Bankroll Management in Sports Betting
While sports betting is only a hobby for most, many aspire to take their betting to the next level. The dream of being a professional sports bettor is one that looms in the back of most sports bettors' heads. While it is a challenging and lofty goal, there are many men and women across the globe who earn their keep by betting sports professionally.
If this is something that you're aspiring to achieve one day, you need to pay close attention to every single line of this article. The single most important part of a winning sports betting strategy is bankroll management. Bankroll management refers to how you choose to allocate and handle your funds while making bets. Proper bankroll management can help increase the longevity of your bets and help to propel you to the upper echelon of professional betting. Improper bankroll management is a quick ticket to Brokes-ville.
In this guide, we're going to walk you through everything you need to know to be a master at bankroll management. We'll walk you through every tip, rule, and guideline that you must know to gain full control over your bankroll and your sports betting destiny. With a little knowledge and some discipline, you can really put yourself in a position to succeed. We're not trying to sound like your school guidance counselor up on a soapbox preaching; this is just that important of information.
For a rundown on proper bankroll management we have put together this detailed video guide for you. We also have a even more in depth write up in the article below.
Why Bankroll Management Is Important
All right, so we've told you that bankroll management is important. It would seem only proper for us to tell you why it matters so much. What are the three things that you need to make a sports bet? You need a pick on who you think is going to win, you need somewhere to place that bet, and you need...money. If you have blown through all of your money, what good are the other two?
Bankroll management is a system of checks and balances that ensure you've always got a foot in the game. Without these practices, you'll end up rocketing through your money in no time, and you'll be left on the sidelines. But what if you're the best sports bettor on the planet? Does this apply to you?
It CERTAINLY applies to you. Some of the best sports bettors on the planet (we're talking elite level) are only winning a few percentage points over break-even. This means that they're not winning most of their bets, as you might imagine. A lot of them are actually losing more bets than they're winning, meaning that if they aren't budgeting their bankroll properly (cough, bankroll management, cough, cough), they won't have enough money to realize their skill.
For the record, you can have a losing sports betting record and still be making money. If that concept doesn't make sense to you, you've got a long way to go until you're doing this for a living, but you're on the right track. If you're confused or want to learn more about the important difference between ROI and Win/Loss, check out this post now.
Basically, there is going to be some variance in sports betting. No one is perfect, and even the best in the world can lose their first few bets. If you don't manage your bankroll properly, one bad streak of variance can sideline you permanently.
An Added Benefit
There is one additional benefit of having laser-focused bankroll management that we almost didn't include, but decided it was important enough to mention. The reason we almost didn't mention it is that it probably will not apply to everyone reading this, depending on your situation.
For some of you that sports bet, you catch a lot of flak from your friends and family. They love giving you a hard time about your sports betting and try to paint you as some degenerate gambler with no real rational reasoning behind what you're doing. When you have a solid bankroll management plan, you get two things to help you fend off these negative Nancies.
First, you get a much better chance of being successful at sports betting. The best way to prove someone wrong and quiet their complaints is to show them they are wrong. We all know the cliché phrase that actions speak louder than words. If someone is giving you a hard time about sports betting, but you are continually bringing home the bacon, who cares, and what more can they say?
Second, it's a great way to display that you take your craft seriously. If someone asks you about your sports betting and you reply that you just bet random amounts of money on games that you think you have a prediction on, they're going to think you're a silly degenerate. But if you lay out a well-crafted and mathematical approach that you use to decide your bet sizing and your overall approach, you suddenly don't look so silly anymore. People will respect you a lot more if they think that you're putting real thought and expertise into your craft.
Now, does any of this really matter? Not really. You shouldn't really care what other people think. That being said, that cliché phrase doesn't help much when it's a close family member or a significant other. They really aren't people you can just brush off and ignore. Being able to showcase your much more detailed approach to betting will help to put them at ease. When they see that there is a method to the madness and that you have plenty of protections in place, they're going to relax and be more understanding...hopefully.
