Bookie Finder
What Sport Are You Looking To Bet On?
Select one of the following options











Horse Racing









Do You Want To Be Able To Watch The Event Live Online?
Select one of the following options




Do You Want To Be Able To Cash Out Your Bet In-play?
Select one of the following options

Cash Out


Not Needed

What Banking Method Would You Like To Use To Make Your Deposit?
Select one of the following options

Debit card








Apple Pay







What Is Your Ideal Welcome Bonus?
Select one of the following options

Deposit match


Enhanced odds


Free Bets


Don't want a bonus

This is the best bookmaker on your choices...
913 users signed up
Show More
Our Ranking Methodology
what is handicap betting

We independently review betting sites. Sign-ups through our links may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you, this never influences our listings’ order.

Once you have gotten your legs under the table in the UK online betting realm, you may find yourself asking what is handicap betting? What is handicap in betting, what is the meaning of handicap in betting, and how does handicap betting work?

This page will thoroughly answer the question what is handicap betting. If will give an example of handicap betting, explain what is Asian handicap betting, what does -1 handicap mean in betting and explain terms such as handicap draw. You will eventually be left in no uncertain terms about what is handicap betting, and whether it will work for you.

What is Handicap Betting? How it Works and What it Offers

In its most basic terms, this bet type involves artificial handicaps being given to a side or competitor in a sporting contest. We say in the most basic terms as there are a few types of handicap, and we will be exploring the main ones.

Say you want to bet on Manchester United beating Everton, but you are not impressed by the odds offered by online sportsbooks. You can make those odds better by giving Manchester United a handicap. This could be one goal take off their total, for example, or one goal being added to Everton’s total. If Manchester United were to win the game by one goal, then your bet would fail once that handicap is applied. This means you are essentially betting on Manchester United beating Everton by two clear goals, in this example.

As we have said, this is just one example of a handicap, and a few other handicap types exist which will be explained further on in this article.

How to Place a Handicap Bet

Placing a handicap bet is no different to placing many other types of bet, but we will outline an example for you. Here is the placement of a simple handicap bet at one of our favourite UK betting sites, bet365.

The game we are going to be placing our wager upon is the U21 international between old rivals England and Germany. Access to the game is given by the image as shown below, which we will need to click on.

handicap betting

We need to scroll down the options until we get to ‘Handicap Result’. The odds are shown below:

handicap betting 2

Naturally, we want England to win, although to be extra confident, we’re going to take the draw too, so we select the odds for ‘England U21 +1’ which will add a goal to England’s score. To place our bet, we click on the ‘1.50’ odds to transfer the bet to our betslip.

handicap betting 3

We’ve set our stake at £2, with potential returns of £3. All we need to do now is click the ‘Place Bet’ button, and our bet is on – come on you young lions!

Types of Handicap Bets

The handicap bet example given above is the most simple type of handicap bet there is – England will be given a +1 handicap to be added to their total if we back them, so any England win or a draw would mean a winning bet. It’s only one of many types of handicap bets, and we explore a few more of the most common ones below.

3 Way Handicap Betting

3 way handicap betting is one of the most popular methods of handicap betting in the UK. With 3 way handicap betting (it usually only applied to football) you can bet on one team winning, the other team winning, or a draw.

An example of a 3 way handicap betting line is as follows:

Arsenal -1 Draw -1 Wolves +1

So, if you bet on Arsenal, one goal will be deducted from their actual score. If you bet on Wolves, one goal will be add to their final score. If you bet on the draw, then one goal will be deducted from the winning team’s score or, if it is a draw, your bet will lose.

Goal Handicap in Betting

This is another handicap bet that is only really used in football. One side will be given a goal handicap, and it is up to you to predict the winner of the game once that handicap is applied. For example, if Arsenal are given a single goal handicap in our example game v Wolves, it is up to you to determine whether Arsenal or Wolves will win once that handicap is applied, or if the game will end in a draw.

Asian Handicap

So, what is Asian handicap in betting? It won’t surprise you to learn that this form of handicap takes its name from the style of handicap betting that is popular in Asia. It is identical to the form of handicap betting we outlined in our Manchester United v Everton example at the start of this article apart from one important difference – a draw once the handicap is applied results in a push.

Asian handicaps can be whole goals, half goals or quarter goals. With whole goals, a draw results in a push and your stake is returned. With half goals, draws are not possible. With quarter goals, a draw (when the nearest whole goal handicap is applied) results in half your stake being returned, or half your stake being lost depending upon the result.

Alternative Handicap Betting

The final type of handicap betting we are going to take a look at is alternative handicap betting. Bookmakers with only usually offer one ‘normal’ handicap bet, with the goal handicap (usually one goal) being set by them. If you want to explore alternative handicaps, then you can.

Going back to our England U21 v Germany U21 example, bet365 were offering a number of alternative handicaps. These ranged from England being given a -2 goal handicap at odds of 12.00, to Germany being given a -3 goal handicap at 26.00. If you are unhappy with the normal handicap bet offered by a site, you can investigate alternative handicap betting odds instead.

Handicap Betting Strategies

When it comes to handicap betting strategies, the most effective approach is to analyse team or player performance and identify situations where a significant difference in skill or form exists. By taking advantage of a positive handicap you can back the underdog who receives a ‘fake’ head start, increasing their chances of ‘winning’. This strategy is particularly useful when a strong team faces a weaker opponent, as it provides an opportunity for the underdog to be wagered upon.

