What is handicap betting? Ultimate 2024 Guide

What is handicap betting? Ultimate 2022 Guide

Handicap betting is becoming increasingly popular in sportsbooks around the globe. Initially limited to football (especially in Asia), handicap options are now available in different sports and markets.

But, what is handicap betting, how does it work, and what is the difference between a regular handicap bet and an Asian handicap bet?

Let’s dive in.   

What Is Handicap in Betting and How Does It Work?

Handicap in betting is a form of sports betting– also known as ‘spread’ betting– that helps level the playing field when one selection in the market is deemed ‘inferior’.

In other words, if one team is considered ‘superior’ in a match and has a much greater chance of winning the event, the bookmaker will give it a virtual deficit (a handicap) to overcome (this automatically gives the ‘inferior’ selection a virtual advantage).

If your chosen selection has a greater score than its opponent’s after the handicap has been applied, they’ll be considered the winner of the event. 

DID YOU KNOW: In rare circumstances, bookies might give the ‘inferior’ selection a deficit to overcome, which would usually mean a higher price.

Different Handicap Betting Markets

3-way handicap betting

Three-way handicap betting allows bettors to bet on the handicap tie option, which is essentially betting on a team that receives the virtual deficit to win by the exact margin that’s offered.

Consider the following 3-way handicap margins:

  • Manchester United: +2
  • Draw/handicap tie: effectively -2
  • Chelsea: -2

If you backed Chelsea and they win the match 1-0, you’ll lose the bet because they didn’t cover the spread– based on the betting margins, Chelsea effectively lost 2-1 to Manchester United.

If you bet on the handicap tie, your bet again loses since Chelsea didn’t win by the stated (2) margin.

No draw handicap betting 

A no draw handicap eliminates the chance for a draw and guarantees that there’s a winner this is also called draw no bet betting

In such a bet, you’ll often see the following margins:

  • Arsenal: -0.5
  • Liverpool: +0.5

Since Liverpool has a half-a-goal advantage at the very start of the game, bettors that are backing Arsenal will win the bet if the team wins the match.

If the match ends in a draw, they’ll lose the bet because, in betting terms, Liverpool will have a half-a-goal more. Those backing Liverpool will win the bet if the team wins or draws the match. 

Asian Handicap Betting 

Asian handicap is essentially a variation of the no draw handicap that eliminates a draw, which is immensely popular in Asia and usually applies to football matches.

There are two types of handicap in Asian handicap betting: half goal and whole goal.

In the case of a whole goal handicap, all bets are refunded if the result is a draw after the handicap. In the case of a half-goal handicap, there’s no possibility of a draw, and there’s always a winner.

Some Asian handicap markets give teams two handicaps, as in the following example:

• Liverpool +0 & +0.5

• Chelsea -0 & -0.5

In this case, the bet placed is divided between a bet on the half-goal handicap and a bet on the zero handicap. If you back Chelsea for  £20, your bet is automatically divided into two separate bets: £10 on the zero handicap and £10 on the half-goal handicap. 

If Chelsea loses, you’ll lose both bets, and if they win, you’ll win both bets. However, if the game is drawn, the half-goal handicap bet will lose, and the zero handicap bet will be voided (which means the bookmaker will refund the bet). 

Bottom Line

Handicap betting gives punters on both sides a better chance of winning a bet, especially when a selection in an event is considered ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’.

It’s a popular form of betting that offers an alternative to the more traditional 1×2, and although it may take some time to become a proficient handicap bettor, it is one of the most interesting options that bookmakers have to offer.


What sports can handicaps be used for?

Handicap betting is most popular in football. Other sports with handicap markets include rugby, golf, tennis, basketball, NFL, basketball, cricket, and eSports such as League of Legends.

What is the difference between handicap and spread betting?

Spread betting and handicap betting refer to the same form of betting.

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