As the name suggests, Asian Handicap odds originated in Asia, where they were seen as a way to create viable betting opportunities on events that may otherwise have been too one-sided to offer sufficient betting options, and also as a mechanism to remove a draw, or tie, from the list of possible outcomes. Asian handicap odds can be a lucrative opportunity for the serious bettor so read on to find out what it’s all about!

The basic theory is that one team, player or outcome is ‘handicapped’ relative to the others. In a football match for example (where these types of bets were first introduced), one team may get a ‘head start’ in terms of goals – thus creating a closer contest than may otherwise have been the case, and in some cases, also eliminating the draw.

The numbers displayed when these markets are viewed can often look a little complicated, which can put some punters off. In addition, the potential splitting of stakes can add an even more treacherous layer of complexity to the bet. Once fully understood however, Asian Handicaps can offer the informed gambler a superior option to traditional fixed price bets.

Example 1 – A Heavy Favourite

Assume Manchester City face minnows Northampton at home, in the FA Cup. The largest you would expect City to be in the ‘Fixed Odds’ betting market might only be 1.10 (or 1/9 in fractions). Not a tempting proposition. The Asian handicap however, offers the underdogs hope – what if Northampton get a 2.5 goal head start? Now we have a viable betting contest, and you might get even money on City overcoming the ‘handicap’ (-2.5). This is the main attraction of handicap betting.

But how would a 2.5 goal head start work in practice? The ‘half goal’ is normally the source of confusion – but it is actually designed to simplify the bet. What the half-goal does is rule out a draw. So if the game finished 2 – 0 to City, once the handicap is applied, the score is 2 – 2.5, so in terms of this betting market, Northampton win the bet.

By the same logic, if City won the ‘real’ encounter 3 – 0, the handicap is again applied; 3 – 2.5, meaning City win the virtual contest too. So because of that half-goal within the handicap, when the bet is settled, there can never be a draw. One team has to ‘win’ the handicapped contest.

Asian Handicap and the ‘Draw No-Bet’ alternative

The popularity of Asian Handicaps has spread, and this has resulted in these types of markets being available on almost all contests – not simply potentially one-sided fixtures. Many bookmakers will offer ‘Draw No-Bet’ options – but the Asian Handicap rules out the draw anyway, and offers greater flexibility than a ‘normal’ draw no-bet wager.

An Asian handicap market, with a handicap listed as; ‘+0.00’ – is effectively exactly the same as a ‘Draw No-Bet’ market. In other words, if the actual event ends in a drawn contest, all stakes are refunded. Similarly, a handicap of -1 would result in a draw, if that team won by a single goal, so a 2 – 1 win and handicap of -1, would result in a ‘net’ draw, and the original stake would be returned.

This concept of stakes being returned has created a more complicated range of bets, known as ‘Quarter ball’ or ‘Three-Quarter Ball’. These add an additional layer of complexity to the bet, as they effectively split the stake into two elements (which is why they are also referred to as ‘Split balls’) – each of which is settled using a slightly different handicap number. They do however, offer additional options, and therefore flexibility, in comparison to a ‘Draw no-bet’ market.

Example 2 – ‘Quarter Ball’

In a contest which is expected to be close, the Asian handicap may be listed as ‘+0.25’. A baffling number to a football supporter looking for a wager. What this figure actually represents is a ‘Quarter ball’ bet. It is half ‘draw no-bet’ and half handicap (so no draw is possible). Here is an example;

Arsenal entertain Juventus in the Champions league. Juventus are +0.25 on the handicap. The punter fancies the Italian side and bets £10. The bet is effectively split into two; £5 on Juventus with no advantage, and £5 on them with a half goal head start, effectively .25 either side of the actual handicap. Assuming the match finishes 1 – 1, the result of the bet would be;

£5 on Juventus at +0 = Stake returned. (The outcome is still a draw after the handicap is applied)
£5 on Juventus at +.05 = A winning bet.

If Arsenal prevailed 2 – 1, the outcome would have been;

£5 on Juventus at +0 = A losing bet.
£5 on Juventus at +.05 = A losing bet (2 – 1.5).

A Juventus win would mean two winning bets. So the quarter ball offers a diluted defence against a draw – but does not completely eliminate it.

These ‘quarter’ bets are often the most confusing, but they should be thought of as two bets bundled up as one. A ‘Three-Quarter ball’ works in a similar manner, but with the draw working for the selection, rather than against it. Using the same example, Juventus are this time offered at +0.75.

The result is 1 – 1;

£5 on Juventus at +.5 = A winning bet.
£5 on Juventus at +1 = A winning bet.

A 2 – 1 Arsenal win would result in;

£5 on Juventus at +.5 = A losing bet.
£5 on Juventus at +1 = Stake returned.

Again, a Juventus win would result in two winning bets.

So these quarter ball bets are really two separate wagers, settled at a handicap .25 above and below the actual handicap offered. The same is true when the handicap is larger, 1.25 for example – this would still break down into two bets, one at +1.0 and a second at +1.5.

These quarter balls can also be called ‘split balls’ and displayed as (0,+0.5) or (-1.-1.5). These then work exactly as the ‘quarter ball’ would. The stake is split over each handicap, and the outcomes would be as detailed above.

Asian Handicaps – Summary

Due to the complexity of the markets, it is wise to take some time to understand the bets before piling in. Used wisely, the handicaps can provide a lucrative avenue for regular users, and the defensive qualities of the quarter ball bets making them a strong tool in a betting armoury.

There is of course, one other big benefit to ensuring a good understanding of Asian handicaps. That is, to ensure no stone is unturned when searching for the best prices about selections. If a backer has a strong fancy for a particular team, he may find 5/4 about them on the fixed odds markets (2.25), but the Asian handicap market may have them at 11/8 (2.375) at +.5 on the handicap. This is exactly the same bet – a draw or a defeat mean a lost bet, exactly as they do on the fixed odds. These price discrepancies do not occur all the time, but when comparing bookmaker’s prices, it is always worth glancing at the Asian handicaps.

The next time a selection loses but still produces a winning bet, remember the value of learning how Asian handicaps work.