You probably hear a lot of talk about sharp bettors. The term has reached almost mythical proportions in the sports betting world. It’s also a very misunderstood term. Frankly, people give sharp bettors too much credit. They think that sharps are people with inside information, foolproof systems, and more knowledge than a mere mortal could ever possibly have. It’s just not true. The major difference between a sharp bettor and a so-called square is the amount of time and effort they put into their pursuit. We would expect even a bad NBA player to be dramatically better than some guy who plays in a rec league once a week. The NBA player practices and plays basketball every day, and he gets the best coaching and access to the best resources out there. The guy in the rec league heads to the gym after work and plays some ball before going for beer and wings. It’s the same in sports betting. A sharp better is sharp – code for successful – because he spends his days and nights studying games, learning how games work, and spotting ways that profit can be found. Casual bettors look at a couple of stats, read an article or two, and pick the team they like better. It’s not about inside information. It’s about commitment.
The work that sharp bettors do allows them to understand what really matters, and what the road to profits really is. They also know what not to do. Here are three things that sharp bettors know that casual bettors usually don’t:
1. The final score almost never matters. It really doesn’t matter what the final score in a game was. That’s in the past and it doesn’t matter. What sharp bettors are far more concerned about is why the result happened. Did the winner win because their running game was dominant? Was it the loser’s secondary that let them down, or is the defensive line inadequate? What role to turnovers have? Were the turnover issues an isolated thing, or has the team struggled with them all season? Was there a key injury that had an impact? Was the offense effective, or were the points scored by the defense and special teams? Was the kicking game good, or did it let the team down? I could go on and on, but you get the point. The score by itself tells you absolutely nothing – two teams can arrive at a 27-14 score a million different ways. What matters is the details that went into getting that result, and what those details can tell you about what might happen in the future. Sharp bettors will look at those details. Casual bettors will see that a team has won their last two games by 20 points and assume they will do it again without looking at how they did it and if they will be able to do it against their next opponent.
2. Parlays and teasers are for suckers. There are very unique situations where sharp bettors will use parlays, but for the most part they don’t want anything to do with these bets – especially when the parlays involve the point spread and not the moneyline. The reason for this is simple – the payout on a parlay is less than the risk involved in the parlay, so over the long term there is a negative expectation to the bets. In other words, if you play them long enough you are going to lose money from them. Say, for example, you are parlaying three teams. For each game there are two possible outcomes – you can be right or you can be wrong. For all three games, then, there are a total of eight different potential outcomes – you can be right about all three, you can be wrong about all three, You can be right about the first and wrong about the last two, and so on. Of those eight combinations, only one – being right about all three games – will result in a winning parlay bet. That means that in order to just break even over the long term you would need the bet to pay 7/1. The problem is that three team parlays pay 6.5/1 or less. That means that you are going to lose money over the long term. Sharp bettors are smart enough that they don’t like to do that. Negative expectation games are how casinos make their money, but there is no reason you have to give give the casinos your money – not when there are better bets that give you a much more reasonable expectation of profit. There’s a very good reason why sportsbooks push parlays and teasers so hard – they are licenses to print money for them.
3. It’s all about value. Casual bettors are concerned about who they think is going to win the game. They make their choices based on who the better team is. Sharp bettors couldn’t care less about that. What they care about is what the line is, how that compares to their view of the game, and if there is a gap between the line and that expectation. In other words, they care about value. If you can buy a gold coin for $500 and the gold in the coin is worth $500 then there is no reason to buy the coin unless you like it. If you can buy the coin for $400, though, then you’ll do it all day, every day. That’s because there is value there – the price you are paying doesn’t accurately reflect what you reasonably expect to get out the investment, so over the long term you are confident you will make money. That’s value. Sharps love that. In sports betting terms, if they think that a team has a 45 percent chance of winning a game, but the moneyline on that team is +150 then a sharp would love that bet because over the long term they will make a lot of money. Casual bettors would tend to focus on the other team because they have a better chance of winning.