In Betting What Does Handicap Mean

  1. The handicap bet would be graded as the final score was Hafnarfjodur 1 – Berserkir 2, meaning the winning bet would be ‘Berserkir’. In the event that the bet type was called “Handicap 2:0”, then 2 points will be added to the first team’s score and 0 points will be added to the second team’s score.
  2. In the world of sports betting, a '2-way handicap' is available in sports where there is going to be a winner, such as hockey (overtime and then a shootout), basketball (overtimes until a winner is declared) or tennis (a tennis match can not end in a draw).

Handicap betting is a valuable tool for punters when one team is highly favored over the other team. To balance the alleged bias in strength, bookmakers offer a handicap to even the playing field.

Handicap scoring in bowling: Though the second bowler's scratch score 183 is higher than the first bowler's scratch score 181, the first bowler's higher handicap (58 vs. 53) causes his total 239 to exceed the second bowler's total 236.

Handicapping, in sport and games, is the practice of assigning advantage through scoring compensation or other advantage given to different contestants to equalize the chances of winning. The word also applies to the various methods by which the advantage is calculated. In principle, a more experienced participant is disadvantaged, or a less experienced or capable participant is advantaged, in order to make it possible for the less experienced participant to win whilst maintaining fairness. Handicapping is used in scoring many games and competitive sports, including go, shogi, chess, croquet, golf, bowling, polo, basketball, and track and field events. Handicap races are common in clubs which encourage all levels of participants, such as swimming or in cycling clubs and sailing clubs, or which allow participants with a variety of standards of equipment. Often races, contests or tournaments where this practice is competitively employed are known as Handicaps.

Handicapping also refers to the various methods by which spectators can predict and quantify the results of a sporting match. The term is applied to the practice of predicting the result of a competition, such as for purposes of betting against the point spread. A favored team that wins by less than the point spread still wins the game, but bets on that team lose.

In either case the handicapper is the person who sets the handicaps for the activity.


The term handicap derives from hand-in-cap, referring to a system wherein players placed bets or money into the cap of a neutral arbiter to reach an agreement as to the relative values of items sought to be traded.[1]

Competition handicapping[edit]

In a 'result adjustment' style handicap event, the outcome may be adjusted by some factor determined by the handicap. Some forms of car or yacht racing.[2] In this case, the winner, on elapsed time, may differ from the fastest competitor when the times have been adjusted for the different competitors' handicaps.

In a 'pursuit' style handicap race, all participants are clocked in a time trial before the race. When this takes place at the same event as the main race, it is known as the handicap. In the race itself, the participants do not all start at the same 'Go'; the starts are staggered, based on the handicaps. The slowest swimmer, or cyclist, for example, starts first and the fastest starts last, making the end of the race (hopefully) close. An ideal handicap race is one in which all participants finish at the same time.[3] The winner is the person who beats his or her own time.

Similarly, physically staggered starting positions can be used, for example, in greyhound racing a handicap race is where greyhounds (based on their ability) start from different starting traps set at different measurements from the finish line, and in human foot racing, for example, the Stawell Gift.

Some motorsport events, especially in sports car racing, demand teams to stop the vehicle in the pitbox a fixed period of time depending on the drivers' classification, thus giving advantage to less skilled drivers. An example of a championship using this system is the International GT Open. The advantage of this system over ballast weight systems is that vehicles have the normal performance on track, so better drivers will be able to recover time and overtake slower drivers.

Contrarily, horse race handicapping is implemented using extra weight.

Horse racing[edit]

A handicap race in horse racing is a race in which horses carry different weights, allocated by the handicapper. A better horse will carry a heavier weight, to give him or her a disadvantage when racing against slower horses. The handicapper's goal in assigning handicap weights is to enable all the horses to finish together (in a dead heat).

The skill in betting on a handicap horse race is in determining which horse can overcome its handicap.[4]

In addition to the Daily Racing Form, other data sources include Brisnet, Equibase, The Ragozin Sheets, and Thoro-Graph.[5]


Handicapping in the sport of golf enables players and teams of varying abilities to compete against one another. A golf handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer's potential or 'average best'. Better players are those with the lowest handicaps.


Types of chess handicaps include:

  • the stronger player surrenders a certain piece or pieces
  • the weaker player has extra moves at the beginning of the game
  • the weaker player has extra time on the chess clock
  • the odds-giver to deliver checkmate with a specified piece


Handicapping in go includes the weaker player being given an advantage by placing a number of stones before the stronger player commences, and by final points adjustment.


Handicapping in shogi is achieved by removing one or more pieces from the stronger player's side. Shogi (Japanese chess) and many of its variants have handicaps.



The polo handicap is an estimation of the player's worth to his or her team. It is an overall rating of a player's horsemanship, team play, knowledge of the game, strategy and horses. The difference between the total of the polo handicaps for the players on each team is then used to determine the minimum score difference for the better team to score to enable them to win.

