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What is sharp money?
by Website Staff

Are you a professional?

Webster's Dictionary defines the word professional as, "participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs". Therefore if you engage in a venture and are compensated than you are a professional.

Can a sports bettor be a professional? According to Webster the answer is yes. Betting on sports is an activity which can be financially rewarding. In the gambling community professional sports bettors are characterized as being sharp and amateur sports bettors are simply called squares.

A more important question to ask is how can I become a sharp sports bettor? To answer this let's compare the traits of sharp bettors who are successful and squares who fail.

More than 99% of all sports bettors could be categorized as square whether they choose to admit it or not. This is because most people use sports betting as a leisure activity and are blind to the realities of gambling.

Square bettors wager on sports just to have action. In an effort to kill boredom or capture the adrenaline rush they get when a team they bet on drains a buzzer beating basket and covers the spread. This behavior is often exacerbated under the influence of alcohol or peer pressure by fellow square bettors.

This impetus to bet usually leads to a string of bad habits which ultimately ends with the bettor losing more then they win.

Instead of doing their homework the amateur seeks and unfortunately takes the advice of sports pundits and friends with a bias. Using the "what have you done for me lately" system of handicapping the square bettor will easily lay the points on a double digit favorite with a two game winning streak without further research. Consistently overrating their alma-mater and having faith in short term trends quickly drains the square's wallet.

The square bettor will place their wagers when it is convenient, failing to use strategy while disregarding line movement. Hurried betting minutes before game-time is the norm. Finding the closest or easiest to navigate sportsbook is more important to the square bettor then taking time to locate the book with the best line or price.

This formula for losing is compounded by being oblivious to the fact that even if they pick the right teams they will not be profitable over the long-haul without proper money management.

The squares idea of money management is setting aside a small chunk of cash and betting random amounts depending how they feel about each game. Inevitably they have a winning weekend. Feeling particularly confident with the help of a few beers they give away yesterdays profit after making a losing bet on a sure thing. Conversely the gambler who had a bad Sunday betting on the NFL feels the need to chase their losses. Betting on Monday Night Football becomes mandatory because it is the last opportunity to at least breakeven before next weekends games.

Another pitfall and favorite choice for square bettors are parlays. Parlays are a high risk illusion with a payoff to appealing to resist. Unaware that the odds of winning a three game parlay are not much bettor then 1 in 10 square bettors eagerly lay down their money for a chance at a big pay day.

Having failed at previous sports betting endeavors the square bettor racks their brain for a system that will cure their sports betting ills. After much contemplation they finally see the light and the holy grail of sports betting is revealed, progressive betting. Progressive betting is an inherently flawed method that has been tried at least once by every gambler. Although there are many variations of progressive betting the simplest form is to bet the same amount after each win and double your bet after each loss. The problem is that even if your base bet is only $10 you will have to risk $160 after just four losses to win back your original 10$ bet.

While square bettors think they understand what it takes to be a profitable gambler sharp bettors know how to make sports betting pay off. Sharp bettors use a combination of study, hard work and experience to consistently beat the bookie.

There is no randomness to the sharps selections. Each bet is treated like a deeply scrutinized and calculated investment. The sharp will only bet when they know they have an edge over the sportsbook.

Instead of guessing sharps make an educated decision using tools such as power ratings. Power ratings are developed using various statistics to grade each team. Subtracting Team A's power rating from Team B's power rating provides the sharp bettor with the probable winner and margin of victory. This calculation is then compared to the sportsbooks price. A wager is only made if there is an overlay. The size of the bet is directly related to the gamblers edge.

The most common statistic used to formulate a power rating is average margin of victory. The first step is to tally the total number of points scored and given up by each team. The total number of points given up is subtracted from the total number of points scored. This number is then divided by the number of games the team has played. Almost any statistic that is deemed important to the outcome of a game can be used to develop or fine tune a power rating. Power ratings can also be weighted so recent games have more influence.

Significant trends or angles that have proven profitable over time are used to adjust power ratings as necessary. The keyword here is significant. It is very important to ensure that the sample size of each trend justifies the credence given to it.

Style of play and player match ups are also considered before a wager is placed. This involves looking for specific strengths or weakness' when comparing two teams. This may be investigating the performance of tall receivers versus short cornerbacks in football or a basketball team that plays from the perimeter versus a strong rebounding team.

Outside influences or situational factors are also involved in the handicapping process. The most obvious example is the weather. Teams playing outside of their element are often unprepared and negatively impacted. Team motivation is another situational factor used by sharp handicappers. Teams that have clinched home field advantage for the playoffs have little reason to play out the rest of the season and often rest starters.

All of these variables are used in the handicapping process and thoroughly tested on historical databases or live games before real stakes are wagered.

Unlike the square bettor the sharp bettor knows that he will not win every bet. The season is grind and plans are made accordingly. Goals are measured is months and years not days and weeks. Winning 55% of their bets over a twelve month period is considered a very good year.

Sharp bettors establish a bankroll, an affordable amount of money that will not adversely affect their standard of living if lost. A conservative two percent or less of their bankroll is used as their starting bet size or unit. Sharps determine their edge and varies the size of each bet based this advantage. This increased edge can come from a consensus line or an off line posted by a sportsbook with insufficient two-way action.

Sharp bettors also take advantage of sportsbooks that offer better odds then the standard ten percent commission or juice charged on losing wagers. Reduced juice is often used as a short term incentive to draw in new customer or by high volume sportsbooks who require a large base of players to maintain their business model.

Sharp bettors will visit multiple local casinos and check the price at offshore sportsbooks in order to get the most favorable price. Having at least five sportsbook accounts for bettors who wager on a combination sports is a necessity and maintaining upwards of twenty offshore accounts is not unusual.

After in-depth study has determined a set of games that are worthy of betting and the best odds have been located the sharp bettor plots their next move. Maybe by waiting the line will shift in the bettors favor increasing their chance of winning. Sportsbooks desire equal action in terms of dollars on both sides of a spread, moneyline or total. Although this is nearly impossible to achieve some balance does lower the sportsbooks risk. When the money flows to one side and is unbalanced the sportsbook will move the line. This is usually in increments of a half point for pointspreads and totals and by cents on the moneyline. While observing line movement a sharp bettor may wait until just before gametime to bet or decide to wager shortly after the opening lines are released if the line starts to move against them.

Big line moves at sportsbooks known to have high betting limits may indicate that a wager was placed by a respected sports bettor. If a wager initiates a line change it is considered sharp money regardless of the amount bet. If this is the case many sportsbooks will quickly adjust their line on that game before followers chasing steam can bet and leave the book exposed. Sharp bettors can take advantage of steam plays by betting at slow moving sportsbooks or by re-evaluating their wager if the steam indicates that the sharp money is betting the other side.

Being a sharp bettor does not have to mean that gambling is your full time occupation. If you spent two hours laboring to earn the fifty dollars your about to bet why not spend at least two hours properly handicapping, calculating your edge and looking for the best odds. Start by identifying any detrimental betting habits you have and start thinking like a sharp. Take notes on every wager and learn what works and what doesn't. If it at first it seems overwhelming scale back and specialize on just one sport, league or team until you get a handle on things. Before you know it sportsbooks will be adjusting their lines because of your sharp play.

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