14.11.2023, 18:25
21.05.2024, 19:51

Handicaps in sports betting and how to understand it.

The 'H' in betting refers to a popular newbie query. 'H' - stands for a handicap bet where an artificial advantage is given to one of the teams or a specific athlete. Handicaps determine the minimum gap in the final score between the favourite and the underdog. Handicaps can be damaging, positive, whole, fractional, and Asian. Each type of handicap is used by sportsbooks in the line for sports events.

What Does Handicap Mean?

The term "H" in betting stands for Handicap, as seen in abbreviations H1, H2, H(1), etc. Handicap is one of the primary betting markets listed for sports matches. Sportsbooks typically set a minimal profit margin for handicap bets, making them an alternative betting market for predicting the outcome of a game. Handicap betting options are available for popular sports. The number of options in a market depends on the sport's scoring dynamics and the match's popularity. 

Types of Handicap

Handicaps can be roughly divided into three groups depending on their numerical values: zero, positive, and negative.

Zero Handicap

A zero handicap does not give any advantage to the chosen team but ensures the bettor against a possible draw. The sportsbook returns the bet amount if the match ends in a draw. Should the selected team win – the bettor receives the full winnings.

Positive Handicaps

A positive handicap gives the chosen team an advantage of several points, goals or pucks. This advantage will be added to the final score of the match. If, after considering the handicap, the victory is for the chosen team, the bet will be won.

Negative Handicaps

Negative handicaps are used to indicate a minimum gap in the final score. The bettor determines the value of the minimum gap, which is subtracted from the final score. If the chosen team still wins – the bet wins.

Whole and Fractional Handicaps

Whole handicaps provide whole values for determining advantage. Fractional handicaps imply that the bet can only be won or lost. Asian handicaps are a betting market, 2 bets combined into 1 equal bet: a whole and a fractional handicap.

Asian Handicaps

Asian handicaps combine two bets: a whole handicap and a fractional handicap. For instance, a "1.25" handicap is a bet on H1 (1.0) and on H2 (1.5); a handicap "1.75" – is a bet on H2 (2.0) and on H1 (1.5).

Please note that in the mentioned handicaps, "H" stands for Handicap, and the numbers 1, 2, 1.5, 2.0 etc refer to the value of the handicap. The sportsbook will split your bet of, say, 100 naira into two bets.

For example, a match "Eintracht - West Ham" with a 100 naira bet on H2 (1.25) will split the stakes: - 50 naira on H2 (1); - 50 naira on H2 (1.5), and calculate each bet separately. Asian handicaps are also called "quarter" handicaps.

On which markets are there handicaps

Bookmakers use handicaps for betting on the outcome of a match and other positions:

  • Handicaps in individual periods, halves, games and quarters;
  • Handicaps on cards for betting on esports;
  • Handicaps on statistical indicators: shootouts, penalties, yellow cards, corners and others.

It is more common to find fractional handicaps in the lists of sportsbooks. Bookmakers use Asian handicaps only for popular matches.

Betting Tips

Professional Betting Recommendations:

  1. Please avoid using Asian handicaps due to their complicated betting calculation rules.
  2. Opt for whole handicaps as they come with a provision for payback.
  3. Place your handicap bets 1–2 hours before the start of the match. This allows you to bet with the highest odds.
  4. In basketball games, one can successfully use corridors - placing bets on handicaps at the spread point. A spread point is the value of a negative and positive handicap with equal coefficients.
  5. Apply betting strategies when betting on handicaps.

For handicaps, sportsbooks have provided higher limits on the maximum bet amount. This allows handicaps to be used for "catch-up" bets or other aggressive strategies.

Pros and Cons


Advantages Disadvantages
Wide range of betting positions. Individual approach to the market in each sportsbook.
Reduced sportsbook margin.  
Possibility of using strategies for match selection.  
Ability to use the market to increase the profitability of outcome bets.  



Players use handicaps in cases where betting on the usual outcome is not profitable – low odds for the favourite's victory, a low chance of an outsider's victory.

Handicap in sportsbooks allows you to bet on the underdog with an artificial advantage.

Bets with negative handicaps favouring the favourite give increased odds compared to the usual outcome.


Which matches are better to place a handicap on?

Better to use handicaps for betting on popular sports such as football, volleyball, tennis, hockey, basketball, and esports. Sportsbooks provide the most detailed notation for handicap betting.

Handicap in sports betting, what does it mean?

A handicap in sports betting is a bet where a team or athlete is given an artificial advantage or disadvantage. This adjusts the odds and can make betting on uneven matchups more appealing.

On which events can one place a handicap bet?

Betting with a handicap can be applied to matches for which the sportsbook sets a handicap in the layout. Sportsbooks less frequently lay out the market for the handicap to insignificant matches or events in unpopular sports. The handicap is often encountered in football, basketball, hockey, and tennis bets.

What is a soft handicap?

Soft handicap - a whole handicap, where the possibility of calculating bets with a return is provided.

What does a hard handicap mean?

A hard handicap refers to fractional handicap betting, in which there is no possibility of a stake being returned. The bet can only have two outcomes: a win or a loss.


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