In polo, every player is awarded an individual handicap depending on performance. Handicap commissions of the national associations meet several times a year to decide players’ handicaps.[6]
Argentina: 0 to 10
USA: C (-2), B (-1), B+ (-0.5), A (0), A+ (0.5), 1.0, 1.5, 2 to 10
England: -2 to 10


Handicaps for sailing vessels in sailing races have varied throughout history, and they also vary by country, and by sailing organisation. Sailing handicap standards exist internationally, nationally, and within individual sailing clubs.

Sailing race handicaps may be based on vessel capability and-or crew experience, and today typically adjust the time a vessel takes to reach the finish point of the race.


Motorcycle speedway[edit]

The Calculated Match Average is a handicap calculated for every motorcycle speedway rider.

Outcome prediction[edit]

Middle and arbitrage bets[edit]

There are strategies that involve differences in the lines on the same event at different books. One bet is called a 'middle', which when a player finds two books that offer different point spreads for the same event. They will bet the more favorable spread at both books, and if the final score falls between the two, the bettor will win both bets. On the other hand, if the total falls outside the range of the 'middle' the bettor only loses a small percentage of a bet (the 'juice' or 'vig' taken by the house).

For example, Book 1 has Team A as a 3-point favorite, and Book 2 has team B as a 3-point favorite. If a player bets Team B at Book 1, and Team A at Book 2, he will win both bets if either side wins by 2 or less points, and will win one bet and lose the other (known as a 'side') if either team wins by 3 points.

Another strategy, known as arbitrage, or an 'arb' or 'scalp', involves finding different moneylines for the same event. In this case, the bettor will bet the more favorable line at both books, and have a guaranteed profit. For example, if Book 1 considers Team A to be worth +200 (2 to 1 underdog), and Book 2 considers Team B to be worth +200, a bettor can bet Team A at Book 1, and Team B at Book 2, and guarantee a 100% profit. This is a no-risk bet, as the player is guaranteed a profit no matter the result of the game.[citation needed]

Famous handicappers[edit]

The first very well known sports handicapper in American culture was Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder.[7] During his career he worked for CBS on their Sunday morning show, The NFL Today. Because sports betting had a social taboo at the time, Snyder was not allowed to mention betting on games specifically. Instead, he would predict the score. Over the years the attitude towards sports betting, and handicapping in general, has changed. Billy Walters was profiled by 60 Minutes because of his handicapping abilities.[8] Billy Walters, and other unknown members of the Computer Group, developed a system for handicapping games and beating Las Vegas sportsbooks. The Huffington Post covered Jon Price a reclusive sports bettor that hires Ph.D's and works off of algorithmic information for his predictions.[9]ESPN wrote an article on Haralabos Voulgaris naming him as the one of the premier NBA handicappers in the world.[10] He claims to have developed a system that uses advanced statistical analysis to predict the outcomes of games. In the past, very few people did any mathematical calculations when handicapping sporting events. Predictions were usually made from hunches or information not readily available to the public. However, with the advancement of technology computers powerful enough to run advanced simulation models now frequent homes and offices. Advanced statistics such as DVOA, Win Shares and Points per Possession are talked about in mainstream media. Brian Burke, author of The Fifth Down blog featured in the New York Times, wrote a formula using advanced statistical techniques that has shown consistency correctly predicting NFL winners.[11] Handicapping, as a profession, is very similar to being a stock analyst. Like Wall Street did in the 1970s, the sports handicapping industry is undergoing a quantitative revolution. Many successful handicappers also use money management systems similar to financial investment professionals. The most popular, and mathematically superior, system is the Kelly criterion. It is a formula for maximizing profits and minimizing losses based on payout odds and win probability of the underlying asset.

See also[edit]


  1. ^'handicap, n.' The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 8 Oct. 2008 'Archived copy'. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved 2008-10-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  2. ^'History of the PY'(PDF). Royal Yachting Association. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  3. ^[1]Archived 2011-01-31 at the Wayback Machine UK Horse Racing. Accessed 5 February 2011.
  4. ^'Archived copy'. Archived from the original on 2010-10-31. Retrieved 2011-02-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) British Horseracing Authority. Accessed 5 February 2011.
  5. ^'Horse Racing Wagering'. Equine Info Exchange. 1 January 2020.
  6. ^'The Polo Handicap'. Polo Plus Ten. 17 July 2015.
  7. ^Pace, Eric. 'Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder; A Sports Oddsmaker'. New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 1996.Check date values in: access-date= (help)
  8. ^Logan, Lara. 'Sports Betting: Billy Walters'. CBSNewsOnline. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  9. ^Jensen, David. 'Seeking PHD's Who Minor in Sports'. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  10. ^Eden, Scott. 'Meet The World's Top NBA Gambler'. ESPN The Magazine. ESPN. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
  11. ^Burke, Brian. 'Game Probabilities Are Back'. New York Times. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  • Beyer, Andrew (May 6, 1994). Picking Winners : A Horseplayer's Guide (Reissue ed.). Houghton Mifflin. ISBN0-395-70132-5.

External links[edit]

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For some betting enthusiasts, simply betting on the winner of a game isn’t enough. They need a type of bet which can take more things into consideration, like recent form, difference in squad value and the size of the win.

For these specific cases, handicap betting has been born. These bets first appeared in Asia, especially in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets, but quickly grew in popularity in the 21st century.

