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Handicap in Football Betting

While starting your journey in the world of football betting, you often come across terms that you are unfamiliar with or unsure about.

One of these commonly used terms is ‘handicap’. It may seem complicated at first, but we’re here to help you explain exactly what handicap means in football betting.

On this page, you will find an explanation of the handicap bet type along with real life examples.

This page is part of our football betting guide. Check it out to find all details about numurous bet types, strategies and more.

What is Handicap in Football Betting?

Handicap is also known in some parts as point betting and line betting. The main purpose of handicap betting in football is to level the playing field between two sides who would not generally be evenly matched. The bookmaker will give a virtual advantage in this scenario to the weaker team or a virtual disadvantage to the stronger team.

For example, in an upcoming match between Manchester City and Nottingham Forest in the Premier League, Nottingham Forest would end up having the virtual advantage despite obviously being a much weaker side on paper.

Handicap betting is also known as spread betting in the United States and this sort of betting is very popular, especially in a game where a heavy favourite is clashing against a heavy underdog.

Handicap in Football Betting
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Different Kinds of Handicap

There are two ways in which handicap betting works in football – Asian Handicap and the European Handicap.

Check out the sections below to find examples of how both types work.

Asian Handicap

The Asian Handicap is the most commonly used form of handicap betting around the globe. The Asian handicap is designed to eliminate the possibility of a draw which is quite different to other forms of traditional betting in which you are able to bet on a team to win, lose or draw a match.

In this form of handicap betting, one team is given a goal handicap while the other team is given a goal deficit. These handicaps are expressed in terms of positive and negative, for example (-0.5, +1.5).

We will explain positive and negative Asian handicaps below.

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Positive handicap (+)

A team that has been handed a positive handicap starts the match with an advantage. Positive handicaps are handed out to the team who are weaker on paper and are perceived to be the underdogs.

For example, in a match between Manchester City and Nottingham Forest, Forest being the weaker team should have a positive handicap like +1.5 or +2.5. If the handicap for Forest is +1.5, they will start the match with a 1.5-goal lead.

To win your bet on Forest in this scenario, they will need to win the match or not lose by more than 1 goal.

Negative handicap (-)

A team that has been handed a negative handicap at the start of the match starts with a disadvantage, Negative handicaps are handed out to the stronger team on paper, who are favourites to win the contest.

For example in a match between Manchester City and Nottingham Forest, City being the stronger side will have a negative handicap like -1.5.

To win your bet on Manchester City then, City will have to beat Forest by 2 or more goals.

Handicap in football betting explained infographic

European Handicap

The European handicap is considered to be simpler in nature than the Asian handicap and generally used for football matches in Europe.

The main thing that differentiates European handicaps from Asian handicaps is the structure of the numbers. In European handicaps, the numbers are whole (+1, +2 etc). It is also called a three-way handicap as it supports all the three outcomes of win, draw and losses.

For example in a match between Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, City will be the clear favourites. In this scenario, the handicap could look like this.

  • Manchester City (-1)
  • Draw
  • Nottingham Forest (+1)

The winnings will depend on the bet you have placed. If you have bet on City, they will need to win by 2 goals or more for your bet to win. On the other hand, if Nottingham Forest wins or draws the game and you bet on them, you will end up with the winning bet.

If Manchester City wins the game with just 1 goal more, the bet will result in a draw.

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Tips for Handicap Betting

You should always follow a few basic tips for handicap betting in football. This will hold you in good stead and increase your chances of winning.

Here are some of the most important tips:

  • Always research the form guide of the teams and how they have been performing over the past few games
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of both sides like their defensive prowess, goalscoring abilities, possession stats and other factors that will give you an advantage
  • Check out the home and away form of both sides before placing a bet
  • Head-to-head statistics will also give you a good idea of which direction to go in
  • Check out the injury and suspension list of both sides to find out if any key players are missing
  • Set a limit. Bankroll management is extremely important and it is important to never bet over what your means and limits are

Tips for handicap betting

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