You’ve probably seen a bunch of short articles out there on the web about bankroll management. Most of them just tell you to “be smart” and “don’t bet too crazy,” but few of them actually give you any concrete rules and steps you can take to make sure you’re protecting your potential to succeed. If you do happen to find a bankroll management guide that gives you any concrete steps or parameters, it’s usually too rigid and doesn’t fit your unique situation.
This guide is going to be different. In this guide, we’re going to give you real steps and real rules you can follow to properly protect your sports betting bankroll and set yourself up for success. But, we’re not just going to give you hard and fast rules that can’t flex with your unique situation. We’ll show you how to decide what bankroll management plan is best for you and what you can start doing today to put it in place.
We’ll also cover literally anything and everything else you could want to know about bankroll management including why it is so important, the dangers and pitfalls you need to avoid, and some additional tips to ensure your success.
Before we embark on this journey, we want to make sure you understand why it’s so important. Otherwise, we know a lot of people are just going to scan through the guide quickly and miss a lot of the key points. Bankroll management is the single most important thing that can destroy your chances of success betting on sports regardless of how good you are. Literally, the sharpest sports bettor in the world could easily go broke without good bankroll management practices. Let’s take a look why.
Variance is this nasty little thing in sports betting that people have a tendency to forget about. In simpler terms, variance is the fact that you can make all the right picks and still lose in the short term. If you’re constantly making good value sports bets you’re going to win in the long run, but you can certainly lose in the short run because of variance.
Some people like to use the term luck when they are talking about variance. A better way to describe it, though, is the things that can happen that are unexpected that can make a great bet on paper go south. In the long run, these unexpected occurrences are going to fall in your favor, and if you’re making the right picks, you’re going to win. But, in the short term, you can go on a losing streak even if you’re the best of the best.
If you don’t properly budget your sports betting bankroll to be able to weather these storms and make it out the other side still in the game, then you’re not going to make it unless you’re an incredibly lucky person. You have got to manage your bankroll properly to account for variance so that your skill and expertise have time and the ability to shine through and turn you a profit.
Here’s something that a lot of people who struggle with being honest with themselves fail to realize. When you first start sports betting, you are not going to be the best at it. It’s not something that you’re just magically going to be good at because you watch a lot of sports. You might be starting from a lot better point than a lot of people, but you’re not going to be the best.
This means that there is a good chance your strategy is not going to be perfect from day one, and you might not come out of the gate a winner. If you are making big bets for a large percentage of your bankroll, you’re not going to last very long. By betting with more of a long-term plan, you allow yourself some breathing room to spot problems, make corrections, and ultimately get yourself back on track to winning before all of your money has vanished.
Ever have issues with people giving you a hard time about sports betting telling you that it’s just gambling and that you stand no chance of being a long-term winner? Well, most of these people are probably imagining you sitting in a sportsbook with tickets and money pouring out of your pockets and you scribbling little notes frantically on a piece of paper.
Want to change their view on things? Show them how seriously you take things. Show them that it’s not gambling, but there is a method to the way you do things, and you treat it seriously. One of the best ways to do this is to show them your bankroll management plan.
When you have a solid and laid out plan for how you bet, it immediately gives it legitimacy.
People will see that you have accounted for things like variance, learning, mistakes, and all of that. They’ll start to realize that you are vastly different from the guy or gal throwing dice in the craps pit or pulling the slot machine arm.
This structure is not just good for appearance and peace of mind, but it goes a long way to making sure that you are doing things legitimately and it helps to keep you in line and on track.
This might seem like an ultra-basic question that most of you have an answer to already. But, we wanted to answer it because there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the definition that you should be using as a successful sports bettor.
Your bankroll is not the amount of money you’re going to bet on the games this weekend. It is not the amount of money you are going to bet on the games for the next few weeks. Your bankroll is the money that is your “bank account” for all of your bets forever. When it hits it’s mature state, it will be its own separate account that you never touch except for withdrawing your profits.
