Understanding Handicap Betting in Sports

 Mike Bowl
Updated at: 25 January, 2024
11 minutes

Handicap betting adds an exciting twist to traditional sports betting. This article explains the concept of handicap bets and how they work in various sports. Perfect for both beginners and seasoned bettors, it will guide you through understanding handicap bets to enhance your betting strategy.

A handicap is an odds where one team has an advantage over the other. Such a bet can take into account various indicators: Goals, Offside, Shots on goal (football), sets won, games won (tennis), rebounds, runs (basketball), etc. It is often also called the Handicap.

To calculate, it is necessary to add the value of the handicap to the final indicators of the match (or the segment of the match, for example, when the handicap is given only for the 1st half) for the current team, and if the final result is winning for the team, then this bet is also a winning one.

Consider the example of a Real Madrid v Alaves football match at the end of the Real Madrid handicap (-4.5):

handicap in football

In this line, the bookmaker offers us the outcome for the victory of Real Madrid on the Alaves with an advantage equal to -4.5 goals. Of course, in the case of a negative handicap, it is difficult to call this an advantage of Real, but rather an advantage of their rivals - Alaves in 4.5 goals.

To understand how the handicap is calculated, let's consider several possible outcomes of the match:

  • 5:0 in favor of Real, we transform the final score in the match: (5-4.5):(0) = 0.5:0 - the first team won, in our case Real. Winning.
  • 4:0 in favor of Real, we transform the final score in the match: (4-4.5):(0) = -0.5:0 - the second team won, in our case Alaves. Losing.
  • 3:0 in favor of Real, the final score: (3-4.5):(0) = -1.5:0 - the second team won, in our case Alaves. Losing.

Thus, we can calculate any outcome of the match, taking into account the given advantage for each of the teams.

For the sake of simplicity, we will further consider the goal handicap in football, but the same is true for other sports.


Fractional Handicap

Handicap with fractional parameter divisible by 0.5. The example of a handicap in football that we considered earlier: “Real Madrid handicap (-4.5)” is an example of a Fractional handicap, since the parameter of this handicap is -4.5 - a fractional value that is a multiple of 0.5.

In this type of handicap, you can either lose or win, the result of the match, in which the bet can be returned, is excluded. Therefore, this kind of handicap is often called Tough Handicap.

float handicap

Integer Handicap

The numerical parameter of such a odd is an integer (not fractional) number. Example:

integer handicap

A feature of this type of handicap is the possible return of the bet. If we consider the above example, and the result of the match: 1:0 in favor of Shakhtar, then the final result of the match taking into account the handicap “Shakhtar handicap (-1)” will be a draw 0: 0. This situation is the basis for a return on this handicap. This handicap is sometimes called the Soft Handicap.

What is the Asian Handicap

The Asian handicap is a handicap with a fractional numerical parameter divisible by 0.25. For example:

asian handicap

This handicap stands out for its calculation feature: it is split into two handicaps:

  1. Handicap (P–0.25);
  2. Handicap (P+0.25).

where "P" - is the numerical indicator of the handicap. That is, in our example, these are two odds:

  1. Real Madrid Handicap (-1);
  2. Real Madrid Handicap (-1.5).

In this case, the bet amount is divided equally into both Handicaps.
You can read more about this type of handicap in our articleWhat does Asian Handicap mean?”.

Handicap 0 in bets, what does this mean?

A handicap with a value of 0 is calculated in the same way as a integer handicap. Let's take an example:

zero handicap

A zero handicap does not give any advantage. In this type of handicap, in the event of a draw (if possible), the bet is returned. Therefore, these bets are often equivalent to a two-way winning line (draw no bet).

What does the European Handicap mean?

European Handicap - a line bet with a draw handicap. There may be integer handicaps in the line, but the presence of a handicap for a draw in the line makes it impossible to return to the bet in the event of a draw, taking into account the handicap. In case of a tie, a separate draw handicap wins. Otherwise, the calculation is exactly the same as for integer or fractional handicaps.

Consider a few examples of the European Handicap

Example 1.

european handicap

Let's say the final score in the match team1 - team2 is 0:2. In this case, the bet on the "2:0 W1" handicap will lose. But the bet on a draw “2:0 X” will win. The "2:0 W2" handicap bet will lose.

Attention! Be careful when analyzing European Handicap draw bets. In this form of notation “2:0 X” we understand what the score will be, since the handicap is described in the score format.

But it is not always clear to which team the given advantage belongs. Therefore, it is very important to study the rules of the bookmakers. This is especially true for players who use surebets.

Suppose that in this example we know that the given advantage for “2:0 X” - the handicap is calculated relative to the team2, that is why with the final score of 0:2 this bet will win (0:2-2=0:0).


As we can see, handicaps can be of different types and with their own characteristics. But at the same time, there is nothing complicated in betting on handicaps, they are widely used in bookmaker lines and allow you to significantly expand the possibilities for betting.

Now that you're familiar with handicap betting, why not elevate your betting game? Use the BreakingBet scanner to discover the best arbitrage, corridor, and value bets in real-time. Sign up now and gain an edge in your sports betting journey with our sophisticated tools. Register on BreakingBet Today and start betting smarter!