Choosing a Starting Balance
The first aspect of bankroll management is deciding how much money you're going to have in your bankroll. Let's take a step back even further first, though, to make something crystal clear. The money that you are using to bet on games should be completely separate from the money that you are using to live your life and pay your bills. If your betting money is coming out of the same fund as the money you use to buy groceries, it's time to make a change.
It's impossible to make rationally correct decisions without emotion when you're worried about paying your bills or losing money that you can't afford. If you've got all of your money in the same account, you're going to lose your mind by constantly evaluating how much money you can or cannot spend on a bet.
Here's the solution: you need to have a completely separate fund for your sports betting. This is known as your bankroll. This money should be money that you do not need for bills or living. It should be fully dedicated to your sports betting. What we'll talk about having you do is setting a limit, and if you go over that, you can "withdraw" money from your bankroll and move it over to your life-roll.
Let's say that you decide your bankroll will be $500. This $500 is money that you will only be using for sports betting. You decide that if you get that bankroll over $750, you will move that money to your regular bank account and replace your bankroll to $500. So, let's say you win some bets, and at the end of the weekend you have $850 in your bankroll. You'd then take $350 as profit and move it to your normal bank account. This would leave you with the same $500 in your bankroll for your next round of bets.
We will talk about setting this upper limit later and what you should do if you are looking to grow your bankroll as well. For the meantime, though, you need to realize that the funds you are putting in your bankroll should be viewed as expendable and 100% exclusive from your "regular" money.
So, how much money should you put in your bankroll to start? The answer depends on what your current situation is. We recommend that you start with a number that you are comfortable losing. Ideally, this will be an amount that you never have to replenish, but that is always a possibility if your system and picks are flawed. A common number that we hear from beginners is $100-$300. For those who take their betting a bit more seriously, you could possibly look at a number in the $300-$1,000 range. If you're pretty confident, have the disposable income, and are ready to get serious, the sky is the limit on how much to put into your bankroll.
Remember, this isn't the amount that you're going to drop on one bet or even going to bet in a weekend. The idea is that this amount is going to be all that you need to put into sports betting. Sure, if you're new and aren't the best at making picks, you may have to reload, but the idea is that this amount at the very minimum should last you a considerable period of time. The goal is that this amount grows and the profits continue to flow.
Once you decide on a starting bankroll number, move that amount somewhere separate from your living funds. What most people do is open an online account like PayPal or another payment processor that they can use to fund online accounts, and then shift the money back when they want to cash it out. If you are betting brick-and-mortar, you might want to get a separate bank account, or if you like living dangerously, keep the money in cash. You'll see later that this is ill-advised.
Bet Sizing Guidelines
Now that you've decided on the total amount that you'd like to use for your sports betting, we need to take a look at how much you should be betting on each wager that you're making. For example's sake, we're going to assume that you have decided to make your bankroll $500.
The idea with sports betting is that you are looking to be a long-term winner. While running the risk of sounding like a cheesy cliché again, sports betting is a marathon and not a sprint. This means that you shouldn't be looking to double that $500 on day one, but you should be looking to slowly build and slowly see some gains.
If you read the ROI vs. Win/loss article we referenced above, you also know that sometimes you are going to have to lose several bets before you realize your equity. This means that you need to budget accordingly so you can have enough money to make enough bets to realize your winnings.
Let's say you are looking at a game that pays out at +500. If you convert this to the implied probability, you should be winning this bet 16.7% of the time. But, let's say that you think you are much more likely to win this bet 25% of the time. You are basically getting a potential payout that is much better than you should be getting if you are right.
Let's say that you are right and that you are actually going to win this bet 25% of the time. You decide that you are going to bet $150 on this bet. Here's how that could play out:
- You bet $200 on Team A. Team A loses. You are at (-$200).
- You bet $200 on Team A. Team A loses. You are at (-$400).
- You bet $100 on Team A because it is all you have left. Team A loses. You are at (-$500).
- You bet nothing on Team A because you are broke. Team A wins. You are still at (-$500).
Had you bet $200 on that fourth game, you would have won $1,000 in profit. This would have covered all of your other losses and you would have turned a nice profit. The problem is that because you didn't budget your money properly, you ran out of money and did not give yourself enough time to realize your gains.
