Sharps and Squares Explained for Vegas Odds

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As far as sports betting is concerned, are you a “sharp” or a “square”?

I guess the short answer is that if you have to ask that question of yourself, you’re probably the latter.

And it’s probably worthwhile to explain what these terms mean.

The term “square” is something that is useful for more of an “insider” crowd in describing those people who would more politely be referred to as “recreational bettors” or “recreational players.”

It’s really no shame to be in that group. That’s where the vast majority of sports betting customers fall. These are folks who would love to be able to beat the Vegas odds, no doubt, but they are mostly involved in this activity for the entertainment value of it; that is, if they are going about it in a healthy way.

What Are ‘Squares’ in Vegas Odds?

Squares are generally characterized by a rather pedestrian approach to handicapping. They may read the newspaper (its physical version or online) or watch ESPN a little.  Those who are on the more conscientious end of the scale may primarily take the previous week’s scores or stats into account when making a betting decision.

Or they might make those decisions rather hastily.

They play hunches.

They might listen to their friends’ opinions. They do not take an approach that results in a long-run profit against the Vegas odds. If they aren’t what one might refer to as a “problem gambler,” they would hopefully stay within a certain budget so that they are wagering with money they can “afford to lose.”

It is hardly an enterprise and probably not much of an avocation either. What it comes down to is that it’s a way to have some interest in a game they’ll watch on television.

What Are ‘Sharps’ in Vegas Odds?

The sharps are a different story. We’ll use a rather broad description here; they are not just those bettors who might be considered “professionals.” They might include anyone who is very fastidious about their handicapping, looking far beyond the surface for information that might prove fruitful.

They track line movements and study the “market.” They look between the lines when they read something from a news source. They do the same when examining a box score. They are always seeking more sophisticated info, and usually embrace analytics, which are available from a number of sources online.

They will look at trends and determine whether they are relevant. They will, in fact, be very good at sorting out data and interpreting it. They will construct a money management system, so they know how they are going to go about their wagering against the Vegas odds, protecting their bankroll.

The Difference Between a ‘Square’ and a ‘Sharp’

When discussing a game, a sharp and a square usually won’t be speaking the same language, because they are looking at these games from two completely different perspectives. And the sharp might possibly be using metrics that the square has never heard of.

So the philosophies are polar opposites of each other.

Sportsbooks in general are happy to welcome the action from squares, since there is a likelihood that they won’t be in the “red” from that action in the long run. And they may not be overly interested in entertaining wagers from sharps.

That isn’t necessarily always the case. Sharp action can be very useful to a sportsbook. They can use it to make a determination as to how to move a line, because they have gotten about the best input they could possibly get.

And that’s perhaps another subject we’ll get into in more detail.

For now, suffice it to say that you’d probably rather be a “sharp” than a “square”. So get to work!


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