Deciding how much you should bet on a sporting event depends on a number of variables.
If you think about a sports betting bankroll as just another budget, it makes sense that there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
How much should a person spend on groceries? That depends on the size of their family, how long the groceries need to last, as well as any special dietary restrictions they're dealing with.
The same goes for determining your gambling budget.
Rather than force any one philosophy regarding bet sizing, I'm going to share three different ways to approach the question and let you make your own (informed) decision.
Just to keep things fun, I'll be writing them from the perspective of a person defending their bet-sizing method.
Being a fan means I stay dedicated to my team regardless of the ups and downs it goes through. Being a fan means blind dedication, blind trust, and blind allegiance.
True fandom is closer to participation in an organized religion than anything else. Some fans are pious, others are backslidden. I like to think of myself as one of the last of the great sports fans.
What that means for my sports betting is that I regularly put my money where my mouth is – and believe me, if you're my friend or relative, you know exactly where my mouth is. I'm the guy who wears my team's shirt, drives a car in my team's colors, has a team-branded debit card, and thinks all other teams are a bunch of miserable losers.
When I bet on sports, I do so from the perspective of a fanatic.
That means I don't consider things like bankroll protection. When my squad is on the field, I'm going to bet as much on them as I can afford at the moment I place the bet. I do this regardless of injuries, prior history, context, weather, or any other factor.
Most of the time, I'm a lousy sports bettor. Being a great fan means making sacrifices – I'm simply not going to sacrifice my fandom in order to make a smart sports bet.
I think everyone should be a fan like me. Why?
Because sports would be more fun to watch, more fun to participate in, and more fun to bet on if everyone would just wager their affinity instead of getting all egg-headed about it. Sure, I lose a lot of money betting on my boys, but they've always been there for me, and they always will.
Being an advantage gambler just means thinking of betting as an investment.
Advantage gamblers come in all shapes and sizes – some are aggressive others are more conservative. Regardless of what kind of advantage bettor you are, it's a badge of honor that indicates you take your hobby seriously.
Determining the unit size of an advantage gambler's bets is a big deal. After doing some reading and number-crunching, I decided to limit all sports wagers to a maximum of 1% of my total bankroll.
I chose that number because it's low enough to allow for occasional 2% or even 3% wagers when the opportunity presents itself.
I suppose all that information above indicates that I am a conservative bettor. I do know plenty of sports investors I'd call aggressive – guys who regularly bet 3% or more on every play. But I know that at that rate, losing streaks are fatal to my investment capital, and it'd be impossible to build up my roll without a big streak of luck.
Again, it's just a matter of knowing what result I'm looking for and how much my bankroll can withstand.
Proper research is a big part of my unit bet-sizing philosophy, believe it or not, because when my hardcore statistics research indicates an ideal play, I know it's time to double or even triple that my standard bet size.
Without a head for research, I'd probably just stick to 1% wagers in order to protect my investment.
I think everyone should follow my personal approach to unit bet sizing. Why?
I've managed to bet for a decade without blowing my budget. Even in years when my winning percentage is in the high 40s, my financial plan protects my rent money.
Being a risk-taker means I don't mind risking a little extra cash for the prospect of a big win. It means I blend an understanding of bankroll management from the advantage gambler with some of the rabid fandom from our super-fan contributor.
Rather than get down to the nitty-gritty, I determine my unit size at the beginning of the season based on the amount of money I think I'll be betting with. For example, this past NFL season, I started with $2,000 I was willing to lose.
But since I was only going to lay about forty wagers during that time, I figured $50 was a lovely unit bet size. That's about a 2.5% unit bet size, which blows the advantage gambler's number out of the water. But I'm comfortable with it, and after all – you have to take some risks to win, right?
But I'll admit that I eventually blew my NFL budget. I got a little emotional, and placed a couple of $100 bets that didn't pay off. But I didn't continue to bet that way – I adjusted so that I wouldn't run out of money before I ran out of games to bet on.
I think everyone should be more like me. Why?
Because those of you who bet with your heart are losing too much money, and those of you who bet with your head aren't really enjoying it. So long as you keep things casual, and take stock of your funds before you bet, you'll enjoy the hobby more, regardless of wins and losses.