The idea here is that you need to be looking at your bankroll as a long-term account. You don’t have a new bankroll every weekend or every few weeks. You have one bankroll that starts now for the remainder of your entire sports betting career. Yes, you can add and subtract from it, but it needs to be an established account and fund that is not being reborn every few days or weeks.
Your bankroll needs to be 100% independent from your personal money or any other funds. In fact, we advise that you don’t even keep them in the same account. If you bet online, that’s easy. If you bet at the brick and mortar locations in cash, that might be a little more difficult, but it’s still something we advise.
Your bankroll needs to be funds that you are not going to need to pay your bills or anything like that. It’s money that needs to be like an investment that you’re not going to touch. Yes, you can withdraw profits and such from it, but the principle base amount that you need to work with needs to stay in there untouched.
This makes it way easier to choose your bet size, track your results, and ultimately be more successful. When we get to the next section talking about your starting bankroll size, make sure you keep this in mind. Don’t put funds in your bankroll that you might need access to for anything other than betting on sports.
Now that we’ve covered why bankroll management is important and what a bankroll really is, we want to talk about how to go about choosing what your starting bankroll is going to be. How much money is the right amount to set aside or load into your online sportsbook accounts for your starting bankroll? Well, it depends on a lot of factors that you will need to decide. Let’s take a look at some of those below and some examples to help you out.
For a lot of people just getting started in sports betting, they don’t have a ton of money that they want to throw out there to give it a go. First, that’s okay. You should never be betting with money you aren’t comfortable with.
Second, this is what we call the difference between a growing bankroll and an established bankroll. An established bankroll is one that has 100% of the money in it that you want.
You’re happy with the amount you’re able to bet each wager and any money you make over that you’re just going to take in profit.
This is really the end goal of sports betting growth. You want to have an established bankroll that you can just collect profits from.
But, let’s say you eventually want to have $1,000 in your sports betting bankroll, but you don’t have $1,000 to commit to sports betting at this point. What you do instead is commit the amount you do have and then set up a growth plan to eventually get your bankroll to the established size you want. So, let’s say you have $200 you can commit to sports betting, but you’d ideally like to see your bankroll be $1,000. Start by putting the $200 in and bet according to that sized bankroll. Then, select one of the growth plans we’re going to cover below and grow until you hit the $1,000 mark.
Just make sure when we get into the sections talking about how much to bet per wager that you don’t use your goal bankroll size for the calculations. Use what your actual bankroll size is. So, if you’re starting at the $200 mark, make all of your calculations as if you have a $200 bankroll. When it eventually gets to the end goal of $1,000, you can reset your bet amounts (which we will also cover as well in a later section).
We touched on it a few times already, but your starting bankroll really comes down to how much you want to commit. If you’re brand new to sports betting and just looking to learn, you might want to opt for a smaller starting bankroll. You can learn just as much making $5 bets as you can making $500 bets. Discipline becomes easier at different levels, but the lessons are still the same.
If you’re an experienced sports bettor who is just getting a little more organized with things, you can opt for a higher amount if you’d like. This is especially true if you’re using sports betting as a source of income. No, we don’t mean people who are hoping to use it as a source of income, we mean people who are already using it as one effectively.
Just don’t go overboard as you’ll see in the coming section that there are plenty of options to grow your bankroll, but a lot of them aren’t useful if you’ve already burned through all of your disposable income.
Depending on the types of bets you are going to make, you may want to opt for a different sized starting bankroll. If you are going to be placing wagers that you can win frequently (things like spread bets, over/unders, etc.), then you aren’t going to need as much money in your account as the variance is going to be lower. If you’re going to be making bets with higher variance like futures bets, individual race winners, etc., then you might want to have a slightly higher bankroll size and opt for smaller bet sizes (which we will cover).
Ultimately, the bigger decision here will come with individual bet sizing, but it is something that might reflect into how much money you want to start with in your starting bankroll.
