Betting Guides

What is Handicap Betting?

Sport can often throw up some seriously mismatched events, where one player or team is the overwhelming favourite. In such instances there is often little value in backing something to win at prohibitive odds.

Handicap betting is generally used in sports decided by goals, points or runs, with football, both codes of rugby, tennis, cricket, and the popular North American sports all being good examples of where you can bet this way.

Let’s look at football. If Manchester City were to face Accrington Stanley in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium, you would be lucky to make a £1 profit if you stick £20 on Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled team to secure victory.

This is where Handicap betting comes in.

To make the game more competitive from a betting perspective, in a simple two-way handicap market the bookies might offer odds of around 10/11 (1.91) on Accrington Stanley with a three-goal advantage (+3), while the Citizens would be available at around the same odds with the opposite handicap (-3).

Were City to win 4-0, then they would cover the handicap and had you backed them in that market, your bet would win. However, were they to win 4-2, the handicap would favour Stanley and you would have had to back them to win the bet.

Had the game finished 3-0, 4-1 or some other three-goal winning margin for City, then the bet would just return your stake on a 2-way Asian Handicap market. This is known as a ‘push’. It’s important to note that in a standard three-way handicap market (non-Asian) which includes the draw option then this bet would still be a loser in this scenario.

Tennis Handicap Betting

In tennis, a best of 3-sets match between Jannik Sinner and Cameron Norrie is likely to see Sinner as a reasonably strong favourite, so on the handicap market he might be -3.5, which would mean Norrie would start with a +3.5 games start.

If the match were to finish 6-4 6-4 to Sinner, a handicap bet on Sinner would be the winning punt, based on a total game score of 12-8 in his favour, which with the added + 3.5 handicap for Norrie would equate to 12-11.5.

Asian Handicap Betting

Another variant of handicap betting is Asian Handicap, which is an increasingly popular market in football betting in which the chance of a draw is largely eliminated.

Again, the minus symbol (-) is given to the favourite team, which has a handicap disadvantage, with a plus symbol (+) assigned to the underdog team, which has a handicap advantage.

Asian Handicap markets that involve quarter points such as -0.25 or +1.75 are actually two handicap bets combined into one. For example, +1.75 goals combines an Asian Handicap bet on +1.50 and +2.00 with your stake being divided between the two.

Let’s take a mythical game between Arsenal and Brentford using a 0.75 handicap as an example. That would entail the favourite (Arsenal in this case) being –0.75, with Brentford being +0.75. Let’s say you have backed Brentford on the Asian Handicap.

So, if Brentford wins or draws the game, your bet will win.

If Arsenal wins by any one-goal margin, you will lose half your stake, with the other half being refunded to your account.

If Arsenal wins the game by a two-goal margin or more goals, your bet loses.

Season Handicap Betting

Another option in football betting is a season-long handicap bet, in which the pre-season favourite to win a league title starts from scratch, with every other club being given a varying number of points based on their odds in the outright betting market.

So, for instance, in the English Premier League, Manchester City might start from scratch, with Liverpool perhaps +4, Arsenal +9, Manchester United +14, etc. The outsiders, let’s say Luton Town, might be available at somewhere around the +54 mark. The odds on every competitor in this market would be the same, so probably around 14/1.

This should make for a far more competitive and interesting betting market, providing punters with the opportunity to place a winning bet on a team that might exceed expectations without coming close to winning the league title, or for one of the favourites to win the league by a margin that beats the spread.

If Manchester City were to win the Premier League, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they would win in the handicap market. For example, were they to finish with 89 points, but Liverpool had 83 points, Arsenal 81 points, Manchester United 74 points and Luton 38 points, the points tally for those 4 clubs based on their handicaps would be as follows:

  • Manchester City – 89 points
  • Liverpool – 87 points
  • Arsenal – 90 points
  • Manchester United – 88 points
  • Luton Town – 92 points

So, provided none of the other clubs secured more than 92 points with their handicap total, Luton would be the top team in this market.