Betting Strategies
25.05.2023, 14:05
25.05.2024, 18:49

Mastering Handicap Betting: Strategies for Success in Uneven Matchups

Handicap betting is a famous market that allows bettors to place bets on a team or player with an artificial advantage. With handicap betting, players can bet on more favourable conditions in matches where the favourite is evident. Bookmakers offer multiple handicap positions, allowing bettors to choose markets that balance risk level and potential profit.

Handicap Betting: Exploring the Different Types

Handicap, in simple terms, is an advantage given to one of the opponents in an upcoming or ongoing match by the bookmaker. Handicaps can be positive, negative, or zero:

  • Positive handicap: It is a predetermined number of points, goals, or runs given to the chosen team by the bookmaker. The bookmaker calculates the bet based on the outcome considering the given advantage.
  • Negative handicap: It is a numerical indicator of the underdog's deficit against the favourite regarding points, goals, or runs. The player specifies how many points, goals, or runs the favourite will surpass the opponent in the match's outcome.
  • Zero handicaps: It is a bet on a win with insurance. If the chosen team wins, the bettor receives a payout, and in case of a draw, the bet is refunded.

Bookmakers offer two types of handicaps with different calculation rules: traditional handicaps and Asian handicaps.

European Handicap

European handicaps are often called "normal" or "classic" handicaps and can be found in European and Russian bookmaking companies. This market allows for the provision of advantages in whole or fractional values, expressed as decimal fractions such as "3.5," "8.0," or "-1.5."

The main difference between whole and fractional handicaps is the possibility of a push or draw outcome. Fractional handicaps cannot be calculated with odds of 1.00 because a draw result is impossible when there is a fractional advantage, for example, 11.5:9, 47.5:3, and 7.5:1.

Total handicap values allow for a push or draw outcome, as it is possible for a game to end in a tie, for example, 16:16, 4:4. In the event of a tie, the bookmaker returns the client's stake to their account balance.

The odds for full handicaps are always lower than the odds for fractional handicaps.

Asian Handicap

Asian handicap involves more complex calculation principles. The handicap value consists of fractions such as 0.25 or 0.75.

Quarter handicaps are an example of a combined market with two markets merged into one coupon.

Suppose a player adds a market with a fraction of 0.25. In that case, the bookmaker provides two bets on the actual value of the lower denomination handicap and the decimal fraction of the higher value. For example, a handicap of 9.25 would include:

  • H (9.0)
  • H (9.5)

Bets with a fraction of 0.75 represent two separate bets: one on the absolute value of the higher denomination handicap and the decimal fraction of the lower value. For example, a handicap of 3.75 would include:

  • H (3.5)
  • H (4.0)

The bookmaker divides the placed amount equally between the fractional handicaps, creating multiple outcomes within the market. Bookmakers calculate Each outcome separately, meaning the odds for a bet can be less than 1.00.

Football Handicap Betting

Handicap betting in football is one of the most popular markets bookmakers offer for football events. Companies often accept bets on both classic European and Asian handicaps.

Football Handicap Betting

In most cases, you can place bets on positive and negative handicap values due to the low-scoring nature of football matches and the higher likelihood of underdogs winning.

Bookmakers may limit bets on the positive handicap of the favourite due to the potential outcome in favour of the underdog. The odds for positive handicaps favouring the more robust team are often minimal.

Example of Football Handicap Betting in Action

In the English Premier League match between "Man City" and "Southampton," a player places a bet on "F (1) 1.5," which means a handicap of 1.5 goals in favour of the home team. The final score is 5-6; considering the handicap, it becomes 6.5-6 in favour of "Man City." Since "Man City" wins with the handicap, the bookmaker will settle the bet in favour of the customer.

Ice Hockey Handicap Betting

Due to the high-scoring nature of hockey matches, bookmakers offer a more significant number of handicap positions in their betting markets.

Ice Hockey Handicap Betting

Players can place bets with an advantage for the underdog, provide insurance in the form of several goals to the favourite, determine the minimum difference in the final score, and utilise Asian handicaps. The most famous market in hockey matches is the zero handicap.

Example of Ice Hockey Handicap Betting in Action

The user places a bet on the negative handicap "F (2) -1.5" in the NHL match between "Florida" and "Tampa Bay." The match's final score is 4-8, and with the handicap, it becomes 4-6.5 in favour of "Tampa Bay." Even with the negative handicap, the away team wins, so the bookmaker credits the winnings to the customer.

In hockey, it is possible to place bets on handicaps within particular periods of the match.

Golf Handicap Betting

You are correct. In golf, bookmakers do not offer handicap bets. The term "handicap in golf" refers to the average number of strokes a golfer plays above par.

In the betting lines of bookmakers, sports fans can place bets on tournament winners in golf.

