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

When it comes to sport, we’re all pretty familiar with the term handicap. In golf, it’s a figure designed to increase your chances of making par, and in betting, it follows a very similar understanding.

It’s a market that is becoming increasingly popular, but for new punters, it can be an incredibly confusing market to understand at first glance. Thankfully, we’re here to help.

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 essentially a market that doesn’t start both teams on a level playing field but ultimately gives one team a head start.

This will usually be the underdog of the side and is often played when backing the favourite in order to increase their odds.

This is to account for the perceived strength of one team compared to the other. As you’d expect, this is a popular market during cup competitions when Premier League sides take on a lesser opposition. Here is an example of how this market looks –

Rugby league handicap example

It is a very popular way to bet on American sports such as the NFL and NBA. These will usually have coupons covering all the games and are 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.

Premier League Handicap Example

Let’s take mobile football betting as an example and a fixture between Liverpool and Fulham.

Naturally, Liverpool is large favourites 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 Handicap Betting Markets

There are a number of other handicap markets available to punters.

Below you’ll find a list of other markets to play in as well as the traditional handicap wager.

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

Asian Handicap Betting is essentially the same as traditional handicap betting but without the possibility of the draw.

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 under over 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 offered 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, maybe 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

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 league handicap example

Almost any team sport in which points are scored can be played with a handicap, while you’ll also find it in a number of individual sports too. Below you’ll find a list of some of the most popular sports in which to bet with a handicap.

  • Football
  • Rugby League
  • Rugby Union
  • NFL
  • NHL
  • NBA
  • Gaelic Football
  • Australian Rules
  • Tennis
  • Golf


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