If you have visited any online betting communities you have probably heard the words square and sharp. While it is vital to understand what both of these terms mean, it is even more important to know how to correctly apply them. There is a fine line between information and misinformation in the world of gambling. This guide will teach you what you need to know about sharp and square sportsbetting.
Lets start off with some basic definitions. Think about a betting market for a particular game like a spread or a total. We know that we have the option to bet on either side of the market. The square side will be the one that the public would be more inclined to wager on. This is a group of people who exist, but for the same of proper learning I would like you to imagine them as theoretical mindless lemmings. Their betting strategy consists of analyzing peripheral or aesthetic data. Square sportsbetting is about betting based on who you think is going to win rather than calculating your edge or advantage on a given market. This is not proper betting procedure, and it will lead you into the red quickly.
Why Square Sportsbetting Fails
The reason why square sportsbetting fails is because oddsmakers do not set their line the way you think they do. A square sportsbettor attempts to make profit by using his knowledge of the game to win at a high enough percentage. The problem is that the lines you see at a sportsbook are not solely based on outcome probability. Both sides of a football spread or total do not win 50% of the time. Oddsmakers adjust their lines in order to control the balance of action on a game. If this did not happen then most bettors would pile on one side of a game as the square sportsbetting mantra is prevalent. Instead oddsmakers realize that they could make the side of a game expected to receive a large percentage of the action worse to bet on (which in turn makes the opposite side “better” to take). This allows them to both drive action to the other side of the game, as well as putting those who continue to wager on the square side at an increased disadvantage. Sportsbooks can either choose to take a position on a game, or to try to maintain an equal balance of action on both sides of a market. Keep this last part in mind, as many so-called experts will try to convince you that only the latter occurs.
One problem I have with these betting terms is that a lot of people believe sharp is the direct opposite of square. While this will be true for most things, I do not recommend learning sportsbetting by absolutes. You will find plenty of people online who call themselves sharps because they simply “bet against the public”. While you will often find yourself on the opposite side of square sportsbetting picks, this approach is incorrect and just as dangerous as the one described in the previous sections. In my world the term sharp is strictly reserved for proper sportsbetting procedure. This involves identifying edge and betting accordingly. Now that we know that oddsmakers adjust their lines in order to balance the action, we know that there must be a discrepancy between the true line and the adjusted line. A sharp sportsbettor understands this, and attempts to identify which sides of markets have an advantage, along with attempting to quantify how big of an edge there is.
How to become a Sharp Sportsbettor
Having market knowledge is far more important than sports knowledge. Someone who understands how oddsmakers set their lines will be able to profit from sportsbetting. You must be capable of identifying which direction a market has been adjusted. Putting yourself on the sharp side of a game is only a small percentage of the battle. The real challenge comes with attempting to determine how big of an advantage you have. Profitable sportsbettors generally use some variation of the Kelly Criterion in order to determine how large their wager should be. This formula will tell you how much you should be betting based on the advantage that you believe you have over a true line (which would be based strictly on win probability and nothing else). I must warn you that while the Kelly Criterion is a useful tool it can kill you if used incorrectly. Improper edge quantification will see your bankroll plummet. If you are still of intermediate skill but would like to apply this sportsbetting methodology, there is no shame in risking a fixed amount per game. A 1% wager on lines that you believe have an advantage is a decent way to start off. Do not bother with multi-unit wagering until you feel as though you are capable of accurately identifying your edge.