A European handicap is a form of handicapping in betting whereby one selection is given a deficit to overcome in order to even out a sporting context. A European handicap differs from Asian handicapping as a draw remains a possibility. A European handicap can also be referred to as a single handicap or a 3-way handicap.
The aim of European handicapping is to even up a market by giving an outcome deemed inferior a greater chance of winning. Bookies assign the more likely outcome a handicap to make this outcome's chance of success more difficult and consequently make a one sided event a more attractive prospect to bet on.
For example, if Manchester City were playing Port Vale, Manchester City would be considered heavy favourites. A Manchester City win would be assigned very short odds and would offer very small returns as this would be regarded as highly likely. As a result, this would not be a very attractive fixture to bet on.
In order to make the fixture more interesting, a bookmaker would add a handicap to Manchester City - such as that they have a three goal deficit to overcome and must beat Port Vale by four goals in order to win - and therefore offer longer odds.
How does European handicapping work?
European handicapping gives one side a virtual handicap to overcome and/or one side a virtual lead.
Selections are given a whole number handicap and a draw remains a possible outcome.
Liverpool (-1) Draw (-1) Everton (+2)
If you bet on Liverpool, this selection is successful if they win by a two-goal margin or more as their handicap of -1 effectively means they have started the game 1-0 down.
If you bet on a draw, this selection is successful if Liverpool win by a single goal, as a draw has a handicap of -1 and Liverpool have effectively started the game 1-0 down.
If you bet on Everton, this selection is successful if they win, draw or lose by only one goal, as the +2 handicap effectively means they begin the game 2-0 up.
The benefits of European handicapping
As European handicapping gives the more fancied teams a deficit to overcome, it gives bettors more value when betting on favourites. It also makes seemingly lopsided contests more interesting
Additionally, even if the team that you have backed loses, you can still win the bet due to the handicap.
However, unlike with Asian handicapping, a draw remains a possibility with European handicapping. This means that a European handicap is a 1x2 bet as there are three possible outcomes, and therefore the chance of selecting the correct outcome is effectively 33.3% - as opposed to 50% with an Asian handicap.
How to use European handicapping in betting
An effective way to use European handicapping in betting is by using implied probability to look for European handicap bets that offer value.
For example, if odds of 2.00 were offered for Manchester United (-2) to beat West Brom, this would give an implied probability of 50% of United beating West Brom by three goals or more. However, you may consider the actual probability of United beating West Brom by three goals or more closer to 60% - perhaps due to United's form, recent goal scoring record, injuries to West Brom's backline or West Brom's poor away form - meaning this bet would have value and would be a European handicap bet worth making.