How Much Should You Bet On Sports?

Legal sports betting is a-go here in Illinois. For those new to sports betting, questions will inevitable pop up along the way. At the top of the list is this one: How much should I bet?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-blanket answer that covers every situation. No two sets of financial considerations are the same, and the overall risk tolerance can vary per bettor. However, you must consider some factors as you work toward figuring out what’s right for you.

We’ll walk you through the process so you can gain a better sense of what kind of sports betting bankroll makes sense for your situation. Let’s begin by answering another common question.

Can I make money betting on sports?

It is possible to make money betting on sports, but that comes with some significant caveats. First, the ranks of those who continually profit year after year, season after season, are slim. It is doable, but not without a great deal of effort.

Next, it’s essential to consider the sum of all parts. Some make a big score and feel as if they’re winning bettors. However, closer inspection of what it took for them to get to that point reveals that they lost money actually.

In short, you could develop your skills to the point that you find regular success with sports betting, but don’t quit your day job. It takes a lot to get to that point, and it’s not for everyone. However, the entertainment aspect of sports wagering is undoubtedly for many.

Calculating returns from sports betting odds

First, let’s ask: What kind of money are you looking at getting back if you win? On a long-term basis, the answer will depend on how much you have wagered and your record of wins and losses.

We’ll put that aside and focus on the smaller scale. For each game or event that you bet on, you can figure out the potential return by doing a calculation that involves the odds and your bet amount:

  • When the odds are negative (remove the minus sign): Amount of bet / (odds/100) = potential return
  • When the odds are positive: Amount of bet * (odds/100) = potential return

The formulas are different based on which way the odds are going. Here are two examples to show them in action with odds of -110 and +110 and a bet amount of $100 on both sides:

  • Negative: 100*(110/100) = $90.90
  • Positive: 100*(110/100) = $110.00

There’s also a trick you can use to get a ballpark number. If the odds are negative, such as -110, the number is telling you how much you would have to wager to get back $100. In this case, you’d bet $110 to get $100 back for a win.

When the odds are positive, such as +110, the number tells you how much would come your way for a winning $100 wager. For this example, it’s $100 in and a profit of $110 coming back if you have yourself a winner.

How to calculate implied probability from odds

You can find a lot of valuable information just by studying sports betting odds. In addition to finding the favored side and potential returns, you can also determine the likelihood of an outcome, at least as far as the oddsmakers see it.

Known as implied probability, this is another situation in which you have to do some figuring. There are formulas to follow here as well, and they will once again vary based on the direction of the odds:

  • When odds are negative (remove the minus sign): Odds/(odds + 100) * 100 = implied probability
  • When odds are positive: 100/(odds + 100) * 100 = implied probability

In both cases, we work through the part in parentheses first before completing the rest of the equation. Here they are in action using odds of -130 and +110.

  • Negative: 130/(130+100) * 100 = 54.2%
  • Positive: 100/(110+100) * 100 = 47.6%

While we can immediately assume that the favorite is the more likely victor in the sportsbook’s eyes, working through the implied probability helps us further visualize what might happen. As always, there are no guarantees that the more likely side will be the winning side.

Importance of setting a betting budget

If you plan on sports betting regularly, the importance of having a betting budget can’t be overstated. The dollar amount should be a number that you are comfortable with risking, and you can afford to lose.

If you come up with an amount that has you feeling skittish, then it’s too high for your current financial situation. Adjust downward until you find your comfort level. You can always increase stakes down the road as your skills and available funds advance.

The budget should cover what you are comfortable putting in play per wager, as well as on a weekly or monthly basis. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of sports betting, but a definitive budget helps make sure you don’t go overboard.

How to manage your sports betting bankroll

Once you have the budget in place, it’s time to come to terms with the importance of managing your funds. It can help you think of your dollars as worker bees that are going out in the field. The idea is for them all to come back safely while also having produced more bounty.

If you drill home the importance of  bankroll management, you’ll be less likely to take unnecessary chances or “winging it” for fun. Your bankroll will take hits here and there as you lose wagers, but the proper mindset on fund management can help weather any sports betting storms.

Your total bankroll can include funds you keep on site and any expected deposits you may need to make to replenish during cold streaks. Once again, the total funds should be an amount you’re comfortable with and don’t need for any other purposes. Betting should be primarily for entertainment.

Stick to consistent wager sizes

Long-term success with sports betting comes from building up consistency. As part of the journey, you’ll need to instill discipline into your wagering strategy. A good part of that comes from sticking to consistent wagering amounts.

It also helps for tracking purposes, a subject we’ll touch on in a bit. Consistency in wagering amounts means that you are putting the same amount of money at risk for each of your bets.

When you’re all over the map with amounts staked, your bankroll and budget plans can go haywire quickly. Stay in your lane with a wager size per game that you can afford, and don’t increase stakes before you’re ready.

Keep expectations in check

If you enter the world of sports betting with a decent amount of knowledge, then you may assume that success is a given. Well, be prepared for a rude awakening. It’s challenging to turn consistent profits with sports betting, so it’s important to temper expectations.

This reality check isn’t meant to discourage you from pursuing sports betting but rather to help keep it in perspective. Sports betting can fun and potentially profitable, but you shouldn’t confuse it with an instant cash machine.

