One of the biggest challenges sports bettors face when it comes to money management is determining the appropriate bet size. Some handicappers are of the opinion that there is a right answer to the question. I just don’t buy that. I think that the right bet size is determined by a lot of different factors, and is different for every bettor. Here are five questions I would ask when thinking about my bet size:
Size of bankroll – This is the most obvious one. If your bankroll is $10,000 then you could easily justify a $100 bet size. If your sports betting bankroll is $500, though, then a $100 bet size could be much harder to responsibly justify. Different people will be willing to bet a different portion of their bankroll per game, but anything higher than five percent at the extreme would be hard for anyone with long term aspirations to legitimately justify. The biggest benefit of having a bet size that is well below the size of the bankroll is psychological – when your bankroll represents several bets then you can lose a bet without any worry because you know that you still have more than enough money left to win back that loss. That means that you can be relaxed, and you always make better betting decisions when you are more relaxed and not dwelling on the consequences of a loss.
Style of betting – The size of your betting unit depends very much on your approach to betting. If you are a flat bettor – one who bets the same amount on every game – then you can afford to make your bet size a larger proportion of your bankroll. If you like to vary your bet size to reflect your perceived edge, though, then you have to factor that into your betting unit size. If you have an aggressive unit size then a five or six unit bet could represent a bigger portion of your bankroll than you might be looking to play on one game.
Risk-aversion – This one seems obvious, but it is very important to consider. The size of your betting unit has to, more than any other factor, consider your comfort with risk. If you are willing to gamble – to take big risks in the pursuit of big potential returns – then a more aggressive bet size is going to make sense. If you are more of a tortoise, though – someone who favors a slow, steady, patient approach to bankroll growth – then the size of your bet will be a smaller portion of your bankroll in order to meet your needs. It’s very important here to be totally honest with your comfort with risk. You may like to think that you are a risk averse sports bettor, but if you really aren’t as brave as you like to think you are then you can easily get yourself out of your comfort zone if your bet size is too large.
Styles of bets you are making – This one is straight forward – the lower your expected win percentage on a bet, the longer your potential losing streaks can be expected to be, and the more units you need to have at your disposal to weather that losing streak without going broke. If you bet parlays, then, you’ll likely want to use a smaller bet size than you would if you like to bet favorites that win more often.
Goals for the season – What you want to get out of your sports betting has a lot to do with how you size your bets. If your goal is to achieve a profit with relatively low risk and build your bankroll in a gradual way you can rely on then you’ll likely want to use a relatively low bet size in order to minimize variance and make down periods easy to tolerate. Some people aren’t in sports betting for slow and consistent growth, though. they are drawn to sports betting because they like to have a team to root for, or they like to get their pulses racing when they are watching a game like can only happen when money is on the line. Those people are are probably more interested in relatively big wins, and much more comfortable with risk than the more patient sports bettors. They also aren’t going to be nearly as concerned if things go badly and the sports betting bankroll disappears because long term sustainability is not the goal. These people are likely to embrace a unit size that is a bigger percentage of their bankroll.