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Keep your bets sharp by understanding 'sharp' bets

28th September, 17:17

USC's Markese Stepp celebrates a touchdown last week. Getty Images

It's time to refresh everyone's memory about what the term "sharp" means in sports betting. Too many media newcomers are muddling the definition because of their own agendas.

Though, the term is commonly used in everyday vernacular to mean "smart," in this industry it refers to the professional bettors who "sharpen" the line with their bets.

Maybe a line opens with the favorite at -5¹/₂. Sharps calculated the game -7 themselves, so they hit the opener hard until sports books rise to -6, -6¹/₂ and finally -7. There's no edge on the seven, so sharps stop betting then.

But, if the public likes that favorite, maybe the line rises even more to -7¹/₂ and -8 in the hours before kickoff. Sharps once again have value compared to their grading, but this time it's on the underdog. They jump in hard again, and the line drops to -7 by kickoff.

Sharps have positive expectation bets on the favorite at -5¹/₂, 6, and -6¹/₂, but also on the underdog at +8.

If you're one of the relatively few bettors moving the line like that with your money, then you're a sharp. Or, if you're following that type of strategy in general for smaller stakes, you're at least "betting like a sharp."

Media pundits aren't sharps. Many are sharp dressers. Maybe they write with sharp pencils. But they're not moving lines with their money. Many have made it clear they don't even understand that "the sharp side" is a combination of team and price, not just team. They'll ask a guest what "the sharp side" is, or just come out and tell you that a team is "the sharp side" without mentioning prices.

In a current example, professional bettors have positions on Washington -9 or -9¹/₂, but USC +10¹/₂ or +11 in Saturday's Pac-12 clash. As VSiN's Vinny Magliulo and others have mentioned repeatedly on our shows, sharps bet numbers, not teams.

Be wary of mainstream media reporters telling you "who the sharps like" without mentioning point spreads. Be wary of pundits referring to "the so-called sharps" when giving you their supposedly superior picks. Actual sharps aren't "so-called," they're real people who bet the line into the right place.

Actual sharps don't have picks, they have positions at favorable prices.

Too many media personalities are brands trying to sell themselves. You don't have to buy what they're selling. Spot their tells by noticing when they misuse betting terms, when they don't properly explain investment distribution in a big game, or when they try to hype their own expertise at the expense of real market influencers.

Betting smart means thinking like a sharp, not like a pundit.