In football handicap betting, a “handicap” is applied to each team in a match, to level out the odds on both teams. This gives punters a realistic chance of winning by backing either side, even if one team is widely considered to be stronger than the other.
How it works
Football handicap betting differs slightly from handicap betting in sports like tennis because markets have to cater for the possibility of a draw. A score advantage, or number of goals, is added to the starting score of the weaker team, and a score penalty is deducted from the starting score of the stronger team.
A match is considered a draw if adding each team’s final, handicapped score results in a level score.
Odds in football handicap betting
If a punter chooses to back a match favourite with a handicap applied to its final score, the chance of winning the bet will be lower than for an outright bet without a handicap. However, higher odds will be offered for this type of bet. If a punter backs the underdog with a score advantage applied to its final score, the likelihood of winning will be greater than in straightforward match betting, but the odds will be lower.
Most bookmakers offer several handicap markets for each match, varying the number of goals applied as the handicap.
Among the leading bookies for football odds are:
Chelsea takes on Aston Villa in the Premier League, and the following handicap market is offered:
- Chelsea (-1.0) 4/6
- Handicap Draw (1.0) 11/4
- Aston Villa (+1.0) 2/1.
This means the following:
- Chelsea will need to win by a margin of 2 or more goals for a bet backing a win by Chelsea to pay out
- either side would need to win the match by one goal for the handicap draw to pay out
- Aston Villa would need to draw the match for the bet to pay out.
A punter predicts that the match will be won by Chelsea by a margin of two or more goals.
The match eventually ends with the score 3-1 in Chelsea’s favour. The punter deducts the handicap from the final score, giving an outcome of a Chelsea win by 2-1. The punter therefore wins the handicap bet on Chelsea.
When to bet on football handicaps
Football handicap betting is useful when the odds on a traditional match betting market don’t offer real value. An example would be a football match for which the favourite is priced well below evens (for example 1/8) or the underdog is priced at high odds (for example 20/1) but has no realistic chance of winning the encounter.
In matches like these, the handicap betting market reduces the imbalance between the two teams. If bookmakers don’t accurately assess the relative strengths of the two sides, the handicap provided may be favourable to one of the teams. This is when handicap betting offers the best value.
Football handicap betting tips
- Consider the teams’ head-to-head record: Do matches between two sides consistently favour one team, and does the stronger team consistently win by a specific goal margin? Knowing this can improve your chance of winning a handicap bet.
- Look at offence and defence: A high-scoring team with a lousy defence isn’t the best option to back with a -2 goal handicap. You need to keep in mind that by itself, a winning record isn’t enough to justify backing a team with a handicap. Try to look out for teams that balance strong attack with strong defence. This will open up the margins you need to place winning handicap bets.
- Research relative strength: The handicap market is intended to balance out differences in strength between two sides. However this balance of strength may be affected by various factors, including home advantage, injuries on either side and weather preferences and conditions. All these factors may change at a moment’s notice, tilting a match in one team’s favour.