A common question from new or casual sports bettors is “What is a unit?”. A popular term in sports betting is “unit” and below I will explain what bettors mean they refer to a unit, and examples of it being used.
A “unit” in sports betting is a measurement of the size of someone’s bet. Because everyone has different sized bankrolls for sports betting, using the term unit is a way for us to show your profit or loss in universal terms.
Someone who is betting $10,000 per bet against the spread in NFL and is up $18,000 on the season isn’t nearly as impressive as someone who bets $10 per bet against the spread and is up $180 on the season. Using units gives us a tool to keep track of profits and losses without the dollar value.
Because basic sports betting strategy tells us that you should be betting somewhere between 1-5% of your bankroll on each wager, it is generally accepted that a unit is equal to approximately 1% of your bankroll. Nothing is set on stone with this, but that is an easy way to calculate a single unit.
Using the above formula, someone who has a $1,000 bankroll would be betting $10 per unit, while someone with a $50,000 bankroll would be betting $500 per unit.
Using the bankroll management strategy that recommends 1-5% of your bankroll on each bet you would essentially want to bet between 1-5 “units”.
Many sports handicappers will release their plays with units, with the most common being 1-5 units or sometimes 1-7 units. The 1,2, and 3 unit plays are more of the average plays, while the 4, 5 and sometimes 6 and 7 unit plays are the big plays where the handicapper feels they have found a lot of value on a play.
If a handicapper released a 5 unit play and you had a $1,000 sports betting bankroll you would be risking 5% (5 units) or $50 on the play.
When a bettor says he is +25 units on the year what does that mean?
This would be a measurement of his success on the season so far. Referring to being +25 units means he is “plus” 25x whatever 1 unit is to him. This could be +$25 for someone, while it could be +$25,000 for another.
How can a handicapper with a 25-32 record be +15 units?
It is possible to have a sub .500 record but still be up units if you are betting on underdog or “plus money” selections. For example, picking only NFL underdogs on the money line could lead to a negative record but profits on the season.
Can a sports bettor actually be +1546 units?
There is a lot of ways you can inflate your numbers to make yourself sound good. Like I said earlier a unit = 1% is just a general guideline and everyone has their own way of doing things. Read the fine print. 1 unit to that bettor could 0.001% of their initial bankroll for all we know.