Handicap Betting

  • Handicap betting is an option offered by many bookmakers
  • It can make betting more interesting since it gives teams a head start
  • It may be appear confusing at first
  • Our comprehensive guide takes you step-by-step to explain how it works

What is Handicap Betting?

Handicapped betting is an alternative way to bet on certain events. For instance, if a professional 100m sprinter lined up against the average bloke off the street, you would expect the professional sprinter to win every time. This would be really boring to bet on, and you would never get interesting odds. How about if you gave the average bloke a 50m head start? That would make the race outcome harder to predict. Suddenly, it would be more interesting to bet on.

This is exactly how handicap betting works. You are effectively giving one outcome an advantage, and the other outcome a disadvantage to make something you’re betting on more even.

How Does a Single Handicap Work?

Let’s take the example of football as it is the most popular sport in the UK. The number in brackets after the team name denotes the advantage or disadvantage applied in the handicap. Let’s go through some examples:

0.5 handicap e.g. Arsenal (-0.5) v Newcastle (0.5)

  • Newcastle are effectively starting the game with half a goal advantage.
  • If you’re backing Arsenal, and they win the match, you win your bet.
  • However if you’re backing Arsenal and the match ends in a draw, you lose your bet.
  • If you’re backing Newcastle, you win the bet if they win or draw the match.

1 handicap e.g. Arsenal (-1.0) v Newcastle (1.0)

  • Newcastle are effectively starting the game with a one goal advantage.
  • If you’re backing Arsenal they must win by at two goals for you to win your bet.
  • However, if you’re  backing Arsenal and they only win by one goal, the result is effectively a draw and your stake is refunded.
  • If you’re backing Newcastle, you win the bet if they win or draw the match. If lose the match by one goal, your stake is refunded.

1.5 handicap e.g. Arsenal (-1.5) v Newcastle (1.5)

  • Newcastle are effectively starting the game with a one and a half goal advantage.
  • Because it is a bit more than a single goal, the ability for a draw to occur is eliminated.
  • If you’re backing Arsenal to win, they again must score at least two goals for you to win your bet.
  • If you’re backing Newcastle to win, they must either win the match, draw, or concede by only one goal.

2 handicap e.g. Manchester City (-2.0) v West Ham (2.0)

  • West Ham are effectively starting the game with a two goal advantage.
  • If you’re backing Manchester City to win, they must win the game by a margin of three goals or more.
  • If you’re backing Manchester City to win, and they win by a margin of two goals, your stake will be refunded.
  • If you’re backing West Ham, you will win your bet providing they lose by a goal margin of only one.
  • If you’re backing West Ham, and they lose by a margin of two goals, your stake will be refunded.

2.5 handicap e.g. Manchester City (-2.50) v West Ham (2.50)

  • West Ham are effectively starting the game with a two and a half goal advantage.
  • If you’re backing Manchester City,  they must win the game by a margin of three goals or more for you to win your bet.
  • If you’re backing West Ham, as long as they don’t lose by a margin of three goals or more, you will win your bet.

What Sports Can Handicaps Be Used For??

Although football is the most popular sport to apply handicaps, there are other sports which often have handicap markets, including:

  • Rugby – one of the teams will start with a points advantage. The points handicap will be greater due to higher point scoring nature of rugby.
  • Golf – many bookies will allow you to place handicaps to players’ rounds, for instance +3 shots.
  • Tennis – handicaps can be applied to either sets or games. If the handicap applies to games, then all the games from the match will be totalled up to form the outcome, which might not necessarily be the same as the winner of the match.

What is Asian Handicap Betting?

Asian handicap betting is the name handicap betting specifically in football. The name has risen due to the huge popularity of handicap betting in Asia. Asian Handicap betting will aim to make each team have an equal chance of winning, so that as close to evens will be offered on each team.