A Unit A Day Keeps the Bookie Away: Realistic Gambling Expectations

Nate Hornung

Written by: Nate Hornung

Last Updated:

Read Time: 5 minutes

A Unit A Day Keeps the Bookie Away: Realistic Gambling Expectations cover


Everybody wants to make money sports betting, but not everyone can.

It takes loads of discipline and experience.

“Knowing sports” won’t get you very far in the sports betting world aside from a deep hole in your pocket.

You have to understand line movement, betting splits, and have a steady, proven process.

It is not for everyone, and certainly not for the weak.

Profiting in sports betting is no easy task, and to be honest, if you’re simply not losing money, you’re probably better than most.

Let’s take a look at some realistic gambling expectations for all sports bettors.

Realistic Gambling Expectations

Betting to Win Money

Like I said, winning money while sports betting is one of the hardest things to do. Plenty of people lose money on parlays, chase their losses trying to make a daily profit, and overall, don’t have much self control.

This can lead to bad gambling habits and even addiction and financial debt.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to gamble responsibly.

Never bet more than you can afford to lose. Establish a unit size and stick to it. Manage your bankroll properly.

After that, you just have to find a winning formula and stick to it.

Let’s dive deeper into some numbers!

Realistic Gambling Expectations

Money Math Class

Who wants to do a little math? I do, I do!!

Alright, here we go.

Let’s say an average sports bettor makes 3 bets per day for an entire year. They risk 1U on every single bet, and each bet is placed at -110 odds.

After one year, this bettor has made 1,095 bets, all risking a flat 1U at -110 odds.

Let’s start with a dream scenario, a bettor that goes 2-1 every day.

67% Win Rate (Unrealistic Expectations)

At 3 bets per day for 365 days, risking 1U a piece, a bettor places 1,095 bets throughout the year, risking 1,095 units.

Let’s pretend this bettor is one of the best on Planet Earth, and hit 2 out of their 3 bets every single day.

At the end of the year this is where they would stand.

  • 730-365 (66.7%)
  • +299.3 units
  • $100 bettor up $29,930

Those are astronomical, unattainable numbers. Even the best of the best hit 55-56%, but we will get into that next.

Breaking this down even further, this bettor profits 0.82u per day.

This might not seem like much, especially if you see people posting 10+ unit days all over social media, if you stack up $82 per day over a year, it quite clearly adds up.

At the end of the year, you would have an ROI of 27.3%.

Quite unfathomable numbers from a sports betting perspective.

Realistic Gambling Expectations

56% Win Rate (The Best of the Best Professionally)

Alright, now let’s look at the numbers for a more realistic professional bettors.

Betting flat 1U at -110 odds, the best sports bettors aim to hit 56% over long periods of time. Not just one season, decades.

The point is, while 56% win rate doesn’t feel like much, the profits add up over time.

Here’s how that same 1U bettor ends up hitting at a 56% win rate for the year.

  • 613-482 (55.9%)
  • +75.83 units
  • $100 bettor up $7,583

People need to understand these are still incredible numbers. Profit can be made hitting at a 53-56% clip, depending on the juice, over long periods of time.

Professional bettors aim for 56%, and I think recreational bettors should aim closer to 53-54%. It doesn’t seem like much, but again, the little profits add up over time.

Sports betting is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the end of the year at a 56% win rate, you end up with an ROI of 6.9%.

I cannot stress enough how incredible this is.

Realistic Gambling Expectations

52.4% Win Rate (Breakeven Point)

Alright here’s where everyone need to pay attention. The Breakeven Point.

How bad can I be at sports betting, but still make money?

Well using our standard example, 3 bets a day for a year, 1U flat bets at -110 odds, your breakeven point is roughly 52.4%.

Hitting at this win rate (52.36% to be exact) here’s where a bettor stands at the end of one year.

  • 574-521 (52.4%)
  • +1.34 units
  • $100 bettor up $134

Now clearly this isn’t much profit, which goes to show you exactly how hard it can be to make money sports betting.

At the end of a year, your ROI is roughly 0.12%. Still positive, but barely hanging on.

There is so much variance, and hitting over 50% doesn’t get the job done when paying the house juice.

But what if you hit exactly 50%? How much would you be down?

Realistic Gambling Expectations

50% Win Rate (Paying the House Adds Up)

In our scenario, we total 1,095 bets which obviously can’t be split exactly in half.

Regardless, we ran the numbers for this bettor who wins just 1 more bet than he loses all year.

Here’s where that bettor stands.

  • 548-547 (50.1%)
  • -48.32 units
  • $100 bettor down $4,832

That’s an incredible difference for just 2.26% less wins.

Just 2.26% is the difference between being down 48 units, and up just over 1U.

At the end of a year, this bettor’s ROI is -4.4%.

Realistic Gambling Expectations

So What’s the Point?

Alright, I just showed you how hard it is to profit from sports betting.

What else is there to it?

This article was meant to give both professional and recreational bettors a better understanding of what realistic gambling expectations are.

Everyday on social media we are bombarded with slips of guys posting +10-15 unit days, almost every other day.

These expectations are not realistic at all.

The goal for all bettors should be to make money. Plain and simple.

Win more than you lose, in terms of units.

Don’t expect to make $25,000 this year if you’re betting $100 units. Winning anything should be considered a success, but if you really want a numerical goal, I think shooting for 15-30 units per season is solid.

Obviously pros might shoot for closer to 50-75 units per season, but again, with how hard it is just to profit, staying in the green is plenty successful.

Despite what people may say online, profiting a half unit per day is incredible.

There will be losing days, there will be losing weeks, there will be losing months.

But with the right process, discipline, and money management, it is possible to make money.

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Nate Hornung
Nate Hornung

Nate has been a recreational sports bettor for about 5 years. In that time, he has grown to love the pursuit of winners and sticking it to The Man. Nate loves data and uses his understanding of numbers to help him be a more profitable sports gambler, however he will be the first to tell you this game is about more than just stats.

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