There are many ways to bet on sports, and although the most popular option remains the standard match or tournament winner markets, there is a viable alternative in the form of handicap betting.

You may have seen handicap betting markets on bookies apps. If you aren’t sure how they work, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you navigate the handicap betting world.

Handicap Betting: the Basics

Handicap betting is different from traditional betting. In traditional markets, you are betting on the team or individual you think will win. In some cases, you can also bet on the draw.

With a handicap bet, you are not betting on the winner, but on the margin of victory. The bookmaker sets a handicap for the competitors that reflects their opinion of the difference between the two teams. They will then set odds for each outcome.

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For example, the traditional match betting market on an NBA game might look like this:

  • LA Lakers 4/9
  • New York Knicks 21/10

As you can see, the Lakers are the clear favourite and are available at a short price. Some basketball punters may not want to back the Lakers at that price so they can check out the handicap option:

  • LA Lakers: -7.5 10/11
  • New York Knicks: +7.5 10/11

In this case, if you bet on the Lakers, you need them to win by 8 points or more to win the bet, as they have been given a handicap of 7.5.

But, as you will also see, the odds are longer. By changing the focus of the bet from winner-finding to margin-judging, new possibilities have been opened up.

Types of Handicap Bets

The principle of all handicap bets is as described above, but there are several variations.

European Handicaps

The European handicap market provides a bridge between standard match betting and Asian handicap betting (see next section).

The typical European handicap market offers the same options as the match betting market, but with a handicap applied. For example, a typical football market may look like this:

  • Wales +1 8/13
  • USA -1 5/1
  • Draw 3/1

In this case, the handicap market includes the draw. Let’s say you bet on the USA and they win 1-0. Adding the handicap (-1) to that score makes the handicap outcome a draw so you would lose your bet, while anyone who bet on the draw would be a winner.

European handicaps are often displayed in the list of markets as Team A +1 or Team B +2 and may not be called a European handicap with your bookie, so don’t worry too much about the name.

Asian Handicaps

The more common form of handicap betting is the Asian handicap market. In these markets, there are only two bets, though the handicap can be offered in various ways:

Whole Ball Handicaps

This is the simplest form of Asian handicap. These markets look like the European handicap markets outlined above, but there is no draw option. If a game ends in a handicap draw, all bets are refunded.

Half Ball Handicaps

The most common form of Asian handicap, the ‘half-ball’ quotes the handicap in half-points or goals, making the handicap draw impossible:

  • Wales +0.5 10/11
  • USA – 0.5 10/11

If you bet on the USA here and they won 1-0, you would win your bet, but if the game finished 1-1, you would lose your bet, as the half-goal handicap reduces the USA score to 0.5.

Quarter Ball Handicaps

The most complicated form of Asian handicap is the so-called ‘quarter-ball’ option. In this case, the handicap comes in two parts and is effectively two bets, with your stake divided between them:

  • Wales +0.5 / +1.0 10/11
  • USA – 1.0 10/11

As you can see, a bet on Wales is actually two bets: one comes with a +0.5 handicap and another – with a +1 handicap. It means that your stake is split between the two bets and the bets are calculated separately, with the resulting winnings combined.

In this case, if you bet on Wales and they lose 1-0, you would only lose half your stake (on the +0.5 bet) but the other half (on the +1.0 bet) is to be refunded.

Why Choose Handicap Betting?

As we can see, one of the advantages of handicap betting is that it enables you to bet on a favourite you think will win but at longer odds than would be the case in the match betting market.

You will also have a better chance of winning when you bet on an outsider, as long as you think they will finish closer to the favourite than the handicap suggests.

In the long term, handicap betting can encourage you to look more closely at teams or individuals, not just to determine the winner, but to establish the margin between competitors.

This brings a new dimension to your sports betting and helps you develop a more all-around perspective. If you want to try handicap betting, you can find a suitable bookmaker for that at Match.Center.