Many books have been written on the subject of betting on sports, and most of them will tell you that there is more than one way to skin a cat. For example, you could lay baseball players, and in the same way, you could lay horse racing or football players. Each offering a slightly different edge. But what exactly does “handicap” mean when betting on football?
The term “handicap” when used in relation to sports betting means that the bookmaker has adjusted the odds to take the skill level of the individual athlete or team into consideration. So if you back a team that has a higher skill level than your average team, you can expect to see your bets come in more successfully. Here are some of the most common explanations for the way the odds are adjusted for skill level:
The Team Is Narrowing The Margin Of Error
If you’ve ever watched a professional sports game on TV, then you know that the outcome of every contest is not always obvious, especially when you’re watching games between two evenly matched teams. This is why in most cases the outcome of a game is considered “undecided” or “in the balance”. This is also why bookmakers will often use the term “handicap” in relation to a game when they’re talking about how they intend to settle the contest.
The principle behind this strategy is simple. By comparing the skill levels of the participants in a game, you can get a good idea of which team is best equipped to win. If you look at the odds for several different teams, you’ll notice that they always favor the weaker team. This is because, in most cases, the more skilled team will usually win, due to their ability to adapt on the fly and make plays that their less skilled counterparts cannot counter. So, by narrowing the margin of error, the bookmaker is essentially saying that they believe the game is more likely to end in a draw, or in favor of the underdog.
Skill Level Is A Function Of Game Context
You might also hear bookmakers refer to “underdog” teams as being “handicapped” when playing against more experienced or “dominant” teams. This is a reference to the fact that the odds for these teams will always be adjusted to reflect their presumed lower skill level. But in order to do this, the bookmakers must take game context into account. What this means is that sometimes the stronger team might not win, due to a number of factors that are out of their control. For example, a really bad year for the team or an injury to a key player. If you back a team in a neutral or unfriendly environment, the odds will usually be skewed in their favor. But if the team you’re backing is playing against another team with similar experience or in a friendly environment, then you might see more upsets than usual. Since they are already factoring in the relative skill levels of the teams, the odds will likely work against the favorites in these kinds of games.
The Objective Is To Beat The Spread
With most sports betting, your goal is to win as much as possible. But when it comes to predicting the outcome of a football game, your objective should be a little different, since you’re looking to beat the spread. If you’re betting on outright results, then you might find it difficult to win consistently, since most bookmakers offer slightly favorable odds in most cases. But, if you’re using the odds to gauge your success, then getting as close to even as possible is the key, since you’re essentially asking the bookmaker to take a chance, and you’ll either win or lose based on the degree of accuracy of your assessment.
The Game Is A Mistake
This one might seem a little counter-intuitive, but sometimes a game will be declared a “mistake” by the oddsmakers. If they believe a game was misplayed or incorrectly officiated, then they may adjust the odds for a rematch. If you’ve ever watched a Major League Baseball game where the announcers question whether or not a call was made correctly, then you know exactly what they mean when they say a game was “mistaken”. In a way, all bets are off after a mistake is declared and the teams must play their way back into relevancy. This is also why in cases where a game isn’t finished due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, the odds are often adjusted to favor the team that was originally scheduled to play.
In short, when betting on football, the handicap principle means that you will sometimes have success and sometimes you’ll lose. But since your average score is usually close to a tie, you’ll still come out ahead on the whole deal. The fact that the house edge is so low in relation to the winnings makes it virtually impossible to lose, at least financially speaking. And that’s what matters most, especially since you’ll never know for sure if the oddsmakers are actually doing their job or if they’re just playing for fun, which is always a possibility whenever you place a wager.
As you can see, there are several different ways that “handicap” applies to betting on sports. But regardless of the interpretation, the fact remains that when betting on football, the odds will usually be adjusted in a way that favors the underdog. And that’s usually the way to go if you want to have a chance at winning.