Handicap betting is available in a number of sports but when it comes to football it is hugely popular. It is particularly popular with more serious gamblers, in part because it often has a low margin for the bookies, making true betting value that bit easier to find. However, you certainly do not need to be a pro to make use of the various handicap markets. In this article we will explain what handicap betting is and how it works. We’ll also look at related markets, the rules you should be aware of. Last of all, we’ll offer up any tips on strategy that might help you land some winners.
Handicap betting on football covers a wide range of options, some of which we will look at shortly. However, in general, the term typically refers to betting on who will win an individual game with a specified handicap attached. In addition, this is a three-way market, meaning you can back the home side, draw or the visitors. This is in contrast to the two-way Asian handicap that we will look at separately.
An example of a handicap market might look as such:
- Liverpool -1 @ 6/4
- Draw (Liverpool -1) @ 27/10
- Tottenham Hotspur +1 @ 11/8
This would contrast with the standard match odds, with the table below showing what difference a one-goal handicap has. In addition, to further illustrate how handicap betting works, we have included the odds for a two-goal handicap against Liverpool.
|Result||No Handicap||Liverpool -1||Liverpool -2|
With a -1 handicap, Liverpool must win the game on the pitch by at least two goals in order to win on the handicap. If they win by exactly one goal, be it 4-3 or 1-0, then the draw will be the winning handicap bet (with a minus-one goal handicap applied). Should the game end in a draw, or any win for Tottenham, then bets on Tottenham +1 will be winners.
Obviously with a two-goal handicap against them, the Reds have to win by three or more goals to cover the handicap. Should they win by precisely two goals, the draw is the winning bet, whilst all Tottenham need to do is win, draw or lose by only a single goal in order for bets on Tottenham +2 to be winners.
What is the Point of Handicap Betting?
Handicap betting can be used in a whole range of different ways, depending on the nature of the match, what handicap you plump for and which team you want to back. Hopefully the odds in the table above give a good illustration of how handicap betting in football can be used.
As we can see, for the clash in question, Liverpool are big favourites, priced at just 11/20. Many punters do not like backing selections at such short prices and so you may decide that backing them with a minus-one handicap is a good option. This sees the odds on the Merseysiders leap from 11/20 to 6/4, which is a huge difference. Of course, they have to win by two goals or more to land your bet but the chances of them winning by exactly one goal are quite low. Indeed, the odds on Liverpool to win by one goal were 3/1.
On the other hand, you may feel that Tottenham offer good value at the big price of 9/2. You could place a small stake on them but even though you feel those odds are too long, you might not be convinced they will win. Odds of 9/2 are tempting but perhaps there is value in the handicap market and a better chance of actually winning the bet.
If you back Tottenham +1 all they need to do is draw the game in order for you to land a winner. Of course, if they do win the match you’ll also win your handicap wager. And whilst you may regret missing out on the 9/2 (instead opting for Tottenham +1 at 11/8), you’ll still have bagged a winner and your hunch about the clash will have been proved correct.
Handicaps are interesting because they can be used in different ways and also in a range of markets. In addition there are different types of handicaps, one of which, the Asian handicap, we have already touched upon.
Asian handicaps confuse and scare some punters but they are very simple. Asian handicaps are not simply those with half goals, nor are they split handicaps. They are simply handicap bets where there are only two options. They basically take the draw out of the equation so you are simply betting on one team or the other to win.
The most obvious and straightforward way to do this is by offering half-goal handicaps, thus rendering the draw impossible. So, in an Asian handicap (AH) market, you might see Liverpool -0.5 at 20/33 and Tottenham +0.5 at 27/20.
You might have noticed that the odds for Liverpool -0.5 are the same as a straight 90-minute wager on the Reds to win the game (we’ve used different bookies here from the first examples). This is because those two are, in practice, identical bets. Both bets win if Liverpool win the match, and both bets lose if they don’t. As for Tottenham +0.5, they simply need to draw or win, which explains why the odds are the same as the three-way handicap Tottenham +1 bet.
You will see Asian handicaps of all different sizes; so for example you might want to play it safe and back Tottenham +3.5. For this bet to win they simply have to avoid defeat by four goals or more … though at odds of 1/15 you might think twice about placing this wager.
However, we said that not all Asian handicaps involve half goals and one AH that especially confuses punters is the 0 (zero) option. Why have a handicap of nothing? A fair question for sure, but one which makes more sense when you learn how other full-goal Asian handicaps work.
