Betting units are a crucial tool for all sports bettors, no matter your experience level or the size of your bankroll. Successful sports betting relies on access to reliable information and careful bankroll management, and betting units are an important element of both.
Read on for a comprehensive overview of betting units and how you can use them to develop a consistent betting strategy, keep better track of your wins and losses, and ultimately compare your performance with other sports bettors (no matter the size of their bankroll).
Let’s get started…
What Is a Betting Unit?
Quite simply, a betting unit is a measurement used to determine the size of your bet. Specifically, it is the percentage of your overall bankroll that you wager on a given sporting event. This percentage is up to you – those with a higher tolerance for risk will be comfortable wagering with larger units than those who are more conservative with their betting strategy.
Say you have set aside $1,000 to bet on college football this season (this amount is called your bankroll). If you wanted to wager 1% of your overall bankroll with each bet you place, your unit size would be $10 and you would have 100 units to bet with this season.
Measuring the size of your bets and winnings in betting units rather than dollars allows you to compare your record with other bettors and more accurately track your success. Everyone who bets on sports is willing to put a different amount of money on the line, but comparing records in terms of betting units won rather than dollars won or total number of correct picks provides a better sense of who has been a more effective sports investor over the course of a season.
Unit Size and Bankroll Management: How Much Should You Bet?
Properly determining the size of your betting units is the key to using them for effective bankroll management. Regardless of how much money you have to wager with, you need to decide how much of it you’re willing to risk on each pick.
So, how do you decide how big your betting units should be?
Unit size depends on your tolerance for risk and a (realistic) assessment of your ability to handicap the sports you bet on and make accurate picks. Clearly, beginners or those who don’t know as much about the events they’re wagering on should use a smaller unit size. Sharp bettors might select a slightly larger unit size, but it should never be a significant portion of your overall bankroll.
1 – 5% of bankroll is a reasonable unit size for the vast majority of bettors. Beginners and those who like to play more conservatively should stick to 1-2% on a single bet.
Generally speaking, we recommend wagering the same amount (a single unit) with every wager. Doing so allows you distribute risk across many events and eliminates the possibility of exhausting your bankroll two weeks into the season. Alternatively, you could set your unit size to a strict 1%, and wager 1-5 units on each wager you place.
Tracking Your Record with Betting Units
Betting units are the best way to keep track of your wins and losses when betting on sports. There is some value in simply tracking which bets you’ve won and lost each season, but this overall win-loss ratio is only one part of the story.
Because odds differ between events, not all wins and losses affect your bankroll equally. Look at it this way: you would likely be impressed if someone told you they won their bets 55% of the time. But the odds matter. If they are exclusively betting favorites at -200 odds, they need to win ~67% of those wagers just to break even. Not so impressive after all.
Tracking the number of units won and lost, however, provides a direct connection between your record-keeping and the health of your bankroll. It’s a quick way to visualize your monetary gains (or losses) and determine which picks offered you the most value. Most importantly, tracking betting units allows you to compare your strategy and success with other bettors, whatever the size of their bankroll.
Say you want to establish the superiority of your hockey handicapping skills, but your friend has a much larger bankroll than you do. Comparing the amount of money you’ve each won is meaningless, but comparing how many betting units you’ve won will tell you who has made better picks.
You can directly compare betting units won even when the units in question differ in size. Because betting units won/lost expresses the relative return on investment for your wager rather than an absolute monetary value, it is the best way to compare picks and profitability between multiple bettors or strategies.
How to Calculate Units Won
It’s easy to determine how many betting units you’ve lost. If you follow our advice and wager one unit with each bet, you will lose one unit each time you make an incorrect pick. Calculating units won isn’t quite as simple, but the formula is still incredibly straightforward.
Every sporting event has only a single measure of units won (for those who pick correctly) and lost (for those who aren’t so lucky). These values are simple representations of the return on investment that can then be applied to determine how much you would have won or lost on a given bet.
Calculate Earnings by Units Won
Calculating potential earnings by betting units won is simple. Very simple. Simply multiply the dollar amount you typically wager by the units won.
If your unit size corresponds to $10 and you want to know how much you’d make on a play that returned .85 betting units, you would calculate 10 x .85 to find $8.50 in potential earnings.
These calculations are helpful when evaluating strategies and the claims of handicapping services, who often tout their records in terms of units won.
Betting Units & Strategy: Consistency Is King
Betting units are clearly helpful in managing your bankroll, tracking your performance, and comparing it with other bettors. But units also have value in terms of helping you make smarter bets in the future. Indeed, they are a fundamental component of most dedicated betting strategies you’ll hear about. If you want to determine the potential value of a strategy, you need to look at the units won and lost.
The same goes for finding value in teams and situations (home, away, as favorite, as underdog). Let’s say you wanted to figure out which NFL team was most profitable last year. As you know, the team with the team with the best win-loss record is rarely the best to bet on because sportsbooks need to encourage action on both sides of every match up. By evaluating wins and losses in terms of betting units, we can see how a team performs not just on the scoreboard, but at the sportsbook.
Betting Units & ROI: Try this Tool for Smarter Picks
SBD Sharp, a proprietary tool to track teams as investments over time shows you how much money you could make betting one team all season or in particular situations.
Of course, these numbers rely on an assumption that you’ll stick to your guns and wager a consistent betting unit on each game. Take a look at the graph below for just one example of how you can grow your bankroll simply by betting the same team with a consistent unit on every game:
The lines above plot the value of your bankroll throughout the course of the season. Notice that you don’t see any major peaks or valleys (sharp increases or decreases) on any of the graphs in SBD Sharp. This demonstrates why sticking to a betting unit is such a reliable strategy: it mitigates the risk of devastating one-time losses and allows you to slowly build your bankroll over time.
Any financial advisor would tell you to diversify your portfolio and focus on long-term growth. If you take the same approach to wagering, it’s easy to see how sports betting can be less of a hobby and more of an investment.
Take some time to explore SBD Sharp to find out which teams are the best bets all year long.
Ready to Start Using Sports Betting Units?
Now that you’ve wrapped your head around the purpose and value of betting units, it’s time to evaluate your bankroll and set a unit size you’re comfortable with. From there, you’ll need to decide how to use it.
Continue exploring our guides for more strategic sports betting tips to use with any sport you want to wager on.
Relying on consistent units is a great place to start, but please be sure to always bet responsibly.