How To Bet On Sports: Betting Units & Return On Investment

One of the keys to being a successful sports bettor is monitoring your return on investment. After all, if you’re not keeping track of how you’re doing, then you’re probably not doing very well. People who bet on sports for a living are diligent with their accounting as they treat betting like a business. If you’re not familiar with this process or how to do it, let’s go over it to get you on the right track.

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Why Do It?
Because the easiest way to lose money in gambling is to be disorganized. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the main reasons why the Las Vegas casinos are so successful: bettors go in with a plan but after one bad loss or after a few drinks – that’s why they give you free alcohol – things start to go astray. Sports betting is a business of margins where you have to have a very slight edge over a long period of time to be profitable. If you can’t stick to a system where you’re bankroll is tidily managed, then it’s going to shrink instead of grow.

How To Calculate It?
You can read our other content on bankrolls and how to manage them, so what we’ll focus on here is how to calculate your return on investment here. To do this, it’s quite simple: you need to keep track of your track, whether you won or loss and the profit or losses. Let’s use an example:

$300 on the New York Yankees at -150 AND

$1100 on the Green Bay Packers -2.5 -110

Let’s say you won the Yankees bet but lost the Packers bet. That means that you would collect back a total of $500 on the Yankees bet (your $300 stake along with $200 in profits) and you would have lost $1100 on your Packers bet. Overall, you’ve won $200 but loss $1100. That means you’re down $900 on the ledger.

Where To Track It?
Almost every sportsbook allows you to see your betting history, which is the easiest way to track your bets. However, it’s hard to do anything with that data. If you bet with a bookie, some sort of offline method or in Las Vegas, then you’ll want to keep track via Microsoft Excel or Notepad.  Something as simple as the following works:


However, the more detailed you are, the more productive you can be in the long run. For example, if you add more details such as the sport you’re betting, the month or time of year and size of the bet, you can start to extract some patterns. Maybe you’re very profitable at betting on baseball but you give back all of your winnings during the NFL season. Or possibly you win you’re biggest bets that you’re most confident about but you lose your small bets when you’re just taking shots. Or maybe you struggle with hockey betting in October and November when the season has just started but you reel in most of your winnings during the playoffs. Is tracking tedious and another layer of work? Yes, but in the long run, this is how you become more successful.

What Are Betting Units?
When you start chatting with other people – especially in forums like SBRForum – you’ll realize that most people talk about their wins and losses in terms of betting units. That’s because everyone bets in different amounts.

For example: let’s say you’re a $100 bettor – you bet in the range of $100 per game – and you have a great weekend. Then on Monday morning, you do a little bit of public bragging and tell people that you’ve swept the board and won $500 or $600 on a great run. That’s fine and dandy, but that means very little to someone who bets $1000 or $10,000 per game. They’re going to look at you and wonder why you’re bragging about small peanuts. Floyd Mayweather bets in the hundreds of thousands, so he’ll scoff at your measly winnings. That’s why it’s important to talk about your wins and losses in betting units.

A betting unit is simply your average bet. So if you’re a $100 player, that could be one unit to you. Or if you’re a $1000 player, that could be your one unit. That way if you tell someone that you won five or six units over the weekend, it translates to them and they can do the math to figure out what that means for them. It’s sort of an anonymous way to make things clear to everyone across the board.