What are sharp players and how to identify them?

March 03, 2022

If you run a sportsbook, you need to be constantly on the lookout for sharp players. Those are professional bettors who could ruin your book in just a few hours. Looking for certain signs can keep you from losing to sharp players. Keep reading to find out how to spot them.

(If you are new to the pay per head sportsbook business, we invite you to read our pay per head sportsbook review article, where we compare the key features among the leading pay per head competitors. This comprehensive resource will help you make an informed decision as you embark on your journey in the industry.)

win loss by sport - pay per head sportsbook

Keeping an eye on what players are winning (and losing) in the most is important. With this information you can make adjustments in your book. Such as changing juice percentages or applying early line limits.

What Are Sharp Players?

Sharp players, often just called Sharps, are skilled bettors who win more often than lose. They may be professional gamblers but aren’t always. They could be someone who is particularly knowledgeable in one sport or another. They also take their time to research sports betting systems and usually bet large amounts of money and rarely lose. Sharps can be devastating for smaller sportsbooks because, by the time they are recognized, they could walk about with years' worth of a sportsbook's profits.

Sharps have decades of experience, and betting is their only source of income. They doot bet on their feelings, they use data and information to make informed wagers. Remember that sharps are fearless bettors, but also disciplined.

Sportsbooks hate dealing with sharp players because they have a high winning/loss ratio. Some ways of combating sharp players is lowering their limits or cutting them off completely.

What Are Square Players?

The opposite of sharp players, square players are often referred to as “the public”. They are the average bettor who bets on their favorite team for the fun of it. They wager a few bucks on the teams that they follow but don’t have any real inside knowledge of gambling.

Square players are the vast majority of gamblers. Well over 90%. They are the reason that Las Vegas casinos can stay open, and the reason why small sportsbooks can make money. They lose money more often than win and don’t often bet large sums of money.


Square players usually bet in the home team

How to Spot Sharp Players

*It’s important to understand that not all of these factors need to be present to identify a sharp player. The more of these red flags that are present, however, the greater the chance is that you’re dealing with a sharp.*

Player Has a Winning Record

Most of the players on your sportsbook will be losing, that’s how sportsbooks stay in business. When you see a player who constantly has a winning record, you should give them a second look.

If they have a winning record over just a few bets, that may be a coincidence. But if they are constantly winning over months and years, you are likely dealing with a sharp player.

Player net balance per week - payperhead sportsbook

Does the player constantly wins, week after week. Or has spikes on both sides of the y axis?

They Bet Large Amounts

Whatever your wager limit is, sharp players will consistently be betting the max. They aren’t scared to bet large amounts because they have done the research and know that they win more often than lose.

Watch how much your players are wagering. If they have consistently high amounts, there’s a good chance they are a pro.

Player ticket - average risk amount per day

Some types of sharp players bet high amount per ticket

They Play All Day

Another key sign that you’re dealing with a pro bettor is that they are on your site all day long. Most square players have a 9-5 job to go to and place their bets on the weekend right before their favorite team takes the field.

They also use one or more NFL, MLB, or NBA betting strategies, which, some of them, required placing bets at a certain pace.

This also usually involves shopping for the best line possible, sometimes called hedge betting.

Since sharp players are professional bettors, they can sit on your site all day long placing wagers. If you find a player spending hours each day on your site, it could be a sign that they are a sharp player.

does he plays all day

At what hours does your player place his tickets?

Do They Bet Home Team or Away Team More?

One good way to spot a square player is when they always bet the home team. This “home field advantage” is a sign of an average fan and not an experienced bettor.

If your bettor has an even mix of betting home vs away teams, that could be a sign that they are experienced players.

This sign is a little bit harder to judge than others, especially by itself. But when you combine this with several other signs we’ve mentioned, you can begin to spot sharp players more easily.


Square players usually bet in the home team

They Bet in Units

If a player is consistently betting in units, that may be a sign that they are an experienced bettor. It certainly shows that they are disciplined because betting units is a more precise way to play.

(Managing one's own sports betting bankroll is something that not only players do but also bookies. Fortunately, when using the right pay per head sportsbook provider, there are plenty of options available to accomplish this.)

Units are a way for a sportsbook to keep a level playing field for their players. One unit is usually worth 10% of a player’s bankroll. So if you have $1,000 to play with, one unit would be $10. Each bet can be multiple units, so W/L record doesn’t accurately reflect how they are doing. Example: a square player could be 10-0 and be up 10 units. But a sharp player using units could have a 4-6 record but those 4 wins could have been 5 unit bets, and the 6 losses each only one unit. So the sharp player is actually up 14 units.

Sharp players bet using units in your payperhead sportsbook

A disciplined sharp player almost always bets using the same amounts (“units”) or fractions of it.


Sharp players are rare, but sportsbooks need to keep a “sharp” watch for them and take action if one is found.

Watch for players who consistently win and always play large bets. Those are two good signs that you’re dealing with a sharp. Also, if they play all day and play in units, you can be pretty sure they are a sharp player.

If you find a sharp player, there are multiple adjustments you can apply to the problematic player’s to keep him in check.

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