7 Types of Sports Bettors Explained

Different Sports Bettor Types

Sports gamblers all have one obvious thing in common—they enjoy betting on sports. However, they also differ in a variety of ways.

Some bettors are highly-skilled pros who make big profits. Others are just recreational gamblers who like getting some action on their favorite teams.

Sports bettors essentially break down into seven total classes. You can see each type below and figure out which category you fall into.

1 – Sharps

A sharp is a professional who makes a full-time living through sports gambling. They often draw so much respect from sportsbooks that their action can cause lines to move.

Many bookmakers take great strides to identify sharp action and act accordingly.

After all, last thing they want to do is be on the opposite side of the pros.

Sharps often place their wagers not long after lines are released. They take advantage of inefficiencies in the market, which are most common with opening lines.

Bookmakers who accept wagers from these professionals are called “sharpbooks.” These sportsbooks draw enough liquidity to where they can absorb sharp money and still make profits.

In fact, many sharpbooks use professional action as more information to shape their closing lines. They shift the odds depending upon how much sharp money they see come in on one side or the other.

Sportsbooks that don’t like pros are called “softbooks.” These bookmakers will often limit or ban accounts of suspected pros.

Such bookmakers usually don’t have to deal with major sharps. Therefore, they often have small max bet sizes and will take action against pros to minimize their exposure.

Regardless of how sharps are treated from one bookmaker to the next, they’re the envy of the industry. They have the handicapping skills and knowledge to win on a consistent basis.

2 – Semi-Pros

Not everybody who makes money through sports betting has to be a sharp. Some are just knowledgeable bettors who can earn enough to supplement their income.

Will Ferrel In Semi Pro

These semi-pros aren’t as great of handicappers as sharps. However, they at least know enough to make money from sports betting.

Like sharps, semi-pros can also be banned or limited at a softbook.

They may look like full-time professionals, because they’re making consistent profits over time. Semi-pros often bet with sharpbooks to avoid such situations.

Anybody in this crowd who becomes good enough can ascend to earning a full-time living through sports gambling. However, some semi-pros are more than happy with just making any type of profits.

3 – Arbitrage Bettors and Steam Chasers

Two more types of gamblers who make money through sports wagering include arbitrage bettors and steam chasers.

Arbitrage betting (arbing) refers to wagering on all outcomes of a given match with different bookmakers. Assuming sportsbooks differ enough on the odds, then an arbitrage gambler can earn a guaranteed profit.

A steam chaser is a bettor who looks for “steam moves.” The latter refers to when a syndicate of professional bettors all wager on a given outcome at the same time.

This steam causes one or more sportsbooks to move their odds quickly to minimize their exposure to other sharps. However, not all bookmakers can make these changes in time.

A steam chaser will look for the sportsbook that’s late in making such moves. They can capitalize by getting their bets down before the odds are shifted.

Please Note:

Sportsbooks dislike both arbers and steam chasers because each group costs them money.

Rather than relying on stellar handicapping skills, these types of bettors merely use profitable situations to beat bookmakers.

Both steam chasers and arbers can disguise their activities and avoid being banned or limited. But eventually, sportsbooks usually identify both kinds of gamblers.

4 – Recreational Bettors

The biggest category of sports bettors includes recreational gamblers.

This crowd may have aspirations of eventually making money through sports gambling.

But they’re unable to do so with their current skills. Nevertheless, recreational bettors still enjoy wagering on games.

Some of these types of gamblers aren’t really that serious about winning in the long run. They’re merely hoping to win the next bet.

5 – Mr. “I’m Breaking Even”

A different breed of recreational gamblers is the one who believes they’re on the cusp of success. Somebody may ask them how they’re doing in sports betting, to which they’ll reply, “I’m breaking even.”

Holding Equal Money Stacks

It may be a stretch to call such bettors delusional. However, they clearly don’t have a realistic grasp on their actual results.

This crowd may believe that they’re winning just enough to make their money back. In reality, they may be slight or even big losers.

It’s hard to improve when one is stuck in the break-even fantasy. This is why it’s so important to track sports betting results and measure actual wins and losses, rather than just perceived performance.

6 – Gambling Addicts

Unfortunately, some people have an unhealthy sports betting habit. They lose lots of money through this activity and can’t stop themselves from gambling.

These addicts may even wager money they can’t afford to lose. In this case, they have trouble covering their bills and other expenses.

One of the most common routes toward becoming a sports gambling addict is trying to win back losses.

Such gamblers will either increase their wager sizes or the frequency of their bets and order to earn back money.

Throwing more cash at the matter doesn’t solve the problem, it just makes things worse. Anybody who’s unable to control their sports betting should definitely seek help and put themselves on as many exclusion lists as possible.

7 – Fans

One more distinct class of sports gamblers are fans. This group is similar to recreational bettors, except with one twist.

The biggest defining characteristic of a fan bettor is that they like wagering on their favorite teams. They may like the Dallas Cowboys, for example, and bet on them to cover a moneyline without any research.

Dallas Cowboys Fan With Unhappy Expression

Fans are typically almost always losing bettors. They lack the necessary skills and research to make money from sports betting on a consistent basis.

However, nothing is wrong with being a fan type of bettor in a controlled manner.

Betting on one’s favorite teams can actually enhance the experience, win or lose.


Sports bettors may be lumped into one category by general society.

You can definitely see, though, that there are some notable divisions in each type of gambler.


  • Sharps are at the top of the food chain. These gamblers are so good at handicapping games and finding opportunities that they’re able to make a considerable amount from sports betting.


  • Semi-pros are another group that can earn money through sports gambling. They may not win as much as sharps, but they’re still booking profits.

Arbitrage Bettors

  • Arbitrage bettors and steam chasers also earn money as well. Rather than relying on handicapping, their sole focus is finding the right opportunities. The problem for profitable sports gamblers is that they risk having their accounts limited or banned. This is especially true of steam chasers and arbitrage gamblers who wager at softbooks.

Recreational Bettors

  • Recreational bettors and fans, on the other hand, are welcome at any sportsbook. They don’t win consistently enough to scare softbooks. Part of the recreational crowd deludes themselves into thinking that they’re breaking even when they’re really losing. This is the same type of bettor who doesn’t keep track of their results.


  • One more group of sports gamblers is addicts. This is the least desirable crowd to be in because they have a problem with sports betting and can’t stop. They may even end up risking money that they can’t afford to lose as a result.

Again, the dream of many sports bettors is to be a sharp. But very few gamblers actually reach this pinnacle.

The good news, though, is that you can still have a lot of fun as a recreational bettor. You can always work your way up the ladder toward profitability as well if you truly love sports gambling.

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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