What is an Asian Handicap Bet in Football? How Does it Work?

When it comes to betting types, there is none as popular and widely used as Asian Handicap. Be it football (soccer), hockey, basketball, tennis, or any other sport, the bookmakers will offer Asian handicap markets.

As the name would suggest, an Asian Handicap is a form of betting in which teams/players are handicapped according to their form and perceived strength. In simple terms, stronger teams are required to win by more goals for your bet to win; however, there's much more to Asian Handicap than just that.

In this betting article, we will try to explain: what an Asian Handicap in Football is, how it is used, how it works, and most importantly, try to clarify why you should be using it when betting on sports.

What is an Asian Handicap?

Why is the Asian Handicap called Asian? Couldn't it be European or American? 

Well, it could, but European Handicap is already a term used for handicaps using full numbers. And it can't be American because a journalist, Joe Saumarez Smith, decided to call it "Asian" in 1998 when he was asked to translate the betting method "hang cheng betting," which was used by bookmakers in Asia.

Of course, it wouldn't make much sense to call it anything else than Asian, considering the Asian Handicap system originated in Indonesia. It was primarily used only by punters in the Eastern world before it rose to prominence across the entire globe in the 21st century.

Understanding where Asian Handicap came from isn't that important for those trying to understand it, so let's instead explain what exactly Asian Handicap is, why it is used, and how you can use it for your betting endeavors.

Asian Handicap is a betting type and a form of spread betting. This essentially means that Asian Handicap is a type of wagering where the payoff is based on the accuracy of your prediction – rather than just lose/win outcome.

So instead of betting on a team to win, the Asian Handicap allows you to predict that Team A will win by X goals, or the other way around – that Team B won't lose by more than Y goals.

How Does Asian Handicap Work?

Asian Handicaps usually range from one-half goals to several goals in increments of 0.50 (and 0.25). That might sound very simple, but to understand how Asian Handicap works, we first need to look at an example.

Example – Negative Handicap

For this example, we will take two English Premier League teams in Liverpool and Norwich. As the stronger team of the two, Liverpool will enter the match priced as a heavy betting favorite (-300), while Norwich will be priced as a +800 underdog.

Obviously, Liverpool is expected to win, and let's assume you have faith in the Reds that they will win the match with at least two goals to spare. By simply betting on the 1X2 market, you won't be rewarded for correctly guessing that Liverpool can defeat Norwich by at least two goals and will instead only cash in on the -300 odds.

That's where Asian Handicap steps in. With it, you can handicap Liverpool with -1.5 goals and predict that Liverpool can defeat Norwich with two goals or more.

With the -1.5 goals handicap, you're handicapping Liverpool to start with an imaginary negative -1.5 score, meaning that they need to notch at least two goals not to end the game with a negative scoreline.

If Liverpool indeed ends up beating Norwich 2-0, your bet would win since Liverpool would still end up with a higher goal tally after factoring in the handicap (0.5 - 0). 

If Liverpool wins the match with 3-0, the final score (after adding the handicap) will show 1.5 - 0. The same deductive process applies to any final scoreline, while the same principle applies to a positive handicap.

Example – Positive Handicap

Let's assume you've changed your mind and now believe that Liverpool won't be able to defeat Norwich by more than a goal. To make it easier to explain how a positive Asian handicap works, we will re-word that statement to read: Norwich won't lose to Liverpool by more than a goal.

In that alternative scenario, you would pick Norwich with a +1.5 goals handicap, which would give the outsiders an imaginary 1.5 goal headstart. Like in the previous example, the handicap gets added/deducted from the match's final score.

So, if the game ends in a 0-0 draw, your bet on Norwich with a +1.5 goals handicap would win, since the final score, after factoring in the Asian Handicap, would show 1.5-0 in favor of Norwich. The same will happen if Liverpool wins with a single goal (1.5-1).

Why Halves?

If you're wondering why Asian Handicap bets are halves (0.5, 1.5, 2.5,…), the answer is straightforward – it removes the possibility of a draw.

Since there is no such thing as a half-goal in football, the Asian Handicap bet effectively eliminates the possibility of a draw on your bet – so your prediction either wins or loses.

Things get a bit different with whole-number handicaps and the +0 handicap. However, neither of these two bet types introduce anything new to what we already know about Asian Handicap.

The same principle explained above (adding/deducting the handicap number to the final score) applies to both the whole number and +0 handicaps. The only difference here is that the result of your bet can be a draw.

If you would pick Norwich with a +1 goal handicap and Liverpool win 1-0, the final result after adding in the handicap would show 1-1. In such scenarios, you would get refunded your bet.

The +0 handicap, on the other hand, is the exact same bet as a Draw No Bet (DNB). Meaning that if you bet on Liverpool with a +0 handicap and they end up playing a tie, you would get your wager refunded.

Although the whole-number handicaps and +0 handicaps don't eliminate the possibility of a draw literally, they do save you – the bettor – from losing money on a match that ends in a tie.

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