Handicap Betting Guide: All You Need To Know With Examples!

Below you’ll find all you need to know about handicap betting, including what it is and how you play the market.

What Is Handicap Betting?

Handicap betting is a market where one team starts with a disadvantage or an advantage. This means both teams don’t start level.

It is especially common in US sports betting where the matches use handicaps to level the stakes – Mainly in NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL matches. It is often referred to as “the spread” in American sports. The phase would be – Will the Lakers cover the spread?

How Does Handicap Betting Work?

In most sports, it works by starting a team off with a minus score or a plus score. In 2 team sports, this will mean you either add on or take off the plus or minus from the final score to get the handicap result.

For example, in football, the away team may start with a -1 handicap. so the starting score would be -1 to nil. If the match finishes as a 2-2 draw then the handicap score would be 2-1.

Premier League Handicap Betting Example

Let’s take a fictional example – a fixture between Liverpool and Fulham.

Naturally, Liverpool is a large favourite for this game on the Paddy Power app offering the following odds for the Match Result market:

Liverpool – 1/12

Draw – 10/1

Fulham – 25/1

As you can see, the odds on the home side offer very little value, which makes the handicap market a little more appealing.

In the handicap market, Paddy Power would offer something like this:

Liverpool (-3) – 2/1

Draw (-3) – 10/3

Fulham (+3) – 5/ 6

The odds on Liverpool offer much better value in this case. However, to win Liverpool must overcome a three-goal handicap.

This means that the Reds must ultimately win by four goals or more in order for you to win the bet.

If you were to back the draw, Liverpool would be required to win the game by exactly three goals, while backing Fulham would simply require the away side not losing by any more than two goals.

You’ll often find you can choose from a selection of handicaps with varying odds. And this is displayed by the number in brackets beside the team name. This gives you the flexibility to find the odds you like at a handicap you think they will cover.

Other Football Handicap Betting Markets

There are a number of other handicap markets available –

First Half or Second Half Handicap

Traditional handicap betting is played across 90 minutes, however, it is possible to break a handicap up into halves with a number of bookmakers offering first-half handicap and second-half handicap.

This means the handicap only applies to a particular 45 minutes, with the same rules applying. So if you placed a First Half Handicap bet on Liverpool (-1), the Reds would have to score two in the first half for you to win the bet.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian Handicap Betting is essentially the same as traditional handicap betting but without the possibility of a draw. This is used in 2 team matches where a draw is possible.

This is done by giving outcomes handicaps that are decimals.

So, for example, Liverpool may be given a handicap of -3.5 and Fulham +3.5. Because you can’t score half a goal, this removes the draw, with Liverpool required to score four goals and Fulham needing to avoid defeat by four or more.

This works the same as betting for goals and corners and means one team will win in this market. There can be some very good value in this market when selecting the right teams.

Premier League Final Position Handicap

Handicap betting isn’t limited to just fixtures and can be placed on outright league bets too.

It works in a similar way, with the favourite to win the league given a handicap of 0 with other teams offering handicaps which equate to points.

So, for example, William Hill may be pricing Manchester City to win the league. This would mean they would be given a zero handicap.

West Ham, on the other hand, may be given a handicap of +34. In order to win, the handicap added to a team’s total points must surpass the total number of points the champion won.

If Manchester City did win the league with 83 points, West Ham would need to earn 50 points throughout their season for you to win the bet.

This is usually available on all English leagues as well as most major European leagues. There is some excellent long-term value if you can identify teams that will have a good season. In the Premier League, you can also get handicap markets for top 4 finishes as well as top 6 finishes at the start of the season for teams who are not expected to do well.

Handicap Betting On Other Sports

While handicap betting is most popular in football, it isn’t strictly limited to the beautiful game. There are dozens of sports that can be played boosting your odds with a handicap. Here are some of the more popular sports

Handicap Betting In Rugby League & Union

Like football, rugby is very popular for handicap betting in both rugby league and rugby union.

It works in the same way as football and offers value to knowledgeable punters. You can also get Asian handicap betting in rugby matches where the line is set at a .5 to ensure one team wins in the handicap market. There can be good value in finding an underdog who will not lose by many points.

Here is how the markets will look for a rugby match –

Rugby handicap betting example

As you can see there is a range of handicap markets on offer. This allows you to cover the range you wish to get higher odds. 

NFL, MLB, NHL & NBA Handicap Betting

We have grouped the US sports together as they all work in a very similar way. This is the style of betting in the US & Canada and they usually keep the markets the same when betting on these sports from the UK. 

Here we will use the NFL as an example but the same applies to the NBA and other US sports. 

Here is how the outrights coupon looks on the Betway app

NFL Handicap betting

As you can see each match has a pre-set handicap to give very similar odds on each outcome. This is known as “the spread” in US betting. All US sports betting has this and each match tries to set the teams up as even allowing for the handicap. 

If you then tap into a specific match you will get more “point spread” markets – these are what we would class as handicap markets. You can bet on different point spreads to get different odds. 

Point spread handicap markets US sports example

This really opens up a wide choice of handicap markets and you can find some value using your knowledge of how many points the teams will get. The point spread is also available in a 3-way bet allowing for a draw. This is more common in NHL, MLB and NFL betting rather than NBA handicap betting. 

We hope our guide has helped you get a better understanding of how handicap betting works. If you have any questions or need any help please send us a tweet or DM on Twitter to @bettingapps