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Handicap Betting: What is a Handicap in Sports Betting?

19.04.2024, 09:35

Betting on any sporting event is done best when the outcome of the match isn't clear-cut. However, it's pretty rare that teams are evenly matched - skill discrepancies exist in every league and sports discipline, whether it's a traditional sport or an esport. Handicap betting is a way to remedy that! A handicap bet brings the virtual playing field closer, making bets on underdogs more attractive. Let's review how it achieves that.

TIPS.GG Handicaps Bets

Handicap Betting Mechanism

As its name implies, a handicap bet gives one side (the underdog) an advantage to even up the odds of winning the bet. Usually, it's done in the same way a real-world handicap would work - by giving the weaker team a virtual extra goal or score points.

What Is Spread Betting

Handicap betting, line betting, and spread betting are synonyms. If you'd like to get more into the sports betting terminology, the virtual handicap an underdog team receives is called "spread," hence its name, spreads betting. It's also known as just goal handicap or weights.

How are Handicaps Assigned

Just like the betting odds in the Moneyline betting markets change depending on teams' chances to win, so do handicaps. The sports analysts employed by bookmakers act as handicappers in case of point-spread bets. They assign handicaps to teams or athletes based on their historical performances, current form, and bettors' expectations.

Handicap vs Moneyline

Differences in teams or athletes performances can sometimes be massive, making them effectively "dead". Let's demonstrate how handicap betting lets turn even "dead" bets into decent options with an example we saw on thunderpick.io.

Daniel Cukierman 1.01 12.45 Ernest Habiyambere

Here's an example of an ATP Challenger match in Tennis between Daniel Cukierman and Ernest Habiyambere. Refresher to reading betting odds - the 1.01 odds in sporting events mean that Daniel is virtually guaranteed to be the winner (99% chance to win). Meanwhile, Ernest Habiyambere is a massive underdog in this match. Although the potential payout in the case of a bet win on Ernest is massive, the chance of it happening in the real world is really low.

So the bettors are stuck - betting on Daniel Cukierman would win you a whopping $1 dollar per every $100 (!) spent, while any bet on Ernest Habiyambere is virtually guaranteed to lose your bet. Why would anyone bother with this match, then?

Enter handicap betting - placing a Game Handicap on -7/+7 will make the odds even money, reigniting the interest in the match. Another win for handicap bets!

Barnsley 2.34 3.43 2.86 Bolton Wanderers

This is the main advantage of handicap markets—they normalize the odds. While this lowers betting highs, it raises betting lows—which is absolutely worth it in a long-term betting strategy.

Different Handicap Betting Markets

Point spread betting is an umbrella term for many different betting markets. While the mechanisms behind every handicap betting market are the same, they all slightly differ - and, as we all know, the devil is in the details.

Basic Handicap Bet

A basic handicap bet is very easy to understand. Let's take a football match of EFL Football League One between Barnsley vs Bolton Wanderers.

Barnsley 2.34 3.43 2.86 Bolton Wanderers

In this case, the teams are evenly matched. We can use handicap betting to spice up potential winnings instead of evening handicap odds like in the previous example.

This handicap bet can give Bolton Wanderers a 1-goal advantage or Barnsley a 1-goal disadvantage. If we choose the latter market and the game ends with a score of 1:0 in favor of Barnsley, we will get the bet refunded. It works similarly to the Draw No Bet Moneyline betting markets, as the bet will end in a draw.

Push Bet

Bets ending in a draw and getting refunded are called push bets. Since they're a waste of time for punters and the bookmaker, bookies tend to introduce mechanisms to avoid them - more on that later!

Three-Way Handicap Bet

In three-way handicap betting players can also bet on handicap draw. If you select the draw option, it's somehow similar to total betting. Betting on a handicap draw will mean that the team receiving the virtual weight would have to win the exact margin as in the bet. Otherwise, three-way handicap bets work exactly the same as basic handicap betting.

No Draw Handicap Match Betting

As its name implies, the only difference here from the regular handicap bet is that no-draw handicap bets let punters wager on two outcomes, with the draw completely eliminated. Unlike the previous example, betting on a no-draw handicap bet means if the handicapped game ends in a draw, you lose your bet instead of getting it refunded. The advantage of handicap betting this way is simple - way better odds since it’s also riskier.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian handicap betting is a trickier alternative to standard Double Chance handicap betting. Named this way since it originated in Indonesia, Asian handicap betting has several advantages. First of all, it removes the possibility of a draw by introducing a half-handicap goal (or a quarter) into the equation.

A bookmaker can introduce half a goal advantage to the handicap bet to eliminate the draw possibility, as seen here. This is called a "hook."

Asian handicap bet can also divide your stake across two handicap bets, called a split handicap. Let's take a look at the match between Barnsley vs Bolton Wanderers again - let's say you put down +1.5 and +2.5 against Barnsley.

Should the game end with a score of 3:1 in favor of Barnsley, the first half of your stake will be a loss since the game is effectively 3:3.5(+2.5), but you'll win the first (+1.5) since the real score would be 3:2.5 in favor of Barnsley. This way, it's possible to cushion the stake and minimize losses.

Handicap Betting In Different Sports

Handicap betting works differently depending on the sport you choose. While the basics remain the same across any discipline, the value of handicap betting can fluctuate. Let's take a look at some of the biggest examples of this.

Handicap Betting in Football

In football betting, the favorite is handicapped by giving their opponent a number of goals (or, alternatively, simply subtracting them from the favorite directly). Handicap bets are massive in football since the skill gaps are common, especially in lower-tier leagues. Asian handicap betting markets are the go-to for most football punters since they take care of draw possibilities.

Handicap Betting in Ice Hockey

Ice hockey betting fans will know the handicap betting markets under another name - the puck line. Besides the name, the puck line is identical to handicap match betting in football or similar sports. The "weight" is often set to 1.5 or a similar score to avoid draws and give the underdog a better chance.

Handicap Betting in Basketball

Basketball handicap betting is very popular in the United States and is most known as point spread betting there. Since basketball has virtually zero draws in professional matches, there's no concept of three-way or no-draw handicaps. It's just Match Winner here but with a handicap.

Handicap Betting in Esports

The term "esports" unites a lot of different disciplines under one umbrella term, although most of the popular esports titles share characteristics. For instance, most esports matches are played in a series of multiple games or maps. Take StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, for example, where most professional matches are a series of best-of-7. Handicap match betting in esports often involves setting the spread to the number of games needed to win a series. Handicap bets are very popular since skill discrepancies are common across even S-tier esports leagues and international events. Additionally, most esports titles have no concept of a draw at all, so three-way handicap League betting is not a thing.

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