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There are many factors to consider when trying to maximise your football betting returns as a punter, and it’s not just about picking which team will win.

Finding the right markets for your football betting strategy and a staking plan is an even more significant ingredient in the recipe for success.

European handicap betting is undoubtedly one that can be used to your advantage.

Here’s everything you need to know about the European handicap betting market and how to incorporate it for increased takings.

What is European handicap betting?

In sports betting, backing a team to win can often feel a little pointless, especially when the odds aren’t that great. So, if you want to look at betting on different football markets, the European handicap can be a fantastic option.

Before starting, you should know that it may also be listed as just ‘handicap’ or ‘3-way handicap’ depending on the bookmaker you use.

The bookmaker gives the perceived weaker team a hypothetical lead to even the playing field or even swing things in the underdog’s favour. This essentially creates a new 1×2 market, with three possible outcomes available on any line.

It is most common to see a 1-0 advantage handed to the weaker team. In this case, any scoreline needs to have the 1-0 advantage applied to find the score on which the bookies will settle all bets. As such, the possible outcomes are available:

  • Team A (+1 goal) v Team B (-1 goal)
  • If Team A wins or draws the game, any bet on Team A wins.
  • If Team B wins by one goal, bets on the draw win.
  • If Team B wins by two or more goals, any bet on Team B wins.

It is worth noting, however, that the European handicap line can be set to +/-2 goals, +/-3 goals, etc.

So, if the line is set to two goals, the new situation is:

  • Team A (+2 goals) v Team B (-2 goals)
  • If Team A wins, draws, or loses by one goal, all bets on Team A win.
  • If Team B wins the match by two goals, bets on the draw win.
  • If Team B wins by three or more goals, all bets on Team B win.

The best way to think about it is like the regular 1×2 market, only that you’re placing it as if a goal (or more) has already been scored by the team on the + handicap.

Why Choose European Handicap Betting?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with backing teams on the straight match result outcome.

However, two issues could potentially harm your long-term ROIs.

  1. If regularly backing favourites at short odds like ¼, you only need one bad result to undo several good bets.
  2. Backing an underdog to win the game, rather than simply avoiding defeat, can feel somewhat risky.

European handicap betting can be used to either increase the odds when backing a team to win comfortably or increase the odds when backing an unfancied team to perform beyond expectations.

Given that you can back the team on the + line, the – line, and the draw, there is a far greater level of control than simply restricting yourself to the straight-match result market. For that reason alone, keeping this option open is advised to anyone seeking healthy returns.

Which Bookies Provide the Handicap Markets?

The European handicap lines have become increasingly popular over recent years, especially as online betting grows from strength to strength. While still not as commonplace as some alternatives, such as the BTTS market, it is still found on many betting sites and Apps.

While you won’t find European handicap lines offered on all matches, you can find them for a wide selection of matches at each of the following bookmakers

Marathon Bet
Paddy Power
Sun Bets
William Hill

Several other sportsbooks, as do the biggest exchange betting sites, provide this line. So, if you’re eager to start utilising this market, it won’t be difficult to locate a suitable platform.

How to place your Handicap Bets?

Some bookies will allow you to search directly for the match you want to bet on. If your chosen one doesn’t, however, you can easily navigate to it in three easy clicks.

  • Football → desired league/tournament → the chosen match

Once the page for the specific match is open, you can usually find the European handicap market under the main list of bets. Make sure you are betting on the European handicap rather than the Asian handicap.

You’ll know the difference because there are three options (Home, Draw, Away) rather than just two (Home, Away).

What are Alternative Handicap Lines?

Depending on the sportsbook provider and the size of the game, there may also be a list of alternative European handicap lines. This needn’t confuse, though. They work exactly the same way. It’s simply a way to give you more options.

For the 2018 Champions League final, for example, Real Madrid was placed on a -1 European handicap line.

The odds (at Bet365) were:

  • Real Madrid (-1) 11/4, Draw (Liverpool +1) 10/3, Liverpool (+1) 7/10

Those odds reflected the general thoughts that Real Madrid was a slight favourite. Due to the minimal nature of their perceived advantage, punters who thought either side would win may have preferred to look at the alternative lines.

The following options were on offer:

  • Real Madrid (-3) 14/1, Draw (Liverpool +3) 9/1, Liverpool (+3) 1/16
  • Real Madrid (-2) 13/2, Draw (Liverpool +2) 5/1, Liverpool (+2) 2/9
  • Real Madrid (+1) 2/5, Draw (Real Madrid +1) 4/1, Liverpool (-1) 9/2
  • Real Madrid (+2) 1/10, Draw (Real Madrid +2) 7/1, Liverpool (-2) 11/1

So, when the alternative lines are on offer, punters have a far greater selection of potential bets to choose from. Meanwhile, some games also include a first-half handicap line.

