Handicap Betting

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Handicap betting allows bookmakers to create more of an even platform during a sporting event. The official definition of a handicap is ‘a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult’, and sportsbooks are able to add a handicap to a particular team or individual that makes their progress more difficult than it previously would have been in order to even the contest up. In this article we will talk in depth about handicap betting, so read on to learn more.

What is Handicap Betting?

So, we have already touched on the fundamentals of what handicap betting is. Essentially, it is a bet type that allows even the most one-sided of contests to become exciting for bettors through the introduction of a handicap to one of the participants. The handicap needs to be sufficient enough that it will be a challenge for the favourite to overcome to win, but also difficult enough that it is by no means a foregone conclusion. Handicap betting is available on many fairly even contests as well as one sided ones and it provides an interesting alternative to the standard win, lose or draw bets.

Let’s take a look at a working example on just how handicap betting may play out in a real life situation. If Montreal Impact were to play Atlanta United FC you may see the following odds for a three-way handicap betting market.

                                                         Handicap         Odds

Atlanta United FC                       +2                      2/1    

Draw                                              (-1)                    3/1

Montreal Impact                         -2                      1/1

To those unfamiliar with handicap betting this may seem a little daunting, but fear not, it is very simple to get to grips with.

Let’s break this example down to fully understand it:

Asian Handicap Betting

It may come as no surprise to learn that Asian Handicap betting gets its name from the location where it is very popular – yes, it is Asia – and is most commonly used on soccer matches. It differs from the more typical ‘European’ handicap betting system as it only offers two outcomes. The draw is no longer possible. It does this by offering the handicaps in 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 goals and so on.

If the New York Red Bulls were taking on Toronto FC you may see a handicap example of:

                                                         Handicap         Odds

Toronto FC                                    -1.5                   10/11

New York Red Bulls                    +1.5                  10/11

Let’s break this example down again:

Asian handicaps also offer full-point handicaps where the possibility of a void bet comes into play. Using the above example, if you bet on Toronto FC at an Asian Handicap of -1, if they were to win the game by one goal whether it was 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 etc, your bet becomes void and you just collect your stake back.

The most complex Asian handicap markets offer quarter point handicaps such as -1.25 or -1.75. In this circumstance, half of the bet is staked at the value of a quarter point above while the other half is staked at the value of a quarter point below. See, we told you it was complex! The maths for these markets can be complicated and many of the leading sportsbooks will provide a table providing the necessary outcomes and returns.

Although it is popular on soccer markets in Asia, Asian handicap betting is hugely popular across a wide range of sports and the NFL is largely considered the most popular sport for handicap betting.

European Handicap vs Asian Handicap: Which is better?

Now we have touched on the two main types of handicap betting, you may be asking the question, ‘well, which one is better?’ To be quite honest, there is no quick and correct answer here. 

The odds available to bettors will reflect this and Asian handicap markets have become increasingly popular with their simplicity of having just two potential outcomes. However, the real answer to the question is, it entirely depends on the individual making the bet. Some players will prefer the European handicap, some will prefer the Asian handicap. This may be due to the familiarity of the particular market, or they favour the simplicity, but there is no right or wrong answer.

When to Use Handicap Betting

You can choose to use handicap markets whenever you wish, they are widely available on many sports events, however they are best to use when the match result or odds do not provide any real value. This tends to be when there is one outcome that is extremely likely to happen and one player or team has a huge advantage over their opponent. This is when you can use the handicap markets to create more value by applying a varying degree of handicap on one of the two opponents. 

One of the best aspects about handicap betting is the versatile nature of the level of handicaps you can apply. If you think a particular event is going to be much more one sided than the odds suggest, you can apply an extremely severe handicap to a team and end up creating great value markets. Handicap betting allows you to consider those games you previously would have avoided due to the lack of any potential of good profit.

Popular sports for handicap betting

We have already touched on the fact that handicap betting is extremely popular in football and soccer markets. However, it is certainly not just limited to these, it is widely used across a huge range of sports including:


Handicap betting is an extremely popular market for bettors across the globe whether it be European handicap or Asian handicap. If you don’t understand the markets properly they may seem fairly daunting, however, both are simple to pick up. They also both deliver a different and enjoyable betting experience that opens up the opportunity of betting on many events that you may previously have avoided. Both have their advantages and can be profitable for players when used correctly and they allow you to create value in games that would otherwise provide very little value at all. The handicap market is extremely versatile and can be used across a wide variety of sports which all adds to the appeal. Punters love using markets they are familiar with and due to handicap betting being available on most of the popular Canadian sports, it is certainly proving to be a popular choice for Canadian betting fans.

Handicap Betting - FAQ

What is the difference between handicap and spread betting?

Essentially nothing. Handicap betting and spread betting are just different terms used for the same thing. The terminology you choose to use is likely influenced by where in the world you live.

What is the difference between European handicap and Asian handicap?

There is only one real difference between European and Asian handicap betting and that is the number of eventual outcomes. European handicap betting allows you to bet on either winner plus the draw, while Asian handicaps eliminate the draw with a winner being declared through the use of 0.5 scoring.

What sports are the handicap betting markets available on?

Handicap betting is available on a huge range of sports including baseball, football, ice-hockey, tennis, soccer and many more, plus the bookmakers are continually looking for ways to add handicaps to new sports markets.