How To Manage Your Bankroll In Sports Betting


No matter which online sportsbook you join and which sports you decide to bet on, you will need to figure out how you are going to manage your bankroll. Money management is every bit as important as a betting strategy to ensuring that you are profitable and successful.

There are two main reasons you need a money management system:

  1. If you are serious about becoming a profitable bettor, you will never achieve it by blowing it all on one bad bet.
  2. Even if you are just betting on sports for fun, you can make your money go a lot further if you bet using a conservative and logical money management system.

How Much Money Should You Deposit for Sports Betting?

First of all, before I even get into the different methods you can use to stake your bets, I want to touch on an aspect of money management which often is not even addressed as such, and that is how much money you should be depositing into your sports betting account in the first place.

There is really only one rule here, and that is to make sure that none of the money you are depositing is essential for other basic needs.

If you need the money to pay your rent or electricity or food bills, do not deposit it into your sports betting account.

This is true even if you are aiming at becoming a professional. Until you are at the point where you are generating a steady and comfortable stream of income through betting (one which can pay your bills and then some), you should continue to wager using only non-essential funds—in other words, the money you generally set aside for your entertainment expenses.

For some people, that might mean hundreds of dollars a month, while for others, it might mean only $10-$20.

All that is important here is that you do not bet outside your means. Wager what you can afford, even if it is not a lot in the beginning.

If you excel at sports betting, you will be able to grow your account over time.

Bonuses Come With Strings Attached

Another matter to discuss at this juncture is bonuses. When you sign up at a sports betting site, you will typically be offered a match bonus on your deposit.

Whether you accept a bonus is your decision, but you should always make that decision with the full knowledge that there are strings attached to bonus money. If you are not aware of this, it can easily mess up your calculations when you determine stake sizes for your bets.

If you accept a bonus, the bonus money is credited to your account. You can use it to place your bets, but you cannot withdraw it or the money you win with it until a turnover requirement is met.

Technically the specifics vary from one site to the next. Some bookies will allow you to withdraw a percentage of your winnings anytime, even before you meet the turnover requirement. Others will not all you to withdraw anything at all until you do.

The bottom line is that when managing your money, you must not think of the bonus money as “yours” until you have met the turnover requirement and it actually is yours. Otherwise you may end up wagering a higher percentage of your account on your bets than you planned to without even realizing it.

Common Bankroll Management Methods for Sports Betting

Now that you have some guidelines for depositing money into your sports betting account, let’s take a look at some common bankroll management methods. You need some consistent method for determining your stake sizes when you place your wagers.

Methods That Do Not Usually Work
  1. Bet Everything
  2. Progressive Systems (Martingale, Fibonacci, and so on)
  3. Betting According to Confidence

and…

Methods That Can Work
  1. Fixed Amounts
  2. Proportional Amounts (hint: this one is best)

I will describe each of these to you now in detail so that you understand your options.

Methods That Do Not Usually Work

The following methods are used commonly in sports betting, but they do nothing to actually protect your bankroll. I recommend that you avoid them altogether. If you want to experiment with them for your own amusement, feel free, but if you are seriously about conserving your bankroll, steer clear.

  1. Bet Everything
  2. This method is not a “method” at all. It is quite literally what the name implies: you simply wager your entire bankroll on a bet. Why would you do that? Some punters do it for the sheer thrill of putting all that money on the line. If you win, you have a huge influx of cash (obviously), and that is exciting.

    Others do it because they are lazy, or because they are on tilt and have lost emotional control. In a last desperate bid to make it all back or destroy themselves and end their misery (with more misery), they put everything on the line.

    Another reason this may happen could have something to do with bad money management at the deposit level. If you do not set any reasonable caps on your deposits, you may figure you can add more money to your sports betting account at any time. At that point you may start to view your bankroll as your stake size.

    Why not, when you can always add more? Most people do not have the kind of money it takes to bet like that however. Before you know it, you are siphoning money away from your necessary living funds.

    The bottom line is that betting everything is arguably the worst possible way to “manage” your bankroll.
  3. Progressive Systems (Martingale, Fibonacci, and so on)
  4. Now I want to talk about something that sounds sophisticated: progressive betting systems.

    The easiest way to explain progressive systems is to share a couple of examples. The two most popular progressive money management systems are Fibonacci and Martingale.

    What is the Fibonacci System for Setting Bet Sizes?

    If you think back to your math classes, you might remember the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Generating this sequence is quite simple. You start with 1, 1 … and then each successive number is generated by adding together the two previous ones.

    So 1+1 = 2.

    1, 1, 2 …

    1+2 = 3

    1, 1, 2, 3 …

    2+3 = 5

    1, 1, 2, 3, 5 …

    So you end up with something like this:

    1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 …

    The Fibonacci betting system involves patterning your bets off of these numbers. Each time you lose, you progress to the next number.

