Handicap Meaning in Betting

Improve your knowledge of sports markets with this handicap betting guide. We explain the handicap meaning in football, among other sports. Furthermore, you will learn about the difference between a European handicap, an Asian Handicap, and spread betting.

Then, when you’re ready to try handicap betting, we have listed the best betting sites in Nigeria that offer these markets on a wide range of sports and events.

What is Handicap in Betting?

In a nutshell, handicap betting is a way to make the odds on a sporting event more even. It’s a favoured market when one team or player is much better than their opponent. Instead of the low odds on the win for the favourite, the scores are handicapped, which balances the prices in the market.

Here’s an example from the MLB game featuring the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. The odds on the outright winner (including extra innings) are:

  • New York Yankees @ 1.41
  • Tampa Bay Rays @ 2.65

The Yankees are favourites, but the 1.41 price may not seem overly attractive. Therefore, handicap betting could be a better option. These are the odds for this market, with a 1.5 handicap applied.

  • New York Yankees (-1.5) @ 1.89
  • Tampa Bay Rays (+1.5) @ 1.75

The payout on the Yankees is now more appealing; however, they have a -1.5 theoretical disadvantage on the scoreboard. This means they must win by two or more runs for the bet to pay out.

Handicap In Betting

Handicap Betting in Football

Handicap meaning in football is the same as in other sports. The favourite is typically given a theoretical disadvantage to balance the market odds.

Let’s take England vs Hungary in the Nations League. As always, when considering handicap betting, you start with the standard odds for the 1X2 market.

  • England @ 1.30
  • Draw @ 5.40
  • Hungary @ 10.00

Bettors would need to bet N100 to win N30, which isn’t too exciting. Alternatively, despite being 10.00, there’s little incentive to back Hungary as they probably won’t win.

This is where handicap betting comes to the fore. The teams are given a goal margin handicap, either negative or positive. If negative, the team is starting at a theoretical disadvantage, and vice versa for positive.

If you think England will win, you can back them with a -2.5 handicap at odds of 3.05. This bet pays N205 profit from an N100 stake. Of course, they need to win by 3 clear goals for the bet to succeed.

  • England (-0.5) @ 1.26
  • Hungary (+0.5) @ 3.80
  • England (-1.5) @ 1.79
  • Hungary (+1.5) @ 1.99
  • England (-2.5) @ 3.05
  • Hungary (+2.5) @ 1.37
  • England (-3.5) @ 5.80
  • Hungary (+3.5) @ 1.13

Handicap Betting in Rugby

Rugby handicap betting uses the point margin at the end of the game to create its odds and balance out the betting.

The team with the minus points in the betting market is generally the favourite, with the underdog given a positive point score. If you feel that the handicap point margin for the favourite is small and they will cover it, then it’s a value bet. However, if the margin is too great, there could be more value in betting on the underdog to maintain the handicap. For example:

  • Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (-11.5) @ 1.61
  • Gold Coast Titans (+11.5) @ 2.01
  • Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (-13.5) @ 1.77
  • Gold Coast Titans (+13.5) @ 1.80
  • Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (-15.5) @ 1.96
  • Gold Coast Titans (+15.5) @ 1.64

Handicap Betting in Basketball

Handicap betting basketball is similar to rugby because the handicaps apply to the points. The margin of the handicap depends on the difference in quality between the opponents.

If the sides are closely matched, the handicap will be small, whereas the handicap is much greater if the sides are poles apart in quality. Here are the odds for Golden State Warriors vs the Boston Celtics (Winner – including OT):

  • Golden State Warriors @ 1.27
  • Boston Celtics @ 3.75

The bookmaker has given a 5.5 point handicap. With the Warriors being favourites, they have the -5.5 point handicap @ 1.70. The opposite applies to the underdog – here, the Boston Celtics are given +5.5 points @ 2.15 if you want this bet.

Handicap Betting in Tennis

There are two forms of tennis handicap betting – game handicaps and set handicaps. The game handicaps are a cumulative total over the whole match (not a single set). At the end of the match, the number of games from each set are added together, and the outcome of the game handicap is determined.