Golf Handicap Betting

Additionally, bookmakers provide various other types of golf betting options beyond predicting the tournament winner. While handicap bets may not be available, there are several popular alternatives that golf enthusiasts can explore:

  1. Outright Bets: As mentioned, you can place bets on the outright winner of a golf tournament. This involves selecting the golfer you believe will emerge as the champion at the end of the event. The odds for each golfer will vary based on their past performances, current form, and the competitiveness of the field.
  2. Top Finishing Position: Bookmakers also offer the opportunity to bet on a golfer's finishing position within the tournament. You can wager on whether a particular player will finish in the top three, top five, top ten, or any other specified range. This bet allows you to have a broader selection of options and potentially earn a payout even if your chosen golfer doesn't win the event.
  3. Matchups: Golf betting lines often include head-to-head matchups, where bookmakers pair two golfers against each other, and you have to predict who will achieve the better score. These matchups can be based on a single round or the entire tournament. It adds an element of excitement to following specific players and their performance relative to their competitors.
  4. Prop Bets: Prop bets, short for proposition bets, offer a range of exciting betting opportunities in golf. These can include wagers on specific events during the tournament, such as whether a player will hit a hole-in-one, which player will record the longest drive or even the nationality of the tournament winner. Prop bets can be a fun way to engage with the tournament beyond predicting the overall outcome.
  5. Futures Bets: Before a season or major tournament begins, bookmakers often release futures bets, allowing you to bet on various outcomes well in advance. For example, you can bet on which golfer will win the next major championship or who will top the money list at the end of the season. Futures bets can offer attractive odds but require patience as the outcome may take time to determine.

While handicap bets are not common in golf betting, these alternative options provide plenty of excitement and opportunities for fans to engage with the sport and potentially earn some winnings based on their predictions.

Handicap Betting in Horse Racing

In horse racing betting markets, bookmakers rarely accept handicap bets. The term "handicap" in sports is used in competitions involving participants of varying skill levels. Organisers, such as reduced distance, an early start, or the absence of obstacles, give weaker participants in horse races advantages.

Handicap Betting in Horse Racing

Bookmakers in horse racing provide various other types of bets that fans can engage in, including:

  1. Win Bet: This is the simplest and most common type of bet in horse racing. You place a bet on a horse to win the race, and if your chosen horse finishes first, you win the bet.
  2. Place Bet: With a place bet, you wager on a horse to finish first or second. You win the bet if your selected horse achieves either of these positions. The odds for place bets are generally lower than win bets, but the chances of winning are higher.
  3. Each-Way Bet: An each-way bet combines a winning bet and a place bet into a single wager. You are placing two bets: one on the horse to win and another on the horse to place. If your chosen horse wins the race, the win bet and the place bet will pay out. If the horse finishes in second or third place (or sometimes even fourth, depending on the race and the number of runners), only the place bet portion of the wager will yield a payout.
  4. Forecast Bet: A forecast bet requires you to predict the horses that will finish first and second in the correct order. This bet can offer higher payouts but is more challenging to win.
  5. Trifecta and Superfecta Bets: These bets involve predicting the horses that will finish in the top three (trifecta) or top four (superfecta) positions in the correct order. These bets offer even larger potential payouts but are significantly more difficult to win due to the precise order requirement.


Handicap betting provides an alternative to traditional outcome bets. Proper utilisation of handicaps in sports betting allows for risk minimisation or the opportunity to earn higher profits through enhanced odds. 

Using handicaps, bettors can minimise risk or seek higher profits through enhanced odds. Handicap betting enables a more nuanced approach, as it considers the margin of victory or defeat rather than simply predicting the outright winner. This can be particularly valuable when there is an apparent mismatch in skill levels between the competitors.

It's important to note that handicap betting strategies require careful analysis and understanding of the teams or players involved, their recent form, head-to-head records, and other relevant factors. By assessing these variables, bettors can identify opportunities where the handicap bookmakers offer present a favourable betting proposition.

Handicap betting can be an appealing option for sports bettors seeking more diverse and strategic wagering opportunities beyond traditional outcome bets, allowing for both risk mitigation and the potential for increased returns.


What is handicap betting?

Handicap betting is a form of sports betting where one team or player is given a virtual advantage or disadvantage in terms of points, goals, or sets to level the playing field for betting purposes.

How does handicap betting work?

In handicap betting, the stronger team or player is handicapped by deducting points or goals from their final score or adding them to the weaker team or player's score. The handicap is then applied to determine the outcome of the bet.

What is a "minus" handicap?

A "minus" handicap, or a negative handicap, is when the favourite or stronger team/player starts the match by deducting points or goals. They must win by a margin more significant than the handicap for the bet to be successful.

What is a "plus" handicap?

A "plus" handicap, or a positive handicap, is when the underdog or weaker team/player receives a virtual advantage through extra points or goals. They can win the match outright or lose by a margin smaller than the handicap for the bet to win.

Can handicap betting result in a draw or push?

Yes, handicap betting can result in a draw or push. If the final result of the match, after considering the handicap, matches the handicap value, the bet is considered a draw or push, and the stake is usually refunded.

What are the benefits of handicap betting?

Handicap betting offers an opportunity to get more competitive odds and potentially higher payouts by levelling the playing field. It allows bettors to find value in matches with a clear favourite by allowing them to bet on the underdog with a handicap advantage.

In which sports is handicap betting commonly used?

Handicap betting is commonly used in sports such as football (soccer), basketball, rugby, tennis, and golf. It is also prevalent in other team sports and individual competitions where opponents differ in skill or ability.


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