Handicap Betting

Handicap Betting

Handicap betting, or the “spread”, refers to the practice of assigning one team an edge or advantage through scoring compensation (handicap) in order to make the chances of either team winning fair. This kind of market evens-up a match by giving the team that is perceived as “inferior” a good chance of winning the event. 

In handicap betting, the bookmaker can opt to assign the strong team a virtual deficit (-1, -2), which it has to overcome in the final score for it to win. On the other hand, the bookmaker can assign the underdog a virtual start (+1, +2), so that a draw or score that is less than the compensation score automatically makes the underdog a winner for that market. Basically, the winning team in a handicap bet market is determined after the handicap has been applied. 

Note that a handicap is only applied to one team (either deficit or compensation). NEVER to both teams in the same match

However, there are few occasions when online bookmakers assign the “inferior” team a virtual deficit that it has to overcome in order to win the marker. Betting on an inferior team under such odds can give you significant winnings in the event that it wins. Contact us on more information regarding these odds. 

There are instances when both teams’ abilities are perceived as equally matched. In such cases, bookmakers use the term “scratch” or “scr” instead of handicap, because no handicaps are assigned to either team (0-0). As a result, the final score of an event determines the winner in that market. 

Suggested betting sites for handicap betting

Online Bookmakers Bookmaker's Promotion Amount Bet Now
Open Account Offer

Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.

Get a Free Sports Bet up to £30

New Customers Only. Min Deposit: £/€10. 3.1 x wagering at odds of 1.75+ to unlock Free Bet. 4.Credit Card, Debit Card & PayPal deposits only 5.Additional Terms Apply

Bet £10 and get £30 in free bets

New online customers only, min £10/ €10 stake, win only, min odds 1/2, free bets paid as 3 X £10/€10, 30 day expiry, free bet/payment method/player/country restrictions apply.

Bwin first deposit bonus

New customers only. Max one £10 free bet, qualifying bets must be placed at odds of 2.0(1/1) or greater, paid as bonus token with min odds reg, t&c apply

Bet £5 Get £20 Free Bet

18+ New UK+IRE customers. Paypal and certain deposit types and bet types excluded. Min £5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x £5 free bets. Free bets valid for 4 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply.

Sportingbet £15 Back-up Bet

Min deposit £10, Max stake £15, Min Odds 1/1 (2.0); Max free bet £15; New players only; +18; T&Cs - If a player loses their first bet (on minimum odds of 2.0), we will offer a matching free bet (of up to £15). - Neteller and Skrill excluded.


There are several options in handicap betting:

Handicap Match betting

The event begins with the bookmaker assigning a virtual deficit to one of the teams, which it must overcome to win, while the other team is given a score compensation for a lead start. As such, a handicap match bet identifies a winning market after consideration of the handicap in the final score. 

Punters are also allowed to back a “Handicap Tie” selection, whereby they bet on the team perceived to be superior (the one with a virtual deficit) to emerge victorious by the EXACT WINNING MARGIN offered, as shown in the example below:

Let’s say the match for Liverpool vs. Arsenal is assigned the following handicaps:
Liverpool (-1), 
Arsenal (+1)
Handicap Tie (-1) 

In the event that Liverpool wins with a full-time score of 3-1, then:
• The final score after applying Liverpool’s handicap (-1) is 2-1, which makes Liverpool the winner of the handicap match market (3-1=2). 
• Applying the handicap for Arsenal (+1) to the full-time score gives a final market score of 3-2, which would still make Liverpool the winner. (1+1=2). 
• The Handicap Tie (-1) is applied to Liverpool’s full-time score, such that the final market score is 2-1. The bettor loses since the handicap is not the exact margin of defeat. For the punter to win with the same handicap (-1), the full-time score between Liverpool vs. Arsenal should have had a margin of 1, like 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, etc. However, a handicap of (-2) on the (3-1) full-time result would have implied that the Handicap Tie better emerges victorious. 

Punters who prefer Handicap Tie markets should always study the market as a whole. You are betting that your team will beat the rival by the exact handicap offered. 

No Draw Handicap Match Betting

This market differs from handicap match betting in that it assigns decimal handicaps (0.5, 1.5, etc) to eliminate the possibility of a draw. This basically means that there is no Handicap Tie market. For example, a handicap of (-1.5) for Liverpool or (+1.5) for Arsenal, with the same full-time match score of 3-1 implies that the final score after applying the handicap is either: 1.5 – 0 or 3 – 2.5. As such, any score will always yield a definite winner or loser for that market. In the event of draw in a No Draw Handicap Match market, then all stakes are refunded. 

Handicap League Betting

This kind of market exists for the entire season of a particular competition. The team that is perceived to win the league, or the bookmaker’s favorite team, starts with a score of 0 or Scratch (Scr), while all the other teams in the league are assigned handicap scores according to their abilities (+4, +6, +10, +15, etc). The weakest teams are given the biggest handicap score. 

The final score for all teams in the league is determined at the end of season by including the handicap score in their cumulative points. The team with most points after applying the handicaps is the winner for that market. Teams that finish in other ranks like 2nd, 3rd and so forth are assigned Each-Way Places. 

In the event that two or more teams tie for a place, the bookmaker applies Dead Heat Rules.

Another type of handicap betting is Asian handicap betting which is very popular in Asia betting markets.