What does square mean in sports betting?

by Big Al Staff

Everywhere you look in life, there are different people.  Some of us go through life without a set goal, without any plans, and just go wherever life takes them.  Others know what they want to achieve, and think about every single detail to achieve this goal.  It's the same in the sports betting industry.  Some bettors do the proper research and try to grind out a profit over time, while others play parlays in hopes of a massive payout.  The difference in philosophy separates the ones who want to pursue a career in sports betting from those who primarily gamble for entertainment.

To become a sports bettor, you need a plan, and you need to form your betting strategy.  You need to determine if you are going to bet all sports, or just football.  And if you bet on football, will you bet just the NFL or just College Football, or both.  You need to choose how much to risk for your standard bet, and how big your bankroll will be.  Sports betting is much more than just selecting which teams to bet on.  It's also a serious business which requires extreme discipline.  In this guide, we'll show you how.

The reason we're writing this article is to discuss what the term ‘square’ means in sports betting.  Square has a negative connotation, and refers to a bettor who is unconcerned about the numbers or odds.  These gamblers may, or may not recognize the value of numbers, but they don’t have the discipline to seek out the best numbers.  Instead, they are casual gamblers, and will often bet into bad numbers, especially if it’s more convenient to do so.  We'll show you what it means to be a square bettor and the influence they have on the sports betting industry. We'll also shed some light on the other side of the coin --  the disciplined gamblers who do care about numbers -- the sharps.

What are square sports betting strategies?

Let's dive into the typical square bettor's strategy.  Actually, it's not a strategy, per se; it more accurately can be described as throwing a dart, and hoping for the best.  There's not a lot of discipline in a square’s betting patterns.  A square bettor may be motivated to bet on a game which is on television, regardless of whether he has done research to determine one side has value.  Or a square may bet on a favorite at -7.5, even if other sportsbooks offered the odds at -7.  And if a square wins $100 on his early afternoon bet, he may risk double the amount on his next bet that evening because he wants to press his luck -- even if he doesn’t like that second bet as much as the first!  Interestingly, most sports bettors fall into the category of square.  And sportsbooks are more than happy to take advantage of the lack of discipline on the part of these bettors.  We'll dive into that later.  For now, let's take a look at some of the behaviors of squares.

Seduced by the parlay wager

Square bettors often take a tremendous amount of risk.  A prime example is the parlay wager.  With parlays, the payout is much greater than with a single bet.  The more bets you add to your betting line, the bigger your payout.  So, a casual bettor will think: 'You know what, let's take this risk….Who knows I might walk away with a couple of thousand dollars!' With this attitude, you might as well just buy a lottery ticket.  Any sharp bettor knows that parlays are disastrous bets with horrible odds.  They understand that having the ability to win $1,000 by just wagering $100 on a four-team parlay is very interesting and appealing.  But they also understand the true odds are 15-1, so sharp bettors have the discipline to stay away from parlays.

Super Bowl squares

Often, square bettors love wagering on the major sporting events like the Super Bowl, or March Madness.  That's why we'll call this group the Super Bowl squares.  They aren’t day-in and day-out bettors.  Instead, they’ll come out of the woodwork for the biggest events that are on television.  So, the betting markets will get a massive influx of new bettors for the NCAA football bowl season, the NFL Playoffs, March Madness, the World Cup, etc.  Tons of people will sign up with new accounts at online sportsbooks; the city of Las Vegas will get packed with tourists; and even non-sports fans will enter office pools.  But these squares don’t have the requisite knowledge (which often comes from experience) to have an expert opinion on the appropriate odds.  Still, their money counts the same as regular bettors.  And sharps can often take advantage at these times if the influx of square money results in softer numbers.

Blinded by fandom

Let's be honest here, we all have a favorite team, and we all want that team to win.  But in reality, sometimes your favorite team goes up against an opponent which is playing at a higher level.  Or maybe your favorite team is just in a horrible scheduling situation?  For example, it might be playing its third straight football game on the road.  Still, you're a massive fan, and convinced of their capabilities because your fanaticism blinds you.  Square bettors will blindly follow their team and wager their hard-earned money on them, regardless of the situation.  But sharps will know better and are never blinded by fandom.  Sports betting isn't about your favorite team winning; it's about identifying which team has the most value relative to the odds.  Square bettors bet on uniforms; sharp money bets on numbers.

How do sportsbooks handle squares?

As we said before, sportsbooks know that square bettors make up a considerable chunk of the sports betting industry.  They love this kind of bettor since they are the ones that bring in the most cash.  The professional bettors usually cost the sportsbooks money, but the square bettors bring in a fresh load of cash every time.  The squares have a betting pattern that doesn't create any fear or discomfort for the bookmakers.  They're easier to predict (since they generally bet on favorites), and the bookies know that their lack of discipline will generally lead them to blow their bankroll.

