Last updated: 02/04/2024

Understanding Handicap Betting: A Beginner’s Guide

Understanding Handicap Betting: A Beginner’s Guide

Handicap betting is, without a doubt, one of the most popular sports betting options. However, if you’re new to the game, it can look like another language. But we’re here to help you understand.

Today, we’re answering what is handicap betting, what types of handicaps are on offer, and why this betting strategy could work for you. Let’s dive right in.

What Is Handicap Betting?

There are plenty of different bets, betting terms, and strategies for new betters to understand. Luckily, learning each one is easy when you have an expert guide. So, what does handicap betting mean?

Handicap betting is a type of wager where the bookie makes the sports content a more even event by giving an advantage or disadvantage to a team or player. This balances the odds and adjusts the final score, allowing punters to bet on the potential performance difference between competitors.

How Does Handicap Betting Work?

Handicap betting works by levelling the playing field between betting options. When you bet on a team or player with a handicap, they must lose by less than the handicap (for an advantage) or win by more (for a disadvantage).

The handicap advantage can be given through extra points or goals. This difference is sometimes called the “spread.”

How Does Handicap Betting Work In Football?

You can apply handicap bets to many sporting events, including football matches. If you’re searching “What does handicap mean in football betting?” we’re here to help. 

Football bookies assign an advantage or disadvantage to teams or players based on their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if Chelsea is better than Manchester United, the bookmaker might give Manchester United a perceived goal advantage (e.g. +2 goals). If you wager on Chelsea, they must win by at least two goals for your bet to win.

On the other hand, if you bet on the Manchester United handicap, they can lose by less than the handicap margin or win for your bet to be successful. 

Alongside specific match handicap bets, bookies offer football season handicaps. These are only available before the season begins, and bets must be placed before the first game starts. This is a popular wager for bettors who enjoy looking at the big picture.

Which Sports Can You Place Handicaps On?

Handicaps are flexible bets that you can apply to most sporting events. Here are some of the most popular options:

Popular Types Of Handicap Betting

After exploring what handicap means in betting, it’s time to move on to the different types of handicap bets you can place. There are four general types of handicap bets, and we’ll quickly explain each below:

1. Handicap Match Betting

Handicap match betting gives a player or team a virtual deficit to beat (a handicap) at the beginning of the event. The aim is to bet on who will win with the handicap/deficit taken into account.

In handicap match betting, you can also back the “Handicap Tie” possibility. This section allows you to essentially bet on the team with the deficit winning the match by the exact margin offered. 

2. Asian Handicaps

Asian handicaps are similar to match handicaps, as both teams or events are given handicap scores to even the playing field. 

However, the difference between match betting and Asian handicaps is that the handicaps are in lower increments and only available in single bets. Also, Asian handicaps are shown in decimal odds. If you’re used to fractional (British) odds, you might need to brush up on both systems before you get started. 

3. Half & Whole Handicaps

Half and whole handicaps are another type of wager you can explore. In this case, the handicaps given to each team are half or whole numbers, and when there’s a half number (e.g. 0.5 or 2.5), a draw is impossible. 

4. Split Handicaps

Split handicaps are possible when both teams are given two handicaps, such as one whole and one-half goals. 

For example, Liverpool (-1.5) v Arsenal (+1.5) — If Liverpool wins by at least two goals, they win when the handicap is applied. But if Liverpool only wins by one goal, draw, or lose, Arsenal wins this market after the handicap is applied.

Top Advantages Of Handicap Betting

If you’ve been searching “How does handicap betting work?” don’t forget to also check out the benefits of handicap betting. 

Take a look at the pros of this type of betting to see whether it’s the move for you.

  • Competitive odds – Handicap bets offer enhanced odds by focusing on the skill gap between the teams rather than only the score. 
  • Varied betting options – There are many wagering possibilities in handicap betting, allowing you to find unique bets and more enjoyment. 
  • More flexibility – Handicap betting is very adaptable, meaning you can use it across a wide range of sports and events. 
  • Analytical advantage – Handicap betting is great for those with a deep understanding of the sport and the teams, as you can use your research to predict the results.
  • Available at most bookies – All reputable bookies and betting sites outside GamStop offer a range of handicap bets.

