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Football Betting for Beginners: Handicap Betting

Handicap Betting is one of the most popular types of betting across the globe from Nevada to Nagasaki
Handicap Betting is one of the most popular types of betting across the globe from Nevada to Nagasaki

Shots on target, player cards and accumulators are all very popular at the moment when it comes to choosing your football bets. However one form of wagering that you might not be so familiar with is handicap betting. 

We’ve put together a small guide to help you give you the basics and hopefully give you a few pointers into where you might apply handicap betting to your own punting prowess. 

What is Handicap Betting?

Handicap betting, also referred to as ‘points betting, ‘Asian handicap’ or ‘the spread’ is the process where bookmakers turn a sporting event in which the odds are unbalanced into an even money contest. Handicap betting basically exists in order to make one-sided sporting events a lot more exciting to bet on. 

They do this by giving one selection a virtual deficit (handicap) to overcome before the sporting event starts. After the event, if your chosen selection’s score is greater than the opponents after the handicap is applied, your bet will be a winner.

Example

Let’s say Manchester United are taking on Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup. Manchester United are priced at 1/20 to win the game meaning you have to bet £20 in order to win £1 profit. 

As you can see there’s not much value in that, so a virtual deficit (handicap) can be added to make the odds a lot more appealing. Here below we can see where a goal handicap has been added.

Manchester United -2 - Evens (2.0)

Handicap Draw -2 - 5/2 (3.5)

Accrington Stanley +2 - 12/5 (3.4) 

Let’s say the match finishes 3-0 to Manchester United, if you have bet on ‘Manchester -2’, your bet wins, and you will double your stake with odds of even money. When betting on Manchester United -2 handicap, you effectively bet on them to start the game 2-0 down. By winning 3-0 they have overcome the handicap and have effectively won the game 3-2 meaning your bet lands.

If you had bet on the ‘handicap draw’ your bet would have lost. This is because Manchester have not won by the exact margin specified in the handicap. Effectively here you would be betting on Manchester United to win by two or more goals, so that they make up the two goal deficit in order for the game to be a draw.

If you had bet on Accrington Stanley +2, your bet would also have lost. The handicap effectively gives Stanley a two goal head-start, however they have gone on to concede three goals meaning the bet loses.

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How is handicap betting presented?

  • Handicap Match Betting

This is the most common form of handicap betting as we showed you in the example above. There are three possible outcomes for which you can place your bets on. Let’s say that Team A are given a virtual deficit to overcome as they are by far the better side. Their opponent, Team B, is given a virtual head-start, as they are deemed the inferior side.

Manchester United (-2) - Evens (2.0)

Handicap Draw (-2) - 5/2 (3.5)

Accrington Stanley (+2) - 12/5 (3.4)

Another benefit of handicap match betting is that you can bet on the ‘handicap draw’. By doing this you are effectively betting on the team who has been given the virtual deficit, to win by the exact margin offered on the handicap draw. If we use the above as an example, had you bet on the ‘handicap draw -2’ and the game finished 2-0 to Manchester United, your bet would be a winner.

  • No Draw Handicap Match Betting

Very similar to the above, the ‘No Draw Handicap Match Betting’ takes out the possibility of a ‘handicap draw’ leaving just two outcomes. In order to take the draw out of the equation, bookmakers will use 0.5 in their handicap mark. For example in a game where Manchester United are big favourites to beat Accrington Stanley, this is how the betting might be offered.

Manchester United (-2.5) 11/10

Accrington Stanley (+2.5) 4/5 

If Manchester United win the game 3-0 then they would win the team handicap as they have overcome their -2.5 virtual goal deficit. If the game was to finish 3-1 to Manchester United, Accrington Stanley would win on the match handicap as they have protected their virtual 2.5 goal start.

The no draw handicap market is extremely popular in Rugby Union and Rugby League. Bookmakers will tend to set a mark for how many points there will be in the game and then bettors can choose whether they think there will be more or less points scored than the bookmakers mark. 

  • Handicap League Betting

Another of the most popular forms of handicap betting is handicap league betting. This is where you make a handicap wager based on a team's performance throughout the season. The team that is judged the favourite to win the league starts with a handicap of zero (or scratch). Every other team in the division is then given a virtual head start over the favourites with an equivalent handicap points score. The worse the team is deemed, the larger the handicap they will receive.

Then at the end of the season, all the teams’ handicap scores are combined with their actual points total. The team with the most points is then declared the winner of the market. Effectively you are betting on which team you think will overperform the most over the course of the season. Each-way places can sometimes be offered too on this market, with certain firms giving returns on 2nd and 3rd.

  • Asian Handicap Betting

Another term you might have seen pop up in betting is the term Asian Handicap. Popularised in Asia (hence the name) Asian handicap betting involves handicaps with whole and half numbers. This means that no draws are possible, similar to the no draw handicap. 

The main difference is that with the Asian Handicap, there are split handicaps, where your selection can have one handicap that is a whole number and one that is a half number.

So if Manchester are -1 & -1.5 and win the game by two goals or more you will win on this selection.

If Manchester United only win by one goal though, you receive half of your stake back, as your whole stake is split over the two bets. 

Which bookmakers offer handicap betting markets?

Most bookmakers out there now offer handicap markets. It’s a form of betting that is popular all over the world, from Louisiana to the Land of the Rising Sun, and can offer benefits to varying types of punter. I tend to find the five bookmakers below the best for handicap betting. Their extensive range of markets, combined with consistent prices are the major draws.

Once you have got your head around betting handicaps you will find they can be a really helpful tool in your punting portfolio. You’ll have a wider range of markets to bet on with ways of giving yourself an insurance backup on wagers. There are more precise methods of betting which can enhance a game, especially when there is a heavy favourite involved.

I always when picking my football tips I recommend doing research into your bets and trying to find a potential edge over the bookmaker into why you think that your bet will win, or why you think it is over-priced. Gambling should always be fun and handicap betting can certainly make it a more exciting experience, but please remember to do so in a responsible manner.

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