The sportsbooks don't pay a lot of attention to square bettors, to be honest.  They know that, whatever they do, there's not a lot of thinking that goes into their betting strategy.  They know they can make a lot of money by just letting the square bettors do their thing.  Indeed, some sportsbooks -- like Bovada -- will cater to squares or the recreational gambler market.  Such sportsbooks can squeeze out even more money by adjusting their odds to take advantage of a square’s proclivities.

Should you be a square or sharp bettor?

Of course, our general tone of voice in this article is pretty negative toward square bettors, but it could be that you identify yourself as a square.  It might be that you treat sports betting as a hobby, and the most important thing to you is that it’s convenient.  So, you don’t feel the need to follow the market and fight for the best number.  Or maybe you only want to bet on your local college football team?  If so, there's no need to come up with an organized betting strategy.

However, if you're in this to become a professional bettor and want to make sports betting your full-time profession, you should take matters into your own hands.  If you're not comfortable with losing your money through unnecessary wagers and don't want to keep betting as a side-hustle, then it's time to become a sharp bettor.  You might wonder, how do I make that transition?  Here, we'll show you the steps to take.

How to make the transition from square bettor to sharp bettor

Alright, you're in this for real.  You're not a square bettor who is comfortable with losing, and you want to win and make some real money.  The first thing to do in your transition to becoming a sharp bettor is to analyze your current betting behavior.  You’ll want to know what you’re doing well, and where you have shortcomings, so that you can improve on your performance.  For example, do you have at least three sportsbooks, and routinely shop for the best numbers?  Do you play parlays?  Do you follow the betting market to stay abreast of the changing numbers?  Do your bets do better in a particular sport?  After your initial review, you can move on to the next stage, which involves improving the tools at your disposal.  Let’s shed some light on certain of these tools:  sportsbooks, statistics, and handicappers.

Picking the right sportsbook
When you're serious about becoming a professional, you will need to have accounts at many online sportsbooks.  And, ideally, you should bet with sportsbooks that cater to sharp players.  Here's a checklist:

  • Does your sportsbook welcome sharp players, or does it limit their action?
  • Does your sportsbook have small or large betting limits?
  • Does your sportsbook have unique odds, or does it follow the odds published by other sportsbooks?
  • Does your sportsbook have reduced juice?

In essence, the sharp books will generally have large betting limits, unique odds, and may offer reduced juice.  In contrast, books that cater to squares will have smaller betting limits, and will not have unique odds.  Instead, they’ll follow the odds of other major sportsbooks.

Some of the best books for sharp players include BetAnySports, which offers reduced juice (-105 odds rather than -110 odds), BookMaker, which has the highest betting limits, BetNow, which offers unique odds, and has the best sign-up bonus, and BetOnline, which is generally the first book to publish its odds.

Statistics are your friend
A good sports bettor is nowhere without a good portion of statistics.  Professional sports bettors base their decisions on a massive chunk of data that sometimes goes back decades.  Without this data, you're just making a wild guess, and you're better off flipping a coin.  You might wonder, how do you use statistics to make a judgment?  Well, let's look at some examples when analyzing a matchup:

  • How is a team’s current form?
  • What are the individual player stats against the current opponent?
  • How do the two teams perform home and away?
  • What's the history of both teams against each other?
  • Do either of the teams have a scheduling advantage?
  • Are there any current injuries?
  • Are there any intangibles, like revenge, that might favor a team?

There's always more to consider since it also depends on the type of sport you are handicapping.  In horse racing, intangibles like revenge or a letdown situation won’t come into play.  But with the NFL or the NBA, such factors can be important.  Always remember to do proper research.

Handicappers
Many sports gamblers choose to work with professional bettors.  It's one way to reap the rewards of gambling without having to invest years to learn how to handicap, not to mention the ongoing time commitment after you’ve developed your methodology.  When you hire a professional, you can count on the expertise of those who have invested the time to become experts in the field.  These professional bettors are known as handicappers.

To identify a proper handicapper, it’s wise to look up their achievements, and to review their game analysis.  When they provide the reasons for their selections, do they make sense?  If all these add up, you're in business with an expert who might just lead you to victory.  At the end of the day, gambling is all about finding value.  It’s immaterial if it’s yourself, or somebody else who actually finds it.

You now understand what the term ‘square’ means, and you probably have also made the determination of whether you're a square or a sharp bettor.  Plus, you're probably at the point where you know if you want to become a sharp bettor, or stay in the square betting category.  We're always looking to help bettors take things to the next level, and try our hardest to provide the best learning material to do so.  Good luck with your sports betting!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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