What is a Unit in Sports Betting?

One of the tricky parts of communicating in the sports betting community is talking about the amount of winnings. For a relatively new player, a $500 win might be massive whereas for professional bettors or for a gambling veteran, $500 might be a pittance. In order to get everyone on the same page, there had to be a way to describe a win that would be proportionate to each player depending on what they wager. That’s where units come in. If you’ve been wondering what is a unit in betting, we’ll elaborate below.

What Is A Unit In Sports Betting?

A unit is sports betting is a simple way to get on the same page. A unit can be a different amount for everyone but what it does is level the playing field. For example, if a bettor says they won $10, that could mean something to 10 different bettors. However, if a bettor says they won a unit, that then translates to each and every bettor. Let’s look at the following example:

PlayerWager per Game

A unit is simply meant to be your average play. In this case, one unit could be $100 for Player 1, $10,000 for Player 2 and $10 for Player 3. If Player 1 wins $200 and tells the other two players about it, Player 3 would think Player 1 had an incredibly successful day while Player 3 would think Player 1 wasn’t very productive. Now if Player 1 tells the other two players that he won two units on the day, that translates well to both of them. Player 3 would realize that he’s won $20, in his terms, and Player 3 would realize that he’s won $20,000, in his terms.

Unit is just a neutral, universal language that allows everyone to get on the same page.

How Much is a Unit in Betting?

A lot of new bettors ask how much is a unit in betting but that’s a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. Typically, this relates to how you want to manage your bankroll. If you’re entire sports betting account is $1000, you don’t want to be betting $1000 per game because one loss will clean you out. Typically, most professional bettors will use about 1-5% of their bankroll as one unit. In other words, if you’re bankroll is $1000 then one unit is about $50 if it’s 5%. It depends what sports betting units system you’re comfortable with.

Now you can have different levels of units sports betting plays based on your confidence. For example, a one-unit play may be your smallest bet but if you really like a game, you might make it a two-unit ($100) or three-unit ($150) play. It depends on how you want to manage your money but this is one standard strategy to break it down. This way, you’d have to go on a 10-game losing streak to get cleaned out, which is (hopefully) unlikely.

How Do You Calculate Units Won Or Lost?

Calculating units won and lost is a little bit tricky as there is a bit of math that comes into play. For example, you might win 10 bets but depending on the price you paid for each bet, you might not win 10 units.

When doing the calculation, you always calculate the amount you’d have to lay to win $100 if you’re betting on a favorite (odds with a minus sign in front). With underdogs, you’d calculate the payout based on what you’d win if you won $100. This might be a bit confusing, so let’s look at the following example:

#1: N.Y. Jets -110Win
#2: Red Sox -260Win
#3: L.A. Lakers -150Loss
#4: Broncos +120Win

In this case, our bettor went 3-1 but he didn’t win exactly two units. For the first bet, he bet $110 to win $100 and won. For the second bet, he laid $260 and won $100. In the third bet, he wagered $150 and lost, and in the fourth bet – since there is a plus-sign – he wagered $100 and won $120. The final math would look like this:

100 + 100 – 150 + 120 = $170. To get the units, you’d then divide by 100. In this case, our bettor won 1.7 units. Now this number universally translates and everyone can calculate what winning 1.7 units would mean to them.

Calculating Units For Teams

You might see stats on Twitter or ESPN that talk about how profitable a team was or wasn’t on the year. For example, you might hear someone say that the New York Yankees weren’t a good bet this year as they cost bettors -20.4 units. If you’re wondering how that’s calculated, it’s quite similar to the example above. All that’s happening here is they’re taking the closing line for each Yankees game and calculating how many units you’d be up or down if you bet $100 on them each game (either to win $100 if they’re favored or $100 flat if they’re the dog).

So if the Yankees played three games in the season and closed at -250, -300 and -160, and won each game, they’d be at +3.0 units. Now if they lost all three, they’d be at -7.1 units. That’s what they’re referring to when they say how profitable a team has been in terms of sports betting.

Betting Units Versus Record Versus Winning Percentage

One of the keys with this language – the units – is to get rid of ambiguity or bettors inflating their numbers. You’ll find in sports betting strategies that a lot of handicappers will shape the numbers in their favor to make their track record sound better than it is. Units is meant to clear that up as it’s the most important number.

Some bettors might tell you that they’re winning 60% of their bets but that’s not necessary a winning record. For example, let’s say someone has bet -110, -120 and -300 on three separate bets. They won the first two, so their winning percentage is .666, which sounds great. Their record is also 2-1, which would appear to be profitable. However, when you look at the won, they’ve actually lost 1.0 units on the three wagers.

Some of the best bettors only focus on underdogs. If that’s the case, they could have a record of 20-25 but still be quite profitable. Let’s say they’re wagering lines that are always +150, for example. That means a won bet pays $150 for every $100 wagered. If they’re 20-25 with a .444 winning percentage, they are actually profitable to the tune of +10.0 units.

That’s why units in sports betting are the key here. It’s more important to track that number than winning percentage or record.