Updated Updated: November 11, 2019

Handicap Betting Explained

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Handicap betting is a popular method of wagering and offered by most sports bookmakers. Many find it puzzling in the beginning mainly because handicap betting influences the way odds are interpreted. Points-based or goals based sports like football or tennis are commonly favoured by bookmakers for handicap betting. It is also frequently used in racing events such as horse racing. This form of sports betting is known to provide an even contest and is widely used. Hence it’s crucial to gain an understanding of the various handicap betting practices available. 

What does handicap mean in betting?

Handicap Betting image

Handicap betting is known by various other terms such as points betting, line betting, the spread or Asian handicap. In order to even the field or create even-money contest a bookmaker typically adds points towards the competitor that is deemed an underdog. The procedure whereby a bookmaker turns a sporting event with varied odds into even money contest, by granting a virtual advantage (surplus) or disadvantage (deficit) to certain competitors can be termed as handicap betting. This implies teams get a goal advantage or a head start that makes betting interesting as punters may find it difficult to predict the outcomes and contest seems more on even fields. It is worth noting that in handicap betting the handicap simply applies to the selection punter is betting on.

How calculations are made

Suppose you place a 0-4 handicap bet on the football game between France and Scotland and the final score is 2-0. While factoring the handicap the following score results: 0-4 + 2-0 = 2-4

Hence the score that counts for the purposes of your bet is 2-4 and if you bet on Scotland in that game, you win.

Handicap Betting Explained

To understand this let’s look at an example of handicap betting football as it popular in the UK. Say if Manchester United were favourites to beat Arsenal, the bookmaker might give Arsenal a 2-0 handicap advantage. If you then place a handicap bet on Manchester United to win, but they only win the game 1-0, you will lose your bet, due to the handicap that had been applied. Effectively, in the eyes of the bookmaker, Manchester United lost the game 2-1.

man u vs arsenal

Manchester United (-2) evens

Handicap Tie (-1) 3/1

Arsenal(+2) 2/1

  • The match ended in a 1-0 victory for Manchester United, but if you bet on Manchester United to win you wouldn’t win the market. Manchester United would have needed to score as many goals as the handicap in order for your bet to pay out.
  • If you bet on the handicap tie, you would win your bet, as Manchester United won by the exact margin specified in the handicap. It is the margin of the win that matters rather than the number of goals scored when betting on a handicap ties.
  • If you bet on Arsenal to win, you would win, as they effectively won the game 2-1 in the eyes of the bookmaker.

What does the term Scratch/”Scr”in handicap betting mean?

In case you are new to betting and wondering what exactly the term “scr” means, it simply implies that for a particular game there are no handicaps applied and actual winners will be considered as the market winners by the bookmaker. This is because bookmakers deem that the competitors in the event you are placing a bet on are to be evenly matched so apply scratch instead of a handicap.

What is no draw handicap match betting?

no draw handicap match betting

At this point, we all know that one-sided sporting contests are made more exciting with handicap betting for people who enjoy sports gambling. However, regardless of actual outcomes of a game, multiple bookmakers offer no draw handicap match betting. This implies there is a guaranteed winner of the game in terms of the bet, regardless of the end result. The manner in which no draw handicap match betting is set up is by offering half handicaps to certain teams.

For example, in a Premier League match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion, the bookmaker has given a handicap of +1.5. You place a bet on Chelsea to win.

The match ends 3-2 to West Bromwich Albion, but because of the +1.5 handicap, your bet on Chelsea pays out, and the score was effectively 3.5-3 to Chelsea in terms of the bet.

As per bookmakers view, it would have been impossible for punters bet to have ended in a draw, simply because in football there is not even a nitty-gritty possibility for half goals to be scored. Again, remember that the handicap only applies to the selection you are betting on in case of handicap betting.

Below table demonstrates examples of handicap football betting in action

Handicap Team 1 Team 2 Gets head start of Punters Win if Punters Loose if Draw Stake refunded if
0.5 -0.5 +0.5 Team 1 wins the match. Team 2 win or draw the match. Team 1 match ends in a draw. X X
1 -1 +1 Team 1 must win by at two goals. Team 2  win or draw the match X Team 1 only win by one goal Team 1 only win by one goal. Team 2 lose the match by one goal
1.5 -1.5 +1.5 Team 1 must score at least two goals  Team 2 win the match, draws, or concedes by only one goal. X Eliminated X
2 -2 +2 Team 1 must win the game by a margin of three goals or more. Team 2 lose by a goal margin of only one. X X Team 1 win by a margin of two goals. Team 2 lose by a margin of two goals
2.5 -2.5 +2.5 Team 1must win the game by a margin of three goals or more. Team 2 don’t lose by a margin of three goals or more. X X X

Rugby League Handicap Betting

These days approximately all events in points/goals-based sports, including rugby leagues have a handicap market. With rise in demand for betting options players are allowed to employ variant handicaps in majority cases either to increase or decrease the handicap based on their confidence behind their selection.

