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What is Handicap Betting and How does it Work?

The world is rarely black and white and just like in real life, there are many shades of gray to consider, handicap betting is an integral part of gambling.

Punters use betting handicaps often to maximize the return on investment when betting on sports, but also to mitigate the risks.

Used intelligently, handicaps are essential tools for online and traditional gambling and modern bookmakers offer many alternatives for betting handicap fans.

So let’s find out how handicap betting works.

How does Handicap Betting work?

The Holy Grail of professional sports gambling, handicap betting does precisely what the name suggests. One of the two teams or at least, usually the underdog gets an advantage to level the playing field.

This is the handicap that the favorite needs to cover in order to win the bet, while the underdog can lose by the narrow margin. When punters are confident enough that the favorite will win by a wide margin, they use betting handicap to maximize the odds.

Conversely, when they expect a tight match, they add a small handicap to the underdog, so they still win if it loses by the narrowest of margins.

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Double chance bets disguised as Handicap Betting

If you want to determine what is handicap in football betting, the first to look at is the -0.5 and +0.5 spreads. The former is given to the favorite, while the second is reserved to the underdog and they are actually the most basic football bets. If you bet on a team to win a football match by a -0.5 betting handicap, you simply expect them to prevail in regulation time. It’s precisely the same as betting on the team to win the match, just a different way of presenting the same market.

The +0.5 betting handicap is essentially the double chance bets which implies that the chosen team either wins or draws the match. Half a goal is added, so if the match ends undecided, this tiny advantage is enough to produce a winner.

Premier League handicap betting abounds in such markets and sometimes strange things happen at less professional bookmakers. There can be slight differences in the odds offered on a +0.5 betting handicap and the double chance bets, even though they are 100% the same. Read our guides on the Asian handicap 0.5 and Asian handicap -0.5 to help you speculate these tiny discrepancies and maximize their potential winnings.

Learning the ropes of Asian Handicap Betting

Now that you know the basics of handicap betting, it is time to take things to the next level. Asian handicap betting is based on the same concepts, but gives players more flexibility by providing multiple options (especially alternative Asian handicap ones).

The Asian handicap 1 and -1 Asian handicap betting is particularly useful in football, because many games are designed by a single goal. The football handicap betting odds are smaller when the underdog is given a full goal advantage, but players recuperate the stakes if their team loses by a single goal.

Once you learn what means handicap in betting, you might be a bit surprised by the existence of Asian handicaps. At the first glance, they seem to defeat the purpose of using handicaps to determine a winning bet, since the stakes can be returned. They have the merit of further reducing the risks by providing punters with a safety net, in exchange of lower odds (check here our best staking plan for low odds). Risk-averse players who enjoy handicap betting soccer are the main beneficiaries of the -1 and +1 Asian handicaps.

Let’s make things complicated with 3 Way Handicap Betting

Most punters prefer simplicity, but there are plenty out there who don’t mind the aggravation of three Way handicap betting. This is another popular type of handicap sports betting which is used mostly on football, but it is not exclusive to it. Once again, the underdog is given an advantage of one goal or more and the players win if the team doesn’t lose by a greater number.

The difference between three Way handicap betting and the aforesaid Asian handicap is that punters also have the option of placing a bet on draws. These handicap football markets allow players to bet on a team losing by a specific number of goals without indicating the score.

For example, one can wager on the favorite to win by exactly one goal by betting on the draw in the -1, respectively +1 handicap spread.

The best sports for Handicap Betting

American sports are generally the best suited ones for handicap betting, as they also involve overtime to determine the winner. Basketball handicap betting fans are usually presented with both the three-way and Asian handicap options at Asian handicap bookmakers. The latter is widely preferred and it is commonly referred to as spread betting, with the teams expected to cover a single or double digit spread. NBA handicap banking is particularly popular because of the high number of points scored, hence the flexibility of the spread betting options.

Moving on to American football handicap betting, the same principles apply, only fewer points are scored. This sport has the particularity of scoring actions differently, as teams are awarded three and six points, rather than one at the time. If you want to learn how to handicap NFL sports betting, you need to understand the scoring system. Punters are often given the option of betting on teams to cover +6 and -6 spreads, while the +/- 3 spreads are also popular.

Baseball is the third most popular sports in the US and it is also well suited for handicap betting. In this case, the most common spreads are -1.5, which are commonly referred to as run lines. The favorites need to win by at least two points for the bet to be a winner, while those who back the underdogs still win if the lesser team loses by a single run. If you understand how does betting work in American football, you won’t have any problem in using it for baseball, ice hockey and basketball.

Do you hate draws? Handicap Betting is for you!

