With bookmakers constantly coming up with new ways of making betting odds even more interesting, handicap betting is becoming more and more popular. This guide will help you understand how this type of betting works, what its strengths are, and how you can benefit from mastering it.
What is handicap betting, and how does it work?
This type of betting is also called spread betting or line betting, and it’s a strategy that provides one team with a goal advantage or disadvantage to even the betting odds. It helps overcome a handicap that the weaker team has at the beginning of the match. This form of betting is used prevalently in the UK and European football betting, and you can find it on all major UK betting platforms, including the new ones. Now let’s go through some examples to explain handicap betting a bit better.
Let us assume you’re placing a bet on a match between Manchester United and Aston Villa. As United is a clear favourite in this duel, the odds aren’t that interesting, and only a handful of people would be keen to bet on it. However, if the bookmaker gives an advantage to the weaker team and “handicaps” the stronger one, the outcome is not as predictable anymore.
So, if the bookmaker declared a handicap of 2 it would look like this:
Manchester United (-2) vs. Aston Villa (2)
Now, how does handicap betting work in football, and what does this mean? It means that:
- Aston Villa would start the match with a two-goal advantage.
- If you bet on United, they need to score at least three goals for you to win.
- If, on the other hand, you bet on Villa, you would win if they lose by a margin of only one goal.
- If you are backing Villa and they lose by two goals, your bet would be void, and your stake returned.
Note that the -2 doesn’t mean that Manchester United would need to score two goals just to get to 0, but rather that it starts two goals behind Villa.
As this type of betting comes in different shapes and forms, let’s see its other options and how the rules differ.
No draw handicap betting
A no draw handicap bet is a case in which the handicap is a decimal number. Its name comes from the fact it eliminates a possibility of a draw in a game, as half-goals do not exist in football. A team is given a half handicap advantage, so while the game’s result may be a tie, the bet’s results never can be. Here’s how it applies to our previous example. The bookmaker declares a handicap of 1.5, like so:
Manchester United ( -1.5) vs Aston Villa (1.5)
Now let’s see what makes the difference between the standard handicap sports betting and the no draw one.
- Aston Villa starts the match with an advantage.
- As the advantage is more than one goal but less than two, there is no possibility for a draw in betting terms.
- If you bet on United, they need to score two goals for you to win the wager.
- If you’re backing Villa, they must either win the match, draw, or lose 1-0 (for a total of 1.5 to 1).
Handicaps in other sports
We wanted to give you a clear example of how handicap bets work, and we used football as it is one of the most popular sports worldwide. However, football isn’t the only sport where you can place a handicap bet; there’s also rugby handicap betting, tennis, the NFL, and even horse race betting.
Handicaps in betting on rugby matches mean that one of the teams starts the game with a points advantage. Let’s say you are a supporter of New Zealand, and they are about to face Singapore. The bookie gives New Zealand a handicap of -12.5 points, meaning New Zealand has to win the game by more than 13 points to pass the handicap.
Many bookies allow handicap bets on players’ rounds, and the top golf players such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith can receive a handicap of, for instance, +5 shots. The rest of the players are handicapped accordingly, depending on their relative skill and ranking.
Tennis handicap betting can apply to either sets or games. If it applies to games, all the games from the match will be counted in to form the outcome. This is interesting as the player with a higher number of games won does not necessarily need to be the winner of the match.
Let’s take a match between Novak Djokovic and John Isner as an example. Since Djokovic is a clear front runner and the odds on his win are pretty low, some bookies will include a handicap. Once the handicap betting rules apply the things start to spice up a bit, and the odds get higher.
If a bookie provides a handicap of +4 games to Isner, this means that he has a head start of four games. Thus, if the match ends with 6-7, 6-4 and 6-4 in favour of Djokovic, it means he won 18 games, and Isner won 15. But, once we apply the handicap of 4 on Isner, things begin to change drastically as he has 19 games compared to the 18 won by Djokovic. Even though Djokovic is the winner of the match, Isner has won your bet once the handicap is resolved.
Asian handicap betting
This is one of the widespread terms when it comes to handicap-style betting. It is a way of betting that originates in Asia and is primarily used in football. All Asian handicap bets exclude the chance of a draw, meaning there are only two possible outcomes – one team will win, and the other team will lose.