What Does Handicap Mean in Sports

Have you ever wondered what does handicap mean in sports? We have the answer.

Key Points

– Handicap, in relation to sports, is often misunderstood.

– Any bettor that has done more than just bet with his gut has handicapped a sporting event.

What Does Handicap Mean in Sports?

Those interested in sports betting will often wonder what does handicap mean in sports? 

We hear the word ‘handicap’ a lot in relation to sports, but it doesn’t mean what many people may think.

The term ‘handicap’ in sports refers to a method of offsetting the different abilities and skills of competitors in sporting events in an attempt to equalize their chances of winning.

Handicapping assigns some sort of advantage through scoring compensation to certain competitors to equalize the likelihood of winning. The term is used widely in sports betting. 

Sports bettors themselves actively engage in handicapping when they determine how to bet on certain sporting events. Pro cappers are people that commit their lives to handicapping sports. Their sports handicapping skills are good enough to charge for their picks. Helping bettors win more bets.

Handicapping College Basketball

Handicapping can best be explained using examples. Let’s use the following college basketball matchup as an example. 

Michigan State -13.5 (-110)

Penn State +13.5 (-110)

Michigan State is clearly the favorite here. The Spartans are favored to win by 13.5 points. One look at the moneyline and we would find Michigan State is a -1250 favorite. That is a pretty overwhelming favorite.

The question then is how much better are the Spartans than the Nittany Lions? Whether Michigan State wins by 10 or 15 points, the win is just as decisive. From a bettor’s perspective though, it makes a world of difference.

How then would someone go about handicapping this game?

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Opening Odds

A bettor, or handicapper, will look at the opening odds of a matchup. In our example’s case, these initial odds give us information about how this game might be played out. 

Oddsmakers have analyzed the matchup and have come to a decision. The opening odds help to establish a baseline too as they can change as more information is introduced. If odds do change, they can always be compared to the opening odds to gain more information.


Team Performance

One of the key factors in determining a handicap and making a betting decision is how teams are performing. It goes much deeper than simply looking at records too.

Handicappers must dig into the statistics to determine why a team is playing poorly or playing well. The relative strength of the two opponents as well as any previous matchups can help in determining a betting decision.

It’s also worth looking at any streaks or trends. A team that has won 10 games in a row would be looked upon differently than a team that has lost 10 in a row. 

Trends can also be used. In baseball, for example, you may have a team that just doesn’t hit well against left-handed pitching. The team has scored three runs or fewer in each of the last six games against a left-hander. That could be a key piece of information when making a betting decision.

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The Matchup

After looking at each team individually, it is then time to look at the matchup itself. How do the two opponents match up with one another?

In baseball, a weak hitting batting order going up against an elite pitcher is a matchup that favors one team over the other. 

Handicappers will look at other matchups against similar teams. There may be a team with a similar strategy or similar personnel that can be used in determining a betting decision.

It’s also important here to check out the injury situation. When a key player – or players – is missing, that is going to have a dramatic effect on a team’s play.

Using a professional handicapper is an easy way to get a sports betting edge.

Playing at Home

Playing on a home court or field often has its advantages. The advantage is bigger in college football as compared to NFL football, for example. 

Playing in front of home fans in one’s own facilities can be a big boost to a home team. It’s also worth considering the betting public which places too much of an emphasis on home field advantage. 

Some teams do play better on the road than at home. There are teams in a number of sports where playing at home just doesn’t matter all that much. 

Most handicappers will tell you that home field advantage in football is worth 3 points. If two teams are pretty much even, the favorite will be listed at -3 at your top football sportsbook

There is plenty of other information that handicapper and bettors alike will use to make better betting decisions. There is a mountain of research available, including all sorts of analytics, in virtually every major sport nowadays. 

Bettors have much of this information at their disposal on a daily basis and can use it to handicap games in which they are interested in betting.Do you need some more info? Here’s an article we wrote based on betting on money lines with the help of pro handicappers.


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