    So your first wager would be $1, and if you lose, your second would be $1. If you lose that, your third would be $2, and your fourth would be $3, and your fifth would be $5, and on and on.

    What do you do if you win? Start the sequence again from the beginning, and bet $1

    If you have a larger bankroll, you can start higher along the sequence.

    Why would you bet in this fashion? By incrementally increasing your bets in this way, you could in theory make up for all of your losses when you do eventually win—along with a profit. Usually in sports betting when you follow the Fibonacci method, you wager on draws (in soccer for example where the statistical probability is over 2.618).

    The reason it does not typically work out is that you might need a very large bankroll to weather all the losses you would stack up before you finally won.

    Coming back to soccer, in the Premier League, you might expect around 25% of matches to end in a draw. You should in theory be able to weather your way through four games, right?

    In reality, however, a lot of the games are being played at the same time, so you cannot progress properly through the sequence. While you could bet on an individual team using the sequence to try and navigate around this pitfall, that 25% guideline does not apply across the board to each individual team. A single team could play numerous matches before hitting a draw.

    Most bettors wind up busting their bankrolls and going broke before they ever get a chance to win it all back.

    What is the Martingale System for Setting Bet Sizes?

    The Martingale System is another well-known progressive betting system. For some reason when newbie bettors hear the word “Martingale,” their eyes light up. It sounds complex and sophisticated—but that does not mean that it is.

    This system is a lot like Fibonacci. The method is to once again progressively increase your bet sizes.

    But instead of following the Fibonacci sequence, you will simply double your wager with every loss.

    When you win, you go back to the beginning of the sequence.

    So whereas Fibonacci looks like this:

    1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 …

    Martingale looks like this:

    1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512 …

    As you can see, the Martingale bet sizes increase much faster than the Fibonacci bets.

    Imagine how quickly this could turn into a problem. A lot of bettors have relatively small accounts. That is especially likely if you are just getting started. Imagine that all you have in your betting account is $200. If you were using the Martingale system and your first bet was just $1, a streak of just eight losses in a row would more than blow through your funds.

    In sports betting, even the pros usually do not get very high win percentages—we are talking less than 60%.

    So it is very easy to lose more than half of your bets—or even to lose the majority of them. And long losing streaks are very common, particularly if you do not yet know what you are doing.

    For this reason, I advise against progressive staking methods like Fibonacci and Martingale. Unless you have a very large bankroll and you are able to sustain all those losses, these systems are not likely to pay off. They will probably just bleed your account dry. If you want to experiment with them, feel free—just do so knowing that they probably will not pan out.

  5. Betting According to Confidence
  6. Another method which a lot of bettors use is to wager different amounts of money based on confidence.

    So if you are really, really confident that a particular bet is going to win, you might wager more money. If you are less confident about another, you might bet less on it.

    Intuitively, this sounds great. And there are some bettors who will argue that it does make sense.

    In fact, I am not willing to say that it is a horrible method. And you may even manage to test it to good results.

    But I would advise caution with it, because in my opinion a method like this can tempt one into sloppy betting.

    Why? Because you really should not be taking any bets that you do not feel as confident as possible about. If you give yourself leeway to simply wager less on those bets, you are giving yourself permission to take those bets.

    I mentioned previously that even if you become a skilled pro someday, you will probably pull in a win percentage under 60%. If you make a living as a sports bettor, it will be by a very narrow margin.

    This is why you should only be taking the absolute best betting opportunities.

    Of course, when you are only going to be winning by such a narrow margin, a lot of your wagers are going to lose anyway, and you may never feel totally confident about anything.

    This is why I can understand if there are situations where you might feel a bet is a smart one to take, but you still are not fully willing to risk the same amount you would in another situation. Maybe your system is behind the bet 100%, but for some reason your gut feeling is off. That might be a case where staking less but still taking the bet makes sense.

    Temptation can be an issue in the opposite direction too. What if you typically wager 5% of your account, but you feel really, really confident about an upcoming bet? Should you wager 10%? Or 20%?

    Flukes have a considerable influence on the outcome of sporting matches. Imagine if a fluke robbed you of 20% of your account. That would be one bad day. There is no such thing as a sure bet.

    You will have to decide for yourself what makes sense for you, but if you do decide to vary your bet sizes in this manner, do so with extreme caution.

Methods That Can Work

Now I will share a couple of methods for staking your bet sizes which are a lot more conservative and also a lot more likely to keep you in the game.

  1. Fixed Amounts
  2. The first method is to simply stake the exact same amount on your bets every single time.

    So imagine that you have $200 in your betting account. You decide to wager $10 on every single one of your bets. Ten dollars is 5% of the initial bankroll, so this seems like a relatively safe amount.

    The best thing about this system (aside from its simplicity) is that is consistent. It steers you clear of the temptations that I just discussed with reference to varying your bet sizes. You will not take an inferior bet, because you will not be willing to lose your fixed amount on it. But you also will not allow overconfidence to get the better of you in other situations, tempting you into betting irresponsibly large amounts of money.

