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How to Follow Sharp Money in Sports Betting

The obvious goal of sports betting is to win profits. But the average bettor loses money when accounting for the sportsbook’s commission (a.k.a. juice) and lost wagers.

Reasons why most sports gamblers lose include poor strategy and bad bankroll management. The truth is that it’s hard beat sports betting when considering the skills required.

Professional bettors are among the small percentage who have mastered sports gambling. Often called “sharps,” the pros win consistently enough to make long-term profits.

Many sports bettors dream of becoming a sharp. Of course, this only comes with experience and dedication to learning proper strategy.

But what if you could skip this long process and find out how the pros bet? This is the concept behind following the sharp money, where you try to figure out which side the pros are betting on.

Tracking sharp money is a legitimate strategy that can lead to profits when properly executed. The only question remains how you determine where the pros are betting.

Keep reading as I discuss more on sharp money along with different factors you can use to determine where professionals are placing their money.

What Is Sharp Money?

A sharp (a.k.a. wise guy) is a highly skilled professional gambler. Sharps don’t just win – they win to the degree where land-based sportsbooks and betting sites actually track their wagers.

Sportsbooks spend lots of time analyzing their customers so that they can identify wise guys. Sharp money is one of the biggest factors in how bookmakers determine where to open and move their lines.

In addition to influencing lines, sharp gamblers possess all the skills that amateurs desire. They’re excellent handicappers, they know exactly how to find value in lines, and they’re disciplined at bankroll management.

Amateur sports bettors (a.k.a. the public or “squares”) are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They make bets based on hunches, don’t have a bankroll plan, and have no clue on sussing out line value. The public usually bets on favorites, because they want the best-possible chance of winning their wagers. It’s not uncommon to see 65% to 80% of the public backing a favorite.

But just because favorites win the majority of games doesn’t mean that they offer the most value. This is why sharps often bet the underdog when they think the price is right.

Sharps sometimes work in groups called “syndicates” to accomplish their goals. A syndicate can collectively bet in such a way that they manipulate sportsbooks into moving their lines, opening up better opportunity for sharps.

Both individual pros and syndicates can create problems for sportsbooks. Although outnumbered by the public, they usually make larger bets and can heavily tilt the action to one side.

This becomes a serious problem for bookmakers when they’re on the wrong side of a balanced line. Oddsmakers take great care to ensure that they know where sharp money is and move lines accordingly.

Some betting sites hate professional action and take various steps to thwart sharps’ efforts. These methods include limiting suspected pros’ max wagers, restricting them from betting on certain sports, or simply banning them.

It’s for these reasons why sharps are careful with their wagering patterns so as to not attract much attention. One way that pros accomplish this is by using “runners” to place bets for them.

A runner creates the ruse that they’re an amateur high roller who’s looking for action. Meanwhile, the sharp remains hidden behind the scenes while still winning profits.

Why Should You Care about Sharp Bettors?

A common belief about sportsbooks is that they set their lines to attract equal action on both sides. Creating this alleged balance allows them to make a guaranteed profit from the juice.

But as discussed before, bookmakers worry more about where the sharps bet than simply creating a balanced line. They’re not afraid to have too much action on one side as long as they’re not going against wise guys.

Here’s an example:

  • The Boston Celtics (-175) are playing the Miami Heat (+155).
  • 80% of the public bets on the Celtics.
  • The public wagers a collective $3,000.
  • 20% of the (mostly) sharps bet on the Heat.
  • The sharps wager a collective $2,000.
  • 3,000 – 2,000 = +$1,000 on favorite’s side

Sportsbooks fully realize that the public loves backing favorites. Their main concern is to avoid facing lots of sharp action on the other side.

Understanding sharp money is important because, like sportsbooks, you want to be on the right side of a line. This happens most often with underdogs that are offering value.

One way that you can find this value is by checking lines and quickly jumping on good opportunities. But as I discussed before, you need experience and skills to do this on a consistent basis.

Figuring out where the sharp action is theoretically allows you to bypass all the difficult handicapping and bet with the pros.

Ways to Follow Sharp Money

I’ve covered how sharp money is often on the underdogs. Pros especially enjoy betting dogs immediately when a juicy line is released. Doing so helps them get the most value before the line presumably moves when sportsbooks identify the sharp action.

