How does football handicap betting work action

How Does Football Handicap Betting Work

By Dan Tracey - Dec 18th 2022

If you have visited our website and clicked this particular article, chances are that you understand how football betting works. At its most basic level, you choose an outcome to unfold in a match and should your decision mimic what unfolds on the pitch, you are then financially rewarded.

While although that is betting at its most simple, there are plenty of ways to add layers of complexity to the process. One of those layers is what is known as handicap betting, and it has the potential to level a rather unbalanced playing field.

A playing field that is dominated by those teams who always operate at the top of the league and because of this domination, there can sometimes be little in the way of value on offer from the bookmakers.


Something that we can highlight in this Premier League example and with Leeds set to welcome Manchester City to Elland Road, the pre-match odds are as follows:

Leeds 7.50
Draw 6.50
Manchester City 1.28

Handicap Betting Levels The Playing Field

As we can see Manchester City are heavy favourites to take all three points and because of the short price on offer, backing Pep Guardiola’s men to come out on top does not seem all that logical. Especially when you consider the pitfalls of the Premier League.

Yes, the current league champions will more often than not win on the road and therefore, you could consider this an opportunity to build your bankroll. However, an away win at those odds is not something that we would largely recommend to punters.

Which begs the question, how do we find the value in this match? Thankfully this is where handicap betting comes to the fore and if we look at the odds in this market, the playing field is now far more balanced:

Leeds +2 – 2.00
Draw -2 – 4.33
Manchester City -2 – 2.75

Here we can see the odds are much tighter when comparing the three values and a Manchester City win has more than doubled in price. However, there is a considerable caveat attached to these increased odds.


A caveat that sees the Etihad outfit start with a two-goal deficit or handicap for use of a better term.
Leeds have not been given two goals as such, more that City are starting on a minus position and therefore, we need to assume the scoreboard looks more like this:

Leeds 0 – Minus 2 Manchester City

Before a ball has been kicked, Guardiola and his players have it all to do. Especially as you have still backed them to win in the handicap market. Not only do they have to win at Elland Road, but they also now have to win by three clear goals.

If Jesse Marsch’s Leeds side only lost by a goal to nil, it would be City who earn the league points, but you would not earn anything in terms of winnings from the bookmakers. Again, if we look our virtual scoreboard, it will now look like this at the final whistle.

Leeds 0 – Minus 1 Manchester City

As you can see in terms of our handicap, it is Leeds who are considered the victors. However, If Leeds lost by two goals to nil, their head start would be eradicated, and our virtual scoreboard would look like this:

Leeds 0-0 Manchester City

You Can Back A Team To Ahead Or Behind Via The Handicap

Still bad news if you have backed an away win in the handicap market. Great news if you backed the draw instead. Because with the visitors wiping out their pre-match deficit and creating a state of equilibrium in terms of the virtual score, all things are considered even.

While, if City were to play to their usual standards and Erling Haaland was let loose on the Leeds defence, a three-nil away win is certainly not out of the equation either. Should that come to fruition, our virtual scoreboard looks as follows:

Leeds 0-1 Manchester City

Here, we can see that City have cleared the pre-match deficit and still won by a comfortable enough margin to be considered the winner in the handicap market as well. Which means we have found far greater value than simply backing the team to win in the 3-way handicap market.

Of course, we could also look at this from a Leeds perspective and boost their chances before the game gets underway. The same principles as above would apply, but instead we are adding goals rather than taking them away before kick-off.

If our virtual scoreboard looks like this:

Leeds 2-0 Manchester City

It means the Elland Road outfit have been given a two-goal head start. As long as they lose by just a single goal, they will still be winners when it comes to the handicap. 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 or even 4-3, they are good enough to see Leeds over the line.


Now that the handicap principle has been explained, we can even build on this further and this where the Asian Handicap comes into play. In this instance, you can bet on the Full Ball, Half Ball or Quarter Ball and now we are going to look at each of them:

Full Ball

The full ball works by adding or subtracting a goal to the team’s score before kick-off. If we add subtract a goal from Manchester City, they will need to win by at least two goals for you to come out on top. A one-goal win would see your stake returned; a draw would mean that your bet loses,

Not Only Does A Team Need To Win, They Need To Beat The Handicap

Half Ball

The half ball works by adding or subtracting half a goal to the team’s score before kick-off. If we subtract a half goal from Manchester City, they will need to win by at least one goal for you to come out on top. Any other result and the bookmakers are keeping hold of your stake.

Quarter Ball

While the quarter ball is slightly more complicated, as for all intents and purposes you are actually making two bets. Half of your stake is placed on the half ball handicap, the other will go on the full ball.

Both your bets could win in the examples above, both your bets could also lose. However, you can also win one bet and see the other stake returned or lose one bet and once again get your stake returned in the other.

Which means there are plenty of options to consider when looking at the handicap markets. Now that you are armed with this information, it should certainly add another angle to the weekend wagers that you place.

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