What Is a Handicap in Sports Betting?

Ever find yourself asking, What is a handicap in sports betting? You’re not alone – this question intrigues many bettors, aiming to level the playing field.

Handicap betting modifies odds for balanced and exciting matches. This article explains it, covering types like Asian and league handicaps, crucial for strategic advantages.

Mastering handicap betting can significantly enhance your betting strategy. It’s not just about making bets more thrilling; it’s about smart play.

Prepare to revolutionize your sports betting approach as we delve into the essentials of handicap betting!

Key Takeaways

  • Find out which type of handicap bet matches your gambling tactics best!
  • Learn how to use handicap bets to your advantage with our experts’ advice.

The Basics of Handicap Betting: How Does It Work?

Handicap betting equalizes odds in sports by giving an advantage or disadvantage to teams, making bets fairer by accounting for team strength differences.

For instance: In football, a stronger team may have a handicap requiring them to win by more than the set margin.

This system not only provides varied betting options, like goal differences in soccer or points in basketball, but also enhances odds for both favorites and underdogs.

It boosts potential returns on favored teams and offers underdogs a realistic chance of winning, making handicap betting attractive for its strategic edge in wagering.

Sports Bet Handicap Betting Examples

In Sports Betting, understanding the type of bet becomes crucial, especially when considering handicap betting. This betting strategy levels the playing field between teams of differing strengths, offering unique opportunities for bettors.

Example 1: Soccer Handicap Betting.
Team A is stronger than Team B, which gets a +2 goal advantage. For Team A bets to pay, they must win by over two goals. Bets on Team B win if they lose by one, draw, or win.

Example 2: Basketball Handicap Betting.
The Charlotte Hornets, facing a stronger team, receive a +10 point handicap. Bets on the Hornets win if they don’t lose by more than 10 points, enabling strategic betting decisions. 

These examples highlight how handicap bets can offer more profound engagement with the betting market, allowing bettors to leverage their knowledge of the sport and specific teams to place a bet with potentially higher returns.

Different Types of Handicap Bets: Find Your Handicap Betting Strategy

Handicap betting creates a more balanced scenario. This betting variety is crucial for seasoned bettors to understand, as it expands the strategies available for predicting the outcome of a win-the-match scenario.

Let’s delve into the primary types of handicap bets and why they’re pivotal.

What Is Asian Handicap Betting?

This variant eliminates the draw option, increasing the chances of a payout to a win-or-lose outcome. With the Asian handicap, bets are more finely tuned, often involving half or quarter goals in football match contexts, ensuring that every game has a clear winner or loser.


  • Game: New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
  • Asian Handicap: New England Patriots -3.5, Miami Dolphins +3.5

In a game between the New England Patriots (-3.5) and Miami Dolphins (+3.5), bets on the Patriots win if they beat the Dolphins by more than 3.5 points.

For example: A final score of Patriots 27, Dolphins 22, adjusted for the handicap, becomes Patriots 23.5, Dolphins 22, making a Patriots bet successful. Dolphins bets win if they lose by 3 points or fewer, or win outright.

Sounds too complicated for you? Don’t worry, you can always use an Asian handicap calculator to help you calculate your payoffs and test out different scenarios for your profits.

What Is Handicap League Betting?

Handicap league betting adjusts for team strength by setting conditions for the bet to win.


  • Game: New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
  • Handicap League Betting: New York Yankees -1,5, Baltimore Orioles +1,5

The Yankees are having a stellar season and are heavily favored to win this game, while the Orioles are struggling.

To make betting more interesting and equitable, a bookmaker sets a handicap of -1.5 runs on the Yankees. This means the Yankees must win the game by 2 or more runs for a bet on them to pay out.

Conversely, the Orioles are given a +1.5 run advantage, meaning if they win the game, or lose by only 1 run, a bet on the Orioles would pay out.

Betting Outcome:

  • If you bet on the Yankees with the -1.5 run handicap, they need to win by at least 2 runs.
  • If you bet on the Orioles with the +1.5 run handicap, they need to win, or they can lose by 1 run, and you would still win your bet.

This system allows bettors to wager on the overall performance of teams throughout the season, considering the handicap. It adds an extra layer of strategy, as you’re not just betting on the outright winner, but on the winner with the handicap conditions applied.

What Is No Draw Handicap Betting?

No draw handicap betting is also known as the Asian Handicap.

Here’s a simplified example using an NBA game:

The Los Angeles Lakers are playing against the Miami Heat. To balance the betting, a bookmaker applies a handicap.

The Lakers are favorites, so they are given a -4.5 point handicap, meaning they need to win by more than 4.5 points for a bet on them to pay out. Conversely, the Heat are given a +4.5 point advantage in the bet, meaning if they win the game or lose by less than 4.5 points, a bet on the Heat would pay out.

Betting Outcome:

  • If you bet on the Lakers with a -4.5 point handicap, they must win by at least 5 points for your bet to win.
  • If you bet on the Heat with a +4.5 point handicap, they need to win the game, or they can lose by up to 4 points, and you would still win your bet.

The key here is that the half-point in the handicap effectively removes the possibility of a draw, as no NBA game can end with a team winning by half a point.

