Handicap Meaning in Betting Explained

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The handicap meaning is often sought after by many bettors when looking at sports betting terms. Here, we guide sports bettors through different handicap bets and we provide tips on handicap predictions.

What Are Handicap Bets?

In sports betting, handicap betting is when a team or player is given minus points or score against their opponent. Usually, this is when one opposition is stronger than their opposition. Ultimately, the meaning of handicap in betting gives one player or team a head start over the other when a match starts.

Below are some handicap explanations for different sports.

How Does Handicap Betting Work in Soccer

The handicap meaning in soccer gives one team a goal advantage over the opposition. For handicaps to work in soccer, one team must cover a handicap to win. However, teams can also get a head start in soccer handicapping. In this case, one team may start with a 1-0 head start over their opponent.

Football Betting

How Does Handicap Betting Work in Rugby

The meaning of handicap in betting for rugby is when one team starts with minus points, which they then have to cover for a bet to win. Again, with this type of handicap, the wager often relies on one team being a big favourite.

How Does Handicap Betting Work Basketball

As points are used in basketball scoring, basketball handicaps rely on one team to win by a certain number of points to cover the handicap. For instance, one team can get a -5, -6 etc., handicap.

What Is Handicap Betting in Cricket

Cricket uses runs to determine the winner of the match. So, rather than points or goals handicaps, teams can be given run handicaps in cricket. As cricket is a high-scoring sport, a bettor can choose a superior team to cover -30, -40, etc., handicaps.

What Is Handicap Betting in Tennis

Bettors can select two different types of handicaps when wagering on tennis. Firstly, they can select a handicap for the favourite in terms of games won during in a set. Alternatively, someone could wager on one player to have a -1, -2 set start to the match. To cover the handicap, the favourite would have to win by one or two clear sets, with a score of 2-0, 3-0, etc.

Handicap Betting Examples

Handicap betting varies in different sports. As some sports score in points and others in goals, handicap meanings vary. In soccer, for instance, handicaps are measured in -1, -2 goals etc. Alternatively, sports like basketball use points. Therefore, -1,-2, etc., applies to points rather than goals.

Bookmakers also offer handicaps in -0.5, -1.5… The handicap 0.5 meaning is also referred to as an Asian handicap. This differs from an outright handicap as it brings in the possibility of draws. For example, if Chelsea plays Burnley in the Premier League, Burnley gets a +0.5 handicap and the score begins at Chelsea 0 – Burnley 0.5. Therefore, if the final score is 0-0 then Burnely cover the +0.5 handicap.

However, the handicap meaning in soccer would be if Liverpool plays Norwich. In this case, Liverpool is the big favourite, and a bettor can see them as a superior team. As a result, a bettor could place a handicap bet on Liveprool to start with -1 goals.

Therefore, at kick-off, the score would start as Liverpool -1 – Norwich 0. For the handicap to place, Liverpool would have to win 2-0, 3-0 or more to cover the -1 handicap.

Things work slightly differently in sports where points are scored instead of goals, particularly in high-scoring sports like rugby and basketball. An example of such handicap would be if France play Italy in the Six Nations.

France is the favourite in this match and a bettor can select handicap betting. Therefore, a bettor could give France a -12 handicap. To win, France would have to win by 13 points or more to cover the handicap.


Overall, wagering on the handicap markets gives one team or player a head start over the pre-match favourite. Often, bettors choose this option when one player or team is considered a stronger opponent.

Although, not all handicaps are the same, and it refers to different things depending on the sport. For instance, handicap goals are used in soccer, while points are used in basketball.

Furthermore, there are two main types of handicap. Firstly, the are handicaps that use whole numbers, which allows room for the underdog to earn a draw to cover the handicap. Alternatively, an Asian handicap uses decimals (0.5, 1.5, etc.) to eliminate the outcome of a draw in handicap betting.

However, like with many betting markets, there are pros and cons.

Handicap Pros

Below are some of the positives about this betting market.

Better Odds Than Outright Winner

Handicap odds are better than backing an outright winner in certain matches. Usually, big favoruites in sporting matches come with low odds to win outright. As a result, picking a handicap is an alternative choice for many bettors.

Makes a Contest More Even

If a strong team or player is in good form and they are playing an out of form, weaker opponent, a handicap wager is a good way to level the playing field. This market gives bettors the chance to back less strong teams rather than always backing the favoruite to win.

Handicap Cons

These are some of the negative aspects of handicaps.

The Favourite Doesn’t Always Cover the Handicap

One of the risks of a handicap is that the favourite needs to do more than just win the match. For example, in soccer betting, if Real Madrid play Ral Betis, a bettor may select Real to cover a -1 handicap. However, if Madrid win just 1-0, then the bet is void. So, even though a bettor’s selected team won, their handicap would not.

Margins Can Be Hard to Call

In potentially high-scoring sports, like rugby and basketball, deciding the handicap margin can be tough to call. For example, basketball teams win by 50 points or just one point on occasion. Therefore, selecting the margin of victory can be unpredictable.

Handicap Meaning FAQ

Below are some common questions about handicaps.

What is the meaning of handicap 0.5?

A 0.5 handicap meaning is when a team or player takes a 0.5 head start in a match. For example, Man City vs Southampton could begin 0-0.5 rather than 0-0. For the bet to work, Southampton would have to maintain their 0.5 lead.

What does +1.5 set handicap mean?

A +1.5 set handicap only applies to tennis bets. This would give one player a +1.5 set head start at the beginning of the match over the favourite. For example, if Novak Djokovic played an unseeded player, the unseeded opponent would start the match with +1.5 sets on Djokovic. For the bet to work, the unseeded player would need to keep their +1.5 advantage by the end of the match.

What is a 3 Way handicap bet?

This type of handicap bet also incorporates an outright winner as well as the handicap. So, bettors wager on one team overcoming a handicap, but they can also choose the overall outcome of the match.

Which operators offer Handicap betting?

Almost every online operator offers forms of handicap markets. Some of these bookmakers include Bet.co.za and Hollywoodbets.

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