If you have a certain bet size that you want to make, you can always reverse engineer the proper bankroll size you need to support that. You’ll learn in the next few sections how to do this as we get into deciding your individual bet size based on bankroll. Keep in mind that a lot of people that do this realize they need a much larger bankroll than expected to properly be betting the amount they want. If this happens, you’ll need to determine the maximum you’re willing to put into your bankroll and then adjust your bet size accordingly. You’ll know what your goal bankroll size is, but you need to adjust your bet sizes accordingly. Failure to do so is just stubbornness that puts you at risk for going broke.
For example, someone who bets $20 a game needs between $400 and $2,000 for a properly sized bankroll depending on your risk profile (which we will cover). Don’t violate your bankroll management rules just because you want to bet a larger amount on each game.
At this point, a few of you probably have enough money to fund your bankroll at your end goal, but most of you are probably starting with a smaller amount that you’d like to grow into your final end goal amount. Below, we’ve outlined a few of the easiest strategies and plans for growing your bankroll to where you’d like for it to be.
One of the simplest ways to grow your bankroll is by reinvesting either a portion of or all of your profits. This allows you to grow with success and doesn’t require you to add any additional funds from your personal account to your bankroll. Some people choose to invest 100% of their winnings until they reach their desired bankroll, and some people choose to do a smaller percentage and take the rest out as profit.
What’s the right way to do it? It is all up to you. If you need some of your profits immediately or want to enjoy some of the spoils, then take a percentage out as a profit. If you don’t need the money right away and are serious about getting to your end goal, reinvest 100% of your profits until you hit your end goal. Then you can start taking out 100% of your profits, and they will most likely be much larger amounts as your bet size will increase with your bankroll (we will cover this in a later section).
A different method that you can use to grow your bankroll is by just adding money. Some people elect to add money when they can (no system), and others like to add a particular amount on a scheduled until they reach their end goal. For example, maybe you load $20 from each paycheck into your bankroll? Or maybe you get a few extra bucks for your birthday and elect to add that to your account? It all just comes down to what works for you, how much disposable income you have, and how quickly you want to grow your bankroll.
Now that we’ve talked about what your bankroll should look like in the macro view, we want to start looking at how you can go about figuring out how much you should be betting with each individual bet. Figuring out that number starts with understanding how much risk you want to take on in your sports betting.
Specifically, there are three different risk profiles that you can take on – risk conservative, risk neutral, and risk aggressive. None of these three are any better than the rest, but there is going to be one that’s a better fit for you. Take some time and read through each option and make a decision which category you’d like to use for your sports betting.
If you are brand new to sports betting or are working to improve your strategy and want to take things slowly, this is going to be the risk profile that is best for you. The risk conservative sports bettor is going to wager the lowest percentage of their bankroll and will also be the most protected from variance. Don’t let the conservative approach fool you, though; you can still make a lot of money with this risk profile.
If you’re someone who is not sure where you should fit, or you’re not leaning towards being conservative or aggressive, then the risk-neutral risk profile is right for you. You’ll be betting more than the risk conservative bettor but not quite as much as the risk aggressive bettor. You will be insulated from variance, but not quite as much as the risk conservative bettor.
The last risk profile you can choose from is the risk aggressive bettor. This will be the group that bets the largest percentage of their bankroll on every bet. Their protection from variance will be lower, and the risk of going broke will be much higher. But, the potential for turning a big profit will also be higher. With the higher risk, comes a higher potential reward.
Yes! When you select a risk profile, you’re not locked into that for the lifetime of your sports betting. There may be reasons that you want to start out in one category and then as time goes on you grow into a different category. For example, if you’re brand new to sports betting or working on a new strategy, you might want to be risk conservative. But, once you realize you have a winning strategy, you might want to move to risk neutral or risk aggressive as you have more confidence in your strategy. Just make sure you’re not changing your risk profile to fit a single bet that you want to make. It should be a strategy-wide decision.
Now we’re going to get into some particulars. In this section, we’re going to talk about the specifics of how much you should be betting on each bet. We’re going to be looking at what your minimum and maximums should be based on the size of your bankroll. Remember, when you do the calculations, this is not based on what your end goal bankroll is, but it is based on what your actual bankroll is.