Know going in that you have some work to do and there will be some bumps along the way. As you gain experience, know that no matter how well you research, there are no guarantees. Confidence in your decisions is great, but overconfidence can lead to problems.

Tracking your betting results

To determine how well you are doing with sports betting overall, you need to spend time tracking your results. In its simplest form, bankroll plus withdrawals and minus deposits can give you a snapshot of where your funds are or have gone.

Digging deeper, you should track your performance by bet type. By doing so, you’ll quickly be able to see your overall win-loss percentage, as well as profits made or funds lost by wager. If you do this consistently, you’ll be able to spot strong and weak points in your game.

After some time has elapsed, you may realize that you’re confident in one or two areas while lacking in others. The strong parts of your game can then become your focal points, and hopefully, there will be more profits down the road.

Example of potential sports betting returns

It’s easy to figure out the potential return on a single bet, but factoring returns on a long-term basis takes some planning and a realistic assessment of potential performance. To illustrate, let’s consider a 17-week NFL regular season.

Let’s say your game plan is to bet five games against the spread per week with a goal of going 3-2 over those five games. If you can hit at that clip, you’re winning 60% of your NFL bets, which is what a pro handicapper would love to see.

You’ve also taken the time to put in a strict budget and bankroll plan. You’ll be wagering $100 on each game, or $500 per week over those 17 weeks. All told, you’ll be putting $8,500 on the line during the season.

Weekly, you’d naturally love to win all five games, but you also know that’s not realistic. If you were able to hit at the 60% you’re hoping for, here’s the potential return per week:

  • Five Bets at $100 Each: Total of $500 in wagers.
  • Win Three Bets at Standard Spread Odds of -110: A $272.72 profit on those bets, plus a return of the $300 in wagers.
  • Lose Two Bets at $100 Each: A total hit of $200 to your bankroll.
  • Add it Up: With $572.72 coming back, minus $500 laid out equals a profit of $72.72.
  • Total Return: 5% ($72.72/500)

A 14.5% return over a week’s worth of sports betting is solid, and you can easily see how the amounts can grow as you advance in stakes. If we were able to hit that mark over the full 17 weeks, here’s how the math works out:

  • 85 Bets at $100 Each: A total of $8,500 in wagers.
  • Win 51 Bets (60%) at Standard Spread Odds of -110: A $4,636.36 profit on those bets, plus a return of the $5,100 in wagers.
  • Lose 34 Bets at $100 Each: A total hit of $3,400 to your bankroll.
  • Add it Up: With $9,736.36 coming back, minus $8,500 laid out equals a profit of $1,236.36.
  • Total Return: 5% ($1,236.36/$8,500).

That all sounds great, but what happens if your overall winning percentage is less than that? Here’s a look at the result if your winning percentage dips using the same parameters: 85 games, $100 per bet, $90.90 profit on winners.

Win%Bets WonTotal ReturnProfitROI

While your initial goal of 60% winners sounds great on paper, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to produce at such a clip for an entire season. As you can see from our chart above, the potential return drops as your win rate dips.

When trying to project out potential returns for a season, start with the break-even point. In the case of the NFL regular season, it’s about 52.4%. From there, realistically adjust based on what you think you can reasonably hit over the course of the season.

If you happened to land at 55% as your goal, then you’re looking at a potential return on investment of 5.1%, if all goes well. The process is the same for all sports you plan to bet on, but be sure to adjust based on the number of games or events you plan to bet on and your exact amount per wager.

How to start sports betting in Illinois

Choices abound for sports bettors in Illinois. Several leading operators have set up shop with online and mobile options in the Prairie State. You can sign up to play at several legal and regulated sportsbooks, including:

First things first, be sure to click through on our exclusive links before creating an account. Taking this step will entitle you to some extra incentives that can help to establish your on-site bankroll. Next, enter some info about you and your new account will be live in mere minutes.

From a betting perspective, the natural starting point is with what you know. If you’re a big fan of NBA betting but don’t know much about betting on the NHL, then start with the former. Love golf or the UFC? There’s plenty of betting action with both, so feel free to start with either of them.

There’s a learning curve that comes with betting on sports, but it can become easier if you have some basic knowledge in place. Just like increasing stakes as your skills develop, you can always branch out into other areas in the future.

How much money should I risk per bet?

The answer to this question will vary based on your personal situation. Bankroll sizes and available funds will vary, so no one answer applies to everyone. Remember that funds you allocate for sports betting should be money you can afford to lose.

Once you have your budget and starting bankroll in place, more concrete answers will be found. Conventional wisdom says that you should be wagering no more than 2% to 5% of your bankroll on any individual wager; however, that still depends on your financial situation.

Here’s what you need to remember 

Sports betting can be fun and entertaining, and there’s even a possibility that you could profit along the way. That said, you need to put delusions of grandeur aside. Achieving long-term success while betting on sports is challenging.

As such, it’s important to remember that you should only be wagering on sports with funds that you can afford to lose. If it’s money you need for something else, use it for that and bet on sports at a later date when you’re in a better spot.

For those looking to build up their skills and bankroll, it’s certainly possible to do so; just know that there will be work involved. If you can employ strict money management, stick to a budget and keep your mind open to constantly learning, you’ll have that much more of a chance of making it happen.

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