Handicap Betting Term Meaning

A handicap when talking about horse racing refers to horses carrying different weights in an attempt to even out the field and give each entrant a chance of winning. It is also a betting term in which it relates to a specific betting market.

Handicapping is traditionally a method used by bookmakers to even out the odds for opposing sports teams or participants but there are a few variants of handicap bets; we have covered Asian handicap betting in a separate article, so this page will be dedicated to European handicap markets.

While virtually any sport can have a handicap betting market, we’ll focus our examples on football as it is the most popular. To gauge the value of the handicap market, it is vital that you compare it against the main match result odds, so that is where we shall begin.

Handicap Example


Let's take a look at an English Premier League match featuring Arsenal vs Newcastle.

Match Result MarketHomeDrawAway
Arsenal vs Newcastle 1.40 4.75 8.00

There are several handicap markets to choose from depending on how you see the result going. Below is a sample selection:

HandicapArsenal NewcastleDraw
Arsenal +1.0 goal (+1) 1.09 (-1) 26.00 10.00
Arsenal +2.0 goals (+2) 1.02 (-2) 91.00 29.00
Arsenal -1.0 goal (-1) 2.05 (+1) 3.00 3.70
Arsenal -2.0 goals (-2) 3.60 (+2) 1.75 4.20

The (+) and (-) shows the handicap. A football match begins with the score at 0-0. If you placed a handicap bet on Newcastle (-2), it is the same as the match starting Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle.

In order for this bet to win, Newcastle have to win the match by three clear goals, i.e. 0-3, 1-4, 5-2, etc. If Arsenal win, the match ends in a draw or Newcastle win by only one or two goals, you have lost the bet.

The tie bet corresponds to the number of goals in the left column. For example Arsenal -1.0 means the match is starting Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle. To win this bet, you need Arsenal to win by one goal only. This could be 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and so on.

You can also find no draw handicap betting markets. These use the .5 goal system (Arsenal -1.5). Some punters prefer these as it removes the tie market making it a simple two-way, win or lose bet.

Handicap betting FAQ

What is a handicap in horse racing?

A handicap in horse racing refers to horses carrying different weights in an attempt to even out the field.

What is a handicap in football?

Handicapping is football is setting a goal line for each team that can be positive or negative.

What are the handicap markets in football?

The main handicap markets in football are Asian handicap and European handicap.

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