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Handicap betting

Handicap betting is where competitors within the field of an event are ‘handicapped’ to even out the entire field a little.

Physically – in horse racing, for example, horses that in the past have performed well will be given extra weight to carry in attempt to slow them down, allowing the lesser-performing horses more of a chance.

In terms of bookmakers, bookies may offer bets in which one of the competitors is given an advantage over the other.

For example in football, say Arsenal were playing a lower-league side such as Accrington Stanley. A bookie may offer a bet for Arsenal to win where Accrington Stanley is given a fictitious two-goal start. As Arsenal are handicapped, the odds of them winning will lengthen.

Handicap Betting Guide - bettingapps.com

Betting Apps Handicap Betting Guide

Which betting apps offer handicap betting?

Plenty of bookmakers offer handicap betting – in fact any reputable bookmaker will offer events with handicap options. When you’ve chosen the event in which you wish to place a wager, you need to consult the odds and your expected returns offered by the different bookmakers out there. You should stick to a reputable company with a huge amount of investment behind them; leading apps such as the Coral App and in Canada Sports Interaction mobile, both of whom offer handicap options to main sporting events.

If you are intent on making a bet, it pays to work out the options available to you. For example, you may be thinking of wagering on Andy Murray to beat Roger Federer in a tennis match by at least two sets. You may find it works out better for you to wager with a handicap bet on Murray to win in which Federer is given a one-set start instead. Just calculate your potential winnings in both scenarios.


For this example, I will be using the Paddy Power app for screenshots. Most betting companies follow a similar layout so the same principals apply across the different apps.

Handicap betting in soccer

Soccer Handicap Example

For this example, I am going to use a Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham United. Chelsea is the strong favourites in this game.

Match odds

Example of handicap betting in football

I think Chelsea will win this game but the odds of 1/4 don’t really tempt me to bet on Chelsea so I move down the page to find the handicap betting markets.

The main handicap market is set by the bookmaker at -2 for this game. In this instance it is like the game kicks off at -2 v 0, but as you can see the odds are considerably higher at 21/10.

Most bookmakers offer alternative handicap markets with different odds. On this game, you can get the following markets on Chelsea-

  • -1 Chelsea
  • -2 Chelsea
  • -3 Chelsea
  • +1 Chelsea

These are all reversed for the West Ham side too.

  • +1 West Ham
  • +2 West Ham
  • +3 West Ham
  • -1 West Ham

The odds change based on the likelihood with Chelsea +1 as low as 1/20. This is the same market as Chelsea/ Draw in the double chance and we’d say it offers absolutely no value at all!

Draw Handicap

As well as the win markets you will notice the draw markets. These are betting on the same team as the minus but for the game to be a draw in that instance. For example if Chelsea are -3 and the draw is -3 than for that bet to win you will need Chelsea to win by exactly 3 goals. This is a very difficilt market to pick!

What is no draw handicap betting?

No Draw Handicap Betting 

No Draw betting is where the handicap is classed as a 2-way market with the handicap having a .5 ending meaning there cannot be a draw. This is popular in Asian Handicap Betting and is a good place to find value, in our opinion. The market would look like this –

Chelsea -0.5

West Hame + 0.5

This would mean for the bet to win on Chelsea would have to win the game. A bet on West Ham +0.5 would be it needs to be a draw or West Ham win to win the bet.

League Handicap Betting

At the start of the football season, you will often see a league handicap market. This is done using weightings for each team based on their previous performance but also their expectations for the season. There are always some great bets on offer and you can combine them in accumulators across the leagues.

The handicap is done on the total points at the end of the season.


In this example, we will look at Wolves who have a handicap of +30 for the odds displayed on the bookmaker’s site. In order for your bet to win Wolves would need to finish within 30 points of the Champions for this bet to be considered a winner.

Final table – winning bet

1st Manchester City 95 points

7th Wolves  – 70 points

For this, you add the +30 points to Wolves tally and then they have 100 points after the handicap meaning they would have won with the handicap.

If they are more than 30 points behind then the handicap would not have won and the bet would lose.

Here is an example of all the handicaps for the English Leagues in the 2018/2019 season –

English Leagues Handicap Betting guide

Handicap betting in soccer

Basketball Handicap Example

Handicapping in Basketball is also very similar to soccer with teams starting on a + or – handicap score. the bigger the difference between the teams the bigger the handicap. This makes games that look one-sided more interesting to bet on, such as when you know Golden State Warriors are going to steam roller someone you can find more value in the handicap. You can see our top-rated basketball betting sites here.

