What Is A Handicap Bet?

Handicap betting is one of the most popular ways in which punters can boost the odds of their bet when backing a favourite. There is a completely different side to betting on handicaps as well as this, which is where you bet on a team with a head start in the hope that they don’t lose by a significant margin.

With so much to consider when betting on a handicap market, this is undoubtedly something that punters should only approach when they fully understand how the bet works and what needs to happen for them to win.

How Does a Handicap Bet Work?

example handicap market football match

When you are betting on a handicap market, you are placing a wager on the game but also on a fictional line that the bookmakers have created. It is important that you know how this line works and how it affects your bet to fully understand what you are betting on.

The fictional line is something that is added to the final score of the game, which then determines the actual handicap result, the one which your bet is settled on. It is important to remember that the game’s final outcome is based on both put together, not just the score.

This makes handicap betting one of the few instances where something strange could happen. It is possible for your team to win, but your bet loses because they win but fail to cover the handicap. Alternatively, if you are betting on an underdog with a head start, it is possible for you to back a team that loses but still win on the bet because they have covered the line with their head start.

How Do You Win a Handicap Bet?

To win the handicap bet, you have to meet a couple of requirements, depending on whether you are betting with a head start or with a deficit.

If you are backing a team with a deficit (for example -1.5)

To win on the handicap line with this type of bet, your team not only needs to win the game, but they need to win by a big enough margin to also cover the handicap. In the example above of -1.5, this would mean winning by two goals or more.

If you are backing a team with a head start (for example, +2.5)

The options for winning in this instance are far greater because any result could be good enough for you to win the bet. If your team wins, then you will have a winning bet, and if they draw, you will also win the bet.

Where this becomes complex is if your team loses. If your team loses by a smaller margin than the handicap line, then you will win. In the example above, that means losing by one or two goals because they have a +2.5 head start.

The way in which your bet loses here is if the team loses by three goals or more.

Two Way and Three Way Handicap Markets

hand holding three arrows heading in different directions

When you look at handicap betting, there are two different types of market that you can bet on. These are called two way markets and three way markets, and they are called this because that is the number of outcomes that could possibly win.

When betting on a two way market, the options are to bet on one of the two teams involved in the game to win. The handicap line is done with a .5 at the end, which means it is impossible to draw because you cannot score half a goal in sport. Therefore, with just two possible options, this is the slightly easier market of the two, although the odds are shorter to reflect this.

When you bet on a three way market, there are three possible outcomes, which are the two teams to win or the game to be a draw, all of them based on the handicap. These handicaps are done as full numbers (for example, +1) so that a draw is possible. With three options, including the draw, things are a little tougher to get right here, but bigger odds are on offer.

Using Handicaps When Betting on Favourites

handicap favouriteThe most common way to use a handicap line is to do so when you are betting on favourites to win the game. The reason for this is because handicaps can increase the odds on your bet, the bigger handicap you are willing to add to the bet, the bigger the odds you will receive.

For example:

  • Team to win – 2/5
  • Team to win -1.5 – 8/11
  • Team to win -2.5 – 7/4

As you can see, the odds grow when you add in more risk. There will be some favourites that are too short to back, which is where you can use the handicap to increase the odds on offer. Of course, you are now betting on them to win by a margin, not just win, so you need to do this only when you are confident of a big success, rather than a small narrow win.

Using Handicaps to Cover Bets on Underdogs

handicap underdogIf you are looking to bet on an underdog, but you want to have more coverage rather than bigger odds, then a handicap line is the best way to do this. Rather than big odds on the win, you can get smaller odds and cover yourself with more options.

For example:

  • Team to win – 10/1
  • Team to win +1.5 – 4/1
  • Team to win +2.5 – 2/1

The final option on the +2.5 line is where you get the biggest coverage. In this bet, your odds are much lower at 2/1, but you also cover more. You cover the team to win, the team to draw and the team to lose by one or two goals.

If you are looking for a more realistic bet and more coverage, then using a handicap line with an underdog is a great way to do that.

Examples of Handicap Markets

There are a few different looks with handicaps, so below, you will see some different examples so you can see the types of bets that are available.

Liverpool v Everton

  • Liverpool -2
  • Draw +2
  • Everton +2

Manchester City v Leicester

  • Manchester City -1.5
  • Leicester +1.5

Chelsea v Newcastle

  • Chelsea -1
  • Draw +1
  • Newcastle +1

Tottenham v Leeds

  • Tottenham -2.5
  • Leeds +2.5

Finding Value on Handicap Lines

wooden figure holding blocks saying price and valueOne of the most important aspects of handicap betting is searching around and finding the value on offer. The reason for this, and why it is more important than many other markets, is because bookmakers have two variables with these bets.

The first variable is the odds on offer, which of course, vary with different companies, and you should always shop around to find the best on offer. Secondly, the handicap lines may also vary, so you need to check out which suits the bet you want.

For example, if you think a team is going to win very easily, you want a big handicap line, such as -3.5, to get the best odds for your bet. Some bookmakers may only offer -2.5 as their biggest, so you cannot get the bet you want to place.

When you are searching around the internet for your bet, if you are betting on handicaps, then make sure you check out both the lines and the odds. Compare what is on offer, work out what value you get from a bigger line, and see if it is worth going for those bigger odds or not. Alternatively, look where you can lower the line, lower the odds, but give yourself a bet you are more comfortable with.

These two elements can change between the bookmaker and add something else you need to consider when placing your bets.