Here is another example:

  • Errani, Sara (+5.5) @ 1.84
  • Brengle, Madison (-5.5) @ 1.79

Set handicaps are effectively the same but based on the set score at the end of the match:

  • Errani, Sara (-1.5) @ 6.40
  • Brengle, Madison (+1.5) @ 1.06
  • Errani, Sara (+1.5) @ 2.46
  • Brengle, Madison (-1.5) @ 1.44

Handicap Betting vs Asian Handicap Betting

A regular handicap bet, like the examples provided above, use half points/goals only. For instance, -2.5, -1.5, -0.5, +0.5, +1.5, and +2.5.

Asian handicaps can also use halves, with the addition of quarters and three-quarters. For example, -0.75 and +0.75. Essentially, with .25s and .75s, your stake is split into two bets.

  • Regular handicap: England (-1.5) @ 1.79. This bet wins if England wins the match by 2 or more clear goals.
  • Asian handicap: England (-1.25) @ 1.50. This is basically two bets (-1.00 and -1.50). If England wins by 2 or more goals, the whole Asian handicap wins. However, if England only wins by 1 goal, half the bet loses, and half the stake is refunded.

In this example, the Asian handicap offers some insurance if the score is only 1 goal difference. The trade-off is smaller odds.

Handicap Betting vs Spread Betting

This is where the confusion arises because, in some countries, the meaning is the same. However, spread betting and points betting mean the same thing in other places. Furthermore, different betting companies in Nigeria use different terminology.

Some sites refer to European handicaps simply as handicap betting. A European handicap is a three-way market, and it uses whole numbers. Due to applying whole numbers, all three outcomes remain possible.

For example:

  • England (Home -3) @ 5.90
  • Draw (Home -3) @ 5.90
  • Hungary (Home -3) @ 1.26
  • England (Home -2) @ 2.97
  • Draw (Home -2) @ 4.05
  • Hungary (Home -2) @ 1.83

Contrast this to a rival bookmaker; it uses the half-point point/goal spread betting model to display its handicap markets. These are two-way betting markets as the possibility of the draw has been eliminated.

No Draw Handicap Match Betting

Any handicap betting market that uses half (.5) points is a no-draw handicap bet. Whether the sport is football, rugby, tennis, basketball, or ice hockey, it’s impossible to score half a goal or half a point. Therefore, all former 3-way markets become 2-way by default.

Let’s take the football between Armenia and Scotland as an example. The match result (1X2) has three betting options: Armenia (home) win, a draw, and Scotland (away) win.

By applying half-point handicaps, it becomes a no-draw market. Effectively, one side of the bet will win, and the other side will lose, as you can see below.

  • Armenia (+0.5) @ 2.40
  • Scotland (-0.5) @ 1.56

Another type of no-draw handicap uses whole numbers, but it remains a 2-way market. In this example, you can bet on Germany at -3 (17) or Italy at +3 (1.01). Let’s assume you bet on Germany.

  • If Germany wins by 4 clear goals, you win the bet.
  • If Italy wins, the match is a draw, or if Germany wins by only 1 or 2 clear goals; the bet is lost.
  • If Germany wins by 3 clear goals, the bet is void, and the stake is refunded.

Handicap League Betting

The concept of handicap league betting is straightforward. What happens is the bookmaker gives a handicap total to each team in the league. Typically, the favourite starts at zero (0), with the other sides having a positive points total.

This is an example of handicap betting on the English Premier League:

  • Manchester City (0)
  • Liverpool (+3)
  • Chelsea (+11)
  • Manchester United (+21)
  • Tottenham Hotspur (+25)
  • Arsenal (+33)

At the end of the season, the theoretical points are added to reveal the winner of the handicapped league. Therefore, a club does not need to win the league for the handicap bet to win.

Handicap 1X2 Meaning

Handicap 1X2 meaning is the same as a European handicap. As mentioned above, some bookmakers use different terminology, and this is one of those cases.

With these bets, all three outcomes are possible. Here’s the handicap 1X2 for Armenia and Scotland. The handicap for this market is set a 0-1 (meaning Scotland has a 0-1 advantage)

  • Armenia (0-1) @ 16.00 – This bet wins if Armenia wins by 2 or more clear goals.
  • Draw (0-1) @ 6.40 – This wager wins if Armenia wins by 1 goal. For example, 1-0 or 2-1.
  • Scotland (0-1) @ 1.14 – This bet wins if the match ends in a draw or Scotland win by any scoreline.

Single Handicap in Betting

Despite touching upon these in places throughout this guide; however, let’s delve into more detail on some popular single handicap betting markets.

