What Is Handicap Betting?

Handicap betting textSometimes, there are matchups in football that appear to pit a weak team against a particularly strong one. This can often happen in cup competitions, with the likes of the FA Cup seeing some teams drawn to face far stronger ones simply by the luck of the draw. When it comes to betting on such matches, the odds on the stronger team are not going to have much value. As a result, you can look towards the Handicap market to see if you can add a bit of value into your wager artificially. Handicap betting essentially says that the stronger team is given a disadvantage or the weaker team is given an advantage by the bookmaker.

It Is Artificial

Handicap betting example

It may sound silly to say it, but it’s important to realise that Handicap betting is artificial. That is to say, it has no influence on the actual outcome of a football match, but bookmakers will take it into account when assessing whether or not to pay out on your wager. Imagine a world in which you’re betting on a game in which Chelsea are playing Crystal Palace. You can look to the Handicap market and bet on Chelsea -1 or Crystal Palace +1. What this means is that the bookie will take a goal off Chelsea from the final score or add a goal to Crystal Palace’s final score and see what that does to the result in the eyes of the bookmaker.

A bet on Chelsea -1 is a bet that Chelsea will win the match, even when they’ve had a goal taken off their final score. A bet on Crystal Palace +1 says that Palace will win the game if they have a goal added to the final score. If the game finished 4-1 to Chelsea, for example, then the bookmaker would treat that as 3-1, taking a goal away from the Stamford Bridge side in order fulfil the Handicap criteria, with your bet being a winning one. If you’d bet on Palace +1 then the bookie would say that game finished 4-2, meaning you’d still lose your bet. If it had finished 1-1 and you’d bet on Palace +1 then you’d win your bet, with bookmakers treating it as a 2-1 win.

Different Handicaps Depending on Team Levels

Bookmakers will offer different levels of Handicap depending on the ability of the teams involved. When Liverpool played Sheffield United at Anfield in the 2023-2024 Premier League season, for example, the Handicap betting looked like this:

Liverpool -3 Draw -3 Sheffield United +3
8/5 16/5 11/10

Liverpool were seen as such overwhelming favourites to win the match that the bookmakers used three goals for the Handicap market. It meant that a bet on Liverpool would be a winner if they scored four or more goals more than Sheffield United, whilst a bet on the South Yorkshire club would win if they limited Liverpool’s lead over them to just two goals or fewer. A bet on the draw would have won if Liverpool had scored exactly three goals more than Sheffield United. A 4-0 win for the home side would effectively have been treated as a 1-0 win, so bets on that would’ve been successful, with a 3-0 win being seen as a 0-0 draw if you’d bet on the draw or a 3-3 if you’d bet on Sheffield United.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian Handicap Betting example

something that you might spot as an option if you have a look at the bookmaker’s page on Handicap betting is what is known as Asian Handicap. It originated in Indonesia, gaining popularity in the 21st century. The key factor of Asian Handicap betting is that it removes the draw as a possibility, instead seeing the bet settled with the match seeing a team either win or lose. The thought process is that by eliminated the draw, Asian Handicap betting creates a more level playing betting environment. The hope is that the Handicap will make the chance of either team winning as close to 50% as possible, with bookies therefore able to offer odds as close to Evens as they can.

Sticking with the Liverpool v Sheffield United match from the 2023-2024 Premier League season, Liverpool were the overwhelming favourites for the game. As a result, the Asian Handicap was as follows:

Liverpool Sheffield United
-2.5, -3.0 – 1.880 +2.5, +3.0 – 2.020

As you can see, the Asian Handicap does allow for the draw, but the final score has to be exact one way or the other for your bet to win. It is also common for bookmakers to express the odds for Asian Handicap bets in decimal, whereas British bookmakers normally opt for fractional. These are things to bear in mind before you look to place a bet on the Asian Handicap market. If you’re not too sure what you’re betting on, avoid placing the wager.