Head-to-Head Betting Explained

Head-to-Head Betting Explained

Online sports betting has completely revolutionized the industry with new ways to bet. Nowadays, picking the winner is not enough. Punters are looking for new and innovative ways to wager where head-to-head bets come in. While they are mostly similar to picking a winner in a standard match, there are crucial differences between them.

This guide will explain the head-to-head betting meaning and definition and tell you how to wager in this exciting market.

What Is Head-to-Head Betting?

As mentioned, H2H betting is a standard form of gambling in sports where you pick one athlete or team to finish ahead of the other. If your selection finishes above the other, you win your bet. Not in a direct match where you choose a winner – head-to-heads can pit any player or team against another in a competition. For example, in a golf tournament with 100 participants, a pair of players might be offered an H2H wager, with you picking the winner.

This exciting market can be tailored to any sport. Esports, Formula 1, horse racing, football, tennis – a head-to-head bet works on them. This wager doesn’t matter if your pick wins the match or the tournament – it only matters who wins the virtual matchup.

Head-to-head sports betting is picking up serious steam as it’s a fun way to put your money on matchups that don’t happen for real. For example, the real money bookie might offer 2 pairs in a tennis match, and it’s up to you to choose if one player does better. This type of betting can be tailored for teams and is popular since it doesn’t require you to pick the winner of a match or a tournament.

The reward for these matchups is usually great, but that depends on the bookie and the H2H. Sometimes, it isn’t worth it, while other times, the odds are better than they would be in a match between those 2 particular opponents. It’s about finding value in the bets and putting enough money into them.

Head-to-Head or Team-based Betting?

It is a tough choice to make. Nowadays sports betting suggests a variety of options and systems to choose from. Team-based gambling allows you to pick a team winner of a match, competition, or tournament. Regarding betting head-to-head, it’s a virtual matchup that doesn’t occur. Think of it as an imaginary match between 2 players or teams, and you have to pick which finishes above the other.

Punters consider it more entertaining than team-based betting, and we like the idea too. It would be better to try both approaches and see which suits your wants and needs more.

How Does Head-to-Head Betting Work?

Head-to-head contests might sound confusing, but the process is very simple. It is a competition that puts 2 players or teams contesting directly against each other in a tournament, so the market is always offered in pairs.

Below are a few examples to put sports betting h2h into perspective.

Head-to-Head Betting Examples

Let’s see a Formula 1 example:

  • Charles Leclerc vs. Max Verstappen

Both Leclerc and Verstappen compete in F1. While they might not often fight for the top spot, with a head-to-head bet, in this case, you’re wagering on who finishes best. For example, a bet on Leclerc will win if he finishes 2nd but ahead of Verstappen from the 3rd spot down.

You might get h2h odds that put Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal in tennis. You pick one of the players to win the match, and you will win your bet if they defeat their opponent.

How to Place a Head-to-Head Bet

Placing a head-to-head stake is easy at the best high-stakes bookies. Find the betting head/to/head market on which you want to put your money, click on the odds, and enter your stake. It’s that easy.

Head-to-Head Props

Another exciting thing about head-to-head betting is that sportsbooks have gotten creative with offering this market to punters. Punters can now find additional betting opportunities for H2H bets via prop betting. This option always surrounds wagering on whether or not a player or team can reach some specified statistics or achieve particular milestones. The best part is that this head to head props are available across most sports. However, the offering will vary depending on the sportsbooks.

Some of the standard head-to-head props that you can come across while betting include:

  • Which Nascar driver will record the fastest lap?
  • Will both Nascar drivers finish the race?
  • Which golfer will card the lowest score in round one?
  • Will either golfer finish in the top five
  • How many sets will the tennis match go?
  • Will either tennis player win in straight sets?
  • Will a specific NBA player record more goals/rebounds/assists/blocks than another?
  • Will a specific NFL quarterback throw more yards/touchdowns than the other?
  • Will a specific MLB player have more hits/home runs/runs/stolen bases than another?

What Sports Can Head-to-Head Betting Be Used for?

Head-to-head betting can be applied to virtually any sport. Whether it’s football, basketball, tennis, Esports, Nascar racing, horse racing, or golf, you’ll find no shortage of h2h markets.

Head-to-Head Esports Betting

The rise of Esports in recent years has led to the availability of the sport for punters in the betting scene. Head-to-head betting is one of the popular options many punters opt for in Esports. In Esports, head-to-head betting involves wagering on the outcome of a direct competition between two specific Esports teams or players. Like the H2H betting options, this one, too, focuses on the performance of selected players or teams against each other rather than the outcome of the overall tournament or event.

Depending on the sportsbook, you typically find head-to-head bet markets on CS:GO, DOTA 2, LoL, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty Warzone, Fortnite, Overwatch, etc.

CS:GO Head-to-Head Betting

As one of the top Esports betting markets, CSGO is perfect for head-to-head bets. Choose the player or team you think will win the match, and watch how the action unfolds with live streams.

Meaning of H2H in Football Betting

Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport worldwide, with a massive global fanbase. As such, the sport receives the most attention from bettors, making it an excellent option for sportsbooks to offer head-to-head bets.

