Handicap Betting

Handicapping betting is quickly becoming one of the biggest betting markets for a host of bookmakers. Its versatility means that it works with a number of sports with everything from football to field hockey. It’s a betting type that originated from the US where it’s more commonly known as the ‘spread’ or ‘points spread’. Sports such as American Football and Basketball use handicapping successfully to even out odds on what otherwise would be very one-sided.

What is handicap betting and how does it work?

Before any game a bookmaker will set a line for the outcome of that game. There will likely be a favourite for the game and an underdog. The favourite will be at a lower price whilst the underdog will be at a longer price. By adding a handicap it means the bookmakers can even the odds up a little. A handicap is basically giving the other team a head start in the match, whether that is a certain number of points or goals, depending on the sport.

The handicap will depend on a number of factors; sports such as American Football will set a point’s spread meaning one team will start with a number of point’s head start. Now a team that is a massive favourite over one team may have a -10 point handicap with their opponents having a +10 point head start. Tighter games to start with will have smaller points margins. Sports such as football (soccer) will have a certain number of goals head start for one team. The difference between the two sports is that in American Football the bookmakers are trying to get both sets of odds as equal as possible before the start of a match. In soccer bookmakers are simply setting markets, so they may have three or four different markets with a team at +1, +2, +3 etc and then the odds adjusted accordingly.

Types of handicap betting

There are a couple of types of handicap betting of which you should be aware of. The most common is a standard handicap, similar to what we have talked about above. If we look at soccer still, one team will get a certain goal head start over their opponents and the odds reflect this. A standard handicap bet might look like this:

  • Liverpool (-2.0) 2.83 v Swansea (+2.0) 1.90, Draw (-1.0) 2.5

This means that after the actual result of the game Liverpool will be either docked two goals or Swansea will get added two goals, depending on which handicapped team you have backed. If the final score was 3-2 to Liverpool and you backed Swansea at +2.0 on the handicap, then you would win as the adjusted handicap score would become 3-4 (Liverpool’s 3 goals remain and Swansea get 2 goals added).

The next most popular handicap betting type is that of the Asian Handicap. The Asian handicap works with fractions in its handicap betting markets, but don’t let this confuse you; all the fractions are there for is to eliminate the event of a draw. So with fractions included there are no possibilities, after the handicap has been applied, that the game can finish as a tied result.  An Asian handicap from the same game might look like this:

  • Liverpool (-1.5) 1.90 v Swansea (+1.5 (2.10)

If we take the same score line as before, 3-2 to Liverpool and apply the Asian handicap then the results would look like this: If you backed Liverpool then you would need to take 1.5 off there score essentially making the score line 1.5-2, meaning you would lose the bet. If you backed Swansea at +1.5 then the score would be 3-3.5 meaning you would win the bet.