Handicap betting is becoming more and more popular with bettors of all experience levels. With online bookmakers making the effort to offer bigger and better handicap markets across a variety of different sports, isn’t it about time you took advantage of the potential of handicap betting?

At first glance, handicap betting might be a bit off-putting, especially to the unseasoned punter. But in actual fact, it is really simple to start winning money from handicap betting and I’m going to give you the low-down on how you can do just this.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me take a second to point out the obvious: this isn’t a concrete formula which will work for you every time. In other words, you will lose some handicap bets and you will win others. Hopefully, the tips in this guide will set you on the path to winning more handicap bets than you lose, which will in turn give you more of an overall net win.

Best value bookmakers

The first thing that I do before placing any kind of bet is to find the bookmakers which offer the best value. You could spend all day looking into this only to find that some bookmakers give better value in certain markets than others, so here are two bookmakers straight off the bat to look out for:

How to win a handicap bet at a glance

  • Choose heavy favourites
  • Research the tipsters
  • Check form and history
  • Find the margin
  • Find the best price

Choose heavy favourites

When it comes to choosing which team to back in a handicap bets, it is always best to go with the heavy favourites to win. Using this rule of thumb will make your handicap bets come back with a net win more often than not.

Think of it this way; when you bet on a handicapped match, you are essentially making short or long odds more favourable.

Imagine a Premier League fixture in which Manchester City play host to a struggling Sunderland. What’s more, City have scored 3 goals in their previous two games while Sunderland have conceded 3 or more in their last two matches. Now, a standard match result bet would not be very enticing to the neutral bettor simply because the odds will be too short for a Manchester City win and too long for a Sunderland win.

So, this is where the handicap comes in. For each goal that you take away from Manchester City’s final goal tally, you will be improving the odds of a City win considerably and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to expect them to score 3 goals or more.

It is safe to say that you could take a punt on a Manchester City win with a handicap of -1 goal against a struggling team with a bad defence. You will get better odds which have a good chance of winning and all you need is for City to win the match by 2 goals or more.

The fact is, handicap odds are always better when backing the heavy favourite. It is a rule of thumb that I stick by and I would advise anyone else interested in handicap betting to do likewise.

Research the tipsters

The number of ‘tipsters’ online these days is growing by the day. This is mainly a direct result of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily take any ‘Average Joe’s’ betting advice, you can always compare who they are backing to any initial premonitions that you already had. After all, they want to increase followers and to do this, they need to consistently produce winning tips.

For most casual – and serious bettors too, come to think of it – the main reason that they fall short of success is that they do not put enough time into researching their bets. There are understandable reasons for this: who really has the time to sit around analysing endless form charts and statistics all day? So why not let the tipsters do most of the legwork for you?

They won’t always be right and they might not even tell you anything that you didn’t already know, but tipsters can give you that added reassurance that your handicap bets are on the right track to a decent net win.

Because handicap bets have only become popular in the past few years, there aren’t too many tipsters out there who focus solely on handicap bets. That said, it is still worth following the likes of @thatsagoal and @TwoPoundPunt to get an in depth forecast of upcoming games and find out which teams are scoring and which teams are conceding throughout the football leagues.

Check form and history

When thinking about placing a handicap bet, I always take the time beforehand to really research the form and history of the teams and fixtures at hand. Whether it’s during my lunch breaks throughout the week or while watching Soccer Saturday, I look into the current form of the teams that I am backing and also check out what happened the last time the two teams met.

I can find information about the previous meetings between two teams on the BBC Sport match previews, and if I go to a team’s page then I can see their current form in their previous run of five or so games up to the present. I also check out Soccerbase.com for an overview and match prediction.

For really in-depth stats and information, I look to Whoscored.com. Here I can find loads of info in the run up to each match including the players who are expected to be in the starting eleven. For handicap bets it is essential to know whether a team is going to bang in the goals whilst keeping a solid defence of their own goal. So, I make sure that I find the teams with an in-form strike-force as well as a good defensive record.

