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Bankroll Management for Sports Betting

Bankroll management is one of the most fundamental aspects of any successful sports betting strategy. Whether you are a recreational Tennessee sports bettor who just wants to have some fun and bet on some of your favorite teams or a serious handicapper who wants to earn a profit betting on sports, a preplanned bankroll strategy will go a long way in ensuring that you achieve your goals. It is valuable to understand both why bankroll management is so important and how you can implement it into your sports betting plans.

Why bankroll management is important

At its core, bankroll management is all about being smart with your money. It is easy to get carried away and to act impulsively when you don’t have a plan in place. Sportsbooks actually count on this type of impulsive behavior, as the majority of bettors place bets based on their emotions instead of on logic and reason.

Things are easy when you find yourself on a hot streak. Bet sizing and game selection feel much less important when you are stringing some wins together. But even the best sports bettors in the world only achieve win-rates in the range of 55-60% on standard -110 betting propositions. A hot run of seven straight wins or 13-2 over a 15-game span is not sustainable by anyone over the long run.

And over that long run, those streaks will unfortunately swing the other way, too. Even handicappers who hit a remarkable 60% winners betting on basketball games against the spread will lose 40 games out of every 100 that they bet on. In some instances, five or 10 of those 40 losses will come bunched closely together.

Proper bankroll management is what separates the sports bettors who can withstand those cold streaks from the ones who will be heading to the cashier page to make another deposit. Sports bettors who put large portions of their bankroll on the line can run up a nice profit during their winning streaks, but even the slightest bump in the road can send an overly aggressive betting strategy off the rails. Bettors who use calculated bet sizes based on their bankroll will never be in danger of emptying out their account on one bad weekend.

Creating a bet unit size

There are a few factors that go into setting a bet unit size that makes sense for what you are trying to accomplish when sports betting. The idea with betting units is that once you have set a unit size, you stick to it and only bet this amount when making your wagers. Leaving room for betting two units or even three units on “top plays” could be a part of your strategy, but if it is, you should use this bet sizing sparingly and keep in mind that you are making these plays two times (or three times) more important than all of your other plays.

Deciding what your sports gambling bankroll should be

The first step in determining what betting unit size is right for you is to decide how much money you want to commit to sports betting. Failing to separate your sports betting bankroll from your everyday bankroll can lead to losing control and getting in the dangerous habit of betting money that you can’t actually afford. You should only bet money on sports that you can afford to lose. This will ensure that your sports betting hobby never gets in the way of paying your bills and never becomes something that you have too much riding on.

For most sports bettors in Tennessee, betting on sports is a form of entertainment. In the same way that some people have a monthly budget to spend on collecting action figures or going out for dinner and drinks, responsible sports bettors have a set amount that they are willing to invest in sports gambling.

And one of the best aspects of sports betting is that you could actually come out a winner in both the short term and the long term. But by not counting on wins and by considering the money that you invest into your online sportsbook accounts as already lost, you can enjoy the highs of winning without having to worry about the lows of losing. A rough night in which you lose a few hundred bucks will still suck, but you won’t have to feel the need to chase your losses or worry about your finances.

Everyone’s comfort level and starting bankroll amount will be different. You could decide on a one-time amount that you are comfortable with now and then decide on another deposit amount in the future if you ever need to make another one. Or you could decide to add a certain amount to your sports betting accounts every month and never deposit outside of these preplanned periods. There is no wrong way to choose as long as you are picking an amount within your means.

Selecting a percentage of your bankroll as a betting unit

Once you have decided on how much you are going to commit to your sports betting bankroll, the next step is to determine what percentage of your bankroll that any one bet should represent. The risk and potential reward both increase as you select a higher percentage for your unit size.

For example, say that Joe is a conservative bettor who wants his money to last a long time. He just enjoys having a little action on the game and isn’t worried about winning big. He makes a deposit of $1,000 at his favorite Tennessee online sportsbook and decides that his standard betting unit will be 1% of his total bankroll, which amounts to $10.

Throughout the NFL and college football season, Joe bets $11 to win $10 on his favorite sides and totals. He doesn’t bet on parlays or futures. With such a conservative and disciplined betting style, Joe is in no danger of going broke in the short term. Even if he has an unbelievable run of bad luck and goes 37-91 ATS over a full season (only 28.9% winners), he’d have a grand total of $370 in winnings ($10 per win x 37 wins) and $1,001 in losses ($11 per loss x 91 losses) and still have $369 in his betting account after the Super Bowl.

