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Sports Betting: What is Smart Money?

By Loot, Sports Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

In any form of wagering, there is smart money and square money. Smart money represents wagers made by the pros, the bettors who actually make money over the long-haul and when they play--they play big. The square money represents the general betting public, the collective wagers placed by recreational or non-professional bettors. Obviously, we want to be on the side of the smart money. The general public are losers in sports-betting and naturally, we want to distance ourselves from that lot as much as possible.

Many times, it can be difficult to determine where the smart money is going. A game might not be drawing much betting action, making it impossible to determine what’s going on as it pertains to smart/square money. Other times, however, you can find where the smart money is going and then you need to make a decision that isn’t as easy as it sounds.

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The only way to really determine where the smart money is going is by looking at line movement. And this can be tricky. There are some guidelines, but they aren’t always terribly reliable. The wise guys can be tricky. They might put a large bet on a side early and send that line moving, only to pounce later in the week with a gargantuan wager on the opposite side they originally bet (This practice is called "Head Faking"). Meanwhile, you thought you were following smart money, only to find yourself on the wrong side when it was all said and done.

In addition, there is a value component to consider when following smart money. The wise guys pounced on a certain number. For you to even know that smart money was laid on one side means the line moved. In other words, you’re not getting the same value that the wise guys received. Yeah, you’re on the same side as smart money, but just not with the same odds that made the mouths of the wise guys water.

The following are just loose guidelines. Experience will be of great value to you in determining the impact of smart money. At the same time, there are some things that usually hold true. Early line movement is usually a result of smart money. It’s just more unlikely that a bunch of wagers from the general betting public would be coming in on one side that early in the week, being that most recreational bettors come in closer to game time.

The general betting public likes overs and favorites. That’s a rule of thumb, not necessarily an iron-clad rule. So when you see a line moving late in the week and the number for the over is getting higher and the point-spread for the favorite is swelling, that’s usually the result of the public’s money coming in. Remember, the public likes the glamour teams and scoring, hence their tendency to bet on favorites and overs.

Other line moves should make you say “hmm.” If you see a team with only a regional following that is an underdog getting a lot of betting support, that could very well be the smart money talking. If the Carolina Panthers opened at +8 and by Wednesday, they’re +6, that is probably smart money. Why would a bunch of recreational bettors be loading enough bets on Carolina to move the line that much? Usually, there was a handful of big smart money bets that moved a line like that.

Or if the Purdue basketball team was +5 to open the day, but closer to game time, they’re now +3.5--that reeks of smart money influx. The same would apply to The Baltimore Orioles opening at +165 and now they’re +145. It’s just unlikely that enough recreational bettors would have taken the Orioles. But if the Yankees went from -180 to -200 late, that smells of public money. The Yankees are a team that typically gets a lot of public attention. Again, experience will help you determine what is going on in cases that aren’t so clearcut, but some of it will be somewhat obvious.

You want to stand on your own as a betting man. No one is saying to put your opinions and observations to sleep and just start hunting for where the smart money is moving. At the same time, there will be cases when the smart money is talking and you want to listen. If you follow the smart money, you might be doing so at reduced value, but even it just makes you reconsider a bet you were about to place--that makes it worth paying attention.

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