What you predicted to happen is exactly what happened. Team A won the game 25% of the time, or one in four times. This means that three of the four games they play they are going to lose, but because the payouts were off, you were still going to make money. But you never made that money because of your poor bankroll management. Let's look at what would have happened if you bet $25 a game in the same situation:
- You bet $25 on Team A. Team A loses. You are at (-$25).
- You bet $25 on Team A. Team A loses. You are at (-$50).
- You bet $25 on Team A. Team A loses. You are at (-$75).
- You bet $25 on Team A. Team A wins. You get your $25 bet back $125 in profit for a total profit of $75.
Because you used some better bankroll management, you were able to realize your gains.
So, what is the right amount to bet based on the size of your bankroll? Well, here are the general rules of thumb:
- If you are looking to bet very conservatively, your bets should be 1%-2% of your bankroll.
- If you are looking to bet an average amount of risk, your bets should be 3% of your bankroll.
- If you are looking to bet very aggressively, your bets should bet 4%-5% of your bankroll.
For those of you who really want to play things safe, the conservative approach is probably your friend. If you're an "average" bettor or aren't sure where to start, the middle number of 3% might fit you nicely. Lastly, if you're someone who is looking to push the envelope, the 4%-5% might be to your liking. Do remember, though, that this comes with much higher risk of potentially having to reload your bankroll if you go on a bad streak.
What does this look like with our example $500 bankroll?
- The conservative bettor would be betting about $10 a bet.
- The middle-of-the-road bettor would be betting about $15 a bet.
- The aggressive bettor would be betting about $25 a bet.
What we recommend is that you establish this number every time you do a reset. We will talk momentarily about what a reset is and how it plays into this calculation.
Do I always have to bet this amount on every bet?
A great follow-up question is whether you should be betting the same amount on every bet that you make. The answer is no. You should be betting the amount that you're comfortable with and that lends itself best to your strategy. These numbers should be viewed more as maximums instead of suggested bet sizes. You should alter your bets based on how certain you are in your picks and how much potential value there is in each.
For example, let's say that you are an aggressive bettor with a $500 bankroll. Let's say you are looking to make two bets on upcoming games. The first game you think is a lock, and you feel the payout odds are wildly skewed in your favor. The second game you think is a lot closer, but you still see some value in the bet. Should you bet $25 on each game?
There is no rule anywhere that says you need to bet the exact same amount on every game that you bet. Again, this will all be determined by your betting system and your confidence in each bet you place. The takeaway is that these numbers and percentages should be your maximum. No matter how much you think a bet is a lock, you should not go over the $25 betting limit if you fit our example criteria.
The Role Variance Plays with Different Bet Types
One thing that you're going to need to take into account is what types of bets you are making. Certain bet types are going to have a higher variance and will require you potentially to endure more losses before cashing in on your gains. For example, if you're betting NFL point spread bets, you won't be dealing with as much variance as if you are betting five-team parlays.
The less likely you are to win the types of bets you are betting, the more your bankroll is going to fluctuate. While you are probably going to be making several different types of bets, make an educated prediction of the main types of bets you will be making. If they are higher-variance bets, bet more along the conservative side of things. If the bets are of the lower-variance nature, you can choose anywhere along the spectrum that you'd like.
A Sports Betting Account Reset
In the last section, we discussed not changing your bet sizes until you go through a reset. What is a sports betting reset? A sports betting reset is when you take the time to either realize profits, reload your account to its starting point, or change your betting limits. The reason that you do all of this at once is so that you aren't losing your mind recalculating everything every time you make a bet.
Let's say that you have a bankroll of $500 and you're an aggressive bettor with a maximum bet of $25 (5%). Let's say that you win a bet for $100 and you now have a bankroll of $600. Technically, 5% of $600 is now $30. So, should you up your bet amount? If you lose a $25 bet and your bankroll is now $475, should you drop your bet to the new 5% ($23.75)? Honestly, you'll go crazy if you update things every single time you win or lose a bet.
