One of the reasons that bookmakers are so profitable is that they get their odds right in the vast majority of cases.
By ‘right’, we mean that they are able to compile odds in a way that accurately reflects the probability of an outcome happening – while building a profit margin, or ‘over round’, in on top.
What that means for tennis punters is that it becomes more difficult to ‘beat the bookies’ long term, although it’s not impossible when you are able to spot value opportunities on the rare occasions that the odds-makers haven’t quite got it right.
Another avenue via which chances can be found is in handicap betting, which you can use to maximise your value when you come to place your tennis bets.
Tennis Handicap Betting Overview
In betting terms, a handicap is a hypothetical advantage or disadvantage applied to the final score.
A favourite will be given a negative number as a handicap, the size of which will be determined by just how heavily they are favoured to win. In contrast, the underdog will be handed a positive number.
In horse racing, the job of the handicapper is to create a race in which all of the horses have an equal chance of winning, by applying a weight disadvantage to the classier operators in the field.
Tennis handicaps are similar, taking games/sets from the stronger player in a bid to create a ‘pick ‘em’ betting market. The example below illustrates the point perfectly:
Novak Djokovic is, evidently, a better player than Grigor Dimitrov, and so the bookmakers have given him a -6.5 game handicap (and rewarded Dimitrov with a +6.5 handicap).
So, we take the final score and apply the 6.5 game handicap to see who would win. Djokovic handicap bets would land if he won seven or more clear games, while Dimitrov backers will prevail should the Bulgarian win the match or lose by six or fewer games.
Advantages of Handicap Betting
If you take a look at the odds from the Djokovic vs Dimitrov match, you will see that the Serbian is available at a price as short as 1/9 – not exactly a value proposition, although we cash our bets no matter what score line he wins by.
By taking the handicap odds, however, we are able to get a better return from our bet if our selection does the business.
Handicap betting is a great way to bet on a favourite in a match you expect to be one sided. So, if you think Djokovic will hand Dimitrov a good thrashing, the handicap odds would be of interest because there’s inherently more value here than in the match betting market.
Conversely, you might think that Dimitrov will give Djokovic a good game. By betting on the handicap, you can still win your bet even if the underdog doesn’t prevail but gives a good account of himself.
In other matches, you might be anticipating a close contest that is too difficult to call. Betting on the underdog here can be a way to cash in on your prediction.
What Is Game Handicap Betting In Tennis?
There are two types of handicap betting in tennis: game or set.
The Djokovic vs Dimitrov example above is game handicap betting, and the final outcome is determined by adding all of the games together to create a total.
So, if Djokovic wins 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, his total is 18 and Dimitrov’s is 9.
Therefore, bets on the Serbian’s -6.5 handicap would win, because he has prevailed by nine games.
Now let’s imagine Djokovic wins 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. The totals here are Djokovic (24) and Dimitrov (21), and in this instance wagers on the Bulgarian with a +6.5 handicap would be successful.
What Is Set Handicap Betting In Tennis?
All of the same rules outlined above apply to set handicap betting as well.
In best-of-five matches, there are only four possible score lines – 2-0, 2-1, 0-2, 1-2 – which makes this market a whole lot easier to understand.
In men’s Grand Slam matches, the uptick to best-of-seven provides more possible set score outcomes.
The favourite may have a -1.5 or -2.5 set handicap line, while the underdog will be afforded a +1.5 or +2.5 based upon their perceived chance of avoiding the whitewash.