football penalty

Football Handicap Betting Explained

Are you interested in the world of football betting but find the concept of handicap betting somewhat perplexing? If so, you’re not alone.

Handicap betting is a unique and complex betting market that can be difficult to understand, especially for those new to sports betting.

That’s why we have created this comprehensive guide to demystify handicap betting in football and empower you with all the knowledge you need to start wagering with confidence.

In this article, we will walk you through the ins and outs of handicap betting, step by step.

We will explain how it works, the different types of handicap betting available, and provide practical examples to help you grasp the concept.

By the end of this guide, you will be equipped with the necessary skills to make informed betting decisions, take advantage of the odds, and potentially increase your chances of winning.

Whether you’re a seasoned bettor looking to widen your betting strategy or a newcomer eager to learn the ropes, this comprehensive guide on handicap betting in football is an essential resource for anyone looking to enhance their football betting experience.

Let’s get started!


What is handicap betting in football?

Handicap betting is a form of wagering that levels the playing field between two teams of varying strengths by adding a virtual advantage or disadvantage to the underdog or favorite, respectively.

This type of betting is particularly popular in football, where there can be significant differences in skill levels between teams.


How does handicap betting work?

In handicap betting, the bookmaker assigns a virtual handicap to each team.

This handicap is represented by a positive (+) or negative (-) value, indicating the number of goals added or deducted from the final score.

The purpose of the handicap is to give bettors more flexibility – either by making a market more equal where there is a strong favourite, or allowing punters to back a side with a handicap against them if they think that side is going to win comfortably. 

We will take a look at some examples now of how handicap betting works in practice.


Example: +1 Handicap Bet

To better understand handicap betting, let’s consider a basic example from the Euro Qualifiers in which England are playing Italy.

In the standard match odds, England are clear favourites at 1.67:

With handicap betting however, there is the option to back a side with a one-goal headstart. 

So for example there is a market where Italy are given a one goal headstart. This is known as the Italy +1 handicap market. 

The odds on Italy with a one goal headstart are 2.46, versus 6.8 in the match odds without a one goal headstart.

With a one goal headstart, it means if the game finishes in a draw, the bet on Italy +1 would win. 

If they lose the game however, the +1 goal headstart is not enough, the Italy +1 would still lose.

Obviously if Italy win the game, the Italy +1 also wins, comfortably. 

Here is a summary of backing the Italy +1 option in table format:


Match Result Italy Win Draw England Win
Result if backing Italy +1 Win Bet Win Bet Lose Bet


There are different ways you can play this handicap market of course. 

You might feel that England are going to win by two or more goals, in which case you would back England -1 at odds of 2.96. 

Backing this means that England have a one goal handicap against them at the start of the game. 

So whatever the final score in the game, you would deduct one goal from England. 

If England win the game 2-0, 3-1, 3-0 etc then backing England -1 is a winning bet, because they have overcome the one goal handicap. 

Or finally, if you think England are going to win the game by exactly one goal, you would back the draw in the above handicap market at odds of 3.75.

That’s because this market is giving Italy a one goal headstart, so for the draw bet to land in this market, England would have to win by one goal. 

In the end, England won the game 3-1, meaning a -1 handicap bet on England at odds of 2.96 would have been successful.

+1 England Handicap Example

Although handicaps are generally thought of as a means to create a more balanced betting market by giving a headstart to the underdog, they can also give a headstart to the favourite.

For example, in the same England v Italy match, there is also a +1 England market:

With a one goal headstart, England are very strong favourites at odds of 1.17. 

Just as in the example above, with a +1 goal handicap, it means that if the game finishes in a draw then the England +1 wins. 

Italy, with a -1 handicap are big outsiders at odds of 22, whilst the draw (which in effect is for Italy to win the game by exactly one goal) is priced at 9.6.

You might be wondering why anyone would bet on England +1 at such short odds, but it does given an additional level of insurance, as even if the game finishes in a draw, the bet would still win. 

