What Are Units In Betting?

Understanding best practices for sports betting is key to doing it responsibly, whether you’re just getting started or have been at this for a while. Setting a budget for yourself and a standard betting unit will help you establish good habits and track how successful you are as a bettor.

Sports betting is meant to be fun. A few people may take it more seriously and treat it as a job. Whichever category describes you, you’ll want to avoid digging yourself into a hole that can be difficult to escape.

Below we’ll take you through the basics of what betting units are and some tips on how to limit the amount of action you are placing to maximize your sports wagering experience.

Sports betting units explained

What are units in sports betting? A betting unit is simply the percentage of your bankroll you are willing to risk on an individual wager. While sports betting is not legal in California at the moment, it’s still good to know about betting units if that ever changes. For example, if you deposit $1,000 into your sports betting account and set your unit size to 3%, that means a $30 wager is your standard bet.

Why set betting units?

There are a few reasons to implement a standard betting unit for yourself. For one, it can help to remain disciplined and not go all-in on a single bet, which is not only a bad betting practice but can be dangerous if you’re not betting responsibly. Another reason is to track how well you are doing as a sports bettor.

There is no such thing as a sure thing in sports betting, and as obvious as that may seem, it is important to keep in mind if you are considering putting a large portion of your bankroll on one wager. For example, a team’s best player could leave the game early with an injury. It might not have been something you thought about, but now you are at a disadvantage and sweating out the rest of the game.

Everybody’s financial situation is distinct to them, and it is up to you how much you’re willing to risk in sports betting. For example, one person might decide to put $5,000 in a sportsbook account, while another may only be comfortable depositing $100. Because of the large difference in dollar amount, it is difficult to determine the success of the two bettors compared to each other.

That’s where betting units come in. It is much easier to determine success by saying you are up or down a certain number of units than by comparing bankroll accounts or even the profit you’ve made. If the person with a big bankroll makes a lot of money on one bet while the person with a smaller bankroll makes less money but wins five wagers in a row, the person with the smaller bankroll is more successful when it comes to units.

A third reason to set a standard betting unit is that your betting money will likely last longer. Nobody likes to deposit cash into a sportsbook account over and over again, and you can avoid that by giving yourself a limit by setting a betting unit.

When to set a betting unit

You should definitely take some time and have a betting unit in place before placing your next wager. Bettors may have different strategies on when to come to their decision, and it’s up to you how you’d prefer to go about it.

Some bettors will set their unit size and stick with it for a full calendar year, and some will commit to a betting unit heading into their favorite sport’s season. If there are sports you think you are better at betting on than others, maybe it even makes some sense to have a different unit size based on the sport.

When should you adjust your betting unit?

There are no rules for adjusting your unit size, especially if you are losing more money than you are comfortable with. You should avoid placing a bet so large that a loss would affect you negatively in a big way, and if a string of losses is adding up, that might be a time to drop down your unit size to limit the damage. You could also take a break and cash out your remaining bankroll if you determine sports betting is not for you right now.

If you find that you have developed a strategy that has been profitable over a large enough sample size, maybe it is time to increase your betting unit if you believe you found an edge over the sportsbooks.

The worst thing you could do is increase your unit size to make up for losses. That is when sports betting can become dangerous and where bettors could find themselves in some trouble. When you start chasing losses with risky wagers, sports betting becomes less fun.

Betting unit strategies

Depending on what you are looking for as a sports bettor, let’s take a look at some popular bankroll management strategies when it comes to setting your unit size. All four can be sound strategies because they involve setting limits with your betting units. Other than that, they are up to personal preference.

Fixed unit

A fixed unit strategy is deciding your betting unit size and never wavering from it. This is an especially good idea for beginners because it is easy to follow, does not require a lot of calculating, limits financial risk and is easy to track. If your unit size is $10, for instance, each of your wagers will be $10.


A percentage strategy is what we have been talking about for most of this page. Your betting unit size is a certain percentage of your current bankroll. It’s common to see this percentage be anywhere from 1% to 5% of your bankroll.

Potential return

With the two previous strategies, you are determining how much you would like to bet. However, with the potential return method, you are determining how much you would like to profit from a winning wager. If your unit size is $30, you are wagering a dollar amount that would return a $30 profit. If you are betting on a point spread with -110 odds, a $33 wager would net a $30 profit.


As it sounds, this strategy depends on the confidence you have in a particular wager. Some bettors will use a scale from one to three, where you would place one unit on a bet you like, two units on a bet you love and three units on an outcome in which you have maximum confidence. You will risk a little more money with this strategy, but at least there is still a cap on the amount of cash you would lose with a single wager.

Should I modify my unit betting strategy?

You can absolutely change the unit model whenever you see fit, though preferably that would be after a longer time frame of winning consistently. If you found success with either of the first three strategies, maybe it would be time to move on to the confidence method if you feel you are ready for it.

It also could make some sense to practice the confidence betting strategy before actually using it. For every wager you place, give it a rating from one to three for how confident you are, and track your success with every result. Not only will you be able to determine if you are more successful in your most confident wagers, but you could determine where you are finding the most success. That could depend on the bet, as some bettors are better at over/unders and some at point spreads, for instance.

Overall, the basic premise of the betting unit is for sports betting to be a safe activity. Discipline is the key. When you hear horror stories about somebody who had an extremely negative experience in sports betting, that person may not have established a betting unit or may not have stuck with it.

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