What is a Betting Unit in Sports Betting?

With the increase in popularity — and legality — of sports betting in the US, new bettors may be getting in on the action without a ton of direction. There are some basic ideas that all sports bettors should understand to ensure they are participating in sports betting in the safest way possible, and that includes managing their bankroll and determining their unit size.

The term unit might not yet be part of the sports betting lingo you have developed, but it can help you manage how much money you’re willing to wager. Betting large amounts of money could develop into a problem, but remaining disciplined to your unit size can help you avoid issues and be smart about your wagering habits.

In this guide, we will take you through the basics of betting units, including what they are, why they are helpful, and more.

What are units in betting?

Bettors are different when it comes to how well they do financially and how much they are willing to risk when betting online in MA. Because of these differences and the idea that bettors don’t like to announce how much they bet, betting units are a method of comparison. Measuring by units is a much fairer way to compare which bettors are more successful over a large number of games. For example, a bettor who makes $100 on just one bet is less impressive than a bettor who reached $100 by adding up 10 smaller wagers.

However much you decide to deposit at a sportsbook is up to you, and whether you’re depositing money or placing a bet, a good rule is to never risk a dollar amount you wouldn’t be comfortable losing. For the purposes of this explanation, let’s say your bankroll is $1,000 to use for the year.

Now that your bankroll is set, you can determine unit size. Many experts will recommend a unit size of between 1% and 5% of your bankroll. Let’s split the difference and say the unit size is 3%. With a bankroll at $1,000 and a 3% unit size, that means your standard bet would be $30. If you are extra confident and want to place two units on a bet, you’d be risking $60, but it can be a sound and responsible idea to stick with one unit to be your betting size on most wagers.

Why are betting units so important?

Betting units are important to establish for a variety of reasons. First, they can serve as a measuring stick of how well you’re doing as a sports bettor. If you see a sports media person talk about being so many units up or down, you will have an idea of how successful that person has been. You could also compare numbers with another sports bettor.

Most importantly, betting units are helpful for responsible gambling, and it’s a great idea to set boundaries for yourself to not cross. If you do not remain disciplined to your own set of rules, things could get out of hand in a hurry, and that’s where this activity could turn into a problem.

If you are betting long enough, you will have hot and cold streaks. Establishing a unit size means those stretches where you cannot seem to get any bets right won’t demolish your entire bankroll. Without deciding on unit size, you could easily fall into the trap that is chasing your losses, which occurs when you lose a bet and double the amount of money you risked on the next wager to make your money back.

By remaining disciplined with your units, there is a higher likelihood you will still have cash left over in your account. And who knows, maybe that bad stretch of games will turn into a hot streak where you can make it all back and more.

How much should you bet per unit?

How much is a unit in betting? As we said, the standard range for a unit size is usually going to be between 1% and 5% for most bettors. It’s up to you to determine what is the right percentage for you. Most casual bettors will not take the time to even consider selecting a unit size, and by reading this page, you are ahead of the curve and should have an advantage when it comes to bankroll management.

Best strategies for sports betting units

There are a number of strategies that you can adopt for your bankroll. Here’s a look at some of the most popular ways to manage your cash:

  • Fixed unit: With a fixed-unit strategy, you are picking an exact number as your unit and never wavering. If you decide to bet $10 per game, that means your unit is $10. This is a good way to go for beginners just learning how to bet on sports because it’s so easy to understand and track how well you’ve been doing.
  • Percentage: This is the strategy we have been mentioning. Bettors can pick a certain percentage of their bankroll as their unit size, generally around 1% to 5% of your overall bankroll. This is another safe betting strategy without a ton of risk.
  • Potential return: With the fixed unit and percentage strategies, you’re going by how much you’re going to bet. The potential return model, on the other hand, goes by how much you could win if your bet is correct. For example, let’s say your unit size is $10. Instead of just betting $30, you would need to wager the amount necessary to win $30 using the potential return method. If the standard point spread odds are -110, that means you’d need to wager $33 to return a profit of $30.
  • Confidence: Just like it sounds, the confidence model uses how confident you are in a particular matchup. You may think you have found the key stat or have a great feeling about how a game will go, and that’s where the confidence model comes in. A good way to go with this strategy is to use a scale of one to three units. If your confidence is low, you’d wager one unit, and if you have medium confidence, you’d add another unit. If you are extremely confident, you could add a third unit for the potential for a nice-sized payout if you’re right.
  • Tracking bets: Creating a spreadsheet and documenting every pick you make could help determine what type of bettor you are and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you see you do well with over/under bets compared to point spreads, it makes sense for you to wager more on the over/under. Another example is maybe you are better at finding the underdogs that will cover the spread than you are at identifying the favorites to wager on.

Through it all, you should keep a running tally of how many units up or down you are after each bet.

If you are just starting out with the first three bankroll management strategies above (fixed unit, percentage, potential return) and are hesitant to risk a little more money with the confidence model, here is where you could practice. Create a column where you rate your confidence level from one to three for every bet you place.

If you find you are doing extremely well in the bets you feel confident in, maybe it’s time to use the confidence model. If you don’t see much of a difference in the bets you are confident in compared to ones with low confidence, it’s best to stick with whatever bankroll management strategy you’ve been using.

Should you ever change unit sizes?

There are a few scenarios in which you should change your unit size. If you are just getting started and immediately recognize that your unit size is far too large for you to sustain, you should decrease it.

For everything else, there could definitely come a time to reexamine your unit size and decide whether you need to increase or decrease that number. If you decide to increase your betting unit, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a large enough sample size that shows you are having success as a sports bettor. If you’re struggling to consistently win — as many sports bettors do — increasing the money you risk is not going to make things any better.

What you should not do is change your unit size based on individual wins or losses. If you win a bet and immediately increase your unit size for the next wager and lose, that’s not a winning strategy.

Making a plan and sticking to it

Without the guidance of betting strategies that require discipline, that’s where sports betting can become a problem. Sports betting is meant to be fun. With more and more casual bettors getting started in this industry and without basic rules to stick to, it could be less enjoyable and make you enjoy sports less.

Chasing losses is a common mistake sports bettors make, especially if they are just getting started. At first, they want to get ahead, and after a few games do not go their way, they just want to get even and might risk more money than they ordinarily would. If you make your plan and stick to your set limits, that should not happen.

Another way setting your betting unit helps is to simply avoid making that one big bet. If you deposit a decent amount of money into your account, setting a limit for yourself with your unit size should help you not risk a large portion of your bankroll on one game. Your bankroll is meant to last a while, and you shouldn’t need to keep feeding it over and over again because you’re betting more than you should be. Sticking to your plan and managing your cash responsibly will go a long way in avoiding mistakes that many sports bettors make.


The basic reason the betting unit exists is for you to have a safe betting experience. Discipline is crucial in many walks of life, and sports betting is no different. Many sports bettors start wagering without the knowledge or a basic plan to stick to, which is where many of them will go wrong. Those who did not take the necessary steps to manage their bankroll probably wish they had, since limits are something all bettors should adhere to no matter their financial status.

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