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What Is Handicap Betting?

One of the many betting options that you may see in a bookmaker or on sports gambling apps is Handicap Betting.

To many punters, both new and old, this whole topic can seem confusing. But don’t let it put you off. Once you understand the terminology used, handicap betting is really quite simple, and it can lead to some interesting and profitable opportunities.

Today I’m going to explain everything you need to know about handicap betting: what it means, how it works, and how it might be used when betting on your favourite sports.

What Does Handicap Betting Mean?

A Handicap bet is a bet on the outcome of a sporting event, but with one team or player having a virtual handicap applied to their score.

This has the effect of giving the other team or player a head start.

It is usually used in events where there is a heavy favourite, and the odds to back that favourite to win would be very low and unappealing. But if you give the other team a head start of one, two or even three goals, then the odds on the favourite would increase.

How Does Handicap Betting Work?

To understand how handicap betting works, it’s useful to look at a real life example.

This is a market for a Serie A football match between Inter Milan and Genoa.

I chose this for no other reason than the fact that Inter Milan are heavy favourites to win the match. At odds of just 1/6 on the home win, you may well be turned off by the prospect of such a low return if your bet wins.

football betting match odds with no handicap

But there are other ways to bet than just the outright win.

If you were convinced that Inter would win, and by a decent margin, you could turn to the handicap market for better odds.

Example: What Is a -1 Handicap?

handicap betting football market In the handicap market, Inter Milan -1 Goals is available at 4/9. That’s nearly 3 times the price of the outright win we looked at previously.

You would be betting that Inter would still win the match, with a minus one goal handicap applied to their score.

So they would need to win the match by two goals or more in order for this bet to win.

If Inter only win by one goal, then with the handicap applied, this would make the match a draw, and your bet would lose.

Likewise, If you bet Inter Milan -2 Goals they would need to win by three goals or more, and so on.

Example: What Is a Handicap Draw?

betting on the handicap draw

In the previous example, you were betting that Inter Milan would still win with the specified handicap applied.

But in the Handicap Draw option, you would be betting that the match would be a draw with the handicap applied.

So betting on Draw -1 Goals means you’re predicting that Inter will win by exactly one goal. . A final score of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 etc would mean this bet is a winner.

Likewise, betting on Draw -2 Goals means they will win by exactly two goals, and so on.

Obviously this is harder to get right, but there are some savoury odds available which make this an option worth considering.

Example: What Is a +1 Handicap?

+1 Goals handicap betting The third option in most handicap betting markets is to bet on the outsider, with a positive handicap applied.

In this example, you have the option to bet that Genoa will win the match with one, two, three or four goals added to their score.

If you bet Genoa +1 Goals, your bet will win if Genoa at least get a draw.

But if you bet Genoa +2 Goals, you can afford for them to actually lose the match by a one goal margin. They could lose 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 etc and with the +2 goal handicap, your bet still wins.

Handicaps In Sports Betting

So that, in essence, is how handicap betting works. If you can apply the stated handicap to your selection and it still wins, then do does your bet – and at much better odds than you’d get by just backing it to win outright.

You can do the same thing in many different sports betting markets.


Handicap betting in football works exactly the same as in the examples I showed you above. It is used when betting on individual matches, not on outright tournament bets.

As well as match odds handicaps, you can also get corner betting match handicaps, cards and booking points handicaps.

You won’t find all of these markets everywhere, but some bookies such as bet365 tend to offer far more betting options than others. Check out the best football betting apps to see who has the most ways to bet.


Handicap betting in tennis is quite common in online betting sites and apps. Again this applies to individual matches, not overall tournament bets.

There are three main types of tennis handicap bets that you will come across:

  • Match Game handicap – Winner of the most games in the match, with handicaps applied.
  • Set Game handicap – Which player will win the first/second/third set, with handicaps applied.
  • Match Set handicap – Winner of the match, with a set handicap applied.

Basketball & NFL

There are three basketball handicap betting markets that most online bookies offer for NBA & European matches.

  • Match Winner Handicap – Which team will win the match, with a points handicap applied.
  • Half Handicap – As above, but betting on which team will get most points in the first or second half.
  • Quarter Handicap – As above, but betting on the winner of each quarter.

The same markets are commonly used for NFL matches as well.


In rugby handicap betting, there are two main markets, one for the entire match and another for each half.

  • Match Handicap – Which team will win the match after a points handicap is applied.
  • First / Second Half handicap – As above, but betting on which team will score the most points in each half.

Other Sports

I’m sure you get the idea, now that you know how what handicap betting is and how it works, it’s easy to apply this to other sports as well.

Any popular sport that has matches decided by who scores the most points or goals can have handicap markets available. So next time you’re browsing your favourite online bookie or betting app, keep an eye out for them and see if they offer an opportunity to get better odds.

What Is An Asian Handicap?

Asian Handicap betting is very similar to “normal” handicaps, in that it is a bet in which one team is given a virtual head start for the purposes of the bet.

The main difference between the two is in the number of goals/points used as the handicap.

In Asia, similar to the USA, the concept of a Draw or Tie isn’t particularly popular. People like to see a winner one way or the other. Therefore, Asian Handicap betting uses handicaps of partial points or goals to ensure that the bet can’t result in a draw.

This results in a bet with only two possible outcomes, similar to the way in which over/under 2.5 goals is used in football.

How Asian Handicaps Work

To demonstrate how Asian handicap betting works, let’s return to the football match from our previous example.

How Asian Handicap Betting works in football

This screenshot shows the entire Asian Handicap market for the same fixture, and you can see that the option of the Draw has been removed.

In each line, you are betting whether or not the favourites, Inter Milan, can cover a particular handicap. Here’s how each line works.

  • Inter -2.0 or Genoa +2.0 – This option applies a +/- 2 goal handicap to either team. Yes, this option could result in a draw, if Inter win by exactly two goals. But if this happens with an Asian Handicap bet, the result is a Push. You don’t lose, you get your stake refunded.
  • Inter -1.75 or Genoa +1.75 – With this option, a 1.75 goal handicap is applied. Because no team can score .75 of a goal, this bet cannot result in a draw. Inter need to win by at least two goals to cover this handicap, otherwise Genoa wins.
  • Inter -2.25 or Genoa +2.25 – Likewise, because no team can score 0.25 of a goal, this cannot end in a tie. Inter need to win by 3 or more goals to cover this handicap, otherwise Genoa wins.

So although it might seem more complicated at first, many people actually find Asian Handicap betting easier, because there are only two outcomes to consider and you don’t need to worry about the draw.

Next Step

Both regular and Asian Handicap betting markets offer some good opportunities to make profitable bets at decent odds, where otherwise this might not be possible.

They are especially useful in matches which involve a very strong favourite.

Now that you know exactly how these bets work, the next step is to try them out for yourself. Visit your favourite online bookie or mobile betting app and see what handicap markets they offer.

You could find some great odds and betting options that the majority of punters overlook.

Last Updated on February 25, 2021

David Graham
Posted in Knowledge Base

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