two rules in bullet form:

  • Set your betting bankroll amount before you start wagering.  This should be the maximum amount you are willing to lose betting on sports online.
  • A typical bet should be 1-2% of your bankroll and never more than 5% of your bankroll (5 units).

Adjusting Unit Size

I’m of the opinion that your unit size should always be floating to reflect a percentage of your betting bankroll.  For example, if you start out with a $1000 bankroll and you lose a couple of 1 unit bets and max bet of 5 units, you will have lost 7 units in a row and your bankroll will now be $930.  This means your typical unit bet should drop from $10 to $9.30, which would be 1% of your new bankroll.  This works the same way when increasing your bankroll as well.  Say you’ve won a few bets and your bankroll is up to $1100.  Feel free to increase your typical bet up to $11, which would be 1% of the current bankroll.

Your unit amount should float with your bankroll size.  A great side effect of this is that your bet amounts will decrease when you’re on a cold streak and increase when you’re on a hot streak, just based on your bankroll changing size.

Critical Error In Bankroll Management

Now that you know how to manage your bankroll I want to touch on the one critical error that causes a lot of winning bettors to go to $0.

A lot of sharp, winning bettors, can never realize a profit because they are subconsciously betting to go broke.

If you are betting too large a percentage of your bankroll on a standard bet, or you are willing to place massive bets up to like 20% of your bankroll, then you will inevitably go broke.  There is simply too much variance involved in sports gambling to bet a high percentage of your bankroll and not have a losing streak that will drive you down to $0.

For example, if you’re betting 10% of your bankroll on a typical wager and you don’t always adjust your bet depending on your current bankroll then you will eventually go broke.  Let’s say you’re betting $100 of a $1000 bankroll.  If you lose a couple bets and continue to wager at $100 it only takes a short cold streak to bring your bankroll to $0.  On the flip side if you go on a hot streak and raise your bankroll to $2000 and then start to bet a typical $200 wager without reducing the bet for losses you will still eventually hit $0 just based on variance.

When a bettor gets a taste for a higher bet it’s very hard to drop back down on a cold streak.  This is considered chasing losses and it’s a big reason why people lose money betting on sports.

Sharp bettors will build a bankroll up to 10 times what they started with betting big amounts, but when the cold streak hits they will end up at $0 and have to start all over again with a new deposit.  You see this kind of thing all the time and sports betting sites rely on this type of behaviour because it will often keep sharp bettors from winning any money at the sportsbook.

Follow these two rules and you will watch your bankroll soar if you truly are a sharp bettor.

  • Never bet more than 5% of your bankroll.
  • Always adjust your unit size based on your the current size of your betting bankroll.