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You say “potato,” I say “po-tah-to.” That is essentially the same analogy as “handicap betting” and “betting against the spread.”
Depending on where you are from, handicap betting is treated essentially the same as wagering against the spread. The term “handicap betting” is more popular in Europe and often replaces the term “spread.” Therefore, handicap bets work the same way as a spread in the sense that the underdog gets a “head start” before the game begins. For a comprehensive review on making bets against the spread, you can refer to this article.
Let’s focus more on how a handicap bet differs from an against the spread wager, and go over the variations of handicap bets.
What is Different About a Handicap Bet?
While spreads are very common in sports like basketball and American football, they are not as applicable in soccer. That is mostly because a soccer match can end in a draw and does not always produce a clear winner. Thus, when betting on a moneyline in a soccer match, one will always be able to bet on a draw as a third option.
With regard to handicap bets, sportsbooks will get creative with their offerings.
In this example, notice how the spread section in the Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid match includes a “Handicap Draw” option. Thus, here is how each scenario would win:
Liverpool (-1): This bet would cash if Liverpool wins the match by more than one goal.
Handicap Draw (-1): This bet would cash if Liverpool wins by exactly one goal. Handicap draws are always tied to the favorite. Since Liverpool is the favorite in the match, they would need to win by one goal for the handicap draw to cash.
Atletico Madrid (+1): This bet would cash if Atletico Madrid won the match outright, or tied. This bet would lose if Atletico Madrid lost by one goal or more.
Bettors should take note that a handicap draw bet is different than wagering on the draw option in the moneyline section. It is always important to read a sportsbook’s betting rules to know exactly what you are wagering on.
Other Examples of Handicap Bets
While a handicap draw is one option for a handicap wager, different sportsbooks offer a variety of others.
Here is an example of handicap lines taken from gamblingsites.org.
In a match where Liverpool would be heavily favored to beat Southampton, oddsmakers get creative in setting multiple variations of lines instead of one spread. Thus, bettors are given an opportunity to find value in these handicap results while potentially earning payouts at greater odds.
Here is one scenario from each column:
Liverpool -2.0 (13/5): A bettor making this wager would need Liverpool to win by more than two goals. Simply winning by two goals would not be a push because of the “tie” column’s offerings. If Liverpool wins by more than two goals at odds of 13/5, a bettor would be paid out 2.6 times their original bet. Thus, a $100 wager would profit $260.
Tie +3.0 (5/1): A bettor making this wager would need Liverpool to win by exactly three goals. If they did, they would profit five times their original wager. Thus, a $100 bet would profit $500. This goes to show you how big of a favorite Liverpool is to begin the match.
Southampton -2.0 (22/1): This bet has the highest payout on the board. That is because a bettor would need the underdog Southampton side to beat Liverpool by three or more goals.
Where Can I Find Handicap Wagers?
Different sportsbooks have different ways to navigate their websites or apps. Typically, when a sportsbook offers a line on a soccer match on their main screen, they only show the moneyline options. When using a mobile sportsbook, there should always be an option for “more wagers.” If you click that option, a number of different wagers will appear, including all handicap bets offered.