What is a Sharp or a Square Sports Bettor?

Like race or gender identification, sportsbooks identify squares and sharps. How do you see yourself?

Sports books have tools to identify the top 3% of bettors

By unofficial definition "a square" in terms of sports betting is a bettor who has the consistent proven pattern of losing their money due to a predictable form of behavior. Although there are no official numbers, it's somewhat estimated that 97% of the wagering population (or more) fit into this type of habitual action.

Conversely, "a sharp" is regarded as possibly 3% (or less) of the wagering universe that deploy a more serious, professional attitude to win over a measured period, allowing them some calculated edge over the sportsbook. They are given more respect from sportsbooks and bookies, but overall are feared most by the operator as a deterrent to their profits and bottom line. 

Numerous articles and reports before and after the games often proclaim where the sharp money is headed.  As if the squares or people of less intelligence either don't know what they're doing or are without some necessary information to possibly win. All professional handicappers guarantee they officially have "sharp information" to convince the public, or squares they need their higher power of knowledge to succeed and survive. 

Therefore, if you total up the wins and losses over the past long NFL and NCAA football season and find yourself in the red, does that make you a defined square (or unlucky)?  That just doesn't feel right or necessarily fair . . . now does it?

How to Spot a Square

It's interesting, like race or religion stereotypes, many betting labels are assigned to a typical square. And often, wagering lines are affected by this type of behavior, crossing over many sports.

Square sports bettorsThe most common is the favorite and over the game total bettor. We all simply like to go for the favorite akin to the beautiful girl, tall guy, etc. Same way or more so to wagering on over in totals betting. Most bettors do not want to be potentially eliminated early out of any game and would rather enjoy the possibility of a guaranteed win before the game is completed. Also, low scoring games may be termed as boring to casual fans and gamblers alike. It's no surprise that in football and basketball, the underdog covers a higher percentage. In baseball, betting the dog is an overall higher profit play in the course of a 162-game season. 

Team affiliation is another tag often assigned to squares.

Jump on the bandwagon for the Cowboys, Packers and Steelers in the NFL. Now that each U.S. state has their own geolocation borders for wagering, home teams are welcome areas for squares that can allow local sportsbooks the opportunity to pad lines to accommodate their bottom line. Example:  IF Missouri had wagering sportsbooks, do you think the Chiefs would be only -1 this Sunday vs. the 49ers in the Super Bowl?  Squarely not. 

What Makes a Sharp More Invisible?

Also known as "wiseguys", sharps live, act and breathe information leading to action 24/7. There is no such thing as always rooting for certain teams or having any prejudicial feelings toward any specific players. This is hard-core business. An emotionless practice.

Sharps are analytical and data-driven bettors. They are motivated purely on value of betting numbers, not any specific team. They only place a wager when there's a perceived edge, which means they've identified some advantage over the sportsbooks. As an example, if there is no numeric edge for this Sunday's Super Bowl, they are not going to wager a nickel. 

Practice often starts creating their own statistical models and power rankings. The next step is comparing them to the actual line on the game. If there is a noticeable discrepancy or what is known as a "soft line" they will run to the windows or their keyboards to wager. 

Being invisible is their biggest challenge. Wagering large sums compared to the average squares or casual bettors gets immediate attention from sportsbooks. Not only through potential restriction, but often forcing changes in the line itself. It's excellent practice to watch the very, very first movement in the lines, which may indicate sharp moves taking advantage of miscalculated odds from the sportsbooks.

The sharp is the most disciplined of creatures. By habit they do not play parlays, teasers or certainly any proposition wager offered at unfavorable odds and house advantage. For them, it is a "Mr. Spock" attitude of no emotion toward the result of maximizing a profit after a specific period of time.

Every square could learn from the most fundamental rule of every sharp:  Become a Member of Numerous Sportsbooks. The list of preferred sportsbooks offers a free opportunity to join at least three to four of the best, offering the chance to shop the lines for every game akin to any sharp or professional bettor.  Also, just observing the initial lines movements, which are available at popular wagering websites like vegasinsider.com offer the square the completely free chance to upgrade their status. I'm not sure of that could create a new category of "rectangles", but certainly would enhance any bettor's bottom line.

The NFL. The Squares Graveyard

NFL football  bettingWhile we're completing another exciting NFL season and headed to the Super Bowl it's important noting another faithful trend that never seems to disappoint. A trend for the average square or casual bettor dictating the following customary behavior with the following result. 

Home Favorites. In 2019 bettors made more wagers on NFL home favorites. More away teams covered.

Favorites. In 2019 bettors made more wagers on NFL favorites overall. More underdogs covered.

Totals Over: In 2019 bettors made more wagers Over the total for NFL games. More games went Under the total. 

This is NOT to say that a reasonable amount of home favorites, favorites and over the totals were winners this past NFL season or any prior.  But making a steady diet of them, like high cholesterol or salt/sugar, will be inevitably bad for your wagering health. The sportsbooks know this and cleverly tilt lines in specific games to their advantage, accommodating expected action.

We certainly do not want to create a colony of sharps. It's infeasible to believe we all have the time, interest or funds to reach that level. Also, it would likely put all sportsbooks out of business as they would not house a profitable way to make money. 

But whatever sport is your wagering passion, if you could look at the past consistent statistics, successful behavior model and believe reality, it surely could make you a bit "less square". And still enjoy those occasional teasers, parlays and guess how long the Star Spangled Banner will last this Sunday. 

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.

Sign-up for the OSGA Newsletter!

Every week get news and updates, exclusive offers and betting tips delivered right to you email inbox.