This works in the same manner. Only the scores are settled at half-time. When backing a team on the -1 first-half handicap, you’ll need them to be two goals clear by the break.

Are European Handicap Lines Offered In-Play?

In-play betting is the preferred choice for a large percentage of modern-day gamblers. This gives you a chance to watch some of the action to see if the game develops in the same way that your pre-game research and opinions suggested, which can reduce the number of bad bets.

Given that it’s now so easy to place bets, even when you’re on the go, it’s no wonder so many people choose the in-play betting route.

However, in-play betting doesn’t offer the same number of markets as pre-game betting. Thankfully, the European handicap line is one that usually survives.

It may only be available at some betting vessels, while the more obscure matches may also lose this market. Generally speaking, you will be able to take advantage of the handicap line during play, although the additional lines may disappear.

Remember that, unlike Asian handicap lines, European handicap lines do not reset with each goal scored. Even with in-play bets, the handicaps take place from 0-0.

Which Elements may Influence my Selection Process?

The European handicap line isn’t one where you should act on gut instinct alone. There are several key elements that can all be researched to give you the best shot at making smart decisions. This list includes:

Home v Away Record

Most teams perform better at home than they do on the road. However, if you look at the stats, you can often see clear patterns.

In 2017-18, Manchester City won 16 of their 19 Premier League home matches, but 13 of those were by at least two goals. As such, you’d have been far better backing the -1 European handicap to gain three extra losses but 13 winners with increased odds.

Conversely, Manchester United won only eight of their 19 matches by two or more goals despite picking up 15 wins. Since they are usually heavy favourites, backing the visitors on a + handicap could have worked well on several occasions.

Player Injuries & Suspensions

If the star striker is missing, it will reduce a team’s chances of scoring a lot of goals, even when it doesn’t stop them from winning.

For example, Harry Kane missing for Tottenham Hotspur may not stop them from beating someone like Southampton. However, the margin of victory may be smaller.

Then again, if a weaker team is missing defenders, it could open the door for the favourites to pounce and rack up a big scoreline.

Fixture Lists

Managing the fixture list is one of the most complex challenges of a manager. When a prominent midweek fixture is coming up, elite team managers may be happy to see a comfortable 1-0 victory, even when playing against inferior opposition.

Meanwhile, if a team has recently dropped points, they may wish to respond in style. Likewise, a team playing before a rival may want to rack up a big score to pile on even more pressure.

Head-to-head results, average goals scored, and a host of other situations will influence the situation. With the proper analysis, though, spotting the value should be easy.

European Handicap Strategies

The European handicap line opens the door to a host of new opportunities. But betting blindly without thinking about the strategy can be dangerous.

As well as conducting the necessary research mentioned above to confirm your selection is correct, knowing when to place those bets is equally vital.

Here are three scenarios to consider.

European Handicap Strategy #1: Goal Difference Matters

Several issues can impact the manner in which a team approaches a game, and goal difference can be one of the most significant.

When a strong team needs to win by as many goals as possible to pile the pressure on another team, perhaps for Champions League qualification, this may result in a game where sitting back on a 2-0 isn’t viable. This can open up a fantastic chance to back the team on a – European handicap line.

Conversely, a weaker team may need to play damage limitation to boost their hopes of survival. If even going 1-0 down isn’t going to force them into adopting a more attacking approach, you may wish to look at the + European handicap line.

Suppose the margin of victory feels almost as crucial as the result. In that case, this market is an ideal option for seeking value.

European Handicap Strategy #2: Two-Legged Cup Matches

Two-legged cup football takes on a unique flavour, which can be embraced by a European handicap bettor. If it’s the first leg, the home team will want to build a healthy lead, while the away team is probably happy for a draw or one-goal loss.

Depending on your feelings about the specific match, betting accordingly on this market makes a lot of sense.

As for leg two, the current score changes everything. If a team is 2-0 down, just winning the game isn’t enough. This is when you may wish to back them on the – European handicap line.

Then again, the team that is winning is happy to contain. You may focus on the + line if they have a strong defence.

Either way, the fact that it’s not all about these 90 minutes can significantly influence the momentum and impetus.

European Handicap Strategy #3: Building Accumulators

The European handicap market can greatly minimise your risk by backing teams on the + line. Likewise, you could look at one of the lines that offer a higher price than the straight match result. Both options are great ways to improve your accumulator bets.

It’s unlikely that your coupon will be made up exclusively from selections on this market, but adding one or two can be a fantastic solution.

Most bookies will accept this as a part of the accumulator, although you won’t be able to combine this with other options from the same game. So, you can’t combine this with a goalscorer or a BTTS bet.

Building accumulators that include selections from this market could improve your results.

So, Should I use the European Handicap Line?

Definitely, it’s not always going to be the best option. Still, it is a market where selections on both the + and – elements can produce big results. For that reason alone, it is a line you should always check when weighing up which bets are worth confirming.

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