In basketball betting handicap bets are common and are generally referred to as “point spread” – We will refer to them like that from now on in this section of the guide.

Example game in the NCAA

Screenshots from Sports Interaction – Our top-rated Canadian betting app.

Texas Tech Red Raiders v Virginia Cavaliers

NBA point spread explained

As you can see in the first pointspread column Texas tech is +1.5 and Virginia -1.5. Unlike other handicap betting, this is a straight 1 way bet and not what is considered a 2 way or 3-way bet.

How the Bets win

Texas Tech Red Raiders + 1.5 = For this bet to be a win Texas must win the game, draw the game or lose by just 1 point. At the final score, you add the 1.5 to their score and that is the final score of the game in terms of this bet.

Virginia Cavaliers – 1.5 = For this bet to win Virginia will need to win the game by at least 2 points. At the end of the game you take 1.5 of their score and that is the bets final score.

If you want to add more to the + or – then navigate to more bets on that game, this is available on all betting apps, and then look for the “Alternative Spread”. This will give you the options for other scores and higher odds as shown below.

Alternative points spread markets and how they work

As you can see the less likely, in the bookmaker’s eyes, the bet is the better the odds you’ll get. In our opinion, the alternative points spread is a great place to find some value if you are knowledgeable about your basketball, especially in the NCAA or European leagues.

Tennis handicap betting examples

Tennis Handicap Example

In tennis betting there are just 2 markets that offer a handicap – these are the set betting and the total matches won betting.

Set betting handicap 

This is a decent market for value if you can predict games that will go close. Like most other sports you’ll find that a .5 on the end to make sure there are a winner and loser in this 2-way market. Here is an example from the Betway app.

Set Handicap betting

In this example you pick your side and bet. For the Astra +1.5 to win you need them to be within 1 set –

Score example +1.5 (Shelby First)

3-0 = +1.5 loses, bet score is 3-1.5

3-1 = +1.5 loses, bet score is 3-2.5

3-2 = +1.5 wins, bet score is 3-3.5

0-3 = +1.5 wins, bet score is 0-4.5

1-3 = +1.5 wins, bet score is 1-4.5

2-3= +1.5 wins, bet score is 2-4.5

Total match betting handicap

You can also use the total match market with a handicap. For the result you total up the amount of games each player has won as a 2 way bet and then add the handicap as shown above for set betting. Here is an example of these markets.

Total matches won handicap betting in Tennis

In this specific match, there are 2 markets as it is a tour game. For the major events, like Wimbledon and the various Open’s you will get more markets as the games get bigger. In the earlier rounds where there is a bigger disparity between the players the handicap will be great and the margin between them is expected to be higher.

Handicap betting markets Cricket

Cricket Handicap Example

On cricket betting apps there are a few handicap markets around for different events that can help you find more value. These vary from event to event so it’s worth opening your apps to see what is on offer for specific events. You’ll find the most markets for the major events, like the IPL or the Ashes.

Markets on offer


Handicap first 6 overs

Handicap winner

Handicap top batsman

Here’s how the first 6 overs market looks on the 10Cric App

First 6 overs handicap betting market

As you can see from this example this looks a tight game so the handicap line is set at 0 meaning it’s just the odds that change.

50 Over

Handicap winner

Test matches

Handicap winner of each test

Handicap winner of series

Handicap top batsman (Only available on some betting apps)

Is Handicap Betting Right For Me?

Handicap betting has both disadvantages and advantages. The advantage is that you get better odds on favourites, as of course, the better prospects are handicapped. The main disadvantage is that the chances of an “upset” are more likely, as the lesser fancied competitors are given an artificial “leg up”.

Handicaps bets are best left until you, as a punter, have gotten used to wagering. To be a successful handicap better, you really need to be able to study form and be aware of unexpected influences on an event. Perhaps in football, you’ve heard a whisper that a team’s star player is likely to be injured or rested, or know that certain golfers who are routinely winners struggle at a course where the next event is to be held. A little bit (or a lot) of homework gives a punter a distinct advantage when it comes to being successful in handicap betting.


Handicap betting is a great way of swinging the odds back into the favour of those punters who are willing to go that little bit extra with the expectation of finding favourable returns. It’s a way of evening the field when it comes to events, and therefore needs that little bit of extra wagering nuance to understand when and where the best returns are likely to be found.