Handicap betting is a popular form of wagering that awards a virtual advantage or disadvantage to teams to level the playing field. But how exactly do handicaps work and what does this term mean? This guide explains the basics of handicap bets and common examples across major sports.
What is a Handicap Bet?
A handicap bet essentially gives one team a hypothetical lead (or deficit) represented by the handicap number set before the match starts to even out the perceived difference in quality between the teams. This creates more balanced and competitive betting propositions.
For example, if Manchester City has a -1 handicap against Stoke City, Man City will need to win by more than 1 goal for a handicap bet on them to win. If Stoke has +1, they can lose by 1 or win/draw for a handicap bet on them to win. The handicap margin functions like an artificial head start.
Typical handicap examples are:
- Football Man Utd (-1) vs Liverpool (+1)
- Basketball L.A Lakers (-6.5) vs Chicago Bulls (+6.5)
- Tennis Nadal (-3.5) vs Djokovic (+3.5)
- American Football Chiefs (-7.5) vs Raiders (+7.5)
- Golf McIlroy (-2.5) vs Woods (+2.5)
The handicap amount varies based on the perceived gap in ability between competitors. Margins can be half points or goals to allow tie/push outcomes.
Asian Handicap vs European Handicap
Asian handicaps feature whole goal margins like -1, -2 etc and return stakes if the handicap equals the margin. European handicaps have fractions like -1.5, -2.25 etc, eliminating pushes.
Benefits of Handicap Betting
Handicap betting offers several advantages:
- Makes uneven contests competitive.
- Provides hedge opportunities by taking opposing sides.
- Allows betting on favorites at longer odds.
- Presents an alternative to match winner or total markets.
When used strategically, handicap betting can uncover new value opportunities.
Handicaps come in whole and fractional amounts depending on the sport. Asian handicaps permit push outcomes, unlike European handicaps. When approached analytically, handicap betting can yield lucrative results.