Introduction to Bankroll Management
If you were to poll 100 sustained and successful sports bettors as to which skill was more important between picking winners and managing a bankroll, there is quite a strong likelihood the majority would answer that bankroll management is more important. Conversely, if you polled 100 consistent losers as to which skill was more important, the poll would likely skew heavily towards picking winners being more important.
While picking correct winners is ultimately a necessity to be a successful sports bettor in both the short term and the long term, success is only possible if funds available are managed properly and deployed in a manner, which sets the bettor up for success. The reason the winners would likely opt for the bankroll management in the poll is understanding variance and ultimately giving themselves a chance at success. They understand that if the funds available are mismanaged, one small variance level occurrence or streak on the losing end can fully deplete the bankroll available, as is often the trap losing players fall into.
Sports betting needs to be thought of as a marathon and not a sprint.
To explain this as simply as possible without going deep down a mathematics rabbit hole, the smaller the sample size in question, the larger the possible variance or potential range of outcomes to be had. If dealing in a large range of outcomes, it is most prudent to not have a large portion of the given bankroll in play while the small nature of the sample size dictates there is more risk at hand. Instead, there should only be a small percentage of the bankroll a risk with the smaller sample size, only to have a larger or full portion of the bankroll at risk when a number of these small sample sizes are strung together, bringing the potential level of variance down to as close to zero as possible.
Bankroll Management 101
The most pivotal and completely dire goal for any successful sports bettor is long term success. Sports betting needs to be thought of as a marathon and not a sprint. The outcome of any game, match, day or even week pales in importance to the success rate after a sports bettor has made hundreds of bets. There are four easy steps to take to begin the process of making your first couple hundred bets.
- Identify and sign up with the sports book of your choice
- Identify the amount of your bankroll in totality
- Identify what a “unit” is in relation to your bankroll
- Reevaluate bankroll and update the unit amount
For an example, we will use a $500 initial deposit and bankroll as our example and will update the example in each section.
1. Identify and sign up with the sportsbook of your choice
There are many ways to choose which sportsbook you are most comfortable with, an note that it doesn’t have to be limited to just one, but let’s get started with the one offering the most lucrative and attainable sign-up bonus. You aren’t permanently locked into your choice of sportsbook but do commit to seeing the sign-up bonus unlocked on your initial deposit. Only initially sign up for multiple sportsbooks if you have virtual 100% certainty you will achieve the requirements needed to fully unlock the sign-up bonus on all sites.
2. Identify The Amount Of Your Bankroll In Totality
This seems quite simple and straightforward, and it is, but the importance of it can’t be overstated. It is important, to be honest with yourself both about how much you can afford to put in play and about how much you will enjoy having in play. The amount that can be afforded should be checked twice and can even be on the aggressive side, assuming there will only be one single deposit before reevaluating the bankroll and how much a unit can and should be.
It is important to be honest with yourself both about how much you can afford to put in play and about how much you will enjoy having in play.
The amount should also be in the range of comfortability, with too much being more problematic than too little. Too much brings the worry of losing into play and is something that can affect the willingness to make the appropriate bets. Too little is a much easier fix, but one that you will have to keep self-discipline over for the short term until the reevaluation step. Again, choosing this figure completely varies from individual to individual and the most important part of it is being honest with one’s self about the appropriate figure.
3. Identify what a “unit” is in relation to your bankroll
A unit by definition is the percentage of your bankroll, and in turn, a specific amount that each bet risks. To track the expected rate of return accurately over the long haul, a unit should be just 1% to 2% of your total bankroll. The majority of the most successful bettors do not risk more than 1% of their bankroll on any singular bet and it’s difficult to argue with success. If you feel more aggressive, going up to 2% per bet or making 2% of your bankroll equal a unit, it is acceptable but should be the cap for beginning and intermediate level bettors. While many bettors will go over that 2% maximum, by either a little or by a lot, it is generally a losing strategy and one that needs to overcome higher levels of the variance than are ideal. Many advice platforms will offer a number of units along with their plays, but betting multiple units on any single wager is certainly a strategy to avoid until the reevaluation process and likely one to avoid permanently.
In our example, our initial bankroll was $500. This means a unit is ideally $5 but can be as high as $10 on the aggressive side. For simplicity’s sake we will operate with a unit being $5. Now we know that each wager going forward will risk $5.
4. Reevaluate Bankroll and Update Unit Amount
Once you have your bankroll size and the unit amount determined, it is then the time you’ve been waiting for: to place your bets! Before reaching a point of truly evaluating performance, there should be at least 100 bets placed, but more ideally in the 200 to 300 range.
Let’s assume you’ve placed 200 bets with the $500 bankroll and now have an idea of win rate to be expected. Let’s look at a couple of examples of possible outcomes and how to adapt the unit amount given the new information.
Example 1: After 200 bets, the outcome is very close to even, losing just two units and the bankroll is at $490. In this scenario, the bankroll has seen virtually no change and the unit size should stay exactly the same. Where the bettor has come out on top in this scenario is having not lost anything of substance and not been a victim of a high variance outcome and can look to improving their strategy for picking winners while the bankroll remains secure.
Example 2: After 200 bets, the outcome is being down 20 units and seeing the bankroll drop to $400. This is clearly not the success rate anyone is hoping for but the information provided is critical. While the bettor knows the process for picking the appropriate bets is likely flawed, they still have a large percentage of the bankroll to work with while addressing the problems. After a drop like this, lowering the amount of a unit is prudent, at least until changes can be made to the bet picking process and results are improved. The unit amount should be lowered by at least the percentage of losses incurred.
Example 3: After 200 bets, the outcome is being 10 units ahead and the bankroll is increased to $550. The bettor at this point can be reasonably assured their process for picking winners is sound and will have two options at reevaluation. If they remain comfortable betting the same unit amount, they can take the 10% profit as a withdrawal and move forward with the same bankroll and the unit amount they began with. The other option is to use the profit gained to redefine the amount of the starting bankroll, and in turn, the amount of a unit wagered. In this scenario the starting bankroll would be redefined as $550 and a unit would become $5.50. If the win rate remains the same, the bankroll would similarly increase at the same rate over each wagering period, but the amount won would also increase by 10% over each period by reinvesting. This is the recommended and organic way to properly grow a bankroll and profit.
The most important keys to bankroll management are being honest with one’s self about the amount they have to risk, exercising self-control and not overextending the bankroll over any short term period and calculating results to determine how to best proceed moving forward. Do not be in a rush for a large profit or loss as this is akin to dumb luck gambling and takes the inferred predictive nature of sports wagers out of the equation. Make bets a long term investment and understand what might need refinement. Taking these simple steps will be paramount in the long term success of any sports bettor.
Ready to make your first deposit? We recommend PayPal for transferring money into your sportsbook account. Read our guide on PayPal sports betting.
Another very popular payment method is Skrill which has been around since the birth of online sports betting.