European Handicap Betting: What Does it Mean?

European Handicap Betting

Betting on sports requires you to predict the results of a game featuring two sides with the same winning capacity. However, some teams are equipped with better players and formations, which gives them a clear advantage over their opponents.

To even the playing field, bookmakers have developed a system that gives the weaker team a head start and the dominant side has to match up and win. This head start is what betting enthusiasts call a handicap. However, there are different types of handicaps, with Asian and European handicap bets being the most popular options.

So, what does European handicap mean in sports betting and how does it work? Let’s find out. We’ll also help you differentiate between Asian and European handicap betting, different types of European handicaps, and effective betting strategies to boost your winning chances.  

How Does European Handicap Betting Work?

A European handicap bet is the classic 3-way (win-draw-win) bet and one of the oldest handicaps in sports betting. This handicap bet prioritizes the weaker team, making it difficult for the dominant team to match the advantage.

In other words, the European handicap bet increases the risk for the dominant team and improves the odds value. That makes it interesting to bet since the take-home margin is significantly higher if your bet succeeds. However, some sports betting beginners might confuse European handicap betting with Asian handicaps.

What Is the Difference Between Asian and European Handicap?

The main difference between Asian and European handicap bets is the bet formation. Bets with the European handicap system get their relevance from integers (goal difference), working with the current three-way outcome as it is. As such, a European handicap bet can accommodate draws.

On the other hand, Asian handicaps use quarter or half numbers. That means the possibility of a draw is eliminated in Asian handicap bets, unlike in European handicap betting. Additionally, Asian handicaps generally feature a lower house edge over their European counterparts.

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European Handicap Bet Example

To help you understand how European handicap bets work, here’s a real-life example of what you might encounter while betting online. Let’s say you’re betting on the London Derby featuring Tottenham Hotspurs against Arsenal in the EPL.

In the case above, the European handicap bet will effectively create a win-draw-win market that features an adjusted number of goals for the underdog and favorite. Online bookmakers can also represent these bets in two forms depending on the guest/ host team. As such, you can access the odds in score form or the plus/minus option.

Taking as an example the 0:1 handicap from the above odds table from Tottenham vs Arsenal, here’s what the bet means:

Arsenal 0:1 or Arsenal +1 – If Arsenal (away team) wins or draws the game, your bet wins.
Draw 0:1 or Draw +1 – The bet wins if Tottenham wins the game by exactly one goal.
Tottenham 0:1 or Tottenham -1 – the bet wins if Tottenham wins by two or more goals.
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Types of European Handicap

There are various types of European handicap bets based on the formation. The ability to bet on a draw with European handicap differentiates this market from Asian handicap and you have multiple options when betting. Here are three common types of European handicap bets.

Handicap 1

The first illustration represents the weaker team with the handicap advantage. The sportsbook gives the team a head start, which the dominant team will need to cover and surpass to claim the maximum odds. Bookmakers award the weaker team goals depending on their strength in comparison to the stronger team.

In this case, the stronger side must cover the goal advantage to get a draw or outscore the opposition to win. Most punters widely use this type of European handicap bet since it’s easy to understand.

Handicap 2

The stronger team with a handicap disadvantage represents handicap 2 betting. The stronger site starts the game with a negative score and must fully close the margin for a draw. However, they must score more goals to rise above their disadvantage and win. As such, the score sheet for the bookie’s favorite starts with a negative (e.g. -1) and they must level up to suppress the disadvantage.

Handicap 3

Unlike in Asian handicaps, betting on a European handicap allows you to bet on the draw. To draw with European handicap bets, the bookie’s favorite must win the match with the exact number of goals as the advantage given to the weather team. Any other result in this prediction will make you lose your bet. That makes it the least-used European handicap bet since it has limited options to win.

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Many mainstream sports available in online bookmakers support European handicap betting. Football/ soccer tops the list since it’s the most popular sport for punters and the goals scored quantify winnings in basic integers. Football also has other betting markets which form handicap bets like first-half and second-half wins.

