betting tips

Handicap Betting Explained

What is Handicap Betting and How Does it Work

Online betting is bigger and better than ever before and there are more markets than you can shake a stick at!

Getting your head around the sheer variety of markets and possible bets can be a very tricky process. Handicap betting can often raise more questions than answers but it is extremely popular and a great alternative way of making money on a number of sports.

Handicap betting is available on Football, NHL, Rugby (both codes) and Tennis amongst others.

Most online bookmakers will offer these markets on the majority of contests with Asian Handicap Betting (more on this later) also increasing in popularity.

How does Handicap Betting work?

Handicap Betting is basically giving one team a head start. -1 or +1 are the most common handicaps in football betting.

Sport often throws up a variety mis-matches as sides of varying quality compete for the same prize. Whether it’s a plucky underdog visiting a powerhouse in a 3rd round cup match or a side fighting off relegation hosting a team aiming for European glory. Handicap betting is a terrific way of evening out the contest. Betting on these markets can make a one sided contest a much more interesting and palatable prospect.

For example. Manchester United are hosting Hull City in the Premier League.


Manchester United can be backed -1 on the handicap. Take -1 from the final score in the game and Manchester United MUST still be winning.

2-0 (-1) = 1-0 WIN

3-1(-1) = 2-1 WIN

2-1(-1) = 1-1 LOSE

They must win by two clear goals in order for this bet to land.


Hull can be backed +2 on the handicap. This is usually a good idea if you’re expecting the Tigers to be competitive and not beaten easily.

2-1 (+2) = 2-3 WIN

1-1(+2) = 1-3 WIN

2-0(+2) = 2-2 LOSE

Hull must not lose by more than a 1 goal margin in order for this bet to land.

This bet is often deployed when the underdog has seemingly been underestimated by the traders.

The smaller the gulf between the sides the skinnier the odds will become. For example Chelsea v Manchester City could see cramped odds of around 1/3 for +1 either side.

The same applies in rugby but with much larger scores. If Scotland face France in the Six Nations, the handicap may be set at – / + 12.

Scotland (+12 Handicap) v France (-12 Handicap)

France would have to win by 13 or more points in order to cover the handicap and for bets to be paid out. Alternatively, Scotland must keep things tight and not lose by 13 or more points in order to reward handicap backers.

A 29-15 score-line in favour of France would land the -12 handicap on Les Bleus but would not be good enough for the +12 handicap on Scotland.

In tennis, each player will be given a handicap. This is based on the number of games they are expected to win. If a match looks particularly one-sided, the handicap will be larger.

If current world number 1 Angelique Kerber is facing Vania King (currently ranked 100) she is likely to start overwhelming favourite for the contest.

The game handicap is likely to be set at -/+ 5.5 or 6/5.

The German player could be backed at -6.5 and would need to win convincingly – 6-2, 6-3 would be suffice.

She’s won 12 games, King just 5. 12 -5 = 7. The bet wins.

Vania King could be backed +6.5 on the game handicap. If she battles, fights for every point and makes it difficult for Kerber, this has a chance of landing. She could be defeated 6-4, 6-4 BUT it would land this bet easily. Add +6.5 onto her 8 games and it makes 14.5 which is more than Kerber’s 12.

Tighter games between two players with similar abilities may be set at around -/+ 1.5 or 2.5 on the handicap.

What are the benefits of Handicap Betting?

Handicap betting does make one-sided matches more interesting. One sided encounters can be dull and prices of 2/7 or 1/6 about a home side are not appealing to punters. Playing the handicap markets gives neutrals something to cheer on and will hopefully result in a winning outcome.

Sometimes improvement is noticeable but a team is still difficult to trust, particularly on their travels. Handicap betting allows a side to only draw but your bet will be paid out.

In tennis, short prices are commonplace and betting on the handicap is a popular method of extracting some more value!

Other Types of Handicap Betting

Ante-Post Handicap Betting

This is increasingly popular and has risen to prominence in recent years. Rugby and NHL do operate this system but we will use football for our examples. Each club is given a handicap market prior to the commencement of the season which is based on their likelihood to win the league.

Better sides are given small handicap marks for example Arsenal might be given +5 whereas West Brom could be offered at +34 for Premier League glory. In order to collect your winnings, you need your chosen side to out-perform their mark.


The Premier League is won by Chelsea who collected 93 points.

Southampton’s handicap is set at +34. They collect 60 points throughout the course of the season. 60 +34 = 94 which is better than the Blues’ total. This bet wins!

Stoke’s handicap is set at +25. They collect just 55 points during the regular campaign. 50 + 25 = 75. This falls short of Chelsea’s total and the pre-season bet loses.

This is a really popular way of keeping an interest throughout the season. If you believe a side will out-perform their odds, it pays to check out their handicap mark. Huddersfield, Brighton, Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Exeter will have all out-performed their handicap marks during the course of the English football league season.

Asian Handicap Betting

You’ve probably seen Asian Handicap betting available on various online sportsbooks and there are companies (particularly those who based in Asia itself) who trade only on this market.

It is a variant of the handicap market which offers a range of different options.

It offers whole and half numbers and the opportunity to split stakes if desired.

Generally, the possible Asian handicap bets available will be:

0, -/+ 0.25, -/+0.50, -/+0.75, -/+1, -/+1.25, -/+1.50, -/+1.75

First of all – 0 works the same as Draw No Bet. Backing West Ham at 0 Asian Handicap for example would pay out if they won whilst a draw would see your stake returned.


France are playing Italy in a major tournament. You back France at 0, -0.5. Your stake will be split between these bets. You place a £50 wager –

£25 on 0

£25 on -0.5.

If France win the match, you will win both bets. Taking half a goal (-0.5) from France’s score still results in them winning.

If the match ends in a 1-1 draw you will receive your £25 back from the 0 bet. You lose the other half of your stake on the -0.5 bet. 1 (-0.5) would mean France lose.

However, if you put £50 on Italy 0, +0.25

You would receive your £25 back for the 0 half of the bet. You would win on the +0.25 part of your bet. 1 (+0.25) would result in an Italy victory.

Complicated isn’t it?

Don’t worry, it’s always difficult to get your head round at first. But like anything, practice makes perfect. Experiment with small stakes at first and start exploring the Asian handicap market for yourself. It’s the best way to understand it.

Quarter odds are a go-between for -0.5 and -1 or +1 and +1.5 for example. Your stake is always split down the middle. +1.75 is a good way of betting on an underdog to make it a close game.

+0.5 is a great way of limiting the options and eliminating the draw. If you back the away side at 0.5 and they win or draw, you’ll collect your winnings.

A number of online sportsbooks offer Asian Handicap markets including 12Bet and 888Sport. These are a great option for finding a way into a tricky looking contest.

Betting on the Asian handicap offers up more possibilities of placing winning bets on any given football match. It takes time and dedication to master but can lead to profitable betting long-term.

It’s widely available and a last minute equaliser can completely change the complexion of a bet which just two minutes earlier was a seemingly lost cause.

Handicap Betting is just another way of keeping an interest in any sporting event and allows punters to find alternative ways of predicting the outcome of a match or contest. It is widely available on a number of different sports and increasing in popularity. Before placing a wager on the 1X2 market make sure you take a look at the handicap possibilities.