2 Mar

Follow the Sharp – Become the Sharp

What is a Sharp, and why do Sportsbooks fear and respect them so?

What is a Sharp, and why do Sportsbooks respect them?Betting on sports is similar to wagering on any other form of gambling. There is great risk involved. You could win, or you could lose, but you’re more likely to lose than win. Unseasoned sports bettors may think they can gain an advantage by being well versed in the players, teams and leagues they bet on, but the market is designed to reflect otherwise.

The truth is, most sports bettors average somewhere around 50/50 in their picks. Some average a little less, some a little more. The truly inexperienced ones tend to average lower, often due to picking their favorites, or betting on a whim, rather than basing wagers on any real knowledge of the sport or any team’s or athlete’s performance ratings.

A very select few are able to carry a long-term average of anywhere from 55% to 60%. These are the sports bettors known throughout the industry as “sharps”.

What is a Sports Betting Sharp?

A sharp is a sports bettor with a profitable long term winning average, usually between 55-60%. Anything higher than that is unrealistic. Due to the nature of regulated sports betting, it’s virtually impossible to have a long-term average over 60%, or maybe 65% at best. If someone claims to be 70% or better in their picks, they’re either lying, or they’re referring to a short-term period of time in which they had a good win streak.

Interesting Fact: A record of 50-55% looks good, but it’s not sharp-worthy, and may not even be profitable. In order to cover the juice sportsbooks tack onto their odds, bettors must maintain a record of about 52.5% or above to be profitable. A 51% win rate means you’re winning more bets than you’re losing, but that you’re losing more money than you’re winning.

Why do Sportsbooks Fear / Respect Sharps?

If you think you’re just another number to sportsbooks, think again. You may or may not be tracking your results – which sports you follow, the bets you make, how much you’re wagering, and how often you’re winning – but you can rest assured your sportsbook is. They know your average win rate, whether you do or not.

If you’re an average Joe, they won’t pay much attention to you. But if you’re a sharp, I can guarantee they take notice each time you place a bet. It’s not uncommon for a veteran sharp to garner so much attention from sportsbooks, they actually shift their lines based on a sharp’s wagers. It just goes to show how much respect a professional betting sharp commands.

How do I Know What Sharps are Betting On?

There are three main indicators as to where the sharps are putting their money.

Reverse Line Shifts

Often the clearest indicator of sharp action is when the lines start moving away from the popular bet. If the lines are moving in an unexpected direction, it’s usually because the sportsbooks see their sharps betting one way, and want everyone else to bet the other.

Maybe you see that 30% of all bettors are putting their money on Villanova to beat Gonzaga. At the same time, the lines for Gonzaga are dropping. It’s as if the bookmaker is encouraging more bets on that team, even though more people are already betting on them. This happens more than you might realize. When it does, it’s safe to assume the sharps are part of the 30% picking Villanova.

Number of Bets vs. Amount Being Bet

If a game is drawing 70% of bets on one side, but the majority of the money being bet is getting wagered on the other side, the most likely reason is that sharps are betting the other side.

Let’s use the same example of Villanova vs. Gonzaga. Only 30% of bettors are picking Villanova, yet that team is also generating 60% of all the money being wagered on them. This usually means that, while casual bettors are picking Gonzaga, the pro sharps are putting their considerable bankrolls on Villanova.

Steam Movement

The term “steam move” refers to when a group of sportsbooks suddenly move their lines in the same direction, at the same time. This happens when all sportsbooks are getting sharp action on the same games. These are clear indicators, but are harder to track without access to the right information. You have to be able to view live line stats from multiple markets, which generally means paying for sophisticated tracking software or apps.

Should I follow the Sharps?

On the surface, yes, you would do well to place all the same bets that a sharp places. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Remember, a sharp usually wins 55-60% of their bets. If you’re not placing every bet the sharp places, you could easily come up short. And there’s no way to know every bet a sharp is making unless you’re a personal friend, or you’re buying sports picks from professional handicappers.

Buying picks can be costly – so costly that casual bettors probably can’t afford it without turning their profit margin into an overall loss. Not only that, you have to really research your handicappers to know if they’re reliable or not. And besides, buying picks can land you in the same boat of needing to bet every pick they make, over a long period of time, to achieve the same winning record.

Beware Sharp Market Manipulation

Most of you should be at least somewhat familiar with the AMC / GME / DOGE stock market scandal of January 2021. A group of small-time investors got together on Reddit and bought up a mass of shares in AMC, GameStop and the cryptocurrency Dogecoin, manipulating the market to drive the prices up. And it worked like a charm.

Sharps do this sort of thing all the time. A group of sharps can manipulate sportsbooks into driving the lines where the group wants them to be. The concept is simple. Sharps all start placing bets on one side, causing steam movement. Then, when the lines reach the point the group wants, they place much larger bets on the other side. If you’re not careful, you can get caught up in the manipulation and end up betting the wrong side of the sharp.

How to Become a Sharp Bettor

Not everyone has what it takes to be a sports betting sharp. It takes a combination of time, knowledge, and devotion, with a little natural talent mixed in. You need to understand the sport, every athlete competing in it, and every underlying factor that can impact a game. It’s about strength, speed, weather, injury reports, past performance history, and so much more.

Sharps are not casual bettors by any means. They don’t see betting as a hobby. To them, it is a profession; a source of full-time income, with full-time hours dedicated to research. If you don’t have that kind of time and passion to devote to it, it’s probably not the right path for you.


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