Handicap 0.5

The handicap 0.5 meaning is simple – one side has a half a goal advantage and the other a half a goal disadvantage.

  • Germany (+0.5) @ 1.23
  • Italy (-0.5) @ 4.00

Of course, it depends on which selection you bet on and which will result in a winning bet. A wager on Italy (-0.5) means:

  • If Italy wins by any score, you win the bet.
  • If the match is a draw or Germany win, you lose the bet.

The betting company will also offer Germany (-0.5) and Italy (+0.5) if you prefer one of those selections. Essentially, +0.5 as a standard handicap (not an Asian handicap) is the same as backing the team to win in the 1X2 market, so always compare the odds.

Handicap 1

Handicap 1 can be a 3-way market (European handicap) or a 2-way (no draw handicap). The model we are using is the 2-way market. There are four possible bet selections:

  • Home team +1
  • Home team -1
  • Away team +1
  • Away team -1

Ultimately, it depends on which team is the favourite and their prices.

In this example match between Germany (-1) @ 2.735 and Italy (+1) @ 1.54, Germany is the favourite in the 1X2 market, but not in this handicap market because of the -1. A bet on Germany has the following possibilities:

  • Germany wins by two or more clear goals and the bet wins.
  • The match is a draw or Italy wins; the bet loses.
  • If Germany wins by a 1-goal margin; the bet is void (stake returned).

Handicap 1.5

The handicap 1.5 market carries more risk on the negative side while offering a larger buffer on the positive side, which is reflected in the odds.

A bet on the -1.5 means the side you back needs to win by 2 or more goals, whereas a wager on +1.5 means the team can lose by 1 goal, draw or win, and the bet is successful.

Handicap 2

As the handicap 2 is a whole number, the bet can be void if the right match result is achieved. Compared to the 1.5 handicap, the odds are even greater on the minus side and far lower if backing the positive selection.

Quite often, with handicap 2, there’s only one market. That’s with the match favourite at -2 and the underdog at +2. There’s little point in pricing the favourite at +2 because the odds would be extremely low.

For Germany (-2) @ 6.45 against Italy (+2) @ 1.105, Germany needs to win by 3 or more clear goals. If they win by exactly 2 goals, the bet is pushed (stake returned). Any other outcome and the bet loses.

Handicap 2.5

We’ll finish with the 2.5 handicap. It follows the same pattern as 0.5 and 1.5 in that it’s a straight 2-way market with the bet either winning or losing.

Here is another example:

  • Germany (-2.5) @ 7.2
  • Italy (+2.5) @ 1.075

As you’d expect, the odds are more generous for the team with the theoretical disadvantage and lower for the side with the advantage.

Handicap Betting Strategy

No betting strategy can guarantee you’ll always win. After all, this is sports, and every underdog has its day. You still want to approach your handicap bets from a strategic perspective. Here are a few tips for setting you on your way:

  • Research: Whether handicap betting, BTTS, or any other market, research is vital. Delve into every piece of data you can lay your hands on. Look at the lineups, the form of players, and more.
  • Learn the different types of handicaps: As we’ve highlighted, there are several types of handicap markets. Learn each of them to give you more betting options.
  • Calculate the risk-reward: If you are betting on the favourite (the minus side), is the increased risk worth the reward? Also, check the bookmaker’s margins to determine if the market has value.
  • Compare bookmakers: Do not leave money on the table by accepting low prices. Compare Nigeria’s top betting sites to get the highest odds on your handicap bets.

What are the Pros & Cons of Handicap Betting?

The clear advantage of handicap betting is that bettors get higher odds on the favourite or a point/goal advantage on the underdog – depending on which side of the market you want to bet.

But for the bet to be successful, the favourite must overcome the handicap, or the underdog needs to keep the scores within the parameters of the bet.

Additionally, the bookmaker’s margins can be higher with some handicap markets, so it is not offering as much value as 1X2 markets.

Both no-draw handicaps and Asian handicaps provide bettors with a layer of insurance (for certain outcomes), which is a clear benefit. However, you need to put in more effort to learn handicap betting to succeed.

Where Can I Bet on Handicap?

Handicap betting is both exciting and potentially rewarding if you can find the right bets. We’ve handpicked some of the best betting sites in Nigeria based on their coverage and odds, so you can start placing handicap bets today.

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