All you need to know about handicap betting

It's a great way to squeeze out some value.


What is Handicap Betting?

Handicap betting is a way for the bookies to make a sporting contest a more even event. As the official definition of handicap is ‘a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult’. The Bookies give one selection in an event a ‘handicap’ which they must overcome to win. This is especially the case when one team is far superior to the other. To level the playing fields, the bookies will provide more odds than just win/draw/lose and offer a handicap bet on one team having to meet certain criteria for your punt to land.

So let’s break away from reality quickly to provide a clear example. Imagine if you will, that Barcelona were playing Accrington Stanley, the odds on the Catalans winning would be 1/40, whereas the odds on Accrington Stanley winning would be 40/1. Doesn’t sound like a bet you are interested in? Well, what if we spiced up and said to you that Barcelona had to beat Accrington Stanley by a mere four goals at odds of evens for your punt to win? Yes, we thought as much, now read on so you can become a master in the arts of handicap betting.

To Beat the Handicap Liverpool would need to win by 3 or more goals. Easy right? 

Football Season Handicap Betting

Football season handicap betting is only available before the season starts as it relies on every team being given a handicap before a ball is kicked. Each team’s handicap is based on how likely they are to win the league, so if we were to have a look at the start of the 2019/2020 Premier League season, the front runners, Man City, were given a handicap of scratch, whereas the team likely to be relegated, Sheffield United, were given a handicap of +47. 

So here you would be betting on who will accumulate the most points over the course of a season. So if City finished on 100 points after 38 games, Sheffield United would need 54 points as their handicap added to that, 47, would then give them 101 points. Not even Chris Wilder, a man who has a penchant for overlapping center-backs would be able to do that one feels, even if they are now outsiders at 4/1 in Premier League betting to be relegated after a wonderful start, but you get the idea.

Source: Paddy Power

Coincidentally enough, if anyone is at all interested, Derby County would have needed a handicap of +77 during the 2007/2008 season when they accumulated a staggering and record low 11 points all season after Manchester United won with 87. Rams to the slaughter. 

NFL Handicap Betting

NFL handicap betting in the NFL market is arguably the most popular as far as handicap betting goes around the world. Maybe that has to do with its simplicity.


Handicap Odds
Chicago Bears +4.5 10/11
Dallas Cowboys -4.5 10/11

There’s very little to be afraid of here even if the NFL handicap markets can look a little daunting. A bit like Manchester United under David Moyes; appears complex and dynamic but ultimately simple and easy to figure out.So let’s say that the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Chicago Bears and Paddy Power has made the Cowboys as -4.5 point favourites and you bet on it, it means if you subtract 4.5 from the Cowboys’ final score and they still have more points, you win your bet. Alternatively, if you decide to take the handicap bet on the outsiders who are the Bears, of +4.5, you will win your bet only if the Chicago team’s final score with 4.5 added onto it is greater than that of the Cowboys.

Rugby Handicap Betting

Much like NFL handicap betting, rugby follows an almost identical blueprint where you will be given odds of one team winning or losing by a certain amount of points. 

Let’s have a look at Wales vs France in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Wales were given a handicap of -5 for the game which means that any punter taking this handicap bet would need the Welsh to win by 5 points or more. The French, on the other hand, were at +5 which means that if they won, or lost by less than five points, you would lose your bet had you gone with Wales at -5. 

As it happens, the +5 bet on France would have landed after the Welsh scraped home 20-19 thanks to what the French would call a rather dubious interpretation of the knock-on rule by South African referee Jaco Peyper. Any South Africans holidaying in France in the future may want to perfect an American accent.

South Africa rugby team Springboks

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian handicap betting gets its name from a popular type of betting that exists in, would you believe it, Asia? It is a type of football betting market that is designed to level the playing fields as all handicap bets do, but crucially it makes draws null and void which reduces the match to two possible outcomes, win or lose, by offering the number of goals a team starts with as 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 and so on and so forth. 

So if Manchester City plays Southampton, City would be at -3.5 and the Saints at +3.5, meaning that if Pep Guardiola’s men finished as the winners with a 5-1 scoreline, anyone who bet on City -3.5 Asian Handicap would win. It has to be said, these days, its death, taxes and Manchester City winning by 3.5 goals on Asian Handicap which makes up the three certainties in life.

What is the difference between Handicap and Spread betting?

Essentially handicap and spread betting is exactly the same thing with the only difference being in name. Depending on what side of the pond you stand will probably determine what phraseology you use. 

At the end of the day, it is still one team that starts the sporting fixture with a virtual head start with the sole purpose being to level the playing field and create an even contest for the inferior side.

Now that you’ve mastered handicap betting, let us know how many goals you think Man City will beat Southampton by!

Find a full range of odds – including handicaps – over on

What do you think?