As you probably already guessed, the minimums and maximums you can bet will depend on the risk profile that you selected. Let’s take a look at each of the profiles one at a time.
If you are in this risk profile category, your minimum bet will be $0, and your maximum bet will be up to 2% of your total bankroll. Your minimum is $0 because you are never required to bet anything on a game. Your range is anywhere between that $0 mark and 2% of your total bankroll. So, for example, let’s say that you have a $300 bankroll. Your maximum bet with this risk profile would be $6 per bet.
Yes, that might seem low, but it gives you the ultimate in protection from variance and plenty of time to catch any mistakes in your strategy before they wipe you out. If your bankroll were $1,000, then your maximum limit would be $20. Remember, this is not the total amount of money that you have bet on a weekend or a slate of games. This is just the maximum for each individual bet. You could have a large percentage of your bankroll in play, but each individual bet should be within that range.
If you are in the risk-neutral category, your minimum bet will still be $0, but your maximum bet will be up to 4% of your total bankroll. Again, you are never required to bet anything, so the minimum is $0. Let’s look at an example. If your bankroll is $300, your maximum individual wager will be $12. If your bankroll were $1,000, your maximum bet would be $40.
Realize that you can still bet within the conservative realm with this risk profile as you are not forced to bet 4%, it’s just the upper limit maximum.
For those of you that are on the aggressive side of things, your minimum is still going to be $0, and your maximum will be up to 6% of your total bankroll. If your bankroll were $300, your maximum bet size would be $18. If your bankroll were $1,000, your maximum bet size would be $60. As you can probably see, this is a lot larger than the risk neutral and risk conservative profiles. It puts you in a position to make a lot of money quickly, but it also puts you in a position to potentially lose money fast if your strategy is not sound or variance doesn’t go your way.
As you may be starting to realize, nothing is fixed when it comes to sports betting. This is true for your bankroll maximums. We didn’t mention minimums because they are always going to be $0 (so we guess at least one thing is fixed). As for your maximums, though, they will change depending on your particular situation. Let’s take a look at some of these scenarios.
As your bankroll grows, you’re going to want to change the maximum limits on your bets. For example, if you start with a $300 bankroll and are risk neutral (a maximum bet of $12), and you grow your bankroll to $1,000, you’re not going to want to keep $12 as your maximum. You’ll want to up your maximum to $40 (still 4%, but it’s 4% of a much larger number now).
Should you do this at every stage of your bankroll growth? Probably not. It would get pretty tedious to keep up with and be a bit silly. But, what you could do is set milestones on the way up where you are going to change your maximum.
For example, let’s say you are starting with a bankroll of $300 and your end goal is a bankroll of $1,000. You could say that at $500 and $750 you’re going to recalculate our maximum bet. So, when your bankroll is at $300, your maximum is $12. When your bankroll gets to $400, you’ll still keep it at $12. But, when it gets to $500, you’ll recalculate 4% of $500 and change your maximum limit to $20. Then, when your bankroll gets to $600, your maximum is still $20. But, when it gets to $750, you’ll recalculate 4% of $750 and set your new maximum bet size at $30. Once you make it to $1,000, you’ll recalculate one last time and then be set for good.
Another instance where you might want to change your betting maximums is if you want to lower your variance at any point. For example, let’s say you take the aggressive approach to grow your bankroll from the $300 mark to the $1,000 mark. Let’s say things go great and you get there with no problems. You might not want to continue the aggressive approach now that you’re at the higher level. You might want to cut back to a risk neutral approach. If that’s the case, that’s totally okay. Just recalculate based on the new maximum percentage you want, and you’re all set.
So, at this point in the bankroll management journey, you know how much to put in your starting bankroll, how to select a final bankroll size, and how to set your betting maximum and minimums. But, how do you decide how much to bet within that range? Do you always bet the most you are allowed to or do you mix it up? That’s what we’re going to take a look at in this section
Spoiler, there are going to be a lot of different methods of deciding the amount to bet that are all right. But, the one thing to realize is that none of them ever advocate for betting outside of the range we’ve already set. We’ll look at some things later that might tempt you to bet outside of the range, but it is something that you never want to do.
