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How to Set and Maintain Your Sports Betting Budget

by January 17, 2020
Drew Brees

Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our Sports Betting Strategy and Advice page is for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including Common Sports Betting Terms — or head to more advanced strategy — like 10 Tips to Become a Sharper Sports Bettor — to learn more.

If you’re anything like the 99% of sports bettors currently making wagers on a weekly (or daily) basis, you treat sports betting as entertainment and have no aspirations of getting rich. Nonetheless, both new and experienced bettors often struggle with money management and how to set (and more importantly maintain) a budget for their favorite vice. Let’s take a look at some good habits to implement to manage the highs and lows.

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Setting Your Bankroll
If you keep a monthly budget for your personal finances, you should work in an amount you’d be willing to lose 100% of to sports betting, and make that your allotment for wagering. Another common term for this allotment of money is a bettor’s “bankroll.” Whether you set your bankroll amount monthly, weekly, or annually, it’s important that no matter what happens over that time period, you keep your wagering within that amount and don’t add more.

The Unit System
Another commonly used term in the sports betting world is a “unit.” A unit is simply the amount you are wagering on a bet, as a portion of your bankroll. For bettors just starting out, I recommend making their units just 1-3% of their total bankroll. For example, if your starting bankroll is $100, your units should be between $1-$3. This will not only allow you to play games but keep the inevitable cold streaks manageable.

Avoiding the Kelly Criterion
In short, the Kelly Criterion is a probability theory that originated in the world of finance. It essentially says to determine the amount you risk based on your confidence. As an example, if you like the Pacers tonight at -2, but are absolutely convinced the Lakers at -7 is a winner, bet a bigger amount on the Lakers. This is a very watered down and high-level example, but you get the gist.

I recommend anyone other than a professional to avoid this line of thinking and keep your bets flat no matter your level of certainty. At the end of the day, there’s a reason professional sports bettors often speak of it as professional coin-flipping. Your edge is probably not as big as you think it is.

Track Your Bets
To monitor my sports betting, I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track my wagers and betting financials. By seeing on a weekly basis how much I am winning or losing, I can adjust my bet amounts moving forward to keep within my total bankroll budget. This is a good practice from a budgeting perspective, but it also gives you insights into which leagues or teams you are most often cashing bets on.

Know Your Limits
This sounds like a no-brainer, but when discussing budgeting sports betting into your life, it must be said. You should never, under any circumstance, have an amount of action in play that would hinder your quality of life or ability to pay bills if you lost each and every bet. There is a reason that so few people can pick games for a living, and even the very best in the long term win at just over 50%.

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TJ Perun is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from TJ, check out his archive and follow him @JohnnyCovers.

Betting 101, Betting Tips