Bets like this can still be value, even if the odds are very low. 

There may also be people who use this market for trading, for example in the late stages of the game when odds swings can be large. 


+2 Handicap Bet

There are also +2 handicap bets available, which give teams a two-goal headstart.

This obviously gives teams a significant advantage and the odds for this handicap will tend to be short. 

In this example, Inter Miami are 2.8 in the match odds but as short as 1.23 in the +2 handicap market:

In this case, if Inter Miami win, draw or lose the game by just one goal, the +2 handicap bet on them will be successful. 

The +2 handicap market is not available for all matches – usually just the big leagues and those matches that are televised. 


Handicaps in other markets

It’s important to note that handicap betting can also be applied to other outcomes in football matches, such as the number of corners, cards, or goals scored by individual players.

The principles remain the same, but instead of applying the handicap to the final score, it is applied to the specific outcome being wagered on.


What are Asian Handicaps?

A variation on handicap betting you may have head of is Asian handicap betting. 

In essence, the Asian handicap is a way to remove the draw as a possible outcome and reduce betting to just two potential outcomes.

The handicap can vary from a fraction of a goal through to several goals.

You can read more about how the Asian Handicap works in our detailed guide here.


Advantages of handicap betting

Handicap betting offers several advantages that make it an attractive option for football bettors. Here are a few key benefits:

1. Improved Odds: Handicap betting allows you to back a strong favourite at better odds if you believe they are going to win comfortably, by more than one goal for example, compared to backing them in the match odds.  

2. Increased Market Variety: Handicap betting opens up a wider range of betting options, allowing you to explore different aspects of a football match beyond just the final result. Whether you’re interested in goals, corners, or other statistical outcomes, handicap betting provides an opportunity to diversify your betting strategy.

3. Equalized Chances: By leveling the playing field, handicap betting provides a more balanced and engaging betting experience. It allows you to bet on matches where there may be a clear favorite, ensuring that both teams have an equal chance of success.


Disadvantages of handicap betting

While handicap betting has its advantages, it’s important to consider the potential disadvantages as well. Here are a few drawbacks to keep in mind:

1. Complexity: Handicap betting can be more complex and challenging to understand compared to traditional match betting. It requires a good understanding of the specific market you are betting on and how the handicap being applied will affect the final result of your bet. 

2. Limited Availability: Handicap betting may not be available for all matches or in all betting markets. Some bookmakers may only offer handicap betting options for high-profile matches or specific leagues, limiting the opportunities for bettors.

3. Reduced Odds: While handicap betting can offer improved odds in certain situations, there are instances where the odds may be less favorable compared to traditional match betting.

For example in the match above just backing Italy in the match odds market rather than with a handicap, or backing England +1 rather than in the match odds market, would give you better odds.

By weighing these disadvantages against the advantages, you can determine whether handicap betting aligns with your betting goals and risk tolerance.


Conclusion – Handicap Betting in Football

In conclusion, handicap betting in football is a multifaceted and intriguing betting market that can both challenge and reward bettors.

While it may seem perplexing at first, this comprehensive guide has shed light on its intricacies, providing you with the knowledge and confidence needed to navigate this unique form of wagering.

The essence of handicap betting lies in its ability to level the playing field, making matches between teams of varying strengths more competitive and exciting.

By assigning virtual advantages or disadvantages to the underdog and favourite, it offers a broader spectrum of betting options that go beyond the standard match result.

We explored practical examples of handicap betting, including scenarios where a team is given a goal headstart or a goal handicap against them.

We’ve seen how this betting type can be used to your advantage, whether you want to back a strong favorite at better odds, hedge your bets for increased security, or explore diverse betting markets, such as corners, cards, and player goals.

So, with your newfound knowledge, it’s time to dive into the world of handicap betting and elevate your football wagering experience. Good luck and please remember to always gamble responsibly!





0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *