Sports Betting -- The Difference Between Sharps and Squares? Well, Here's Part of the Story 

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

I was on a talk show once where I was asked what the difference is between a "sharp" and a "square." 

And there are, I suppose, a number of ways to explain this. 

The simplest might be to say that the "sharps" are more sophisticated bettors, while the "squares" are more casual. But what does THAT even mean?

Well, first you must understand that the sports betting market operates a little like the stock market, in the respect that demand will drive a price to go in one direction or the other.

And so I drew an analogy to the stock market, albeit probably an inexact one. Of course, I am not a stock market expert, but there were "sharp" investors who undoubtedly could see what I did. 

When AOL (America Online) and Time Warner merged back in 2000, it was the largest deal of its kind. And if you were around then, you had a good idea why that was the case.

AOL was THE brand when it came to internet access - easily the market leader. And the dot-coms were riding high. Between the publicity it got, the massive amount of advertising they did, and the direct mail contact with prospective customers, it received the benefit of all the hype, which was a market cap that blew up so much that it was bigger than Time Warner itself. In fact, AOL owned 55% of the newly-combined company, based on its valuation.

Now remember that I was no expert on the stock market, but it appeared kind of obvious to me that something was fishy. Time Warner had real assets, including, well, Time Magazine, in addition to HBO and Cinemax, a book division, Warner Brothers and Warner Brothers music, Time Warner Cable, a broadcast network (The WB), all of the Turner networks (CNN, TBS, TNT) and much more could be swallowed by a company that worked through dial-up, had a substandard service, made it excruciatingly difficult to cancel that service, sent out "free" disks to the point of annoyance, and had no real stranglehold on the future.

Broadband wasn't widespread, but it was coming, and the technology wasn't going backward. Other communications companies were ,sooner or later, going to bundle services in such a way that it would invariably leave AOL out in the cold. 

To me, that was just a way of looking at very basic fundamentals. But it was surprising to see how many people weren't even doing that. 

And well, you know what happened from there. One of the biggest mergers became one of the biggest disasters. With each passing day, I know fewer and fewer people with an AOL account. 

Yes, I took the long way around. But you knew there was a point to all this, right? And that point is that there were people who bought into a certain amount of hype, which led to speculation and ultimately an artificially inflated stock price. And then there were the people who looked at the fundamentals (there’s that word again), which didn't necessarily paint an encouraging picture.

The same thing takes place in sports betting. The "squares" are watching ESPN and reading the newspapers and some of the more popular websites and that is where they are getting their information from. They are hearing from pundits, many of whom aren't really viewing things from a handicapping perspective, and are seeing things that are more or less on the surface and passing that along to viewers. As a result, whatever information they disseminate is commonly available to the public.

That information has a way of driving public action, which can affect the line on a game and where it moves from there. 

The "sharps" aren't simply looking for information that everybody else has. They are trying to "read between the lines" on what they are hearing, seeing, reading. They are far less interested in hype than they are in fundamentals, in the same way a prudent stock investor might be.

They seek out advanced data that can give them an edge, but only if they are aware of how to interpret and filter such data to determine what is going to be useful. They are charting line movement, using info that might tell them whether that is the by-product of, well, squares or fellow sharps. That will be another component in determining value. 

And they don't pick up the newspaper or go on the internet two hours before game time. 

Anyway, that's just one of the differences. So try real hard to be a "sharp," okay?

- Charles Jay, Gambling911.com

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