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In horse racing a handicap race is where differing amounts of weights are added to the saddles of the horses in an attempt to even the chance of each horse winning.
If the handicapper has done their job correctly then all the horses should cross the finish line at the same time. This – of course – does not happen but it is a good illustration of how handicaps are supposed to make betting more interesting even when there is a clear favourite.
Handicaps are not just limited to horse racing. Any points-based sport has its own version of a handicap bet. Again, the idea is to make a wager more attractive by levelling the field of play between the two teams or players.
In a football match Arsenal might be clear favourites to beat Leeds. But a handicap may give two goals (+2) to Leeds to start with. This would mean that if a bet was placed on Leeds to win and Arsenal won the match 1-0 then the bet would still be a winner as with the handicap Leeds still won 2-1.
It is important to note that the handicap only applies to the one side of the bet. Here it would only be +2 for Leeds, not -2 for Arsenal as well.
A handicap bet makes even the most one sided of events an even contest and is enjoyed by bettors who see it as a real test of knowledge.
The Grand National is one of the most famous handicap horse races in the world. The horses need to jump 30 fences to win the biggest prize in European jump racing – £1 million in 2017.