What Does “Handicap” in Football Betting Mean?

When it comes to football betting, many punters will wager on teams rather than the players. Sure, the players on each team are important, but it’s the match between the two teams that will decide the fate of your bankroll, and not the particular players that you fancy. This is why odds calculators have been created, which can be used to help bettors figure out the true handicap of the teams they are comparing. Now that the football season is upon us, let’s have a look at what the term “handicap” in football betting actually means.

Difference In Overall Performance

The first and probably most important meaning of handicap in football betting is the difference in overall performance between the two teams. In order to calculate this difference, you simply need to add up the numbers from the table of each team’s results and then subtract the numbers from the table of the other team’s results. For example, if you were betting on the Leicester Tigers vs Manchester United match, and Leicester won 4 out of their 12 matches while United won only 2 of their 12 matches, the overall outcome would be a massive +2 for Leicester. This is what is meant by the term “handicap“: the difference in the sums of the two teams’ results.

Difference In Overall Fixtures Played

Fixtures, or matches, between the two teams is also important because it gives an idea of how well the team is performing against their direct rival. When comparing the fixtures between the two teams, you must bear in mind that some matches may be more important for one team than for the other. For example, Leicester may have a very strong record against teams from the North, while United may struggle against Sheffield teams. The meaning of handicap in this particular case would be the overall number of matches played by each team against every other team. This is a much better way of judging a team’s performance than simply looking at the result of each individual match.

Player Performance

Looking at the results of individual matches between the two teams is important, but comparing them to the overall tally of the team’s results is the best way to get an accurate understanding of how each player on the team is performing. Using the Leicester vs Man U example again, if you look only at the results of the individual matches and not at the overall performance of the team, you would gain the impression that James Milner is the key player in United’s squad. Milner has scored 2 goals in 2 games this season, but if you take into account that Leicester are currently undefeated and will face Man United again in a few days time, it becomes clear that the player who has the most to prove is Jamie Vardy. Vardy has only scored once this season, but that came from a hat trick against Newcastle United. If Leicester are to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, then Vardy will have to be at his very best on the day of the match, and not just in the previous match.


Form is another important factor to consider when judging the performance of a team. Some teams are simply hot at the moment and are due a downturn in form, whilst others are in the other part of the cycle and will start turning things around soon. Knowing how a team is performing on the pitch at this moment is important in order to place correct bets. For example, a very strong team might struggle against a weaker team, but they could prove to be the better side in the long run. You might get the feeling that Spurs are a team that are on the upward curve at the moment, which is why they are odds-on favorites to win the Premier League this season. In contrast, Liverpool are probably the best example of a team that is in decline, after struggling for form throughout last season.

Home/Away Advantage

Home/Away advantage in football is vital when judging the outcome of a match. If you are a Liverpool fan, you may be confident that the team will prevail at home against all comers, but if you are a Spurs fan then you may feel that they will win the match on the road. If you are an away fan, then you will always have the advantage because the stadium experience is so vastly different to that of an attendee. The important thing to note is that a team’s home form will usually be better than their away form, so you should always bank on this fact. The opposite is rarely the case, especially if you are comparing two evenly matched teams. Take Leicester and Man United as an example. Both teams are perfectly capable of upsetting the odds and winning the match on the road, but you would still give the nod to the teams that have done the majority of their work at home. This difference in home/away results is also known as “veterancy” in sports betting. When looking at Leicester’s results this season, you will notice that they have won all of their home matches whilst drawing only once on the road. In contrast, United have managed only one draw in their entire away matches so far this season. The difference in results is clear to see and it reinforces the point that home form is always the preferred option for any sportsman or woman. Another important factor to take into account is that if a team’s results are more consistent at home than away, then this is usually a good indication that the home crowd will affect the outcome of the match in the team’s favor. This does not, however, necessarily mean that you should always bet on the home team. If you are an even keel type of person who does not mind losing some of your money then the away team might be the one for you.

Contextual Factors

Contextual factors are all the other pieces of information that you have about a particular match or season that you might not have taken into account when making your decision on who will win. The most important fact to keep in mind is that team performances can vary from week to week, which means that you cannot always rely on the overall results of a team to make the right prediction. For example, if you bet on Leicester to lift the Premier League this season, and they put in a poor performance against weaker opposition, the results of the match might not mean very much. The team’s poor start to the season is a complete fluke and nothing more, or so you might think. This is why it is so important to look at the team’s recent form and not just at their results from last season. If you search for Leicester and look at their results from previous seasons, you will notice that they have a very strong record, despite their current underperformance. In general, the fewer games that a team has played recently, the stronger their form is likely to be. In comparison, teams that have not played for a long time will usually prove to be less consistent because of their lack of fixtures. Another important factor to consider is the quality of opposition. If you are a Leicester fan and you see that their next match is against a Blackburn Rovers side, and you know that Leicester have a very strong record against teams from the North, then you might assume that this match will be a low-scoring affair, and probably a stalemate. Blackburn Rovers, however, are a side that pose a real threat to any team in the country, so this could be a much more exciting match than you might first imagine.

These are, of course, just a small selection of the myriad of factors that you need to keep in mind if you want to make the right predictions from time to time. If you want to continue improving your betting instincts, then all that you need is practice. The more that you put in, the more that you will get out, and this, in turn, will make you more valuable as a bettor. Good luck out there.