What Is A Handicap Bet?

scales with up and down arrowsThere are numerous different types of bets that you can place when you’re looking to place a wager on an event. If you’re planning on betting on the favourite for a given match or other such event then you’ll doubtless find that the odds are not particularly favourable; the bookmakers also know they’re the favourites and don’t want to give money away.

One way that you can shift the odds back in your favour is by placing a handicap bet. This is a wager in which you choose to assign a handicap to one team, such as saying that they start with two goals against them in a football match. They’d need to win by three clear goals for your bet to be a winner, hence the bookmaker will give you better odds for the bet.

How Handicap Betting Works

handicap bet exampleWhen considering what bets to place, you should first consider how confident you are in the outcome of your wager. Let’s say that you’re watching Liverpool play Everton in the Premier League and believe that the Red half of Merseyside have the beating of their Blue brethren. You’re confident that the Reds will win comfortably, but you aren’t sure who will score the goals or what the score will be.

When you login to your bookmaker account you discover a problem: the bookie is also confident that the Reds will win comfortably, so the odds on them doing so are small. There’s no value in the bet and because you’re not sure who will score the goals for Liverpool or what the scoreline will be, the various specialist bets like Scorecast aren’t ones you feel comfortable placing. That’s where Handicap betting comes in.

All you need to decide is the number of goals that you think Liverpool will beat Everton by. Let’s say that you have a feeling that the Reds will beat the Blues by three clear goals. What you’d do then is head to the Handicap betting section of the bookmaker’s site and look for something that reads like ‘Liverpool -2’. This means that you’re betting on Liverpool winning the result even if they have a two goal deficit to their scoreline.

To put it another way, you’re basically saying that when the match kicks off the scoreline is Liverpool -2 – Everton 0. In order for your bet to be a winner you’d need Liverpool to score three goals more than their city rivals. The score could end 6-3 and as long as it’s Liverpool with the 6 your bet will be a winner. That’s because the final score in terms of your bet would be Liverpool 4 – Everton 3, as you’ll have taken 2 goals off Liverpool’s scoreline.

Giving A Team A Head Start

head start

You can, of course, opt to give Everton a head start rather than Liverpool a deficit. If you were to bet on ‘Everton +2’, or however your bookmaker of choice phrases it, you’re saying that you think the Blues will get a result as long as they’re given a two goal advantage. In order for your bet to be a winner you will need to see Everton win, the match end in a draw or Liverpool only win by one goal; a 1-0 Liverpool win would be a 2-1 Everton victory in the world of your bet.

This is a way of betting on the underdog in a match and being able to win your bet even when the team in question loses. It’s also a way of betting on your own team in matches that you know they’ll probably lose, if you’re the sort of person that doesn’t actually like to bet against the team that you support. Bookmakers will offer a host of different markets in terms of the number of goals ‘ahead’ the team can be, not just 2 goals.

The No Draw Handicap

asian handicap exampleDifferent bookmakers will present their handicap betting in various ways, but one thing that you can do is opt for the market that essentially removes the possibility of there being a draw in the match that you’re betting on. This will usually be denoted by a .5 in the betting market. Using our example from earlier, you might see something that looks like this:

  • Liverpool (-2.5) 2/1
  • Everton (+2.5) 3/2

It is a similar bet to our first example on this page, in the sense that Liverpool have to win by three clear goals if you bet on them, but the difference is that it cannot be a draw after ninety minutes in the world of your wager. Similarly, Everton can only lose by two goals. If they lose by three then your bet will be a loser but it cannot be a pushed bet as the scoreline can’t be 2.5-0.

Generally handicaps binary handicaps like this where there is no possibility of a draw are refereed to as Asian Handicaps, and you can read about them in more detail on our dedicated page.

What To Remember

Confused ManThe key thing when it comes to Handicap betting is to realise that the figure next to the team in question is what will be added to or taken away from their score at the full-time whistle. If you’re betting on Liverpool -2 then the Reds will have two goals taken off their final score, whilst Everton +2 will have two goals added to their tally at the end of the match.

You’re therefore betting on the team that you select with the Handicap included. Liverpool -2 would need to win by three or more goals in order for your bet to be a winner, whilst Everton +2 would mean that the Blues can only lose by one goal. If they draw or win the match outright then your bet will naturally be a winner because it will be that score plus two goals.

You can take that principle and apply it across the various Handicap betting markets. If you look at Season Handicap betting, for example, you’ll be able to bet on a team winning the league either with a select number of points taken off their final tally, if they’re the favourites, or else with points added to the total if they’re not. Regardless, the same rules apply.