How to Bet on Sports in a Sustainable and Responsible Way

Sports betting has become one of the hottest topics in the sports world. It is nearly impossible to find sports content anywhere without some kind of gambling aspect or betting angle added to the piece. It is no secret that we at Happy Hour Sports are here to help out with what to bet on after work, but with football season quickly approaching I think it is important to talk about some key strategies for being responsible and sustainable while betting. Sports betting is one of the most fun ways to enjoy any sporting event and adds an additional element to the game. I hope that the following tips will help our readers now and far along in the future when it comes to betting on the sports they love in a responsible manner but also in a sustainable manner for the long haul.


Establish a Bankroll

A sports betting bankroll is the amount of money you allow yourself to use on the hobby of betting on sports. If you are new to sports betting or use a sportsbook with a credit line, you may not be as familiar with this type of perspective on betting. Establishing your bankroll is crucial to ensuring you are able to take a measured approach to bet on games, and that you do not get carried away placing large wagers that cripple your money available and lead toward burning money from your bank account.

Everyone's bankroll is different. You should decide on how much money you are comfortable committing over a long period of time and stick to that. If you are a football fan and only want to bet on games during the fall and winter, then think about how many games you typically bet on a weekend and consider how that pans out throughout the season. You do not need to account for having enough money now for all of the wagers you are about to place over the course of a season, but a couple of weeks of flexibility is good to account for a losing week or two.

The most common way that people determine what their bankroll will be is by figuring out their unit size. A unit is the amount of money you are placing on one wager. Your more confident bets may be more than one unit, while your less confident bets may be less than that, but we can dive into more of that later. For the purpose of establishing your bankroll, a good rule of thumb is for a unit to be around 3% to 5% of your bankroll.

For bettors who are new to the gambling scene, it is totally OK to have a smaller bankroll than your friends, and you should definitely not reference what some on Twitter claim to be their bankroll as oftentimes it could be glorified or fake. If your sportsbook asks for a minimum of $10 or $20 wagers and that is a bit out of your comfort zone, then you will need to find another book that is friendlier toward allowing smaller wagers. Do what you are most comfortable with because if you don't stick to a plan you will get burned.

A great benefit of sports betting becoming legal in several states across the United States is the sign-up bonuses that many books offer. This helps lessen the amount of money you have to deposit in order to reach your desired bankroll, and in some cases, there are books with reload bonuses that provide you with a bonus every time. It is clear that these bonuses are targeted at novices who may try to place large wagers since they're playing with house money. If you can take advantage of this in a responsible way with a disciplined bankroll and betting units, you will not flame out after a few weeks like many newcomers sadly do.

Units, Units, Units

I cannot emphasize this enough. If you want to save money, bet on the things you want to, and actually see long-term success, you CANNOT throw big bets on every big game and CANNOT fluctuate your wager amounts. It is easy to preach that betting using units is the way to go, but how do you do it?

When you are looking at the betting markets and deciding what to place a bet on, it is important to note your confidence level on your plays. Obviously, you should feel confident in a lot of your plays, as you are putting your hard-earned money on predicting a result, but sometimes you may be more confident based on research or data, or less confident based on an unlikely but lucrative outcome. Your standard, regular, ordinary bet should be one full unit. If you are taking a flier on an underdog, want to bet a parlay (we will get into that), or are placing a future, it is probably best to wager a half unit or even a quarter of a unit on these types of situations.

But now there is the difficult part. I have pointed out you should feel confident in your plays since you are betting on them, but what if you are REALLY confident that the Cubs will beat the Cardinals because of a favorable pitching matchup? This is when discipline and planning come in because it is sometimes hard to maintain the self-control to not unleash a few units on your favorite play of the week.

Scaling your units to 2 and 3 is still responsible depending on the situation, but bringing that up to 5 and 10 is where things get iffy and you have to ask yourself a few questions. If you do find yourself betting 5 to 10 units on games often - is your unit size currently too small? Are you being a bit reckless and need to reel things back in? Are you jeopardizing the progress you have made building brick by brick with a disciplined unit system?

The word unit in the sports betting space is oftentimes misconstrued by clickbait sports handicappers on Twitter. It is not responsible to have "ALL IN MAX BETS" or have four different plays for the 1:00 PM NFL games that range from 3 - 7 units. This type of sports betting will get you burned, and it should be noted when you are looking for what other people may be betting on.

Straight Bets vs Parlays

Sticking to your units is a challenge in itself. Now let's talk about the infamous get-rich-quick scheme of winning a big parlay. Parlays are not as profitable as they are made out to be. In fact, they are not at all in the long term unless you know there is a clear and obvious edge.

It feels like every sportsbook advertisement running on TV, podcasts, or social media has a promotion regarding betting on parlays and even more specifically same game parlays. This is intentional. New Jersey released their wagering statistics for the month of June 2022 and YTD recently, and 20% of their sports betting wagers were made up of parlays halfway through this year. 20% of their wagers means that there has been over $1.2 billion wagered on parlays alone so far this year. Out of that money wagered, the state of New Jersey reported a profit of 16%, which is four times any other category or sport in sports betting for the state. This is just in New Jersey.

I am not going to sit here and tell you to never bet a parlay. Parlays sometimes make sense on certain occasions, but you have to be smart about it. Sportsbooks intentionally run featured parlays and they will be shoving them in your face all season long for football. It is important to take a step back from what looks like a potentially great payday, and think about how many of these independent variables are actually likely to hit.

Let's look at it from the most simple stance possible. If you have two UFC fighters that are at pick 'em odds of -110 each. Then later on in the night, there is another fight that is -110 on both sides. If you were to take both of your two favorite fighters in these two fights, both fighters have around a 50% chance of victory according to the book. Now if you parlay those two together, you do get a nice payout of around +260 normally, but your probability of winning both is 25%. On top of this as MMA fans, we know your true probability might be even less as anything can happen in a fight!

There are a couple of times I personally find myself betting parlays. If there are two wagers you have done the research on and really like but are just too expensive to justify laying the juice on, sometimes parlaying those two are the way to go. Another method I sometimes look at is with football totals and spreads being thrown into a teaser, versus parlaying the alternate spreads and totals or the moneylines. If you tease the Bears from -8.5 to -1.5, and the Rams from +7 to +14, you could sometimes find better odds parlaying the Bears moneyline with an alternate spread on the Rams. Some books do not always allow this or you have to get creative, but getting creative with your bets here is a fine way to parlay and always helps shopping for your best return on investment.

Finally, I would beware of three-leg parlays and more. Once a parlay hits more than three legs, sportsbooks actually take away some of the juice you should be getting from a mathematical standpoint. The other issue with three-leg parlays is the expected outcome drops even further if the odds are around the -110 range. Your expected probability falls to 12.5% or lower, which is why you get higher odds, but it is not wise to be betting full units on these types of wagers. Multiple leg parlays are fun to make but throwing more than 0.25 units on this type of wager is not wise and will lead to long-term losses that you do not want to take on.


I hope this article has been a helpful resource and can be something to reference back to if things go south during football season or in general while betting on sports. If this was something you found useful, please leave a comment or tweet me your feedback @AndyHHSports on Twitter! I appreciate your time, and good luck this season!


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