Sharpes & Squares

Have you ever heard the expression that a team is “sharp” or that a team is “square?” Today, we’re going to look at what the difference is between a sharp team and a square team and why you want to be on the sharp side of things as often as possible.

Defining “Sharp ” and “Square”

Sharp Betting
Being a sharp bettor is one that is considered to be a long-term winner in sports betting. This might seem elementary in and of itself, because not every winner is a sharp, and not every loser is a square. It takes winning over the course of thousands, if not tens or even hundreds of thousands of plays on a consistent basis to make you a truly sharp bettor. Generally speaking, sharps are on the right side of a bet, and significantly more often than not, the plays that they make are going to be the right ones.

“Right ones” though, aren’t always winners. We’ve all been on the wrong side of that horrifying beat, and though it probably does all level out in the end, all too often, the team that hits the backdoor for a cover at the end of the game or a team that gets tremendously lucky to beat the spread was a square team, not a sharp one.

Square Betting
On the contrary, just because you lose doesn’t mean you’re a square, and just because you win doesn’t mean that you aren’t a square. Square bettors though, are typically the ones that believe that they should be able to win 70% or 80% of their games. Of course, we know that in the long run, that’s a legitimate impossibility, as even the best of bettors only win in the mid- to high-50%s of their games, and they make awesome money doing so.

Finding Sharp Bets

It is considered to be sharp money when “a wager initiates a line changeā€¦ regardless of the amount bet.” There are several respected bettors, particularly in Las Vegas, who can move betting lines all by themselves.

However, there is a lot more to finding sharp bets than just seeing when lines move. In fact, often times, when lines move, squares are forcing those lines to move, particularly around key numbers. Keep a close eye on a football game with a betting line of 4.5 or 5. There isn’t all that much difference, mathematically speaking, between a four-point game and a six-point game in the NFL in particular, and bettors who are willing to bet -5 will be just as willing to bet -5.5. This is where the sharps can strike, though.

If over 65% of bettors are on one side, especially if that 65% side is the favored side, and the line either is staying stagnant or is moving in the direction of the 35% side, there is a good chance that the 35% side is the sharp one.

Sharp Trends To Watch

General casual bettors like betting on favorites. Typically, they’re the better of the two teams on the field or court that day, and bettors like to know that they are betting on the better team. However, there are some definite surefire ways to identify sharp bets. This isn’t always the case 100% of the time, but here are some trends to look for if you’re trying to be a sharp bettor.

Home Underdogs
A study by Steve Levitt shows that players bet on home favorites 56.1% of the time, while home underdogs represent just 31.8% of all bets made on a game. By definition, the road favorite is the most popular bet, as 68.2% of all bets in his sample set were made on road favorites. However, in actuality, home underdogs cover around 53% of their games across college football, college basketball, NBA basketball, and the NFL, which covers by far the mass majority of betting across all of sports.

People hate betting on home underdogs because they are always the lesser of the two teams, and the public forgets to factor in home field advantage. The first instinct is that the New England Patriots are going to beat the New York Jets a huge percentage of the time regardless of where the game is being played, but that just isn’t the case all the time. Factor in New York getting perhaps 3.5 points to get started in a game, and watch as square bettors cringe when the Pats win the game by three points.

Unranked Teams Favored Over Ranked Teams
This works with both college basketball and college football, and it is particularly useful in bowl games for college football as well. This is a strategy used by a number of the top bookies in the game, and if blindly used, turns a profit virtually every single season. When a team is unranked and playing against a ranked team, and the squad without a number next to it is favored, the unranked team is almost always the one to bet, assuming that there aren’t huge injuries involved that the public knows about.

This strategy works quite a bit when you’re talking about minor college basketball as well when we aren’t talking about ranked teams vs. unranked teams. That 19-11 team in a small conference that is just mowing down teams left and right very well could be a small underdog to a 13-17 team from that same conference because it is a road game for the 19-11 squad. Don’t just blindly take that 19-11 team just because it is the “better team.” Do your research and compare home and away splits, and you’ll see what sharp bettors are always seeing: The 13-17 team is almost always going to be the right side and will cover at least 55% of the time.