Conversely, negative handicaps can be advantageous when betting on favourites. If a team is expected to win convincingly, assigning them a handicap can boost the odds and provide a more attractive betting opportunity. However, careful consideration is crucial, as there is always a risk of the favoured team ‘winning’ once the handicap has been applied.

Additionally, researching team news, injuries, and playing conditions is vital in handicap betting. These factors can significantly impact a team or individual’s performance, making it essential to stay updated with the latest information. This strategy is particularly effective if a usual top tier team or individual is not performing or not expected to perform to their usual levels.

Best Sports for Handicap Betting

Naturally, football is the number one sport for handicap betting. The handicap of goals scored is very easy to apply to football games. There are other sports where handicap betting can be applied, and we will now take a look at a few of them.

US Sports

Handicap betting is the most popular form of betting in the US by far, although in the US it is known as ‘spread betting’ (not to be confused with the UK version of spread betting, which is very different) or ‘betting on the spread’. It is applied to all four major US sports (American football, basketball, baseball and (ice) hockey) and is used to level the playing field to make betting on the winner more challenging. In the UK you can ‘bet on the spread’ in the same way in US sports.


Tennis is another excellent sport for handicap betting as with most tennis games, the better player usually wins. Handicap betting therefore brings the two players closer together in terms of ability. The match handicap is usually in terms of games won, which ignores the actual score. So, if Player A was to beat Player B 6-3 0-6 7-6, when it comes to the handicap Player B would be determined as the winner, 15 games to 13, depending on the handicap once applied.

Rugby League

Handicap betting in rugby league is also popular with handicap betting aficionados. Normal (2-way) handicap betting is usually available, as is 3-way handicap betting. The handicap that’s offered will be in terms of points but works in the same way as goal handicaps do in football. Handicap betting is also offered in rugby union, but it is not as popular.

Most sports, and even eSports, can be offered up for handicap betting, but the scope of handicap betting on offer depends on the bookmaker offering betting on those sports.

Calculating Handicap Odds

Calculating handicap betting odds is no different from calculating the odds of any other type of sports bet – you just have to make sure that you remember to apply the handicap when the event you have bet on has concluded!

Don’t forget that if you struggle with the application of betting odds, we provide a handy range of faultless, easy-to-use betting calculators.

Advantages of Handicap Betting

Now you know what handicap betting is, you may be asking yourself what are the advantages of handicap betting? Why should you use goal handicap in betting, or alternative handicap betting instead of straight ‘1X2’ betting or any other form of betting?

The main advantage of handicap betting lies in its ability to level the playing field and provide more attractive odds. By assigning a virtual advantage or disadvantage to a team or player, handicap betting offers greater variety and better chances for knowledgeable sporting enthusiasts to be successful with their betting as it allows bettors to explore opportunities beyond simple ‘1X2’ outcomes and opens up possibilities for betting on underdogs or favourites with increased odds.

Handicap betting strategies can be particularly useful when there is a noticeable difference in skill or form between teams or players. It adds an extra layer of strategy and analysis, making it an appealing option for experienced bettors seeking the competitive edge that normal ‘1X2’ betting betting cannot provide.

Common Mistakes in Handicap Betting

There can be some common mistake that you need to avoid if you are looking at handicap betting as an option. Here we list three of the most common ones that you need to be aware of.

  • Incorrect handicap application: Handicaps can be hard to apply, and mistakes can happen. Asian handicaps can have all kinds of scale: 0, -2.25, +1.75 and so on. Make sure you fully understand how handicaps will be applied to the outcome of a game before you place your bet.
  • Ignoring the importance of research: It’s essential to analyse team or player performance, recent form, injuries and other relevant factors. Without proper research, bettors may overlook crucial information that could affect the outcome of the match, leading to poor betting decisions.
  • Overlooking the push: Certain handicap bets can result in a ‘push’ when the margin of victory aligns with the assigned handicap. In such cases, the bet is void, and the stake is returned. Many bettors overlook this possibility and focus solely on winning bets. It’s crucial to understand the potential for a push and consider its impact on overall profitability.

Where Can I Place a Handicap Bet?

Most sportsbooks in the UK will allow you to place handicap bets, but the scope of the handicap bets offered (as well as the odds) will vary from bookmaker to bookmaker, and from event to event. The example sports book we have used above – bet365 – always have a very good range of handicap betting options, including alternative handicap betting and 3-way handicap betting.

Take a look at our list of the leading sports betting sites in the UK.

Wrapping Up

So, you should now know what is handicap betting. We’ve explained some of the most common handicap betting types, such as what is Asian handicap betting, and fully gone through how does handicap betting work. We’ve also explored alternative handicap betting, goal handicap in betting, and explored what is handicap betting in rugby league, union and other sports.

Now you now what is handicap in football betting, tennis betting and many other sports, why not sign up for an account at one of our recommended sportsbooks to see what is handicap in betting all about? Just make sure you conduct your research, and that you keep viewing betting as something done for entertainment, and not as a source of a steady stream of income.


What is handicap betting?

How does handicap betting work in tennis?

What does -1 handicap mean in betting?

What is 3 way handicap betting?

What is alternative handicap betting?

Peter Addison
Peter Addison
Peter Addison

Peter joined the team in 2023, having previously worked for many high-profile gambling-related sites such as RightCasino, JustSlots, WhichBingo and An experienced head when it comes to all aspects of iGaming, Peter is a fanatic fan of sport, including football and US sports such as baseball and American football. He is also a multi-published fiction writer, although sadly, not a wealthy one.

Betting Offers Free Bets 41 Horse Racing Betting Apps