However, tracking pros is more difficult than simply wagering on underdogs as soon as lines release. Pros don’t bet on just any underdog – they wait until a profitable situation arises.

Sometimes professionals even back the favorite when they find a good line. This creates yet another wrinkle in looking for sharp action.

Nevertheless, you can still follow how pros bet by understanding a few factors. Here are the main aspects you must know to spot sharps.

Public Betting Percentages & Live Movement

One good way to find sharp money is by looking at a website that tracks public betting action. These sites offer charts that show what percentage of tickets are on the favorite and underdog.

Here’s an example:

  • New York Giants -3.5 (76% of tickets).
  • Washington Redskins +3.5 (24% of tickets).

You can find these charts by googling “public betting chart” and browsing the first few sites. You’ll normally see that a larger percentage of action is on the favorites.

History shows that the public loves favorites due to the aforementioned fact that they win more. A heavily skewed line with 80% of the tickets on favorites indicates that sharps are likely taking the underdog.

Of course, this merely provides a simple overview on where the pros are betting. You can take things further by tracking line movement from the opening to current line.

Remember that the percentages only show how many total bets have been placed on each side. They don’t, however, reveal how much actual money is on each outcome.

Tracking how the line is moving combined with knowing the betting percentages helps you figure out if sharps are pushing the line.

A line that shifts against the favorite (e.g. -10 to -10.5) could indicate that there’s not much sharp money on the underdog.

Meanwhile, a line that shifts against the dog (e.g. +10 to 9.5) indicates that sportsbooks could be reacting to sharps. This is what’s known as “reverse line movement,” which I’ll cover next.

Reverse Line Movement

The common logic is that sportsbooks move lines when there’s too much action on one outcome. Doing so will theoretically make the other side more attractive and help even out the bets.

Reverse line movement goes against this logic, though, by seeing bookmakers move lines in a way that contradicts public betting percentages.

Here’s an example:

  • Current line is:
    Buffalo Bills +11 (18% of tickets)
    New England Patriots -11 (82% of tickets)
  • Reverse movement causes line shift to:
    Buffalo Bills +10.5
    New England Patriots -10.5
    It’s clear that the sharps are betting on the Bills.
    You quickly look for a sportsbook that still has Buffalo at +11.

This example goes back to how sportsbooks pay a great deal of attention to sharp action. Reverse line movement is a good way for them to avoid taking too much sharp money on one side.

Noticing this reverse movement helps you gain an edge if you’re able to find a betting site that’s still offering the old line.

Steam Moves

One trick that syndicates use to gain a bigger advantage involves overloading one side of a line across multiple sportsbooks. This causes bookmakers to quickly move a line in unison.

“Steam moves”, which refer to multiple sportsbooks collectively making a drastic move, are another great way to find sharp action. Upon noticing a steam move, you can try to find the old price and take advantage.

Here’s an example:

  • Line opens at:
    Indiana Pacers +4.5
    Milwaukee Bucks -4.5

  • Several online sportsbooks suddenly shift the line to:
    Indiana Pacers +4
    Milwaukee Bucks -4
    You recognize this as a steam move and try to find a site with Indiana at +4.5.

The easiest way to chase steam moves is to have funded accounts at multiple online sportsbooks. This way, you don’t have to waste time registering and depositing before jumping on a favorable line.

Be aware, though, that some syndicates purposely cause steam moves so that they can bet the other side. They’ll wager $25k on the favorite, for example, then place $100k on the underdog after the line moves.

Therefore, you might want to proceed with caution before pouring too much money into chasing steam.

What Not to Do when Following Sharp Money

Again, following sharps and trying to bet with them can pay off. But this isn’t to say that every technique used to follow pros is a good idea.

In fact, there are some major mistakes you can make when chasing sharp money. The strategies and methods discussed below should be avoided at all costs.

Blindly Betting with Sharps without Considering Other Aspects

Knowing the basic factors that oddsmakers use to create a line is the first step to successful handicapping. These aspects include injuries, weather, motivational factors, coaching, and individual matchups.

You’re not going to dominate sports betting world just because you know how to handicap these basic elements. But you should still familiarize yourself with each and know how they can cause line movement.

Injuries are especially important with regard to influencing a bookmaker to move their line. A key player being out means that the other side has a stronger chance of winning.

