Asian Handicaps are a form of betting mainly associated with football but the principles have been adopted for other sports but for the purpose of this article we will focus on football. Bookmakers across the world are always looking for new bets for their customers so European based operators now offer a full Asian Handicap service.
Asian Handicap betting follows the principle of any form of handicap bets in that the underdog is given a start that equates to the handicap while the favourite is asked to win a match by the number of goals in the quote. There are several types of handicap betting around the world, given different names and slight variations but the essence of a handicap bet is the same in all jurisdictions.
Basically one team in a football match is given a head start and another faces a deficit before play begins. Handicap bets are settled by adjusting the actual score by the spread to arrive at an outcome at the end of a match. Many fixtures are unevenly matched which makes the price of the favourite unattractive but the handicap levels the possibilities to create more enticing odds.
A team must overcome the handicap to win a bet. The underdog must lose by less than the handicap or draw to make that a winning bet. Odds are generally slightly less than even money to attract two way betting action. Even money is not offered across the board as the bookmaker creates a margin to earn their cut. The bigger the favourite the higher the margin of victory they must overcome.
The term Asian Handicap was first used in the late 1990’s by a journalist contributing betting related articles to the British Press and writing for a US based site called Vegas Insider. The concept was first used in Asia and was taken up in the west when the writer needed a descriptive term to describe a new form of betting. From 1998 the phrase was adopted by spread betting firms and over the intervening years became part of the vocabulary of betting. Betfair now offer Asian handicaps for betting and laying and matching bets.
Asian soccer handicap betting is described as ‘hang cheng’ which does not have a direct translation. An Indonesian bookmaker wished to introduce the concept to a new audience and the term was invented to make logical sense to the English speaking gambling community. The purpose of the phrase is to best describe the nature of the bets and which part of the world invented the type of
bet behind the term.
Asian Handicap betting is popular in parts of the world where general football betting is part of the gambling culture. More than one quarter of soccer matches across all professional leagues end in a draw after 90 minutes and injury time but excluding extra time. A draw is the third outcome in match betting but any type of handicap including the Asian form takes away the potential for a tied match. Handicaps convert three way betting to two way betting and force a winner regardless of the final score.
European or conventional handicaps are less sophisticated than the Asian type as the potential returns are basic. Similarly point spread betting on US sports are relatively straightforward. The purpose of all handicap markets is to create the mid-point in goals between a favourite and underdog in a football match. European handicaps are expressed in half goals and the calculation when
settling bets is the margin of victory compared to the handicap. Customers bet on a team to overcome or not overcome the number created by the odds compilers to present an even contest.
European bookmakers also express handicaps in full numbers. A full handicap creates a three way market as customers can bet on each team or a tie when the final score is adjusted to incorporate the handicap. Customers can back each team to beat the handicap or on the margin of victory equating to the pre-match quote. In the United States point spread handicaps are quoted for American football and baseball. European handicaps can be applied to many sports including football, tennis, rugby of both codes and snooker.
Asian handicaps are purely associated with the final score and the margin of victory when applied to football matches. In Europe and for other sports handicaps have been extended to cover a wide range of betting options. An Asian Handicap is limited while in Europe any sport and market with a scoring system can be targeted for handicap betting. Normal handicaps, for example, can be applied to the number of corners earned by each team. Big favourites in a soccer match have more possession going forward and will earn more corners so handicaps equalise corner match betting.
The major benefit of Asian Handicaps is the elimination of the draw. Sports bettors generally prefer to bet on something with a definite outcome or an either or. The basis of betting in the US is a two way option at odds of about 10/11 which is slightly less than even money. When there is betting action the odds stay the same but the line changes. The tie is not an option in half and quarter goal Asian Handicap betting. Regardless of the final score of a football match bets will be winners or losers and settled accordingly in these cases. An Asian handicap bet does not make up as a tie when non-full goal quotes are given.
A typical Asian Handicap market would list each of the two potential outcomes at about 1.95 in decimals which equates to approximately 10/11 in fractional terms. Both odds are virtually the same on each side of an Asian Handicap market. They are expressed in decimals which is more suited to bettors who have grown up using the same format on Betfair. Most Asian Handicaps are settled using the same numbers while European handicaps can make the favourite as low as 4/6 which defeats the object of equalising the probabilities and reflecting that in the relative odds for each option.
