Gambling 101: What are Sharp and Square Bettors?

Our Sports Gambling 101 series continues with a comparison of sharp and square bettors. What are the primary differences between professional gamblers and recreational players?
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Sports bettors are usually split into two categories. Often feared by bookmakers, sharp bettors make up the select few who gamble on sports to earn a living. As the vast majority, and favored by sportsbooks, bettors are labelled as squares due to a variety of reasons. Generally speaking, professional bettors tend to cash in on upwards of 55% of their wagers. The percentage dips for recreational players, as they normally win approximately 48% of their total bets.

How Are Sharp Bettors Defined?

Also referred to as “wise guys,” sharp bettors are methodical players who live and breathe sports betting. Sharps wager large amounts but do so via smaller bets at a variety of sportsbooks. In order to fly under the radar, and not draw attention from bookmakers, sharps may have a crew of money runners (beards) who place their wagers. Sharps are proactive and use sophisticated algorithms to forecast betting odds on a variety of contests before sportsbooks post their prices.

Pros tend to bet on opening odds and that action may cause bookmakers to adjust the lines after the initial wagering wave. If a -3.5 NFL point spread favorite is heavily bet, linemakers may move the odds to -4 to create action on the underdog side. Sharps are also known to bet big on one side, in order to move a line, so they can place an even larger wager on the other side. To gain maximum odds value, pro bettors have multiple accounts at several sportsbooks.

How Are Square Bettors Defined?

Also referred to as “the public,” squares are casual players who largely place impulse bets without following a proper research patch. Recreational players often wager on teams they follow regularly with little regard for the opponent. Super Bowl 54 offers an example as Northern Nevada sportsbooks took in a ton of San Francisco money from 49ers fans in neighboring Northern California. Going with heart over head is rarely a wise wagering choice.

Squares will often overlook key factors, like current form, injuries and scoring statistics, while placing spur-of-the-moment bets. Taking points with underdogs, plus betting OVER on game totals, are common tendencies of recreational bettors. While a majority of public players are not big spenders, squares aren’t fully defined by the size of their wagers. There are lots of “famous” people who are square players and wager huge sums of money on big events like the Super Bowl.

Can Recreational Players Follow Pro Bettors?

Following sharp bettors is not an easy task as their plays are often undetectable. However, recreational bettors are able to follow sharp betting line moves at sportsbooks that accept pro players. The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, plus Pinnacle online sportsbook, both welcome sharp bettors. To rise above the average square crowd - rec players need to follow a solid research path and practice proper bankroll management. Both are key to long-term betting success.

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