Connect with us

Sports Betting

What is Handicap Betting?



Handycap Betting

Handicap betting is a common practice in sports like football, rugby, tennis and basketball which follows a point-based system. This betting is also frequently used in racing events, particularly horse racing. Let’s find out all about what handicap in betting means, how it’s calculated, its different types and what strategies you can use in such games to win. 

What is Handicap in Betting?

The meaning of handicap in betting can be defined as a type of bet that evens up the chances for both players or teams to win at a specific event. This concept allows betting sites to add or remove goals or points to manipulate one team’s advantage over the other. 

Handicap betting is also known as spread, points betting or Asian betting where everyone is essentially partaking in a money contest. This contest is typically created by adding points to one side deemed to be the underdog. 

The favourites on the moneyline would have points removed from the final score and the underdog would have points added. Thus, it tries to close the gap, creating a level playing field between the two teams giving them an equal shot at money. 

How are Handicap Lines Calculated?

The handicap meaning in betting is applied based on the advantage one team has over another. The larger the gap in odds on the moneyline, the bigger the spread will be for the handicap. Usually, there are no set rules about what the handicap will be, but it usually follows a set pattern in typical sports like the NBA. 

For instance, Arsenal was the favourite to beat Manchester United, and the bookmaker of the handicap bet might give Manchester United a 2-0 handicap advantage. If you place a handicap bet on Arsenal to win, but they only win the game 1-0, you lose your bet. This is because according to the handicap rules, Arsenal lost the game 2-1. 

Therefore, the handicap match betting might be presented as follows:

  • Arsenal (-2) 
  • Handicap Tie (-1) 3/1
  • Manchester United (+2) 2/1

As the match ended in a 1-0 victory for Arsenal, you would not win. It is important to understand that in handicap betting, the handicap only applies to the selection you are betting on. You would win the game if Arsenal had scored 3, making the game points 2-3.

However, if you bet on the handicap tie, you would end up winning your bet as Arsenal won by the exact margin specified in the handicap. So, when betting on a handicap tie, it is the margin of the win which counts rather than the number of goals scored.

Keep this game in mind, if you bet on Manchester United to win, you would win the bet as they effectively won the game in the eyes of the bookmaker, making the score 2-1.

Also, note that you might see the term “scratch” instead of a handicap. If you see this term, it means that no handicaps have been applied to the game. The actual winners will be viewed as the market winners by the bookmakers. 

What are the Different Types of Handicap Bets?

When it comes to handicap betting, two types of bets are usually considered. Let’s dive deeper into understanding how these bets are linked to different sports:

  • 2-Way Handicap Bets

A 2-way handicap is the most common type of betting handicap. In this bet, you get two outcomes- a home or away win. For example, let’s take the example of a major league baseball or MLB game between the Yellow Jackets and Mudcats.  

The handicap is set at 1.5 runs which is common for baseball. Now you must choose the Yellow Jackets at -1.5 or the Mudcats at +1.5. These runs get subtracted from the final score. 

  • 3-Way Handicap Bets

A 3-way handicap bet is usually rare but still accessible. This betting system is usually linked to sports like soccer, where ties are a part of the game. 

For example, in a premier league game between Leeds United and Liverpool. There are three options for the handicap bets which can be placed like: 

  • Leeds United at +1
  • Handicap Tie – Leeds United +1
  • Liverpool -1

In this scenario, the handicap in football or soccer adds one goal to Leeds and removes one goal from Liverpool. The draw (tie) indicates that a goal will be added to the Leeds score to create the tie. 

So, if Leeds were to lose 2-1. Then a +1 goal would be added to their score to make the handicap football score to 2-2 and the bet would win. Basically, any result where Leeds loses by 1 goal will see this bet win and any other result will see this bet lose. 

What are Whole Number Handicaps?

As the name of the bet suggests, whole numbers are used for the handicap. This means this bet is usually used for games where there is a potential for a tie. This can include a hockey or football handicap. 

Let’s understand this better by taking an example from an international hockey game between the New Jersey Devils and Stick Sharks. The whole number handicap bet might be placed as follows:

  • New Jersey Devils at +2
  • Stick Sharks at -2

So, if you bet on Stick Sharks at +2 and they lose the game at 4-2, then the handicap score is adjusted to 4-4. In case of a tie, the bet would be a push and the stake would be returned. 

What are Half-Number Handicaps? 

Half-handicap bets (in decimals) are the most common type of handicap bet. According to this betting system, there is always a result that removes the need to push any bets. 

For example, let’s take the example of the National Hockey League consisting of a game between Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. The handicap (spread) in this case is:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs at +1.5
  • Montreal Canadiens at -1.5

Since there are no half points in sports, therefore, you will always get a result as per this betting system. If you bet for the Toronto Maple Leafs at +1.5 on the spread and the score was 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens, then the adjusted score would be 3-3.5 in favour of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, you would win the bet. 

What is a Goal Handicap?

A goal handicap is a type of handicap football betting where one of the teams has a specific number of goals taken away from the total. For example, you could bet on Arsenal (-1) to win a game. Whatever the number of goals they have scored in the game would need to be subtracted by 1 for your handicap bet result. 

So, if Arsenal scores 4 against Manchester United’s score of 2. The final score count becomes 4(-1) to 2, i.e., 3 to 2. Therefore, you win the bet. 

What is No Draw Handicap Match Betting?

The no draw handicap bet meaning can be defined as a handicap bet which is listed as a half handicap, aiming to eliminate the chances of a draw. This system is a practice for football handicap betting.  

For instance, in a football game between Newcastle United and Liverpool, the bookmaker gives Newcastle a handicap of +1.5. Now you place a bet on Newcastle United to win. 

