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How to Make Money Betting on Sports – A Complete Guide

  • Post category:Betting

There’s nothing like turning one of your favorite pastimes into an additional revenue source. Legal sports wagering is expanding rapidly throughout the United States, thus giving many people a first-look at mobile applications where they can easily place bets. If you’re new to the community and curious about how to make money betting on sports, we’ve got your back. The remainder of this guide will cover various strategies, bankroll management, and terminology to help you get started. 

I highly suggest reading through this guide if you’re ready to drop the overpopulated sports betting discords and start making plays for yourself. You’ll be able to effectively research and eventually start having trust in your own judgement rather than blindly tailing someone’s “life changing” play. 

Units In Sports Betting

We’re going to focus on bankroll management first because it’s arguably the most important aspect to being profitable long term. Bettors use a unit system to place bets and track their bankroll. A unit in sports betting generally represents 1% of your total bankroll, or it can represent a fixed amount of money. 

The table below will help you visualize how units work in sports betting. I used $1,000 as an example starting bankroll for simplicity purposes, but any amount can be used. If you work in terms of percentages, it’s also worth noting that one unit does not have to be 1% of your bankroll. 

Bankroll Breakdown / Starting Breakdown = $1,000 USD
Unit Type One Unit Equals Two Unit Equals Three Units Equals Calculating P/L in Units Example Calculation
Percentage of Total Bankroll 1% of $1,000 = $10 2% of $1,000 = $20 3% of $1,000 = $30 Final Balance - Initial Balance = Profit or Loss. Profit / (0.01 * Initial Balance) = +- units gained $1,240 - 1000 = $240 / (0.01 * 1000) = +24 units gained
Fixed Amount of Total Bankroll X = 1 Unit, where X is a pre-determined dollar amount. 2(X) = 2 units 3(X) = 3 units Final Balance - Initial Balance / n(x) $1,240 - 1000 = $240 / 1(10) = + 24 units

The idea when you’re getting started is to start with a lump sum of money as your initial investment, as opposed to making several deposits. This can be any amount that you’re comfortable with. You want to treat this money as if you’re trying to save it and grow it; ideally, you won’t make another deposit until your bankroll hits zero.

Utilizing a unit system is helpful in terms of bankroll management because you’ll never overextend on your bets. An average wager of 1% of your bankroll will not be detrimental to your account value if you lose. Your units will change according to your total bankroll, which is important to understand. Essentially, if you lose more, you’ll end up betting less money to represent one unit. On the other hand, you’ll end up betting more money as 1% if you’re winning consistently. 

In looking at the table above, you might think it makes more sense to make one unit a fixed value. From a long term perspective, it’s actually better to use percentages because more capital is protected.

For example, if my fixed value for one unit was $20, I’d continue betting $20 on my one unit plays, even if my bankroll fell from $1,000 to $500. This creates a major problem if we continue to go cold and lose our next 10 bets in a row. If I decided to go with the 1% approach, the value of one unit decreases to $5 and greatly decreases my risk. In this case, even betting 3% of your bankroll, or 3 units, would be safer than betting 3 units at a fixed value.

Odds and Reading Line Movement

Understanding what odds and lines are is important prior to getting started. Odds, by definition, represent the probability that something will or will not occur. You’ll normally see three different types of odds – decimal, fractional, and American. They all work the same way but are expressed in different formats. 

If you’re in the United States, you’ll typically see odds expressed in a plus or minus (American) format. When something has negative odds, or a minus sign in front of the number, it means they’re favorited. A plus sign, often referred to as plus money, indicates an underdog and will return greater than or equal to your initial investment. 

The best way to understand American odds is to look at them as fractions. Let’s say we have a team who’s a -110 moneyline favorite. If we were to throw $100 on them we can calculate our returns by doing the following: 

$100 / 110 = 0.909 / 1 or 0.909:1 , 0.909 * 100 = $90.9 profit.

In simple terms, you’re returning $0.909 for each dollar wagered if you win your bet. From a percentage standpoint, you’re making 90.9% on your bet of $100 dollars. 

The fraction flips for plus money odds because we’re returning more than 100% of our initial investment. It’s easier to calculate returns here because you’re just multiplying your wager by the odds/100. 

Example: Odds = +950 , Wager = $100

$100 * (950/100) = 100 * 9.5 = $950 profit. 