This is why we use a reset. Basically, we keep everything the same until a designated time that we're going to reconfigure everything. It's completely up to you how often you do this, but we recommend choosing between weekly, every two weeks, or every month. If you're someone who bets a ton, you might like the shorter time frame, but if you bet sporadically, every month is probably better for you.
Let's take a look at a few scenarios and what this would look like. Let's say that you decide to do a reset weekly. You go through your first week of betting and have a great week. You profit $300, and your bankroll now sits at $800. You get to the end of the week, and it's time to do your reset.
You now have to figure out if you want to change your bet size, increase your bankroll, or realize some of the profits. The first thing you'll want to have in place prior to starting your betting is an upper limit.
Setting an Upper Limit
An upper limit is a number that, if you are over it during a reset, you'll realize that profit.
let's say that you decide that your upper limit is going to be $750. Since your bankroll is now over your upper limit, you cash off your profit. You take the $300, and you transfer it out of your bankroll and into your normal everyday money that you can now spend.
This takes your bankroll back to $500, and you start back over where you were. Your individual bet maximum for the next week is $25 again.
What happens if you have a decent week and you only profit $100? Your bankroll now sits at $600. Since this isn't over your upper limit, you won't cash out any of your money. If you're not planning on ever growing your bankroll (which we will talk about next), you will leave all $600 in your bankroll and leave your individual bet maximum the same at $25. If you make $150 or more in the next week and get your bankroll to at least $750, then you'll cash that $250+ off and leave yourself back at $500 with the same bet size again.
While we hope it never happens, what do you do when you lose? Let's say you place four bets your first week, and you lose all of them, for a loss of $100. Your bankroll now sits at $400. What we recommend you do is recalculate your maximum bet size for your new bankroll. 5% of $400 is $20, so your new bet size would be $20.
As you may have noticed, the changing of your bet sizing when you lose will be dependent on how often you are doing a reset. If you are someone who is okay with more risk, you can move your resets further out. If you were doing a one-month reset and you lost $100 the first week, you'd still be betting $25, even though your bankroll was at $400. If you're someone who is risk-averse, you should stick with the shorter reset periods.
Growing Your Bankroll
All of the above guidelines assume that you aren't looking to build your bankroll and increase your bet sizes. It assumes that you're betting amounts that you're content with. What happens, though, if you'd like to slowly increase your betting size? Let's take a look at some guidelines and scenarios.
The first thing that you need to decide is if you're going to commit all of your winnings to growing your bankroll or if you're going to realize some of your winnings along the way. For example, let's say that you start with a bankroll of $500 and you're an aggressive bettor. At your first reset, you've made $300, and your bankroll now sits at $800.
You could choose to use 100% of your profit toward growing your bankroll until you get to the bet sizes you want. At this point, you would take out no money and reset your bet size to 5% of your new bankroll. 5% of $800 means a new individual bet maximum of $40.
If you wanted to realize some of your profits, you could come up with a percentage to realize and a percentage for growth. Let's say that you decide you're going to realize 50% of your profit and use the other 50% for growth. So you would take $150 (50%) of your profit off and then recalculate your new bet size from your bankroll of $650. Your new bet size would be $32.50.
You would continue either of these plans until your bet sizes got to the size that you want.
let's say that your ultimate goal is to be betting $50 per game. This means you would need to get your bankroll to $1,000 to stay within proper bankroll management standards. If you were doing the 50% split, once you hit $1,000 in your bankroll, you could start taking 100% of your money off as profit.
One word of advice that we would like to add here is that if you are using an aggressive percentage (5%) and you reach your desired bankroll size, keep going to get yourself down to one of the more conservative percentages. Let's say that your desired bet size is $50. Your bankroll requirement for an aggressive bettor would be $1,000. But we are recommending that you continue growing your bankroll until that $50 becomes 3% of your bankroll. This means your bankroll would need to get to about $1,666.
What this does is help to solidify your longevity in the sports betting world. You'll be giving up some profits for a little while to make things much less risky over the long run. You don't have to do this, but we highly advise it.