Nowadays, any brick-and-mortar or online betting site offers many handicap bets (simple, split, Asian) on a multitude of sports, the most popular being basketball, hockey and, of course, football. Handicap bets may seem complicated but are simple to understand. Let’s find out below!


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Handicap betting explained

Handicap betting takes the form and value of a team in consideration more so than regular betting and can be applied to any sports. Simply put, a team can have a positive or negative “handicap” attached to their name.

Let’s take an example from basketball first: If you look at a betting slip for a game between the Lakers and the Clippers, you have the option of betting on the home side, the away side, or on a draw.

In Betting What Does Handicap Mean

When looking at handicap bets, you might see something like Lakers -4,5, or Clippers +6,5. This only means that the teams start the game (for you bet) with the positive or negative score attached to them. In the case of the first bet, the match no longer starts at 0 – 0 for the Lakers, but at -4,5 – 0.

If they game ends 98-92, your bet is a winner, because the Lakers’ score (98) minus their initial handicap (-4,5) is still greater than the Clippers score (92). If the Lakers won 95-92, your bet would be a loser, because 95-4,5 < 92. Easy to understand, isn’t it?

Handicap betting in football

While handicap bets are available in a wide array of sports, their most common application is found in football betting, due to the large number of events you can place handicap bets on. You can place handicap bets on the final result of the game, on yellow cards, corners, the number of goals scored by each them – the possibilities are almost endless.

Handicap betting is a great way to take advantage of the in-depth knowledge you gain when you analyze a team for long periods of time, like half a season. These bets can also mirror some very common choices, like double chance bets or over/under bets, usually at better odds – because lots of bettors don’t understand how handicap bets work.

Types of Handicap betting

In football, there are three main handicap betting types: simple, split and Asian.

Simple Handicap (or European Handicap) is easiest to understand. It only gives you round numbers to deal with. Let’s take a modern example: Liverpool will play Tottenham in the next round of the Premier League, on 11.02. The basic odds for the game are 2,15 for a home win, 3,40 for a draw and 3,30 for an away win. The European Handicap bets for the same game work in the following way: Each team is given a handicap, either positive or negative.

For example, for a -2 handicap for Liverpool, the odds for the above scenarios are the following: Home win: 8.50, draw 6,00 and away win 1,20. This simply means that Liverpool start the game with -2 goals. If they win with this handicap, you win 8.50 times your initial wager, and the rest are self-explanatory. On the other hand, the odds for Liverpool +1 are 1,34 – 4.75 – 6.50 respectively.

Asian Handicap introduces some different concepts, since the handicaps aren’t always round numbers. Let’s take the same game as an example. We can place a Liverpool -1,5 bet, which means Liverpool start the game with -1,5 goals. If they win by two goals, the bet is won – if they win by one goal, draw or lose the game, the bet is lost – very straightforward until here.

How To Join Ghin System

For Asian Handicap, the trickier bets are -1 and -1,25. Liverpool -1, in this case, mean that Liverpool start the game with a -1 goal handicap, but if they win by just one goal, you get your money back. No win, no lose, just a refund.

This is a great way to bet on favourite teams against smaller ones since they tend to win their games with at least a few goals. The main difference between European and Asian handicaps is this one: For European Handicap, a -1 bet means the team has to win by two goals or more. For Asian Handicap, the team can win by a single goal, and you can get your money back.

What Does Handicap 2 Mean In Betting

A -1,25 bet is called a Split Handicap bet, and can be presented in another form as well: -1, -1,5. Essentially, your bet is split into two bets: a -1 bet and a -1,5 bet. If Liverpool wins by a single goal, you get half your money back (the -1 half) and lose the other half (-1,5). These split handicap bets are a great way to reduce risk when going for a big bet, like -2,25 or similar. They are not as widely used by betting enthusiasts, but still, present some interest.

These same rules are applied for other categories as well. For yellow cards, Liverpool -1,5 means that Liverpool have to concede with 2 yellow cards more than Tottenham for your bet to be a winner. -1,5 for goal scored means that Liverpool needs to score at least 2 goals.


Now that we’ve clarified how handicap betting works let’s take a look at a few real live examples from next weekend’s games. The Premier League gives us a clash between Burnley and Chelsea, one the away team should be winning. The odds for this away win are pretty small – 1,40, but we might be able to take advantage of the game using handicap bets.

What Does Handicap Means In Soccer Betting

A Chelsea -1,5 bet, which has very good chances of succeeding, has odds around 2,10 at most bookies – and the Blues should win this game by two goals. On the other hand, if you think Burnley will play well defensively and not concede a lot, a Burnley +2,25 (split handicap) bet has odds around 1,40 – a good thing to consider since Chelsea might also lack motivation.

In Betting What Does Handicap Mean

Another example comes from Bournemouth – Manchester City. An away win has the same small 1,40 odds, but going City -1 gives odds at around 1,80. If they win by a single goal, you get your money back – which is a good thing, considering that City need to win.

That being said, we hope you now understand European and Asian Handicaps and are ready to use these bets in real market conditions. As always, take good care when analyzing your games, and be inspired!

Handicap Betting Meaning

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