Betting Bankroll Management

Betting Bankroll Management

Punters must consider many factors in the never-ending battle with the bookmakers. Of course, picking out exactly what to bet on tops the list of priorities, swiftly followed by ensuring that those bets are placed at the best available price. The concept of good bankroll management is not too far behind though – and some would argue is of at least equal importance in the long run.

The Betting Bankroll

The first piece of advice for all punters is that money to be used for betting should be kept separate from funds required for inconveniences such as mortgage payments, grocery shopping, electricity bills etc.

In all seriousness though, having paid for the essentials, decide how much of your discretionary income you are comfortable betting with and set this amount aside as your betting bankroll. Betting within your comfort zone is crucial in consistently making good, clear-headed decisions unaffected by the pressures of gambling with money you can’t afford to lose.

Bankroll Management

Bankroll determined; the next task is to decide upon an appropriate management strategy. And in the betting world when we refer to bankroll management, what we are speaking of is staking i.e., how much should we be placing on our bets. In selecting an appropriate staking level or method, we ought to have two main goals.

  • Bankroll Protection: i.e., minimising the chances of going broke.
  • Growth: Maximising profit over time.

Fixed Unit Based Systems

The first step in many staking systems is to divide the betting bankroll into units. With the unit determined being the standard amount to stake upon an individual bet. Most professional gamblers suggest a unit value of around 1-2% of the total bankroll, e.g. a bettor with a bankroll of £1000 may settle on a unit stake of anywhere between £10 and £20.

Level Staking

Unit-based systems then fall into two main categories. The first – and simplest – of which is the level stakes method - also known as flat level betting. One of the most commonly used staking systems, this method involves staking exactly one unit on every betting selection.

Scaled Unit System

Whilst easy to follow, a common complaint with the level staking method is that it requires the same stake no matter the odds– be they 1/2 (1.50) or 50/1 (51.00). Rather than sticking rigidly to this, many gamblers adopt a scaled unit system, staking 1 unit on their biggest priced selections, 2 units on those at midrange prices, and 3 units on their shortest priced bets, in order to even out variance.

An alternative is to vary the number of units according to the level of confidence behind the bet; for example, staking 3 units upon those we feel most confident about and only one on those we are less certain of.

Percentage Staking System

As you may have guessed this method involves staking a set percentage of the bankroll on each bet - most commonly between 1% and 5%. With this system the stake will vary from bet to bet, going slightly up following a winning selection and slightly down after a loss.

For example, consider a bettor with a bankroll of £100 who opts to stake 5% on each bet, creating a stake of £5 for his first bet. Should this first bet lose, his bankroll would decrease to £95 sending his next stake down to £4.75 (5% of £95 = £4.75). However, should this first bet achieve a profit of £20 for example, the bankroll would grow to £120, resulting in a stake of £6 (5% of £120 = £6) for the next bet.

The perceived benefits of the percentage system are twofold. Firstly, it enables the bankroll to grow more quickly during a winning sequence when compared to a level stakes approach; and secondly, the steadily decreasing stake can lessen the downside resulting from a series of losses.

Advanced Staking Systems

Providing the selections consistently represent good value, both the level staking and percentage systems will enable gamblers to grow their bankroll over time. However, some like to use a more scientific approach. Enter the Kelly Criterion staking system.

The Kelly Criterion

Designed by mathematician John L. Kelly, the Kelly Criterion is a stake calculation formula designed to maximise long-term growth whilst guarding against the possibility of going broke. The basic premise is that the more the odds are in your favour, the higher your stake should be. Those interested in following this staking method have two options; either calculate the stake using the formula:

  • % Stake = bp - q
  • b


  • b = Decimal odds of selection – 1
  • p = probability of winning (expressed as a decimal i.e. 70% = 0.70)
  • q = probability of losing, again expressed a decimal.

Or use one of the many Kelly Criterion Calculators freely available online.

One thing to note with this method is that it does at times suggest a level of staking outside the comfort zone of many gamblers, with a recommendation of staking 20% and upwards on a single bet, being far from unusual. As such many choose to adopt a half-Kelly, or quarter-Kelly approach i.e., taking the recommended Kelly Stake and then dividing by two or four.

Track Your Results

Whichever of the above systems you choose to adopt, another crucial aspect of bankroll management is tracking your results. A simple excel spreadsheet will suffice to record the results of your bets.

Recording details such as the sport you are betting on, type of bet, odds, and stake will enable you to not only assess your overall results, but also zero in on those areas where you are doing particularly well, or badly. Additionally, a spreadsheet of your results will enable you to retrospectively trial a range of alternative staking systems e.g. would a percentage or level stakes approach have fared better over the same set of results.

Final Thoughts

Even the very best betting judges can be undone by poor bankroll management. If you have an edge, correct bankroll management will enable you to realise it. Stake incorrectly, and you may well go bust unnecessarily, wasting your ability to pick good value bets and achieve a profit. Remember, betting is a marathon and not a sprint. Solid bankroll management will keep you in the game and on track to meet your long-term goals.

You might also be interested in:

Betting Margins Explained

How to calculate Football Betting Margins

How to calculate Horse Racing Margins

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