Bookmakers create Asian handicap market for in-play betting. A normal handicap market may be decided well before there end of a match. In-play Asian handicaps are settled on the number of goals after the bet has been placed. The principle of quarter and half goal handicaps is more suited to the number of goals scored over time at the end of a match. Teams can be matched more closely during a match with the use of quarter or half goal spreads.
Asian Handicaps are more sophisticated than European handicaps as they incorporate four types of goal bet:
A level whole ball Asian Handicap is the equivalent of the draw no bet option in conventional soccer betting. European bookmakers allow their customers to bet on which team will win a match with stakes returned if scores are tied. A level ball quote is the Asian Handicap equivalent because if a match is drawn bets are pushed and all stakes are returned. Level ball Asian handicap stakes are refunded when there is any draw as the quote has not given either side a head start or deficit.
The smallest whole ball handicap after nil is one goal but could be as big as five goals when two sides are significantly unevenly matched. The size of the handicap is related to the fixed odds. The favourite in the pre-match three way will always have to overcome a handicap and the underdog will always have a start. When the margin of victory and defeat equates to the handicap bets do not stand and stakes are retuned. One team must win by more than the handicap to be settled as the winner. If the favourite wins by less than the handicap bets on this team are lost.
An Asian Handicap of 0.25 is more complex as there are more options than purely winning or losing. The favourite must overcome a quarter goal handicap and the underdog has a start of one quarter of a goal. It is not possible to score a fraction of a goal in a football match so the tie is eliminated. The added element is that part of the stake can be a winning or losing bet and the remainder returned.
If the favourite is backed and wins the match the quarter goal spread is covered and all bets are settled as winners. However, in the event of a draw half the stake is lost and half is used to settle the bet at the quoted odds. If the underdog is backed and wins then all the bet is settled as a winner. However, in the event of a draw half the stake is returned and the other half is used to calculate the return.
The handicap before the match begins is expressed as 0-1/2 which equates to a handicap of one half of a goal. The outsiders in the match is given a head start of half a goal to equalise the relative chances of each team and attract a balance of two way money. There is no potential for a draw with this bet and in no case will be stakes returned as customers will win or lose.
When the favourite is handicapped by half a goal bets on that team are lost if they don’t win. A draw or a defeat means they have lost the match with the handicap that was applied before play. If the favourite wins the match by definition they must have a achieved a margin of at least one goal and therefore covered the half goal handicap. Backing the favoured team giving up half a goal is a losing bets if scores are tied.
Backing the underdog with a start of half a goal is a winning bet if they win or the match ends in a draw. If the underdog loses by definition the margin of defeat will be at least one goal so they have lost the handicap bet when they have the start. In effect backing the favourite in the three way market is the same bet as backing the favourite giving up half a goal. Neither bets are winners if the favourite fails to win the match.
The handicap ahead of kick-off is displayed as 0-3/4 which equates to a three-quarter goal start but the bet is slightly different to a quarter goal handicap. However, the draw option is eliminated so bets are settled as either winners or losers with no scope for returned stakes. It is not possible to have tied scores after a three-quarter goal handicap has been applied at the end of the match.
Betting on the outsider results in winning bets if they win the match or scores are level after normal time. If the favourites win by one goal half the stake is lost and the other half is used to settle all winning bets. However, if the outsiders are defeated by two goals or more all stakes are lost and nothing is returned. However, the loss does not increase by each successive goal and it is limited to the original stake.
Backing the favourite needs them to win by two goals or more for a complete win based on the total stake and the odds. If the favourite have a one goal advantage at the end of play the stake is split by the settling of a bet and a refund. In the event of a draw all bets on the favourite with a three-quarter goal deficit are lost. It is not possible for the favourite to have a draw after the handicap has been applied.
In each type of Asian handicap market there are more winning possibilities. The rules may be slightly more complex than three way betting but its always better to bet when there are only two potential outcomes rather than when there are three.
