How Handicap Betting works in different Sports

Most bettors avoid handicap betting due to its complicated outlook.

However, Handicap betting offers an excellent opportunity for a bettor to win by providing balance in the chances of either team winning a game with a positive or negative number, known as the handicap.

Handicap Betting Explained

A handicap is a figure that a bookmaker sets in other to even up both team’s chances of winning a match. A negative handicap is usually set to the favourite team for them to overcome before they can win, while a positive handicap is set to the underdog, acting as a head start.

Handicap betting has the same premise across all sports, however, because of the differences in rules, and the way each game is played, knowing how it applies to each sport is critical.

Handicap betting in soccer

Because of how low scoring a sports soccer is, it requires a very refined predictive skill to predict the winner correctly in handicap betting. Rather than just betting on which team would win a match, soccer handicap betting is a bet on how the two sides would perform.

Goals are used to present handicap figures, so if a team is -2.5, they would need to win by more than two clear goals for the handicap bet to win. On the other hand, a stake of +1.5 on their opposition would win if they lose by one goal, drew the match, or won.

One wise thing to do is to track handicap performances over the course of a football league season, but when it would become beneficial to bettors is when historical handicap performance data is being compiled.

However, many teams could fail to cover the handicap in their games, which shows that both the public perceptions and bookmakers’ estimations could be wrong.

Handicap betting in NFL

Handicap betting in the NFL is popularly called “the spread”. When a team is said to have covered the spread, it means the handicap on them has been won.

In NFL betting, the handicap is the most famous form. It is usually the market choice for most NFL bettors because, although bettors have to be more accurate to win, it offers the highest odds for the favourite team winning or a higher chance of an underdog getting a win.

Some key numbers are very crucial when it comes to handicap betting in the NFL; this is because of the scoring patterns and points system.

A field goal and a touchdown which both carry extra conversion points (seven and three respectively) are the most common winning margins, which makes any negative or positive handicap below or above these marks invaluable.

To help make more informed NFL betting decisions, bettors can use the Pythagorean Theorem or yards per play rankings to develop strategies.

Handicap Betting in MLB

Run Line is the term used to describe handicap betting in baseball. The handicap in baseball is consistently set at 1.5 at all times, and this is unlike in other sports where it varies.

If a team is -1.5, they need to win by two runs, and if they are +1.5, they can lose one run or win the match.  In baseball, bettors do have the luxury of an alternative handicap which helps them increase or decrease the Run Line.

Handicap betting in baseball is also significantly affected by stadium dimensions and the weather. If a team is a favourite to win and weather conditions suit a high scoring game, the favourite team may win by more runs. In the same vein, a lower-ranked side could match a better team if the conditions favour them.

Handicap Betting in Basketball

Just like in the NFL, basketball bettors prefer to bet in the handicap over Money Line. There are no key numbers in basketball as in other sports, because of the low-value points system and high scoring frequency.

Things to consider when betting in basketball include the impact of injuries on the team’s strength, how much impact scheduling can have on performance and statistics that can help identify mismatches. You could also use ATS records to determine which teams are undervalued in the betting Market.

Handicap Betting in Tennis

Tennis handicap is unique in that there are two options within a game. Although they can bet in Totals or Money Line, bettors have the option of betting in a set handicap or a game handicap.

A game handicap is calculated using the total number of games each player wins, while in the sets handicap, bettors can bet on a player to win the set or not.


While handicap betting in sports is relatively simple to grasp, bettors need to develop a more specific knowledge if they want to have the edge over the bookmakers.

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