What is a Unit in Betting? – Betting Units Explained

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Written by Dan Fitch

Updated: 08:25 am EST, 04/07/2024

A unit refers to your stake for a bet. Some types of wager consist of more than one bet, so the unit is multiplied by the number of bets. We’re going to fully explain the concept of what is a unit in betting, so that you totally understand how it works.

How Do Units Work in Betting?

A unit represents the amount of your stake for a bet. It is used primarily for wagers that are comprised of multiple number of bets. With such wagers, a betting unit is multiplied by the number of bets, to give a total stake.

Let’s give you a simple example. A win and place bet on a horse race features two separate bets. You are placing one bet on your chosen horse to win and one separate bet on the horse to place.

So if you were to place a $10 win and place bet on a horse, it would cost you $20. Your unit stake of $10 would be multiplied by the number of bets (two), giving you your total stake. Here’s that calculation broken down into an easy formula:

  • Unit Stake ($10) x Number of Bets (2) = Total Stake ($20)

The other use of unit stakes is when bettors utilize it as part of a staking plan. In that scenario, a unit represents certain set dollar amounts, or a set percentage of a total bankroll.

How Much Should a Unit be in Betting?

Let’s take a deeper look into how a unit in gambling can be used as part of a bankroll management strategy.

Some bettors set a unit as a certain amount, such as $20 for example. You can choose to stick with the figure, or lower the unit amount if you’re on an unlucky streak and your bankroll is decreasing, or increase it if your bets have been winning and your bankroll is getting larger.

An alternative strategy used by many successful gamblers is for the unit to represent a certain percentage of their total bankroll.

So say that your total bankroll is $1000 and your unit per bet is 1% of that amount. A single unit bet would be $10, as the following formula demonstrates:

  • Total Bankroll ($1000) x Unit (0.01) = Stake ($10)

This method has some advantages, as your stakes will naturally adapt to how successful or unsuccessful you are in betting.

If your bankroll increases, so will the size of bets that you make. Say your bankroll reached a sum of $2000. The formula below shows how your stake would have also grown to a larger unit size.

  • Total Bankroll ($2000) x Unit (0.01) = Stake ($20)

The opposite is true. If your bankroll size dropped to $500, so too would the level of risk for each bet, as the unit stakes decrease.

  • Total Bankroll ($500) x Unit (0.01) = Stake ($5)

This might seem like too rigid an approach. What if you’ve got a $2000 bankroll and you find a bet that you are sure will be a winner and want to bet more than $20? Perhaps you’re just certain it will win and consider it worth the extra risk, or it’s a big favorite at short odds and the potential return from a $20 bet is not appealing?

In such a circumstance, you may consider placing a wager that is higher than a one-unit bet. We’ll explain this concept further in the next section.

What is 1 Unit Betting?

When you definite how much a single unit is, you then have a concept of what is 1 unit in betting.

So in our previous example, we spoke of a unit being 1% of your total bankroll. With a $1000 bankroll we established that a unit was $10.

That means that a one-unit play will cost you $10. If you have reason to want to bet a higher amount, you can do so, using one unit as a starting point to work out how much you want to bet.

Imagine that you considered a bet attractive enough to want to double your normal stake. Rather than one, you would make a two-unit bet, which would represent 2% of your bankroll.

Using such a system is helpful when it comes to keeping your discipline. You decide what one unit is worth and that then becomes the basis for your staking plan. There can be flexibility, but it is ultimately tied to the idea of protecting your bankroll.

Most successful sports bettors will create a limit on the percentage that they are willing to risk of their betting bankroll. Staking 1 unit in betting may well be their ideal bet size, but in the right circumstances they will be flexible. For a high-risk bet, they may only wish to bet half a unit, while for a wager that necessitated more risk, they might typically limit that to being 2% to 5% of their total bankroll.

Which Wagers Need Multiple Units in Sports Betting?