Since it’s a team sport, head-to-head in football refers to the typical standard bet that pits a team against its opponent in a football game. In football, this refers to the match result or 1X2 wager. You back the “1” option if you believe the home team will win or back “2” if you think the away team has the advantage. The “X” bet is the option that covers the event of a draw during a game.

For example, let’s say that Liverpool is set to play Newcastle in an EPL matchup in the former’s home. A typical sportsbook will offer this market to punters:

1 X 2

Liverpool vs. Newcastle




In this head-to-head market, you can back Liverpool, potentially winning $68 in profit for every $100 you stake. A bet on the draw is more lucrative and can yield $250 for every $100. The biggest H2H payout possible here is backing Newcastle, the home team, to get $425 for a $100 wager. Like most head-to-head bets, your selected outcome must happen for you to win.

Tennis Head-to-Head Betting

Tennis is different from football as it is an individual sport. Instead of betting on a team, you will be backing a player to win against another in a head-to-head bet. And with several tournaments and competitions happening all year round, punters will find many opportunities for tennis head-to-head bets.

In tennis H2H, bookmakers will provide many pairings of tennis players leading up to events based on the matches set for the tournament. And you can back anyone you believe have an advantage over their contender. To win this bet, the player you back has to win the matchup.

US Open Head-to-Head Betting

The US Open is one of the biggest tennis tournaments that receives much attention from sports betting enthusiasts and usually comes with head-to-head wagers. So, let’s look at a typical US Open head-to-head betting example. A typical sportsbook may offer you an H2H market on Carloz Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev when the tournament is coming up.

With this market, you need to back which player you believe will best the contender. For example, if you wager on Carloz Alcaraz, you will only win the bet if he beats Medvedev and goes higher in the US Open tournament.

Head-to-Head Golf Betting

Golf is another excellent sport for head-to-head betting, with many bookmakers offering markets. A PGA tour event typically starts with up to 100 golfers, and players can place bets on different aspects of the tour.

Unlike most bets, the head-to-head golf betting option involves betting on one of the golfers to perform better than another. In the period leading up to golf competitions and events, sportsbooks will match different golfers into pairs of two and offer head-to-head bets. The goal is to predict which of the two golfers in a pair will have a better score or finish higher in the event.

For example, let’s say a sportsbook pairs up Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka for a head-to-head bet. You must decide which of the two golfers is more likely to outperform the other. If you pick Brooks Koepka, for instance, this golfer will have to have a higher rank than Rory Mcllroy for you to win the bet. He doesn’t have to be the outright winner as long as he is ahead of McIlroy.

Horse Racing Head-to-Head Betting

As one of the oldest sports in the world, horse racing also has a large market for head-to-head bets. With many different racing events, from the Cheltenham Festival to the Grand National, the American Classics, and much more, punters have many opportunities to find exciting betting options.

In horse racing, head-to-head betting is a wager that involves betting on which of two specific horses in a race’s lineup will finish ahead of another. Like the Formula 1 sport, bookmakers will pair up different horses participating in a race together, and you will predict which one will place better out of the two.

For example, let’s say that a sportsbook offers head-to-head bets towards the Grand National race, pairing up Coarach Rambler against Vanillier, among others. Should you back Corach Rambler in your head-to-head wager, you will win the bet if the horse wins the race or achieves a higher place than Vanillier. But your bet loses if Vanillier gets a higher rank than Corach Rambler.

Formula 1 Head-to-Head Betting

Formula 1 is another sport well suited for head-to-head racing. This car racing sport features some of the most anticipated events for its fans and many markets for punters looking to get some betting action.

A typical Formula 1 race has 20 drivers, with every one of them vying for a win. Instead of the typical race-winner bet, Formula 1 head-to-head betting involves wagering on the performance of two pairs of drivers against each other in a race. The task is to pick which of the two players will perform better during the race and finish in a higher position.

The best part about Formula 1 head-to-head betting is that your selected driver doesn’t necessarily have to take first place for you to win the bet. The driver must finish in a higher position than the contender paired to the bet.

For example, you may find a sportsbook that pairs up Max Verstappen against Lewis Hamilton in a Head-to-Head bet during an F1 race. Let’s say you think Max Verstappen has the advantage, and you placed your bet on him. In this case, your selected driver doesn’t have to take first place for you to win the bet. Your bet is a winner if Verstappen’s position is higher than Lewis Hamilton’s.

Nascar Head-to-Head Betting

Another great sport for Head to Head betting is NASCAR races, similar to horse racing and Formula 1 H2H betting. The sport gets much attention from a huge fan base and receives much action in the betting scene.

A typical NASCAR race features anywhere between 36 to 40 drivers or more, and sportsbooks would offer bets on the race winners. But the head-to-head is different. In NASCAR head-to-head betting, the sportsbook would match up two different drivers scheduled to participate in an upcoming race. From any pairing, bettors will pick which driver they think will perform better and finish in a higher place.

