The Pros and Cons of Using the Unit System as a Sports Bettor

Thumbs Up and Down Icons With Sports Betting Sheet

For avid sports bettors, a great divide has developed based on one of the industry’s central concerns—how should wagers be sized? Most casual fans who saunter up to the sportsbook while visiting Sin City simply bet the bucks they have on hand.

That might be a crisp $100 bill, a messy stack of chips totaling $73, or somewhere in between. Professional bettors, on the other hand, have adopted the “unit” system to structure their own bankroll management system.

When betting in units, the player never deviates from their predetermined amount. Unit betting has its pros and cons, like any other gambling strategy, so let’s dive into the details to see what works best for you.

How Does Unit Betting Work?

Let’s say you have $1,000 exactly in your sports betting bankroll. Rather than bet $50 on one game, $30 on another, and $20 on a third, unit betting calls for standardizing the wager amounts across the board.

The beauty of this approach is that you can choose whatever unit size fits your bankroll best. The goal is to stretch your cash reserves out as efficiently as possible to avoid the “risk of ruin,” or the point of no return where you’ve put the last of your bankroll at risk.

Ideally, a $1,000 bankroll bettor would begin with a unit size of something like $50 per bet. At that rate, you’d have to lose 20 consecutive tickets to go broke—a statistical improbability that should only strike rarely, if ever.

Race and Sportsbook

But if you had the same bankroll and upped the ante to $200 per bet, all it takes is five straight defeats to end your run altogether.

As a unit bettor, the goal is to make your wagering as consistent as possible from game to game, day to day, and year to year. You might have a set of six sides on the docket for an upcoming NFL Sunday, but no matter which ones you lean most heavily to, each side gets the same $50 unit per play.

With that said, many unit bettors like to back up their biggest hunches with multiple unit plays. You might bet one unit ($50) on five of the games, but reserve a two-unit ($100) play for the side you feel strongest about.

The Pros of Betting in Units at the Sportsbook

The primary reason for adopting a unit system is to maintain a certain level of consistency with your bankroll management. After all, if you’re betting $200 on one side and $100 on another, but you’ve done the same level of study on each, there’s no rhyme or reason for that discrepancy.

And when one ticket cashes while the other one winds up in the dust bin, you now face an imbalance in your ledger. You went one for two in this scenario, so you should have broken even (before paying the vig). Instead, you either lost $100 or won $100 despite winning exactly half of your plays.

Whether you wind up in the black or red here is no longer under your control; it comes down to random variance. If your $200 ticket is the winner, then you scored a $100 profit. But when that coin flips, you wind up down $100 even though you cashed a ticket.

NCAA Football Quarterback

By betting in flat $100 units, this exact same outcome leaves you protected from volatility. Sure, you gave a little bit back to the book in the form of juice, but you survived a one-for-two outing without damaging your bankroll.

Betting in units also helps regulars at the sportsbook maintain clean, organized records. Rather than tallying up all sorts of wagers and payouts with random digits at the end, you’ll always have the same $100 to win $110 math to work with.

Sports betting recordkeeping is part and parcel of succeeding as a sports bettor, and the choice to opt for units over random figures just makes all of your accounting simpler and more streamlined.

Professional bettors who use social media to “tout” their selections also prefer units because they allow the source to conceal exact dollar amounts. If you don’t want the public to know whether you’re wagering $10, $100, or $1,000 per play, communicating in terms of units helps to protect that private information.

Similarly, for recreational bettors just getting into the game, viewing the money spent on bets as units is the best way to avoid an inferiority complex. Sure, the sharps out there might be betting sizable chunks of change, but you can still “tail” them with your chump change by matching their unit count.

On a final note, sticking with a set unit system is an effective method to mitigating compulsive gambling issues. If you just can’t help yourself from betting everything you have on tonight’s playoff game, you’ll soon find yourself broke and busted.

But when you can attain the discipline to stay within the confines of your own personal unit structure, you’ll never have all of your sports betting eggs in a single basket.

The Cons of Betting in Units at the Sportsbook

One of the main drawbacks associated with unit betting is that it tends to sterilize the whole proceedings.

Remember, betting is supposed to be a fun source of entertainment, which blends sports fandom with gambling. If being a professional sports bettor isn’t a career for you, and you can afford to risk the cash, why not fire away with whatever amount suits your tastes?

If that happens to be $86 today and $212 tomorrow, that shouldn’t make much of a difference over the long run in your case. You’re not betting every day, and you don’t earn your living doing so, which means a little bit of irregularity here and that is perfectly acceptable.

NCAA Basketball Players Under the Rim

By betting in strict units, however, some of the impulsiveness and risk-taking is removed from the equation. Imagine how you’d feel cashing a measly $50 single-unit winner when you were completely ready to risk your whole $500 bankroll. We only get so many “locks” that come our way during the course of a season, so limiting yourself to a lower bet just because the pros say so sounds like a missed opportunity to me.

Unit players also fail to capitalize on those inevitable hot streaks and runs of good luck every sports bettor waits for. If your handicapping is on point lately, and you’ve nailed four straight selections, upping the ante a little bit only seems natural. You’re making sound decisions, spotting edges when the lines move, and winning without drama in big blowouts.

Knowing all this, would you really want to stick with the same flat $50 bet even though the win streak means you can afford to bet more? Once again, that “fear of missing out” phenomenon is a powerful thing, so when that fifth bet turns a winner like clockwork, you’ll regret not putting more of your money where your mouth is.

Other Sports Gambling Systems

Unit betting isn’t the only sports gambling system you can use. Unlike other gambling systems, there are some sports betting systems that actually work.

Spend a little time finding a profitable sports betting system or developing your own. All winning sports gamblers use some sort of system, so you need to use one, too.

It might take a long time to develop a winning sports gambling system, but it’s worth it in the long run.


The decision to adopt a unit betting system in your sports betting escapades is a personal one to be sure. Many factors should be considered, and from all angles, before you commit to one way of wagering at the sportsbook.

Those rare successful pros obviously know what they’re doing, so following their example certainly makes sense. With that said, most of the people reading this page aren’t pros, nor do they want to be.

They bet for fun, and unit betting isn’t always the most fun way to tackle this game. I hope this rundown of pros and cons helps you siphon through the noise and assess the unit debate from a new angle.