A special type of handicap betting that is perfect for football matches is the 0:0 Asian handicap. It goes by different names and those who just learned what does handicap betting in football means should learn it first. Often referred to as no draw handicap betting, it does precisely what the name suggests. If the match ends undecided, the stakes are returned so players have only the option of picking winners. In a nutshell, this handicap soccer option removes one of the three distinct possibilities from the equation.

The result of using no draw handicaps is that the draw no longer has to be factored in. Instead, players will have to accept significantly lower odds when betting on either team to win. Let’s assume that you are wagering on the perfect coin flip match, with each team priced at 17/10, while the draw gets odds of 2/1. If you choose the no draw handicap, the odds on each team will be reduced to roughly 19/20.

At the end of the day, the values depend solely on the house edge, but always represent a fraction of the original.

Handicap Betting in niche sports

Rugby is no longer among the most popular sports worldwide, at least based on the number of people betting on this sport. Having said this, rugby league handicap betting is extremely useful, as it allows players to maximize the return on investment while cutting down on potential losses.

Exactly the same principles are used as with American football, so if you know how does handicap betting work in NFL you will have no problem in using it for rugby.

Golf handicap betting is even less common, as in this sport punters usually try to pick the winner of the event or individual rounds. The same goes for snooker handicap betting which is so rarely used that it is virtually reserved to the most dedicated fans of the game.

If you choose to walk down this long and twisted path, you will surely at one point ask yourself what is handicap betting in cricket or what is handicap betting in darts? Each and every time, you assign an advantage to the underdog while stripping it from the favorite. Then you bet on whether the better team or athlete will cover the spread or not.

Horse racing, the birth of Handicap Betting

Any serious punters should know what is handicap betting and Super yankee betting in horse racing even if he or she doesn’t actually bet on these competitions. That’s because this is how handicap betting started in the first place, with horses being given physical advantages. The slower ones had shorter distances to cover, as they were given a head start.

Handicap betting explained at the time was crystal-clear, as the first horse to cross the finish line would win, regardless of the starting positions. In many races the same system is being used today, albeit online bookmakers often get creative with their handicapping in horse racing.

Special football Handicap Betting markets

Each sport has its particularities, so tennis handicap betting (find here the best way to bet on tennis) will always differ to some extent from its football counterpart. When Asian handicaps are used, the goal is to eliminate the possibility of a draw. Once you understand what is handicap betting 3 way, you know that this type of wagering allows players to bet on narrow margin victories. Football is the King of sports, so if you began your quest by learning what is football handicap betting or what are key numbers in sports betting, you did the right choice.

In addition to picking winners and trying to predict the margin of victory, punters can also bet on special markets. It is possible to bet on the results at half time, the half goals, as well as the number of corners, free kicks, yellow cards and offsides using Asian and traditional handicaps. When betting on the total number of goals scored by each team, the most common handicap is the Asian handicap +0.5 and its opposite Asian handicap -0.5. In the case of lopsided matches, the line can move to +1.5, +2.5 (or under 2.5 goals) and on rare occasions even above this threshold. When betting on Asian corners instead the most common line is Over/Under 9.5 corners.

The betting handicap meaning doesn’t change and the only difference is that punters bet on side events. Some of them directly impact the outcome of the game, such as the goals scored, while others count more for statistics, for example over 0.5 goals. Goals, yellow and red cards (find here how to bet on bookings), as well as substitutes are less numerous than corner kicks or faults, so the three-way handicap is used more often.

Many bookmakers refer to it as a European handicap, but it is essentially the same, in case you were wondering what is European handicap in soccer betting. The handicap odds are influenced by the odds of a certain event occurring so players take calculated risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Handicap betting isn’t about the number of points or goals scored. Instead, it is the margin of the win or loss that is important. A handicap favourite must win by X points, while betting on underdogs will see a win if they don’t lose by more than X points.

Also known as Alternative Asian Handicaps (AAH), these involve splitting your stake into two. Part of it goes to wagering on your chosen team at -1.5, while the second half is used on a -2 handicap.

In betting handicap is about the idea that a team needs to win the game, for example at more than one goal because your team starts the game with a -1 goal.

This type of handicap means that the guests stats the game with "2 goals in advances" so, the home side team needs to win at more than 3 goals in order for you to win this bet.

Crafting the ultimate Handicap Betting strategy

It is time to wrap up our handicap betting article and we’re happy to say that this is one of the most useful instruments available to punters. It can be used to mitigate the risks of the match going into overtime, remove the possibility of a draw or boost the odds by taking greater chances. It can be used on popular and niche sports, as well as the latest video games competitions.

Nothing is beyond its grasp, so whether you want to stick to football or learn how does handicap betting work  at CS GO low betting websites you are just one click away. Use handicap betting to protect your bankroll or chase your wildest and most ambitious betting projects.


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