Betting Intelligence Guides

Start Here For A Bankroll Management Plan And Stick To It

Managing your sports betting bankroll is not too unlike managing your personal finances– it matters less how much you make and more how much you spend. Careful attention to your sports betting bankroll and implementation of a sound bankroll strategy can mean the difference between short-term disappointment and long-term profitability. 

Your bankroll is the money you have earmarked for sports betting. This should be an amount of money you are comfortable losing. For purposes of this article, let’s say that’s $1,000. But that’s only the first step, as you’ll immediately be challenged with deciding how much of your bankroll to wager on a particular betting market. For that, you’ll need a more calculated approach. 

In this article, we’ll talk about common bankroll management strategies, how employment of certain management strategies can impact your approach to sports betting, some common bankroll management mistakes to avoid, how to track your bankroll, and why serious sports bettors stick to a bankroll management strategy.     

Start Here For A Bankroll Management Plan And Stick To It
Start Here For A Bankroll Management Plan And Stick To It

Common Bankroll Management Strategies

Now that it’s clear that we need some kind of strategy, the question is which one? Check out these more common strategies to get a better idea of which one might work best for you.  

By Percentage

The most popular way to determine the size of an individual wager is to calculate it as a percentage of your total bankroll. One easy strategy is to have five types of wagers from 1%-5% of your bankroll, and then size your bet based on how confident you are that the bet will hit.  In other words, if it’s a bet you’re less confident in, then bet 1% of your bankroll ($10). But, if you’re extremely confident, bet 5% of your bankroll ($50). Betting by percentage is a good way to cap your losses– where you’re never betting more than 5% of your bankroll– and to make sure your bet size is aligned with your level of confidence in the bet hitting. 

By Bet Amount

The main difference between breaking your bankroll down by bet amount versus percentage is that some might see percentage as a sliding scale. In other words, each 5% might start off as 5% of $1000 but if you start to win, then it could be 5% of $1150 and then $2000, and then your bets scale slides up or down.

If you break your bankroll down by bet amount, then you stick with that regardless of whether you’re up or down. If you start with $1000 and your bets are $10-$50, then you stick with those amounts whether you’re ahead or down.

Kelly Criterion

The Kelly Criterion is a popular way among advanced bettors to optimize a bankroll. It’s used by both bettors and stock traders to calculate how much they should be investing. 

In short, this formula will have you calculate the probability of the win to determine your bet size. It works off of percentages of your bankroll and by converting the odds into probability of a win. If you’re bankroll is higher after a few wins, your bet size is likely to grow. If your bankroll is dwindling, so will your bet size. However, in the latter case, this will help make your money last longer. 

Without diving too deep into the algebra, you can find Kelly Criterion calculators out there that will allow you to plug in your bankroll and the odds, and it will pump out a number for you.

Our Recommendation

Our best recommendation is to use a flat betting system and have your biggest bet be 5% of your bankroll and one unit be at 1%. If you’re starting with $1000, that means that one unit bet is at $10. If you really love a game, then bet as much as $50 but never more. And if you’re uncertain but still feel you have an edge, never go less than $10.

This bankroll system is easy to understand, easy to follow and you never have to guess what your bets are. And when it comes to tracking your wagers, this is easy to track and monitor. 

Your Style Of Betting Will Impact How You Handle Your Bankroll

Your style of betting is going to factor greatly in how you want to break up your bankroll. For example, if you’re someone who only invests in player props, then you generally know you’re in the +150 to -150 range per bet, and you can do the math from there to figure out what’s a reasonable bet percentage (of your bankroll). However, if you’re someone who likes to bet on favorites more, then you’re going to have to give yourself a bigger buffer. That’s because a few losing nights for favorites will cost you a sizable chunk of what you have to play with.

There’s also a segment of the population that loves the sports betting strategies of betting the “sure thing” favorites. Bet a lot to win a little can make sense if you’re looking at it from the lens of someone who invests in the stock market. For example, betting on Rogger Federer to win his match at the first round of Wimbledon (when he was in his prime) might cost you -10000 but that also returns 1% on your money. If you can do that every day, that’s 365% a year, which is great in that sense. But from a bankroll sense, we know that those bets will eventually lose at some point and you have to account into your bankroll management. 

There’s also the consideration of how much you bet. Do you plan to pick and choose a couple of your best bets each night, or are you going to place 10-15 bets across several sports? Understanding those tendencies will guide you as to how to break up your bankroll.

There is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. What’s clear is that you have to manage your money, have a bet structure and prepare for downturns. Your style of betting and what you wager on will help dictate that.

Three Common Mistakes That Will Sink Your Bankroll

1. Betting With Emotion

One of the biggest ways to bust your bankroll is to bet with emotion. The idea of having a money management system is that you always stay cool and calculated. When you start betting with emotion to chase bets or because something is “a lock”, that’s when you start to deviate off-course. 

2. Betting Arbitrary Amounts

If you’ve decided that your one-unit play is $100 and your max bet will never be more than $500, then you have to stick to this system. One of the main issues with losing bettors or those who don’t wager responsibly is they don’t stay within a certain set of parameters. Set up a system with guardrails, so that you stay on track. The hard part is then to make sure to stay within the boundaries that you’ve set. 

3. Betting For Entertainment

As you can tell, discipline is a linchpin in successful sports betting strategies. It will be tested every day and it’s up to you to pass the test. You’ll encounter things like Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest or maybe even the Super Bowl when it’s the only game on the board. Are you going to bet eSports in the dog days of summer just because there’s nothing else to wager on? Or are you going to stick to what you’re good at? It’s always tempting to throw a few bucks on a game because it’s on TV or because it’s your home team, but sharp bettors don’t get sucked into that action. They don’t even crave it. Make sure that you’re making smart sports betting decisions if you’re looking to win. Betting for entertainment is not a reliable path to long-term financial success in this space. 

Tracking Your Results

Now that you have a system in place, one of the ways that you’ll keep yourself honest is by tracking all of your bets. If you want to go the rudimentary way, then use Excel or a Google Sheet. If you want something a little more modern, use the Outlier app. And whether you’re playing at sportsbooks or betting exchanges, remember that they’ll have a history that you can fallback on.

At any rate, you want to make sure that you’re adhering to your betting blueprint and monitoring where you’re having success. Many times, bettors are surprised by the results to see that maybe they’re having great success with player props but constantly losing on regular spreads. Or maybe they’re doing well with baseball but struggling with college football. The only way you’ll unearth these trends is by tracking your action.

Serious Bettors Need To Stick To A System

This isn’t meant as a question to test your manhood (or womanhood); it’s a serious question because you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself what type of bettor you are.

If you’re doing this for fun and general entertainment, then you don’t need to turn this into an arduous, time-sucking routine where you turn something fun into a chore. If you generally know that you might win, you might lose, but you’re probably going to lose a little in the long run, then just have a general structure that you use for bankroll management. That helps you keep your gaming in check and that you’re never going overboard. And if you have general parameters that you follow where you do something like $20/$40/$60 bets, then you’re in a better place than someone who is completely disorganized. More importantly, it doesn’t make betting more painful than it needs to be.


Outlier Team
April 10, 2023
Share article