Sports Betting Articles

Handicap Betting Explained

Handicap betting is often used in sports such as football, rugby, tennis, cricket, in fact, any sport that requires a certain number of points to be scored by either team. Essentially it tries to level the playing field a little by giving one team a head start over the other. Whilst popular with quite a few sports, for the purpose of this article we will be looking at how it affects football; from there you will hopefully be able to apply it to the sport of your choice.

How does Handicap Betting Work?

Before each football match the bookmaker will set a traditional market line on an outright winner market for a home win, away win and draw. Depending on which team is the better out of the two will reflect in the odds offered. More often than not one team will be favourite to win the match and be lower odds with the underdog having higher odds.

By handicapping one team a bookmaker can even things up somewhat by giving them a certain number of goals head start over their opponent. A team which is handicapped at +1.0 will essentially start the game at 1-0 to win before the game is played out and the score then adjusted accordingly. The opposing team handicapped at -1 will start the game at 1-0 down.


A handicapped bet may look something like this:

Chelsea (-2.0) 8/13 v Wigan (+2.0) Evens

From this we can see that Chelsea have been handicapped a 2 goal deficit (-2.0) and at odds of 8/13, whilst Wigan have been given a 2 goal advantage before the game at even money.

If we backed Chelsea at the above odds then to win we need them to win by 3 clear goals or more. It’s worth noting at this point that if the game were to finish a draw after the handicap has been applied then the majority of bookmakers tend to refund your bet, although this does vary so we recommend you checking the terms and conditions prior to betting. If Chelsea only won by two goals then the game would technically end in draw (after handicap) and if they were to win by just one goal then they would lose the match and the bet (after handicap).

If we backed Wigan at even money then we would need them to be within 2 goals of Chelsea. Winning results would include any Wigan victory, a draw, a 1-0 loss and 2-0 loss would equate to a push (or refund).

Benefits of Handicap Betting

One of the major benefits of handicap betting is that markets that are heavily weighted in favour of one team tend even themselves out somewhat. This obviously depends on the teams, handicapping odds and handicapping options.

On the flip side if we think a strong favourite is likely to go well against a lesser team and beat them convincingly, then we can take odds that are much more appealing and essentially better value.

Negatives of Handicap Betting 

The negatives are that there is likely going to be a lot of results that can lose you your bet. Even if the team that you are backing wins then you still might not get paid out. Markets for games that might be tight are ones to generally stay clear with handicap betting. Try to look for games where the favourite is likely to win comprehensively. Goals are the key in football handicap betting.

Asian Handicap Betting

The Asian handicap is one of the most common handicapped markets, especially for football. It works similarly to the examples we have listed above but instead it allows for only two results (win or loss) rather than three (win, lose or draw).

It’s different because it includes quarter, half and three quarter handicaps as well. With these in play technically no game that’s been handicapped can end in a draw. So if a game is handicapped at one team at +0.5 and the other at -0.5 goals there will always be either a win or lose result as one team is guaranteed to have more than the other (even if it is only 0.5).

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