Handicap betting, which is also often referred to as ‘spread’ betting in American markets, involves giving one team an imaginary deficit (or handicap) that they have to overcome during a game, before the featured match begins. Additionally selections can be made in the opposite way, whereby a team is given a virtual head start before a match starts. Selections only win if your chosen team’s score is still greater than its opponent’s after the handicap has been applied.
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The market usually comes into play when punters are looking for value on an overwhelming favourite in a game to win by a specific margin. For instance, odds may be very short on a top of the table team playing a relegation candidate in its normal, outright match betting market, so the handicap is introduced to give far more value if you strongly fancy a team to win by more than x amount of goals.
Handicap betting is used frequently for that reason, but it also allows punters to give their unfavoured selection a head start in games for the chance at higher returns. Handicaps are most often used to even up a market to the inferior selection has a better chance of winning, or to give better value on a favourite.
However, you may even find handicap bets available on most teams regardless of league position and form just for added value to boost returns or beef up an accumulator. Typically handicaps may be chosen if a specific favourite team is scoring a lot of goals regardless of the strength of the opposition in front of them.
An Example of Handicap Betting
During a match, you are able to choose from a range of options to give a virtual deficit for one team to overcome by the full time whistle, with the opponent receiving a head start for the purposes of the market. The result of the fixture will then have the handicap applied to it in order to determine the winning team or outcome.
You will also see in the above image the option to pick a handicap draw, which more or less means that you are betting on the team with the handicap to win by the exact amount of goals according to the handicap you pick. It is often difficult to explain without taking a specific example into account, so read on for better understanding.
Taking the fixture between Manchester United and Aston Villa featured above from Sky Bet’s website, for the purposes of this example we are going to say Manchester United won the game 4-2.
If, for example, your choice was on Manchester United -1 to win the game, your selection would have been successful because they won the actual fixture by two clear goals. Applying the handicap to the result thereafter would mean that Manchester United won the match 3-2 (4 minus 1 equals 3) for the purposes of the bet.
Handicap Draw -2 bettors would have been successful as Manchester United’s win by a two goal margin would mean that once the two goals selected are subtracted, the match would have been a draw with the scores being 2-2.
Handicap Draw -1 and Manchester United -2 selectors would not have won their bet if the score was to finish 4-2, as when the handicaps are applied to the final scores they do not match with what had been predicted. Additionally, neither of the Aston Villa selections would have won in this instance because even when the handicaps are added on to the final score line, Aston Villa would still not have won the game (Aston Villa +1 finishes 4-3 and Aston Villa +2 finishes 4-4).
Handicap match betting is at times difficult to explain, but once understood initially it does become easier to work out. Hopefully the example above helped clarify any doubt and you’re ready to go.
No Draw Handicap Betting
Though similar to the above example, the no draw handicap betting method (if slightly more uncommon) eradicates the possibility of a draw, with half handicaps being introduced to teams to ensure that after the match is completed there will always be one winning team.
No draw handicap betting bears high similarity to the Asian handicap betting market, which you can see more in depth information about here.