Asian Sensation: Harnessing the Handicap Markets to Gain the Ultimate Edge on the Bookies

Bookmakers, betting markets, etc.

Scrolling down the page at any modern online sportsbook, punters will come across a whole myriad of weird and wonderful betting options. Take an average Premier League fixture, for example, and you’ll discover that you can make wagers on everything from the number of goals scored to the number of corners in the match. In truth, it can all seem a bit overwhelming, especially to a casual punters. Even experienced bettors can find it all a bit too much.

There is, however, one type of bet nestled below the more orthodox options that is worth checking out. It is known as the Asian handicap and it isn’t quite as perplexing as you might first think. Simply put, an Asian handicap wager can effectively level the playing field in football betting markets within leagues that are dominated by a handful of top teams and a bunch of of whipping boys – La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 to name a few. Asian handicaps can also be used to heighten the odds in one-sided fixtures while offering bettors a chance to cover their backs in the case of an unexpected result.

It’s really not as complicated as it looks and, with a little bit of know-how, punters can learn how to win with Asian handicap betting.

What is Asian handicap betting?

It’s not unusual for a sports bettor to come across a set of Asian Handicaps and think: “nope, not for me.” The truth is that the form of betting isn’t pretty to look at, what with all of those decimal places, half-goals and quarter-goals. So what does it all mean?

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The most straightforward way to think about an Asian handicap is to consider a situation in which the bookmaker tries to make the odds in a football match as close to even as possible. They do this by giving the underdog a positive goal advantage while giving the favourites a negative goal disadvantage. The bookmaker will also take out the possibilities of a draw – hence the half goals – in order to offer two potential outcomes with the chance of either happening near to 50%.

This is the most popular type of Asian line, often appearing most prominently at online bookmakers. Let’s look at an example from the FA Cup 4th Round:

  • Match: Middlesbrough v Accrington Stanley
  • Handicap 1: Middlesbrough start the game with -1.5 goals at odds of 2.000
  • Handicap 2: Accrington Stanley start the game with +1.5 goals at odds of 1.925.
  • Example bet: punter places £10 on Accrington Stanley to win with a +1.5 Asian handicap.
  • Outcome: game finishes 1-0 to Middlesbrough. Punter wins the bet since the applied handicap score is 2-2.5, returning £19.25.

It gets even more interesting…

…Or complicated, depending on how you want to look at it. While most major online sportsbooks will feature at least one Asian Handicap line to bring a semblance of parity to the fixture, some bookies like to offer a whole range of lines, often going into the +3.5/-3.5 goal territory while bringing quarter goal lines and whole goal lines into the equation.

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Quarter-goal handicaps can be simply presented as a decimal point, such as: “+1.25” or “+1.75”. Alternatively, the quarter-goal line can be show with two handicap lines, such as: “+1.0, +1.5” or “1.5, 2.0”. The second way of presenting this Asian handicap might give you a better idea as to how it works, since the bookmaker essentially spreads the bet over the two nearest half-number or whole-number intervals. This basically means that punters can play with a degree of insurance on their stake since, in the event of a draw after the handicaps are applied, the half of their total stake that was placed on that outcome will be deemed null and refunded.

Bettors can get even more insurance by playing a whole goal handicap, simply represented by +1.0, -2.0 and so on. With a whole goal line, there is more chance that the end result of the bet will be a draw after the handicap is applied, in which case punters will get all of their money back. Let’s face it, draws can be a right pain for football bettors, so this form of Asian handicap is a great way to ensure that your bet is void in such as result.

Top tips for Asian handicaps

As well as ensuring that you fully understand the Asian handicap system, it is vital to follow a few simple guidelines when making your bets. Of course, as with anything in the world of sports betting, nothing is a given and there are no scientifically proven rules to guarantee a winning return.  However, there are a few things to consider before whacking a £100 bet on a silly Asian handicap line.

  • Back the favourites: the beauty of an Asian handicaps is that it will give longer odds for heavy favourites. Wagering on Barcelona to beat a team like Real Betis isn’t exactly an eye-catching proposition with odds of 1.25. However, give Barca a -2.0 goal deficit and you will lengthen the odds to a much more enticing 2.15.
  • Research a team’s scoring and defensive records: it is safe to say that Barcelona are one of the highest-scoring football teams in Europe – they’ve already scored the most in La Liga so far this season. As such, it’s not too far-fetched to see them putting two or more goals past Real Betis, a team with a less than perfect defensive record. It is important to remember that Asian handicaps are all about the final score, so it is vital to know the attacking a defensive records of the teams involved.
  • Exploit foreign leagues: Asian handicaps are great for levelling the playing field in highly uneven fixtures. Some of the biggest leagues in Europe consist of just a few top-class teams with the numbers made up by some fairly weak outfits. La Liga is a great example of this, with Barcelona and Real Madrid easily able to beat any team in the bottom half of the table . The same goes for the likes of Celtic in the Scottish Premier League, Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga and PSG in France’s Ligue 1.
  • Cover yourself if you’re not 100% sure: some Asian handicap lines offer some degree of insurance, so why not make the most of it? If you’re not completely convinced that the team you are backing can overcome a goal deficit, then you can spread your bets with a quarter-goal line or a whole-goal handicap. This way, you will be able to some or all of your stake back if the team you back can’t quite find that goal to push them over the line.

Things to avoid

It is always easy to get carried away when betting on sports; sometimes it’s hard to be resist being a have-a-go-hero who lines up a huge accumulator or a ridiculous lucky-15 on the bet slip. The same applies to Asian handicaps, with punters often enticed by higher odds on bigger goal line deficits. Let’s face it, Barcelona to beat Real Betis with a -3.5 goal Asian handicap at odds of 4.65 is a very attractive proposition.

However, punters shouldn’t let the odds get the better of them. Even though Barcelona are a high scoring team, they certainly don’t win by 4 or more goals every game. Indeed, they have won a few games by big margins this season: 5-0 against Las Palmas, 7-0 against Hercules, they even beat Manchester City 4-0. The thing is that these games scorelines naturally stick out on form sheets and they play for more prominently on the memory. As such, it is easy to overlook the fact that Barca only beat lowly teams such as Granada and Valencia by 1 goal margins.

Being successful with Asian handicaps is all about using attacking and defensive stats to your advantage. But you can’t solely rely on the numbers since, as the old cliché goes, football isn’t played on paper. While using previous scores as a guideline, punters need to factor in situational variations: are Barcelona playing on a wet and windy night in the Northern seaside city of La Coruña? Are they likely to rest Lionel Messi for their mid-week Champion’s League fixture?

While a team like Barcelona are fully capable of winning by a four goal margin, it is very difficult to predict when they will do so. So, it would be a bit foolish to place a stake on a -3.5 goal Asian handicap, especially when there is no insurance involved.


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