As the name suggests, betting on football using Asian Handicaps is particularly popular in the Far East, however it remains surprisingly less popular in other European countries. Ask any semi-pro or pro gambler of their preferred market and chances are Asian Handicaps will feature high up their list. This is no coincidence – the Asian Handicap market tends to offer better value than other more popular football markets, which gives a better chance of sustained profit over the long-term.
It is not surprising though that the ‘normal’ punter chooses not to use the Asian Handicap market. It is not the easiest of concepts to get your head around, particularly when dealing with a quarter or half a goal advantage or disadvantage. When faced with bets such as Manchester United -0.25 or Aston Villa +0.75, it is hardly surprising that many punters will bet on more straightforward markets such as 1×2, Overs or Both Teams To Score.
The truth though is that it is not as complicated as you first think and a Maths degree is not a pre-requisite to delving into the world of handicaps. The concept is relatively simple in fact. The bookie gives a disadvantage – or handicap – to the team that he feels is most likely to win and an advantage to the team that he feels is the underdog. This handicap relates to the number of goals – or fractions of goals – that the teams start the match with.
This handicap is expressed as quarter, half or full goals and is either positive or negative depending on whether we are talking about the favourite or underdog. As an example, +1.5 means that the underdog goes into the game with a one and a half goal lead, whilst -1 means that the favourite begins the game one goal down. The punter is left with the option of either backing the favourite to score more than the handicap or to side with the underdog to keep the handicap intact.
There are three different kinds of Asian Handicaps which are explained in detail below:
The Full Goal Asian Handicap
The full goal Asian Handicap uses a whole number to give the underdog a head start and the favourite a disadvantage. A positive value is used for the weaker team, e.g. +1, +2, +3, and a negative value is used for the stronger team, e.g. -1, -2, -3.
There are three possible outcomes to the full goal Asian Handicap bet meaning that you could win, you could lose or you could have your stake returned (void or push) depending on the outcome of the game.
Let’s use an example to explain how this would work in practice. BetVictor shows a -1 / +1 Asian Handicap line for the Premier League game between Southampton and Leicester City. This means that Southampton have a one goal disadvantage, whilst Leicester have a one goal advantage prior to the start of the game.
If you were to back Southampton -1 AH at 1.78, then you would need The Saints to be victorious by more than one goal in order to win the bet. If they won by one goal, then the bet would be void and you’d have your stake returned. If Leicester won the game, then your bet on Southampton would lose.
Alternatively, if you bet on Leicester +1 AH at 2.15, you would not be out of pocket unless The Foxes lost by a two goal margin. This means that a Leicester win or a draw would result in profit, whilst losing by one goal would still see your stake returned as the bet is settled as a push.
The fact that the full goal Asian Handicap allows the stake to be returned is one of the attractive things associated with betting in this way. Leicester City could lose the match but you wouldn’t be out of pocket if they lost by one goal as you would have your stake returned. This helps to lower your risk when compared to the 1×2 market where you only win if the final outcome matches the one you chose at the start of the match.
The below table shows what would happen to your bet based on the different scorelines of the Southampton v Leicester match:
If the game ends in a draw
If the game ends in a Southampton win
If the game ends in a Leicester City win
It’s worthwhile mentioning that an Asian Handicap of 0 is also possible. This basically means that both teams are starting on a level playing field (as they are in reality), so if a team wins, your bet wins. The difference here though is that the draw has been removed, so if the match ends in a draw, your stake is returned. This is exactly the same as the Draw No Bet option which bookmakers also offer.
Half Goal Asian Handicap
As the name suggests, the half goal Asian Handicap uses half goal increments to give the underdog a head start whilst disadvantaging the favourite. The weaker team is given a positive half goal lead, e.g. +0.5, +1.5, +2.5, and the stronger side is given a negative disadvantage, e.g. -0.5, -1.5, -2.5.
Compared to full goal Asian Handicaps where there are three outcomes to your bet, the half goal Asian Handicap has just two possible outcomes – either your bet wins or it loses. The void or push option in the full goal Asian Handicap is no longer present because a team is unable to score half a goal, thus effectively eliminating the draw.
Let’s use another example to show how this would work in practice. In the Champions League encounter between Ajax and Barcelona, BetVictor shows a +1.5 / -1.5 Asian Handicap line. This effectively means that the game starts with Ajax holding a 1.5 goal lead over their Spanish opponents.
If you were to bet on Ajax +1.5 at odds of 1.93, then you would be hoping that the Dutch side do not concede their 1.5 goal advantage. As a team cannot score half a goal, this basically means that your bet wins unless Ajax lose by a margin of two or more goals.
On the flip side, if you back Barcelona -1.5 at odds of evens, then you are looking for them to win the match by a margin of two or more goals. An Ajax win or a draw would see the bet lose, as would a Barcelona win by a one goal margin. This is where Asian Handicaps can confuse as the team you backed win the match, but your bet is still a loser as the handicap line has not been covered.
The table below shows what would happen to your bet based on the different scorelines of the Ajax v Barcelona encounter:
If the game ends in a draw
If the game ends in an Ajax win
If the game ends in a Barcelona win
Quarter Goal Asian Handicap
The quarter goal Asian Handicap uses increments of a quarter to alter the start of the game. As always, the underdog receives a positive head start of a quarter, e.g. +0.25, +0.75, +1.25, whilst the favourite is given a negative quarter goal disadvantage, e.g. -0.25, -0.75, -1.25. The quarter goal Asian Handicap can be written as a fraction (as above) or it can be written with two numbers, e.g. 0, +0.5 or -1.00, -1.50.
