What is Handicap Betting?

Handicap BettingHandicap betting is a widely-spread form of betting allowing the punter to gain maximum benefit from placing bets on sporting events. Contrary to the common Home, Draw, Away betting outcomes that often come with short odds, handicap betting outcomes boast attractive odds. It means, bettors are always able to find value and obtain higher returns from their wagers. In this blog article, we’ll answer the question “what is handicap betting?” and consider main principles of placing such bets.

In any sporting event, there is typically a perceived difference in strengths of competing sides. The difference varies from one sports match to another and depends on numerous factors such as the current form of teams, motivation, head-to-head stats, injuries, etc. Bookmakers take into account all those variables and represent competitors’ chances of winning in the form of betting odds.

When it comes to pricing matches with clear favourites, betting operators always offer short betting odds for the stronger side. It results in low returns and consequently a weak incentive for punters. To oppose such state of affairs and attract players to betting websites, bookmakers offer bettors to take advantage of handicap betting markets. The purpose of handicap betting (or spread) is to level the perceived difference in strength between competing rivals, thus providing more lucrative betting odds.

Handicap Betting Explained

So, let’s figure out the answer to the question “how does handicap betting work?” Handicap betting gives a certain advantage to one betting outcome and a certain disadvantage to an opposite outcome. In other words, sportsbooks provide a favourite with an artificial goal deficit (handicap) to overcome, while the opponent obtains a virtual start. By adding and deducting a certain number of points, bookies level competitors’ chances of winning. As a result, the probability of the less likely outcome is increased and the betting odds for the stronger competitor get more attractive. The bettors’ task is simple. They need to predict which team will cover a certain handicap.

In football handicap betting, bookmakers usually apply goal handicaps. Depending on the probability of winning, they set either positive or negative handicaps. Favourites are always offered with negative handicaps (-1, -1.5, -2, -2.5, etc.), while underdogs get positive goal handicaps (+1, +1.5, +2, + 2.5, etc.). These betting options allow bettors to find a lot of value when choosing the right selections for their bet slips.

Handicap betting is especially beneficial in cases when you are sure about your favourites’ win. For example, you understand that one outfit is much stronger or more motivated than another one. Or you realize that the squad of one team is far from ideal. You see that the betting odds provided for the stronger side are too short and decide to boost them. For this, you just choose an appropriate negative betting handicap offered for the favourite and place the corresponding bet. So, if you’re looking for the answer to the question “what is handicap betting”, you want to know that this is the type of betting that widens the range of your betting options and boosts odds offered for a team or player.

European and Asian Handicap Betting Explained

To grasp the principles of handicap betting in more detail, let’s consider the major types of this form of wagering. There are two main types of handicaps in sports betting: Asian and European handicaps. Basically, the most popular type is Asian handicap betting. Asian handicaps not only equalize both sides’ winning odds but also eliminate the possibility of a draw. At first glance the scheme might seem difficult, however, it is pretty simple. Let’s consider an example from handicap football betting. You place a (-1) Asian handicap bet on Liverpool against Roma, which means that the Reds need to win by 2 or more goals for you to win your bet. If they win by a single goal, your stake will be returned since such a bet is considered a “push”. This is basically the main distinctive feature of the Asian handicap betting — in the event of a draw you get your money back.

European handicaps are similar to Asian counterparts, however, they have some peculiarities. Unlike Asian handicaps, European analogs allow for a draw. If you place a (-3) handicap bet on a team and it wins 3-0 or 4-1, it is a draw and you lose your money. (In case of Asian handicap betting, you would get your stake back).

Main Types Of Asian Handicap Betting Explained

Now, let’s consider three major types of Asian handicap betting — the most popular form of handicap betting.

Level Asian Handicaps. These handicaps are offered when two teams have approximately equal chances of winning the match. In order to win, the punter needs to predict which outfit will score more goals than another rival. This type of the wager removes the option of a draw. If the sports match ends in a draw, your stake will be returned. In other words, you neither win nor lose. These handicaps are also known as “Draw No Bet” betting outcomes.

The table below shows how match results affect your payout in case of placing a level Asian handicap betting football wager.

Teams Handicap bet Match result Bet status


Team A


(Team A — Draw No Bet)

Win Win
Draw Void (stake is returned)
Lose Lose


Team B


 (Team B — Draw No Bet)

Win Win
Draw Void (stake is returned)
Lose Lose

Single Asian Handicaps. These betting options are provided when there is a significant perceived difference in both sides’ chances to win the sporting event. For example, Tottenham Hotspur are considered to be favourites in their next Premier League match against Manchester United. Sportsbooks offer Tottenham an -1.5 goal handicap advantage while the opponents from Manchester obtain a +1.5 handicap. It basically means that the London football team needs to win by at least two goals to cover the betting handicap. So, if you place a handicap bet on Tottenham, Spurs need to win the game 2-0 or 3-1 or more so that your bet wins. If Tottenham win by a single goal, your bet will lose, due to the applied handicap. At the same time, if you decide to place a +1.5 handicap bet on the Red Devils and they lose the game 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, etc., your punt will win. As you see, football handicap betting serves not just to boost favourites’ betting odds but also to secure your stake.

Split Asian Handicaps. Split Asian Handicaps (or Double Asian Handicaps) provide a benefit when the perceived difference between teams’ abilities doesn’t seem to be significant. Basically, the split handicap consists of two separated handicaps. Let’s take as an example a football match between Bayern and Real Madrid. Let’s assume sportsbooks offer a -0.25 (-0.5 and 0) handicap for the German side and +0.25 (0 and +0.5) for visitors from Spain. If you place the -0.25 handicap bet on Bayern and they lose, you will lose both parts of your stake as not a single handicap was covered. If the match ends in a draw, one of two parts will be refunded while the other part of the stake will lose. And if Bayern outcompete their opponents from Madrid, both parts of the punt will win.

Apart from football, handicap betting can be implemented in wagering on any sports discipline. Today, a huge number of punters who place bets on ice hockey, basketball, tennis and other sports give preference to this type of betting. Rugby handicap betting is also popular since the rugby league handicap betting markets provide the most attractive odds.

Now, you know the answer to the question “what does handicap betting mean?” and understand the major principles of making bets of this type. Our blog article with handicap betting explained provides several examples of placing such bets. Study them to know how to implement this type of betting in practice. No matter where you search for the right selections for your punts, be it the handicap betting rugby or handicap betting football markets, you will always find value and make the right betting decision