Handicap betting, also known as line betting or spread points, is a bet type that gives one team a virtual handicap to overcome by the end of the match. In simple terms, handicapping levels the playing field, giving the weaker team an equal chance to win the game; however, there's more to understanding handicapping in rugby than just knowing what it does.
Before you start betting on rugby, or any other sport, you first need to understand how to use Money Line, and only then can you progress to handicap betting, which often offers more value. However, anyone with basic knowledge of betting will understand Money Line – which is essentially betting on which team will win – so it won't be challenging to progress to handicap betting.
There isn't too much that goes into explaining what handicap betting in rugby is. The handicap in rugby betting refers to a team's imaginary advantage or disadvantage relative to their perceived strength.
The bookmakers will offer handicaps to make the game more balanced and level the playing field while offering you a bit more flexibility with your bets.
If a team is expected to win, they will be given a negative handicap, which they will need to overcome for your bet to win. In contrast, a team with a positive handicap is expected to lose and can afford to draw or lose by less than the offered figure for your bet to win.
When betting on rugby with handicaps, you will see a wide range of figures to choose from. The numbers will depend on how strong/weak one team is perceived to be, with some instances offering even double digits handicaps.
For this example, we will take a look at a match between Western Province and Pumas. Western Province enter the match as the stronger team and are priced as -278 favorites, while Pumas are priced as underdogs at +220.
Since Western Province are expected to win, the bookmakers will offer a negative handicap on them and a positive handicap on Pumas. For this example, let's say that the handicap is set at 7 points.
By picking Western Province with a -7 points handicap, you're predicting that they will win the match by more than seven points. On the other hand, you could side with Punas with a +7 points handicap and expect that they will win, draw, or lose by less than seven points.
The handicap you chose gets added by the end of the game to the final score. If we assume Western Province end up winning the match 11-1 and you backed them with a -7 point handicap, your bet would win since the final score (after factoring in the handicap) would still show Western Province as the winners (4-1).
The exact same principle applies to the positive handicap, where you add the figure to the final score. In this example, your bet on Pumas +7 points handicap wouldn't hit since they would still end up as losers (11-8).
The above example is fairly simple - you pick a positive or negative handicap and add/deduct the figure to the final score. But what about handicaps that aren't whole numbers?
Handicaps are usually written in full numbers (ex. +7); however, you can also bet with half-point handicaps (ex. 7.5). Although it might seem like a complex bet, the whole process is exactly the same as with whole number handicaps.
The only big difference the half-point handicap introduces is that it removed the possibility of a draw – since teams in rugby can't score half points.
For this example, we will assume that you bet on Pumas with a +7.5 handicap against Western province, and they lost 3-10. Even though Pumas lost the game convincingly, your bet would still win since the final score – after factoring in the 7.5 handicap – would end in their favor (10.5-10).
We have talked about how handicap betting in rugby is used to level the playing field by putting stronger teams at a disadvantage and giving teams that are perceived to be weaker a head start. So what is the point of the +/-0 handicap?
The +0 handicap does not follow the aforementioned rules since it "gives" a team a zero-point advantage. And while zero-point handicap might seem like an outlier, it perfectly illustrates the main reason why people use Handicap betting in rugby – to avoid losing money on a draw.
The zero-point handicap is essentially the same thing as a Draw No Bet (DNB), which removes the possibility of a draw. If you bet on Team A with a +0 handicap and they end up winning, your bet would hit, whereas a draw would result in your stake refunded.
If you draw a line, handicap betting is straightforward to understand. If you believe a team will win with more than X points to spare, you bet on them with the same figure handicap. Alternatively, if you believe that the Y team will not lose by more than X points, you bet on them with a positive handicap.
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