Manually Adding to Your Bankroll
The other way that you can increase your bankroll is by adding money to it manually. Maybe you have the plan to add $50 to your bankroll from your paycheck every two weeks to help get closer to the bet size that you want. This is completely acceptable, and something that a lot of new sports bettors that are trying to ease their way into betting more seriously do.
The one piece of advice that we have if you choose to do this is stick to the amount that you're going to add. If you have a tough betting period, don't add more than you originally planned. We also recommend that you add funds in line with your resets. That way you can go about recalculating your bet amounts accordingly.
Dangers to Your Bankroll
Most people think that the only threat to their bankroll is making poor picks. While constantly picking losers is going to kill your bankroll slowly, there are a few other threats that you need to be aware of. These are important because these threats can crush you and your bankroll even if you're doing everything right and making great picks.
Part of managing your bankroll is keeping it safe from being stolen. This applies to people betting in brick-and-mortar settings and people betting online. If you're betting in a brick-and-mortar setting, you put yourself at a greater risk because you have to bring cash with you to the casino or sportsbook to bet. When you win, you have to carry that cash with you to your home. As we mentioned earlier, this is not an ideal situation.
Not to completely knock casinos and sportsbooks, but they are not always the safest places on earth. They have a tendency to attract riff-raff and criminals who know there are people walking around with large sums of money in their pocket. If you're going to the casino to bet, only take the money that you need with you. If you cash some winnings, try your best not to flaunt it, and get that money to a bank as quickly as possible. We've heard far more robbery stories than we'd like to.
If you're someone who is betting online, you're safer, but you still need to take some precautions. You need to make sure that you're keeping your password and account information safe and protected. While the sites do have safeguards in place in case someone gets a hold of your account, you still want to do the best you can to keep it protected. While someone would struggle to cash your money out, there is not much to stop them from making bets that you don't want.
Alcohol and Drugs
Sometimes the greatest threat to your bankroll is you when you're not yourself. If you're someone who likes to drink or engage in other extracurricular activities, you're going to want to make sure that you don't let this affect your sports betting. The best advice we can give you is to make all the bets you want to make before you start drinking or doing whatever it is that you enjoy. There is nothing wrong with enjoying games the way you want to, but you should probably take care of all your betting while you're still in your right mind.
People who are drunk or "on something else" sometimes have a tendency to make irrational bets or bet amounts larger than they are really comfortable with. If this is something you struggle with, you need to put safeguards in place to make sure you don't waste your profits. If this means leaving money at home, do it. If it means staying away from the casino while you're inebriated, do it. If this means keeping the betting app off of your phone and only betting from the website, do it.
One of the most underrated hard parts of sports betting is dealing with the emotional rollercoaster. Every game you bet is going to get your emotions rolling, and a string of wins or losses could start to entice you to bet against your strategy. Sometimes this manifests as you making bets without thinking them through and sometimes it manifests as you making larger bets than you'd like to.
During losing streaks (which are inevitable), you can be tempted to bet bigger to try to get your losses back faster. On the same token, during big winning streaks, you can be tempted to bet more to try to press your winnings. Both of these are losing strategies. While they might work sometimes, they're ill-advised. In the long run, they are going to be losing plays.
Regardless of how you are feeling, you need to stick to your plan. If you're struggling with this, you need to look into putting some safeguards in place to prevent you from doing something stupid and costing yourself money. At the end of the day, this comes down to you looking out for you. If you're getting too emotional and it's affecting your betting, figure out what you need to do to protect yourself.
The Final Word
Bankroll management might not be sexy, but it's the key to longevity within the industry. If you have serious hopes and dreams about being a professional or more serious bettor one day, then you need to be ready to do what it takes. If that means getting yourself in check and putting in some effort to get these guidelines ingrained in your betting strategy, then that's what you have to do.
We aren't here to be Debbie Downers or to try to suck all the fun out of sports betting. We're here to help you succeed, and sometimes that takes a little effort and "playing by the rules." Making correct picks is only part of the battle to the top. Protect your bankroll so that you're always in the game. It's hard to make any money when you don't have any money to bet with.