Why you should understand the meaning of a football handicap before your next bet

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Why you should understand the meaning of a football handicap before your next bet

Why you need to understand football handicapping and how can you use handicapping to help you make better long-term betting decisions.



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Updated on 22 April 2019
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Betting Tips for Today's Football

Find more value in your next football bet. You could gain a betting edge by checking out the tips and stats for today's and tomorrow's fixtures...


I watched a champions league match a few days ago and the match was unbelievable. It was a great advertisement for football/soccer for fans and others alike. There are some moments when something comes to television and you just must watch it. The match was between Manchester City and Tottenham (Spurs) and it was a fantastic football exhibition, which showed exactly how the beautiful game should be played.


After the match, I started thinking about how the normal punter could accurately measure the difference between two teams of equal strength.


How can you determine the best team and the worst team? Obviously, the bookmaker odds will be good place start to identify the differences between the teams, but this cannot be guaranteed to provide you with an accurate result.


Think about it…


Is it in the bookmaker’s best interest to provide you with an accurate assessment of two teams?


Not really…


The bookmaker is interested to entice betting action equally across the event to ensure that whatever the outcome; the bookmaker will end the betting session with a profit.


If you need a refresher, check out this description of what makes a bookmaker tick, which guides you through areas that should be watched for punters want to improve their knowledge of betting markets and the overall betting industry.


It’s sometimes easier to understand the capability of a team higher in the league table when compared to teams at the bottom of the ladder. However, this is much more difficult from a betting perspective if you want to check out the relative capability of teams that are close within the league. Either, towards the bottom, middle or top of their league/ladder.


How would you identify the differences between the teams? Is it down to the players? Can you decide this based on past performance or is it something else?


I believe using handicaps is the best way to make this happen.


What is a sports betting handicap?

A sports betting handicap is a to equalise differences between the teams, so punters can base their selections on a team’s likelihood to overcome a goal deficit or maintain a goal advantage. This means it’s possible to assess any two teams and apply the same pricinpal to create a level and neutral match between two teams with (sometimes) widely differing attributes and past w


The handicap is usually represented as a positive number of goals or a negative number of goals. This is very similar to the US Moneyline odds, which represent an approach to equalise teams of varying strengths and performance. Either, the underdog will prevail, and maintain the goal handicap advantage and or the favourite will overturn the goal disadvantage and therefore, win the handicap bet.


A three-outcome event, such as, football with the Home Win, Draw and Away Win can be simplified into a two-outcome bet when using a handicap…




Now this standard bet has baffled me for some time, so I thought I would try to explain how football handicaps work and then see if we can add more information to it, so you can create something unique, which can help you choose. Therefore, giving you more information about your next betting selections.

How do handicaps works?

Soccer handicaps are created using one of three approaches; Single handicapping (perceived difference between the home team and the away team), Level handicapping (teams are equally matched) or split handicapping (closely matched teams):

Single handicapping

When there is a perceived difference between two teams, either in terms of their past performance stats or recent football form. The difference between the opposing teams is enough for it to be represented within the betting markets.


In these situations, it’s clear the bookmaker and the wider betting markets recognise unequal teams and expose differences between the likely match favourite and the underdog.


The favourite subject to a handicap; related to the number of goals the bookmaker/market believes will even up the fixture between the unequal teams. This means they effectively start the match with a specific goal deficit (i.e. disadvantage). The goal disadvantage is usually represented by a negative number to represent the number of goals, which must be scored by the favourite to reduce the handicap and draw the match. The favourite would win the fixture when the have overcome the handicap and beaten the opposition, when the oppositions goals are also considered.


For example, if a home team had a handicap of -2 (negative two goals) against them, it would require the home to score 2 goals without conceding any goals how the home team to draw the fixture.


Home Team -2 goal handicap

Home Team scores 2 goals without conceding any goals (2-0 score line)

Home Team +2 goals scored and -2 goal handicap = draw (0 home goals and 0 away goals) after the -2 goal handicap


If the Home Team scored 1 goal again without conceding, this would represent…

Home Team -2 goal handicap

Home Team scores 1 goal without conceding any goals (1-0 score line)

Home Team +1 goal scored and -2 goal handicap = lost (-1 home goals and 0 away goals) after the -2 goal handicap


If the Home Team scored 3 goals again without conceding, this would represent…

Home Team -2 goal handicap

Home Team scores 3 goals without conceding any goals (3-0 score line)

Home Team +3 goals scored and -2 goal handicap = win (1 home goal and 0 away goals) after the -2 goal handicap


Hopefully, the above example made it clearer to understand how the goal handicap works and situations where teams could win or lose their matches and therefore the handicap.

Level handicapping

When teams are equally matched and there is no perceiveable difference between the team from a betting perspective. This means the team are not provided with a handicap, as demonstrated withnit he single handicap betting, but they’re placed on a level playing field with a 0 goal handicap for both sides.


This zero goal handicap provides a simple, when or lose bet for each side and your standard  team evaluations based on the soccer performance data and football form guide will provide more information to help you make your decisions.


In the event the match does not have a winner (i.e. both teams score the same number of goals); your wager will be returned, as a push. So, no money lost to the bookmaker.

Split handicapping

What happens when you get two teams that are very close in terms of their historical performance and their form? What happens when their form is very close, but not identical?


This is where split handicapping comes in…


Split handicap betting is an approach invented by bookmakers to differentiate between teams that are very close in terms of their perceived skills and their performances. As the name suggests, the handicap is ‘split’ and therefore, the bettor’s wager is split between two different handicaps.

How does splitting handicaps work?

If we imagine a top o the table clash between two teams and the Home Team handicap is 0.5 goals and 1 goal. This means that your wager would be placed on the two outcomes (every similar to each way betting). Where half is placed on the Home Team scoring enough goals to use their 0.5 goal advantage and then the rest of your wager is placed on the Home Team securing the win based on the 1 goal advantage. If the Home Team where to win by 2 goals, you would win both bets.


However, if the Home Team lost the fixture, you would lose both bets, but a draw would signify a return of your original wager based on the handicapping push, as there was no winner or loser.

Is under over handicapping suitable for your next bet?

From the above explanation, you should have a clearer idea of how handicapping works, but it’s fundamental to understand that handicaps are a relative measure of one team’s strength when compared with their opponent.


We can use sports betting handicaps to tell us more information about the individual teams and the bookmaker view of each team, which brings up another more complicated question:


How can you assess if one team is better (i.e. more skilled, more effective, etc) against specific opposition than another team? Are the bookmaker handicaps accurate?


This is an important aspect of betting, which I will attempt to explore in more detail over the coming weeks.


Until then, ensure you think about the data, information and analysis for the different teams before risking any real money. Always, always, review and test before you wager your funds, as the best betting plans maintain your bankroll before subjecting it to more risk.


Good luck!




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