The match ends 3-2 to Liverpool, but because of the handicap, your bet wins since the score becomes 3.5-3 to Newcastle United in terms of the bet. It would be impossible for your bet to end in a draw because there are no half-goals in football. 

What is a 1X2 Handicap Bet?

In this football betting handicap system, the bet gives you the option to back away the home win, the draw or the away win. However, it also adds the handicap element to each potential selection. For instance, a 1X2 handicap in a match between Newcastle United and Liverpool can look like:

  • Newcastle United (+1)
  • Draw (Home +1)
  • Liverpool (-1)

You would need to add or subtract the handicap to get the result of this bet. So, if Newcastle United won by just one goal, the draw handicap bet would win. 

What is Asian Handicap Betting?

Asian handicap betting is a variant of handicap betting popularised in Asia. This bet handicap system uses whole and half numbers, so no draws are possible, similar to no draw handicap match betting. 

One of the key differences with Asian handicap betting is the possibility of split handicaps. In this case, your selection can have one handicap which is a whole number and the other one, a half number. For example:

  • Arsenal (-1, -1.5) 
  • Manchester United (+1, +1.5)

In this match, Arsenal needs to win the match by two goals to win the market according to the handicap betting rules. However, if Arsenal wins by one, then the whole number handicap becomes a draw, whereas the half number handicap gives Manchester United the victory. 

You would receive half your stake back if you bet on Arsenal to win. On the other hand, anyone who bet on Manchester United would receive half their stake returned and half of it would be paid back as winnings at the odds stated by the bookmaker. 

What is Handicap League Betting?

In Handicap league betting, what handicap means in betting is that you can make a bet on a team’s performance across the course of a season. In league betting, you usually place your bet at the start of a season based on a selection of odds that feature different handicaps across all the teams in a division. 

The scratch handicap of zero is given to the league favourites. All the other teams are given a handicap based on the bookmaker’s expectations of the probability of their performance. So, larger handicap advantages are given to teams deemed to be weaker. 

In handicap match betting you can only apply the handicap to your chosen selection to calculate the result of the bet after it has concluded. However, in handicap league betting, you need to apply the respective handicaps to all teams you are betting where the outcome will be calculated at the end of the season. 

Once all the handicaps have been applied, you can check your bet as per the final league table to assess if it will be successful.

How to Beat the Handicap Spread?

According to the handicap betting meaning, a handicap is created to try and balance the books. By predicting the outcome of the game, an advantage is created by increasing points or goals to one team. 


However, there are many times when the spread does not necessarily reflect the true advantage or disadvantage one team has over the other. This happens when a substantial amount of money has been wagered on one side and the need to balance books arises. To do this, the spread is adjusted. 

To beat the handicap spread, you need to track lines as soon as they are released. You can find online sites that do this for you. You can also try the easiest way by using betting exchanges to track odds. If the spread moves, then you know a significant amount of money has been wagered and that it’s no longer the true odds for that bet. 

For example, if a team was initially -3.5 and is now -2.5, the bet spreading has moved and will offer less value given you have fewer points to play with. On the contrary, betting on the other side will offer great value, with a “fair” line of +2.5 now boasting an inflated line of +3.5 for the same odds. 

Handicap Bets by Sports

If your question is what does handicap mean in betting, then let’s understand it by assessing it with respect to different sports:


Handicap bets for football only apply to the side of the bet you are wagering on. So, to win a game, your handicap betting football might look like:

  • Arsenal +1
  • Manchester United -1

If the game ends where both the teams have scored 0, the handicap bet on Arsenal would apply, making the final score Arsenal at 1 and Manchester United at 0. 


In Rugby, handicap betting adds or takes away the virtual points to both teams to make the game more even and the outcome unpredictable. For instance, the handicap bet to win might look like:

  • Harlequins +8
  • Wasps -8

If the final score in the game was Harlequins 23 and Wasps 28 and you bet on Wasps, you would lose the bet. This is because as per the handicap rules, the final score would be Harlequins 23 and Wasps 20. 


Handicap betting in basketball also works similarly. This betting is more popular in America where betting against the spread is more common. An example of a handicap bet to win in basketball can look like:

  • Toronto Raptors +5
  • Chicago Bulls -5

If the final score was Toronto Raptors at 110 and Chicago Bulls at 111 and you bet on Toronto Raptors at +5 to win, you would win your bet. This is because the final score would be Toronto Raptors at 115 and Chicago Bulls at 111. So, even though the Chicago Bulls won the actual game, you would win your handicap bet. 

What are the Different Handicap Betting Strategies?

You can use various betting strategies to increase your chances of winning the bet. Let’s check out some of these strategies:

  • Watch the Lines: You can simply start by watching the initial betting line (odds) as they go live and react as/if they move.
  • Home Advantage: Observe how a team performs both at home and away. In some instances, teams tend to perform better at home as compared to the road, making the home teams underdogs. 
  • Against the Spread: Some teams cover the spread more than others. Target your bets that fit the trend about covering and failing to cover spreads.
  • Team News: Starting roasting can make a significant difference in terms of handicap. For instance, if a strong player of a team is not playing, the team may likely score fewer points. 
  • Create Plausible Score Lines: Handicap betting depends more on how points can be scored as compared to another team. Create plausible score lines to understand how they can reflect the spreads set out by the betting sites. 


Thus, handicap betting is an excellent way to place bets on teams that normally wouldn’t have a chance of winning. A handicap bet works by providing the underdog more advantage than the other team, giving them a scope at winning and you with more options. 

Understand the different bets that are placed for different sports and place your bets after completely knowing how it would reflect in the scoring process.