Handicap Football Betting Market Explained: -1, -2, -3, -4 Examples

Written By:Conor Rafter
Last Updated: October 10, 2022

Handicap Betting Market Explained

Three-way Handicap Betting lets you bet on a Home Win, a Draw, or an Away Win. On first viewing, this may seem incredibly similar to a standard wager where you bet on the overall winner of a match. There is a major differentiating factor.

Three-way Handicaps, also known as European Handicaps and Straight Handicaps, put one team at an advantage (e.g. +2), the other at a disadvantage (e.g. -2), and the Draw somewhere in between. This type of bet will always use whole numbers to describe the handicap. 

You can pick any of the three main results – Home Win, Away Win, Draw – for your Handicap bet. You will only win if the option you select comes true. Here’s an example of how this type of bet works:

  • Team 1 (-3) 
  • Draw (-3)
  • Team 2 (+3)

Team 1 is given a three-goal disadvantage by the bookmaker, while Team 2 has a three-goal-lead. A bet on Team 1 to win would require that team to win by at least four goals, whereas bets on Team 2 will win as long as they keep the lead. If Team 1 were to win the match 3-0, bets on ‘Draw’ would win, as the three-goal handicap would have been levelled. 

What Is Handicap Betting?

The team given an advantage is usually considered the underdog and the favourites are handicapped. This makes it possible to find value in various types of wagers in what might have otherwise been a boring game to bet on. 

According to Betfair, Handicap Betting can be defined as the following:

  • Handicap betting is the process whereby a bookmaker turns a sporting event in which there are varied odds into an even money contest, by giving a virtual advantage or disadvantage to certain competitors in order to even the field.
Handicap Betting Market Explained - Handicap Betting

This description is more or less echoed by SkyBet, which has this to say about Handicap Betting markets:

  • Handicap betting involves giving one selection a virtual deficit (a handicap) to overcome at the start of an event.
Handicap Betting Market Explained - Skybet Handicap Betting

Unlike Asian Handicaps – which we’ll cover later – there are no ‘push’ bets/refunds on Straight Handicap markets. This is because you cannot ‘draw’ with the sportsbook, as each bet is a selection on a specific outcome. In Asian Handicap betting, you can bet on two outcomes simultaneously (ie Draw/Away Win). This simply is not possible in the type of Handicap Betting we’re discussing here.

Handicap Betting Winning Examples

There are various options open to bettors when it comes to Handicap Betting. Whether you like to bet on the underdog or want to chase easy money by taking a punt on the favourite, this market offers a wide range of selections to choose from. 

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of some of the most popular handicaps – each with an explanation and a winning example. 

-1 Handicap

This handicap places a one-goal deficit on a particular team. So, rather than the match starting at 0-0, the opposition is handed a 0-1 virtual lead by the bookie. For the bet to win, the team you pick must win by two goals or more. Failure to do so will result in the bet being lost. 

If you were to bet on a ‘Draw’, the team with a one-goal deficit must match but not exceed the opposition’s number of goals. Imagine a game between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, where you want to bet on the Blues. The following scorelines are just some of the results that would win on a ‘Draw’ bet:

  • 1-0 
  • 2-1 
  • 3-2

Winning scorelines for -1 handicaps include:

  • 2-0
  • 3-1
  • 4-2

These scorelines result in a win because Chelsea have won the game by two clear goals.

-2 Handicap

A more difficult challenge for the disadvantaged side to overcome, -2 handicaps put the team two goals behind before the match kicks off. The premise of the bet is the same as -1, with the size of the deficit being the only major difference. It should be noted that the odds offered on this handicap may be more rewarding than -1 handicaps.

In a match involving Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield, here are some scorelines that would win if you were to bet on a ‘Draw’.

  • 2-0
  • 3-1
  • 4-2

The team with a two-goal deficit (Liverpool) has beaten the opposing side (Southampton) by exactly two goals, thus negating the handicap. Including the handicap, the game ends in a draw – even though the real-life result was not a stalemate.

The ‘To Win’ winning for bets on Liverpool are, among others:

  • 3-0
  • 4-1
  • 5-2

The bet wins because Liverpool have come out on top by three or more goals – an amount larger than the -2 disadvantage.

