What is handicap betting? A detailed guide

If you're a bettor looking to maximize returns without unnecessary additional risk, handicap betting is the way to go. It's among the odds available when staking on football, basketball, tennis, and rugby.

However, you may also find this odd option in racing events, such as horse racing. A handicap bet differs considerably from other odd types. So, it makes sense for you how it works.

We've compiled a practical guide to discuss the meaning of handicap in betting, the different sports it applies to, and how to make effective handicap bets in various sports.

What is handicap in betting?

Also known as line betting or point betting, this odd occurs when a bookmaker gives a virtual advantage or disadvantage to one of the competitors. By doing this, the bookmaker evens out the contest between the competitors.

What is handicap betting?

In point-based sports like football, tennis, basketball, and rugby, bookmakers will create an even contest by adding virtual points to the side deemed the underdog.

For instance, if Manchester City were favorites to beat Manchester United, the bookmaker may create a 2-0 handicap advantage. If you place a bet on Manchester City to win along with this handicap, but the game ends 2-0 in favor of Manchester City, you've lost your bet. The bookmaker will treat the match's final result as 2-2.

When placing a handicap bet, you should note that the virtual advantage only applies to your selection. Also, the handicap odd may not be available for all events.

Types of handicap betting

The next thing to discuss is the different types of handicap betting available to bookmakers. It makes sense to learn each of them to help you maximize your returns. They include:

Asian handicap or 2-way handicap bets

A 2-way handicap bet can only be won when either outcome occurs. You may bet that either of both teams will win (home or away) while giving an advantage to the underdog. This type of bet eliminates the possibility of a draw using fractional points or goals, such as 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, etc.

European or 3-Way handicap bets

If you opt for a 3-way handicap bet, you've increased the number of potential outcomes to win. In this betting, one team is given a head start. You may bet that the home team wins, the away team wins, or they draw. European handicaps are indicated with whole points or goals, such as 1, 2, 3, etc.

Split handicap

The split handicap is meant for risk-averse bettors who wish to enjoy the payout of handicap bets while staking on two outcomes at once. For instance, you can place a split handicap of -1.0/-1.5. This means half the stake will be for a -1.0 handicap while the other half is for a -1.5 handicap.

Handicap betting in soccer

Being one of the most popular sports in the world, soccer handicaps are relatively popular. While the most popular football betting handicap involves adding virtual goals to the match's result, other types exist.

There are handicaps for the total number of goals scored by either side or the total number of corners. You can even set handicaps for specific first-half or second-half events.

Handicap betting in basketball

Like football, handicap bets apply to basketball and are used to create a virtual advantage for the competing teams. These bets can be applied to several aspects of the game, including the number of rebounds, the number of assists, the number of points, or the final score.

For example, if you want to stake on an upcoming fixture between Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, you may give Lakers a handicap of +8.5 points while betting on a Golden State Warriors win. This means you expect Golden State Warriors to win by at least 10 points.

How to place a handicap bet

Handicap Betting

Making a handicap bet is a relatively simple process. Here’s how to do it:

  1. If you want to place a handicap bet, the first thing you need to do is register an account on your preferred online betting platform.
  2. When you're done registering, choose the match you wish to stake on and click the handicap market.
  3. Next, choose which side you wish to wager on (the favorites or the underdogs).
  4. Afterward, confirm your selection, input the amount you wish to stake, and confirm your bet.

Before placing a handicap bet, it makes sense to study the different selections available for that event. You may discover better odds than the one you had in mind.

Also, you must understand that successful handicap betting relies on critically analyzing several factors that could influence the result. So, it makes sense to study the statistical records of both teams to forecast the likely outcome of the match accurately. You should also check team form and player injuries to avoid surprises.

Common mistakes to avoid in handicap betting

There's no gain in saying that handicap betting is risky. More often than not, your virtual advantage or disadvantage could backfire. That's why you need to be cautious when making these selections. Here's a list of mistakes to avoid during handicap betting:

  • Overlooking team form and performance: Form indicates how a team has recently performed. In a matchup, the stronger team or favorites may have a recent run of bad results. This lousy form may make them susceptible to another loss, especially if their opponents have been more consistent with results.
  • Misinterpreting Handicap Value and Odds: A common mistake by bettors trying handicap betting for the first time is misinterpreting handicap values and odds. That's why you must study the different handicaps available to bettors.
  • Ignoring Player Injuries and Suspensions: If a critical player of one of the teams is injured, it can affect their performance to a great extent. While teams tend to perform even with their talisman injured, don't overlook this information.


This guide shows that handicap betting offers a more exciting alternative to traditional betting markets. By offering bettors the chance to create a virtual advantage or disadvantage, it's now possible to make selections that defy the norm. Please review this article to learn the meaning of handicap in betting and how to leverage its odds in your bet selection.

If you want to play it more safe, you can check our article about draw no bet.


What is handicap in betting, and how does it differ from traditional betting?

Handicap betting allows bookmakers to give home/away teams a virtual advantage in their fixtures. You'll bet on the match, but the virtual advantage will be added to the final results. Bettors can wager on a hypothetical advantage or disadvantage regarding goals, points, or other scoring metrics.

How does handicap betting work in practice?

In handicap betting, the favored team is handicapped by a certain number of goals or points, while the underdog is given an equivalent advantage. For example, if Team A is heavily favored to win against Team B, the bookmaker may give Team B a handicap of +1.5 goals. This means that if you bet on Team B, they must either win the match or lose by no more than one goal for your bet to win.

What are the advantages of handicap betting?

Bettors may choose to try their hands on handicap betting because they have more odds than traditional selections. Handicap bets also allow bettors to stake on underdogs and reduce their risk.

This article was most recently revised and updated 4 weeks ago