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Handicap betting

Handicap betting

When players become more engaged and experienced in sports betting, they may find handicap betting as a new way to diversify their betting interests.


The point of handicap betting is to even up the odds of winning between competing teams by giving one team, typically the underdog, an advantage with extra points before the onset of the game.  Handicapping is used in sports that earn points, such as basketball, tennis, rugby, soccer. It is also used in horse racing events.


Prior to each game, a bookmaker will usually set the betting odds for an outright winner market for a home team to win, away team to win and a tie. The team that is perceived as a stronger will be the favorites and will have lower betting odds. The underdogs will have higher odds since the probability of them winning is much lower.


If the bookmaker applies handicapping when setting the betting odds, he can level out the position of the underdogs giving them an initial advantage over the favorites by assigning them a certain, fictitious number of goals. Thus, a team that is handicapped at +1.0 will actually start the game at 1-0 set prior to the beginning of the match, and throughout the game, the score will be adjusted accordingly. The favorites team, in this case, will be handicapped at -1 and will start the game at 1-0 down.


We can illustrate applying a handicap betting in the following way:


For instance, Manchester United is going to play Crystal Palace. A handicapped bet at even money stakes will look like this:

Manchester (-2.0) 9/14 v Crystal (+2.0) Evens.


The above tells us that Manchester has been handicapped with a two-goal shortage (-2.0) at odds 9/14, whereas Crystal has been given a two-goal head start before the game with the same money.


If we supported Manchester at the given odds, then in order for us to win our handicapped bet, we would need the Manchester team to win by three goals or more. If they only won by two goals, then it would actually designate a tie. Winning by just one goal would make Manchester lose the match and the bet.


If we backed Crystal at the same money wagered, then in order for them to win, the results would have to supersede Manchester with any amount of goals, end in a tie, or 1-0 loss. A 2-0 loss would constitute a push.


The majority of bookmakers do refund bets that end up in a push after the handicap has been applied, although there are some of them are reluctant to do so. It is worthwhile checking the specific betting terms with the bookmaker before placing your bet.


Benefits of handicap betting


The upside of handicap betting is that it gives a chance to even out the odds of the markets that are heavily weighted in favor of one team.  Obviously, there are other variables such as handicapping options and handicapping odds involved as well, however, in many cases, a bettor may still win, if the team he bets on loses the game.


On the other hand, if there is a chance of a strong favorite to score off the underdog significantly, there is an option taking the odds that offer better value.


The downside of handicap betting

The downside of the handicap betting is that there is also a high chance of your bet resulting in a loss, especially in case of bets in tight markets. It is not a rare occasion in handicap betting, that you are not paid out, even if the team you back ends up winning. To minimize the risk of losing, it may be wise to apply handicap bets to games where favorites have a very high probability of winning by a big margin.


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