What is handicap betting: Explanation and examples

Last Updated on December 21, 2020

If you ever opened a sports betting website and came across the term handicap betting and don’t know that means, you’re not alone. Do not worry. It’s actually simpler than you might think.

Handicap betting explained

A Handicap also know as line betting, is a form of betting which means that one team receives a “virtual head start”, effectively leading the game by a differing amount or amounts before the game starts.

These handicaps are used to balance a game or a market that has a highly favorite outcome.

For example in a football game between Brazil and Macedonia, Brazil has a huge advantage and you might see a handicap like “Brazil – 3.5 goals”. This means that Brazil has to win by at least 4 goals for your bet to win.

Types of handicaps

Asian handicap

Asian Handicaps are designed to eliminate the possibility of a draw in a Soccer match, reducing the match to two possible outcomes.

Why is it called ‘Asian’ handicap?

It’s called ‘Asian’ handicap because this form of betting originated in Indonesia and is popular across Asia.

Asian handicap examples

Asian handicaps are better understood with a table

asian handicap betting

European handicap

European Handicap is a type of bet where a whole number of points or goals is added to the underdog and accordingly subtracted from the favorite. The bet is settled on the outcome of the event after adjusting for the handicap.

In European Handicap there is a possibility for the draw.

European Handicap bets, like Asian Handicaps, give a head start to the underdog, however unlike Asian Handicaps, they do not reduce the betting market to two selections. These markets are typically offered on football fixtures, although they could also apply to ice hockey and other low scoring sports.

European Handicap example

Below is a European Handicap for an international football friendly between Brazil and Macedonia.

Brazil (-1) – 1.65 odds
Draw (-1) – 3.90 odds
Macedonia (+1) – 4.10 odds

This handicap gives a one goal head start to Macedonia and is effectively a head-to-head (1×2) market with an adjusted number of goals.

If Brazil wins by two or more goals then Brazil (-1) wins. If Brazil wins by exactly one goal then the draw (-1) wins. If Macedonia draws or wins the game then Macedonia (+1) wins.

Is handicap betting profitable

Handicaps create liquidity and fairness. And usually more liquidity means reduced margins for the bookmakers and therefore more probable profits for you.

This is also the most popular form of betting on high stakes bookmakers like pinnacle so they are a good idea if you are a winner and are having trouble placing bets without limits.

Handicaps are also the most common types of bets where arbitrage opportunities arise, so it’s important for you to understand them clearly if you are learning how to do arbitrages or any other profitable betting strategy.


Happy betting!