Sticking with the Liverpool versus Tottenham clash, you can back the former -1 at 51/50 and the latter +1 at 50/59. What happens if Liverpool win 1-0, or by any other single-goal margin? The bet is a push, or void, and you get your stake back. The same happens in the case of the zero handicap, with any draw resulting in bets on either side being deemed a push and punters seeing their stakes returned.
Split handicaps are slightly trickier to follow, however, in about three or four paragraph’s time, we’re confident you’ll have them licked! A split handicap sees half your stake go on one handicap and half go on another that will be 0.5 higher or lower. Split handicaps are always Asian, two-way bets and each half of the bet is settled separately, though at the same price, according to the result.
These handicaps can be written as two numbers, showing the two parts of the bet, or as a quarter or three-quarter figure that lies between the two. As such, you might see Tottenham +0.5, +1.0 at one bookie and then Tottenham +0.75 at another. These are the same market and bet.
Let’s say you bet £10 on Tottenham +0.75 at odds of 21/20. This means you have £5 on them to win +0.5 and £5 for them to win +1, with both bets paying out at 21/20. If Tottenham draw or win then both of these wagers are successful and you have a simple £10 win at 21/20. If they lose by two goals or more, both bets lose and you are a tenner down.
Things get a fraction more complex should Liverpool win by a single goal. Here the £5 with a half-goal start loses and the £5 on Spurs +1 is a push. In this situation, the bet returns £5 for a £5 overall loss. Depending on the market and the result it is also possible for half of the bet to win and the other half to be a push.
Any betting experts or super-sharp shrewdies will have spotted that some Asian handicap and three-way handicap bets are, seemingly, exactly the same as other markets bookies offer. Strange as it may seem, this is the case and, for example, the zero Asian handicap, is identical to the draw no bet (DNB) market. Either way, you are backing one or the other side to win, at reduced odds in comparison to the main 90-minute market, knowing that if the clash ends in a stalemate you will receive your stake back.
Similarly, backing a side +0.5 goals in an Asian handicap is the same as the double chance draw/win market. With both bets, should the team you back win or draw the game, your punt pays out, whilst defeat leaves you down.
There are other bets that are similar, whilst winning margin wagers are also, to a degree, comparable to handicaps – some more so than others. For example you might see an option to back a side to win by two or more goals. This is the same as backing them -1.5. Whilst not identical bets, the handicap option -2 is certainly similar to a winning margin wager of two goals exactly.
We have looked at different types of handicap bets but they have all related to the most important stat in any game of football, the score at the final whistle. But handicap markets also exist in other areas of the game too, though betting on these is less widespread.
You can make handicap wagers on the half-time result with many football bookies and these work in exactly the same way, though only the first 45 minutes (plus stoppage time) are relevant. Handicaps also exist for bets on things such as corners.
Here you can bet on which side will win the most corners in a game, with a handicap being applied. Such markets may give a binary choice – Team A or Team B – or may also offer the draw. If the handicap includes half a corner, for example +2.5, a draw will be impossible but if it is a full-corner handicap (for example 2 or 3) then the bet will be a push where the draw wasn’t offered.
Rules In relation to Handicaps
When it comes to betting on handicaps standard football betting rules apply. That means that the markets relate to 90 minutes and stoppage time only. Unless specified, extra time will not count, whilst wagers that apply only to the first half will be clearly labelled.
Other than that there isn’t really anything for punters to concern themselves with. As long as you understand how the handicap works and whether it is an Asian handicap with just two options, or a straight bet, with three, you should be fine.
Handicap Betting Strategy
Our top tip when it comes to using handicaps is to be aware that Asian handicap markets, and to a lesser extent “normal” handicaps, often offer the best value. The bookmaker’s profit margin on these bets is typically very low. Strange as it may seem, this means that you might get better odds by using the Asian handicap equivalent of a different bet that is, fundamentally, the same.
So, for example, if you want to make a bet on DNB, check the AH zero handicap first. Likewise backing a side -0.5 might be better than the main match odds, and backing them +0.5 might offer a bigger price than double chance. This is not always the case but if you want to maximise your value it is certainly worth checking.
In general though, when it comes to betting on football handicaps and Asian handicaps, your strategy should be the same as it is for other football bets, especially match odds ones. That means that research and analysis are key; and that uncovering value – selections where the odds are better than the likelihood of them winning suggests they should be – is what you should be aiming for.