Handicap Betting Explained


Handicap betting (or handicap wagering) is a way of presenting the odds differently than normal “fixed odds” betting and is something you should be involved in only if you have a solid understanding of how it works and what it means. Handicap betting is very common in points-based sports betting like football, basketball and tennis. Here we will show you how to understand it better before you attempt to make it profitable.

How Are Handicap Bets Presented or Displayed?

In a fixed odds NFL match you may see the odds stack up something a little like this:

ATL Falcons 33/20
PHI Eagles 20/37

This makes the action, especially on the Eagles who are favorites here, a little light for some. So, as they (the Eagles) are clearly expected to win, they can be handicapped depending on how many points the bookmakers think they will win by. In this case, they are favorites to win by 4 points, so they will take a 4-point hit and be presented in the handicap like this:

ATL Falcons +4 10/11
PHI Eagles -4 10/11

Here both teams are exactly the same odds and it means if you bet the Falcons at 10/11 you have a 4-point head start, so as long as they win or at least don’t lose by 4 or more you have won your bet. If you are backing the Eagles, you have a 4-point deficit and so they will need to win by more than this margin for you to be successful.

No Draw Handicap Match Betting

Handicap betting is popular within soccer; however with draws always a distinct possibility we can use handicaps to take that out of the equation, ensuring there is always a winner where we are concerned.

For instance in an English Premier League game between Newcastle United and Manchester United we may see the sportsbook give Newcastle a handicap of +1.5. If you backed that team and they lost 2-1, your bet would be successful still as you have a 1½ goal head start.

Handicap League Betting

In Handicap League Betting you can bet on teams based on their performance across a whole season with the favorites given scratch and every other team given a handicap rating. If you backed a team with a handicap of +20 and they finished only 19 points behind, your bet would come in.

Asian Handicap Betting

In similar fashion to ‘no draw’ handicap betting, a system popularized in Asia is the aptly named Asian Handicap though in this case your bet can have one handicap that is a whole number and another with a half number.

For instance:

Rangers (-2, -2.5)
Celtic (+1, +2.5)

With these handicap odds, Rangers would need to win the match by three goals for the bet to be successful. If however they win by 2 then the whole number handicap becomes a draw. You would receive back half of your stake on Rangers to win, though any players betting Cetlic to win would get back half their stake with the other half paid back as winnings at the odds stated by the sportsbook.

European Handicap Betting

European Handicap betting has three possible outcomes each time. You can bet the weaker team with a handicap advantage, the favorites with a disadvantage or bet the draw. For example:

England (-1) 4/6
Draw (-1) 5/2
France (+1) 7/2

Using this fictional soccer game we can see there are three possible outcomes. Should England win by 2 or more goals then the ‘England -1’ bet wins. If France wins the game or it finishes as a draw then ‘France +1’ wins. If England wins by exactly one goal then ‘Draw -1’ is the winning selection.

Single Handicap

The Single Handicap bet is one priced up by sportsbooks when there is an assumed quality difference between two opposing teams or players.

A participant will be given a handicap based on their ability, for example 0.5 points, -1.0 points etc. If you bet the favorite with a handicap of -1.0 then they must win their game by more than that figure to cover the handicap and for you to win.

If they win by exactly the handicap amount then the result is a tie and the bet can be refunded, nobody wins.

Split Handicap

The Split Handicap is one you can use when the perceived difference between the opposition is very small and it enables you to split your stakes across two different handicaps.

Team A, for example, may be priced up at 0 and -0.5. If you bet Team A and they lose then you have lost both bets. If the game is tied then half of your stake, the bet effectively placed on ‘0’, is refunded. If Team B wins then both handicaps are covered and both bets are successful.


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