Like in horse racing and F1 races, the race’s overall result is unimportant. What matters is that the selected driver finishes ahead of the paired contender. For example, a bookmaker may pair Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola in a head-to-head bet for an upcoming NASCAR race. Let’s say you back Alex Bowman to come out on top. 

You don’t need Alex Bowman to win the race to win this bet. Even if he finishes in the 36th out of 40 positions, you will win the bet if Aric Almirola is in any of the last four positions (37th-40th).

NFL H2H Betting

America’s beloved pastime, the National Football League (NHL), is not left out in head-to-head betting. As a team sport, this betting market is similar to football. It involves a standard moneyline wager where you bet on the outcome of a match between two NFL teams, specifically the game-winner.

Here, you simply back the team you believe has the higher winning chances on your bet. If your selected team is victorious, you win your bet. But if they lose the game, you will also lose your bet.

For example, if the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots face off in a match on an NFL game day, you can place a head-to-head bet on who you think will win. Should you back the Kansas City Chiefs, and they win the game, your bet wins. But if the Patriots end up as the winner, you lose your wager.

Calculating Head-to-Head Bet Payouts

The return you can expect from head-to-head bets depends on the odds on offer. Underdogs offer more money if you get it right, while favourites pay less, but they are the safer choice.

Calculate a Payout for a Back Bet

When placing a back bet in an H2H, you calculate the payout using the formula odds * stake=return. If you need to subtract the commission, the payout will be a bit lower. For example, if you place a wager of €10 on a back bet of 3.00, the return without commission would be €30. Most bookies and sports betting exchanges have a calculator that easily checks the potential payout.

Calculate a Payout for a Lay Bet

Calculating the payout for lay bets in head-to-head sports betting is simple, too, if you use the calculator the bookie/exchange offers. If you still want to calculate it, the formula is stake * 0.98=profit.

Using the example above, a lay bet of €10 on odds of 3.00 means a potential return of €9.8. This return includes the bookie’s commission fee.

Tips for Using Head-to-Head Betting

As with any form of sports betting, no strategy can guarantee you a win while placing head-to-head bets on sports. You will win some of your wagers, and you will lose some. You can do little about that, as sports matches are inherently unpredictable.

However, there are some things that you can do and common mistakes that you can avoid to improve your winning chances with your bets. Let’s look at some of these tips:

  • Do your research: Before engaging in any head-to-head bet, always researching the teams/players involved is crucial. Check out their form, past performance, record, any mention of injuries, and other relevant stats. Doing this can help you make the right decision.
  • Don’t bet if you are unsure: Most punters make a mistake by placing bets on uncertain outcomes to avoid missing out on an action. Suppose you find a head-to-head game and can’t pick a winner between the options. It’s best not to bet. Just move on to more promising wagers.
  • Bet on the sports you know: When engaging in head-to-head betting, it’s best to only focus on the sports and bets you are knowledgeable about. Sportsbooks are sharp, and you can find yourself on the losing end if you don’t know what you are doing.
  • Shop around for the best odds: The odds provided by sportsbooks online differ from one site to another. So, visiting multiple bookmakers and finding the best online odds is best.
  • Practice bankroll management: As with any sports betting, getting carried away with your head-to-head bets is quite easy. So, practice responsible gaming and stay within your budget with the money you can afford to lose.

Head-to-Head Betting Pros & Cons

As you might have already inferred, head-to-head betting has many benefits punters can enjoy when they place bets online. However, like most things, it also has several drawbacks that any interested punter needs to know. So, let’s explore its pros and cons.

  • H2H wager offers a more diverse betting opportunity to punters looking for more exciting markets
  • The bet is quite straightforward to understand and use
  • The research and analysis involved in H2H betting allow punters to increase their knowledge about sports and betting
  • Sportsbooks decide head-to-head betting lines, and you cannot choose your own
  • Typically features relatively short odds for bets with good value
  • It can be stressful and time-consuming to research and embark on, especially for beginners with little to no experience

Final Words

We hope our head-to-head betting definition guide tells you everything you need to know about this type of betting. It’s an exciting way that breaks free from traditional bets while keeping the same factor that’s easy to understand. If you’re looking to wager on teams or players without sticking to moneyline bets, head-to-heads are the real deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does head-to-head mean in betting?
    H2H betting allows punters to back or lay a team or player but not in a direct match between the 2. For example, it can be a bet on which driver records the fastest lap, which player wins in straight sets in a tennis match, or the winning margin in an NBA match.
  • What is a head-to-head match?
    A head contest or match is one in which players or teams compete directly against each other. Think of it as a head-to-head battle between 2 teams in a competition without having to wager on an actual match between the 2.
  • Can you make money on head-to-head betting?
    Yes, you can. Head-to-head sports betting can be lucrative and fun, but ultimately, the potential returns depend on the odds offered.
  • Still have questions?
    Ask our experts
Sergio E
CEO & Founder

Sergio is our CEO and betting expert. He is a big football fan. Sergio is the guy that runs it all and the one who got the BetZillion idea. Sergio’s favourite sports include football, handball, futsal, American football, and boxing.

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