What is Sharp Betting? Sharp Betting Explained

how to bet on sports

What makes a successful sports bettor? 

Is it luck or intelligence? The average sports bettor may lean on the latter. These are sharp bettors. 

Gambling 101: What are Sharp Bettors?

There are many different types of bettors. But broadly speaking, they all fall under two categories; sharp or square

How Are Sharp Bettors Defined?

Sharp bettors are the pros of the betting industry. They are skilled in what they do. To be considered a sharp, you need to win more than 52.4% of your plays to break even in a standard -110 betting market. Overall, sharps hit around 55% of their wagers, with the best reaching 60% or 65%. 

They take an analytical and purely data-driven approach to sports betting. They don’t bet with emotions and try to avoid biases altogether. Instead, their wagers are based on the value of the bet. So, a sharp will only place a bet if they have identified an advantage. 

Sharps don’t bet for fun. They spend hours a day analyzing games, data, and statistics. To them betting is their full-time job, a source of livelihood that demands all their time. They also don’t wager small amounts of money. Instead, Sharps typically make bets in large amounts, which explains why winning 55% is profitable. 

Sharp bettors may pool their knowledge and resources to form betting syndicates. These are like entire-fledged business enterprises complete with ‘department.’ There will be teams/specialists working in different areas, like basketball, football, hockey, soccer, or any other sport. 

Overall, sharp bettors are so good that sportsbooks notice their betting activities. They will even move their lines in response. This results in reverse line movement and steam moves. 

  • Reverse line movement: Occurs when a line moves against the trend, i.e., the majority of bets are on one team, but the lines moves in the opposite direction. It’s a result of sharps wagering on the other side. 
  • Steam move: This is a sudden line movement on a game across most sportsbooks. It’s usually caused by a wave of money coming in on a single side of a game. This money is typically from a syndicate. 

How Are Square Bettors Defined?

Square bettors define most sports bettors. Their success rate is 50-50, and they’re here for the fun and entertaining side of betting. Thus, they are also called casual or recreational bettors or ‘average Joes.’

Square bettors typically bet small amounts of money. They focus almost exclusively on televised matchups and don’t analyze the bet. Their decision is based on gut instinct or emotion. It can also result from bias, where they gravitate towards their favorite team. 

Sharp Betting Tips

Is it possible to become a sharp bettor? Yes. But it’s going to take a lot of discipline and learning. Here’s what you should expect if you want to become a pro. 

You’re going to rack up losses along the way.

Sharps are the absolute best handicappers. However, they also lose, typically 40% to 45%of their plays. This translates to about 2 of every five bets being a loss. So, if you’re going to become sharp, you need to be willing and prepared to lose a lot of bets. The only difference is that once you have mastered the skill, you’ll win more than you’re losing.  

Models, analytics? Yes. Human intelligence? Also yes

Sharps rely on numbers, alright. They will crunch the statistics and spend hours running computer models. But they’re also smart. Their betting IQ is higher than average. They quickly notice and capitalize on any mistakes on the side of the sportsbooks. 

Overall, they look for value, form their own opinions, and are smart enough not to let their biases or emotions influence their wagers.  

Should you follow Sharp action? 

Well, yes. Sharps win their bets more often than not. Therefore, always follow sharp action if you can read the line movement. This comes with a risk, though;

  • Sometimes, syndicates use a setup to create a more favorable line. For example, they will place a wager on a given team, causing line movement, and come back with bigger bets on the other side. So, there is always the risk you might end up falling on the wrong side of such a setup.

But overall, following sharp action will make you more successful in the long run. 


Dan Smullen

Hailing all the way from Dublin, Ireland, Dan Smullen has BSC. in the Sports and Exercise Sciences from the University of Limerick. He is data obsessed. In the past he has worked both as a video performance analyst and provided biometric performance testing and analysis for professional rugby teams. Dan is obsessed about helping the average punter become more successful at sports betting through the assistance of good sports betting data analysis. He has worked with over 200 journalists at multiple editorial teams in his previous role as Head of Search for the largest national news publisher in Ireland.

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