What Is Handicap Betting And How Does It Work?

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For some betting enthusiasts, simply betting on the winner of a game isn’t enough. They need a type of bet which can take more things into consideration, like recent form, difference in squad value and the size of the win.

For these specific cases, handicap betting has been born. These bets first appeared in Asia, especially in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets, but quickly grew in popularity in the 21st century.

Nowadays, any brick-and-mortar or online betting site offers many handicap bets (simple, split, Asian) on a multitude of sports, the most popular being basketball, hockey and, of course, football. Handicap bets may seem complicated but are simple to understand. Let’s find out below!

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Handicap betting explained

Handicap betting takes the form and value of a team in consideration more so than regular betting and can be applied to any sports. Simply put, a team can have a positive or negative “handicap” attached to their name.

Let’s take an example from basketball first: If you look at a betting slip for a game between the Lakers and the Clippers, you have the option of betting on the home side, the away side, or on a draw.

When looking at handicap bets, you might see something like Lakers -4,5, or Clippers +6,5. This only means that the teams start the game (for you bet) with the positive or negative score attached to them. In the case of the first bet, the match no longer starts at 0 – 0 for the Lakers, but at -4,5 – 0.

If they game ends 98-92, your bet is a winner, because the Lakers’ score (98) minus their initial handicap (-4,5) is still greater than the Clippers score (92). If the Lakers won 95-92, your bet would be a loser, because 95-4,5 < 92. Easy to understand, isn’t it?

Handicap betting in football

While handicap bets are available in a wide array of sports, their most common application is found in football betting, due to the large number of events you can place handicap bets on. You can place handicap bets on the final result of the game, on yellow cards, corners, the number of goals scored by each them – the possibilities are almost endless.

Handicap betting is a great way to take advantage of the in-depth knowledge you gain when you analyze a team for long periods of time, like half a season. These bets can also mirror some very common choices, like double chance bets or over/under bets, usually at better odds – because lots of bettors don’t understand how handicap bets work.

Types of Handicap betting

In football, there are three main handicap betting types: simple, split and Asian.

Simple Handicap (or European Handicap) is easiest to understand. It only gives you round numbers to deal with. Let’s take a modern example: Liverpool will play Tottenham in the next round of the Premier League, on 11.02. The basic odds for the game are 2,15 for a home win, 3,40 for a draw and 3,30 for an away win. The European Handicap bets for the same game work in the following way: Each team is given a handicap, either positive or negative.

For example, for a -2 handicap for Liverpool, the odds for the above scenarios are the following: Home win: 8.50, draw 6,00 and away win 1,20. This simply means that Liverpool start the game with -2 goals. If they win with this handicap, you win 8.50 times your initial wager, and the rest are self-explanatory. On the other hand, the odds for Liverpool +1 are 1,34 – 4.75 – 6.50 respectively.

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Asian Handicap introduces some different concepts, since the handicaps aren’t always round numbers. Let’s take the same game as an example. We can place a Liverpool -1,5 bet, which means Liverpool start the game with -1,5 goals. If they win by two goals, the bet is won – if they win by one goal, draw or lose the game, the bet is lost – very straightforward until here.

For Asian Handicap, the trickier bets are -1 and -1,25. Liverpool -1, in this case, mean that Liverpool start the game with a -1 goal handicap, but if they win by just one goal, you get your money back. No win, no lose, just a refund.

This is a great way to bet on favorite teams against smaller ones since they tend to win their games with at least a few goals. The main difference between European and Asian handicaps is this one: For European Handicap, a -1 bet means the team has to win by two goals or more. For Asian Handicap, the team can win by a single goal, and you can get your money back.

A -1,25 bet is called a Split Handicap bet, and can be presented in another form as well: -1, -1,5. Essentially, your bet is split into two bets: a -1 bet and a -1,5 bet. If Liverpool wins by a single goal, you get half your money back (the -1 half) and lose the other half (-1,5). These split handicap bets are a great way to reduce risk when going for a big bet, like -2,25 or similar. They are not as widely used by betting enthusiasts, but still, present some interest.

These same rules are applied for other categories as well. For yellow cards, Liverpool -1,5 means that Liverpool have to concede with 2 yellow cards more than Tottenham for your bet to be a winner. -1,5 for goal scored means that Liverpool needs to score at least 2 goals.


Now that we’ve clarified how handicap betting works let’s take a look at a few real live examples from next weekend’s games. The Premier League gives us a clash between Burnley and Chelsea, one the away team should be winning. The odds for this away win are pretty small – 1,40, but we might be able to take advantage of the game using handicap bets.

A Chelsea -1,5 bet, which has very good chances of succeeding, has odds around 2,10 at most bookies – and the Blues should win this game by two goals. On the other hand, if you think Burnley will play well defensively and not concede a lot, a Burnley +2,25 (split handicap) bet has odds around 1,40 – a good thing to consider since Chelsea might also lack motivation.

Another example comes from Bournemouth – Manchester City. An away win has the same small 1,40 odds, but going City -1 gives odds at around 1,80. If they win by a single goal, you get your money back – which is a good thing, considering that City need to win.

That being said, we hope you now understand European and Asian Handicaps and are ready to use these bets in real market conditions. As always, take good care when analyzing your games, and be inspired!