    All of that said, betting a fixed amount of money has a limitation, and that is that it is not all that flexible.

    How long do you bet the same fixed amount of money before you recalculate and pick a new fixed amount?

    Imagine for example that you have lost a few bets from your $200 account, and you are now down to $170. If you keep betting $10, proportionally you are risking more of your bankroll. That is not wise.

    This is problematic with growth too. What if you won a few bets and your account is now up to $230? Continuing to bet $10 is like forcing yourself to accept a fixed, flat wage when you could be growing your account at an exponential rate.

  3. Proportional Amounts (hint: this one is best)
  4. This is why the best method for staking your bet sizes is always going to be based on a percentage, not a fixed dollar amount.

    Your focus should be on the proportion of your account that you are risking with every bet.

    If you always bet the same percentage, your staking method has the same advantages as the fixed amount system. You are not going to be tempted to take inferior bets, and you are not going to wager recklessly large amounts at any time.

    But this system gets you around the limitations of the fixed amount method. No matter how much money is in your account, you will always risk the same percentage, so the dollar amount will fluctuate up or down to reflect the sum of your bankroll.

    If you lose money and your account dips to $170 and you are wagering 5%, your next bet will not be $10; it will only be $8.50. If on the other hand your account grows from $200 to $230, you will bet $11.50.

    This system keeps you from progressively wagering larger and larger account percentages if your bankroll is falling. You will curb your losses to a minimum, and a streak of bad luck is far less likely to destroy you.

    But it also allows you to take advantage of exponential growth. As your account size grows, so does the amount of money you get to wager. If your $200 account eventually grows to $2,000, your wagers will no longer be $10—they will instead be $100. If your account reaches $20,000, your bets will be $1,000.

    So the only real downside of proportional wagering is that growth is slow in the beginning. But because this method keeps you in the game, it increases the likelihood that you will eventually hit the deflection point of the exponential growth curve where your profits skyrocket.

What Percentage Should You Bet?

While there are various schools of thought, most pros will tell you to keep your percentage quite small. By small, I mean 5% or less. Most professionals will bet between 2-3%.

“But I only have $100 to start with!” you might protest. “I can’t just wager $3!”

That is the challenge of betting with a small bankroll. It really tests your patience.

But believe me, it is worth it. You will ultimately make a lot more money starting with those tedious $3 bets than you would wagering 10-20% of your account and losing bankroll after bankroll.

If you would prefer to wait until you have more money to gamble with, that is not a bad idea. You can practice your betting strategies on paper. Focus on studying the sports and betting methods that interest you right now. By the time you have enough money to fund your account, you will be in a position to win bet after bet.

Make a Determination About How Much You are Willing to Bet Collectively or In a Day

Another aspect of money management that is easy to overlook pertains to multiple bets. How many bets are you willing to enter into at once? And is there a maximum number of bets you are willing to take in a day?

I suggest coming up with caps for both. With sports betting in particular, it is easy to overextend yourself. There are so many betting markets to participate in, and so many tempting wagers. But trying to juggle too many bets at once can make it hard to handle betting decisions. It also can be easy to lose track of how much of your account is currently on the line.

If you are in four bets simultaneously, each 5%, you have 20% of your account staked.

And what if all those bets actually are interrelated? Maybe you took several prop bets which all rely in some way on a single outcome.

In a way, you have violated your money management rules at that point, because you have simply found a sneaky way to invest 20% on one possibility, rather than 5%. Watch out for this.

Also be wary of “progressive” bet types like parlays and teasers. With these bets, you can only win if all of the included selections go on to win. These types of bets are very hard to win. Straight bets are a better option if you want to hang onto your cash and make more of it.

When Should You Withdraw From Your Account?

One more matter that should quickly be addressed is withdrawals. When you withdraw your money and how much you remove is relevant to the growth of your account.

Watch out for fees. Many online sportsbooks have strict rules about how many free (or low cost) withdrawals you are permitted per month. So if you exceed those limits, you will usually be charged an additional fee. This can really add up if you are not careful. There is no reason whatsoever to ever pay these unnecessary fees. Just plan out your withdrawals so you will not end up needing to withdraw outside of your allotted free withdrawals.

Give your account a chance to grow. If you can, try to avoid withdrawing from your account at all. When you are constantly pulling funds out, you never give yourself a chance to capitalize on exponential growth. If you are going to make a living at sports betting someday, keeping your money in your account is vital.

Conclusion

Now from top to bottom you should know exactly what you are doing when it comes to money management in sports betting. You know how much to deposit into your account, how to stake your bet sizes appropriately, and when to withdraw from your account. With that pillar in place, you have the beginnings of a strong foundation for your sports betting career. Now you just need a system for handicapping and the right mindset for betting success!


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