Betting Basics

Bankroll Management for Sports Betting

It's important to have a bankroll management strategy when betting on sports. Let's run through the basics so you can bet with confidence.

January 25, 2024

Bankroll management is essential for any sports bettor to be successful in their gambling endeavors. It’s how bettors practice discipline and keep themselves from divulging in destructive habits like betting over their heads, chasing losses, and putting all their eggs in one basket. Managing your bankroll effectively involves a lot of decisions, so here’s a guide to ensure you’re making the right choices about what kind of gambler you want to be.

What is Bankroll Management?

In many contexts, bankroll management is just budgeting. Much like handling your student loans or grocery list, you have to make sure you’re spending your money in a way that allows you to live your life comfortably. The problem is there are so many markets, bets, and boosts to take advantage of that the casual bettor can often feel like they’re missing out. That’s where managing your bankroll comes in.

Benefits of Effective Bankroll Management

When you’re a new gambler, there’s pressure to bet everything, from the games you’re watching to the boosts each book is offering. It’s totally fine to bet a boost that feels like a “lock” to you. You can even “spray the board” if you want to. The only time you’ll get into trouble is if you’re spending more than your bankroll allows.

Having discipline with your bankroll is the number one thing keeping you from having toxic betting habits. Whether you’re a volume bettor, or you only put larger wagers on a few things you feel strongly about, everyone should follow the same basic principles for managing a bankroll.

Where Do I Start?

First things first, how much money can you spend? This will help fuel every decision you have to make going forward. A newer bettor might want to start by setting aside $100 per month until they can find a strategy that grows their profits. If you want to focus on a particular sport, then you can set aside an allotted amount for that specific season. This is a popular method for football bettors, as it’s the most popular sport to bet on, and casual bettors can recoup their losses in the offseason.

Once you decide how much you are willing to spend per month, per season, per year, or whatever time frame you choose, then you have to decide what your unit size will be.

What is a Unit?

A unit is how much a gambler puts on a singular bet. Some bettors take the philosophy of one unit being 1% of their entire bankroll. If your bankroll is $1,000 total for football season, then your unit size is $10. Again, it all depends on what you can afford to do.

Designate how many units you want to put on each form of wager you are going to take. The higher the risk, the less you should put on it. For a straight wager on a spread or total, you can designate one unit for each of those bets. But, for something a little more high-risk, let’s say you limit your wagers to a half unit. And if it’s your favorite bet of the week, maybe you give it two units. Be thoughtful.

But the cardinal rule should be that your bankroll dictates all of these measurements. If your bankroll is $1,000, but your unit size is $500, you’re not allowing yourself to work within your means. If you want to be someone who bets on a lot of things at once, then use a smaller unit size. If you want a few key events to dictate the profitability of your weekend, then consider a larger unit size.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Bankroll Management

Avoid creating your unit size before setting your bankroll. Although setting a unit size is good practice in its own right, the bankroll sets up guardrails for how many events you’re going to wager on at a given time. A unit size with no bankroll could allow you to chase endless wagers after losses without a sign that you’ve spent too much. And once you’ve hit the limit of your bankroll, then take a break.

What if whatever strategy you’re using to handicap games is not working? Adjust the sources you’re getting information from, the philosophies you use to break down each matchup, and the types of bets you are taking, and then try again once you allow yourself to build back some of that income you’ve lost. A bankroll should only grow if you are winning.

Helpful Tools and Resources for Bankroll Management

The best resource in nearly any field is collaboration. With the growing popularity of sports betting, there is a huge expansion of content in this field to provide bettors with stronger resources to enjoy their gambling experience. We have an entire section on our blog that discusses strategy, the basics of sports betting, and more.

But nothing is better than discussing strategy, discipline, and betting with a close group of people you trust. Sometimes gambling involves grappling with your own thoughts too much. Fleshing your ideas out to a group of people you trust can help justify or question some of the decisions you are making. It never hurts to get a second, or third opinion when you’re risking your hard earned dollars. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, bankroll management is all about having discipline with your budget. Making a plan, adjusting it if needed, and sticking to it will help you avoid problem gambling habits. And if you have trouble staying disciplined, or if you’re betting over your head and need help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.

Sam Bloomquist
Sam Bloomquist is Tipico's Social Media Manager.
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