What is a European Handicap?

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European handicap is a betting system where opposing teams in a match are given a whole number deficit or surplus of goals before the start of the game. The aim is to even out the playing field and reduce the difference in odds, so the underdog gets the goal advantage while the favourite gets the goal disadvantage.

European Handicap Explained

Let’s take an example of a European handicap bet using a Champions League matchup between Real Madrid and Club Brugge.

  • Real Madrid -1 (1.70 odds)
  • Draw -1 (3.60 odds)
  • Club Brugge +1 (2.90 odds)

Here the handicap margin is 1, and the possible outcomes are:

  • If Real Madrid wins by 2 or more goals, the home bet wins.
  • If Real Madrid wins by 1 goal, the draw bet wins.
  • If Real Madrid plays a draw or loses the match, the home bet loses.
  • If Club Brugge wins or draws, the away bet wins.
  • If Club Brugge loses by 1 goal, the draw bet wins.
  • If Club Brugge loses by 2 or more goals, the away bet loses.

At the online sportsbook, this market will be written like this:

Real Madrid vs Club Brugge

  • EH 1 (-1): 1.70
  • EH X (-1): 3.60
  • EH 2 (+1): 2.90

The draw -1 implies both Real Madrid -1 or Club Brugge +1 and can be written either way. Both refer to the outcome that is exactly on the given margin.

Here’s the -/+1 European handicap table:

LineGame Total GoalsBet Result
1 (-1)Win by 2 or moreWin
Win by 1Lose
Draw or loseLose
X (-1)Favourite wins by 1/ Underdog loses by 1Win
2 (+1)Win or drawWin
Lose by 1Lose
Lose by 2 or moreLose


Bookies also offer European handicaps on margins of 2, 3, etc. As such, you can find multiple handicap markets for the same event.

European Handicap Compared to Asian Handicap

It is clear that the European handicap rules are quite similar to the standard 1×2 market, the only difference being that the bet is settled after adjusting for the handicap. For this reason, it is also referred to as a three-way handicap.

This is a major distinguishing factor from the Asian handicap, which is characterized by the absence of a draw outcome. The Asian handicap would void the bet and refund your stake if a draw occurs. The Asian handicap, although more complicated, is also more versatile and can have handicaps such as 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.25, 1.5, etc. With the European variant, only whole number score lines are used.

The presence of these two variants provides a loophole for arbitrage betting. There are often significant odds disparities between Asian and European bookmakers, so by combining EH and AH bets to cover every possible outcome, it’s possible to earn a guaranteed profit.

Although Asian handicap is the more popular version available at sportsbooks worldwide, European handicap betting came long before its Asian cousin. Football is the widest application of European handicapping, but you can also find it in sports like hockey, volleyball, basketball, or the European golf handicap system.

Read more:

What is Asian Handicap?

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