Building a Sports Betting Bankroll

How do I get started in sports betting? This is a question that I get asked quite often and the answer is often very different depending on who I am talking to. The reality is that all people are in very different life and financial situations. This will inevitably impact how one gets started. Are you just a college student who eats ramen noodles for dinner? Or are you maybe a corporate executive with a decent amount of cash to risk? Personal situations greatly differ and I’ll discuss the best ways forward depending on your unique situation…

How Much Money Do I Need To Get Started in Sports Betting?

At an absolute bare minimum, I would suggest that one starts with at least $300. Even as a college student, one can muster up that kind of money with a few days of driving for Uber Eats. The reason I say $300 is because I think that one needs to join a minimum of three sportsbooks to be able to line shop. You can read a little more about line shopping here.

For those with much bigger means, I would suggest to put in whatever you feel comfortable with. It’s ideal to be able to start by signing up at as many sportsbooks as possible, while at the same time maxing out the promotions at each sportsbook. Really, it’s just a matter of balance. Most sportsbooks go up to around $500 in matching promotions. With a $2,500 starting budget, it’s probably best to max out the promotions at five sportsbooks rather than go halfway at ten of them. This is because the best promotions come with new customers and you can only collect on that once. One can always add more sportsbooks as their bankroll grows.

For help on picking out a general sportsbook, see our post on the best sportsbooks in the US.

How Much Should I Wager On Each Bet?

This is a long debated subject that has many correct (and incorrect) answers. I’ve already discussed one way to manage bankroll in a blog post about the Kelly Criterion. While the this is a fine way to go, I’ve created by own method that uses similar tactics as the Kelly Criterion strategy.

I break down all picks into five categories that for the sake of this blog can be called one-star to five-star picks. This is what my table looks like…

Bet Stakes Table

Bet Stakes Table

As one can see, this is similar to breaking things down with estimated expected value. Most bets should take play in the 2-star range as those are single unit bets. I assign bets as 3-star if I am very confident (80-90% sure) that they have a positive expected value. With 4-star bets, I’m 100% sure there is positive value as there is arbitrage in the market. Finally, 5-star bets can typically only be found a few times a year. My favorite example of this is taking Mayweather at -550 over McGregor in boxing. Realistically, those odds should have been in the -4000 or worse range.

When’s It Time To Reload?

Doing everything by way of percentages means that one will never fall to zero which is a good thing. Further, this also technically allows you to build you bankroll with bigger bets over time. Hopefully, your experience ends up being the latter example. However, if you do have a shrinking bankroll, then a decent rule of thumb is to reload once your balance is cut in half from the original investment.

Final Thoughts

Starting out, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. I also, however, think it’s important to bet enough to have meaning. What do I mean by that? In the online poker world, I learned absolutely nothing from playing against people in the “free roll” realm. With nothing on the line, people make a lot of irrational moves. It wasn’t until I played with bigger stakes that I was able to really learn the game and improve. Sports betting is no different. Everything works in theory until real stakes must be played on real games.

Be responsible. Don’t over do it. Enjoy the process!