Smart Money & Square Money

One of the biggest factors to consider when betting on sports is where the money is coming from in relation to line movement. The world of sports betting basically has two major groups that move the lines.

There are “sharp” bettors otherwise known as “wiseguys”, which are professional level bettors who bet large amounts and move the lines due to their reputation and past winnings. The other portion is the betting public, otherwise known as “squares”.

These two groups couldn’t be further apart in terms of betting acumen, but they both move the lines with betting action.

Of course, the smart money is usually the side that has the most pull in terms of line movement for fairly obvious reasons. Their bets simply carry a lot more weight than the betting public’s because they are a true threat to cut severely into bookmakers’ balance sheets.

Betting Against The Public

Many bettors swear by the “betting against the public” wagering “system”. This contrarian method of wagering isn’t difficult to understand. Bettors will simply bet against the public when they are heavily invested in a particular side or total.

What’s heavily invested? Well, some may consider 60% of the public’s wagers on a side or total as a public consensus. However, I think bettors should look for around 70% of all betting action on a particular market to qualify it as a public wager. There are regularly 80% majorities on games across all sports, so there’s no shortage of these situations.

Fading the public certainly has its merits, especially in the case of reverse line movement. Meaning, the public is heavily invested on one side, but the line moves in the opposite direction. This is usually due to sharp betting action on the other side, which the bookies, rightfully so, trust more than the masses.

However, it’s important to understand that the sportsbooks aren’t factoring in the public’s betting patterns when they create their lines. They’re much more vulnerable to sharp bettors if they try and play games with the public and bait them into taking a soft line. Their focus is solely to create sharp lines.

Mindlessly betting against the public when they’re heavily invested on a particular side or total isn’t a surefire way to profitability. In fact, it’s downright dangerous for bettors’ bankrolls. Factoring public betting patterns into your handicapping and generally avoiding taking too many overs or favorites are certainly things that will help you as a sports bettor, but indiscriminately betting against them at every opportunity isn’t a profitable way to beat the sportsbooks.

Following The Smart Money

Following the smart money wagered by the sharps is a much more profitable strategy than blindly betting against the public. In some cases, this means fading the public, but when one references “following the smart money”, the first thing to come to mind should be steam betting.

A steam move is a drastic change in odds in a particular betting market caused by sharp betting action. For instance, if most of the sportsbooks have the Detroit Lions -3 against the visiting Vikings and the line suddenly moves to Detroit -4 at a prominent sportsbook(s), this is likely a steam move.

A tactic utilizes by many bettors is to watch the odds across the betting market closely and bet the affected line on sportsbooks that haven’t yet moved their lines. This is known as “steam betting” or “chasing steam.”

In the above example, this would mean betting the Lions -3. Unlike fading the public, steam betting offers much more in terms of profitability and is quite simple if you know which sportsbooks are sharp enough to start market moves.

Sportsbooks frown on steam players and will often look to limit players who bet steam moves successfully. For one, bettors are beating the market on a price that sharp bettors have hammered as one of their favorites of the day.

Aside from getting an excellent price on your wager after a market move, you put the sportsbook in a compromising position. If they don’t move the line to -4, they will become a target for sharp bettors across the web, but they also lose out on the ability to offset the action from the steam bettors who took the line at -3.

Steam betting isn’t always as simple as watching the betting market and acting quickly before sportsbooks shift their lines, but it can be. Sharp bettors often bet one side heavily to shift the line in their favor and then bet the opposite side even heavier once they get their desired move.

Chasing steam can be difficult even if you accurately spot a move. Bettors don’t have a matter of minutes to act before the vast majority of sportsbooks shift their odds, they usually only have a matter of seconds.

As mentioned above, steam betting is one of the quickest ways to get your account limited at an online sportsbook. Although, if your account becomes limited, it’s almost always the case that you’ve taken the sportsbook for several thousand dollars (at least) before that happens. Provided you get paid, you can move onto another sportsbook.

One area that bettors need to be careful with when it comes to steam betting is wagering at lesser known sportsbooks or ones with so-so or poor reputations. Some of these sportsbooks have clauses that they “don’t accept syndicate or professional play” in their terms and conditions.

Steam betting falls under these parameters at many of these sites and bettors may be in danger of not being paid at some unscrupulous sites if their winnings via chasing steam. These terms are predatory but it is something bettors should consider before betting steam at certain bookmakers.