Handicapping in betting: what it is, how it works and examples

The word handicap comes from English and can be defined as “disadvantage” or “unfavourable circumstance”, according to the RAE. If we take it to the field of sports betting, the handicap is a fictitious disadvantage that is added to one of the participants in the event to change the betting odds.

This added “handicap” is very useful for sporting events where one of the opponents is heavily favoured. When one participant is superior to the opponent, the market odds for the victory of the favourite will be very low and uninteresting. Therefore, adding a “handicap” to the favourite makes the odds more interesting, balancing the odds between the strongest and the weakest.

We can add the handicap to bets on practically all sports, using the goals (football, handball, water polo, futsal…) or the score (basketball, American football, rugby…) of each sport, against one of the contenders in the sporting event of our choice. In other words, we would bet on the victory of a team that would start with the virtual disadvantage of -1, -2 or -3 goals (or points, sets…).

Types of handicaps in betting

There are several types of handicaps in betting, divided into two main groups: European handicaps and Asian handicaps. The European handicap is the most common in Spanish sports betting.

European handicap

This consists of adding or subtracting an advantage in favour of one of the contenders in our bets. The main characteristic is that, in the case of a draw in our bet, in the European handicap it would mean a losing bet.

Example: If we bet on Team A to win (with handicap -1) against Team B and the final result of the match is 2 – 1 in favour of Team A, for our bet with handicap -1, the virtual result will be 1 – 1. With European handicap, it would be a losing bet.

Asian handicap

The Asian handicap works in the same way as the European handicap, but the key difference is that in case of a draw, the bet will be void, so the bettor will have a lower risk bet and, therefore, the odds will be lower.

Example: If we bet on Team A to win (with handicap -1) against Team B, and the final result in the match is 2 – 1, for our bet with handicap -1, the virtual result will be 1 – 1. With Asian handicap, it would be a nil bet. In the Asian handicap, it is possible to eliminate the option of a possible draw. This is achieved by including decimals in the handicap value.

If we bet on a handicap of 1.5 or 2.5 goals for or against a team, we eliminate the option of a draw in the bet.


Football handicap

Handicap betting in football usually focuses on markets relating to the winner of a match (winner of one or two halves). The option is given to add or subtract goals to or from one of the teams by means of the handicap. 

Example: Real Betis – FC Barcelona next Sunday. For Betway, a Barça win is priced at 1.57. If we add a -1 handicap for Barça, the odds offered by Betway are 2,30. If the handicap is -2 to Barça, the odds go up to 4.00. If the handicap is -3 added to Barça, the odds go up to 8.00.

Handicap in basketball

In basketball, the inclusion of the handicap is even more open, so it gives more play to the bettor. As there are more points per game, the bettor will have even more options to play with the handicap. You can include handicaps from +2 points to +14 points for a team. 

Example: Real Madrid – Baskonia tomorrow Friday in $league. For Betway, the victory of the Whites has a odds of 1.40. Adding a minimum handicap of -3.5 for Real Madrid, the odds in their favour rise to 1.55. If the handicap reaches -11.5, the odds for Madrid reach 3.00. If the handicap reaches -14.5 to Real Madrid’s score, in this case the odds are 3.80.

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