The first way that you can choose how much to bet within your range is by your confidence level in the wager. It’s really a simple system. If you are very confident in the bet and think it has a ton of value, you can bet towards the top of the range or the maximum. If you think it has enough value to warrant a bet, but you’re not completely sold on it, then you might want to bet towards the bottom of the range.
What some sports bettors do is bet in what they call units. Let’s say your maximum bet size is $30. You could set your unit size at $10. Then you would have three different confidence levels that you could bet. One unit would be a $10 bet reserved for the bets that have slight value, and you aren’t completely sold on. Two units would be for the bets you’re confident in and think have a lot of value. That would be $20. And $30 would be three units and would be reserved for the bets that you thought were slam dunks and “locks.” This is an easy system for you to figure out how much you want to bet on each wager.
Another thing that can work to help you decide how much you want to bet on each individual bet is the type of wager you are making. If you are betting something that is high variance with a huge payout, you can choose to bet on the lower side of your range. If something pays out 10 to 1 or something like that, you’re not going to win it very often but when you do you’re going to get a healthy payday. You’ll probably be happy with the win amount even if you bet a much smaller bet than you traditionally do.
If you’re betting something that is (-110) or something like that where you’re going to win often, you’ll probably be more comfortable betting a larger amount as the variance isn’t going to be as big and the potential win will also not be as big as the higher variance options.
It’s important to point out that this is only a matter of preference. There is no rule that says you have to bet smaller on the bets with higher variance. This is merely a potential strategy that you could employ, and it happens to be one that we see a lot of people like.
For example, let’s say you’re betting on an upcoming NFL football game and you bet one team to win on the spread at (-110) and you take a higher variance bet of who is going to score first at (+600). Let’s say your maximum bet is $30 and you’re fairly confident in the team you picked to win. What you might do is bet $20 on the game and then something small like $5 on the player to score first. If you win the game bet, you’re going to get a little over $18 in profit which is nice. If you win the smaller bet, you’re still going to get $30 in profit which is awesome. And, if you lose that bet but win the game bet, you’re still going to turn a little over a $13 profit which is not bad.
A question we get a lot on this topic is whether or not it is okay to just bet the same amount on every wager. The answer is that is completely fine! If you want to bet a fixed amount on every single wager you make and keep it simple, that is completely okay. You can bet the maximum number, close to the minimum, halfway in the middle of the range, whatever you want! Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. It all comes down to what your personal preferences are and what works best with your particular sports betting strategy.
At this point, you should be very clear on exactly what your bankroll is, how much money should be in it, what your minimum and maximum allowed bets are, and how to decide where to bet within that range. You basically have almost all of the keys to the puzzle. We say almost, though, because there are a few more important things that we need to talk about.
Specifically, in this section, we want to talk about the dangers to your bankroll and your bankroll management. These are the pitfalls that we’ve seen far too many sports bettors fall into. These can cut into your profits and potentially set you up to go bust. Please take just a few minutes to read through the information below and make sure you’re prepared to combat any of these pitfalls.
We get excited when we find a bet that we think has a ton of value and is a genius pick. But, we don’t get carried away thinking that it is a lock. For those of you that have never heard the term before, a lock is something that can’t lose. It’s used in the sports betting world to refer to a bet that can’t lose.
Unfortunately, here’s the truth. Locks are not real. There is no such thing as a sure thing in sports betting unless you are somehow cheating. There are bets that have great value, and you have a high probability of winning, but it is still never 100% certain.
Please continue reading this section over and over again until you get it through your head and believe it to be true.
What does this have to do with bankroll management? Well, here’s how the scenario looks. Your maximum bet is $30 based on the bankroll management rules we laid out above. But, your buddy gives you a call and tells you about the lock of the century he just stumbled upon. It’s a bet that can’t lose as he puts it. You take a look at the facts and figures, and you agree that it’s a fantastic bet for you to make.
