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Very little separates recreational bettors from sharps

23rd November, 16:06

What's the difference between a sharp and a square? Huge if you're looking at profit and loss over a lifetime ... but surprisingly small on any given day.

There's a misperception that sharps have great information, enabling them to load up on virtual locks. That's not how it works. They bet bigger because they have bigger bankrolls. But, sharps are still grinding out small edges.

Because of the standard 11/10 vigorish on sports bets (risk $11 to win $10, or anything in that ratio), break-even is 52.4 percent. Those new to sports betting may be surprised to learn that sharps win only about 53 to 55 percent of their opinions over the long haul.

It's easy to visualize this way. Recreational bettors are basically coin flippers who will hit 50 percent of their picks. That's a losing record against the vig. Sharps will achieve something more like 6-5 every 11 picks (54.5 percent) or 23-20 over several days (53.4 percent).

That's a minor difference in a small sample size. But, multiply that by months or years, and sharps grind out nice livings while squares dig holes they can't climb out of. It's sports-betting math in a nutshell.

What really hurts squares is the urge to parlay their opinions. That's what drops their bet record under 50/50. Parlays do offer larger payouts, but you have to sweep all the included teams to win the bet. It's hard to turn a 5-5 sampling of opinions or individual game picks into parlays that are going to sweep.

Some lessons from real-world betting math:

Respect the realities of sports-betting math so you can bet smart.

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