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I Want To Talk About Everything Wrong With The Word “Unit”


With the rise of “Gambling Twitter” both free and tout handicapping services have probably been flooding your timeline if it’s anything like mine. The picks and results may differ, but one thing you will always notice: there is one constant. The word “Unit.”

Nothing infuriates me more than this term because quite frankly, very few handicappers use it the right way.

A handicapper can go 1-5, but if that one winning position was a 10 “unit” bet, they are going to claim to be +5 units with a 1-5 record assuming the other five positions were one unit.

I’m here to explain to you one thing.

Units aren’t real. They are a tracking tool.

I understand not everyone is a professional handicapper and they have a side bankroll for gambling (or at least put aside a part of their regular income). For me though, I take money earned from handicapping and put it into my life to pay these pesky things called bills.

If I make a car payment am I down two units? If I pay a mortgage payment, am I down five units? We live in a world of -110 for most point spread sports, however, units were created for money line sports like baseball, combat sports, tennis, etc. Let me explain why. If you are a baseball handicapper and go 2-1, but the money lines are different, your net money earned is going to be vastly different than just + one “unit.” Let me explain:

Boston Red Sox -310 (Risk 3.1 to win 1) Loss

New York Yankees -110 (Risk 1.1 to win 1) Win

Tampa Bay Rays +105 (Risk 1to win 1.05) Win

It’s a 2-1 Record, but because you had to risk 3.1 units on the first play, you would be down money. Let’s do a little gamblers math here.

(-3.10), (+1.1,) (+1) = 2-1 record  (-1 Unit)

Do you see where this can get misleading?

Tracking net money earned is more valuable than straight up wins and losses. However, units are for monitoring purposes and nothing more. The almighty dollar is king, not units.

Let’s make another thing clear. Professional sports bettors do not keep track of units. Yes, based on the edge that a bettor has dictated they have, their wager size will increase but for the most part a handicapper who is risking 1% of their bankroll per play and hits 57-59% over the long term is going to not only be profitable but is going to limit short-term variance due to the fact they aren’t risking between 1-20% of a bankroll on any given play.

The real definition of one unit is 1% of your bankroll. In a perfect world, you would only be wagering 1% of your bankroll per bet. The issue with this is it’s very unattractive to many.

When you see handicappers posting a five to ten unit position, they are asking you to risk 5-10% of your bankroll and are leading you to believe they are doing the same and don’t get me started on the 10-20 unit max bombs. Here’s why I have a hard time believing this. One unit in a $10,000 bankroll is a just $100. Most bettors do not have a $10,000 bankroll and therefore likely wager several units per play without even knowing so. Make no mistake about it, if someone is risking “5 units” on one play and it isn’t exactly 5% of their overall bankroll, they are mismanaging their money, and if you are following them, they are mismanaging yours.

Now, I am not saying you can’t increase your risk amount based on how strongly you feel you have an identified edge, but just know you are going to have to raise your other wagers on the back end ever to have a hope of making that one bet up if it loses.

Look, I’m not here to bash anyone. I’m simply here to try to make you more educated on what true bankroll management is. In a world that is notoriously ego driven that has gotten even worse with the introduction of things like Twitter, Reddit, Forums, and message boards–It’s important that you know how to manage your money. It’s the most important aspect in handicapping that very few are doing the right way. I’m not the only person to notice this misuse of bankroll management as it was pointed out on Twitter by a good friend of mine, Sandman.

As you can see, this one specific tweet gained 544 likes, 127 RT’s, and 82 comments of people noticing the same thing. If you are going to tail other peoples picks or pay for picks, finding someone with money management is the most important aspect. No one should be risking 10 % of a bankroll on one play. It’s simply irresponsible bankroll management. Finding someone who wins inbetween 56-60% long term will be far more profitable for you long term than a short term variance handicapper risking it all on max plays. I promise you that.

As I’ve always stated, there are levels to this racket guys. If you are recreational or beginning bettor that is just wagering some money within your means during an NFL or college football weekend than by all means bet what you are comfortable losing. But if you are looking to try to be a long-term successful handicapper, bankroll management is the single most important aspect.

A jack of all trades, Christian got his start in the gambling industry using a model to predict players performance in daily fantasy sports. Eventually, he used that same model to cross over into NFL handicapping, specifically the prop market and honed his craft enough to cross over from player projections into every aspect of sports Handicapping. He then made the full time move to Las Vegas to become a professional sports handicapper, utilizing his knowledge of all sports including NFL, NCAA, NBA, UFC, and MLB. He's currently the resident #DFS expert on The Sports Gambling Podcast as well as managing editor.

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