The Philosophy of Sharp Bettors

The philosophy of sharp bettors impacts your return on investment.

Key Points

– Sharp bettors are those who bet professionally.

– Learning how to spot sharp moves can only help a bettor. 

So, not everyone is equally skilled at sports betting. No kidding, right? 

But, there are a number of highly skilled sports bettors out there that do it not for fun, but as a means of income. They are professional sports bettors, also known as sharps.

If you’re not a sharp, you’re something else. We will define that as well as look at how sharp bettors operate, how to identify sharps, and why that might be important. It all starts with the difference between a sharp and a square.

Sharps vs. Squares

If you are not a sharp bettor, then you are a square. The Joe Average bettor is a square. You may see the following terms in reference to square bettors: recreational bettors, casual bettors, the betting public. 

Square bettors make up the majority of sports bettors. They are in it for the fun of it. Betting on sporting events is a form of entertainment. Squares typically bet smaller amounts and bet mostly on their gut instinct, emotion, and bias. Most square bettors focus on big games, ones that are televised for example.

The betting public almost always backs favorites, home teams, popular teams, and teams with more star players. Squares want to believe they are backing the “better” team. If they are lucky, the Joe Average square bettor has a winning percentage right around 50%.

What Makes a Sharp Bettor?

A sharp bettor, commonly referred to as a wiseguy – think Robert DeNiro’s character in the movie Casino. A sharp is a veteran sports gambler who has not just years of experience, but decades of betting experience. They are smarter bettors and you may be able to find some via the internet.

Unlike squares, the philosophy of a sharp bettor is to bet when they find value. Teams and players do not matter. These bets are driven by data, analysis, and years of experience. A sharp bettor will only place a wager when there is a perceived edge against the sportsbook. Otherwise, they don’t bet.

These professional bettors are extremely disciplined and they will place bets that make squares scratch their heads. While the public is busy betting on the Yankees, Lakers, and Chiefs; wiseguys are searching anywhere for value. One week, it might be the Houston Texans in the NFL or the Pittsburgh Pirates in MLB. If they don’t find value, sharps simply walk away. 

Many professional bettors have their own power ratings system or some sort of mathematical model that they use to develop their own odds on a game. They will compare their numbers with the odds posted at sportsbooks. When they see a discrepancy, they jump on it right away.

Another big difference between squares and sharps is that professional bettors tend to wager large amounts on games. While the average bettor might lay down a $20 bill on a game, a sharp might wager $5,000 on the same one. 

Sharps will always get the best number possible. Square bettors tend to use one sportsbook. Sharps will get the best price available and doing so makes a difference in their bottom line. Speaking of the bottom line, it’s not just about wins and losses for the pro bettor. Sharps judge themselves on how often they beat the closing line. 


Spotting Sharp Bettors’ Moves

If you are thinking about following what the sharps do, you’re probably on the right track. I mean, doing what a professional bettor does would make sense. The issue is how to identify when sharps are betting.

One of the easiest ways to spot sharp moves is by comparing the amount of bets to the amount of money wagered. Remember, Joe Public Bettor is busy putting down a 20-spot on a game he likes. It takes a lot of $20s to make up for a $5,000 bet. 

Professional bettors also understand the difference between betting on the NFL as compared to college football. The average bettor should know these differences if they want to be successful.

Keep in mind, professional bettors are just that – professionals. They are in it to make money. They aren’t wagering $20 a game. With that in mind, you can spot a sharp move when you compare the number of tickets (or bets) to the percentage of money on a certain side of a bet.

Here’s an example. Illinois is playing Michigan in a Big Ten college football game. The Wolverines are commanding 75 percent of the tickets. Only 25 percent have bet on Illinois. 

The interesting thing – and the thing that indicates sharp movement – is that 55 percent of the money is on Illinois. That is a pretty strong indication that sharps are betting on the underdog Illini. Bettors that can spot this movement can jump on for the ride. 

The Steam Move

The average bettor will have a hard time spotting a steam move, but it is possible. The steam move results in a sudden, drastic, uniform line move across the entire betting marketplace. It is the result of multiple sportsbooks taking sharp bettors’ action all at once.

A professional bettor might make several $20,000 bets, for example, at various sportsbooks. Some of them are likely to be offshore. The average bettor would need the help of a betting service to identify the steam move, but again, if identified, bettors could follow the sharps.

The Philosophy of Sharp Bettors – Follow or Not?

With all this talk of sharp bettors, the question then is should the average bettor follow the sharps? The easy answer is yes, of course. The only problem is timing.

Sharp action will result in line moves. It’s almost impossible to make the exact same bets that sharps are making at the same time. Sharp moves are usually only revealed to the betting public through line movement. By the time a line has moved, the same bet might not be as desirable.

Plus, there is the off chance that sharp bettors are using a head fake. Sharps will sometimes attempt to cause a steam move on one side of a bet. After the line shifts to the number they like, the pros then come back and bet heavy on the other side. 

Regardless, if you can find a way to follow sharp money, knowing the philosophy of sharp bettors can only help you in the long run.