Rugby League Handicap Betting

Consider in a given rugby match where England are favourites to defeat Northern Ireland, the handicap might see Northern Ireland in receipt of 8 points i.e. Northern Ireland +8 for a handicap betting and England, in turn, is associated with -8 in the same market. Therefore, the odd are suggesting an 8-point differential between the teams and is the margin by which the bookmaker’s odds are hinting one team has better chances of winning over the other team. In the scenario above suppose you placed a bet on Northern Ireland +8, and England actually win the game by 7 or fewer points, then your bet wins in the handicap market.

Now here a rugby team may be considered even-money to fulfil the 8-point handicap assigned to them. However, if punters believe they have a credible chance of winning by more than 8 points, based on markets offered they can increase the handicap and therefore also increase the odds offered, e.g. England -10 in this instance might be 8/3.

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  • Based on a selection of odds (that feature varied handicaps across every team in the division), handicap league betting allows players to place their bet at the start of a season as well as spanning whole season of competition.
  • The team perceived as the favourite to win begins with the scratch (scr) handicap of zero. Rest of the teams are given a virtual head starts or handicap with an equivalent handicap point score based on the bookmaker’s expectations of the league’s likely performances. Hence weaker teams are given larger handicap advantages in order to even the field.
  • At the end of the season, along with individual teams selected, all the teams’ handicap scores are combined with their actual point’s total. The team with the highest points is then considered the winner of the market.
  • Each-way places are then determined by the teams finishing 2nd, 3rd etc.
  • If more than one team ties for a place then dead heat rules would apply.

This is the most popular forms of handicap betting whereby you make a handicap bet on a team’s performance across the course of a season. Thus instead of applying the handicap to only a chosen selection in order to calculate the outcome of the bet post-match conclusion, in handicap league betting respective handicaps are applied to all teams in the divisions being bet on. Also, the outcome is calculated at the end of the season. Thus in the eyes of the bookmaker, the final league table is worked out only once all the handicaps have been applied and punter will discover whether their bet was successful.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian handicap is a variant of handicap betting that mainstreamed in Asia involving handicaps with whole and half numbers such that no draws are possible. Asian Handicap betting markets are ideal for football fans searching for an option in contrast to the more conventional 1X2. Perceived quality between the two football match opponents varies depending on a number of situational factors like form, historical performance, financial strength, player availability (suspensions or injuries), home-field advantage etc. Bookmakers interpret such factors to arrive at a representation of each team’s chances of success with odds or their implied probability of winning the game.

asian handicap example

Based on the two teams’ perceived abilities, the difference can be substantial, forsaking little value on the favourite plus minimal returns on standard 1X2 markets. This perceived ability bias can be countered using Asian handicap markets that facilitate eliminating option of draw resulting in better odds and levelling the contest.

Asian handicap betting is similar to no draw handicap match betting with main difference that punters are provided a possibility of split handicaps wherein their selection can have one handicap that is a whole number and other that is a half number.

For example: Team A (-1, -1.5) vs. Team B (+1, +1.5)

In this example, due to the handicaps applied, Team A needs to win the match by two clear goals in order to win the market.

But if Team A win by one goal:

  • Then the whole number handicap results in a draw, while the decimal handicap gives Team B the victory.
  • You would stand to receive half your stake back if you bet on Team A to win.

Anyone who bet on Team B to win would receive:

  • Half their stake returned
  • Half paid back as winnings at the odds stated by the bookmaker

With Asian handicap, higher the risk you take the higher odds you get. It seems amusing to back the underdogs when there is good value along with chances they will stand against the big teams. The Asian Handicap betting might seem mind-boggling, yet once you decode the concept, you will have a better point of view for football wagering.

Asian Handicap Betting Tips

Given that there are tons of matches to bet on across the world, it is worth verifying that your bookie has good coverage. Along with this here are few strategies and tips for Asian handicap betting.

Find More Value On Asian Handicap Betting

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Asian Handicap bets on all sorts of events comprising of games that are likely to be close. Football handicap betting majorly relies on understanding the teams, but also on other factors in play such as their home/away record, the current form of the teams, rivalry, the weather conditions etc. This is what you will usually do at the time of placing a regular bet but now you do with much better odds using Asian handicap.

Leverage Live Betting

Match prices on the Asian Handicap change according to match circumstances. This means you can use the Asian Handicap market to place bets before the game because you think it will offer cash-out opportunities, or utilize the Asian Handicap market during the game in order to lock in a profit.

Utilize Over/Under

Besides above two options you can use Asian handicap on over/under by waiting for the match to kick off as the odds and opportunities are far better compared to pre-game markets. 

Bet On Asian Handicap Corners Or Special Markets

Check on stats concerning the teams “behaviour” (home /away fixtures) and learn a few things about the teams competing. The best period to start waging bets on corners is after the tenth match day.

FAQ

A +0,5 means that the team you are betting on is starting the match with a positive Asian Handicap value of +0,5 goal lead. You win your bet if the team you placed a bet on wins or if the match finish on a draw. If your team lose, your bet is lose.

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