As we stated earlier, the concept of units in betting is often used to calculate the total cost of a system wager that features multiple bets. Your chosen stake for the unit is multiplied by the total number of bets in the wager.

Let’s take a look at some of these types of bets and how they relate to unit betting.

  • Win & Place (2x unit stake) – You are betting on a pick to both win (finish first) and place (finish in the first two places). This is a popular bet in horse racing.
  • Across The Board (3 units) – With an Across the Board you are not only placing bets on a pick to win and place, but also to show (finish in the first three places).
  • Trixie (4 units) – A trixie is a bet with three selections. They combine to create three doubles and one treble.
  • Patent (7 units) – This wager also has three selections. It’s like a trixie, but with the addition of three singles, creating seven bets in total.
  • Yankee (11 units) – Yankees contain four picks. They produce six doubles, four trebles and a four-way parlay.
  • Lucky 15 (15 units) – The same as a Yankee but with the addition of four singles to create a total of 15 bets.
  • Canadian (26 units) – A Canadian is a multiple bet with five selections that produce 26 bets. There are ten doubles, ten trebles, five four-way parlay bets and a five-way parlay.
  • Lucky 31 (31 units) – This bet is the same as a Canadian but with the addition of five singles, to total 31 bets.
  • Heinz (57 units) – Named after the food brand and their famous ’57 varieties’ slogan, a Heinz has six selections which create 57 bets. There are 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-way parlays, six five-way parlays and a six-way parlay.
  • Lucky 63 (63 units) – Same as a Heinz with the addition of six singles to create 63 bets in total.
  • Super Heinz (120 units) – A multiple with seven selections which combine to make 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 four-way parlays, 21 five-way parlays, 7 six-way parlays and a seven-way parlay. This adds up to 120 bets.
  • Goliath (247 units) – With a Goliath your eight picks create 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four-way parlays, 56 five-way parlays, 28 six-way parlays, eight seven-way parlays and an eight-way parlay.

What is a Unit in Betting? – Pros & Cons

No exploration of what is a unit in betting would be complete without considering the advantages and disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons as we see them.


  • Helps with money management to know unit size
  • Comfortable wagering plans give you peace of mind
  • Unit size betting systems can protect your bankroll
  • Successful and experienced bettors employ these tactics


  • Casual bettors may find unit bet system too confusing
  • Unit staking plans don’t work too well if you have a small bankroll

Effective Unit Sports Betting Strategy

Now that you know what is a unit in betting you may be eager to employ this system yourself. Here are some strategies that will increase your potential returns at online sportsbook sites.

Bankrolls Should be Built to Last

If you start with a bankroll of $1000, it doesn’t make sense to place a $1000 bet. You will be risking your entire bankroll on just one wager and if doesn’t deliver, you will be out of money.

There is a reason that standard units in betting strategies tend to be small. A system where a unit represents 1% of your bankroll means that you can place multiple unsuccessful bets in a row and still have a healthy amount of cash in your sports bets account.

Create System For Unit Size in Betting

Being stuck with a certain size of unit for every single wager, doesn’t make sense. There are reasons why bet sizes vary. A high-confidence wager might make you want to make a two-unit play, while a parlay with lots of selections and high betting odds, might necessitate a smaller stake.

Create a system that gives you a framework to be flexible. Based on a combination of your confidence in the bet and the risk/reward, you can then evaluate if you want to just bet a percentage of a unit, such as a half, or a multiple of a unit.

Odds Should Influence Units Used

Betting odds represent the perceived likelihood of an even happening. Oddsmakers set these prices and you may have reason to disagree with them, but you should still respect them. If a horse is priced at 20/1 it is because the offshore sportsbook doesn’t think that it will win. You might think that it is a great value bet, because it should be closer to 16/1, but that still represents a relative long-shot.

Your choice of unit in such an instance should be cautious. The odds are big anyway, so you don’t have to risk too much to land a nice reward. Keep the odds that the bookie sets and what you think are the real odds, when you decide upon how many units to bet.


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