Should a Sports Bettor Flat Bet or Vary Bet Sizes?

Hundred Dollar Bill With a Sportsbook and NFL Background

Whether to flat bet or vary bet sizes is, without a doubt, one of the most hotly debated topics regarding bankroll management.

Many sports bettors are at a considerable disadvantage because they don’t understand how to manage their bankroll.

They refuse to follow a process and are unpredictable with their wagers.

Let’s start by taking an in-depth look at the two methods.

The Flat Bet

This is straightforward. Flat betting is wagering the same amount of money on every bet. Notice I said on every bet and not on most bets.

The standard is 2% of your bankroll total for each bet. For example, if you have a $10,000 bankroll, you would be betting $200 on each game, every time and without exception.

However, as you begin growing your bankroll, you’ll want to start to proportionally increase your bet size. Assume that you have gone on a run of wins, and your bankroll now sits at $12,000. You still want to bet 2% of your bankroll.

Because you now have a bigger bankroll, that 2% bet is now $240. Conversely, if you had lost a few bets and your bankroll was now at $8,000, the same 2% results in a $160 wager.

The flat betting approach is efficient for those that understand the importance of managing their bankroll. After the vig — the amount the bookmaker takes on losing bets — you have to win 52.38% of your bets just to break even.

NCAA Football Players During a Rushing Play

The elite sharp sports bettors and top pros hit between 55% and 60%. That may not sound like an impressive total, but it’s an incredible feat.

Over the long haul winning at these percentages is going to net you a fortune.

Billy Walters built an empire winning in these ranges. By consistently wagering the same amount, you will guard yourself against going bankrupt when you inevitably hit a losing streak.

While all the excellent information encourages flat betting, it is rarely practiced.

Unfortunately, many novice sports bettors lack the discipline to strictly adhere to flat betting.

They need to have a fundamental shift in thinking. They need to look at sports betting as an investment rather than a hobby. You should do the same.

Many sports bettors consider it entertainment and expect to lose a few hundred dollars every year.  If you are fine with merely handing the sportsbooks hard-earned cash repeatedly until you have to take a break and replenish your bankroll, that is your prerogative.

Varied Bets

The varied bet is exactly what its name would imply. The bettor increases or decreases their wager almost on a whim.

Varied bets can be a hazardous approach, but it’s the avenue I see most novice sports bettors travel down. It is a slippery slope and can land gamblers in an abysmal situation.

Imagine the following scenario:

You are new to the sports betting game, and let’s say you’ve saved up $5,000 to start your bankroll. You are either unaware or not interested in flat betting.

So, you have learned from your limited research that a 2% bet should be a decent starting point. You place your first wager at $110. (The extra $10 is the vig or juice.)

However, it doesn’t go your way, and you’re out $110. Okay, you can recover. Except you lose five more games the first week, and suddenly you’re down almost $700.

You likely aren’t panicked at this point, but you may very well become impatient.

You decide to up the ante.

After all, you’re due for a nice win.

Right?

No, there’s no such thing as being due. Those in the know refer to this as the Gambler’s Fallacy.

Anyhow, you place 1 $700 bet to get back to even. Perhaps you decide to hedge your bets and make 2 $350 wagers.

Surely you can’t lose both.

You lose both.

Lady Luck is a cruel mistress.

Now you are two weeks into your sports betting career, and you’ve lost almost 1/3 of your bankroll. You double down again—$ 1400 in play over a few games. You lose more than you win and go deeper in the hole.

I think you can see where this is headed. You continue making wildly differing wagers until, eventually, you have nothing left. I see it happen in casinos far more often than I’d like.

The allure of the varied bet size is the ability to quickly win a large amount of money. Some gamblers just get these “hunches” and follow them all the way to an empty bank account.

Which One Has the Advantage?

It’s clear to see there are significant benefits to each method. I’ll break down some of the critical differences to better help you make an informed decision.

Limiting Your Potential

Varied betting jumps out to most gamblers because it seemingly allows you to win a more significant sum of money quickly. In some ways, it does give you a chance to quickly increase your bankroll. Of course, it may just as promptly dwindle to nothing.

Flat betting may not give you the considerable gains in a super short time as varied betting could. What flat betting will do is keep you in the game long enough to start seeing some serious returns long term.

So, while it would appear that you are limiting your potential by using a flat betting approach, you are actually maximizing your potential winnings by placing increasingly larger bets as your bankroll grows.

Furthermore, you are mitigating your losses by only betting a small percentage of your bankroll.

Advantage: Flat Betting

Recouping Losses

Too many gamblers fall into this trap of chasing their losses. They may start out with a flat betting approach and hit a losing streak. They quickly become impatient and begin to press.

Remember, with a flat betting approach, your bet sizes should be shrinking with your bankroll if losses occur.

Now they have significantly less bankroll but have inexplicably increased bet sizes to make it back to even. This is called chasing losses, and the first rule of gambling is to not throw good money after bad.

If they simply stayed the course and continued to wager their 2-3% on each game, they might quickly recoup those losses and even begin to show a profit.

The percentage of players that go broke hunting for that huge payday to get it all back is just too high for me to endorse.

Advantage: Flat Betting

We’re Having Fun Here

Okay, this may be the most important one for you. After all, gambling is meant to be fun.

Most gamblers will have a much more enjoyable experience over the long haul by using flat betting.

Does that really translate to fun, though?

It depends on how you’re wired. I have golf buddies that fire every shot with almost reckless abandon. Sure, they are usually well over par at the end of the round.

But when they have that fantastic shot or drain an impossible putt, the entire card erupts. It’s a ton of fun to watch.

I’m of the more conservative approach. I like hitting fairways and greens. I may not have that 1 memorable shot every round. I typically have a couple of bogeys and a couple of birdies. Mix in a lot of boring pars, and you have my round.

Wide View of a NCAA Basketball Play

So, the two approaches are very different. You have my friends that go for broke and are usually well over par but give each shot a full send.

Then there is me and a few others that play “boring golf” and are always close to par.

Eventually, we can get hot and go well under, but we are never or rarely way over.

Does one group have more fun than another?

It’s hard to say. I’d quit playing if I was regularly shooting their scores. The game just would cease to be enjoyable. Conversely, those guys mock me mercilessly for being too conservative and regularly jab me for taking “easy pars.”

It depends on your personality type and what your personal goals are — slow and steady or go for broke.

Advantage: Varied Bets

What Should Most Sports Bettors Use?

The best results for a vast percentage of sports bettors will come from a flat betting approach. This method is undoubtedly the safest option you have.

Flat betting is also the most straightforward sports betting strategy for managing your bankroll. It keeps you consistent and doesn’t open you up to being betrayed by your confidence. You aren’t going to see Hollywood producers rushing out to make movies about the gambler that embraces flat betting.

You will, however, be in the best possible position to stay in action for the long haul if you adopt it as a discipline.

Conclusion

If you are taking the time to learn the differences between flat betting and varied bets, you are way ahead of most sports bettors. Which method you use really comes down to your personal preference.

If you’re a sports bettor that takes the approach of a long-term investor, then flat betting will place you in a much more advantageous position to achieve your goals.

If you have a small bankroll or just appreciate living life on the edge, you may understand the risk v. reward approach of varying your bets.