Tennis Handicap Betting

I find that Tennis is a great sport to bet on and it’s definitely the case when using the handicap markets. Another positive with tennis is the fact there are only two outcomes – and that’s before we think about betting on the Asian Handicap!

As tennis is played all year round it throws up plenty of betting opportunities but be aware of the certain pitfalls in terms of player injuries, form and favoured surface.

Here are my favourite Handicap bets on the tennis and how the markets work.

Game Handicap

The game handicap markets comes in handy when backing the strong favourites. Instead of backing Roger Federer to win the match at odds of 1.06 I will look towards the game handicap market to add a bit more meat to the bones. So backing Federer with a -5.5 game handicap will give you much better value than the straight winner market.

However, a few words of caution. I would avoid trying to cover large game handicaps as one bad set will give you a losing bet. I.e. Federer may only win the game 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 but the bad second set means he only won by three games and wouldn’t have covered the handicap.

But I also use this to my advantage and go on the other side of the handicap and back the underdog with a +5.5 game handicap. I specifically target big servers who are tough to break down when they are the underdog. Ivo Karlovic is a great example.

Most of his matches go to tie breaks or the sets will end either 7-5, 7-6 or 6-4 as his service is almost unplayable but he lacks any other weapons.

i.e. Ivo Karlovic may lose 7-6 6-4 6-4 but your bet would still be a winner if you backed him with a +5.5 game handicap advantage.

Set Handicap

The Set Handicap markets require less maths than using the game handicap and I find it a very good way of siding with the underdog to pinch a set. I prefer to my focus my attention on the Men’s ATP events as they can be more reliable than the WTA where form can be unstable and break of serves are very common.

But remember; the Grand Slams are the best of five sets while the tour events are best of three sets.

I like to oppose the top players when their form is patchy and they are facing an underdog in good form.

Tennis handicap betting

The above match between Djokovic and Goffin in the Cincinnati masters is a great example. Djokovic had never won this tournament and he was complaining of an elbow/arm injury the previous week. Goffin, meanwhile, is ranked 14th in the world and should be able to trouble Djokovic by taking a set here.

You could have backed Goffin +1.5 sets at odds of around 3.26, which is great value when your selection just needs to pick up one set.

Game Over/Unders

Another angle to tackle in the tennis is via the over/under games handicap line. Here I look out for two evenly matched competitors that is likely to produce a marathon match.

Also, the big servers will be involved in tight sets that usually go to 7-6 or 7-5 so you take be sure to pick up plenty of games to meet your over bets.

The over/under game line also throws up good opportunities if you fancy the underdog to take a set against one of the better players. The handicap line will be set giving a 50/50 scenario, so using the Djokovic/Goffin game as an example, the line was set at 19.5 games which means you need at least 20 games to be played if you are to win the bet – which should be well in reach if the underdog wins a set.

Tennis handicap betting

The result was 27 games in total, so it would have been a comfortable winner and it’s definitely a good market to explore rather than restricting yourself to just the match winner market where the odds can be very prohibitive.


Rugby Handicap Betting

Using the Handicap markets on Rugby betting can be a very profitable arena. Rugby is a high scoring game and therefore can have a wide spreads of Handicap’s lines according to the bookmaker.

But I do find that Bet365 offer the best value handicap lines and prices. Their range on handicap in-play markets are the best in the business and should always be explored if you want an in-play bet or want to hedge your position.

Here are how the Rugby markets work on the European and Asian Handicap lines as well as the strategies I employ to increase my betting bank.

Match Handicap

Personally, I focus my attention on Rugby Union and more specifically the big international matches.

The example below illustrates the Six Nations matchup between England and Italy in February 2015. England were big favourites and were unbackable at 1.01 in the match winner market. But the Handicap markets will offer many more opportunities. You can see the wide spread of handicap lines and the prices available.

England Rugby Handicap



England won the match by 30 points so the bookmakers were spot on with their handicap line, the grey lines above show the odds of 1.92 on England covering -29.5 handicap.

Nevertheless, the whole range from -20.5 to -28.5 would have been a comfortable win and show odds of around 1.89 to 1.33 – which is much better than the 1.01 on England to win.

Over/Under Points Betting

For those of a nervous disposition that doesn’t mind which team wins the match, then I would suggest looking at the over/under points handicap markets. Here we are concerned with the total number of points scored and whether or not it goes under or over the handicap line set by the bookmaker.

Using the England v Italy game as an example on the over/under, you can see the range of spreads available with the prices quoted.

England Rugby Handicap

The match itself produced 64 points, so the bookmakers were well out of their estimate of around 50 points so backing Overs on any line here would have proved profitable.