Reading Lines

A line represents two possible outcomes and is characterized by a range of odds. Many people think of lines in terms of point spreads, but they encompass everything from totals to player props. Reading lines and the odd movements associated is key to understanding the general flow of money for a given game. 

Lines are generally released well before an event begins. This is your opportunity to note what the opening line is and monitor whether the odds change at all. Luckily, there are plenty of websites to track this movement, but you can do it yourself too. 

Decreasing odds movement is considered favorable. If a moneyline moves from -120 to -143, this indicates that team is garnering more interest and now more likely to win. On the contrary, if the odds increase from say -120 to +135 you’re likely looking at a situation where the initial underdog is being backed by a lot of money.

Straight Bets vs. Parlays

The two main forms of betting are straight bets and parlays. A straight is also known as a single bet, and it’s pretty self explanatory. There’s one pick involved and odds associated with that pick. Parlays combine multiple bets or “legs” which increase the odds substantially. 

Straight bets are far less risky than parlays because you’re relying on one outcome. Regardless of the odds, there’s theoretically a 50/50 chance of winning or losing. Although the profit potentially increases massively with parlays, your chances of winning drastically decrease with each additional leg. 

straight bets vs parlays

Everyone has their own preference, but if your primary focus is to be profitable long term, you probably want to steer clear of parlays. Yes, there’s always an opportunity to turn $10 into thousands, but these $10 losses can quickly add up and put you in a hole. Carefully researched straight bets minimize your risk and allow you to effectively manage your bankroll. 

There’s a lot of slander toward parlays, but it’s worth noting that you can still be profitable. Hitting four or five big parlays throughout a season has all the potential to put you in the green by a wide margin. It’s entirely possible to have a losing record but remain profitable as a parlay-only bettor because of the multiplying factor regarding odds. 

Best Sports Betting Strategies

We’ll dive deeper into various strategies in a later article, but below there are a few to consider. Keep in mind that you don’t have to follow the book when it comes to gambling – find what works best for you and stick to it. 

  • Track your bets for a period of >3 months and determine what sport you’re most profitable in. Focus solely on this sport to maximize your profit potential. If you’re completely new, focus on a sport that you know best, or your favorite sport. 
  • Compare odds amongst the books you have an account for and only take the best odds. 
  • Focus on straight bets instead of parlay betting.
  • Read the line movement across different games to look for large swings in a favorable direction.
  • Consider live betting if there’s an unexpected outcome early in the game (ex: taking the live under when 5 runs are scoring in the first inning of a baseball game). 
  • Look for discrepancies across player prop lines in relation to their average for a given prop.

The six strategies above only scratch the surface of what’s out there. Betting strategies can be simple, advanced, or even downright illegal in the sense of arbitrage betting. We plan to expand more on the plethora of tactics in the near future.


Below you’ll find some common sports betting terminology, some terms being more widespread than others. 

A “lock” : Bettors use the term lock when they feel a bet has a surefire chance of winning. A lock implies that theres high conviction regarding the bet, although there’s actually no such thing as a lock. 

To “hammer” a bet: Hammering a bet means that the bettor is putting a lot of money down. When you hammer something, you’re typically wagering more than you usually do. 

Hit: A winning bet. This term is normally used for a bigger win in a congratulatory sense. Ex: “Nice hit bro, $10 to win $1,000 is no joke!”. 

Unit: 1% of your total bankroll, or a pre-decided fixed amount of money to base your bets on. 

Tilt or to be tilted: Tilt is anger or a mix of emotions expressed when an outcome isn’t as expected. When someone is tilted, they’re generally unhappy because the unexpected ruined their chance of winning big. 

Lotto Parlay: A parlay that turns a small amount of money into a potentially life-changing amount of money. Sometimes referred to as a YOLO parlay. 

ROI: Return on investment. 

Tailing:  Copying someone’s bet, typically because you like what you see. 

You’ll hear a lot of different terms being thrown around in the sports betting community. Things like geolocation and age affect the vernacular, but a lot of the lingo is widespread nowadays. 


We encourage you to use this guide as a reference if you’re learning how to make money betting on sports. There are several approaches to making profit, however, the key principle to long term success is bankroll management. It’s worth tracking your bets on excel or another spreadsheet platform so you can determine where you’re most successful. 

The rise in sports betting brings with it a plethora of resources to help you along the way. Watch videos, read books, and of course check out the content we regularly post at DFSCity to stay informed.