An Asian handicap is a form of handicapping in betting whereby one selection is given a deficit to overcome in order to even out a sporting context. An Asian handicap differs from other forms of handicaps - such as European handicapping - as it eliminates the possibility of a draw.
The aim of an Asian handicap is to even up a market by giving an outcome deemed inferior a greater chance of winning. Bookies assign the more likely outcome a handicap to make this outcome's chance of success more difficult and consequently make a one sided event a more attractive prospect to bet on.
For example, if Manchester City were playing Port Vale, Manchester City would be considered heavy favourites. A Manchester City win would be assigned very short odds and would offer very small returns as this would be regarded as highly likely. As a result, this would not be a very attractive fixture to bet on.
In order to make the fixture more interesting, a bookmaker would add an Asian handicap to Manchester City - such as that they have a three goal deficit to overcome and must beat Port Vale by four goals in order to win - and therefore offer longer odds.
In addition to goals, Asian handicaps can also be applied to cards and corners in football.
How does Asian handicapping work?
There are different forms of goal-based handicaps within an Asian handicap.
A whole-goal handicap is quite self explanatory - it consists of sides being given a handicap equivalent to one goal or more, with the handicap always in whole goal form.
As whole goals are used, a draw remains a possible outcome. Therefore, in the event of a draw with a whole goal handicap, the bettor's stake is returned. A whole-goal handicap offers the safety net of your stake being returned.
Liverpool (-1) Everton (+2)
The numbers by each team indicate the size of the handicap, and are applied to their final score in the fixture.
If you bet on Liverpool, this selection is successful if they win by two or more goals, as they are starting the game with a one-goal disadvantage thanks to the -1 handicap.
If you bet on Everton, this selection is successful if they win, draw or lose by one goal, as they are starting the match 2-0 up thanks to the +2 handicap.
If you bet on Liverpool and they win by one goal or you bet on Everton and Liverpool win by two goals, you will receive your stake back, as the handicaps would cancel these scores out and result in a draw.
A half-goal handicap gives teams a 0.5 goal handicap, completely eliminating the possibility of a draw, as no team can score half a goal.
Liverpool (-1.5) Everton (+1.5)
If you bet on Liverpool, this selection is successful if they win by a two-goal margin or more, as the handicap of -1.5 means they are starting the match trailing by 1.5 goals.
If you bet on Everton, this selection is successful if they lose by one goal, draw or win, as they +1.5 handicap means they are starting the game 1.5-0 up.
The benefits of Asian handicapping
Asian handicapping is a popular form of sports betting, as by giving the more fancied teams a deficit to overcome, it gives bettors more value when betting on favourites. It also makes seemingly lopsided contests more interesting
Additionally, even if the team that you have backed loses, you can still win the bet or see your stake returned due to the handicap.
Through the removal of the possibility of a draw, a bet with an Asian handicap is a two-way market as opposed to a 1x2 bet. This means that there are just two possible outcomes and therefore the chance of selecting the correct outcome is effectively 50%, as opposed to 33.3%. Furthermore, two-way markets offer lower betting margins and consequently a greater chance of long-term profit.
How to use Asian handicapping in betting
An effective way to use Asian handicapping in betting is by using implied probability to look for Asian handicap bets that offer value.
For example, if odds of 2.00 were offered for Manchester United (-2.5) to beat West Brom, this would give an implied probability of 50% of United beating West Brom by three goals or more. However, you may consider the actual probability of United beating West Brom by three goals or more closer to 60% - perhaps due to United's form, recent goal scoring record, injuries to West Brom's backline or West Brom's poor away form - meaning this bet would have value and would be an Asian handicap bet worth making.