Insider Tips For Successful Handicap Betting

You might be new to betting if you’re Googling “What is a handicap in football betting.” But don’t worry! You can supercharge your betting skills in no time.

Here are our experts’ favourite tips for successful handicap betting. 

1. Research The Sport & Teams

Research is critical in betting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the sport or event. You’ll always improve your betting success by researching the teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and past performances. Use these variables to gain insight into their performance and rivalry with other teams.

2. Keep On Top Of Injuries

Like general research, you should keep an eye out for player injuries. One player’s injury can significantly impact a team’s overall performance and, therefore, your handicap bet.

3. Shop Around For Odds

Each bookmaker formulates their own odds, so don’t pick the first independent online bookmaker you see! Compare and contrast odds to find favourable terms for your handicap bets. 

4. Practise With Affordable Bets

If you’ve never placed a handicap bet before, starting small is a good idea. Don’t wager your whole bankroll in one go, as you’ll need a few rounds to get used to handicap betting. This way, you can minimise your losses, build your experience, and work towards more successful bets.

5. Stay Disciplined

Finally, our experts recommend that you take a disciplined approach to handicap betting. From staying dedicated to your strategy to setting a bankroll budget, consistency with your practice is the best way to achieve betting success. 

5 Common Mistakes To Avoid In Handicap Betting

Alongside knowing how to place winning handicap bets, it’s critical to understand the common handicap betting mistakes. Our experts have gathered the top five mistakes they see to help you improve your wagers. See more below.

1. Forgetting Motivational Factors

Understanding the sport is one thing, but if you fail to assess the team’s motivational factors, your bet is less likely to be successful. For example, consider long-standing team rivalries, upcoming tournaments, and league positions.

2. Chasing Losses

If you’ve had a few losses, you might be tempted to place more bets or spend more to recoup your winnings. This is never a good idea and can lead to more significant losses. Instead, continue with your strategy and understand that wins and losses are part of the unpredictable nature of sports betting.

3. Betting While Emotional

It’s best to avoid betting while angry, excited, sad, or in any other emotionally charged state. The best bets are analytical and well-researched, and a clear state of mind is needed for this. No impulsive bets here!

4. Only Focusing On Heavy Handicaps

Don’t choose large handicaps without research or proper justification. The large handicap may not accurately reflect the performance gap and will come with much more risk.

5. Overlooking Weather Conditions 

Weather conditions may seem insignificant, but they can affect the game’s results. This is especially true for outdoor sports. So, look for extreme temperatures, wind, and rain before choosing your wager.

Handicap Betting Strategies for Beginners

Now you know what handicap betting is and how it works. But before you get started, consider these three key betting strategies.

  • Combining handicaps with other bets – If you want to take a diversified approach, combine handicap bets with other types to strengthen your betting strategy. Other popular options include over/under and win-way bets.
  • Starting with small handicaps – Some bettors prefer to stick to handicaps with small margins, as they come with less risk and help you protect your bankroll from big losses.
  • Focusing on familiar games – Another popular way to begin is with familiar leagues and teams. This means you can use your in-depth knowledge to increase the success of your wagers.

Conclusion: Is Handicap Betting Right for You?

Hopefully, this blog has answered your questions if you’ve been pondering what handicap means in betting. Experimenting with handicap bets is a great way to explore new odds and possibilities. Always prioritise responsible gambling and reach out for professional help if the game becomes compulsive or affects your personal life. 

Stay up-to-date with the latest expert suggestions. Read the Betting Non-GamStop blog now.

Meet Our Team Of Gambling Specialists

Hello! I’m David Goldblatt, the lead author at I’m an experienced sports journalist who transitioned into making online gambling content in the mid-2010s. It’s something that fascinates me and I’ve always loved the way sports betting can make any event more exciting!

When I’m not researching the latest non-GamStop bookies, I’ll be playing football in the park or watching the local cricket club with my mates. I’m a massive advocate for responsible gambling, so feel free to message me if you need help. Other than that, I hope you enjoy my stuff and can find some trustworthy betting sites to join!