Joe’s 1% strategy keeps him safe from big losses even in the worst seasons imaginable, but it also limits his potential earnings if he happens to have a fantastic season. Flipping that season record around to 91-37 ATS, Joe would have $910 in winnings ($10 per win x 91 wins) and $407 in losses ($11 per loss x 37 losses) for a profit of $503, bringing his account up to $1,503. A result that he is sure to be happy with, but one that yielded far less money than a similar record in a different bettor’s hands would have.

Say that Joe’s brother Donny also deposits $1,000 and bets on the exact same games as Joe, but he chooses a unit size of 5% and wagers $55 to win $50 per bet. In the scenario that Joe went 37-91, Donny’s bankroll management strategy could not withstand so many losses and was whittled down to $0 by midseason. But in the scenario that the brothers went 91-37 ATS, Donny would earn a profit of $2,515 on the season ($4,550 in winnings minus $2,035 in losses).

Even a betting unit size of 5% may seem low to bettors who aren’t used to implementing bankroll management. But keep in mind, a record of 53-47 ATS over 100 games will be slightly profitable at -110. Betting $110 to win $100 a game, this would amount to $5,300 in winnings (53 wins x $100 per win) and $5,170 in losses (47 losses x $110 per loss) for a $130 profit. But to see that profit, your bankroll would need to survive 100 games. If you are betting $110 a game with a bankroll of only $1,000, an untimely 3-13 run could leave your broke before you ever had the chance to go 50-34 the rest of the way.

If you want to be more aggressive and go for big wins or bust, that’s totally fine. Just make sure you do so understanding the risk to reward. Sticking to a flat-bet unit size of 5% of your bankroll or lower is far more likely to keep a winning handicapper in the game long enough to overcome inevitable losing streaks.

Understanding unit sizing for different bet types

To this point we have only discussed unit size in relation to standard -110 wagers like spreads and totals. Sportsbooks attempt to make these bets as evenly matched as possible on both sides, so over the long run the average sports bettor should expect to win about 50% of these bets and lose about 50% of these bets. A profitable bettor winning 53% of these -110 bets will still lose 47 bets out of 100, so the recommended unit size of 1-5% of total bankroll is to limit this bettor’s chances of going broke during the highs and lows of a season.

But not all bet sizes have the same amount of risk. Say that you are a bettor who loves betting on tennis favorites in the -300 to -500 range. Averaging out to -400 per pick, a profitable bettor at these odds will go 81-19 or better over the course of 100 picks. With only 19 expected losses instead of 47 over 100 plays, you could safely choose a higher unit size, as long losing streaks will be less likely and you have less risk to mitigate.

On the other hand, say you are primarily a parlay bettor who mostly bets on three-team parlays that pay +600. You only need to pick 15 winners for every 85 losers that you play over a 100-play run to be profitable. But with such a low expected winning percentage, the losing streaks are going to hit you a lot harder than the average bettor, and you should chose a low unit size to give yourself the chance to survive long cold streaks.

If you like to make all kinds of different bet types, consider having a separate strategy or unit size for each one. There’s nothing wrong with betting more than your standard unit size on a big moneyline favorite or less on a big underdog or parlay as long as it fits into your overall bankroll management strategy.

Have a plan in mind for withdrawals and unit size adjustments

Your betting unit size does not have to be set in stone. There is always room to make adjustments to your bankroll management decisions.

Consider setting certain bankroll benchmarks at which you can stop to consider if you want to make any changes. Say that you have settled on a deposit amount of $1,000 and a bet unit size of 2% for $20 per unit. You could set a benchmark for if you go up $500 or down $500 at any point in the season. So when you get to $500 or $1,500 left in your account, you can decide whether you want to adjust your unit size or leave it the same.

Your adjustments and decisions should be based on goals that you set before you even make your first deposit. As you consider all of these bankroll management options, also try to decide what your goals are for this betting account. Do you have a certain amount that you’d like to run your account up to before making a partial or full withdrawal? Do you want this account to last the entire baseball season? Having these goals in place ahead of time will take a lot of stress out of the decision-making process.

For example, say that you want the $1,000 you deposited to last all season. If you’ve been betting $20 a game and your account is down to $500, it might be a good time to lower your bet size down to $10 a game. But if you decided you were going to allow yourself three deposits this season and are still on your first one, you might not have to make a change, or maybe you’ll decide to be more aggressive with your remaining bankroll. Put your money to work for you however you are most comfortable doing so with proper bankroll management.