How does handicap betting work? Explanation & Example

How does handicap betting work?

shutterstock 1228238917 1Handicap betting is a popular strategy for betting on sports among countless punters. A handicap bet is a bet where a bookmaker adjusts the odds of a match by giving a handicap to a particular team.

What is handicap betting and how does it work?

When you make a regular bet, you can bet on three different outcomes. Your team wins, loses or draws. This is also true when you use handicap betting.

The difference is in the starting situation, more specifically at the start of the match. A handicap bet adds a twist to a regular bet. In a handicap bet, one of the teams starts the match behind.

A handicap can therefore cause a favourite (e.g. Barcelona) to start with a virtual goal behind compared to the underdog (e.g. Espanyol).

On your bet, you can usually spot the underdog by a plus sign. The favourite, starting from behind, is indicated by a minus sign.

Common types of handicap bets

  • Goals handicap – In a goals handicap, you have to correctly predict by what goal difference a team minimum will win (or lose). For example, you are betting that Manchester City will win by 2 or more goals difference against their opponent. In that case, you put a -1.5 bet on Man City.
  • Asian handicap – The Asian handicap is similar to the goals handicap, but slightly different. With the Asian handicap, you get your money back (partially) in case of a draw. As a result, you exclude this loss option, which means the odds of an Asian handicap are lower at bookmakers. This is because you have less chance of losing your bet.
  • European handicap – The European handicap is also called the 3 way handicap. You give a lead to a team, and depending on the size of this lead, you get a higher odds. If you give the underdog a lead and put the favourite at, say, -1, and the teams draw, you get your money back.

Handicap bets: an example

Suppose Manchester City are playing against AZ in the Europa League. AZ have some injuries in defence and have been conceding several goals per game in the Eredivisie in recent weeks.

On the bookmaker’s website, you see that the odds for Man City winning are just 1/5, which is very low. If you think AZ will almost certainly get a lot of goals against, you can give this team a virtual lead using a handicap.

This virtual lead for AZ, puts Manchester City at a virtual disadvantage. This raises the odds that Man City will win. With the more goals you put a team at a virtual disadvantage, the higher the odds will be.

Say you put Man City 1 goal behind through a handicap and you gamble that Man City wins, your odds could rise from 1/5 to 4/7 in that scenario.

Note: you only win your bet in this case if Man City win by 2 goals difference. If they draw or win by 1 goal difference, you lose your bet. To avoid this, you can use a 3 way handicap bet instead of a regular handicap.