PSG v Chelsea
When PSG played Chelsea in the first leg of the last 16 tie in 2015-16 Champions League the match prices were as follows:
|PSG 8/11 (1.72)|
|Chelsea 9/2 (5.5)|
|Draw 11/4 (3.75)|
These odds equated to the following prices in the Asian Handicap markets:
|PSG 1.43||PSG (0,-0.5) 1.85||PSG (-0.5) 2.49||PSG (-0.5,-1) 2.1|
|Chelsea 2.98||Chelsea (0,+0.5) 2.1||Chelsea (+0.5) 1.58||Chelsea (+0.5, +1) 1.83|
The final score was PSG 2 Chelsea 1 which gave rise to the following settlement of bets, assuming a stake of £100:
|Winning bet settled as £100 at 1.43 giving a return of £143 and profit of £43.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 1.85 giving a return of £185 and profit of £85.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 2.49 giving a return of £249 and profit of £149.||Winning bet settled as £50 at 2.1 giving a return of £105 and profit of £55 and a losing bet of £50.|
|Losing bet of £100.||Losing bet of £100.||Losing bet of £100.||Winning bet settled as £50 at 1.83 giving a return of £91.50 and profit of £41.50 and a refund of £50.|
Assuming the final score was PSG 1 Chelsea 1 bets would have been settled differently with the following outcomes:
|Push bets and all stakes returned.||Winning bet settled as £50 at 1.85 giving a return of £92.50 and profit of £42.50 and a losing bet of £50.||Losing bet of £100.||Losing bet of £100.|
|Push bets and all stakes returned.||Winning bet settled as £50 at 2.1 giving a return of £105 and £55 refunded.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 2.1 giving a return of £210 and profit of £110.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 1.83 giving a return of £183 and profit of £83.|
Assuming the final score was PSG 1 Chelsea 2 bets would have been settled differently with the following outcomes:
|Losing bet of £100.||Losing bet of £100.||Losing bet of £100.||Losing bet of £100.|
|Winning bet settled as £100 at 2.98 giving a return of £298 and profit of £198.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 2.1 giving a return of £210 and profit of £110.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 1.58 giving a return of £158 and profit of £58.||Winning bet settled as £100 at 1.83 giving a return of £183 and profit of £83.|
So, it is apparent that there are more potential ways of settling bets so Asian Handicaps have more elements than three way and betting and regular handicaps. The calculations can be more involved but basically a team must cover the handicap to be a winning bet in Asian Handicap markets.
Asian Handicaps should form part of an overall football strategy as much as possible. The margins for many conventional football markets can be in excess of 110% which means the bookmaker already has a significant advantage before the vagaries of form are taken into account. Asian Handicaps became popular in parts of the world where huge best are placed at low margins. Due to the fact that bets can only have two outcomes margins as low as 103% are possible. In a three way the draw accounts for more than quarter the percentage because statistically across all leagues about 28% of football matches are drawn.
Another feature of this type of market is that a bet can be settled as half right and not a loser or a winner. A one-sided match on paper means the underdog may be worth backing with a head start. The team may hold out for most of the game but concede a late goal. A regular bet on the underdog would have lost but half the stake is used to settle a winning bet if the final margin of defeat for the outsider is one goal.
Even when the favourite is a short price to win a match its not always easy to achieve the relevant margin of victory. Even dominant teams in a league match will find it difficult to win by more than one goal. Teams will often drop a level when a match is won. This tendency means the rate of scoring slows down or the underdog scores a late consolation goal, making potentially winning bets losing bets. The teams are not concerned about the margin of victory except when goal difference is an issue and their main concern is winning the match.
In betting in-play scoring trends often reflect the original quotes and expectations. There might be a flood of scoring but eventually that will usually slow down so betting close to the opening line is a better strategy than betting on the assumption scoring regularity will continue at the same rate. Backing the value option based on the original handicap is a proven strategy when betting in the Asian Handicap markets in football.
The following YouTube clips give a brief insight to Asian Handicap betting:
Asian Handicaps are a relatively new way of betting on football. The bets offer more winning options and there is no draw. Betting margins are more in favour of the customer and scoring trends mean in-play odds revert back to the opening position in many matches. All the major bookmakers offer Asian markets and the Betfair exchange provides back and lay prices in these markets. The Asian spreads are an accurate way of assessing a match because they are compiled using viable statistics and proven relationships between the three way odds and goal supremacies. Asian Handicaps are flexible and a good way of equalising the chances of several outcomes for unevenly matched fixtures.