Other games that can support the European handicap system include tennis, rugby, volleyball, basketball, and others. All these games use a number-scoring system that differentiates the winning team from the losers. These markets also give fans direct access to the scoreboard.

European Handicap Betting Strategy

European Handicap Betting Strategy

The European handicap bet opens up a third possibility in handicap betting, increasing the risk for punters. The increased risk boosts the odds, which may increase your revenue and entertainment value if you’re successful. However, the complexity of the European handicap bet makes it hard for most beginners to be successful.

Here’s a smart European handicap betting strategy that you can use in three steps:

  •  Before you decide on the European handicap bet to make, make sure you choose a sport that you understand intimately. Understanding the sport will come in handy when analyzing different matches when betting.
  • Bet on the European handicap market will the least possibility of failure. The bookmaker might entice you to make other bets with attractive odds, but the probability of winning bets with the longest odds is very low.
  • Define the strengths of the favorite team and how they compare to the underdogs.
  • Bet on European handicap markets that rely on direct integers.  

How Do You Win a Handicap Bet?

Many sports punters look for expert analysis and advice when placing their bets. While that might increase your chances of winning traditional bets like outright bets, it might prove tricky to consistently win European handicap bets. The best path to minimize your losses with European handicap bets is to do your own research.

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Here are some tips you can follow when analyzing your European handicap bets to increase your chances of winning.

Recent form – Check whether the bookie’s favorite has enjoyed narrow or broad wins in the last five games. Also, check whether the underdog is currently placing well in a way games or has lost recent matches with more than one goal.
Home/ Away games – The opponents’ current record can reveal a lot about the players’ behavior and playing style, which is crucial for European handicap bets.
Motivation – You’ll need to consider whether the bookie’s favorite team is motivated to win the match with more than one goal. When the favorite team isn’t under pressure to win the game with several goals, it can end up in a boring tie or a low-scoring win.
Weather/ Pitch conditions – When there is rain or snow, the terrain becomes heavier for outdoor sports. That makes it harder for the bookie’s favorite to rise above the handicap.
Clubs’ relations – When both teams are friendly, high lines for points, goals, or runs should be avoided. However, higher lines are more likely to win when the opponents are rivals.  


When to Bet on European Handicap?

You should consider betting on European handicaps if your strategy involves wagering on strong teams to win while at home. Doing that in sports like football can help you make a hefty profit since European handicaps feature stronger odds than outright markets.

How Do You Calculate Winnings on a European Handicap Bet?

With European handicaps, the team with a positive handicap gets a virtual lead and the opposing side gets negatively handicapped with the same number of goals. This handicap is added to the game’s final score to determine the results of the bet. For instance, If Arsenal is playing against Crystal Palace and you bet on Arsenal (-1) handicap as the favorite, the Gunners will need at least two goals to win the bet.

What Does a “0” Handicap Mean in European Handicap Betting?

Zero handicaps offer only two betting options – H1(0) or H2(0) instead of three. However, when the game ends in a draw, the bets are returned to the punters. That makes it the best bet you can make when you’re not sure which team will win and don’t want to bet on a double chance.

Can European Handicap Result in a Push or Tie?

Yes, the European handicap system recognizes a tie or draw as an outcome, which punters can wager on and win. That’s the main difference that makes European handicaps stand out from other handicap systems.

Final Thoughts

European handicap bets are an excellent option when looking to boost your betting odds and have more fun wagering on games. These bets contribute to a better payout, but punters must understand how they work and effective strategies to increase their chances of winning. Hopefully, the strategies and tips we have discussed in this article will give you a head start.

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About the Author

Born in Kolkata in 1987, Rohan Sharma, now a revered betting expert, completed a Master’s in Sports Statistics from the University of Pune in 2012. Between 2013 and 2020, he collaborated with the Indian Cricket Board, focusing on player analytics and game strategy optimization. Sharma has penned 16 academic papers, predominantly addressing the evolution of bowling techniques and field placements. In 2021, he transitioned to journalism. Sharma presently authors analytical articles on cricket, offering insights on match dynamics and player strategies, contributing regularly to various sports-centric platforms.

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