Numbers, not teams, matter most to sharps

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

October 5, 2019 01:20 PM

Last week, we wrote about the term “sharp” in sports betting. It refers specifically to professional bettors who move the line with their money (“sharpening” soft openers or fading public overreactions). 

Today, a quick example showing how betting value can change with a very slight line move.

Many hosts and guests on VSiN have explained that sharps bet on numbers rather than teams. You’ll never hear a professional bettor say “I don’t care what the point spread is, I’m laying the points in this one.” (You will hear squares and media pundits say that several times a week). Sharps bet when they have an edge based on their own assessment of the “right” number. 

For instance, let’s say there’s a football game where sharp models have projected the following result breakdown:

  • Favorite wins by exactly 7 points: 10% chance
  • Favorite wins by 8 or more: 45% chance
  • Favorite wins by 6 or less: 45% chance

If oddsmakers put the game up on the board at “Favorite by 7,” it’s obviously a pass. There’s no edge either way. Sharps and oddsmakers agree on the dividing line.

If the game goes up at “Favorite by 6.5,” sharps would naturally lay the points with a 55-45% advantage (10% for when the game lands exactly on seven, plus 45% for the games at eight or more). And, their money would carry such respect that oddsmakers would likely lift the point spread very quickly to -7. 

But if oddsmakers put the game up at “Favorite by 7.5,” you can see that the math flips the other way. Now the underdog has the 55-45% advantage. A point difference between 6.5 and 7.5 might seem small. It can have a big impact on cover percentages around a key number. 

The most important thing for the recreational audience to remember is that a game doesn’t have “a sharp side” absent the point spread. Both teams are the sharp side at the right price. It’s very common for sharps to be on both teams in the same game at percentage positions because football lines are up on the board all week.

Using today’s example: Let’s say sharps bet the favorite at the opener of -6.5. After the initial market move to -7, public money continued to come in on the favorite. If sports books facing extreme exposure had to move to -7.5 or -8, sharps would jump on the underdog because new value had been created the other way. 

Sharps couldn’t go 0-2 in that example given their positions. Should the game land exactly on seven, it’s a 2-0 sweep. Otherwise, 1-1 or 1-0-1 (a push at 8 if the game lands on eight) with profit or loss depending on bet sizing. 

If you want to bet like the sharps, think about betting numbers rather than teams. The critical first step is having your own number in mind before checking the board. 

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