If you’re a newbie in the betting world, chances are you are having trouble making heads or tails out of all the betting types in the sportsbook offer of the popular betting sites. More experienced punters can easily interpret the odds and place their bets with ease. That’s what our mission here is: to convert you to a true master in the art of handicap betting and help you boost those winnings, whether you play online or prefer land-based bookies. Stay with us and learn more about the pros and cons of this type of betting. You can even pick up some tips and tricks along the way that might just turn your next betting slip into a winning lottery ticket.

Starting With the Basics

Also known as the spread, line betting, points betting, or Asian handicap, this popular betting type represents an advantage in goals, points, or other values related to the event you’re placing your bets on that the bookmaker gives to one of the participants. Bookies usually offer handicap betting in matches with clear favourites in order to even the odds and make the game less predictable.

The handicap in a match is realised mainly by giving the underdog a particular advantage, such as a 3-0 fictional lead that the favourite has to overcome. At the same time, the favourite in that duel is given a disadvantage at the start (handicap). The limit or size of the handicap for a certain match is determined by the bookmaker and the amount of the odds for a certain handicap. The outcome of such a sports event is formed by adding the number of goals given by the handicap to the game’s actual score. Thus, for example, a team with a two-goal handicap advantage would be considered a winner as long as they did not lose by three or more goals.

OK, But What is a Handicap in Betting?

Yes, we do need to be more specific. Giving teams a head start to spice things up is a standard option for bookies who are afraid a particular match would be too predictable and thus boring for punters. Here’s a good example: in a race with the world record holder for the 100m sprint, Usain Bolt, most people won’t stand a chance in hell. But if the bookie decides to make things more interesting, they might give Usain’s opponent a 20m head start, making the outcome more difficult to predict.

Forget athletics, though. Let’s get football handicap betting explained with an example of a match between Manchester United and West Ham United. First of all, it’s important to know that in points-based sports, bookies simply add points onto the underdog’s side to create more balanced chances for both sides. With that in mind, if West Ham is the favourite in the match (sorry, MU fans!), the bookie can handicap them by giving the Reds a 2-0 advantage. If West Ham wins, but only by 1-0, you won’t get anything from your bet on them because of the handicap since the match result is considered a 2-1 win by United. That said, if you did bet on Manchester, even a loss could net you a profit.

How are Handicap Bets Presented?

If you’ve been wondering what those + and – marks next to the odds mean, here’s a brief explanation. Handicap odds for the match are displayed in brackets after the name of the team. Let’s take a look at our example:

West Ham United (-2) evens

Handicap Tie (-1) 3/1

Manchester United (+2) 2/1

In our match, West Ham won 1-0. If you were to bet on them, the winning bet would mean a three-goal win, though. If you are backing Manchester United, instead, you will win the market if they lose by a margin of only one goal. Finally, if you bet on a handicap tie, you would win again because West Ham won by the exact margin defined in the handicap. Remember that in football handicap betting, the winning margin is important when betting on a handicap tie, not the number of scored goals.

No Draw Handicap

Another exciting option is a no-draw handicap, that is, an outcome without a draw. By providing a guaranteed winner in terms of the bet, the bookmaker makes one-sided sporting events more interesting. This is done by adding in handicaps that cannot lead to a draw in the game, such as half-points, which cannot be scored in games such as football or basketball.

In a match between Manchester and West Ham, you may get a 1.5 handicap on one team. If, say, there’s a 1.5 handicap on Manchester, they could lose by 1-0 and still win you the bet. Alternatively, West Ham would need to win 2-0. The key thing to remember is that there is no handicap draw in this scenario, as it’s impossible to score half goals in football.

Handicap League Betting

If you’d like to back your favourite team across the course of a whole season, you can go for handicap league betting. Once the season starts, you’re expected to place your bets based on various odds that include different handicaps. To make the field even, the bookie will give the handicap 0 to the league favourites and assign larger handicap advantages to weaker teams. You may, for example, bet on where your chosen team will place at the end of the season, adjusted by the handicap. A handicap bet here is tougher to win because it will depend on the outcome of many matches during the season, but you also stand to win bigger rewards if you get it right.

Final Thoughts

For the purposes of this guide, we analysed handicaps in football matches; however, this type of betting is not limited to football by any means. You’ll also find it in basketball, tennis, rugby, golf, and horse racing. Whichever sports event you choose for placing your bets, keep in mind that by going for handicaps, you’ll need to carefully read the conditions and be aware that you can lose winning bets even if your chosen team wins and vice versa.

We hope that after reading our guide, you have a better understanding of handicap betting and its rules. This variation for placing bets has been the most common form of sports betting for years, both among professional punters and recreational bettors, precisely because of its numerous advantages. If you manage to understand how the handicaps work correctly, we are sure that you will make long-term gains.


What is a handicap bet?

In case one team or player is superior to others they are competing with, bookmakers will try to even the field and make the sporting event more enjoyable. They achieve that by handicapping the favourite and giving the underdogs an advantage in goals, points, etc.

What does +1.5 handicap mean?

Let’s take a look at tennis handicap betting; if you decide to back a player with a + 1.5 sign in front of their name relating to sets won, it means you’re betting on an underdog. You will win your bet if they win the match or lose it while winning at least one set in a best-of-two or two sets in a best-of-three. In football, you’re backing a team that has been given an advantage of 1.5 goals. Should your team lose to another team by one goal, you won’t lose because the bookie would add 1.5 to their score. These types of bets do not allow for draws because you cannot score half goals in football or win half sets in tennis.

How do you handicap in soccer?

Handicap betting in soccer means that punters can either bet on a team that starts the game with a disadvantage and needs to score more goals to win, or on an underdog who is given a head start and can win just by drawing the match (or even losing it).

How does a handicap bet work?

The bookmaker estimates the chances of each team or player and offers handicap odds; these give a virtual advantage to the underdogs while simultaneously making it harder for the favourites to win the match. Handicap betting evens out the playing field and makes the results, at least as far as bets are concerned, less predictable.