I try to identify, if possible, where the value lies in the over/points market by assessing the scenario around the game.

The final round of matches in the 2015 Six Nations was a perfect example of where the overs would be of interest. England headed into the final game against knowing they needed significant point difference to win the trophy, so with an emphasis of attacking Rugby this also left them vulnerable to the French attack – in the end England and France shared 90 points, which was well over the handicap line set by the bookmakers (around 46/47 points).

England Rugby Handicap 3

Bet 365 offer some excellent in-play markets for over/under points scoring, so if you’re watching the match live and expect a swing one way or the other then Bet365 will have the points betting covered in their in-play markets.


Horse Racing Handicap Betting

Horse Racing has traditionally been based around win and each-way bets but the introduction and evolution of Betfair has seen a whole host of new markets emerge. I’ve found plenty of success in looking at alternative markets to make even the most sided race a competitive affair.

Betfair, in my opinion, offers the best value when it comes to Horse Racing and I would suggest you always make them your first port of call. While the following markets are not strictly Handicap markets, you can use them to structure bets to your advantage in the manner of a handicap bet.

Without Favourite

I use the without favourite market when I am keen on one of the outsiders in the race and want some insurance in case the favourite wins and my selection finishes second.

The 3:30PM at Chepstow (pictured below) is a great example. Here I am keen on 3. Miss Marina Bay but I am also cautious of the favourite Rosamaria who is trading at odds on prices.Untitled

Instead, I check the “Without Favourite Rosemaria” market to see what price my selection. The below market shows that I can back 3. Miss Marina Bay to win the race at odds of 3.25 – which is of course lower than the standard market, but I don’t have to worry if the favourite beats my horse.


The bet would win if 3. Miss Marina Bay wins the race, or comes second to the hot favourite Rosamaria, therefore increasing the chances of success.

Betting each-way could be another alternative, but as there are only five runners it would only be first two places and it would be 1/4 of the odds of 7.2.

On occasions I split my stake 30/70 between the winner market and the without favourite when backing one of the outsiders in a race.

A v B Market

The AvB market can also be found on Bet365 as well as Betfair and it throws up some nice opportunities if you are looking for a head-to-head between two horses in a big race. 

The bookmaker selects two horses from the race and puts them together in a head-to-head. Your selection has to then finish ahead of the other horse in the A v B market. It doesn’t matter if your horse wins the race or not, it just has to finish ahead of its rival. 

I often look to see what match-ups are available in the A v B market, especially in the races where it’s a big field. The two horses selected are usually evenly matched so it can be difficult to side with one or the other but I would recommend to find a horse that has a bad draw against a horse that has a good draw – all of these small details will give your selection an advantage in beating its rival.

Winning Distance

Occasionally, I will look towards the winning distance market if I cannot find any value in the other markets. This market offers prices on the winning distance of the horse in 1st to the horse in 2nd

There are two schools of thought on this market. Firstly, you can approach it with the mind sight that the race you’re looking at will be won comfortably and look at larger winning distances. However, I prefer to find a real competitive race and look for a short winning distance i.e. Under 1 length.

For this, I look mainly at Handicap races on the flat as the horses as weighted accordingly to their form, so, in an ideal world, the races will be ultra-competitive and have relatively short winning distance. 

Then I try to find two or three horses that I really cannot split in the race, in the hope they will be battling out the finish in a blanket finish and then back the “under 1 length” in the Winning Distance market.

I prefer to use a combination of Bet365 and Betfair for this market as, depending on the race in question, different bookmakers will select different races for this market.


Golf Handicap Betting

Betting on Golf can be just as frustrating as trying to play it. Trying to pick a winner from the 100 odd players that are competing spread over 72 holes of golf can be a minefield. Your selection could be leading from beginning until the final hole only for a double bogey to scupper your chances of collecting.

There are, however, plenty of alternative handicap based markets that offer good value and I find I get a much better run for my money when looking away from the regular tournament winner market.

Here are a few handicap markets I tend to focus my attention when looking for a winner.

Match Handicap Betting

Skybet are very generous in terms of the amount of markets on offer for the major golf tournaments, especially for the events they are televising. And one of my favourite markets is the match handicap betting.

Each golfer is given a handicap advantage before the tournament starts and priced up accordingly. The top players like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith will be given a handicap of +5 shots for example, while the rest of the field is handicapped accordingly based on their strength.

You would of course need plenty of knowledge on the tournament and players to make an informed decision but I like to use this market when backing solid golfers like Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter – these guys are often in the top 10/20 but really struggle to get over the line these days so they represent a good bet with a handicap advantage on the big hitters.

