Handicap betting is a type of sports betting used to even out the playing field between two teams when there is a perceived strength differential between them. You can find it in many sports, including basketball betting, football betting, cricket betting and rugby.

Also known as the spread or Asian handicap betting, handicap betting is helpful in “evening up” a market. Sportsbooks will provide more betting odds than just win/draw/lose and provide handicap bets on one team.

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Handicap Betting Explained

Many punters new to wagering find handicap betting a tough market to master. It’s crucial, however, to go back to basics to be able to make better strategies in the long-run.

Handicap betting is available across a wide array of sports and is commonly chosen by punters over typical match as it offers them more competitive odds.

In handicap betting or Asian handicap betting as mentioned, betting sites will give one of the selections a head start before the match has even started. Meaning to say the winner of the handicap market can sometimes produce a different result to the outright outcome.

For instance, if Team A is widely favored to triumph in a match, their opponents, Team B, may receive a two-goal start.

How Are Handicap Bets Presented?

If one competitor is significantly favored over another one, bookies give the weaker competitor a head start, which is taken into account when calculating the final result.

For instance, Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg. Handicap 0-2 (Wolfsburg is given a 2-goal head start). Despite Bayern winning 1-0; the punter can still win if he put a handicap bet on Wolfsburg since the handicap would place the score 1-2 for the purposes of the bet.


Let’s say, a punter placed a 0-3 handicap bet on the game England vs. Brazil. The final score was 2-0. When the handicap is taken into account, the results would be:

0-3 + 2-0 = 2-3

Basically, the punter’s “score” (the number that counts for the purpose of your bet) is hence 2-3. Therefore, if the punter bet on Brazil in the game, he wins.

Handicap Betting in different sports

What is Handicap Betting in Football?

How exactly is handicap betting present in football matches?

For football games, bookies provide a virtual advantage to the weaker team, and a virtual disadvantage to the stronger one.

There are two common types of handicap betting in football: No Draw Handicap Bet and Handicap League Betting.

“No draw handicap bet”

Here a handicap is a decimal number, hence striking off the possibility of a draw since there are no half goals in football. Given that there is no decimal in this handicap, the stake is refunded to the punter in the event of a draw.

Handicap League Betting

Is quite similar to the one above. In this format, however, punters bet on a particular football team’s performance across the whole season. Punts are made at the start of the season prior to the first game and are not paid out until the season’s final game has been played.

What is Handicap Bets in Basketball?

In this portion, we delve into the basics of what is handicap betting in basketball.

Betting online has paved the way for a whole new variety of bet types and choices on arguably the most popular basketball league, the National Basketball Association or NBA.

With the NBA becoming one of the most wagered on games in the world, online sportsbooks have concentred on it heavily.

Handicap betting or line betting is actually present on every NBA match. Sportsbooks allow the least favored team to have a head start while the favorite team, on the other hand, is given a handicap.

For instance, the Cleveland Cavaliers might be +8.5 points. This means if Cleveland Cavaliers wins, then the punter wins. However, if the team loses by less than 8.5 points, the punter still wins.

On the other hand, if the Cleveland Cavaliers lose by 10 points or more, then the punter loses his bet.

What is Handicap Bets in Cricket?

While the cricket handicap is relatively straightforward, it differs in some ways to handicaps utilised in other sports. In sports like football and basketball, the handicap is applied before a game begins. Since it commonly starts at 0-0, both groups/teams are given an equal chance to score at any time.

In one-day cricket, an outcome could come out in two ways: the team that bats first could win by a specific number of runs, or the team that bats second can become the winner by number of wickets.

Whichever bats first makes a huge deal to the probable target score, hence its somehow hard to assign an appropriate handicap value.

This is also applied in a format in cricket called Twenty20, where each team bats for a maximum of 20 overs.

What is Handicap Bets in Horse Racing?

For punters who are into horse racing, this section provides an overview of what is handicap betting in horse racing.

Handicap races allow horses of differing ability to race competitively against each other through the allocation of weight. The handicap rating is commonly used in the game. It is a numeric representation of the form of a horse, hence, its perceived level of ability.

The horse is required to carry more weight as their handicap rating becomes higher. If Horse D’s current handicap rating is two steps higher compared to Horse E’s, the two would have a hypothetically equal chance of winning a handicap match if Horse D carried two pounds more than Horse E.

Handicap Betting Summary

Learning the basics of what is handicap betting will help punters progress in their wagering journey. In summary, it brings a goal disadvantage to one team for betting purposes. Bookies will provide more betting odds than just win/draw/lose. This type of betting makes the games with a stronger team more equal. It also allows the games to become more interesting to bet on. A group/team must score one more goal than their handicap to win a bet.