Handicap Betting Explained

handicapWith most games this is a bet that you might not consider using. Just getting the result of the game right might be good enough for you, going down the handicap route makes life even more difficult but if you do then there are some good rewards available. Sometimes though it’s the only bet you can place as far as betting on the heavily odds on favourite to win a game.

What is a Handicap Bet?

A straightforward win-lose-draw bet is decided on the actual score in the game. With handicap betting it’s a little bit different. You can choose a team to win on a -1 handicap and get better odds than for them to just win the match under normal circumstances.

Handicap betting will be most popular when the favourite is priced up at prohibitive odds. This can happen in football tournaments such as the Champions League or World Cup when a top team takes on a much lower ranked opponent. Thanks to the handicap betting the one-sided contest suddenly becomes a lot more exciting.

The favourites may be 1-20 to win the game or even shorter than that. Placing a bet on them to win isn’t going to win you a fortune so it’s handicap time. There’s a range of options available so you might decide for the favourites to win on a -3 handicap. That means the outsiders are given a three goal start in the game. For your selection to win they have to finish the game four goals clear of their opponents. With a -3 handicap the odds will be a lot better.

Of course you don’t have to go for a handicap win. You could put the favourites on a -3 handicap and bet on the match to end in a draw. This would mean for your bet to be a winner the favourites would have to win by exactly three goals, thus creating a 3-3 draw on the handicap.

If you really fancy your chances then put the favourites on a -3 handicap and go for the outsiders to win. This comes up if the favourites don’t win by three clear goals. Of course if the outsiders were to get a shock win and you’ve only backed them on a handicap you’ll spend the rest of the week wishing you’d had the courage to back them to win at level scores.

That’s how handicap betting works when there’s an overwhelming favourite and it can make unbackable teams backable but at a risk. When the odds are much closer between the two sides then handicap betting become even more risky.

Say Liverpool are at home to Everton, the home side might be 10/11 and Everton 7/4, it all depends on form of course. All of a sudden deciding to go down the handicap betting route will really increase the odds. Liverpool to win on a -1 handicap (therefore having to win by two clear goals to give you a winning bet) will increase their odds.

The handicap betting will maintain your interest in the game throughout the match. You’ll be hoping for another goal, however late, to get you that handicap win or praying the other side doesn’t score to ruin your winning bet.

Be careful with this kind of bet though. It’s often a winner and that expected big margin win by the favourites does come along. It’s not always the case of course, teams can have off  nights, outsiders can play out of their skins and favourites might take players off when the game is won and not get that handicap win for you.

Common Rules

The main rule you need to be aware of with this bet is it’s only the standard 90 minutes of the game that count. If you’ve gone for Manchester City to beat Dynamo Kiev on a -1 handicap and the game is 1-1 after 90 minutes because that means City will have failed to win on the handicap. It doesn’t matter at all that City might go on and win 4-1 after extra time.

In Play Handicap Betting

The arrival of In Play Betting means lots more chances to bet on handicaps. As the game progresses the odds for handicaps will be continually fluctuating. If you’ve got for the favourites to win on a -1 handicap, the longer the game remains level, the odds on them winning on that handicap will lengthen. See a shock goal go in and the odds really will lengthen as the favourites will now need to score three times for that bet to come in. Of course the odds on the outsiders will keep on shortening as the chances of the favourites winning on a handicap look less and less likely.

Handicap Betting in Other Sports

It’s obviously not just football where handicap betting is popular. It’s almost a way of life in some sports such as American Football, Rugby Union and Rugby League.

Particularly in Rugby Union and League there will be plenty of games where you just can’t bet on a team to win outright. The odds will be really short so again you have to go down the handicap route to try and find some decent odds with which to play. This is extremely common in international fixtures, say a game between New Zealand and Canada. You can go for the All-Blacks to win on a -40 handicap and just watch the points mount up and hope you’ll be on a winner.

Asian Handicap Betting

This has become a popular bet in recent years but how does it differ from the handicap betting we have already taken a look at. The difference is that there’s no draw available here.

How is that possible? Well rather than a -3 handicap it might be a -2.5 handicap. That means the favourites would have to win by three clear goals to get the win. If they win by two then the  bet goes down, the addition of 0.5 into the bet means a draw simply can’t happen so the bet will simply be on whether the favourites or the outsiders win the game on the handicap.

There’s also what is known as split or double Asian Handicap betting where the wager you make is split into two. The home side may have handicaps of 1.0 and 1.5 so If they win by two goals then you’re on a winner, if they win by a single goal you lose half your bet stake as one of the handicaps (1.0) is a winner while the other (1.5) is a loser.

Handicap Coupons

As with other bets there are plenty of coupons available for you to bet on. This lists all the games being played but with handicap betting odds. Here you can bet on a number of matches with handicaps set so you can bet on two, three, four or more selections and build up some decent odds.

Handicap Leagues

These are available at the start of the league season and can produce some good wins. The league favourites will start on what is called scratch, the other teams will be given a handicap mark. For example, the second favourites may be given a two point start on the favourites. The less likely the bookmakers think a team are likely to win the  league, the higher their handicap will be.

At the end of the season, all the teams’ handicap scores are added to the actual number of points they managed to get. The team with the most points are then declared the winner. You can either have a win bet of each-way bet here.

Anyone betting on Leicester on a handicap in the 2015/16 Premier League season really would have been laughing all the way to the bank. They started the season with a large handicap figure and no one ever imagined they’d rack up the number of points they did.


It’s always good to be  able to get some decent odds on the team you want to win. If your selection is heavily odds on then that will put you off betting on them. The handicap system creates a more exciting game and supplies the punter with much more attractive odds. It also keeps your interest in a game going throughout the match.