Online Betting » Betting Guide » Understand Handicap Betting: How Handicaps Work in Sports Betting

Understand Handicap Betting: How Handicaps Work in Sports Betting

Dave Kuzio
Fact checked by: Jim Knight
Publish Date: 20.12.2023

What is Handicap Betting?

I know when I am placing bets, I am looking to make a decent profit on every single bet I place. Yes, there is some satisfaction in just having a winning bet, but in my opinion, there is no real excitement in winning with a heavy favourite. Handicap betting allows you to keep the bet simple and boost your odds at the same time.

Having a term like handicap betting thrown in your direction can be a little daunting, but once you know the ins and outs of it you should be fine. The main purpose of handicap betting is to give soccer teams a more even chance of winning by handing a slight advantage.

When betting on soccer, the handicap part is normally in terms of goals being scored. When you hear punters and sports commentators talking about ‘the spread’, they mean handicap betting.

How Does Handicap Betting Work in Soccer?

Let’s compare an example of giving each match outcome a -2 handicap and how that would change the odds.

Team Full Time Result Odds Handicap Result Handicap Odds
Man City 1/3 -2 21/10
Handicap Tie 17/4 -2 22/1
Tottenham Hotspur 13/2 -2 40/1

Alternatively, here’s a look at how the +2 handicap would impact the odds.

Team Full Time Result Odds Handicap Result Handicap Odds
Man City 1/3 +2 1/50
Handicap Tie 17/4 +2 10/3
Tottenham Hotspur 13/2 +2 5/6

When it comes to handicap betting in soccer, the path normally trodden is on the amount of goals that are scored. Depending on your handicap selection your team will either start with a positive goal start or a minus goal start with the chosen betting site.

I am going to use Manchester City versus Manchester United in the Premier League as my main example. With Man City the defending Premier League champions and Manchester United struggling for any kind of form, just betting on City to win would not offer great rewards.

By looking at the handicap goals market, I would recommend backing Man City -2 on the handicap. This effectively means that Man City would start the game 2-0 down against United. For your bet to be successful, Man City would need to win the game 3-0 or 4-1 and so on. Basically, if you add two goals to United’s overall score and City still win the game, your bet is a winner.

If you went the other way and backed Manchester United +2, they would start the game 2-0 up and your bet would be a winner if they lost the game 1-0 or 2-1. It adds a bit of excitement to your bet and it allows you to back the favourite at favourable odds.

Examples of Single Handicap Betting

If you are still a little confused about how handicap betting really works, hopefully, this little guide below should clear the waters. The numbers in brackets is the advantage or disadvantage each team has. Check out these examples:

Goal Handicap -1 eg. Man City (-1) vs Man United (+1)

  • Manchester United start the game with a one goal advantage
  • If you are backing City to win, they need to beat United by two clear goals
  • If you have City to win, your bet will lose if the match ends in a draw
  • If you have United to win, your bet will be successful if United win the match or it ends in a draw

Goal Handicap -2 eg. Barcelona (-2) vs Real Madrid (+2)

  • Real Madrid start the game with a 2-0 lead
  • If you are backing Barcelona to win, they need to beat Real Madrid by three or more clear goals
  • If you have Barcelona to win, your bet will lose if the game is a draw or Barcelona win by a single goal
  • If you back Real Madrid to win, your bet will be successful as long as they do not lose by three or more goals

Goal Handicap -3 eg. England (-3) v Germany (+3)

  • England are starting the game with a 3-0 lead
  • If you are backing England to win, they need to win 4-0 or 5-1 (four or more goals)
  • If you have England to win, your bet will lose if the game is a draw or they score less than four
  • If you back Germany, your bet will win as long as they lose by three or more goals

What Are The Other Forms of Handicap Betting?

I have already mentioned that the goal handicap is one of the most popular when it comes to handicap betting, but there are a number of other options available to you. Many of these are also available with the best live betting sites too.


Handicap Brief Summary
Alternative Handicap Betting This allows punters to bet on matches with a different kind of disadvantage. Eg, backing the favourite with -1 or -2 handicap. The odds will be more beneficial as well.
First Half Handicap You do not have to just bet on the final result. This bet will be settled at half time. Backing Man City -1 in a half time handicap would mean your bet would win if they held at least a two-goal lead at the break.
Asian Handicap This is slightly different and confusing at first. A draw is eliminated because of the decimal in the odds. If you back the favourite at -2.5, that team would need to win by three clear goals for the bet to be successful.
Corner Handicap Betting This allows you to bet on the corner market with a handicap. Back Man United +2 corners and your bet would win if the two teams had the same number of corners or one less.
Card Handicap Betting Works just like the Corner market. Back Arsenal +1 cards and your bet will win if they receive the same number of bookings or if Arsenal have the most.

Another popular form of handicap betting is on the Asian Handicap Betting Market. This form of betting is mainly used in soccer and the favourite in the game is handicapped more in terms of goals they need to score. The stronger the team the more goals they need to score.

Is Spread Betting the Same as Handicap Betting?

The two terms have different meanings but are also quite similar. Spread betting is primarily referenced in US Sports.

For the handicap, the bookmaker is saying ‘Newcastle will win by 2 or more goals’, whereas the spread bet is saying they expect ‘Newcastle to score more goals than their opponent’.

Spread betting is very popular in America with sports like the NFL, NBA and NHL and is quite complicated at first. If you are unsure on how the spread really works, it is safer to stick with the handicap market until you become more familiar.

What are The Benefits of Handicap Betting?

Going through the handicap betting market can end up being quite lucrative. This is because you will be betting on teams you probably wouldn’t normally back, either because they are playing too well and the odds are not favourable. Alternatively, the team you want to back haven’t won in six matches and you do not really want to take that much of a gamble.

Adding the handicap odds to a bet could improve your odds, especially if you combine them in an accumulator. If you added three or four selections with handicap odds, then the overall price could be quite handsome and a risk worth taking.

If you are just starting out on your betting journey, maybe handicap betting is not for you at first. It can be quite confusing to someone new to the world of betting. Maybe work up to handicap betting once you have a feel for what it entails.

Best Sites Offering Handicap Betting

Betting Handicap FAQ

✅ Is Handicap Betting safe?

Handicap betting is as safe a way of betting as any other market. Yes, there is risk involved, but you have that with any form of betting. It is important to use official licensed betting sites when going down the handicap route. If a bookmaker states they are licensed by the UK Gambling Commision or the Gibraltar Gambling Commission, then that is essentially a seal of approval when it comes to trust.

😀 Can you win at Handicap Betting?

Yes, you can win when using the handicap odds, but it’s important to state that is not a guarantee. There is always risk when placing bets – that is the excitement of it – but you should never assume that your bet is going to always win. Do not go into handicap betting blindly. You will need to have a good grasp of the chosen subject. Do your research when it comes to form and head-to-head results, as well as individual player stats.

✔️ Is it beneficial to bet on handicaps?

One of the main reasons people go down the handicap route is because they offer more value than a regular match result market. There is little fun for some in just betting on the clear favourite to win for little return, or fancying the heavy underdog with no chance of winning. Handicap basically evens up the chances of both teams succeeding with better odds.


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