What Is a Unit in Sports Betting?

When betting for money, your unit size or the amount you’re risking should be a healthy percentage of your total budget. But how do you know when a unit size is just right for you, and how many units should you risk per wager? How do you calculate earnings by units won?

This article covers what you need to know about betting units: what a unit is, how to pick your unit size, how many units you should risk per bet, and how to calculate earnings by units won. Multiple unit bets and the risks that come with betting them are also explained.

How many units you should risk per wager depends on the model you use: fixed unit, percentage, variable, or the Kelly criterion approach. All these models are included in the discussion.

More importantly, we give valuable tips when betting units, like tracking your record and betting with a consistent unit to help grow your bankroll.

Units in Sports Betting Explained

The term ‘unit’ in sports betting is a measurement of the size of your bet. More specifically, a unit is the percentage of your overall bankroll, the money you set aside for wagering.

Those with a bigger bankroll usually have a higher tolerance for risk, so they’re more daring when dealing with larger sports betting units.

Those who have a smaller starting bankroll are more conservative with their sports betting strategy.

Risks of Betting Multiple Units

Bettors often risk multiple unit bets (more than one unit per bet) as they gain more confidence. When confidence is high, the number of units or the unit size increases.

Betting multiple units becomes dangerous as you can get caught up trying to make up for losses or win big.

Parlays are an example of how betting multiple units can be risky. As you add legs to your parlay, it becomes increasingly challenging to win because of the numerous events combined in one bet.

For example, your two-unit size over/under bet lost, and you decided to counter it with a four-unit parlay next. If you lost again, you could start to lose an entire bankroll in a short period.

Choosing Your Unit Size

Knowing the size of your betting units is crucial to using them for an effective bankroll management strategy.

The general advice is to make your unit size equal to 1% of your total bankroll. For example, if your bankroll is $200, your unit size is $2 (1% of a 200), and you have 100 units in your bankroll.

In the example given, if a single unit is $2, then 200 units should be $400 ($2 x 200).

Over time, as you get the hang of sports betting and develop your own betting strategy, you can gradually increase the unit size to 5% of your bankroll.

Suppose you’re setting aside $1,000 for sports betting for one month. Your minimum unit size would be $10 (1% of $1,000), and your maximum unit size would be $50 (5% of $1,000).

For example, a handicapper released a 5-unit play, and you had a $2,000 sports betting bankroll. In that case, you could probably risk 5% (equivalent to at least 5 units) or $100 on the play.

You can also divide your bankroll by 100 units when picking a unit size. So if you have $1,000 in your bankroll and divide it by 100 units, each unit size amounts to $10.

This means you can bet up to 100 times on any sporting event for the month, with each bet amount being $10.

By keeping your unit at a minimum, you are protecting yourself from the inevitable losing streak. Even if you lose 15 out of 25 bets, the small unit size will not eat away your bankroll quickly.

How Many Units Should You Risk Per Wager?

Sports handicappers release plays at different unit sizes. Still, the bettor's confidence usually drives the increase in unit size.

Another factor determining how many units you should risk per wager is the type of betting unit model.

  • Fixed Unit Model - You bet one unit only on each and every wager regardless of the odds or your confidence level. With this approach, it’s easier to track your losses and wins for accounting purposes.
  • Percentage Model - Your wagers may fluctuate from day to day depending on how much you’ve previously won or lost. You must stick to your unit size, like wagering 1% of your bankroll on every pick.
  • Kelly Criterion Model - This approach considers the percentage of the time you think a wager will win or lose, the odds you’re presented with, and the amount of bankroll you have.

The formula to calculate the percentage of time is a bit complicated. But what’s more difficult about this model is its dependence on the accuracy of the win percentages (that have several versions).

  • Variable Models - These are models that consider your confidence level in a specific bet or the estimated return of a bet.

Confidence levels determine the unit size to risk. You may choose to risk three units on higher confidence bets. For bets of medium and lower confidence, you can bet two units and 1 unit, respectively.

Consider the potential return method. Instead of having one unit to risk, this unit becomes the amount you can win on each bet. In cases like this, you risk more when betting on favorites and less on underdogs.

How Do You Calculate Units Won?

Betting units are helpful when you want to keep track of your wins and losses in sports betting. Measuring your bet size and wins in betting units instead of dollars allows a comparison of records with other sports bettors.

For example, it's easier to compare betting units won than the amount of money won or the total number of correct picks. Using betting units gives a better sense of who has been a more effective bettor.

You can calculate units won using any of these formulas.

To compute for units won with positive odds: Moneyline Odds ÷ 100

To compute for units won with negative odds: (-100) ÷ Moneyline Odds

Each game or sporting event has a single measure of units won and lost. These values represent the ROI (return on investment) that can be used to see how much you would have won or lost on a particular wager.

Betting Units Won Vs. Winning Percentage

Both ‘units won’ and winning percentage can help assess a group of plays. Still, it’s important to look at the sample size or number of plays.

With this strategy, you are trying to gain a handsome profit from more plays, enabling you to spread around your risk.

Moneyline Sports vs. Spread Sports

While most bettors avoid moneyline betting because of the extremes in winning percentages, they can still be profitable.

For example, betting on the underdogs in moneyline sports can give you a record of losses. But with the higher payouts when you win, your profits also increase.

Sports Betting Tips When Betting Units

  1. Track the number of units won and lost. Recording your successes and failures can help you visualize your monetary gains or losses.

We also have bet limits, deposit limits, and time limits to help our players with money management. We have these measures because we believe that gambling should be fun, not a problem.

  1. Compare your strategy and success with other bettors, and learn from them as well. Betting units is the best way to compare picks and profitability among sports gambling enthusiasts.

Bettors use the term unit when comparing strategies with each other without actually revealing their bankroll size.

  1. Be consistent in evaluating wins and losses in betting units and seeing how a team performs. Over time, you’ll get more value from consistently betting on teams that regularly perform beyond expectations.