Remember – and this is a big point – that form and head-to-heads are just measures to reassure your own betting instinct and you shouldn’t treat the stats as a concrete science. If football was played on paper then we would all be rolling in the winnings but sadly there will be factors that change the expected outcome of matches.  You have to use a bit of your own football knowledge and common sense while analysing the information to ask yourself some questions…

Does the favoured team still have the same strike force, midfield suppliers and solid defence as last season? Did they last meet on the final day of the season when the losing team had nothing to play for?

For example, Stoke beat Liverpool 6-1 at the end of the 2014/15 season only for Liverpool to win 0-1 in the same fixture at the start of the next season. In this case I can assume that the final day thrashing was a once in a blue moon occurrence. There will, however, be other head-to-heads which could just happen again if the teams are more or less unchanged and they are still fighting for a place in the table.

There are loads of statistics and analysis available at your fingertips – so make sure you use the information to guide and reassure your handicap bets. You might even come across some handicap bets that you would never think of placing.

Find the margin

Handicap betting is all about the winning (or losing) margin. That means how many goals that teams tend to win or lose their games by.

In theory, the best teams to back in a handicap will be those you attack well without compromising in defence. And when you think about it, there aren’t too may teams in the Premier League or other English Leagues who you could confidently say will win the majority of their games by a decent margin. So how do I figure out who to back in a handicap bet?

This is where I have to do a bit more research. It’s not enough to simply look at the goal difference on the league standings, because this doesn’t really reflect how convincingly a team tends to win their games. Instead look to individual results such as those found in result tables – these can be found on the wikipedia page for each Premier League season.

Here is a table I knocked up quickly which shows the number of games that each Premier League team won in the 2014/15 season by two or more goals:

Pos. Team Games won by 2+ goals Pos. Games won by 2+ goals
1 Chelsea 15 11 Everton 6
2 Manchester City 17 12 West Ham United 7
3 Arsenal 12 13 West Bromwich Albion 4
4 Manchester United 11 14 Leicester City 5
5 Tottenham Hotspur 5 15 Newcastle United 3
6 Liverpool 8 16 Sunderland 4
7 Southampton 10 17 Aston Villa 1
8 Swansea 5 18 Hull City 5
9 Stoke City 5 19 Burnley 0
10 Crystal Palace 6 20 Queens Park Rangers 4

So just from a little bit of a deeper look into the run of results I can see that the league position or the goal difference doesn’t indicate whether a team will win by a large margin or not. Some notable things I can see from this analysis is that Hull City who finished in 18th were equal with 5th place Tottenham. Also, Southampton were up there with 10 even though they finished 7th in the league. They also had some huge margins such as 6-1, 4-0, and 8-0 so I know that they wouldn’t be a bad shout for a handicap bet on last seasons results.

Find the best price

Finding a good handicap bet with a team that is likely to win by a big margin is only half the battle. With so many different online bookmakers competing against each other nowadays, you can find some great odds and deals if you take a minute or two to look around.

Once you have selected your handicap bets, go to Oddschecker.com. This is an invaluable site which makes it really easy for us punters to shop around all of the different online bookies before we place a bet.

Using Oddschecker.com is great for multiple bets but it will also give you the best odds for a whole variety of different handicap bets. In fact, it is worth using this site as a search tool when browsing what handicap bets are available instead of going to each website individually.

The final word

There you go! Handicap betting is no where near as complicated a lot of punters make it out to be. All you need is a solid knowledge of the sport and league that you are betting on and put in a bit of effort to crunch the statistics in the right places.

All it really boils down to is finding where the winning margins are so you can back the heavy favourites with a handicap deficit to enhance their odds.

Putting in that extra effort to reassure your own knowledge and gut instinct really isn’t too difficult and you will soon find that it’s quite enjoyable to spend the time working out your handicap bets. Oh, and the extra winnings won’t hurt either!

In this guide I used football as an example sport but the same fundamental principles apply to all the sports which offer handicap odds. As long as you are familiar with the sport and the league or competition then feel free to give it a go!