If you want value, Asian handicaps can’t be beat. In the second and final part of his masterclass, Andy Thompson reveals how this form of betting offers punters the chance to routinely bet against the Big Three – and win.
So how many times do you think you could back Arsenal at odds-against to win in the Premiership last season? The staggering answer is just four matches. In fact, apart from the evens available in one place about the Gunners for their high-octane Highbury clash with Manchester United, Arsenal actually started odds-on for every home game they played in the Premiership last season. Make no mistake – the gulf in class between the top three sides in England and the rest is getting bigger all the time.
From a betting point of view, the dominance of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea isn’t good news. Indeed the likely odds on offer about the Big Three are so prohibitive that many of their live TV matches will be dead rubbers for punters.
It’s no surprise then, that Asian handicaps are becoming increasingly popular. Offering the chance to take a view at around even money on even the most one-sided games, Asian handicaps are now a vital weapon in the armoury of any punter looking to be profitable on football.
As former Sporting Index and Victor Chandler football guru David Garbasz said recently: ‘The future is Asian.’ We looked last month at the way Asian handicaps can make an even contest of any football match – however one-sided it may appear – by handicapping the competing teams to receive or concede a head start. We also looked at how Asian handicaps can eliminate the draw for betting purposes, offering a positive or negative outcome for punters whatever the result.
But when are the best times to choose Asian handicaps as a part of your football betting strategy?
For those who care about value, the answer is simple: whenever possible. While traditional football betting typically operates at margins of more than 110%, the percentages on Asian handicaps are much lower, usually trading at just 103% – the lowest in the industry by some margin. This is because Asian handicaps have only two outcomes – a win for either side – so the in-built bookmaker profit margins are lower (the draw takes up a big percentage of the margin in traditional football betting). So whenever you place a bet on an Asian handicap market, you are always going to get better value than in any other form of betting on football.
Let’s take a match between Arsenal and Chelsea. Arsenal are at home, and so are -0.5 of a goal favourites on the handicap. The price for them to cover the start is 1.9 (10/11), with Chelsea, receiving a start of +0.5 of a goal, at a similar price. The same match is priced up on the 1 X 2 fixed-odds market at 4/5 Arsenal, 12/5 the draw and 3/1 Chelsea. Two different betting options, you might think. But not if you fancy Arsenal.
In the first example, a bet on Arsenal conceding the 0.5 of a goal handicap would see you lose if the match resulted in either a draw or a win for Chelsea. So, in effect, you are betting on Arsenal to win – precisely the same option as a straight win bet on the Gunners in the fixed odds market. But there is one difference. Because of the lower Asian handicap margins, you can have 10/11 rather than 4/5 about the same outcome.
As one Asian handicap market maker told us: ‘You have to laugh sometimes when punters come on and take the best fixed odds price when, with a little lateral thinking, better odds are available right in front of their noses.’
While smaller margins are clearly an enormous part of what makes Asian handicap betting so attractive, that’s by no means the end of the story. Asians can also offer far greater flexibility for the shrewd punter.
For example, consider a match that looks one-sided on paper, but in which you think the underdogs will perform well. Let’s say Manchester United are playing Middlesbrough at the Riverside. The Asian handicap is the split ball Manchester United (-0.5, -1.0) vs Middlesbrough (+0.5, +1.0).
If you fancy Middlesbrough to take at least a point, the only fixed odds options available are either to split your stakes between a bet on Middlesbrough and the draw, or lay United on the exchanges. However, the same result can also be achieved by placing a bet on the Asian handicap above – but with the added bonus of an additional safety net.
Let’s say the match goes as you suspected and, with 85 minutes gone, it’s still scoreless. However, in the 90th minute, United break quickly and snatch an undeserved late goal.
Though your judgment was largely correct, your bets on the fixed odds market would have been losers. With the Asian handicap option, you would have received a return of your stakes for half your bet. This is because your split ball wager would have been divided between Middlesbrough receiving half a goal start (a loser, in this instance) and Middlesbrough receiving a goal start (a tie on the handicap in this match).
So Asian handicaps can offer punters the opportunity to protect their stake (or part of their stake), if they have an opinion on a match and, in practice, are proved to be nearly right in their judgment. With so many games in the Premiership often turned on the head by late goals, such a safety net can be a valuable asset.
Another great advantage of Asian handicap markets is their ability to eliminate the spoiler of the draw. Let’s say Manchester United and Arsenal are playing in an FA Cup semi-final at a neutral venue. The match looks certain to be a highly charged affair, and a stalemate seems distinctly possible.
The Asian handicap is:
Manchester United (0) 1.95 vs Arsenal (0) 1.95.
You fancy United, but fear they may not finish the job in normal time. With a bet on the Asian handicap above, if the match does end in a draw, your stakes would be returned (as a drawn match would result in a tie on the handicap). If you have a fancy for either United or Arsenal to win the game, you can back them at a shade of odds-on, aware that only in the event of them losing the match would you lose your money.
So much for the theory. What do the experts have to say? Graham Doyle is managing director of Premierbet, the football bookmakers who pioneered Asian handicaps in the UK.
While the company are renowned for laying large bets on fixed odds matches, Asian handicaps are their signature market. They will offer handicap options on every Premiership and Champions League match throughout the coming season. Doyle’s advice for Asian handicap punters is simple: always look to get with the underdogs.
‘The markets here and in Asia often overestimate the superiority of the favourites,’ Doyle explains. ‘Just as people have a natural inclination to buy goals on the spreads because they want to see lots of action, punters often feel more comfortable siding with the big name team to cover the handicap rather than the underdogs receiving it.’
Power of three
‘People like to back a favourite to win well. But even with the dominance of the Big Three, it’s a lot to ask for any side to concede a handicap of more than a goal,’ he continues. ‘This is amplified by the fact that teams will often take their foot off the gas when a victory is certain. This can allow beaten teams to score consolation goals, turning a comprehensive victory into a narrow one and transforming a winning handicap bet into a loser.’
‘When betting on Asian handicaps, it’s worth remembering that team managers only care about the victory, not the margin of victory.’
So there you have it. Lower margins, better value, more flexibility and the chance to protect your stake in the event of things going wrong – not to mention a heads-up on how to exploit the market from the MD of Asian handicap betting’s leading exponents.
For punters ambitious enough to take a leap of faith beyond the traditional forms of betting, this could be a fascinating and profitable adventure. And for those who aren’t prepared to embrace what is already the only way they bet on football in Asia – remember what happened to King Canute.
Back to Asian Handicaps Explained.