The Difference Between Sharp and Square Sportsbooks

May 29, 2018 7:59 PM EDT

We all love sports betting. That’s why we’re here. Generally speaking, there are three different ways to place a bet:

  1. At a casino in Las Vegas (and thanks to legalization, pretty soon New Jersey and other states as well)
  2. Through a local bookie
  3. Online at an offshore sportsbook

For the vast majority of bettors, the third option is the most accessible and easiest to set up. It also provides an element of anonymity that many bettors desire. However, it’s important to remember that not all offshore books are the same. Some are “square” and some are “sharp.”

What exactly does that mean? And why is it important?

We consider a sportsbook to be sharp if it checks off the following boxes:

  1. Originates its own lines (sets the market)
  2. Moves lines quickly when the market gets steamed or takes in a big bet
  3. Welcomes professional action (big wagers from respected players who have a long track record of success)

Because sharp sportsbooks accept professional action, it also means that they have the highest limits and do not shade their lines based on how the market is being bet.

Some examples of sharp sportsbooks:

  • CRIS (Bookmaker)
  • Pinnacle
  • ABC (Jazz)
  • Grande
  • Buckeye

We consider a sportsbook to be square if it:

  1. Waits for sharp books to open, then follows their lines on air
  2. Does not move lines until sharp books move
  3. Caters to square, public bettors who like betting favorites and overs
  4. Shades lines toward public favorites, providing extra value for those willing to bet against the public
  5. Has lower limits and will further limit or even refuse to take bets from winning players

Some examples of square sportsbooks:

  • SIA
  • Bovada
  • BetUS
  • MyBookie
  • GTBets

There are also books that offer reduced juice. This means that instead of the standard -110 vig, they offer prices as low as -105. Some of the top reduced juice sportsbooks include Pinnacle, 5Dimes and Heritage.

Knowing which books are square, sharp and offer reduced juice is critically important because it allows bettors to shop for the best line and get the best numbers and prices possible.

In order to maximize value, we recommend having access to all three categories of sportsbooks.

For more sports betting tips, strategies and common mistakes to avoid, visit our Betting Education page. Also learn how to use The Action Network’s data to fade the public, follow sharp action and pinpoint profitable wagering opportunities.

For daily betting updates, follow us on twitter @ActionNetworkHQ.


Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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