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Handicaps (not the horse type!)

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Whilst a seasoned punter will have no problem with navigating the different types of handicaps offered in sports betting, someone new to the game will be less at ease. Here, and in the subsequent blog posts, I explain what a handicap means, the different types offered by bookmakers and when you might prefer to bet this market over the more traditional moneyline.
Now, firstly, whilst researching this post I came across the origin of the term ‘handicap’, not something I knew before. Many thanks to Wikipedia for this one!

“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” (

A handicap a way of levelling the playing field from a betting point of view. If communism were converted into a form of betting, this would be it. Traditionally a notional number of points (goals, tries, whatever the scoring system is) is either added to or subtracted from the score of the team in question to even out the probability of that event occurring.

It is easier to understand when we bring numbers into it.

England are playing Italy in the Six Nations. England are clear favourites to win the match, such that any bet placed on them would provide such paltry returns it is hardly worth the bother. The question of a handicap is, by how much are England better than Italy? By giving Italy a notional head start of 20.5 points we can level the playing field and our betting market will look like this:

England -20.5 10/11 (1.91) Italy +20.5 10/11 (1.91)

There is, according to this example a 50% chance that England will win by 21 points or more and conversely a 50% chance that Italy will either win the match, or lose by 20 points or less. The mechanics of the bet work by either adding (in the case of betting on Italy) or subtracting (for the England bet) to or from your team’s score to provide a new ‘result’ for your bet.

Karl Marx would be proud.

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