Thursday, September 11, 2008

Q & A: "Money Management in Sports Betting"

Q: Stephen Asks....

This may be a stupid question but I wanted to check with you and make sure I understand how to bet "units." A unit is basically your minimum bet, correct? For example, my bankroll isn't very large and my math is spotty at best so to keep things simple I am considering one unit to be $10. So when you suggest a bet for two units I take that line for $20. A 5 unit bet means I put down $50. Is this the right way of going about it?

A: Hello Again Stephen....

I appreciate the question as well as your participation and interest in this sports handicapping blog. This is far from a stupid question and I am glad that you asked. Someone who doesn't ask questions like this because he/she thinks it's a stupid question may end up losing a bundle of money because they didn't ask. So, I am glad you did and I hope this helps someone other then just yourself. I will be glad to answer this is some detail for you today as I have a little free time on my hands at the moment.

As you are a smaller player, for the most part you have the right idea, Steve. Everyone has their own system of money management and it only makes sense that way. Why wouldn't they. Some people are comfortable betting $500 a game and some people are more comfortable only betting $5 a game. I am not here to judge anyone on their wager amounts, nor do I care how much money my readers make at their jobs. I always wish all my readers success in whatever they pursue and I truly hope that everyone here is content and happy in their own professions. But, I can tell you this; The key to money management in sports betting is consistency. One day, I will completely discuss my own personal money management system on this blog and will go into vigorous detail (Yes, I really can go into a more detail). But, that is for another time and for now, I will offer some quick money management advice.

In my opinion, and generally speaking, an individual's 'unit play' should be anywhere from .05% to a maximum of 3% of their bankroll that the player has set aside for sports betting purposes. Again, I am not going to go into how much of your personal income you should set aside for gambling. I am going to assume that everyone reading this blog is somewhat responsible. I am also going to assume that everyone reading this has enough judgement to separate money that is intended for their family and the necessities of life, with money that is used for sports betting. If this is a problem for you and you are unable to achieve this, then this article really will not help you and you will need to seek some professional advice for problem gambling.

As I was saying, anywhere from .05% to 3% (max) of the player's bankroll is a good start in deciding your 'unit bet'. I personally would advise a player's 'unit bet' to be 1.5% of their betting bankroll. This is the percentage that I use and I think it's about right. With a 1.5% 'per unit' system, if you have a total of $1,000 set aside as your sports betting bankroll, each '1-unit bet' would be a $15 bet, making a 5-unit play a $75 bet. Those are 'to win' amounts when betting spreads (if you want to get really specific). This is a sound system of money management in my opinion. Some players may prefer to be more risky and make their units a little bit larger, say 2% or 3%.

Going any higher then 2% or 3% 'per unit' is foolish in my opinion. Here is why going as high as 5% of your bankroll for a 1-unit play is very unwise. If you are using 5% 'per unit' player, then you would be risking 25% of your roll on one game if you are betting a 5-unit play. For example; if a player has a $500 bankroll, then his unit play (at 5%) would be $25, and a 5-unit play would be $125. He would be risking 25% of his entire bankroll on one game. I personally wouldn't suggest risking anything over 10% to 15% of your bankroll on one game, ever. 10% i definitely my cap, but again some people set their limits higher.

On the other hand, the same ($500 bankroll) player, using my 1.5% per unit (or $7.50 per unit) system, would be risking $37.50 (or 7.5% of his bankroll) on a 5-unit play, which is more reasonable. Of course it doesn't have to be exact. A player with a $500 bankroll could play $10 units, which is also reasonable. You decide for yourself.

So, make your decision on how much you want to value your bets. But, whatever you decide, be consistent and do not (I repeat, do not) start changing your wager values, especially not in the middle of the season or because you are having a good week. I really wouldn't suggest changing it at all, unless you get a raise at your job; or your business has gotten bigger; or you are simply making more money and have more 'recreational' (not the word I am looking for) income to use for sports betting purposes. Again, consistency is the key to sports betting money management. Be consistent when you decide how much you are going to value your bets.

Again, if you are a small player and your average bet would be $20, then yes. a $10 'per unit' amount sounds reasonable. If you're a medium level player, perhaps $50 units may be more your style. That all depends on how much money you make and how much you have set aside for betting. But, one thing is for certain, this blog is for all players; from the $10 (per unit) player, to the dime player ($250 to $1000 per unit) player. However much you decide to wager on a particular game or wet aside for sports betting, there is absolutely no substitute for consistent money management, nor is there an alternative to sound advice and making informed and educated bets. What's the word of the day? CONSISTENCY.

I also wouldn't mind hearing about how some of my readers manage their sports betting bankrolls (without getting into actual dollar amounts). If you have any money management tips or other general advice related to money management, be sure to share in the comments section.

-The Visionary


Anonymous said...

When you say these are "to win" amounts on spreads, if I am understanding correctly, then a $10 player betting the spread of a 3-unit game at -110 would be wagering $33. But on either side of the money line (+ or -), a 3-unit wager would be a straight $30.

Is that correct?

The Visionary said...


Most spreads are -110. However, they could also be -115 or -120. This is the same thing as betting a moneyline favorite, except you are giving or getting points.

Using your ($10 per unit) example...

Yes $33 to win $30 on spreads (assuming -110).

However, on a baseball moneyline wager, such as -150, a 3-unit wager would be $45 to win $30 (or 4.5 units to win 3).

For an moneyline underdog, such as +150, a 3-unit wager would be would be $30 to win $45.

You are betting "to win" (that many units) on moneyline favorites and you are "risking" (that many units) on moneyline underdogs.

As another example, on Wednesday we had a 1 unit, +150 winner (+1.5 units) and a 1 unit, +150 loser (-1 units) and a 3 unit, -150 loser (-4.5 units) which gave us a -4.00 unit losing day.

Make sense?

-The Visionary

Anonymous said...

Got it. Makes sense. Moneyline chalk was where I was off. Thanks.