When can backing the losing side in a football match be a winning bet? When the winner is carrying a handicap, of course! Asian handicap betting offers excellent value for football punters, as Andy Thompson explains.
Despite their popularity across the Far East, where they are easily the most fashionable way to bet on football, it’s hardly surprising that Asian handicaps are still something of an undiscovered area of betting for many British punters.
Faced with the prospect of betting on teams with the seemingly nonsensical head start of a half or a quarter of a goal, and dealing with the complexities of terms like ‘split balls’, and concepts such as simultaneously winning and losing a bet (!) it’s understandable that many football fans head straight back to the familiarity of the fixed-odds coupons.
But to dismiss this fascinating and often highly profitable form of gambling as too complex or merely the preserve of betting anoraks would be to brush aside a betting opportunity that many people would argue offers significantly better value than traditional forms of football betting.
So how does it work? The basic concept is very easy to understand. An Asian handicap market maker gives the team he perceives to be the less likely winner of any given match a head start, commonly termed as the ‘handicap’. This handicap is expressed in goals or fractions of goals.
In every match there are two options for punters – back the team with the handicap start, or the team conceding it.
Here is an Example.
In a match between Liverpool and Arsenal, Liverpool are considered the underdogs and receive a 0.5 goal head start or handicap (+0.5). Arsenal are favourites and concede a half goal head start (-0.5). The handicaps effectively eliminate the draw, so the proposition for the punter is as follows: will Arsenal win this match or will Liverpool avoid defeat?
Let’s say it’s a tight game, but the final score goes to form and Arsenal win 2-1. If you had backed Arsenal in this instance, your bet would have been successful because they beat Liverpool by more than 0.5 of a goal. If you had backed Liverpool, your bet would have been a loser because they lost by a larger amount than the head start or handicap allocated to them (+0.5 of a goal).
If the match had been tied 1-1 then those who had bet on Liverpool with a +0.5 goal head start would have been successful (as +0.5 of a goal head start meant they won the game on the handicap), while those who had bet on Arsenal would have lost their bet (as Arsenal had failed to overcome the -0.5 goal deficit).
In that match, those who believed that Liverpool would put up a good performance against Arsenal without being convinced that they would be able to win the match were able to place bet using Asian handicaps knowing that only in the event of a defeat for the Anfield men would their bet be a losing one. Asian Handicaps allowed them bet on Liverpool not losing the match.
Asian handicap betting also provides a far more viable betting option for punters in games where the teams are badly mismatched. Let’s say Manchester United are playing Scunthorpe at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. The likely, traditional fixed-odds prices would be something like:
1/10 Man Utd, 6/1 Draw, 14/1 Scunthorpe Utd
For most people, this would be a no-bet situation. With Asian handicaps, however, punters could take a view on how dominant Manchester United would be in the match. The likely Asian handicap betting would be:
Man Utd (-2.5 goals), Scunthorpe (+2.5 goals)
The proposition for punters would be whether Manchester United could win by more than two goals or whether Scunthorpe will be able to avoid a thrashing and keep the deficit down to under three.
Whether you fancy a whitewash or a close game, with both options likely to be priced at just under even money, Asian handicap betting offers the opportunity to take a view on even the most one-sided of matches.
Asian handicaps also offer a valuable additional option on matches between more evenly-matched sides. Let’s take a match at Highbury between Arsenal and a decent Premiership team like Newcastle. The likely handicap would be:
Arsenal (-1), Newcastle Utd (+1)
In this game, if you fancy Newcastle to put up a decent display, without necessarily doing enough to win, there are plenty of non-Asian handicap options available. Fixed-odds punters could split stakes between a Newcastle win and the draw, while exchange punters may consider laying Arsenal on the spreads.
Say the match finishes 1-0 to Arsenal. For those who had bet on any of the options above, it would be close, but not close enough. But for punters who had supported Newcastle on the Asian handicaps, an Arsenal victory by just a single goal would see them get their money back, as the match would be level on the handicap. So in effect, punters who think Newcastle will do better than anticipated are able to use Asian handicaps to support their opinion with the added sophistication of a return of stakes if they are nearly right, but Arsenal sneak a victory by a single goal.
The area where many punters start to scratch their heads is when it comes to what are known as ‘split balls’. This is where the handicap appears, for example as:
Fulham (0,-0.5), Aston Villa (0,+0.5)
What does this mean? In truth, split balls are nothing more than a simple way of allowing market makers to produce more accurate handicaps. In some matches, the relative strengths of the teams concerned cannot be quantified on the handicap by either a whole or half goal, because the odds maker’s opinion lies somewhere in between.
So with a handicap of 0,+0.5, half of your stake would be placed at 0 and half your stake would be placed at +0.5.
Let’s take an example. In a match between Fulham and Aston Villa, Fulham are slight favourites, and so would be conceding a small handicap to Villa. But in the opinion of the market maker, their advantage is less than half a goal. The Asian handicap might therefore look like this:
(in other words, half your bet on Fulham, half your bet on Fulham conceding 0.5 of a goal)
Aston Villa (0,+0.5)
(in other words, half your bet on Villa, half your bet on Villa receiving 0.5 of a goal)
This means that if you bet £100 on Fulham at 0,-0.5, and they won 2-0:
>> Half of your bet (£50 on Fulham 0) is a winner.
>> Half of your bet (£50 on Fulham -0.5) is also a winner.
>> The net result is that you have won your stake.
If, on the other hand you had bet £100 on Fulham and they drew 2-2:
>> Half of your bet (£50 on Fulham 0) is returned.
>> Half of your bet (£50 on Fulham -0.5) is a loser.
>> The net result is that you have lost half your stake.
Finally, if you bet £100 on Villa and they draw 2-2:
>> Half of your bet (£50 on Villa 0) is returned.
>> Half of your bet (£50 on Villa +0.5) is a winner.
>> The net result is that you have won half your stake.
Winning half and losing half your bet is often a difficult concept for fixed odds punters to get to grips with. However, for the shrewd punter, the benefits of backing Fulham with the added bonus of receiving half your stake back in the event of a draw represents a considerable advantage over a traditional bet in what will clearly be a tight match.
Similarly, if you fancied Villa to do well, the only way you could support that view with a fixed-odds bet would be to back them for a win. An Asian handicap split ball would give you a winning return for half your stake, even if they only manage a draw.
Clearly then, Asian handicap betting can provide a flexible and innovative alternative to the traditional, three-way pricing of fixed-odds betting.
With far greater choice and flexibility for shrewd punters, additional options in one-sided matches and the safety net of returned stakes in others, it’s no surprise that Asian handicaps have revolutionised the way people bet on football across the world. Betters in the UK should start grabbing more of this action for themselves.
Learn more about Asian Handicaps Strategy.