Read Part I of Bankroll Management the rest of the Sports Betting 101 series.
The best and easiest way to manage your bankroll is by embracing flat betting. Flat betting is a consistent, disciplined strategy that means you are betting the same amount on every game regardless of your confidence level. Flat betting isn't sexy or flashy, but it puts you in the best position to stay in the game long term.
To determine how much to bet on each game, take your starting bankroll amount and divide it into equal units. Once you decide this number it becomes your unit size. This is the amount of money you are betting on every game.
A good recommendation is risking between 1% to 5% of your bankroll per bet. Many professional bettors only risk 1% or 2% of their bankroll per bet. This may seem low, but you have to remember that most professional bettors are starting off with a massive bankroll, maybe $100,000, $500,000 or a $1 million or more, which means 1% would be $1,000 per game, $5,000 per game or $10,000 per game.
If you want to be a little bolder and take more risks, you can increase your unit size to 4% or 5% per bet. However, do not go above 5%. Consider it a line in the sand that you should not to cross. Anything above 5% means you are assuming bigger risk that could lead to massive fluctuations in your bankroll. One bad losing streak could clean you out if you are risking more than 5% per play.
A good medium that bettors should embrace is 3% per bet. To find out what this means for you, just take your starting bankroll and multiply it by .03. For example, if your starting bankroll is $1,000, this means you are betting $30 dollar per game. If you are starting with $100, this means you are betting $3 per game. This now becomes your unit size moving forward, meaning one unit equals $30 or $3, respectively.
To illustrate why flat betting is so important, let's say your starting bankroll is $1,000. You decide to bet five games at $200 per game. This means your unit size is $200, which amounts to 20% of your bankroll. If you will all five games, that would be fantastic. Unfortunately it just isn't realistic, especially if you're a new bettor. Everyone is excited when they first start betting, and no one wants to be a buzzkill, but you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. You would very easily lose all five bets, and then you're bankrupt and have no more money to bet with. Just like that, you're out of the game before it even started.
Now let's say you drop the unit size to $100 a game, which translates to 10% of your bankroll per play. If you lose all five bets and go 0-5 at $100 per bet, you just cut your bankroll in half from $1,000 to $500. This is an improvement over betting $200 per game and losing it all, but you are still assuming far too much risk.
Now let's consider betting $50 per game, which translates to 5% of your bankroll per play. Going 0-5 would drop your bankroll down to $750. Betting 3% per play, which would be $30 per game, would drop your bankroll to $850. Betting 1% per play, which would be $10, would drop it to $950. By staying at or below the 5% threshold, you limit your losses substantially and keep yourself in the game much longer. This will provide you a longer runway to learn from your mistakes, get more accustomed to betting and overcome to beginners learning curve.
In addition to saving yourself from going broke when you have a bad night or a sustained cold streak, flat betting also allows you to eliminate damaging bias that could hold you back and cut into your potential profits. For example, let's say the $1,000 bankroll bettor only makes two bets. One of the games he really loves, but the other he is less confident in, which amounts to more of a lean. As a result, he bets 10% on the game he loves (betting $100) and only bets 5% on the game he is leaning on (betting $50). If he wins the game he leans but loses the game he loves, the bettor loses $50 overall. However, if he adhered to flat betting and risked the same $50 on both plays, he would have broken even instead of having a losing night.
Once you've established your unit size and percentage, stick with it. Don't change day-to-day, week-to-week or even month-to-month based on your performance. Remember: Flat betting is all about grinding long term and investing, knowing that there will be ups and downs along the way. You would hate to have a good week, adjust your bankroll upward, then get mired in a losing skid and lose it all quickly because you are betting more on each game.
Also, bankrolls can fluctuate based on the sports betting calendar. This means you are more susceptible to volatile swings when the calendar is busy with multiple sports in session all at once. This leads to an increased volume of bets in the Fall, Winter and Spring when football, basketball and hockey are all in session, as opposed to the summer when baseball is the only game in town.
As a result, bettors should only adjust their bankrolls once per year. The best time to adjust your bankroll is in the summer. By this time, football is long over and basketball and hockey are wrapping up the postseason. The summer is considered the sports bettors vacation. It is a time when bettors are able to relax, recharge their batteries and prepare for the upcoming football season. It's also the perfect time to study and adjust your bankroll.
For example, let's say you started with a bankroll of $1,000 at the beginning of the football season in September. You've done well over the past 9 months and turned that $1,000 into $1,500. When you started with $1,000 in September your unit size was 3% per play, which equates to $30 per game. Now that you've increased your bankroll to $1,500, just multiply that new bankroll number of $1,500 by .03. This comes out to $45. This means your new adjusted unit size is $45 per game moving forward.
On the other hand, let's say you started with $1,000 in the fall and you are now down to $500. Instead of continuing to bet $30 per game, a good idea would be to adjust your unit size to $15 per game.
Flat Betting isn't the only bankroll management strategy option. Another option is Kelly Criterion, created by J.L. Kelly Jr in 1956. Kelly Criterion is a famous mathematical formula used to determine how much to bet on or invest to maximize your amount of profit. This is the opposite of flat betting. Instead of risking the same amount on every bet, you are weighing your bets based on confidence level.
This system is used by some professional bettors and can be highly profitable. However, it can also be dangerous because it is very complex and hard to calculate. If you are a math whiz who attended MIT or Harvard like Good Will Hunting and you know your way around excel sheets and pivot tables, Kelly Criterion might be for you. But for the vast majority of bettors, flat betting is the simplest and best way to go.
Next: Bankroll Management Part 3: Bet to Risk vs Bet to Win.