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What is handicap betting?

Handicap betting is where the bookmaker applies a points or goal margin (handicap) to the favoured team or player in a contest in order to create more level odds for each outcome. Handicap betting is used prevalently in the UK and European football betting. It is becoming more common in Australia, as bookmakers apply handicaps adapted to Australian online betting markets on sports like AFL and NRL.

Handicap betting example: How does it work?

To better explain handicap betting, we use the example of an English Premier League soccer match. Let’s assume, Arsenal is playing West Ham, the Win Draw Win odds for the match are:

Arsenal $1.36, the Draw $4.50 and West Ham $6.50.

The odds suggest an Arsenal victory is the most likely outcome. If the bookie then handicaps Arsenal 1 goal, the market would look like this:

Arsenal $2.20 (-1.0), Draw $3.30 (-1.0), West Ham $2.80 (+1.0).

handicap betting: English Premier League example

In this scenario, punters that backed Arsenal need them to win by 2 goals in order to receive the $2.20. The list below shows what score is needed for each outcome to be declared a winner under -1.0 handicap conditions:

  • Arsenal (-1.0) win – Arsenal win by 2 goals or more
  • Draw (-1.0) win – Arsenal wins by exactly 1 goal
  • West Ham (+1.0) win – The match results in a draw or a West Ham victory

By applying a one goal handicap, the oddsmaker has made the match far more even.

Bookmakers that provide handicap betting

Types of handicap betting

There are various forms of handicap betting; for example, line betting, whereby the oddsmaker seeks to make each outcome equal, is made possible by the bookmaker handicapping the favoured outcome. An Asian Handicap is also a different form of handicap betting, whereby the draw is eliminated from the potential outcome by using half, point or goal, margins. However, the principle remains the same; the handicap is applied to make the odds more appealing to punters, especially in contests where the head to head odds are lopsided.

Handicap betting and the draw

Betting companies account for the draw differently when it comes to handicap betting. In a true Asian handicap, the draw result is eliminated. Handicap betting where the draw result is still in play sometimes referred to as a European handicap. Another bet type that sees the draw eliminated is the Draw No Bet market, though it does not handicap either team.