Betting Intelligence Guides

How Do Sharp Sports Bettors Decide Their Picks

A lot of handicappers, media and recreational players all want to know what the sharp sports bettors are doing. What are their early moves, how do they break up their bets and how do they come to their decisions. While each professional bettor is different, they do share a lot of tendencies. If you’re wondering what the mold of a sharp is, we’ve got the traits outlined. These are the patterns they’ll follow:

How Do Sharp Sports Bettors Decide Their Picks
How Do Sharp Sports Bettors Decide Their Picks

Checking The Opening Lines

One of the first places a good handicapper will start is with the opening lines. Many people might think that bettors will start with their own research but the reality is that someone who is at this level – let’s say, a successful bettor – they’re going to already have a feel for the teams. They’ll have their finger on the pulse to know who’s who, so when the opening lines come out, they are already in position to pounce. Sure, dynamics of a game can change, there could be injuries or weather or load management that comes up, but the early bird gets the worm in this market. 

Another reason why sharps will be all over the opening lines is because that’s where they can catch when the oddsmakers are off-guard. That’s when oddsmakers are more likely to have a number that’s slightly off. As it works its way through the market, the betting patterns will push the line to where it needs to be but early on, sharps can find an edge. If the oddsmakers have overvalued or undervalued a team, or are slightly off on a total, sharps will take advantage. If you’re a new or intermediate bettor, you want to get to this level of knowledge of the sport you’re betting, so that you can simply look at the lines and see something off and make your move.

Sharp Sports Bettors Make Their Own Picks

A big difference between recreational and professional bettors is how they do their research and make their picks. Recreational bettors will flip on the television, see what the talking heads are saying and maybe tail a parlay they see from a person they trust on Twitter. Sharps will cut out the noise, likely only take into account a few opinions from people they respect and make their own decisions. 

Sharps treat sports betting very much like a business. It’s just like investing in the stock market. If you’re asking a guy on Twitter what his stock tip is, you’re rolling the dice. However, if you’re reading the company filings yourself, have a general idea of what the macro environment is and know how to evaluate a stock price, you’re in much better shape to make your own decisions. The latter is what the seasoned pros do.

Having A Rating System On The Teams

Speaking of how sharps evaluate games, a lot of them will have their own rating system for teams. They will have spreadsheets or calculations where they input different datasets to get a rating on each squad. Then they’ll cross-refence that with the betting line to see where their line is and where the oddsmakers’ are at.

For example, some sharps might have a grading system where each team will have a specific value. When the two numbers are way off, there’s a perceived edge to one side. Then they’ll examine the odds and see if the lines reflect that. If they don’t, there’s an edge. If they are, in fact, accurate, then there’s no bet to be made.

Some bettors will also come up with their own numbers for the games. They might look at their own data and see that the New England Patriots should be favored by three points. Then they’ll look at the lines and if the Patriots are a three-point favorite, there’s no play. If they’re a one-point dog, then there’s a bet to be made.

These grading systems aren’t easy to make and they’ll differ from player-to-player, but this is what helps them determine where there’s value on the lines.

Tracking The News

Many recreational players will bet it and forget it. They’ll lock in a line and then just go do some other things until the game starts. However, this is a business for sharps, so they are going to be monitoring all of the dynamics really closely.

A good example of this is load management in the NBA. A rec player might lock in a line and just ride it no matter what happens. However, a sharps is either going to wait until the starting lineups are announced before making their decision or make significant adjustments to their bet as new breaks.

For example, if you bet on the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James was expected to play but is now suddenly out. That’s going to have a big impact on the line. Sharp sports bettors might try to hedge it off and get out of the bet or see if they still like the play; recreational players will let it ride.

If you want to get on the level of the pros, you really have to eat, breathe and sleep sports. That means having notifications on for Twitter when breaking news happens, it might mean watching the pre-game to make sure that there are no surprises and it usually means tracking the games (and maybe live betting) as they’re happening to watch how the decision played out. Sharps are much more hands-on than recreational players.

Having A Bankroll Management System

You’ve probably heard this many times but it’s worth reinforcing: you have to have a bankroll management system. That’s what the successful bettors do and that’s what you have to do if you want to get on that level.

In this article, we’re mostly talking about how handicappers decide their sports picks but bankroll management is a factor because this is how sharps decide how much they’ll be laying down.

Many rec players are just willy-nilly with it, betting whatever feels right in their gut. Sharps are going to be far more systematic and precise, maybe betting from one to five units per play, and only sticking to that staking plan. They’ll evaluate the games, think about how strongly the data supports their decision and then wager a set amount based on their grading system. That’s how formulaic you’ll want to be if you want to get to that level.

Tracking The Line Movement

One other important piece of the puzzle that helps successful handicappers decide their picks is the line movement. When the lines bounce around, there is a story to be told. Understanding those movements can point you in what is likely the winning direction – or at least a direction that wins more often than not.

If you’re watching the line movement early on – just shortly after the games have opened up – then it’s going to be sharp money bets that are moving those lines. Sharps win for a living, so if you can get a read for which way they’re going, you’re probably going to be on the winning side more often than not. Sure, you’re not going to get the same price that they did but at least that’s a tell of what they like.

At the end of the day, it’s probably just another piece of evidence that you’ll want to make your decision. If your grading system gives a team an edge and your other research does as well, and then you see sharps on the same side, that can help reinforce your judgment. Just blindly tailing at worse prices is probably not ideal.

At any rate, you want to keep an eye on where the lines are moving and get an understanding for what it tells you. Line movements are never 100% right or wrong, but they are another indication of whether you’re on the right track or not.

Winning Bettors Have Similar Tendencies

If you want to run with winners in this industry, you’ll have to emulate their characteristics. That means tracking your bets, understanding line movements, having a bankroll management system and closely watching the lines. The more you build out your plan and set up a structure to include a number of these points, the more likely you are to win in the long run.

Outlier Team
March 31, 2023
Share article