Sometimes you can get caught up in chasing sharp money and forget to consider basic factors. Therefore, it’s worth checking to make sure that there’s no breaking news influencing a line, rather simply paying attention to sharp money.

Twitter gives squares just as much of a chance at quickly catching news as it does the sharps. This enables the public to react fast when they see a major injury or weather change.

Constantly Trying to Fade the Public

Fading the public refers to always betting against squares. You can easily accomplish this by looking at public betting charts and wagering on the less-popular side in terms of tickets.

Of course, if sports betting were as easy as betting against the public every time, then numerous people would be booking profits.

The reality is that you can’t simply fade the public and expect to be on the sharp side. You instead want to spend time analyzing lines before blindly going against squares. Occasionally you’ll even find that best play is to bet with the public.

Forcing the Issue

Tracking wise guys can be an eye-opening experience that leads to more winnings. But this process can also influence you to make more bets than you’re comfortable with.

Forcing the issue leads to making poor-quality wagers and will eventually drain your bankroll. You want to be more selective about the process and only bet when you feel that you’re getting the right price.

Reverse line movement when 45% of the tickets are on the underdog isn’t as favorable as when only 20% of tickets are backing the dog.

You might even try paper betting when you start following sharp money to minimize your risk. Once you experience success this way, you can move on to placing real bets.

Ignoring Regular Betting Fundamentals

The pros don’t become pros just by mimicking each other. They instead have a strong grasp of how different statistics and trends influence sports betting results.

You shouldn’t simply focus on sharps and forget everything else that goes into making informed wagers. Handicapping, bankroll management, and statistics all have their place in helping you win.

You may even want to use software programs to improve your chances of winning. Sports betting software helps you mine large amounts of data and come up with useful stats and trends.

The best place to start as a beginner is by reading sports betting strategy articles. As your knowledge improves, you can move on to software programs to take your skills to the next level.

Will You Become a Profitable Bettor by Following Sharp Bettors?

Simply identifying sharp money doesn’t guarantee you profits. But being mindful of this technique and knowing how to bet with the pros will give you a better chance of winning.

The key thing is to be realistic about the matter when starting out. Realize that you may not always be able to identify when the sharp money has arrived as a beginner.

Even when you do spot pro action, the line may shift to a point where you’re no longer getting a good price. These line shifts are one of the biggest downsides to reacting to sharps – rather than being one yourself.

Of course, you can scramble to find sportsbooks that are still offering the same price that was available before the shift. Doing so is one of the key components to betting like a pro without needing the same skillset.

Also keep in mind that pros don’t win every time. In fact, they only win around 53% to 55% of their point spread wagers. This leaves you assuming a fair amount of risk even when you find sharp action.

In the end, following pros is an imperfect science that doesn’t assure you of anything. You can make money with this strategy by becoming skilled enough.

But nothing is more profitable than developing the skills to become a sharp yourself. Doing so allows you to determine favorable lines and take advantage of them right away.

This beats looking for the sharp money, which is a reactionary process. You run the risk of missing out on good prices if you’re monitoring pros rather than betting like one yourself.

Tracking sharps is certainly a strategy worth trying. However, I encourage you to continue working on your own handicapping skills along the way too.


Following sharp money isn’t overly difficult once you understand the process. You simply need to know what signs to look for.

Everything begins with knowing how to read a public betting chart. This helps you figure out the number of bettors on each side of a line.

You’ll normally see that the greater percentage is taking the favorite. Sharps, meanwhile, are often found in the minority that’s backing the underdog.

The next step is to track line movement. A move against the favorite (e.g. -7 to -7.5) can indicate that squares are in control. A move against the dog (e.g. +7.5 to +7) shows that sharps are probably laying down big money.

Steam moves are a dead giveaway that a professional syndicate is making moves. Multiple sportsbooks changing their lines at the same time can indicate which way the syndicate is betting.

Remember, though, that following the pros isn’t a guaranteed path to riches. You’re still facing plenty of uncertainty and can end up losing even when you do get a good price.

Again, you might consider starting out with paper betting so that you can work on your sharp-tracking skills. You can then proceed to real wagers when you’re more confident.

I also suggest that you continue working on your own handicapping efforts if you’re really serious about sports betting. Being a sharp yourself is preferable to following them.

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