How do you use a handicap bet?

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Photo Credit: cunaplus

If you’ve seen football odds for handicaps, you might have considered betting on them.  Unlike outright winner bets that feature low-value odds at times, handicaps feature incredible odds. Unfortunately, they’re not always easy to comprehend.

Find out everything about handicap bets below. Learn the difference between European and Asian handicaps and the best strategies to use when wagering on these kinds of markets.

What is a Handicap Bet?

Handicaps are bets designed to counter the difference in superiority between two teams. Let’s say La Liga giants Barcelona have a match against recently relegated side SD Huesca. The Catalan giants have won or tied each game they’ve played against the Huesca in the last five encounters.

In fact, Barcelona beat Huesca by more than three goals in three of their encounters last season. If Barcelona were to play Huesca, nearly all bookmakers would award the five-time champions league winners low-value bets.

With handicaps, Huesca can be awarded three goals so that in their upcoming match, they will be 3-0 to Barca before the game begins. If you decide to wager on the La Liga heavyweights, you’ll do so knowing they’ve been deducted three goals before their game begins.

But due to that, Barcelona will have higher value odds than in an outright winner bet. There’s one catch, though. For your wager to be counted as correct, Barcelona must win by over three goals.

What happens if Barcelona wins the game by three goals? It all depends on whether you wagered on European or Asian handicaps.

European Handicap Explained

A European handicap is designed to help you get more value by backing stronger football sides. In a one-sided match between Man City and Norwich City, you’ll find little value by supporting the Cytizens.

European handicaps award the weaker side one or more goals as we explained earlier on. But it has one difference from Asian handicaps. A game can end in a tie, making you lose your wager.

In the example between Barcelona and Huesca, the Catalans winning 3-0 would be considered a draw in a European handicap. As a result, you would lose your bet.

Asian Handicaps

With Asian handicaps, you either win or lose. There are a few ties, but bookies eliminate them by formatting odds using decimal points. In Barcelona’s case, a handicap would be offered in the form of -2.5 games instead of -3 goals.

For a bet on Barcelona to count, the team would have to blow out Huesca by 2.5+ goals. Winning by two goals would be counted as a loss, but three or more goals would be a win for you. In case of a draw, bookies return your stake instead of counting the game as a loss.

At times, bookmakers offer Asian handicaps using quarter decimals like 1.25 or two-thirds like 2.65. Due to this, you might need an Asian handicap calculator to help you calculate odds.

Of course, the most important thing to know is to learn the basics of Asian handicaps. With that in mind, you can compare multiple handicap odds and use your calculator to find out what value you get from each wager.

Handicaps Betting Strategies

  • Always Bet on Attack Minded Teams

When betting on handicaps, back teams that fight for goals from the start to the end of a game. In the Premier League, Man City and Liverpool have arguably the sharpest attacking lines. By comparison, La Liga’s Atletico Madrid is stronger on defense lines.

Essentially, you should asses each game based on playing styles and managers’ philosophies. If a team’s managers prefer to defend one goal leads than to fight for a second goal, pick a different team that’s more attack-minded.

  • Who are the Opponents?

Some teams care about score lines more than others. Even when facing the best opponents, teams like Atletico Madrid and most Serie A teams rarely ship more than two goals. In the Italian league, the average match before 2015 featured 2.5 goals scored.

These days, most of the top European leagues are competitive. Even in La Liga where three teams compete for the title each season, has multiple goals scored by the last ten teams.

  • How Important is the Game?

In Scottish football, the 2002/03 final game of the season was extremely crucial for both Rangers and Celtic. Despite playing 37 games each, they were coming to the last match level on points and goal difference.

As such, whoever would score more goals in their final game would clinch the title. Celtic FC were facing Kilmarnock and won their game 4-0. Rangers, on the other hand, put in more effort and edged out Dunfermline 6-1. Rangers won the Scottish title by one goal.

Regardless of the winner, the game was exciting for handicap punters. Both Rangers and Celtics undoubtedly played their games knowing they had to score as many games as possible.

Today, European football and domestic cups offer the best opportunities to find games in which teams fight for scores. In the knockout stages, in particular, teams can be eliminated via goal differences, which drive them to outscore their opponents by wide margins.

  • Compare Odds for Value

If you’re like many bettors, you pick games based on their return to investment. Use the same mindset to select betting markets with handicaps. Without proper research, you might think all Asian handicap games promise great value.

But considering teams must win by specific margins for your bets to count, examine all odds. Assess the likelihood of a team winning by the scoreline listed versus the value of its odds. If the game doesn’t offer decent returns; bet on a different team.

To Conclude

Handicaps are wagers designed to help bridge the difference in quality between two opponents. When a much stronger opponent facing a weak team, the underdog may be awarded one or more goals before the match begins.

While that means the favorite club must win by more goals for a bet to count, handicap wagers offer better value. But like most bets, handicaps are not easy to predict. You must research for each game like you do with other bets and only place a bet after you’re confident in your decision.


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