Round Handicap Betting

Bet365 also offer Handicap markets and the one standout market in my opinion is the Round Handicap betting. It’s not on every event but you should be sure to check Bet365 during the big tournaments to see if it’s available.

It works much in the same way as the Match Handicap Betting, but it relates to a specific round. I tend to target golfers who are in good form but under-performed on the previous day of the tournament. The top players like McIlroy, Speith, Watson, Westwood etc. tend to bounce back when the pressure is on so they have a good chance of covering any handicap for that specific round.

I also like the fact it relates to a single round and you’re not reliant on the whole 72 holes to collect on any winning bet. Less stress and it’s an interesting market to keep on your side.

Nationality of Winner

On occasions, I prefer to have a simple bet on the golf and take on specific nationality or region. And this market is perfect and gives you a brilliant chance of backing albeit at much shorter odds.

Much like the horse racing, this market will remove the favourite of the event and price up the rest of the field accordingly. It was a great market to concentrate on when Tiger Woods was at his peak as it was rare for any other golfer to get a look in.

Without (x) Favourite Betting Market

It can be a good market to look at for one of the majors, especially at the moment with the form of most American golfers. Backing the winner to come from the USA would give you a great chance of collecting.

The example below is for a European Tour event “The Czech Masters”. If you want to take the British and Irish golfers than backing the Rest of The World (ROW) option at 8/13 means that if the winner isn’t from GB or IRE then your bet’s a winner.

Currently, I would suggest it doesn’t represent such good value as it’s much more competitive at the head of the market. Nevertheless, I do use this market when, for example, I want to remove the favourite Jordan Speith from the occasion and want to back Rory McIlroy – the odds won’t get you rich but it’s good insurance if McIlroy (or your selection) finishes runner-up to the favourite.

Football Handicap Betting

Most of my football bets are based on the Handicap markets as I find better value, especially when playing the Asian Handicap markets as you can insure your bets by having an element of the draw on your side.

Here is a guide on the best football markets to concentrate when using the Handicap markets.

Match Winner Asian Handicap

When backing a team to win the match I always use the Asian Handicap markets. This is down to TWO main reasons. Firstly, the bookmakers don’t make such a bigger margin so you are already getting value and secondly your increasing your chances of backing a winner as the draw has effectively been eliminated from the equation

I find it’s best to use the Asian Handicap when the game is evenly matched. For example; I fancy Watford to get something out of the home match against Southampton. But I am weary the match could finish as a draw so by looking at the Asian Handicap market I can find a bet I’m much more comfortable with:

I can back Watford +0.25 goals at odds of 1.625 – this means that half of my stake is placed on Watford +0.50 and half on Watford 0.00. So if the match ends in a draw: half of my bet wins at odds 1.625 while the other half is refunded. It’s a great way to protect your stake.

Alternatively, for a bigger reward I could have backed Watford -0.25 goals at odds of 2.250 but if the match ends in a draw only half of my stake is refunded, while the other half is lost (failed to over -0.50 handicap)

Total Cards

Another market I like using for football matches is the “Total Cards” market, it works very much the same as the total goals market which is a more mainstream market you maybe familiar with.

For example, a local derby between Everton v Liverpool will have the Total Cards market at Over/Under 5.5 cards. Which is quite high as the bookmaker expects quite a few cards due it being a local derby. However, I like to focus on the referee in question and find out his statistics on how many cards he issues per game and his history.

Bet365 offer some great in-play handicap markets and I would strongly advise to keep check on the total cards market in-play. As generally speaking, most of the cards tend to come in the second half as the players will accumulate fouls and eventually the referee will be dishing cards for repeat offenders.

With this mind, I tend look at the backing more cards in the second half by using the in-play Total Cards Asian Handicap market with Bet365. It’s a simple win or lose market – if your backing Over 5.5 Cards then you’ll need at least six cards to be shown otherwise you lose your bet.

Likewise, you can also profit from this market by backing Under in the Total Cards market by targeting end of season matches with nothing riding on that has a lenient referee.

Total Goals

One of the most popular markets with football is the Total Goals market. You can back goals on the Asian Line (2.25, 2.50 etc.) or the European Handicap (1, 2, 3 etc). Most people tend to forget that you can use the Handicap markets for goals but I find it much better value as your protect your bank by backing over 2.25 goals rather than 2.50 goals.

To explain, Bet365 will offer a goal line on the Asian handicap for each match that will range from over 1.00 to 3.75. So you can back in 0.25 increments – backing over 2.25 basically means half of your stake goes on over 2 goals and other half on 2.50 goals – so if there just two goals scored then half of your stake is refunded.

In the long run taking a much pragmatic approach to the goals markets by using the Handicap lines will improve your chances of increasing your betting bank.