It is pretty simple to switch between the two methods – the single digit version is simply the mean of the double digit version. For instance -0.75 is the same as -0.50, -1.00 and +2.25 is the same as +2.00, +2.50. There’s nothing more complex to it than that, it’s just that bookmakers often have different preferences.
As such, the quarter goal is often seen as the most difficult of the Asian Handicaps to understand because it takes concepts from both the full goal and half goal Asian Handicaps. It does this by effectively splitting your stake in two so that half of the stake goes on the lower value and the other half goes on the higher value. So as an example, +0.75 is the same as +0.50, +1.00, so 50% of your stake would go on the lower value (+0.50) and the other 50% going on the higher value (+1.00). The bet is then run as two separate bets before being combined and settled as one.
There are four possible outcomes to your bet depending on which Asian Handicap you have chosen. This could be a win, a loss, a half win or a half loss. A win would see both stakes of the bet win, a loss would see both stakes lose, a half win would see one half of the stake win and the other be a void (half stake returned), whilst a half loss would involve half the stake losing and the other being void (half stake returned).
As an example, on BetVictor, we see that the Serie A fixture between Udinese and Chievo has a -0.75 / +0.75 Asian Handicap line. Remember, this is the same as -0.50, -1.00 / +0.50, +1.00 which allows you to see the full goal and half goal equivalents.
If you were to bet on Udinese -0.75 at odds of 1.95, you’d be looking for Udinese to win the game by a two goal margin to nearly double your money. The difference here though is that if Udinese won by a one goal margin, you would still make profit as the -0.50 part of the bet is settled as a win whilst the -1.00 element is void and results in the half stake being returned.
If you were to bet on Chievo +0.75 at odds of 1.95, you’d be hoping for Chievo not to surrender their handicap, with a win or draw both favourable results for your bet. However, if Chievo were to lose by a one goal margin, you would only lose half of your stake, which is obviously the best of a worst case scenario for the punter. This is because the -0.50 element of the bet is settled as a loss, but the -1.00 part results in a void and the half stake returned.
The table below shows the different connotations based on example scorelines of the Udinese v Chievo fixture:
If the game ends in a draw
If the game ends in a Udinese win
If the game ends in a Chievo win
Hopefully the above section gives a detailed description of each of the different Asian Handicaps available for punters who wish to bet on football. A few points have been mentioned above, but it’s worthwhile just highlighting why Asian Handicaps are such a good option:
Asian Handicaps ultimately remove the draw from the equation. Most football bettors who prefer the 1×2 outright market often lose out because of the draw. A punter often favours one team over the other and rarely goes for the dull option of a tie, so you effectively have a 33% chance. By removing the draw, the punter is left with just two outcomes and the likelihood of winning increases to around 50%. This brings the game of football more in line with other sports, such as basketball or baseball, where the two mismatched teams are given as close to a 50/50 chance of winning as possible by tinkering with the Asian Handicap line. This has the added benefit of meaning that you are more likely to get odds around evens rather than betting on a favourite at odds of 1.35.
There is arguably more value available in the Asian Handicap markets compared to other markets. This is because it is thought that the bookies have a lower margin associated with Asian Handicaps because the draw option has been eliminated. You are more likely to find value if a lower margin is on offer as your perceived odds and those of the bookmaker will be closer together.
Asian Handicaps mean that even if the team you backed is defeated, your bet can still win. If you think that the underdog is likely to put in a strong performance for whatever reason, e.g. the favourite has played in the Champions League mid-week or their star player is injured, or the handicap set is too high, e.g. in a cup competition where a large handicap is present (e.g. +3.00, +4.00 etc), then Asian Handicaps are the way forward. You could bet on the favourite at ridiculously low odds or you could back the underdog at really high odds, but the sensible thing is to look at the Asian Handicap and hope that the winning margin is kept low.
Similarly to point 3, Asian Handicaps ensure that the draw is on your side, which means you have the option of having your stake returned if things don’t go to plan. This is obviously not possible when betting on the outright market. If you think that the underdog is likely to put in a strong performance or that the favourite is out of form, then betting on the +1.00 Asian Handicap line for instance, means that the underdog can still lose but you won’t be out of pocket as your stake is returned as the bet is settled as void.
The Asian Handicap market also sometimes provides a higher price than other, more mainstream markets. You may have noticed, for instance, that betting on a favourite at -0.50 is exactly the same as backing them to win on the 1×2. Similarly, backing a team with +0.50 is the same as Double Chance (win or draw). Another similarity is the Asian Handicap line of 0, which is the same as Draw No Bet. As an example, if you are looking to bet on Chelsea to win, you may get slightly higher odds looking at the Asian Handicap -0.50 (odds of 1.90) rather than the outright win in the 1×2 market (odds of 1.85). This may sound like small margins, but £100 bet on the former rather than the latter would result in an extra £5 profit.
The Asian Handicap market is often seen as complex and confusing, but once you understand the concept, you will rarely look at betting on football in the same way. Why not have a look next time you’re thinking of placing a bet?
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