Handicap Betting Guide

Fans of football will see them coming a mile off: the favourite metering out the proverbial tonking to the underdog.

Common in the early rounds of the cup competitions, large victories are not that uncommon in elite football. In the first 13 rounds of Premier League matches during the 2021/22 campaign, some 43% were won by a two-goal margin or greater.

For the betting community, there’s a certain resonance to that stat. Often, we’ll see a favourite with the bookmakers that is available at unbackable prices – 1/3, 2/5, 4/9, and so on. But we can instead try our hand at handicap betting, which employs a metaphorical handicap on a game to try and level up the scores.

That might sound complicated, but once you’ve got your head around handicap football betting you may just find that a new and potentially suitable avenue opens itself up to you.

Standard Handicap Betting

Some of us might already be familiar with the concept of the handicap if they’ve played football before and experienced the following scenario;

The players are lined up, and two nominated captains would take it in turns to make their picks. Eventually, two teams would be selected, although one would typically be stronger than the other. “We get a two-goal head start,” would be the cry from the weaker outfit.

In answering the question ‘what does handicap mean’, that’s basically it – one team having to overcome a made-up deficit, and the other defending their afforded advantage.

The reason that handicap betting is so appealing is that it lets us achieve one of two things: backing a favourite at better odds when we think they are going to win handsomely, or backing the underdog with the increased safety of a head start in their favour.

To give you an idea of how the goal handicap market works, here’s a real example from an Everton vs Liverpool game in the Premier League:

  • Match odds – Everton 13/2, Draw 17/4, Liverpool 4/11
  • One goal handicap – Everton (+1) 2/1, Liverpool (-1) 1/1
  • Two goal handicap – Everton (+2) 8/11, Liverpool (-2) 5/2

So, let’s pick the bones out of what we can see here in the handicap odds football. As per the match odds, Liverpool are the red-hot favourites at 4/11, but there’s little in the way of appetite to bet at those prices.

If we think they will win this game convincingly, we can dip into the handicap markets. With a -1 goal handicap, we need them to win by two clear goals or more. Backed by a -2 goal handicap, we would need Liverpool to triumph by three goals or more… and so on. As you can see, the odds are far more agreeable when taking the handicap position.

Conversely, let’s say for example that we really fancy Everton to upset the odds here – but not enough to bet on them to win outright. We can instead peruse the ‘plus’ handicap markets, giving them an extra cushion while accepting lower odds each time we add an extra goal into the mix.

So, those are the two main uses of handicap betting: accessing better odds for a favourite, or backing an underdog with metaphorical goals added to their tally.

Asian Handicap Betting

Just as you were getting your head around the concept of handicap betting, along comes Asian handicaps to throw even more complications into the mix. For the most part, the general principle remains the same: we are adding imagined goals to the final scoreline. But with the Asian system, there’s also half and even quarter goals to consider – a notion that has many punters scratching their heads.

It’s actually a pretty difficult subject to bring to life in mere words too, so let’s try and break it down into three sections:

Full Goal Handicap Betting

There are no half measures here, with only three outcomes possible: win, loss, or stake refund.

If you take the 0.00 Asian handicap, you will win your bet if the team you back triumphs, you will get a stake refund if they draw and you will lose if your pick does likewise.

If we take the -1.00 Asian handicap, the final reckoning is as follows:

  • If your team wins by 2+, your bet wins
  • If your team wins by 1, your bet is a push (stake refund)
  • If your team draws or loses, your bet is lost

For +2.00, we simply add an extra goal into the equation: if your teams win by three goals or more, your bet prevails. If they win by two it’s a refund, but if they win by one, draw or lose then it’s game over for your bet too.

For the +1.00 Asian handicap, bets are settled as follows:

If your team wins, your bet wins

  • If your team draws, your bet wins
  • If your team loses by 1, it’s a push (stake refund)
  • If your team loses by 2+, your bet loses

Half Goal Handicap Betting

For the next part of our Asian handicap explained round-up, we consider the half goal.

How can you score half a goal? You can’t, but some bookmakers added these fractional options to add extra intrigue to the market.

All you have to do is add +0.50 or subtract -0.50 from the final score to see if your handicap bet will win. So, if a game finishes 1-1, +0.50 wagers win (the ‘new’ score would be 1.50 v 1) and -0.50 bets lose (0.50 v 1).

Quarter Goal Handicap Betting

With the addition of quarter goals into the mix, we can start to record half wins and half losses on our bets.

On the plus side, +0.25 bets win when the team you are backing is victorious, and they offer a half win if the game ends in a draw. Meanwhile, +0.75 bets win if your team triumphs or draws, and you will suffer a half loss if they lose by one goal and a full loss if they are defeated by two or more.

On the minus side, the -0.25 will see you suffer a half loss if the game ends in a draw, while -0.75 picks deliver a full win when your team prevails by two or more goals and a half win if they prosper by a one-goal margin.

The same rules apply when you add extra goals for -1.25, +1.75, and the like, and if you are curious about Asian handicap betting our message is to give it a go. But tread carefully as you get used to each of the various permutations.

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