How Much Money Should You Sports Bet With?

by Henry Jablonski
on September 23, 2017

Money is always a touchy subject to talk about even when it comes to the world of sports betting. In any skill based game that is played for money, the money itself becomes the key metric to measure success. Is the sports bettor with the best record the most accomplished? Certainly not…The sports bettor who makes the most money and has the highest return on their investment (ROI) is going to be the most accomplished.

The biggest question that pains a lot of new and aspiring sports bettors is exactly how much money they should be betting on each game and what adjustments they need to make to give themselves the best shot at making it. Today, I really want to dig into a lot of this and give you some advice and tips to help you better have a chance to succeed.

The “Obvious” Answer First

If you’ve ever asked this question before you’ve probably heard the ever popular phrase,

“Only bet what you are willing to lose.”

This phrase is correct and wrong all at the same time. You see, this phrase is meant for people who are gambling. Gambling is when you are betting on something without any sort of skill or competitive advantage to help you win.

This phrase is perfect for when you’re playing roulette or the lotto. It’s also good for some sports bettors who are not doing any homework and just randomly picking winners in games. People that fall into this category are just recreational sports bettors whose sole goal is entertainment.

If that’s you and you don’t have aspirations of making a lot of money sports betting, you can stop reading now and follow that golden rule.

For the rest of you that the bottom line means something, this phrase has some issues. First, it is correct in the sense that you should never be betting more money than you are ok with losing. What I mean is that you should not be betting money that you need to pay your bills or to pay your rent or put food on the table. No matter how “hot” a tip is, you should never take that sort of risk.

The problem with this phrase is that as you get more serious with your sports betting, you will develop systems and rules that tell you how much you should bet on certain games. Sometimes these amounts are going to make you uncomfortable, but as long as they are within your system and bankroll guidelines, you’re going to want to follow through.

This was a bit of a tangent, I guess, but the point is that if you’re a recreational bettor, don’t bet money that will make you upset to lose. If you’re a serious better or aspiring one, don’t bet money that you can’t afford to lose.

It Depends on What Stage of Your Journey You’re In

The first question you have to look at is where you are in your sports betting journey. Some of you are going to be brand new. Some of you are going to be fairly new and in the process of testing out your strategies for picking. Some of you are going to have your winning strategies tested and ready to print money.

All three of these different stages are going to have different guidelines for how you should be allotting your money. If you’re absolutely brand new to sports betting, you need to be betting the minimum amounts you can. Why? You’re in the stages where you can make huge mistakes, and you need to just get some experience under your belt in the process of making bets.

A mistake for a few bucks is WAY better than one for larger sums of money.

This is a lesson you do not want to learn the hard way.

While this may not seem “exciting” to you, we’ve already decided that excitement isn’t your goal. Your goal is to make money, and you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. This is your crawl stage. Once you’re comfortable with the process and you’ve got some of the general strategy ideas down, you can move to the next phase.

For those of you that are testing strategies, it’s going to be more about volume than it is about the dollar amount. Test your strategy out on as many games/matches/contests as your strategy says to with small bet amounts. This will allow you to start to see what works and what doesn’t work with your strategy. There is no reason to be firing big when you are still seeing if your strategy is viable.

You may be asking why you should even be betting at all at this stage. Couldn’t you just pick the games and bet nothing? Yes, you could, but there is a world of difference from writing down what you are going to bet and actually pulling the trigger. Even a small amount of money on the line can make you take things much more seriously and give you much more accurate results.

The final stage of sports betting is when you have a working and viable strategy and are ready to start making money.

At this point, it all comes down to bankroll management which I will cover in the next sections.

The Effect of Betting For Value

If you’re a smart sports bettor, you aren’t just betting games that you think you can win. Wait, what? If that phrase makes no sense to you, then you may be in an earlier stage of your sports betting career than you think. In sports betting, you are not just looking for bets you can win. Actually, many times you will see bets that you know you can win but you will not bet because they payout is not as good as it should be.

What you are looking for is value. You are looking for bets that are paying out better than they should be. This could mean a bet that is an underdog but is paying out much higher than it should. For example, let’s say there is a boxing match coming up and fighter A is the favorite to win.

The payout odds are -500 for fighter A and +440 for fighter B. The sportsbook is basically saying with this that fighter A is supposed to crush fighter B. But let’s say that you think the fight is going to be way closer than that. You think that fighter b is probably still going to lose but not as badly or as often as they sportsbook is saying.

This would be a wise bet for you to make even though you’re going to lose more often than you are going to win.

The times you win you are going to make much more money that makes up for the times you lost.

This is called finding value. While finding value is a totally different discussion, a basic understanding is important for understanding our next point.

If you’re going to be a smart sports bettor and are betting some bets that you will be losing more often than you are winning, then obviously you are going to need enough money to weather those storms. If you bet all of your money on that bet the first time or two and you lose, you are now out of money and out of the game.

You need to bet small enough that you can weather any storm or bad run without losing all of your money or having to change your bet sizes from what your strategy suggests you do. Ask any professional sports bettor, and they will tell you that they’ve gone through rough patches where they couldn’t pick a winner to save their life. This is, unfortunately, part of the game and something you have to be prepared for.

So, What’s the Number?

Many of you have read this far in hopes for exact numbers and amounts that you should be betting. The answer is going to be that it depends.

The best advice is to start small and work your way up.

I’d say anywhere in the 1-5% of your total bankroll amount is a wise amount.

If you’re someone who is really risk averse, I recommend keeping your bets under 2% of your total bankroll. If you want to take a bit of risk and are ok with that, move up closer to the 5% range but no higher no matter what.

This means if your bankroll for sports betting is $100, then you should not be betting more than $5 on a game and more likely down around $2 per game. This is a good percentage number to stick around if you plan to avoid any sort of variance issues. If you lose following these rules, then you may have some issues with your picking strategy and will need to rework it.

This begs the next obvious question; how much should be in your bankroll? Your total bankroll is going to be up to you and what your goals are. It’s also going to depend on how much disposable income you have or how much money you have saved up for your sports betting.

Start with a number that allows you to make the bets you want and then you can let it grow from there. As you win, you can extend the size of your bankroll or keep it the same and take out some profits.

What a lot of people do is start with a small bankroll and set a goal of what they want their end bankroll to be. Until they reach that number, they roll all of their profits back into their bankroll. Once they get to that number, anything over that is pulled out as profit. This also helps to protect them if they have issues with their strategies and the bigger bets aren’t requiring them to put in any more money. It’s all “house money” (which means money they’ve won) they will be betting with.

For example, let’s say you start with $500 in your bankroll and are betting $25 per game (5% of your bankroll). Your ultimate goal happens to be betting $100 per game, so you keep rolling all of your profits into your bankroll until it reaches $2,000. 5% of $2,000 is $100. After that, any money that you win you can pull off and enjoy as profit.

Remember, your bankroll and the money you use to live and spend on things are two different things. If you try and intermingle the two, you’re going to have issues. Your bankroll needs to be 100% separate from any other amounts of money you have and ONLY be used for betting.

If that’s going to be an issue, start with a smaller bankroll. If you start mixing the two, then your life needs are going to start affecting your betting strategy and could lead you to bet more or less on games than you should be according to your strategy.

So, what’s the bottom line take away here?

If you’re new to sports betting or building your strategy, bet small but at least bet something to have accountability. If you’re a seasoned better or someone who has a developed strategy already, bet within your bankroll in the 1-5% range depending on how much risk/exposure you want to have.

And we end with the obvious again… don’t bet money that you can’t afford to lose.
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