Sharp vs. Soft Bookmakers — The Key Differences Explained

In the world of sports betting, there are two types of bookmakers: Sharp and Soft. But what are the differences between them?

In this article, I delve into the operational methods of Sharp and Soft bookmakers, exploring how they formulate their odds and what it means sports bettors seeking value from their selections.


Sharp Bookmakers

Sharp bookmakers use sophisticated systems to compile their own odds. They have the ability to set prices, and adjust their lines very quickly. This process is almost entirely automated.

Due to their speed, precision and knowledge, Sharp Bookmakers consistently provide odds that are close to the true probabilities of sporting outcomes, and similar to those found on betting exchanges. This means they are able to offer better value odds to players, working on a “high volume, low margin” model.

“Sharps”, as they’re known, are not usually concerned about being picked off by smart bettors, because their pricing models are accurate and robust. In fact, several of them hold a “Winners Welcome” policy, enabling professional or high roller clients to place large stakes without restrictions being imposed.


  • Low Margins: Sharp bookmakers operate with lower profit margins, which translates to better odds for bettors. This means casual players can potentially lose less over time compared to using soft bookies.
  • Welcoming Winners: Unlike soft bookmakers, sharp bookmakers often welcome successful bettors and are less likely to restrict their accounts. Some even encourage arbitrage betting, which involves exploiting price differences in different markets for guaranteed profit.
  • High Limits: Sharp bookmakers typically offer higher betting limits, allowing serious bettors to place larger wagers on their predictions.
  • Market Efficiency: By offering accurate and competitive odds based on real-time information, sharp bookmakers contribute to market efficiency, benefiting all bettors with fairer prices.


  • No Frills: Sharp bookmakers prioritise offering competitive odds over providing additional features or entertainment. As a result, their platforms may lack the wide range of products and markets seen in softer bookies.
  • Limited Promotions: Compared to soft bookmakers, sharp bookies may offer fewer promotions, bonuses, or loyalty rewards aimed at casual bettors.
  • Higher Skill Requirement: Successfully betting with sharp bookmakers often requires a higher level of skill and knowledge. Casual bettors may find it challenging to compete effectively.
  • Risk of Price Movements: Due to their focus on competitive odds, sharp bookmakers’ lines can move quickly based on market demand or significant betting activity, potentially affecting the value of bets.

Examples of Sharp Bookmakers

  • Pinnacle (promotes  a “Winners Welcome” policy).
  • SBObet
  • 188bet
  • 12bet
  • BetISN
  • Dafabet
  • Betonline
  • Betcris
  • Bookmaker EU
  • Cloudbet


Soft Bookmakers

Soft bookmakers use less sophisticated methods to set their prices. Instead of calculating accurate probabilities for events, they predominantly monitor the odds offered by Sharps and Betting Exchanges and base their prices around those.

While Soft bookmakers do use automated systems to track/monitor market prices, and employ traders to manually manage their risk, they’re much slower to react to events than Sharps. This means that the Soft bookmakers lag behind, leaving their odds open to exploitation from professional sports bettors.

Soft bookmakers counteract their vulnerabilities by incorporating a large margin into their odds. This means that the average recreational punter will be a lot worse off using Soft bookmakers than Sharps. Additionally, Soft bookmakers focus more of their tech and personnel on identifying profitable bettors and, controversially, restricting their stakes and closing their accounts.


  • Attractive Promotions and Bonuses: Soft bookmakers often offer generous promotions, bonuses, and reward schemes across a wide range of gambling products. This can include welcome bonuses, free bets, loyalty rewards, and special promotions tied to casino, poker, bingo, and other gaming options.
  • Wide Range of Gambling Products: Soft bookmakers typically provide a comprehensive suite of gambling products beyond sports betting. This can appeal to bettors who enjoy diversity and want to explore various forms of online gaming under one platform.
  • User-Friendly Interfaces and Features: Many soft bookmakers prioritise user experience, offering intuitive interfaces, mobile apps, and additional features that enhance convenience and engagement for casual bettors.
  • Customer Support and Service: Soft bookmakers often invest in robust customer support systems, providing assistance via multiple channels (live chat, email, phone) to address customer queries and issues promptly.
  • Entertainment Focus: Soft bookmakers emphasise entertainment value alongside betting. They may feature live streaming of sports events, virtual sports, and interactive games, enhancing the overall gaming experience.


