How to Be a Sharp Bettor

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I’m sure you have heard people reference sharp bettors and square bettors when it comes to sports betting. The classification of these two terms can be a fine line. Just because one bettor wins doesn’t mean he’s a sharp bettor, and just because he loses doesn’t make him a square.

Being a sharp bettor is more about mindset than anything, and most sharp bettors will win at a higher rate in the long term because of this mindset. Let’s take a look a a few key points that differentiate sharp bettors from square bettors, and how to become a sharp bettor.

Form Your Own Opinion

While sharp bettors will consult with other people they trust on evaluating games, in the end they form their own opinion and trust their own instinct. They don’t get affected by what is being said in the media. They take this information in the media with a grain of salt, while square bettors tend to overreact to it.

Sharp bettors will analyze the market to determine which way they believe the number is going to move. They know that if the public is going to be on one side or the other, and can find value in going against the public. However, sharp bettors will never blindly fade the public, even though that has proven to be a winning formula over time. They will only do so if they believe the situation is right.

Understand the Final Score Almost Never Matters

It doesn’t matter what the final score of a game is. Sharp bettors are far more concerned about why the result happened and how it got there. Square bettors will just see the final margin of victory and expect the favorite to come out and roll again in their next game, or the underdog to get blown out again because they just did in their last game.

Sharp bettors will ask themselves many questions about why the game ended up the way it did. Were there turnovers? Did the winner win because of a dominant running game? Did the loser’s secondary get exploited? Were the turnovers an isolated event, or has the loser struggled with them all season? Was there a key injury that had an impact? Was the winning team’s offense effective, or did they benefit from defense and special teams? What role did the kicking game play?

I could really go on an on about questions that sharp bettors ask themselves when looking into a particular game. Essentially, two teams can arrive at a 27-16 score a million different ways. What matters is the details that went into getting that result, and then studying those details to predict what might happen in the future. Square bettors will see that a team won their last two games by 20 points and assume that they will do it against their next opponent, too. If it was that easy, everyone would win.

Passing on Games is OK

Sharp bettors usually have a formula for setting a number for a game, which can come from power ratings and many different factors. If their number on a game comes very close to the line set for the game, then they have no problem passing on that particular game.

However, square bettors look at every game and feel like they have to play them all. If there is a National TV game on a Wednesday night in college football, the square bettor feels like they have to get action down on it no matter what the number is. Square bettors will also bet games late at night just because they are the final games on the board. This is where a lot of sports books clean house.

Just because you bet a lot of games doesn’t make you a square bettor. Some sharp bettors bet a high volume of games, but only because they feel like they have an advantage against the number. Sharp bettors spend hours each day analyzing teams and watching film. The square bettor usually has a main job and only bets for a hobby, so he doesn’t spend nearly enough time handicapping games like the sharp bettors does.

Shop For the Best Line

More times than not, a sharp bettor will get the best of a number. That’s because they have a good understanding of which way the line is likely to move. They will know whether to bet a game as soon as the line comes out, or to wait for the betting public to jump on one side, and then bet just before the game starts to get the best number.

The biggest difference between sharp and square bettors is that sharp bettors will have several different sports books’ lines to choose from, while square bettors will have only one. Having five or more different books gives the sharp bettors a huge advantage in the long term. If they can get a half-point or a full point better on hundreds of games throughout the course of a year, they are going to have an advantage.

There are times when you’ll see the public follow a line move by a sharp bettor and lose by a 1/2 point. The sharp bettor was ahead of the market and either got a win or push, while the public got a push or a loss on the same game. In sports betting, a 1/2 point or a full point can make a huge difference over the long term.

Don’t Bet Parlays & Teasers

Sharp bettors are mathematicians. They know the difference between a good bet and a bad bet by studying the numbers. A square bettor doesn’t know the difference between a good bet and a bad bet. They see the chance at a huge payout on a parlay, and they go for it.

Well, parlays are really sucker bets, and you’ll almost never see a sharp bettor play them. Sometimes they will on money line parlays, which are much fairer odds, but they never will play 2-team, 3-team, 4-team parlays etc. with spreads and totals. The reasons is pretty simply.

A 2-team parlay pays back 2.6-to-1 in Las Vegas, while your chances of hitting one are only 3-to-1. A 3-team parlay pays back 6-to-1 in Las Vegas, but the chances of hitting one are only 7-to-1. A 4-team parlay pays 10-to-1, while your chances of hitting one are only 15-to-1. The odds of hitting one get even worse in comparison to what you get paid on 5-teamers and up. The house edge on a 2-teamer is 0.4%, a 4-teamer 5%, and on a 6-teamer 23%.

Teasers are also bets that are in the house’s favor. A sharp bettor will almost never play teasers. However, there are certain instances where a teaser can be a smart bet, and even sharp bettors will play them. If you are crossing over the key numbers of 3, 4 and 7 in football, it is a good bet with a teaser. You can take an 8-point favorite down to 2 with a 6-point teaser, and a 2-point underdog up to 8 with a 6-point teaser. That is an example of a good, sharp bet on teasers. The rest of them are bad bets.

Manage Your Money

A sharp bettor understands what return on investment means. No matter how much you bet, if you were to blow 25% of your bankroll on one game, then you are going to go broke pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter how confident you are on a game, you should never bet more than 5% of your bankroll on it.

Sharp bettors have a unit system where they bet the same amount of money on a play depending on the unit value. I use a 25*, 20* and 15* rating system. I bet 5% of my bankroll on 25* plays, 4% on 20* plays and 3% on 15* plays. Some would recommend only doing 2.5% on the 25* plays, 2.0% on the 20* plays, and 1.5% on the 15* plays, which is a little safer.

Square bettors will not have a method to their madness. They will bet small on certain games, and huge on other games. They don’t factor in how big their bankroll is before they make bets. They aren’t afraid to just throw their entire bankroll down on one game if they have hit a losing streak to try to get it back. Sharp bettors would never chase their losses or press when they are winning.

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