How much are you going to bet on this once in a season opportunity? Well, if you’re saying anything more than $30, then you are perfectly demonstrating the problem. You cannot ever go over your maximum allowed bet size no matter what. No matter how certain you are that a bet is going to win, there are no 100% sure things or locks. Period. End of discussion. Do not let the allure of something that can’t lose cause you to start breaking your bankroll management rules.
When you’re in your right state of mind, most of you are going to have no problems sticking to your bankroll rules. But, when you start to introduce alcohol and drugs into the equation, things can get a little dicey. People have a tendency to throw caution to the wind when they get intoxicated, drunk, or high.
Their sports betting decisions are not immune from this either. People have a tendency to bet higher amounts than they want to, place wagers they normally wouldn’t make, and ultimately just do things that sober-them would classify as stupid and reckless.
We are not going to jump up on a soapbox and tell you what you can or cannot put into your body. But, if you’re going to make some of these choices, make sure it does not affect your sports betting or bankroll management rules. If you want to drink and watch the games, awesome! But go ahead and make your bets before you start drinking so you’re in the right state of mind. If you have a tendency to get out of line and bet like crazy when you drink, then cut off your access to your money or your betting accounts.
If you’re really bad, you might want to consider choosing one or the other activities to partake in. Again, we are not going to jump on a soapbox and tell grown men or women want to do. But, if you are serious about being a profitable and successful sports bettor, you may have to make some decisions about what is more important to you if you have some issues.
What can be just as bad as alcohol and drugs and sometimes worse are your emotions. Look, if we’re being honest, our emotions can play a big role in our decision-making process. When everything is great, we think with a clear mind and make fiscally responsible decisions in life and at the sportsbook. But, when our emotions are not in a good state, we run the risk of running into problems.
Be careful about sports betting when you are emotional. The easiest way to protect yourself is stay far away from betting when your mind is not right. If you’re upset about something else (not just sports betting related), then take some time off and stay away until you get your mind under control. Sports betting is not going anywhere for a long time, so there is no reason to try and force action and bets when your mind is not in the game.
Just remember that emotions that will affect your sports betting decisions can come from the sports betting itself or it can come from other areas of your life. Relationships, work, family, and anything else can cause you emotional stress which may or may not have a negative effect on your decision-making process. If you’re making emotional bets, you stand no chance of being successful long term.
One of the biggest emotional responses that we see far too often is bettors breaking bankroll management rules to chase their losses. The scenario is simple and far too common. All the games for the day are finished except one that you haven’t bet yet, and you’re down. You could stick to your bankroll management rules on the last game, but even if you win, you are going to be down for the day.
This is where the temptation starts to roll in. What if you were to bet just a little extra to ensure that if you win, you’ll be even or even profitable on the day? While this might sound enticing, it is an awful strategy and is only going to set you up for failure. If you end up winning that bet, you’ll feel like a champion. But, you can’t do that forever.
You will end up losing one of these chasing bets and then where are you? Instead of just being down a little bit, you’re now down a ton and the temptation to chase even more the next day will be higher. Don’t start yourself on this downward spiral.
A bankroll management pitfall that a lot of people often don’t realize is ineffective tracking. If you are not keeping detailed records of how much money you have in your bankroll, how much you are betting, and your results then you’re setting yourself up for failure. How can you calculate what your maximum bet size is if you have no idea what your bankroll is? How can you know if you have strategy problems and are getting crushed if you don’t know what your results are?
These are just a few of the problems that you’re going to run into with your bankroll if you don’t take the time to properly track your results and your bankroll. Set up a system now and stick to it. This will make things much easier for you in the long run and will set you up for success.
When we said this was the definitive guide on bankroll management, we hope you see now that we weren’t kidding. We tried our best to cover every little nook and cranny of what you need to know in order to prosper with whatever sport you are betting. We can’t guarantee that your betting system is going to be a winner, but we can guarantee you this. If you follow the bankroll management guidelines we laid out here, you will be giving yourself a chance to be successful. If you have a winning strategy and you follow these guidelines, you will be successful. But, if you have a winning strategy and you don’t follow these guidelines, you might find yourself busted and out of money before you know it.