What’s a Sharp?
In the simplest terms, a sharp is a professional sports gambler. The name is short for “sharp better.” They are known as such because they’re smart, aka “sharp,” when placing bets.
They don’t wager with their gut. They don’t place bets on their hometeams for sake of local pride. They don’t just look at one statistic or which team has the “clutch player” and put money down.
Am I a Sharp?
If you even have to ask the question, then the answer is no. Unless you make your living solely off of sports gambling, you’re a “square” (aka “Average Joe,” “recreational better,” or “casual better.”)
There is nothing wrong with squares. Most of us are. We’re the “betting public,” people who bet relatively small amounts for entertainment and tend to do so largely on biases, focusing on our favorite teams and games we want to watch.
What Makes a Sharp?
Sharps (aka “pros” or “wiseguys”) are professional bettors with long track records of success. It’s more than just a career choice. They track line movement and sports news 24/7 and pounce on bet whenever their research tells them there’s an edge.
Professionals will calculate their own odds and then find the point spread or odds which best fits their prediction. They are analytical and data-driven. They don’t “bet on teams,” they bet on numbers, and only do so when they have a perceived edge — meaning they’ve identified an advantage over the sportsbooks.
You might think a wiseguy’s lifestyle is all expensive cigars, single-malt whiskey, and VIP events … but much of their time is spent pouring over numbers and spreadsheets. They create power rankings and models to predict their own odds. Then, they compare their findings to odds from different sportsbooks. If they see a sizable disparity (aka a “soft line”), that’s when they make their move.
When sharps do place a bet, they tend to bet higher amounts than Average Joes. For this reason, as well as respect for their knowledge, oddsmakers for sportsbooks track how much money sharps are putting down on various bets and will move their own lines accordingly.
That’s when you’ll hear the terms “sharp money” versus “public money.” The latter is where us common folks are placing our bets. Both factors can influence sportsbooks to move their lines, thus minimizing their risk. However, if the sharp money is all coming in on one side, that can really shift things quickly since it means the pros know something the sportsbooks do not.
How Can Sharps Help Squares?
There are plenty of services that will track what lines a NFL sharp is going to be on in a particular game. That can be an invaluable resource for us squares.
Even if you’re just betting for fun, it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning money versus losing it. That’s why you should be taking a little extra time to analyze the available data, predict your own lines, and then compare your picks against the sharps’ picks. While you don’t always have to agree with them, thinking like a professional is a great step towards a fuller bank account.