How Much Can You Earn From Sports Betting?

There’s no flat-out answer to “how much you can earn from sports betting?”. It depends on 3 variables, which i’ll get onto. I’ve loosely touched on this subject before, but the question deserves it’s own post.


The 3 Variables Which Determine Your Sports Betting PnL

Anyone looking to take sports betting seriously will want to know how much they can earn from it. Your total estimated PnL over any given period is derived from 3 variables:

  1. Edge (positive or negative %)
  2. Turnover (total number of bets)
  3. Stake size (average)


► The 3 variables Explained

If you have a positive edge (plus EV) in your betting strategy, then the more you bet, the more you’re expected to earn. Therefore a negative edge (minus EV) means the more you bet, the more you’re expected to lose.

Your total stake makes up the turnover. The turnover is used to estimate how much you’re expected to win or lose over any period. You just need to multiply together the turnover and the edge. What this calculates is the Expected Value (EV).

The average stake size influences how big the swings in your results are likely to be for the period. How big the PnL deviates from the mean (average), is known as the variance.


► An Example calculation

With £1,000 of turnover, a strategy with a +5% edge has an expected value of 5% x £1,000 = £50.

  • Low stakes (more bets) means less variance — small swings.
  • Large stakes (less bets) means more variance — big swings.
  • Note that the expected value of £50 doesn’t change, no matter what the stake sizes are.

Learn more on these calculations here: Calculating The Expected Value (EV) Of Your Bets


► Sports Betting as an investment

There’s a tendency for bettors to say “let’s call it a day, it’s not going right”. I totally understand that if you’re manually trading on Betfair, because your performance can be influenced by the way you feel emotionally. It makes sense to take a step back if you’re not up to the challenge. Take the rest of the day off and come back with a fresh mind.

However, when you’re betting based on a rigid strategy (i.e a selection method), then ending the day early because it’s “not working out” is delaying the inevitable — or superstitious at best. Assuming that there’s absolutely no logical reason that this particular day might have unusual results (e.g. the weather), it shouldn’t be weird to see strings of losses. So, either the strategy works for the long-haul or it doesn’t.

Trying to dodge losing days based on a hunch isn’t a smart way to go. Yes, you can start a fresh the next day — but really the results of your strategy are just one huge timeline of data points. Each bet is independent of another; that’s how you measure your overall performance. It’s not one day at a time that you erase from history as soon as the sun sets.

So regardless whether you’ve made a +250% profit, or a -170% loss, over any period of time — if you have a proven edge, then you shouldn’t stop. I’m not suggesting that you carry on betting beyond your means if you’re losing money. I’m also not suggesting that you keep betting purely because you’re on a winning streak, either. What I am pointing out is:

If you were a car salesman and you sold your entire fleet in one day, would you say “great, we did well, let’s close the garage and retire as of today”?

No! You’d reinvest the profits (wisely) into more cars, and start selling again, right? The same logic applies with any investment — even sports betting.

There’s a tendency to check how much you’ve made in a day, week, or month and want to see it end the period on a high. That’s natural. But unless your packing up quitting forever, never to bet again, then why stop to savour the profits if you could be making more? Once you have the edge, turnover is all you need to scale it.


► Reality Check

I’ve seen videos of traders betting £50 and earning a tidy profit of £350 in minutes. It’s nothing to get excited about, though. The EV of the £50 bet alone, reasonably speaking, would be somewhere between -10 to +10%. Let’s call it 10%, to avoid doubt.

Therefore, in the long-run, if equivalent bets were placed over a large sample, it would even out at just £5 profit per bet. Don’t be blinded by the £350 profit from the scenario you saw. After all, you could put £1,000 on Black on a spin of roulette and double your money in seconds. Keep doing it enough times and you’ll even out to where you should be — in a hefty loss.

Then there’s being super-selective with your bets, and trying to earn big. The idea itself is OK — there’s no use in betting on more outcomes just to raise turnover. But one selection is… just one selection. The EV might be positive, but to earn a substantial amount from the odd selection here or there, you’d need to stake a lot. And that’s asking for trouble (high variance, big swings).

And this brings me back round to a point i’ve made before on this site: it doesn’t matter what you’re making now, it matters what you’re making in the longrun. You need to have a sufficient sample size to back up the results you’re seeing. As long as you measure your performance on a ROI basis, and consider the 3 variables i’ve mentioned, then it’ll make your outlook clearer.

Read more here: Am I Really Winning? — Betting Variance In Action


► So to answer the question “how much can you earn from sports betting?”

So there you have it — skies the limit.

Unfortunately it’s easier said than done. If you’re using Bookmakers they’ll be sure to cap how much you can stake, and therefore earn. On Betfair, the odds are very sharp, so finding plus EV odds is tough.