Handicap Football Betting Explained: Tips & Strategy For Handicap Bets

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Handicap Football Betting Explained: Tips & Strategy For Handicap Bets
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Handicap football betting can be a useful tool for punters seeking extra value from their bookmaker when betting on the result of a match. In this article, we look at how football handicap betting works and when you can use it to your advantage.

What is Handicap Football Betting?

A handicap bet is a type of wager which gives two teams who are not evenly matched an almost equal chance of winning a game. Football betting sites will give the favourite a goals deficit to overcome (denoted by a minus) and will hand the underdog a head-start (denoted with a plus). 

For example, if Manchester City are down to play Nottingham Forest at home, handing Forest a two-goal head start would give both sides a similar chance of winning. Your options will look something like this:

  • Manchester City (-2) 6/5
  • Nottingham Forest (+2) 13/8

The middle column shows the handicap, which in this case has been set at two by the bookie. Here, the punter has two choices - you can either back:

(a) City to win the game by three goals or more at a price of 6/5.

(b) Forest to lose the game by less than two goals, to draw, or win the game, at a price of 13/8.

Handicap betting can be useful for finding some value when the normal match odds don't hold much appeal. For example, if you fancied the Premier League champions to cut loose, backing them -2 at 6/5 is much more appealing than at their normal odds, in this case around 1/9. 

On the other hand, if you think an underdog has a better chance than the bookie is giving them, but you don't fancy them to win the game outright, a +1 or +2 handicap bet could be the sensible play.

Types of Handicap Football Betting Markets

  • Handicap Result: The handicap result is the most simple handicap football betting market, usually set at -/+1. You're either backing the underdog with an artificial advantage or the favourite with a deficit.
  • Asian Handicap: Asian handicaps eliminate the possibility of a draw. In this case, the handicap will be denoted as +/-1.5, 2.5 etc. More on this market later.
  • Alternative Handicap: The majority of bookies give bettors the chance to set the handicap line themselves. For example, if you think a strong favourite should be shorter odds, you can increase the handicap to -3 or -4 and boost the odds.
  • 3-Way Handicap: Unlike the two-way market, three-way handicap betting on football allows you to back the draw as an outcome once the handicap has been applied.
  • Winning Margin: This market allows you to bet on the precise difference in goals between the two teams. A +3 winning margin means a team must win 3-0, 4-1, 5-2. 6-3 etc. 
  • Half-Time Handicap: Half-time handicap betting works in exactly the same way as normal handicap betting but is based around the score at half-time, rather than the end of the match.

Asian Handicap Football Betting

As mentioned earlier, the Asian handicap eliminates the possibility of a draw with your bet. You are left with only two choices: betting on either the home or away team. 

The draw is eliminated through half-point bets. For example: If Liverpool are playing West Ham and the Asian Handicap lines are West Ham (+1.5) and Liverpool (-1.5), then Liverpool will need to win by two goals or more. West Ham would be a winning selection if they achieved any result other than losing by two or more goals.

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Split Asian Handicaps

With split Asian handicaps, a team is given two handicap lines. It works a bit like an each-way bet in horse racing in that your stake is split across two possible outcomes. For example, a €10 bet on West Ham at +1 & +1.5 would effectively mean you have €5 on +1 and €5 on +1.5.

If West Ham draw or win this game then you would collect on both bets, but if they were to lose by one goal, you would only draw the -1 market, meaning the stake (€5) for that part of the bet would be returned (this is referred to as a ‘push’). A one-goal defeat would mean the ‘+1.5’ part of the bet would be settled as a winner.

Football Handicap Betting Strategy

In this section, we are going to look at three savvy strategies that can be applied to handicap football betting.

Look Out For Squad Rotation

Nearly all top managers rotate their first 11 based on what fixtures are on the horizon. If Manchester City are set to play a bottom-half side like Burnley on the Sunday before a crucial midweek Champions League game, Pep Guardiola is likely to rest several of his first-choice 11 for the Premier League fixture.

The bookies don't always adjust their handicap lines accordingly, so if you feel that the players coming in aren't of the same standard as those being rested, you can take advantage by backing the underdog (in this case Burnley) on the handicap.

Look to Lower Leagues

Bookmakers and betting apps don't take as many bets on less-popular leagues competitions and therefore don't make as much profits from these markets. This sometimes leads to miscalculations in match result odds, but you can often find further value when analysing the handicap and alternative handicap odds.

The oddsmakers are often slower to react to form in lesser-known leagues. Do some research and take advantage of the handicap odds in lesser-known competitions like the League of Ireland, where you can sometimes get a value price on professional teams going up against part-timers. 

Exploit The Half-Time Handicap Market

Teams might have a tendency to start matches strongly or they could be 'second half teams'. When betting on the half-time handicap, compare a team's first half scoring statistics to their second half form. 

Also consider the tactical approaches of individual managers. Some managers have a history of setting up cautiously in the first half before pushing for results in the second. Others are known for pressing early and shutting up shop when they get in front.

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