You know what the problem is with bookmakers? They’re smarter than they look. They’re experts at pricing up football games but there is one way in which you can potentially tip the match odds in your favour.
We’re here to talk about the Handicap Betting markets. This is where the actual score of the match is adjusted to make things a little more interesting. The underdog will be given a theoretical head start while the favourite begins with a hypothetical deficit to overcome. As a general rule, the standard handicap will be a one-goal margin.
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Let’s look at the opening match of the 2023/24 Premier League season, with newly promoted Burnley hosting champions Manchester City on Friday August 11. The away side are understandably red-hot favourites to win and their match odds reflect that.
However, they can be backed at a longer price in the Handicap Betting market, it’s just that they start with -1 goal. In other words, for the wager to be successful, City will need to win by two-or-more.
That’s still likely – it has occurred in their last four visits to Turf Moor – but it’s obviously harder than sneaking through by one goal and Paddy has to give you better odds as a result.
With City docked a goal, Burnley are therefore priced at +1 on the handicap. This is effectively the same as a Double Chance wager, as either a home win or draw will earn a pay out if this is your selection.
The other option is a Handicap Draw, with the adjustment figure applied to the home team. In our example it is set at +1, so for it to be a winner you would need City to win by a single goal.
You will find matches where the handicap is set at two, though the only game in the opening weekend of the new Premier League season is Arsenal v Nottingham Forest. Paddy also offers Alternative Handicaps with different margins for every match – which can also be incorporated into Bet Builders – and you can bet on a First Half Handicap too.
Unless a game is expected to be particularly one-sided, you’ll usually be presented with a one goal handicap as the main option. Let’s take a look at which teams have or haven’t proven useful in this market.
A good starting point when selecting teams to overcome a handicap are those who win games by at least two goals. It’s no surprise to see that England’s big six clubs all had the best records for this between 2019/20 and 2022/23, with City leading the way by winning 51.5 per cent of their games by this margin.
However, while Pep Guardiola’s side were also top for the proportion of their victories which met this criteria (70.9 per cent), Brentford (64.3) and Leicester (63.9) were the next two best clubs. They might not win anywhere near as often as the Citizens but when they do, they often go big.
With the Foxes having succumbed to relegation, Aston Villa and Brighton are now the best sides outside the top six and behind Brentford to keep an eye on in 2023/24. But we must also factor in the handicap itself.
After all, City might win handsomely a lot of the time but they are usually expected to do so anyway. Over the last four seasons, Villa have been the most successful team when the handicap is applied, ahead of Newcastle, Brentford and West Ham.
Having significantly improved under Unai Emery, Paddy’s handicapper might not be so kind to Villa next season, and the same will be true for the Magpies if their owners invest heavily.
The main thing to remember is to look past the more obvious sides and do you research. Clubs which lose narrowly can still win handicap bets.
This is the hardest of the three options to predict, as it needs a specified goal margin. Granted, if the handicap is +1 then the match could end 0-1, 1-2, 2-3 and so on and you’d be fine, but it’s far more specific than you need to be with handicapped home or away wins.
Your best friend here is Wolverhampton Wanderers. Their matches rarely feature lots of goals, and that is unlikely to change while Julen Lopetegui remains in charge.
Just under half of their games in the last four years saw them either win or lose by a single goal. Not every instance will have been a draw in the Handicap market of course, but they have been the most draw-heavy side within it, just ahead of West Ham and Manchester United.
This obviously works in inverse to our Winners section and are the teams to bet against in this market. Once again, there are those that lose a lot of games by at least two goals and those who fail once the handicap is in play (or both).
It’s a little trickier with an eye on 2023/24, as teams who feature heavily here don’t tend to hang around in the Premier League for obvious reasons. Among those that will be involved this season, Everton have lost the highest proportion of matches by 2+ goals among the top flight ever presents from the last four years, while more recent arrivals Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest have also fared badly.
Yet arguably the best teams to oppose are underachieving big boys. Since the start of 2019/20, Chelsea have lost more handicap bets (82) than they have won (61) and drawn (nine) combined. The same is true of Liverpool who have had two great and two bad seasons in this period, but even at their best they would frequently win by one and not defeat the handicap.
Both teams should improve this season, we shall see. The main thing to remember in the Handicap market is to consider teams beyond the obvious and check what the data says. You might never need to use the standard Match Odds market again.
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