-3 Handicap 

At the three-goal handicap, you really have to consider whether the team you’re betting on is capable of smashing the advantaged side to pieces. With a three-goal margin of victory necessary for a ‘Draw’ bet to win, this selection is more popular for bets where there is a clear favourite. 

Some winning ‘Draw’ scorelines in a match where Manchester City welcome Norwich City can be found below:

  • 4-1
  • 3-0
  • 6-3

And bets on Manchester City to end the game as victors will win if they can achieve the following scorelines:

  • 4-0
  • 5-1
  • 5-0

-4 Handicap

You might need to give yourself a little pep talk before placing a handicap bet of this size. You’re wagering against a side that’s been given a four-goal lead before a ball has been kicked. It can be rewarding, as the odds are understandably better compared to the handicaps we’ve discussed already, but the risk of losing is greater too. 

To give you an idea of the sort of result you’re after to win a ‘Draw’ bet, here are some example winning scorelines in a fixture between England and San Marino at Wembley Stadium:

  • 4-0
  • 5-1
  • 6-2

And in order ‘To Win’, England must meet any of the following scorelines:

  • 5-0
  • 6-1
  • 6-0

You can probably see why this type of handicap is saved for occasions where the favourite is a dominating force and the underdog is a small, struggling minnow. Nevertheless, some hefty profits can be earned from -4 handicap bets.

What Is The Equivalent Asian Line For This Market?

Asian Lines are increasingly popular at UK bookmakers, with some operators dedicating an entire section of an event’s markets to such bet types. If you like Handicap Betting, then it’s well worth checking out Asian Line markets at sites like Bet365 and William Hill, as the equivalent market – known as Asian Handicap – can offer tremendous value.

Asian Handicap betting markets are unique in that they offer half-goal leads and deficits. Take a look at an example of Asian Handicap options in a friendly between RB Leipzig and Liverpool at Bet365:

Handicap Betting Market Explained - RB Leipzig v Liverpool

The German side is given a half-goal advantage at 1.850 (17/20), while the Reds have to claw back a half-goal disadvantage at odds of 2.0 (1/1). In this instance, a bet on Liverpool (-0.5) would win if:

  • Liverpool win by one or more goals.

Let’s switch things up and pretend that Liverpool were given a handicap of -1 in the Asian Handicap market. In this case, the following outcomes would apply to your bet:

  • Liverpool Win by two or more goals – Your bet wins
  • Liverpool Win by one clear goal – Stake is refunded (Push)
  • Liverpool Draw or Lose – Your bet loses

The middle option (Push) is not available for Straight Handicap markets. That is one of the primary differences between Asian Handicaps and Straight Handicaps.

Why Are Asian Lines Different Odds To This Market?

Comparing Asian Lines odds to Straight Handicap markets is like comparing apples and oranges. Despite the two betting options appearing very similar on paper, they are actually quite different. This becomes apparent when you delve into the nitty gritty details of both Handicaps.

For one, Asian Handicap odds are calculated against other Asian Line prices. That is why they’re based in a dedicated area at some bookmaker websites, rather than being thrown in with standard-fixed odds selections. 

In addition, there are more possible outcomes when it comes to Asian Handicaps compared to Straight Handicaps. The former utilises quarter goals, half goals and three-quarter goals, whereas the latter focuses on whole numbers. They cannot have the same odds because the options available are different. 

To put it simply:

  • Asian Handicaps have three outcomes – Win/Lose/Money Back (Push)
  • Straight Handicaps have two outcomes – Win/Lose

We recommend taking advantage of the best value in both types of Handicap Betting markets. In doing so, you’ll maximise your profits, gain betting experience, and become a well-rounded punter by opening your eyes to new opportunities. 

Conor Rafter
Conor Rafter

I’m a freelance writer who loves all things sports & betting related. Having worked in this field since 2018, I’ve experienced a wide range of intriguing bookmakers and online casinos. With this expertise, I strive to create helpful, honest articles. My primary goal is quite simple: to guide and inform readers using facts and analysis.

View all posts by