This ensures that the bet will always have a decisive outcome, with bettors either winning or losing their wager based on the game’s final score relative to the handicap applied.

What is a European Handicap Bet?

A European handicap bet, unlike its Asian counterpart, does not eliminate the draw option but adds a straightforward goal or point advantage to the underdog before the start of the event. This form of betting adjusts the odds and can lead to three possible outcomes: a win, a loss, or a draw, which increases betting complexity and opportunity.


  • Game: Barcelona vs. Real Betis
  • European Handicap: Barcelona -1, Real Betis +1  

In this match, if you place a handicap bet on Barcelona with a -1 handicap, they need to win by more than one goal for your bet to succeed.

Betting Outcome:

  • If Barcelona wins 2-0, the adjusted score with the handicap would be Barcelona 1, Real Betis 0.
  • If Barcelona only wins 1-0, the adjusted score would be a 0-0 draw, leading to a draw bet winning, making this type of bet distinct by allowing the possibility of a draw outcome.

Understanding Handicap Values in the Betting System

Handicap betting evens out the odds between mismatched teams by assigning a virtual advantage or disadvantage.

For example: A -2.5 handicap requires the team to win by 3 or more goals, while a +2.5 handicap allows a team to win, draw, or lose by less than 3 goals for a successful bet. It’s vital in sports betting, affecting risk and potential returns.

Different sports have varying handicaps, influenced by the teams’ strength difference, making bets on overcoming deficits or maintaining leads more interesting.

Calculating Handicap Bets

Handicap betting can seem complex at first, but once you understand the basics, it becomes a valuable tool in your sports betting arsenal. The key to handicap betting lies in the handicap odds, which are designed to level the playing field between two unevenly matched teams.

In this form of betting, the favored team is given a handicap to overcome, making the betting outcome more uncertain and, therefore, more exciting. Here’s a simple guide to calculating outcomes in handicap betting:

  1. Understand the Handicap: A single handicap is applied to the favorite team, which must overcome this handicap for a bet on them to win. For example, if Team A has a -1.5 goal handicap against Team B, Team A must win by 2 or more goals for a bet on them to pay out.
  2. Calculate the Outcome: If you bet on Team A with a -1.5 handicap, and they win 3-1, after applying the handicap, the adjusted score becomes 1.5-1 in favor of Team A. Your bet wins because Team A still comes out ahead even after the handicap is applied.
  3. Consider a Handicap Draw: Some sports offer the option of a handicap draw. This means if the match result, after the handicap has been applied, is a draw, you can win your bet if you predicted this outcome.
  4. Using Handicap Odds: The odds provided by betting sites reflect the probability of the outcome once the handicap is applied. Comparing these odds across different sports bettors and platforms can help you find the best value for your bets.

Example Calculation:

If you bet on the New York Giants with a -3 point handicap against the Dallas Cowboys, and they win 24-20, the adjusted score is 21-20 in favor of the Giants. Your bet wins because the Giants still win with the handicap.

This demonstrates how handicap betting evens out matches and can offer more value.

Why Handicap Betting Matters: What They Mean To You

Handicap betting introduces a level of strategy and excitement unmatched by traditional betting forms.

Renowned betting strategy expert Jordan Miles emphasizes:

The strategic depth comes to handicap betting cannot be underestimated. It offers a unique challenge and opportunity for bettors to engage with sports in a more analytical and nuanced manner.

Pros and cons of handicap betting:

Equalizes odds in mismatched gamesCan be complex for beginners
Offers betting interest in one-sided matchesDemands deeper sports knowledge
Potential for profit even if the chosen team losesRisk of overestimating the handicap of -1
Adds strategic depth to bettingPossible confusion around split handicap

The inclusion of a 1.5 handicap ensures that games must be won by a margin, adding an extra layer of anticipation. The whole number handicap and split handicap introduce flexibility, allowing for refined betting strategies.

The betting line dynamically shifts with handicaps, enriching the betting experience.

A form of handicap betting, like the split handicap or a straightforward handicap of -1, challenges bettors to predict not just outcomes, but performance relative to the bookmakers’ expectations.

Handicap Betting in Different Sports: Football Betting, Basketball Betting, and More

SportHandicap Betting Focus
FootballAdjusts for team strength differences, enabling bets on teams to win against the odds.
TennisStrategies vary, not directly comparable to team sports.
NBA betting /NFL bettingVital for one-sided games, allowing bets on teams expected to outperform.
NHL bettingSimilar to NBA, caters to fast-paced game dynamics with vibrant handicap markets.
GolfLevels the field among competitors of different skills, making contests closer.

This table shows how handicap betting adapts to the unique dynamics and betting environments of different sports, enhancing the betting experience by offering a way to win the bet.

Master Handicap Betting Option

Handicap betting adds strategic depth to sports betting by leveling the playing field in uneven matchups, enabling you to make more informed decisions during any sporting event.

Understanding how a handicap bet works allows you to leverage these insights for better outcomes.

Curious about how placing a handicap bet could change the dynamics of live sports betting? This approach opens up new possibilities for enhancing your strategy in real-time sporting events.

For more advanced tactics, including practical applications of handicap betting across different sports, continue to explore our betting 101 section.