Sharper: A guide to modern sports betting is the Amazon bestseller by Poker Joe. Written from the viewpoint of a retired professional bettor, the book offers practical advice to beginners and would-be 'sharps' alike, discussing everything from handicapping to arbitrage betting. Read on for our review of Sharper, the no-nonsense sports betting guide that cuts straight to the point.
When searching for sports betting books on Amazon, it's hard not to notice Poker Joe’s Sharper. The guide to modern sports betting’s front cover is simplistic yet powerful with its imagery: a knife on fire – it doesn’t get much sharper. Reading the book itself, you get a similar feeling; Poker Joe has experienced it all, so who better to learn from?
Of huge benefit to readers of Sharper – and not just for beginners – is the catalogue of common mistakes the book refers to throughout.
Sharper has received strong reviews online but it is purely down to the reader to decide whether it’s worth the investment. Poker Joe spends the preface of the book explaining as much, outlining reasons why readers shouldn't buy it. These hit the sports betting nail on the head: nothing is easy, those wanting winning tips or perfect systems should put the book down straight away.
What Poker Joe does do, however, is provide an intimate account of everything being a sharp bettor entails. The book is very short, easy to read and engaging. And yet it’s encyclopedic in its depth of thought. The author’s style is blunt, dismissive and perhaps too aggressive at times – but reading Sharper can undoubtedly help bettors of all levels.
How Sharper helps beginners
Not everyone wants to bet on sports for a living. The vast majority of sports bettors are casual in nature and everyone will have their own reasons for doing so. To his credit, Poker Joe acknowledges this and duly spends his first few chapters offering general advice for beginners.
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To that end, Sharper discusses gaining an edge over the bookmaker, Positive Expected Value, the importance of margins and offers helpful handicapping suggestions – all topics discussed within Betting Resources. The book advises bettors to quantify all variables and that numbers are king in sports betting. It deals mainly in American odds but readers who prefer working with alternative odds formats can use Pinacle's odds converter.
Of huge benefit to readers of Sharper – and no longer just for beginners – is the catalogue of common mistakes the book refers to throughout. Indeed, it’s suggested that any unquantified reasons or variables are simply an 'excuse' to bet, while bettors are encouraged to take responsibility and never blame a player or coach if they lose.
Poker Joe recommends developing a thick skin in the face of criticism while warning against the arrogance of certain bettors. He also ties this in with the dangers of following betting tipsters. Interestingly, Sharper goes on to discuss arbitrage betting but raises some question marks for bettors here, too.
Maths and methodology
What is refreshing about Poker Joe’s approach is that he acknowledges the balance between sporting knowledge and mathematics in betting. Constantly, the author emphasises that too many statistics for statistics' sake will not make bettors profitable. At the same time, he offers a simple truth: that maths – however simple – is essential to the modern sports bettor.
Not everyone wants to bet on sports for a living – the vast majority of sports bettors are casual in nature. To his credit, Poker Joe acknowledges this.
Two main methods are discussed: handicapping and 'line grinding,' with Poker Joe's opinion on which is the more 'fun' made plainly obvious. Recounting his own experiences, the retired professional bettor acknowledges the impact of luck and good fortune, avoiding an over-confidence that has ruined many others (of which he gives examples).
There is also a focus on staking methods and, in particular, the Kelly Criterion. Sharper’s assessment of Kelly offers advantages and disadvantages, although it is argued that any bankroll management, regardless of precision, is ultimately decided by emotion.
How Sharper helps professionals
At no point is Poker Joe unclear about exactly how much work, creativity and intellectual aptitude goes into sports betting as a living. There are fascinating insights into the professional bettor’s lifestyle, as well as the everyday Las Vegas betting scene.
If you don’t take sports betting seriously, as Poker Joe himself suggests, don’t buy this book.
For anyone considering becoming a professional bettor, this book is a must read. It will be an eye-opener for many and intimidating to most. Sharper gives a sense of just how much professional bettors have to stake to make far less of a return, advising against anyone who simply wants to get rich quick.
Poker Joe also discusses beating the closing line but, again, offers his original thoughts on why the topic may not be as clearcut as previously made out. Ultimately, it is those who are considering becoming professional bettors – or those who already are – that will gain the most from this book and its sea of hidden gems.
For those looking to learn more about betting, Sharper is an excellent reference point to expand your knowledge. No book is perfect, especially in a marketplace such as sports betting, and at least Poker Joe doesn’t pretend to offer perfection. Instead, what Sharper does offer is the guarantee of pointing all bettors in the right direction: if they are prepared to adapt.
At no point is Poker Joe unclear about exactly how much work, creativity and intellectual aptitude goes into sports betting as a living.
Practically speaking, there is a heavy focus on the money line, handicap and totals markets, mainly for NFL betting and with some NBA focus. There is nothing on tennis, little on soccer and a lack of focus on live betting. What bettors must do, though, is take Sharper’s general lessons and apply them to their own methods, regardless of sport or market.
Ultimately, the book’s message is consistent with our own crash course for professional bettors. If you don’t take sports betting seriously, as Poker Joe himself suggests, don’t buy this book.
You can follow Poker Joe on Twitter @TruePokerJoe, although the author is now less active on social media than he once was.