  • Inferior Odds: Soft bookmakers typically offer less competitive odds compared to sharp bookmakers and betting exchanges. This can result in lower potential returns for bettors, especially those focused on maximizing profitability through consistently favourable odds.
  • Risk of Account Restrictions: Profitable bettors or those who consistently win may face restrictions or account closures with soft bookmakers. This is due to their business model, which aims to limit exposure to high-risk bettors to protect profitability.
  • Dependence on Promotions: Some bettors may become overly reliant on promotional offers, which can distract from sound betting strategies and responsible gambling practices.
  • Vulnerability to Market Changes: Soft bookmakers may be more vulnerable to economic downturns, regulatory changes, or industry disruptions that could affect their operations and ability to provide consistent service to bettors.

Examples of Soft Bookmakers

There are countless Soft Bookmakers — far too many to list them all! Here are some of the most popular brands:

  • William Hill
  • Coral
  • Bet365
  • Ladbrokes
  • Paddy Power
  • 888 Sport
  • Unibet


Why Are Soft Bookmakers So Popular?

It’s an important question: If Sharp bookmakers offer better value, why do so many bettors stick with Soft bookmakers?

One of the primary reasons is the substantial investment that Soft bookmakers make in branding and promotion. Many bettors simply don’t look beyond these well-advertised options. By operating with higher margins, Soft bookmakers can afford extensive advertising campaigns, free bet offers, affiliate incentives, and prominent TV and radio marketing efforts to attract and retain customers.

Additionally, in countries like the UK, several Soft bookmakers have benefited from longstanding presence in high street betting shops. These bookmakers have built a strong reputation and loyal customer base over the years, well before the internet era. As a result, the public tends to recognise and trust these established brands, often sticking with what they know.


What’s Involved In Setting Betting Odds?

In essence, setting odds boils down to making informed estimations about future events.

In the past, bookmakers manually assessed probabilities based on historical performance, akin to methods depicted in shows like Peaky Blinders. While not always precise, the key lay in creating a sufficiently large overround (advantage) to ensure profitability across all outcomes. This strategy persists, but modern online betting has introduced more complexities to odds-setting.

Today, bookmakers employ automated systems to monitor competitor odds and betting exchanges, where public sentiment forms prices organically. They can swiftly react to breaking news, such as player injuries in football, changing conditions like weather in horse racing, or shifts in public opinion on betting exchanges. These factors, among others, dictate when and by how much bookmakers adjust their odds.

The sophistication in odds-setting methods varies widely among bookmakers. Generally, Sharp bookmakers are leaders in setting trends, moving early and adapting swiftly to new information. Soft bookmakers typically follow suit in their adjustments.


Sharp Or Soft — What’s Best?

On one hand, Sharp bookmakers offer more competitive prices compared to Soft bookmakers, making them initially more appealing. However, the challenge lies in their resilience against professional bettors.

To consistently outperform Sharp bookmakers, bettors must develop a pricing model that matches or exceeds the sophistication of those used by Sharp bookmakers. Few bettors achieve this level of precision. Consequently, Sharp bookmakers like Pinnacle are not overly concerned about professionals cutting into their profits and rarely impose limits or account closures.

Soft bookmakers, catering primarily to retail customers, are more vulnerable to exploitation compared to Sharp bookmakers. When Sharp bookmakers adjust their lines, Soft bookmakers often lag behind in updating their odds, creating opportunities for arbitrage and value betting. Such opportunities are profitable for bettors and are seldom found between two Sharp bookmakers.

Many professional sports bettors regularly use Soft bookmakers as long as their accounts remain unrestricted. However, for them, this is a stepping stone. Ultimately, seasoned professionals move on to betting exchanges to trade or, in rare cases, successfully extract value from Sharp bookmakers where restrictions are less stringent.

If you’re interested in accessing Sharp bookmakers offering industry-leading odds, I can recommend the following bet brokers:

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Toby @ Punter2Pro
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4 years ago

Hello, very interest the article about soft bookmakers and sharp bookmakers. I have a question. Many betbroker except sharp bookmakers have in his platform soft bookmaker like 18bet,1bet,babibet , why can not register with them and make profit with arbitrage in the same platform? Use soft and sharp bookmakers at the same time fast.